Anastasia: The Truth

This Internet site has been started because of misstatements, distortions, and false speculation about the case of Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia, the youngest daughter of Emperor Nicholas II.

On November 2, 1997, I wrote the following e-mail to Mr. Bob Atchison of Pallasart Web Design who maintains the website "Alexander Palace Time Machine". According to Mr. Atchison, he welcomes comments. The letter to him which follows is self-explanatory:

I have read with interest your website article, "My Name is Anastasia". However, I would like to comment on some statements which are made on page three regarding Anna Anderson. You write, "Some scientists were able to prove that she wasn't me...something I always knew." First of all, the DNA tests conducted by Dr. Peter Gill did not prove that she was Franziska Schanzkowksa. Dr. Gill took pains to call the tissue tested as the "putative Anna Anderson samples". Anna Anderson appeared in Berlin in February 1920. Franziska disappeared in March of 1920. Franziska's brother, Felix Schanzkowski met Anna Anderson on May 9, 1927, and signed an affidavit stating categorically that she was not his sister.

Your article states that she "couldn't even speak Russian". Anna Anderson explained her reluctance to speak Russian because it was the language of the drunken, cursing, obscene guards who terrorized her family and who pronounced the death sentence in the miserable cellar of "that house". Yet she spoke it in her sleep and under anesthetics. I personally witnessed her listening to conversations in Russian and offering her own pertinent comments in English.

Your article states, "She didn't look like me at all." Dr. Moritz Furtmayr, one of Germany's most respected forensic experts concluded that Anna Anderson was Anastasia based on his P.I.K. method which is accepted in German courts as positive proof. In addition the comparison of Anna Anderson's right ear with photographs of the pre-1918 Anastasia were "identical in 17 anatomical points and tissue formation, five more than the dozen points normally accepted by West German courts to establish a person's identity." (Associated Press dispatch 2-25-77)

Your article states, "Our family rejected her, but a few people who hardly knew me claimed they recognized her to be me." One prominent family member who acknowledge her was her cousin, Grand Duke Andrew of Russia. Lili Dehn, one of Empress Alexandra's two closest friends definitely recognized her. Other relatives who acknowledged her were Crown Princess Cecilie of Germany and Prince Sigismund of Prussia. The Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach even invited Anastasia (Anna Anderson) to be godmother of his son Prince Michael Benedict. In short, Anna Anderson was no Polish farm worker.

Your article does not note that two bodies were missing from the grave. According to the late Dr. William Maples, who was invited by the Russian government to help identify the remains, the missing ones were Anastasia and her brother Alexis. He concluded that the back bones of the youngest female skeleton were those of a young woman at least eighteen years of age and, therefore, had to be the remains of Marie (age nineteen) rather than Anastasia who had just turned seventeen a month and a few days before the murders took place.

The Anastasia case is one of the most complicated of this century. It is tied up in family intrigue, royal politics, state secrets, and disputed bank accounts. I hope that you will consider the above facts and, in fairness, revise this website. I would be glad to receive your comments.


Andrew W. Hartsook


I never received an answer from Mr. Atchison and let the matter drop there. But in the past few months, two new articles have appeared on the Alexander Palace Time Machine. They contain so many blatant misstatements as well as slander upon people who are no longer here to defend themselves that a full response is required via the internet.


The two articles in question are "Franziska" and Royal Martyrs: "Anastasia: The Unmasking of Anna Anderson". They are found under "Russian Royalty Resources" at the bottom of page two, keyword index of the Alexander Palace Time Machine.


This initial response will focus on the shorter of the two articles, "Anastasia: The Unmasking of Anna Anderson" which appears under the title of "The Royal Martyrs of Russia". The article was written by John Godl of Sydney, Australia, and was compiled with additional comments by Father Demetrios Serfes of the Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church of Boise, Idaho.


