Sacher, Anna (1859–1930)

views updated

Sacher, Anna (1859–1930)

Austrian hotel proprietor, owner of Vienna's world-famous Hotel Sacher, who was famed for the elegance of her hotel and her colorful personality. Born Anna Maria Fuchs in Vienna, Austria, on January 2, 1859; died in Vienna on February 25, 1930; daughter of Johann Fuchs; married Eduard Sacher (1843–1892, a hotel owner), in 1880; children: Anna Sacher; Fanny Sacher; Eduard Sacher.

Born in 1859 in Vienna's Leopoldstadt district into modest circumstances (her father was a butcher), Anna Maria Fuchs would become world renowned as Anna Sacher, owner of her city's incomparable Hotel Sacher. In 1880, she married Eduard Sacher, one of three sons of Franz Sacher, who was originally a cook in Prince Metternich's kitchen and was able to improve his station by founding a successful wine shop and delicatessen. Eduard too had started out as a cook, but after working in Paris and accumulating some capital, he opened a tavern that introduced into Vienna a remnant of naughty Paris—Chambre separées, discreet rooms where wealthy males could dally with young women of light virtue. Having accumulated more capital, in 1873 Eduard inaugurated a new hotel—known as the Hotel Sacher—that guaranteed Vienna's aristocrats and top bourgeoisie not only the best in dining and accommodations but a multitude of Chambre separées for their private pleasures.

Eduard died prematurely in 1892, but the establishment named after him was never in danger of faltering. The same high standards of quality were maintained, and even enhanced, by his widow, who quickly became known universally as "Frau Sacher." Attractive as a young woman, Sacher saw her beauty fade as she grew older, but she more than made up for this with her formidable personality. Smoking a cigar, she would often be seen in public accompanied by her pair of toy French dogs. Despite Anna Sacher's eccentricities, few details of her hotel ever escaped her, and its standards never slipped. Assisted by longtime headwaiter Franz Wagner, she ran a tight ship for almost four decades.

One of the hotel's most famous features was its fabled Sachertorte, a chocolate tart deemed incomparable by many a gourmet. The hotel also boasted fine cuisine, superb wines, an excellent location (across the street from the Hofoper, today's State Opera House, and only a few minutes by foot from the Hofburg, the Imperial Palace), and Anna Sacher's reputation for discretion. She never revealed what went on in her hotel's numerous Chambre separées, which served as places of assignation for many a Habs-burg archduke. For Emperor Franz Joseph I, who pointedly never set foot in the Hotel Sacher, the establishment was an ominous barometer of his realm's (and family's) moral decay, and he regarded it as little better than a high-class bordello. It was in the Hotel Sacher that Franz Joseph's heir and only son, Crown Prince Rudolf, asked his current mistress, Mizzi Caspar , if she would be willing to enter into a suicide pact with him. After she responded to his offer with laughter, Rudolf chose to end his life in January 1889 with someone who was willing to die with him, teenager Marie Vetsera .

Anna Sacher chose never to write her memoirs. Even so, a vast number of stories about her have been printed since her death, and they make fascinating reading, even if some are apocryphal. Sacher, whose hotel flourished in the long Indian summer before the Habsburg Empire met its demise at the end of World War I, revealed many noble qualities during that devastating conflict. Wartime food rationing ended the glorious menus and buffets of the pre-1914 age, and many of her regular aristocratic guests no longer came to Vienna, remaining instead on their rural estates where food supplies were relatively plentiful. As the situation worsened, the always generous Sacher fed and provided lodging for poor students. For this, she would receive the Goldene Verdienstkreuz (Golden Achievement Cross), one of the highest honors of the newly created Republic of Austria, which emerged after 1918.

Sacher's last years were not always happy. Postwar Vienna in the 1920s was a metropolis full of starving beggars, desperate bourgeois, and aristocrats too proud to beg. Inflation and class conflict made the new world a much less glamorous place, even if the vast majority in the "good old days" had never been able to enjoy the leisure and elegance of that epoch. Old and in poor health, in April 1929 Sacher withdrew from the management of her beloved hotel, placing it under the administration of trustees. She felt betrayed by her son Eduard, who had forged an alliance with the Hotel Sacher's arch-competitor, Demel's coffee house and pastry shop (owned by Karl and Anna Demel ), and wished to keep the establishment from his control after she passed from the scene. Anna Sacher died in Vienna on February 25, 1930. Before she was

buried outside the city, in Dornbach, her funeral cortege first moved with great solemnity around her internationally renowned hotel. Respectfully, the many Viennese who were present that day bowed their heads as Frau Sacher passed by for the last time.


Brown, Catherine. "Recipe for a Proper Viennese Whirl," in The Herald [Glasgow]. January 16, 1993, p. 9.

Eybl, Franz M. Ganz Wien ist ein Beisel: Literarische Eindrücke aus Wiener Hotels & Gaststätten. Vienna: Döcker, 1998.

Hagen, Ernst. Hotel Sacher: In deinen Betten schlief Österreich. Vienna: Paul Zsolnay, 1976.

Johnston, William M. The Austrian Mind: An Intellectual and Social History. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1972.

Maier-Bruck, Franz. Das grosse Sacher Kochbuch: Die österreichische Küche. Munich: Schuler, 1975.

Matthew, Christopher. A Different World: Stories of Great Hotels. NY: Paddington, 1976.

Mazakarini, Leopold Karl. Das Hotel Sacher zu Wien. Vienna: Orac, 1976.

"Mme. Sacher," in The Times [London]. February 26, 1930, p. 16.

Seeliger, Emil. Hotel Sacher: Weltgeschichte beim Souper. Berlin: Schaffer, 1939.

Sherwell, Philip. "Chocolate Soldiers Go into Battle," in The Sunday Telegraph [London]. March 14, 1993, p. 23.

"Tafelspitz und Sachertorte," in Volksblatt-Magazin [Vienna]. February 12, 1988, pp. 2–3.

Wagner, Renate. Heimat bist Du grosser Töchter: Österreicherinnen im Laufe der Jahrhunderte. Vienna: Edition S/Österreichische Staatsdruckerei, 1992.

Watkin, David. Grand Hotel: The Golden Age of Palace Hotels, An Architectural and Social History. Secaucus, NJ: Chartwell, 1984.

related media:

"Hotel Sacher" (film), directed by Erich Engel in 1939, Chicago: International Historic Films, 1985.

"Legendary Hotels of the World…. The Imperial Hotels of Vienna," NY: A&E Home Video, 1997.

John Haag , Associate Professor History, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia