“It’s not just about family history, it’s German history,” he said.
Kaiser Wilhelm II, the great-grandfather of Prinz von Preussen, was the last emperor of Germany and by far the richest person in the country before World War I. After Wilhelm stepped down in 1918, he retained his possessions: carrying at least 60 railway wagons. Furniture, art, porcelain and silver from Germany in their new home exiled in the Netherlands. Kaiser and his family owned substantial cash reserves and dozens of castles, villas and other assets.
But after World War II, Hohenzollern’s forests, farms, factories, and palaces in East Germany were transformed into communist land reforms, and thousands of artifacts and historical objects were deposited in state-owned museums.
Prinz von Preussen’s restoration claim was first recorded by his grandfather after the Berlin Wall fell, when thousands of Germans took advantage of the new laws and allowed him compensation and reinstatement for confiscated property. Authorities assessed it for more than 20 years before negotiations with the family began.
If Prinz von Presen carried the case forward in court, the success hinged on how much his great-grandfather, Crown Prince Wilhelm, supported the Nazis in the 1930s. Under German law, if a court gives “sufficient support” to the Nazis, their family is not eligible for compensation or restoration of lost property.
Crown prince Hopefully, Adolf Hitler would restore the monarchy, and wrote flattering letters to him. He defended Hitler’s anti-Jewish policies and publicly wore a swastika armband. If a court agreed that Crown Prince Wilhelm’s support for Hitler was “substantial”, then Prinz von Presen’s claims would be dismissed.
Prinz von Preissen stated that his great-grandfather had “recognized this criminal rule, and it became clear very quickly that he did not have the moral patience, or courage, to go into the opposition.” But he questioned whether it amounted to “substantial” support, adding that it was a “question that has been approved by legal experts.”