HomeInspireLife

Alexander Zanzer – Keeping up the Legacy of Baron Forefathers

Alex zanzer

Baron Zanzer is a title and a name containing a widespread history behind it as it is the famous story of the last aristocrat of Mongolia. The name Zanzer is an abbreviation of Zanabazar, the first Bogd Gegeen (Supreme Religious Authority 1635-1723) of Mongolia who brought Buddhism into the country.

Mongolia was accustomed to foreign aristocrats exploiting gold mines in their country. Genghis Khan introduced freedom of religion that was maintained through centuries. During this period, a small Jewish community strengthened itself by offering the most intellectual mining engineers; one of them, coming from the border of Poland and Ukraine, became close to the Bogd Khan. To reward him for his achievements, the Bogd Khan wanted to bestow him an aristocratic title that he could transmit to his sons and grandsons or granddaughters if no male heir was born.

At that time, the title Baron was uncommon in Mongolia, so an equivalent title was provided to him. The meaning of the title Baron is a double edge sword; it refers to an elevation in aristocratic circles. It is a symbol of accomplishment and duty.

Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, also known as “the mad baron of Mongolia,” holds a permanent spot in the list of history's most vicious rogue military leaders. There were western barons passing through Mongolia so the state became familiar with the term, however, this title got its real recognition because of the warlord behavior of von Ungern-Sternberg. He made this aristocratic title famous in Mongolia. The rumors of the advances of Baron von Ungern-Sternberg reminded the Mongolians of the devastating conquests of Genghis Khan, who has a mythical status in Mongolia.  

Bogd Khan conferred titles upon foreigners in order to integrate them into the Mongolian fabric. One such example was Alexander Zanzer I, who was awarded the aristocratic title of Ashan-i Hafan (男爵; the baron equivalent). The name Zanzer was taken from Zanabazar, which is the name of the first Bogd Khan. He was also presented with a golden “passport” engraved with his name. Later, he was known as the Mongolian Baron Zanzer. Soon, the title of Baron became the greatest honor, a foreigner can receive from Bogd Khan. But unfortunately, it was the last time the title was awarded to anyone.

The title Zanzer has been passed on to his grandson Alexander Zanzer, who is a journalist, diplomat, and social entrepreneur. Zanzer’s father was liberated by the Russian army from the Nazi-camps and served in the Soviet-Army till 1953. When it became possible at the end of the 60 to leave Soviet-Union, he left the country for Israel and came later to Belgium.

Zanzer possesses the Belgian nationality. He studied at the UFSIA University and received a Master of Business Administration, and a Ph.D. in Applied Economics. He served in the Belgian Army at the Royal Military Academy in Brussels. Zanzer became the General Director of the Royal Society of Jewish Welfare in 1999. In 2004, he became the member of the District Council of Antwerp. He also served as Honorary Consul General in Mongolia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Belgium from 2001 to 2011. 

Zanzer is the former secretary of the European Council of Jewish Communities. He is a board member of the Central Welfare Organization, Antwerp, and has been serving as the editor of Centrale magazine since 1999. Zanzer has written multiple books including Honorary Consular Diplomacy, Insignia, Sobor: Seal the future, and The Thunder Stone: The Curse of the Empire Builders.

Alexander Zanzer has received multiple honors for his work. ‘Kennen is kunnen’ (to know is to be able to) is the phrase ingrained on Zanzer’s Heraldic coat of arms. In French, however, “Savoir est Pouvoir,” has a dual meaning “knowledge is power and knowledge makes capable.” In August 5, 2005, The Mongolia Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided a certified letter to Dr. Alexander Zanzer, according to which he was appointed as Honorary Consul of Mongolia at Antwerp, Belgium in 2001. The same year, he was honored as a Knight in the Order of Leopold II by King Albert II of Belgium. In 2006, Mongolian President Enkhbayar conferred the Honored Medal on Zanzer. He was also awarded the distinction of Officer in the Order of Leopold II by King Philip of Belgium.

Zanzer’s account presents an adequate example of how immigrants create positive changes through their knowledge and assimilate into the fabric of a country. Their services cannot be disregarded as they prove to be instrumental in strengthening a country and playing a key for its betterment. Alexander Zanzer is the perfect example of such an individual as he is following in the footsteps of his grandfather and carrying out noble services.

The Mongolians recognized the resemblance between the exploits of Ungern-Sternberg and Genghis Khan but were unable to confront it until he entered Ulaanbaatar. In 1921, the destruction brought by Baron Ungern-Sternberg confirmed his adoration of warlords.

The newly elicited Baron Zanzer warned of the atrocities and the pogroms of the White soldiers couldn’t save the capital as it was fled with bloodshed in the blink of an eye. However, Alexander Zanzer I lived to tell the story. However, around, 1942, he died in the Nazi-Kamps. Without any doubt, the name Zanzer associated with the title Baron bears a history in itself and must be remembered for the contradictions it holds and the historical lessons it taught.

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter