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Last heir to Austro-Hungarian empire dies in Germany

The eldest son and former heir of the last Austro-Hungarian emperor has died aged 98.

Otto von habsburg optEnlarge
The last heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, Otto von Habsburg (seen here in 2007), died at the age of 98. He is remembered as a "great European" who helped strengthen Europe as a united continent. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images)

The eldest son and one-time heir of the last ruler of the Austro-Hungarian empire has died aged 98 at his home in Germany. 

Archduke Otto von Habsburg was born in 1912 and became the head of the imperial family upon his father's death in 1922. The Habsburgs went into exile when the Austro-Hungarian empire collapsed at the end of World War I.

In early November 1918, the von Habsburg children were smuggled out of Budapest by an uncle and brought to their parents' Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna. On November 11, the family fled the Austrian city, the Telegraph reports.

Less than a year later, the Austrian Republic passed the "Habsburg Law", banishing the family from Austrian territory unless they renounced all dynastic claims and became private citizens, according to Reuters.

Otto von Habsburg was only allowed to return to Austria for the first time since then in 1966 - five years after he officially relinquished his claim to the throne of the former empire.

Held as 'a great European' across the continent, von Habsburg spent decades battling Nazism and Soviet communism while exiled from his family's home, according to the AP. 

He served as a member of the European Parliament for Germany's conservative Bavarian Christian Social Union. While he was president of the Pan-European League, he helped organize a peace demonstration in 1989 on the border of Austria and Hungary. That border was opened briefly as a symbolic gesture, allowing hundreds of Eastern Germans cross over before the Berlin Wall fell later that year. 

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said von Habsburg had given "an important impetus to the European project throughout his rich life."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/110704/otto-von-habsburg-heir-austro-hungarian-empire-europe-royal-family