October 5, 2023

“It’s not just about family history, it’s German history,” he added.

Prince of Prussia’s great-great-grandfather Kaiser Wilhelm II. Was the last Emperor in Germany and by far the richest man in the country before the First World War. After Wilhelm abdicated in 1918, he retained considerable wealth: at least 60 railway wagons were transported furniture, art, porcelain and silver from Germany to his new home in exile in the Netherlands. The emperor and his family also held onto significant cash reserves and dozens of palaces, mansions, and other properties.

After the Second World War, the forests, farms, factories and palaces of the Hohenzollerns in East Germany were expropriated by communist land reforms and thousands of works of art and historical objects were included in the collections of state-owned museums.

Prince of Prussia’s restitution claim was first filed by his grandfather after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when thousands of Germans made use of new laws that allowed them to seek compensation and restitution for confiscated property. Officials rated it for more than 20 years before negotiations with the family began.

If Prince von Prussia follows up the case in court, success could depend on how much support his great-grandfather, Crown Prince Wilhelm, gave to the Nazis in the 1930s. If a court is of the opinion under German law that someone provided “substantial assistance” to the Nazis, their family is not entitled to any compensation or reimbursement of lost property.

The Crown Prince hoped that Adolf Hitler would reinstate the monarchy and wrote him flattering letters. He defended Hitler’s anti-Semitic policies and publicly wore a swastika armband. If a court were to agree that Crown Prince Wilhelm’s support for Hitler was “substantial”, Prince von Prussen’s claims would be rejected.

Prince von Preussen said his great-grandfather “recognized this criminal regime and it quickly became clear that he did not have the moral strength or the courage to go into the opposition.” However, he asked whether this was “substantial” support, adding that it was “an issue that needs to be resolved by legal experts”.