To make stew, you need a hare, and to establish a monarchy, you need a king. Former Crown Prince Wilhelm II’s relationship with the National Socialist movement during the 1932 German presidential election


Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia announced in a press release in the spring of 2023 that he was withdrawing his claim on numerous Hohenzollern family estates, castles, and works of art. Moreover, the family was abandoning the lawsuits against the German state.[2] The disputed assets are estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of euros. The prince, who since 2014 had been negotiating with the federal government, Berlin, and the state of Brandenburg about the return of these assets, justified the decision by saying that he wanted to promote an unbiased historical discussion on the role of the Hohenzollern dynasty in the 20th century. The Hohenzollerns played a prominent role in German history, so the ongoing interest of historians is entirely understandable. What needs to be explained, however, is how the withdrawal from legal proceedings is related to the historiographical debates.

The 47-year-old Prince Georg Friedrich is the great-grandson of the last German emperor, Wilhelm II. Although the emperor had signed his forced abdication in November 1918 while in exile in the Netherlands, he held hopes of returning until his death in 1941. In the spring of 1920, the Dutch government allowed the dethroned monarch to move into a villa he had bought in the town of Doorn, where he lived until his death, with a small court at his disposal. The former emperor remarried after the death of Empress Auguste Victoria. His second wife, Princess Hermine, consistently supported her husband’s efforts to reclaim the imperial throne, often with excessive zeal. Although she was never crowned, Princess Hermine expected to be addressed as Her Imperial Highness. Those around her did not find her agreeable but rather aggressive, and the emperor’s children did not maintain a close relationship with her.

The monarch’s eldest son, Crown Prince Wilhelm, also harbored the goal of restoring the monarchy. In the autumn of 1918, he too fled to the Netherlands, but in late 1923, Chancellor Gustav Stresemann allowed his return to Germany on the condition that he stay away from politics (Pekelder – Schenk – Bas 2021). However, the former heir to the throne openly sympathized with the National Socialist Party from the late 1920s, and his ties with the NSDAP (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) continued even after 1933.

At the end of World War II, the Allied powers divided Germany into four zones of occupation. Most of the Hohenzollern estates and assets fell within the Soviet zone, and later became part of the GDR from 1949. The Communist government confiscated all movable and immovable property of the Hohenzollern family, making any claim for their return impossible until 1990. A few years after the reunification of Germany, in 1994, the German parliament established the legal possibility for the restitution of To make stew, you need a hare, and to establish a monarchy, you need… assets confiscated between 1945 and 1990 under the Indemnification and Compensation Act (AusglLeistG).[3]

Section 3 of the act excludes the possibility of restituting real estate assets; instead, the owners are entitled to compensation. According to Section 5, ownership of certain movable assets, if they were publicly accessible in public collections at the time the law came into effect, revert to the original owner after 20 years. However, Section 1(4) of the act excludes from compensation those whose ancestors played a significant role (erheblicher Vorschub) in the National Socialist or Communist dictatorships. The investigation of the former crown prince became indispensable under the law, because in 1945 he was the senior head of the Hohenzollern family. Therefore, the consequences of his actions continue to influence not only his family’s moral standing but also the assessment of his descendants’ claims. The question now is whether the crown prince played a significant role in the rise to power of the National Socialists and the consolidation of the Nazi dictatorship. Thus, the protagonist of this article is not Prince Georg Friedrich, but his great-grandfather, Crown Prince Wilhelm. This study examines the relationship between the former crown prince and leaders of the National Socialist party in the late 1920s and early 1930s, with a particular focus on the German presidential election.

