Navratil children in case the Titanic had not sunk


Arun Vajpey

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One of the things that I often wonder while thinking "What If the Titanic had not sunk?" is whether Michel Navratil would successfully have disappeared in the US with his children. Given the times, he probably would have done just that and the two children would have grown-up as Americans, probably with the surname Hoffman and not learning to speak much French (maybe even not at all if their father chose to hide his origins for the sake of anonymity). As it was, Michel died in the disaster wheres the children survived to be claimed by their mother and grew-up in France as French subjects.
 

Adam Went

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Hi Arun,

Yes, I think that the Navratil's would have stayed in America as well. No doubt questions would have been asked about their whereabouts, but in the world of 1912 it would have been difficult to track them down, especially on another continent with a different surname. But, stranger things have happened and as adults they may have wanted to know more about their past anyway.

Cheers,
Adam.
 

Arun Vajpey

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I find the whole Navratil saga fascinating. Neither Michel nor Macelle Navratil were born French AFAIK. He was from Slovakia and she an Italian by birth. They married and settled in France and had 2 children, Michel jr and Edmond. The couple separated by 1912 with Marcelle having custody of the children. But Michel had made plans to kidnap them when they came to stay with him for Easter holidays and emigrate to America using a false identity, Louis Hoffman. The successfully got on board the Titanic and apparently told others that his wife was deceased. If the Titanic had not sunk, doubtless he would have stuck to both the name and the story, thus arriving at New York as Louis Hoffman and children. Whatever his plans had been since then, one would think that a man who planned all this so meticulously would perhaps have some sort of future arranged in the USA for his children and himself. If that was the case, it would not have been too difficult in 1912 for them to have disappeared among the teeming new arrivals, certainly out of Marcelle's reach.

About the children wanting to know about their past in later life. Had the Titanic not sunk, it would never have been famous and most of the passengers on its maiden voyage would have remained as obscure as those on board the Olympic's maiden voyage. That would have included the Navratil family and very likely Michel Sr would have told his sons the same story as he did the others, ie that their mother was dead etc. Even if Michel Jr, 3 years old at the time, had fleeting memories of his mother, that could easily have been fitted into the father's story. Therefore, it is likely that the brothers would have grown-up into two ordinary Americans without any knowledge that they had a mysterious past and so would not have bothered researching into their origins.

Somehow I feel sorry for Michel Sr. Whether his story about his wife having an affair was true or not, it looks like he really loved and cared for his children. Furthermore, in those days (and not very different these days either), courts were unfairly partial to the mother when it came to awarding custody of the children.
 
Jan 21, 2019
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I find the whole Navratil saga fascinating. Neither Michel nor Macelle Navratil were born French AFAIK. He was from Slovakia and she an Italian by birth. They married and settled in France and had 2 children, Michel jr and Edmond. The couple separated by 1912 with Marcelle having custody of the children. But Michel had made plans to kidnap them when they came to stay with him for Easter holidays and emigrate to America using a false identity, Louis Hoffman. The successfully got on board the Titanic and apparently told others that his wife was deceased. If the Titanic had not sunk, doubtless he would have stuck to both the name and the story, thus arriving at New York as Louis Hoffman and children. Whatever his plans had been since then, one would think that a man who planned all this so meticulously would perhaps have some sort of future arranged in the USA for his children and himself. If that was the case, it would not have been too difficult in 1912 for them to have disappeared among the teeming new arrivals, certainly out of Marcelle's reach.

About the children wanting to know about their past in later life. Had the Titanic not sunk, it would never have been famous and most of the passengers on its maiden voyage would have remained as obscure as those on board the Olympic's maiden voyage. That would have included the Navratil family and very likely Michel Sr would have told his sons the same story as he did the others, ie that their mother was dead etc. Even if Michel Jr, 3 years old at the time, had fleeting memories of his mother, that could easily have been fitted into the father's story. Therefore, it is likely that the brothers would have grown-up into two ordinary Americans without any knowledge that they had a mysterious past and so would not have bothered researching into their origins.

Somehow I feel sorry for Michel Sr. Whether his story about his wife having an affair was true or not, it looks like he really loved and cared for his children. Furthermore, in those days (and not very different these days either), courts were unfairly partial to the mother when it came to awarding custody of the children.
I've done the research for an upcoming book on the subject, The Orphans of the Storm (to be published this summer by Bloomsbury), and all is not what it seems! Monsieur Navratil would surely have been caught, as the French authorities started looking for him on 23rd April 1912 for quite another matter. It's also worth noting that in a letter found in his pocket, when he was pulled onto Mackay Bennett, MN asked his mother or brothers to take the children. Obviously a week alone with them proved too much!
 