To begin with, their article is dedicated to the memory of Dr. William Maples for his "work identifying the remains of the Royal Martyrs Tsar Nicholas and family." Father Demetrios states that it is Grand Duchess Marie who was missing from the grave, not Anastasia. He says, "The media would like us to believe that it's Grand Duchess Anastasia who escaped." It was Dr. William Maples who adamantly insisted that Anastasia could not be among the women found in the grave. He said this on videotape and gave detailed reasons for his conclusions in his book, Dead Men Do Tell Tales. Why honor Dr. Maples and then deny one of his most important conclusions?


John Godl states in the first paragraph of his article that Anna Anderson was Franziska Schanzkowska. Anna Anderson appeared in Berlin on February 17, 1920, when she was pulled from the Landwehr Canal after an apparent suicide attempt. However, Franziska Schanzkowska did not disappear from Berlin until March of that year. Both women were accounted for at the same time.


Mr. Godl says in the next paragraph that testing of a tissue sample in 1994 proved that Anna Anderson and Franziska were the same person. The sample in question was preserved in a paraffin block in Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville. No unusual security measures were instituted when its existence became known. For one period of approximately three months, it could not be located when a researcher made inquiries about it. Dr. Peter Gill who tested the sample referred to it as the "putative" tissue sample of Anna Anderson. Putative means "commonly believed or assumed to be". Reasonable doubts remain about this sample and its apparent, temporary disappearance from the hospital.


On page three, Mr. Godl states, "In time an impressive entourage formed around her [Anna Anderson], at first credulous exiles seeking a sizable finders fee from the Dowager Empress before yielding to opportunists with sights set on imperial bank accounts." To begin with, the Dowager Empress was in "total denial" about the murder at Ekaterinburg and believed that her son and family were still alive somewhere in hiding and would reappear. There was no finders fee. Interestingly, her brother, Prince Waldemar of Denmark through the Danish government instructed their ambassador in Berlin, Herluf Zahle, to pay Anna Anderson's expenses and represent her interests. Impoverished royal relatives had scoured the banks of Europe in search of bank deposits by Nicholas II, but could find very little.

When Grand Duchess Olga, Anastasia's aunt and sister of Nicholas II, came to meet Anna Anderson, she appeared to recognize her as her niece Anastasia and wrote many endearing letters to her. She asked Anna if she knew of any bank accounts in the West. Anna told her that her father had put money on deposit in England for his four daughters, Olga, Tatiana, Marie, and Anastasia. This money had been placed in a camouflaged account. With this information, Ambassador Zahle made inquires at the bank and was told that the money was indeed there. The bank declined to state the amount. One must ask how an insane Polish factory worker could know about a secret bank account that Grand Duchess Olga, the Emperor's sister, did not even know about? Soon after this Aunt Olga's visits and letters stopped.


Next Mr. Godl states, "Few of Anna Anderson's supporters were more cunning, knowledgeable or influential than Gleb Botkin; nephew [actually a cousin] of Serge Botkin and son of the Imperial Family's personal physician Dr. Eugene Botkin who perished with his royal patients in the Ipatiev House in 1918." To anyone who knew Gleb Botkin, the word cunning would be an unthinkable description for him. As a seventeen year-old in 1917, he traveled alone from Tsarskoe Selo to Tobolsk to join his father and the Imperial Family in exile. After the murder in Ekaterinburg, Gleb Botkin had a price on his head and was actively hunted by the Bolsheviks. It was only chance that kept him from sharing the fate of his father and the Romanovs. Gleb Botkin's 1929 book, The Real Romanovs, remains one of the most quoted and trustworthy, original sources on the subject. It has recently been reprinted by Pavlovsk Press in Canada. His drawings and stories, which he created for the Emperor's children during their imprisonment at Tobolsk, was published posthumously in 1996 under the title Lost Tales. Gleb Botkin would never tolerate an impostor, let alone offer recognition and support to a fraud. Read his books, and you will understand.

