The Principles of Washington, signed in December 1998, will allow the jewish families dispossessed during the Second world War to recover their goods. But what about those confiscated by the Russians? It is the controversy that was raging in Germany. It was launched by a family whose links with the nazis remain unclear. The heirs of the imperial family, the Hohenzollern, demanded the return of castles and works of art confiscated after the Second world War.

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“Those requests are based on those of my grandfather, introduced after the reunification, that I am pursuing for my family”, explained in a recent interview in the daily Die Welt prince Georges-Frederic of Prussia, head of the imperial house of Hohenzollern, which marked a millenium of the history of Germany. The venerable dynasty, dethroned with the abdication of Wilhelm II in 1918, believed to have been unjustly expropriated by the Soviets after the Second world War in what became the GDR communist, so that a agreement sealed in 1926 with the German State regulated the distribution of the assets of imperial.

For their part, critics of the Hohenzollern suffocate in the face of claims for the return late and are reminiscent to some of the nazi sympathies of members of the imperial family during the Third Reich.

Over one million euros of compensation

The challenge is to size: a right of residence in particular in the famous castle of Cecilienhof in Potsdam, thousands of works of art and more than one million euro of compensation are claimed by the family of the last Kaiser. With its half timbered architecture of the Tudor style, with its six courtyards and 55 chimneys, Cecilienhof is famous for having hosted the Potsdam conference in the summer of 1945, where the Allies decided the fate of their enemies.

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Even if the Hohenzollern ensure they do want to exert “no influence on the presentation of collections and exhibitions” on the inside, they intend to recover their property, which became the first property of the GDR in 1949 and then of the German State after the German reunification in 1990.

in the Face of them, the public foundation that manages the bulk of the heritage of the former Prussia, the German states of Brandenburg and Berlin, where was the heart of the royal province, and the federal State in German. “The Hohenzollerns are marginalized with their claims unacceptable”, storm the minister of Finance of Brandenburg, Christian Görke.

“What Chutzpah!”

The negotiations between the representatives of the family of Hohenzollern and the cultural foundations that manage the assets in question last for years, but they have hardened in recent weeks when the family has submitted a detailed list of claims. Lack of compromise amicably, the courts must decide, then, that George-Frederick of Prussia has just lost a suit to recover a castle on the Rhine, not far from the famous Loreley rock.

“What chutzpah!”, took the former president of the chamber of deputies, the German, Wolfgang Thierse, in regard to the restitution claims to the imperial. “The claims are based on the law and under the law. They have not evolved”, a replica to the AFP Markus Hennig, the lawyer of the Hohenzollern. The agreement of 1926, gave the family a right of residence in 39 castles and ownership on their content.

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“It is a legal position. The prince should not, and does not want to live in a castle. It is simply to know what will happen to this right of residence”, says Markus Hennig.

But beyond the legal aspect, this case wakes a memory conflict around the attitude of the Hohenzollern after the arrival of the nazis to power. While the supporters of the rehabilitation of the past prussian Germany give of the voice, in the Land of Brandenburg, the radical left has campaigned for a referendum against the restitution claims to the imperial.

A role disorder with the nazis

According to a 1994 law, all persons who have been expropriated by the soviet Union have the right to claim compensation if “they have not supported the nazi regime”.

Gold “there is a debate among historians around the link controversial of the Kronprinz (crown prince, great-grand-father of Georges-Frédéric) with nazism. Most of them believe that there was a very strong link between the NSDAP and the Kronprinz, although it has never been a member of the party,” says the historian Stephan Malinowski. “In 1932, the Kronprinz calls for a vote for Hitler in the presidential election”, he adds. Election that will be won again by the marshal Hindenburg.

While the debate rages, the next reopening of another iconic castle of Hohenzollern is also a cause of the controversy: the German mps recently decided the identical reconstruction of the castle of Berlin, main residence of the imperial family until 1918, destroyed during the Second world War before being replaced by the Parliament of the GDR.

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