Queer Places:
Bagni Tiberio, Via Palazzo a Mare, 41, 80073 Capri NA

Baron Ekkehard von Schack (1888 - August, 1952), who was a friend of Norman Douglas and inspired a bizarre German which appears in Graham Greene's novel “Our Man in Havana”, a Dr. Hasselbach, who put on his cuirassier uniform on special occasions in Cuba.

Baron Ekkehard von Schack, born in 1888, came of an old and grand Prussian family and had held a colonel’s commission in the German Imperial Mounted Lifeguards. Disgusted by the creation of the Weimar Republic in 1919 and government by Social Democrats (‘Sozis’), and attracted by Capri’s reputation as a haven for homosexual, he left Germany penniless and with little else except his uniform, including cuirass and plumed dress-helmet, and found his way to Anacapri. Here he took a room above a restaurant in Caprile, but paid nothing for it and for much of the time went hungry. He looked the very epitome of the Prussian Officer, shaven bullet head, sabre-scars and all, and was immensely tall. Every morning he would polish his helmet and every year on the Kaiser’s birthday he donned full uniform and drank the Kaiser’s health. He indeed drank enormously whenever he had the chance and was fortunate in knowing enough people, like Otto Sohn-Rethel and Hans Berg, who would ask him to meals. But he also had a gentler side, collected wild orchids in the remoter parts of the island and knew more about them than anyone else.

At Easter 1933 Field-Marshal Hermann Göring, after business with Mussolini in Rome, visited Capri. His visit was not an unqualified success. The authorities arranged for a party of German residents to welcome Göring as he stepped ashore, and Colonel Baron von Schack, as senior resident, was asked to head the reception committee. In declining the invitation he said that he remembered Captain Göring from World War I days. Unfortunately he had a prior engagement, but would be delighted to welcome Captain Göring at his pension in Anacapri any Wednesday afternoon between the hours of four and five; he expressed his wonderment that a man could rise from captain to field-marshal in peace time.

At the end of World War II, Baron von Schack had a narrow escape. The Americans wanted to arrest him, but he was protected by Giuseppe Brindisi, the sindaco, and remained free.

Norman Douglas made friends with Baron von Schack, who now had a small pension from the new Federal German Republic, most of which he spent on his ruling passions – drink, food and boys.

Baron Ekkehard von Schack died in August 1952, when, having drunk a good deal, bathed at Bagni di Tiberio and walked back up the steps to Anacapri, he had a stroke and succumbed immediately.

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