Nov 14, 2005
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I've done the research for an upcoming book on the subject, The Orphans of the Storm (to be published this summer by Bloomsbury), and all is not what it seems! Monsieur Navratil would surely have been caught, as the French authorities started looking for him on 23rd April 1912 for quite another matter. It's also worth noting that in a letter found in his pocket, when he was pulled onto Mackay Bennett, MN asked his mother or brothers to take the children. Obviously a week alone with them proved too much!
Why so late? When did she first report them missing? I know you said it was a different matter but the kids had already been missing for weeks by that point. The cops should have been looking for him well before that. Unless in 1912 that was of no big concern. Just curious.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Monsieur Navratil would surely have been caught, as the French authorities started looking for him on 23rd April 1912 for quite another matter. It's also worth noting that in a letter found in his pocket, when he was pulled onto Mackay Bennett, MN asked his mother or brothers to take the children. Obviously a week alone with them proved too much!
I don't think it is as simple as that. Michel Navratil Sr had planned to settle with his children in America but allowed for the possibility that he might be apprehended. From what is known about their time on board the Titanic, he came across as a very caring father and rarely left the kids on their own. He befriended a Swiss fellow Second Class passenger named Bertha Lehmann and she baby-sat the children occasionally when Michel Sr needed a break.

Years ago I corresponded with a Czech Titanic researcher who was also interested in the Navratil story. He told me that among most of his contemporary Titanic enthusiasts in Eastern Europe, the sympathies were with Michel Sr and not Marcelle. They believe that the letter to his mother was a back-up to care for the boys in case the father got arrested and/or deported. But 1912 being what it was and with them using pseudonyms, he might have got away with it.
 
Jan 21, 2019
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I don't think it is as simple as that. Michel Navratil Sr had planned to settle with his children in America but allowed for the possibility that he might be apprehended. From what is known about their time on board the Titanic, he came across as a very caring father and rarely left the kids on their own. He befriended a Swiss fellow Second Class passenger named Bertha Lehmann and she baby-sat the children occasionally when Michel Sr needed a break.

Years ago I corresponded with a Czech Titanic researcher who was also interested in the Navratil story. He told me that among most of his contemporary Titanic enthusiasts in Eastern Europe, the sympathies were with Michel Sr and not Marcelle. They believe that the letter to his mother was a back-up to care for the boys in case the father got arrested and/or deported. But 1912 being what it was and with them using pseudonyms, he might have got away with it.
No. We have found all the documents regarding the divorce case in France and you will see that the sympathy should be totally with Marcelle. I cannot, I'm afraid give any of the information before publication, but it is a real-shocker.
 
Jan 21, 2019
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I don't think it is as simple as that. Michel Navratil Sr had planned to settle with his children in America but allowed for the possibility that he might be apprehended. From what is known about their time on board the Titanic, he came across as a very caring father and rarely left the kids on their own. He befriended a Swiss fellow Second Class passenger named Bertha Lehmann and she baby-sat the children occasionally when Michel Sr needed a break.

Years ago I corresponded with a Czech Titanic researcher who was also interested in the Navratil story. He told me that among most of his contemporary Titanic enthusiasts in Eastern Europe, the sympathies were with Michel Sr and not Marcelle. They believe that the letter to his mother was a back-up to care for the boys in case the father got arrested and/or deported. But 1912 being what it was and with them using pseudonyms, he might have got away with it.
You will see that he KNEW the police would be after him for something else. Also Marcelle had NOT been awarded custody. The children were temporarily in the care of someone else, until the judges weighed up the case. That decision was due a few days after MN absconded. But he knew he could not have won, as something else against him was also due to become public at that time.
 

Arun Vajpey

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We have found all the documents regarding the divorce case in France and you will see that the sympathy should be totally with Marcelle. I cannot, I'm afraid give any of the information before publication, but it is a real-shocker.

You will see that he KNEW the police would be after him for something else. Also Marcelle had NOT been awarded custody. The children were temporarily in the care of someone else, until the judges weighed up the case. That decision was due a few days after MN absconded. But he knew he could not have won, as something else against him was also due to become public at that time.
Accepted. Obviously, you and your colleagues have done far more research into this than I have and I confess that there was an emotional angle to what I wished about MN and his children before.

I would like to know the whole story when the book comes out. Will it be in translated French or original English?
 
Jan 21, 2019
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In English first. Other languages may follow. All the facts and references are at the back of the book. But the story is almost the reverse of what everyone has always believed. Right down to the fact that SHE was divorcing him, not the other way around.
 
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