Expert opinions pro and contra

Negotiations between the German government and the Hohenzollern family already began in 1991, behind closed doors. The family’s senior leader at the time, Prince Louis Ferdinand, the son of Crown Prince Wilhelm (and the grandfather of Georg Friedrich), announced his claim to the family’s assets, which had been nationalized by the communists after the war. After a lengthy investigation, in 2014, the authorities concluded that Wilhelm’s activities did not fall within the scope of Section 1(4) of the 1994 AusglLeistG. It is likely that the decision was influenced by the expert opinion prepared by Cambridge professor of history Christopher Clark at the family’s request.[4] Clark, a respected figure in professional circles researching modern European history, opined that, although the former crown prince expressed sympathy for the National Socialists on certain occasions, his overall actions and statements should not be regarded as a significant endorsement.[5] Clark argued that the driving force behind Wilhelm’s behavior was the otherwise illusory hope that Hitler would help bring about the restoration of the monarchy.[6] The crown prince, in Clark’s view, often overestimated his own importance, while in the eyes of the Nazi leaders he was merely a minor player.[7] Clark also claimed that the majority of the Germans harbored supportive feelings for the monarchy, but this sympathy did not extend to the crown prince, who was, in fact, quite disliked. This unpopularity was great even among noble families as they saw the embodiment of Prussian monarchy traditions in the President of the Reich Paul von Hindenburg.[8] The National Socialist leaders recognized this; therefore, they did not really need Wilhelm’s support. Moreover, he was often referred to with derogatory terms.[9]  A few years later, when the debate had already become public and his work heavily criticized, Clark partially revised his position, considering the crown prince’s role in the rise of National Socialism to be more significant than previously thought (Pekelder – Schenk – Bas 2021).

Meanwhile, 20 years passed and both parties became driven by the desire to finally agree. At the time, it seemed that they would reach an agreement that would be reassuring for the family, but the press picked up on the case (Röd 2014), and the Finance Minister of Brandenburg withdrew (Pekelder – Schenk – Bas 2021). Following this turn, the state government commissioned two renowned researchers to prepare additional expert opinions. This is how the studies by Stephan Malinowski and Peter Brandt were published in 2014. Malinowski is an established researcher of the relationship between the German aristocracy and the National Socialist movement, while Brandt is a specialist on Prussia, but his research also includes the history of nationalism and the labor movement.

An essential premise of Malinowski’s extensive 100-page study is that, solely based on his lineage, Wilhelm cannot be dismissed as a mere inconsequential figure. Prior to the monarchy’s downfall, he held the position of the eldest son of one of Europe’s most illustrious emperors, serving as the heir to the throne and maintaining a constant presence in public life. Even after the monarchy’s demise in 1918, certain political factions and a substantial portion of the populace continued to uphold the monarchy’s significance, ensuring that the crown prince retained a prominent role. Despite the waning of his political influence due to the defeat in the war and the overthrow of the monarchy, his societal and symbolic significance endured (Malinowski 2014).

An array of documents substantiates the crown prince’s persistent endeavors to forge a political alliance between conservative factions and National Socialist elements, primarily from 1932 to 1934. Despite his efforts yielding no success and his involvement gradually diminishing after 1934, coming to a halt in 1940, Wilhelm can be held accountable for fostering the recognition of National Socialism, both domestically and internationally. This, however, does not alter the fact that, from a political perspective, Wilhelm was never considered part of the Nazi inner circle and did not provide significant financial backing to the NSDAP (Malinowski 2014).

In his research, Brandt delved into the crown prince’s political engagement spanning from 1924 to 1938. By analyzing Wilhelm’s statements in chronological sequence, Brandt’s findings underscore the substantial role played by the crown prince’s actions in bolstering the ascent of the National Socialist movement and the consolidation of its regime. This influence was particularly pronounced during the tumultuous dissolution of the Weimar Republic and the first years of Hitler’s chancellorship.[10] The crown prince drew inspiration from the Italian fascist state, viewing it as a viable model for implementation in Germany, with the active participation of Hitler. A pivotal error on his part, however, lay in his unwavering belief that a Hohenzollern prince was indispensable to the long-term interests of the National Socialist elite.[11] Owing to his deep involvement in politics, members of the resistance movement personified by von Stauffenberg refrained from considering the crown prince’s inclusion in their schemes to assassinate Hitler in 1944. Remarkably, the crown prince went as far as prohibiting his son from establishing any contact with the resistance, despite Louis Ferdinand’s earnest appeal for Wilhelm’s consent.[12]