Mr. Godl states, "Botkin was one many sources of obscure information Anderson would recount as 'memories' to astound friend and foe alike." Anna Anderson appeared in Berlin in 1920. Gleb Botkin did not even meet her until 1927. Therefore the means he used to transfer obscure information to someone with whom he had no communication during these early, crucial years is not clear. Mr. Godl also claims that "dissolute members of the German aristocracy" supplied her with information. Would these include Crown Princess Cecilie of Germany, Prince Sigismund of Prussia, Prince Friedrich Ernst of Saxe-Altenburg, all of whom recognized her as Anastasia? Even the exiled Kaiser Wilhelm II sent his best wishes to her via his wife. General Max von Hoffman, chief of intelligence of the German High Command on the Eastern Front during World War I stated that he didn't need to see Anna Anderson because he knew that she was Anastasia. Did some of these "dissolute members of the German aristocracy" feed confidential information to a demented Polish factory worker?


Mr. Godl states, "The fact she couldn't speak or read Russian, English or French at the time like all the tsar's daughters, was sufficient proof for former court tutor Pierre Gilliard she was an impostor..." When Pierre Gilliard first met Anna Anderson, he addressed her as "Your Imperial Highness" in the presence of Ambassador Zahle and her physician Prof. Rudnev. GIlliard later changed his mind after entering the employ of the Grand Duke of Hessen-Darmstadt. (More about that later.) In the summer of 1920, one of Anna Anderson's nurses, Erna Bucholz, testified that she indeed "spoke Russian like a native." When she underwent an operation in those early years she had "raved in English" under the anesthetic.

Mr. Godl states, "[The fact that she] could rattle off specific details of family bank accounts (including secret passwords) the real Anastasia would never have been told convinced even the most gullible." The fact is she alone knew about the bank account and knew how to gain access as Ambassador Zahle later proved. Romanov relatives had been turned away at the same bank. Why did no other Romanov relative know this? How does Mr. Godl know what the Russian emperor told his own daughters, and how would a demented peasant girl alone know information that senior Romanov family members were ignorant of?


Mr. Godl states that Gleb Botkin "created the prevailing myth that Grand Duchesses Xenia and Olga (sisters of Nicholas II) tried to bribe Anderson... an impossibility considering their precarious financial situations." It was precisely because of their precarious financial situation that the two aunts planned to claim the money in the bank that Anastasia alone had revealed. Since Anastasia would be the primary beneficiary of the money, she had to be removed as a claimant for it.


Mr. Godl asserts: "Anderson's supporters were also responsible for her childhood 'memory' of Alexandra's brother, the Grand Duke of Hesse visiting Russia during the First World War." Mr. Godl calls this "undoubtedly fiction". In 1925 Anna Anderson innocently answered a question that she had last seen her uncle, the Grand Duke of Hesse in 1916. The grand duke, on hearing this, said "This is a catastrophe" and denounced her as an impostor. His unauthorized trip during wartime would have been considered treason. Interestingly, the Soviet government confirmed the secret trip which he had denied when it published previously secret tsarist archives in two books, Monarkhia pered Krusheniem, 1914-1917 (Moscow, 1927) and Romanovyi germanskie vliyania, 1914-1917 (Moscow, 1929). The former tutor of the Grand Duke's son, Fritz Unruh, came forward to say that the grand Duke had, indeed, made the trip, and that he had helped him prepare for it. Again, how would a demented peasant girl know all of this?

It was at this point that the grand duke went to work to try to find some missing person they could say that Anna Anderson really was. The Franziska Schanzkowska myth was born.


Mr. Godl again attacks Gleb Botkin: "From the outset money was the principal objective, and Gleb Botkin became increasingly obsessed with tracing and claiming tsarist assets." Anna Anderson was, more often than not, without financial support. Gleb Botkin did make efforts to locate assets which rightfully belonged to the Emperor's daughters. At the same time, he made it clear that he would not accept one cent, and he never did.


Mr. Godl refers to court experts and contradictory testimony and compares the process to the O.J. Simpson trial. Quite unlike the O.J. trial, both sides in the Anastasia case agreed to accept the conclusions the court's own appointed handwriting expert, Minna Becker, who had previously helped authenticate the diary of Anne Frank. Regarding Anna Anderson, Becker concluded that Anderson was absolutely, without question, Grand Duchess Anastasia. Another court appointed forensic expert, Dr. Otto Reche, founder and former president of the German Anthropological Society, concluded that she was Anastasia after a full year of testing and examination.


