The Franziska Schanzkowska Canard


In the midst of the First World War, with bitter hostilities between Germany and Russia, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse secretly visited Russia. Grand Duke Ludwig of Germany conducted back-channel talks with Tsar Nicholas II, proposing a separate peace to his brother-in-law Nicholas II. During this clandestine visit, the young Grand Duchess Anastasia was surprised to see her Uncle Ernie there, at Tsarskoye Selo (“The Tsar’s Village”), near St. Petersburg. [1]

Whether or not this possibly treasonous secret visit by Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig, a German General, actually happened is still a subject of hot dispute. [1] However authors Anthony Summers and Tom Mangold, in their bestselling book from 1976, The File On the Tsar, support that the covert mission by the Grand Duke of Hesse in fact occurred: “By 1916 both the German High Command and the German Foreign Office favoured knocking Russia out of the war by fostering internal revolution. The Kaiser opposed this policy, and it would have been in character for him to sponsor a secret peace mission in defiance of his own government, hoping to neutralize Russia with the imperial regime intact.” [2]

The Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia is last seen by Summers and Mangold in Perm, a city 180 miles from Ekaterinburg, late in 1918. Also tracked to Perm by Summers and Mangold were the Tsarina Alexandra and her other three daughters, besides Anastasia. The situation of the Tsarina and her four daughters being alive in Perm in November 1918 is problematic for the fabled story of the “mass execution” at Ekaterinburg on July 17, 1918. (Background: Tsar Was “Man In Iron Mask”, Ersjdamoo’s Blog, October 1, 2014.)

On February 27, 1920, a young woman jumped (or was pushed [3]) off a bridge in Berlin into the Landwehr Canal. She was rescued by a policeman. She “had no papers” (i.e., “Where are your papers? You must have your papers!”). At the time, the defeated Germany was flooded with Russian refugees, escapees from the Bolsheviks. Times were hard in Germany, and many of these refugees got sent back. So it is no surprise that this young woman “clammed up” and refused to identify herself, if she was one of these Russian refugees. She was admitted as Fräulein Unbekannt (Miss Unknown) to a mental hospital in Dalldorf (now Wittenau, in Reinickendorf), where she remained for the next two years. [4]

The nurses at the hospital slowly noticed there was something quite refined about this Miss Unknown. It began to be suspected she could be a member of the Russian royalty. It eventually emerged that the woman was identified by some as the Grand Duchess Anastasia.

So here begins the strange case of Anna Anderson. Was she, or was she not, Anastasia? Fierce supporters and detractors lined up on both sides of the issue. One of those who opposed the claim of Anna Anderson was Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse, i.e. “Uncle Ernie.” The reason for his opposition may be that Anna/Anastasia had recalled, during hospitalization in 1925 for severe tuberculosis of the bones, the ultra-secret visit by Grand Duke Ernst to Russia in 1916. In the hospital, Anna/Anastasia was visited by Amy Smith, grand-daughter of a mayor. At death’s door, the purported Anastasia begged Amy Smith, “Please, bring my Uncle Ernie to see me.” Ms. Smith asked, “When did you last see him?”, to which Anna/Anastasia replied, “In the war, with us at home.” [2]

When the Grand Duke of Hesse got wind of this, he was petrified. If his secret visit of 1916 became known, there would be a huge scandal! And thus (so the story goes), Uncle Ernie conspired with Pierre Gilliard, French tutor (back in the day) to Anastasia, and Russian Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich, who presumed to be next-in-line to the Russian throne. A private detective, Martin Knopf, was hired. And it was allegedly this shamus who invented the Franziska Schanzkowska canard. Witnesses were bribed. [3]


Franziska Schanzkowska (image) was a Polish factory worker who, like Grand Duchess Anastasia, had also disappeared. The canard was introduced that Anna Anderson was really Franziska Schanzkowska. But then Harriet Rathlef, a friend of Anna/Anastasia, hired her own private detectives to help counter the Franziska Schanzkowska story. The Schanzkowska family was located and a brother of Franziska went to see Anna. “Are you willing to swear that this is your sister?” he was asked. “Uh, no,” he replied. Instead he testified that Anna could not possibly be his sister. [3]

