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German prince told to drop bid to reclaim old royal property

July 24, 2019

Prince Georg Friedrich Ferdinand had been threatening legal action over state reparations and royal heirlooms. His ancestor's support for the Nazi party is a considerable hurdle in his aim to reclaim royal possessions.

Georg Friedrich Ferdinand
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Hirschberger

Prussian royal Prince Georg Friedrich Ferdinand faces pressure to drop his claims to over 1 million euros of damages from a north German state.

The German state of Brandenburg had set him a time limit of Wednesday for the withdrawal of his demand for €1.2 million ($1.3 million). State Finance Minister Christian Görke, in a letter obtained by the German Spiegel newspaper, said the withdrawal must include "the legal proceedings" which the prince had threatened to take against the state.

The prince, who is the great great grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm II, has prepared a lawsuit over the legal damages. Much of the property was seized by the Soviet army at the end of World War II, later passing into East German and then German hands.

German states Berlin and Brandenburg planned a meeting with the prince for Wednesday. They said this was his deadline to drop the claims, but did not say exactly where or when it was taking place.

The prince's lawyer, Markus Hennig, said on Tuesday that he hoped the discussions would "bring further clarity" on the situation. He also said he hoped Finance Minister Görke would join the talks.

Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam
Prince Georg also wants to return to live in Potsdam's Cecilienhof Palace Image: picture-alliance/Eventpress

Royal residences to be returned?

Prince Georg's ancestor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, was forced to abdicate and go into exile following the First World War, which included him giving up a number of his residences and possessions. Much of the rest was taken by Soviet forces in the 1940s.

Prince Georg is also demanding the right to reside rent-free in the former royal residence Cecilienhof Palace, in Potsdam. This is the latest in a number of demands by the prince, in June a court denied him a claim to the Rheinfels Castle, a popular tourist destination on the Rhine river.

The prince further wants hundreds of paintings, many of which currently sit in German state museums, to return to his family estate.

Openly Nazi supporting ancestor

If nothing is heard from the prince the case would likely go into arbitration. Individuals are entitled to compensation for property taken by Soviet forces. But Brandenburg officials argue that this right is foregone if they themselves supported the Nazi regime.

German Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Kaiser Wilhelm II was the last Prussian to be on the German throne. His descendants hope to retrieve some of his royal propertyImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Crown Prince Wilhelm, the Hohenzollern representative from the 1930s and 40s, openly supported the Nazi party.

Prince Georg Friedrich has been in discussion with the two states since 2013. For decades he has tried to return former Hohenzollern land and possessions to his family.

jns/msh (dpa, epd)

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