The article states, "Before she became Anastasia, Franziska Schanzkowska was mentally unstable [and was] incarcerated in two mental hospitals before disappearing in 1920." In fact, the historical Franziska was adjudged incurably insane. By contrast, Anna Anderson was adjudged free of mental illness by two different doctors. However, she did have a high-strung, difficult personality and, when upset, developed red blotches on her face just like Empress Alexandra.


Opponents of Anna Anderson tried to say that the scars she bore were received in an explosion in a hand grenade factory during World War I. Anna Anderson's scars included evidence of a bullet grazing her head behind the right ear, teeth knocked out by a rifle butt, the tip of her elbow cut off by a bayonet, and a scar of a distinctive triangular Russian bayonet which completely pierced her foot, pinning her to the floor during the murder. None of these injuries would be typical of a hand grenade explosion.

In addition, Anna Anderson had a congenital foot deformity just like Anastasia. She had a cauterized mole on a shoulder-blade just like Anastasia. She had a scar on the middle finger of her left hand from a carriage door being shut on it as a child just like Anastasia. She had a small, faint scar on her forehead from a fall as a child just like Anastasia. Three fingers of one of her hands were the same length just like Anastasia and Empress Alexandra.


Mr. Godl alleges that Anna Anderson must have had plastic surgery to make her look more like Anastasia. Extensive photographs from the time of her appearance in February 1920 until her death in 1984 reveal no such changes. The only alterations were done to the only known photograph of Franziska Schankowska to make her look more like Anna Anderson. According to the court's own experts, that lone photograph of the Polish factory worker had been retouched at least two times.


At this point, Mr. Godl launches into "may have been", "perhaps even", and "probably" in his efforts to make Franziska and Anna Anderson meld into the same person. He refers to Pierre Gilliard again who called Anna Anderson a "cunning psychopath". Interestingly, Anna Anderson had said that Empress Alexandra's car had a swastika hood ornament. This could only be verified after a photo of the Empress' car was located, and then only with a magnifying glass. After hearing the initial report of Anna Anderson's statement, Pierre Gilliard wrote an article with an accompanying photo of a car with a large swastika obviously drawn on the car's door in black ink. Mr. Gilliard asks in the article how anyone could have failed to see the decoration, and therefore, her statement proved nothing. Later in court, when he was asked by one of the judges to submit his evidence against Anna Anderson, he informed the court that he had burned all such documents! One has to ask who was cunning?


The article states, "The heartless, vitriolic attacks on the sisters of Nicholas II and Romanov family in general by Gleb Botkin and accomplices deserves nothing but utter contempt." The reader should know that Romanov family members remained silent officially about the identity of Anna Anderson until the death of the Dowager Empress Marie Fyodorovna in October of 1928. The two sisters issued a public statement denouncing Anna Anderson as a fraud within twenty-four hours of their mother's death. The statement was also signed by ten other close relatives. They dared not issue this denunciation until the dowager empress had died. One would have to say that this was an extraordinarily short mourning period. Gleb Botkin issued a statement which pointed out the unseemliness and treachery this action represented so soon after Marie Fyodorovna's death. Mr. Godl calls Mr. Botkin's actions "heartless" and deserving "utter contempt". But apparently these twelve members of the Romanov family, who managed somehow to set aside their grief in order to denounce their emperor's daughter, deserve no adverse comment. In truth, they knew that they had to act quickly because the ten year waiting period to claim the money in the English bank had expired on July 17 of that same year. They could only get it if Anna Anderson were safely out of contention.

There is much more to this case which cannot be easily summarized here. The next installment will focus on the other article on Mr. Atchison's website: "Franziska". The reader is referred to books on the subject: Anastasia: the Riddle of Anna Anderson by Peter Kurth, and The Real Romanovs, The Woman Who Rose Again, and Lost Tales by Gleb Botkin.

The writer of this article also invites questions and comments:

Andrew W. Hartsook

Posted August 25, 1999