Later, around 1937, the Nazi government did its own investigation of the Franziska Schanzkowska story. Anna/Anastasia was ordered to meet with the family of Franziska. At that meeting, the Schanzkowska family did not recognize Anna as being Franziska Schanzkowska. [3]

The Anna Anderson case dragged on interminably through the German courts. In 1958, one of the courts examined “evidence” brought forth by the Franziska Schanzkowska cabal. Photos were produced which seemed to support their cause. However the chief judge quickly noticed that one of the photos had been altered. The photos were sent to the Hamburg Police Department. Their experts concluded a key photo had had alterations done to it after it had been taken. [3] In other words, the photo “evidence” had been “photoshopped”.

Circa 1960, a hearing on the Anna Anderson case was being held in Hamburg. Among the expert witnesses was Professor Otto Reche, founder of the German Anthropological Society. Among other things, Reche analyzed blood tests and conducted an anthropological comparison of physical features between Anna, Anastasia, and Franziska Schanzkowska. “His conclusions were firm: the woman living at Unterlengenhardt [Anna Anderson] was not the Polish factory worker; she was the Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia.” [3]

The Franziska Schanzkowska canard re-emerged in 1967 at a German Court of Appeals hearing. One of the original bribed witnesses, a prostitute as it turns out, again appeared. But her testimony was rejected and  she “left the courtroom completely disgraced.” [3]

John Jarndyce advised his wards to just get on with their lives and not be distracted by the never-ending court case of “Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce”, in the Charles Dickens’ novel, Bleak House. The attitude of Anna Anderson towards her own 20th-century version of “Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce” was akin to that of John Jarndyce: She knew who she was and did not especially care whatever the German courts might decide. She called the decades-long legal meanderings, “this foolishness.” However Anna Anderson’s many supporters kept pushing her claim to be Anastasia through the legal system. Throughout it all, Anna remained aloof. She could at times even laugh at the whole thing. In 1931, Prince Frederick Ernest of Saxe-Altenburg decided to investigate the controversy himself. He sent a message to Anna/Anastasia requesting an interview. She replied with this message: “How can I know you are really a person of royalty and not a Polish factory worker?” Even the skeptical Prince had to laugh at Anna’s wit. He did finally get his interview, and asked tough questions. The Prince emerged from the meeting convinced that Anna was exactly who she said she was, the Grand Duchess Anastasia. He remained one of her most loyal supporters thereafter. [3]

——- Sources ——-
[1] “Discussion of the Alleged 1916 ‘Trip to Russia’ of Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig”,
[2] The File On the Tsar, by Anthony Summers and Tom Mangold. New York: Harper & Row, 1976
[3] Anastasia, by James Blair Lovell. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991
[4] “Anna Anderson”, Wikipedia, October 2, 2014.

About ersjdamoo

Editor of Conspiracy Nation, later renamed Melchizedek Communique. Close associate of the late Sherman H. Skolnick. Jack of all trades, master of none. Sagittarius, with Sagittarius rising. I'm not a bum, I'm a philosopher.
This entry was posted in Anna Anderson, Franziska Schanzkowska, Romanov family. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Franziska Schanzkowska Canard