The former Crown Prince’s return to Germany

The crown prince had grappled with concentration difficulties since childhood, adversely affecting his academic performance, resulting in mediocre scholastic achievements. After embarking on two years of legal studies, he received a brief military training and served in various ranks within the army during his youth. His unhappy marriage to Princess Cecilia of Mecklenburg-Schwerin yielded six children, but the prince, renowned for philandering tendencies, spent limited time with his family (Pekelder – Schenk – Bas 2021). Behind the front lines, officially leading German forces but effectively commanding a small unit, he was involved in the protracted trench warfare at Verdun that began in February 1916 and persisted for nearly a year. His actions during this time drew substantial criticism, both contemporaneously and in later years. Following Germany’s defeat in World War I, he resided on the Wieringen island in the north of the Netherlands until 1923. It was there that on December 1, 1918, he penned a declaration renouncing his claims to the throne.

The circumstances and interpretations of the permit issued by the Stresemann government in October 1923, facilitating the prince’s return to Germany, have long been debated. The crown prince asserted his desire to participate in his children’s upbringing and oversee his estates and therefore appealed to the Reich government. Fulfilling Wilhelm’s request posed a considerable challenge for the chancellor, yet ultimately, the president of the Reich and the government granted their consent. Two versions of the agreement exist, with a pivotal distinction: one required the prince to abstain from any political activity upon his return, while the other merely prohibited political involvement. Stresemann claimed during a government meeting in the fall of 1923 that the prince’s declaration was available. It was not until Stresemann’s death in 1929 that the content and format of the crown prince’s declaration, whether verbal or in writing, became a topic of public discourse in Germany.[13]

Upon the prince’s return in 1923, Germany faced daunting challenges, including the looming threat of civil war in some regions, internal political strife with significant casualties, hyperinflation reaching catastrophic levels, the French invading the Ruhr region, and Hitler’s unsuccessful coup attempt in November. However, the prince sought a life of comfort and leisure. Among his estates, he selected Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam and Oels Palace in Silesia as his residences. Engaging in sports, hunting, travel, and social events, he could finance his lifestyle because the government of the Republic had returned a significant portion of the aristocratic families’ estates, despite constitutional provisions allowing for uncompensated expropriation. This divisive yet gallant and generous decision aimed to foster reconciliation between noble families and the Weimar regime.

During the first years following his return, Wilhelm refrained from direct involvement in political affairs, although he remained socially engaged. He maintained a personal acquaintance with Hermann Göring, dating back to their encounter on the Western Front during World War I. After 1923, they visited each other on several occasions, and it is possible that Göring played a role in arranging the first meeting between Adolf Hitler and the crown prince. In 1926, Hitler, likely alongside Ernst Röhm, received an invitation to one of Wilhelm’s residences, Cecilienhof. At the time, Hitler had garnered recognition due to his 1923 coup attempt trial, yet it is perplexing why Wilhelm welcomed the failed coup leader who was in the process of reorganizing his party (Malinowski 2014). The meeting, with its exact date concealed, was disclosed by the prince in an unpublished memoir of only 30 pages in 1946. In it, he emphasized Hitler’s unimpressive appearance but captivating lively eyes and passionate demeanor (Machtan 2021).

The prince also utilized Viktoria von Dirksen’s salon in Berlin as a venue for meetings with prominent National Socialist figures and some conservative party leaders. Ms. Dirksen, who regularly hosted notable figures from the political, economic, and cultural spheres during the 1920s, enjoyed warm relations with high-ranking NSDAP officials. For instance, Göring recommended Joseph Goebbels to Ms. Dirksen (Fröhlich 1987), whom she supported financially until his financial situation improved. Magda Goebbels and Viktoria also became friends. The salon saw frequent visits from the crown prince, his wife Cecilia, and his brothers August Wilhelm and Eitel Friedrich, as well as Count Ciano, Mussolini’s son-in-law.

