he Austro-Hungarian Empire dominated central Europe until 1918, when the last Habsburg Emperor, Karl, fled into exile. Karl's death in 1921 made his nine-year-old son Otto head of the Habsburg family, a position he has now held for over eighty years. Born heir presumptive to an empire that stretched from the Tyrol to Transylvania, and from Poland to Sarajevo, Otto von Habsburg's life has both affected and been reflected in some of the most dramatic and historic events of the twentieth century. As a four-year-old he walked in the funeral procession of the Emperor Franz Josef in 1916. Otto van Habsburg later became the focus of royalist loyalty, as the Habsburg restoration attracted considerable political support until the Second World War. Refusing any contact with Hitler, van Habsburg fled first to France, then America, where he formed a friendship with F.D. Roosevelt. Never living in the past, and always promoting the interests of the Austrian people, he became a highly respected member of the European Parliament. Today, at 90-years-old, von Habsburg continues to be politically active, including being a strong advocate for a unified Europe.
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