  1. Pingback: The Amazing Polish Factory Worker | Ersjdamoo's Blog

  2. Chatnoir says:

    Franzisca was not recognized as Anastasia by any nurse. She herself told nurse Thea Malinovsky in 1921 that she was the Grand Duchess. She modeled her story on Mlle. Berditch, the first false Anastasia. Later, in the beginning of 1922, a fellow patient, Clara Marie Peuthert, thought that she was Tatiana. She actually looked a little like Tatiana, but was too short to impersonate her, so she had to stick with Anastasia.
    When her brother Felix saw her stepping out of the car, he stated that “that is my sister Franzisca”. But after talking to her, he decided to ” let her go on with her career.” Her sister Gertrude did also recognize her and testified against her in the Hamburg trial.
    Altogether seven anthropological tests were done on Franzisca/Anastasia. Five came out against her, two came out in her favor.
    Prince Ernest never asked her any “tough questions”, they came in writing from prince Sigismund. And the answer to two thirds of them could be found in two books. Franzisca spent five days trying to answer them, but did not manage to get them all right.
    The Franzisca “canard” was not invented by Ernest Von Hesse. The instigator was Doris Rosa Wingendef, the daughter of Franzisca’s landlady, who recognized a photo of Franzisca in “Die Woche”. She went to die Nachtausgabe and sold them her story. Martin Knopff was then brought in to verify her story, which he did. He delivered his findings to the duke of Hesse, who in turn gave it to the Darmstadt police. They sent it on to Berlin, and after a short investigation, the Berlin police accepted the identification of Franzisca and closed the case. See Police Von Anfang und vom June 2 1927 in Hamburg, under Bln, ZK 83 Tchaikowsky, 72, 72R, 75.
    Again, I am amazed at your ignorance.

    • Lila says:

      In addition to Franziska’s brother, her sister Gertrude screamed at their meeting that she was her sister and demanded that Anna admit it. I can’t understand how anyone could think she was Anastasia, she looks absolutely nothing like her. Anastasia’s mouth was thin, with a cupid top lip, while Anna’s is wide and thick. Anna’s eyes are bulgy, while Anastasia had a low brow.
      How Anna fooled those who believed she was Anastasia, especially those in the Russian royal court, and her relatives, defies explanation. How could she know so many intimate details of Anastasia relationships with her family, of the murders, etc.??

  3. Pingback: Or Anna Anderson Anastasia? | Jorge Neri Bonilla

  4. Elizabeth CASTEL says:

    The lady named Anna Anderson did not look like the Grand-Duchess Anastasia, her features are different. No doubt that she was a member of the royal family, most probably Tatiana Romanova. Both faces Anna and Tatiana are similar in every details.

  5. Aurelia says:

    She was definitely not Franziska. Franziska’s shoe size was 3 sizes larger, and she was a good 4 inches taller than Anna. Plus, her family members later said they were bribed and pressured to recognize her when they knew it was not their sister.

    Whoever she was, she was a lady of society – not a Polish factory worker.

    • ChatNoir says:

      The nonsense about the shoe size, is pure hearsay and nothing else. The same is the case with the height. The truth is, nobody remembered or knew the exact height of Franzisca, and since she loved wearing high heels all the time, she came across as taller than 5’2″. The family members stated nothing of being pressured to recognize her, they identified her from the photo of Anna Anderson right away, but when the story of her pretense was made known to them, they distanced themselves from her, afraid they might be responsible for her canards. And after Felix had identified her as his sister, and then denied it in order to make her continue her ‘career’, the family backed him up. Only Gertrude did not manage to keep quiet.

      As for being a lady of high society, we have several witnesses who stated that Franzisca was ‘vulgar’, someone who ‘tried to be a lady, but did not succeed’ and ‘anything but a lady’. Also, she was not a Polish factory worker, she was a German woman from West Prussia who happened to work some time in the AEG factory. She also worked as a maid, a waitress and a farm laborer. The right description of her is a German woman from the working class.

    • Lila says:

      She was actually proven to be Franziska via a match to her uncle’s DNA

  6. adam says:

    As I can confirm, it would be very easy to take over ones life. When I moved to France, only 12 years ago, I was surprised about the way the French treated my identity papers. I moved to a simple Hamlet and because of the village people couldn’t pronounce my first name, i changed it a bit. As people change, my hair grown and I lost weight by the changes of the way of life on the French country side. Only 6 years later at a family reunion in Holland, most of the familymembers ddn’t recognize me. I could be anyone else; and I became. And I am pretty sure, anyone can…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s