Ottomar Rodolphe Vlad Dracula, Prince Kretzulesco: Baker turned 'prince of Transylvania'

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The Independent Online

Ottomar Berbig, baker and antiques dealer: born Berlin 10 October 1940; adopted 1990 as Ottomar Rodolphe Vlad Dracula, Prince Kretzulesco of Transylvania and Wallachia; married (one son); died Schenkendorf, Germany 19 November 2007.

Thankfully, perhaps, Ottomar Rodolphe Vlad Dracula, Prince Kretzulesco, did not have the blood of Count Dracula in him. In fact, he spent his early life as Otto Berbig, a German baker, and a good one, according to the customers who loved his Berliner, or jam doughnuts. It was only after he was adopted into the Dracula family, by one of the famous Count's great-great-something grandchildren, that he began exploring the idea of sucking blood.

This modern-day Dracula may have been somewhat eccentric but he realised that the family name might best be used in this day and age to encourage people to give blood – in what we now consider acceptable fashion – to the Red Cross. He organised "blood-sucking parties" (supervised by the German Red Cross) at the 46-room Dracula castle in Schenkendorf, near Berlin. Rejecting family tradition, he did not use his teeth, although he would emerge from a coffin to get visitors in the mood and served blood-coloured schnapps and "Dracula sausages".

He declared the castle and surrounding 38 acres of land to be the independent "Principality of Dracula", where he sought, unsuccessfully, to set up a regime of low taxes and less bureaucracy. His efforts to issue his own blood-coloured passports, car registration plates and postage stamps were thwarted by the surrounding state of Brandenburg, whose government, with an uncharacteristic sense of humour, threatened a "garlic defence" against his aims for independence.

Otto Berbig had given up the bakers' trade and was dealing in antiques when, in the 1970s, one of Count Dracula's last descendants, the elderly and childless Princess Ekaterina Olympica Kretzulesco Caradja, walked into his shop seeking to sell some family heirlooms. Apparently the princess was amazed by the resemblance of Berbig, with his black, curly hair and rambling moustache, to her family and by his "Transylvanian-ness". She was convinced he must be related to the family, and so adopted him as her son, bestowing upon him the title Ottomar Rodolphe Vlad Dracula, Prince Kretzulesco of Transylvania and Wallachia. What antiques dealer could have turned down such a title?

The princess herself, who died in the 1990s, insisted, with a reasonable amount of documentary evidence to back her up, that she was a direct descendant of Vlad III of Wallachia, who lived from 1431 until 1476 and was widely known as Vlad the Impaler because of his tendency to skewer enemy Turks he captured. It was said that he liked his morning bread dunked in the blood of an enemy soldier. The writer Bram Stoker used Vlad as the basis for his character Count Dracula.

In recent years, Kretzulesco had received widespread press coverage in the German media for his fight against a drinks' distributor who came out with a new wine labelled "Dracula". He lost in a Munich court, which ruled that he had no legal rights to the Dracula name, brand or image. He similarly failed in a fight against a schnapps of the same name.

His attempts to get into the pop music market were also unsuccessful and these various financial setbacks meant that, last year, he had to sell his castle. He died in a humble flat, apparently broke. His infant son, Ottomar junior, widely known as Otti Dracula, takes on the family name.

Phil Davison