His ancestors were German kings. He wants to recover their treasures.
“It’s not just a family affair, it’s the story of Germany,” he added.
Prinz von Preussen’s great-great-grandfather, Kaiser Wilhelm II, was Germany’s last emperor and by far the country’s richest man before World War I. After Wilhelm’s abdication in 1918 he retained substantial wealth: at least 60 railroad cars transported furniture, art, porcelain and silverware from Germany to his new home. exile in the Netherlands. The kaiser and his family also held large cash reserves and dozens of palaces, villas and other properties.
But after World War II, the forests, farms, factories and palaces of the Hohenzollerns in East Germany were expropriated as part of communist land reforms, and thousands of works of art and objects historical figures have been integrated into the collections of public museums.
Prinz von Preussen’s restitution claim was first filed by his grandfather after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when thousands of Germans took advantage of new laws allowing them to seek redress and restitution for confiscated property . Officials evaluated him for more than 20 years before negotiations with the family began.
If Prinz von Preussen takes the case to court, success may depend on the support his great-grandfather, Crown Prince Wilhelm, gave to the Nazis in the 1930s. Under German law, if a court considers that a person gave the Nazis “substantial support”, then their family is not entitled to compensation or restitution of lost property.
The crown prince hoped that Adolf Hitler would restore the monarchy and wrote him flattering letters. He defended Hitler’s anti-Semitic policies and wore a swastika armband in public. If a court were to agree that Crown Prince Wilhelm’s support for Hitler was “substantial,” then Prinz von Preussen’s claims would be rejected.
Prinz von Preussen said his great-grandfather had “recognized this criminal regime, and it quickly became clear that he did not have the moral strength, or the courage, to join the opposition.” But he questioned whether this amounted to “substantial” support, adding that it was a “matter that needs to be clarified by legal experts”.