Otto von Habsburg (AP Photo)
BERLIN (AP) — Otto von Habsburg, the oldest son of Austria-Hungary's last emperor and the longtime head of one of Europe's most influential families, died Monday, his spokeswoman said. He was 98.
Habsburg died in his sleep at his home in Poecking in southern Germany, spokeswoman Eva Demmerle told The Associated Press.
Born on Nov. 20, 1912, Habsburg witnessed the family's decline after the Habsburgs were forced into exile following World War I.
He settled in Poecking in the 1950s and went on to become a member of the European Parliament for Bavaria's conservative Bavarian Christian Social Union.
He also served as president of the Pan-European League from 1979 to 1999.
In that role, he was instrumental in helping organize the Pan-European Picnic peace demonstration in 1989 on the border of Austria and Hungary.
The border was briefly opened in a symbolic gesture, which created the opportunity for 600 East Germans to flee communism months before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
It was the first time an Eastern European nation opened its borders, and is widely seen as the start of the fall of the Iron Curtain.
Habsburg's wife, Regina, died last year. The couple had seven children. Their eldest son, Karl, now runs the family's affairs and has been the official head of the House of Habsburg since 2007.
Habsburg will be buried July 16 in the Emperor Tomb in Vienna, below the Austrian capital's Capuchin Church.
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