Lt. Sigurd Christomannos

by Nikolaus Hagen.
(this article is also available in German)

Sigurd Theo[dor] Christomannos (alternative spelling: Christomanos)[1] was born in 1896 in Innsbruck and was a citizen of Meran. He came from a well-known austro-greek family with ties to the Austrian Imperial House. His great cousin, the historian Constantin Christomanos, was the Greek teacher of Emperess Elisabeth,[2] and his great uncle, chemist Anastasios Christomanos, a renowned professor at the University of Athens.

His father was the Viennese lawyer Theodor Christomannos (1854-1911), who had studied at the University of Innsbruck and had been notorious as a leader of the nationalist-liberal German student faction. He was a senior member of the “Gothia” fraternity and a member of the nationalist Academic Choral society (Akademischer Gesangsverein). After he finished his studies, T. Christomannos started an apprenticeship with a lawer in Meran. The antisemitic catholic newspaper Das Vaterland characterized him in 1888 as a

“young law apprentice of Meran, Dr Theodor Christomannos (born in Vienna, a national of Macedonia, of greek-oriental confession), who is only known for his wild student’s life and his dueling scars …”

It went on to call him an “oriental doctor.” In the following years, Theodor Christomannos became an important pioneer of Alpine tourism in Tyrol and, together with his parnters, he built a number of Grand Hotels, such as those in Sulden, Trafoi and at Lake Carezza (Karrersee). He was also elected into the Tyrolean parliament. Privately, Theodor Christomannos became known as womanizer, who had multiple children with different women, all born out of wedlock. His womanizing was so notorious that Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler modeled one of the characters in his tragicomedy „Das weite Land“ (1911) after him.[3]

One of these children was Sigurd Christomannos, who was born on January 6, 1896 in Innsbruck. According to the parish register of the St. Jakob church, his full name was „Alois Theodor Sigurt“. His mother was Aloysia Wellzensohn. A later remark from 1913 added that the correct spelling of the last name was Christomannos.[4] In 1909 his father Theodor married Franziska Lutz, with whom he already had two other children. Franziska Christomannos may have adopted Sigurd, because according to Army documents, she was his next of kin, and in her obituary from 1936, Sigurd was called her eldest son.[5]

According to the officers’s file card, Sigurd – who was occassionally also called Theo – graduated from a gymnasium (grammar school), perhaps the one in Meran, and besides his German native language, he also spoke (quite poorly) Italian.[6] When the war started in 1914, he was 18 years-old and joined Gebirgsartillerieregiment Nr. 8 (nountain artillery regiment). In 1916, by then still a cadett, he was wounded and hospitalized in Innsbruck.[7] On November 1, 1917 Sigurd Christomannos advanced to the rank of a lieutenant in the reserve forces.

After the war, Sigurd Theodor Christomannos moved to Carinthia, where we worked as a lawyer, just as his father.

[1] Both spelling can be found in documents and literature.

[2] ÖBL 1815–1950, Bd. 1 (Lfg. 2, 1954), S. 147.

[3] Arthur Schnitzler, Die Dramatischen Werke. Band 2, Frankfurt a. M. 1962, S. 223.

[4] TLA, Matriken, Pfarre Innsbruck-St. Jakob, Taufbuch 1876–1897, fol. 428.

[5] Dolomiten, 17.10.1936, S. 4.

[6] ÖStA, KA, LFT Offizierskartothek, Sigurd Christomannos.

[7] Neue Tiroler Stimmen, 6.5.1916, S. 3; Tiroler Volksbote, 10.5.1916, S. 10.