Honorary Consul of the Republic of Austria in Detroit for Michigan.
Mr. Schwarz, thank you for sitting down with us and introducing yourself and your work as Austrian Honorary Consul to our readership. First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself. Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Braunweiller, a District of Bad Kreuznach in Rheinland, Germany.
What did you study?
After serving in the German armed forces for two years, I enrolled in law school at the University of Mainz and then transferred to the University of Heidelberg.
What brought you to the U.S.?
While studying at the University of Heidelberg, I met my future wife, Margaret, a native of Royal Oak, Michigan, who did graduate work at the University of Heidelberg.
What do you do for a living?
I am an attorney practicing corporate general business law and I do so mostly for corporations from German-speaking countries in Europe.
Do you get to travel to Austria on a regular basis?
Whenever I travel to Austria, I usually try to combine visiting clients with personal vacation time.
As a German-American, what motivated you to accept the position of Austrian Honorary Consul?
I was personal friends with my predecessor Norman Birnkrant, Honorary Consul in Michigan, and he recommended me as his successor. Because of our professional relationship, I was aware of the responsibilities of an Honorary Consul.
How long have been serving as the Austrian Honorary Consul?
I have been serving as the Austrian Honorary Consul for 38 years. I was appointed in 1981 and appointed as Honorary Consul (General ad personam) in 1993.
How many Austrians are currently living in the State of Michigan and what is the professional background of most Austrians living here?
Unfortunately, I do not have any concrete numbers of Austrians living in Michigan; some of those who claim to be Austrians are descendants of people who arrived in Michigan from the vast Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Most of the Austrians that I know have a professional background in the automotive industry.
What were the consular issues that required most of your attention over the years?
Being the contact person for individuals with questions related to Austria and providing them with answers or directing them to the right place has kept me most busy.
You have been organizing a yearly Viennese Johann Strauss Ball in collaboration with The Austrian Society of Detroit. Can you tell us about your involvement in this event over the years and how it developed?
So far, the Austrian Society has been presenting 72 annual Viennese Strauss Balls. My involvement is limited to hosting the honorary guests at the ball; apart from that, it is the Austrian Society of Detroit that is responsible for the event. When I was appointed Honorary Consul in 1981, the Johann Strauss Ball was already a very popular event attracting almost 3,000 attendees! Today, it is still popular with Austrians and Americans alike, even though attendance has dropped substantially.
Are there any other Austrian traditions that you are celebrating in a similarly grandiose fashion?
Perhaps not as grandiose, but the Austrian Society of Detroit annually celebrates an “Evening in Vienna” as well as other social functions such as the Waldfest or other events at the Austrian Park owned by the Society.
The interview was conducted by Thorsten Eisingerich, the Director for Press and Information at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, DC