The former crown prince regarded Italy as a model due to the Italian monarchy’s transformation, in his view, replacing outdated institutions with modern ones, abolishing parliamentary constraints, and ousting political opponents. His admiration for Benito Mussolini was evident, with Mussolini’s photograph adorning his desk at Cecilienhof. In 1928, the prince had a personal audience with Mussolini, which he described enthusiastically in a letter to his father, Wilhelm II. He portrayed Mussolini as an energetic and resolute statesman who had completely reshaped Italy, eliminating socialism, communism, democracy, and Freemasonry. The prince expressed satisfaction that il Duce sought close ties with Germany, contingent on Germany’s strengthening and right-wing orientation. He also criticized German political circles for their shortsightedness in attacking Mussolini over the South Tyrol issue (Ilsemann 1968).

Shortly after Stresemann’s death in 1930, Wilhelm joined the Stahlhelm (Steel Helmet), a paramilitary organization comprised of WWI veterans that opposed the Weimar Republic. By then, it boasted one million members. The prince increasingly stepped into the political arena, where he sought to fashion himself as a conductor orchestrating the collaboration between conservative and far-right parties opposed to the Weimar Republic. From 1930 onward, he transitioned from covert presence to open action. Wilhelm’s brother, Eitel Friedrich, represented the family at a so-called national opposition meeting organized on October 11, 1931, in Bad Harzburg on the initiative of Alfred Hugenberg, leader of the Deutschnationale Volkspartei (DNVP). While the crown prince played a minor role in organizing the event, he fervently supported the goals of the participating parties and organizations, united in their aim to dismantles the Weimar democratic framework. Wilhelm focused on bridging the divide between the Stahlhelm and the SA, as well as reconciling substantial differences of opinion within the Bad Harzburg Front. Given the NSDAP’s ascendance as the second-strongest party in the Reichstag since the fall of 1930, Hitler emerged as an unavoidable political player, although the “old” right-wing parties still aimed to contain him. The crown prince’s priority was reconciling these differences, as it allowed him to avoid choosing between the “old conservatives” and the “new conservatives.” By doing so, he hoped not to undermine the monarchy’s prospects (Pekelder – Schenk – Bas 2021). During this period, Hitler had a substantial need for Wilhelm’s assistance, as he believed that with the crown prince’s support, he could establish closer ties to President Hindenburg and his inner circle. Unlike certain members of his family, the prince refrained from joining the NSDAP, the SA, or the SS. Nevertheless, owing to his distinguished lineage, he remained an asset to the National Socialists, even without formal party membership. Despite his sympathy for the NSDAP, the prince did not blindly align with Nazi ideology, and his aversion to Jews was restrained compared to sentiments expressed in some of his father’s statements.[14]

The former Crown Prince’s role in the presidential election

In 1932, the expiration of Hindenburg’s presidential mandate shifted the focus of domestic political struggles to the presidential elections scheduled for March. On January 4, the prince wrote a letter to his adjutant and confidant, Louis Müldner, revealing his intention to make a momentous decision about his future: he aspired to run for the presidency, viewing it as a sole opportunity to restore the monarchy. The letter disclosed that he had garnered support from the Stahlhelm and Hugenberg’s monarchist DNVP, and he also hoped for backing from other influential figures. He considered the

National Socialists’ support essential and was optimistic about reaching an agreement with them. He also believed that offering Hitler the chancellorship in exchange for his backing could serve as the foundation for a deal (Machtan 2021). The crown prince calculated that, similar to during the previous presidential election in 1925, right-wing parties would unite behind a single candidate in the first round. He envisioned himself as that candidate, because neither the DNVP nor the NSDAP supported Hindenburg. Moreover, the elderly president was unlikely to run against a Hohenzollern. Only from the lines regarding his father’s stance could hints of uncertainty be inferred, and these fears seemed reasonable.

On January 10, 1932, Hitler paid a visit to the prince at Cecilienhof, where the prince outlined his plans for the candidacy.[15] Cecilia, the prince’s wife, noted in a letter to one of her sons that the tea party unfolded in a pleasant atmosphere, and “Don Adolfo” made a very favorable impression on his hosts (Machtan 2021). One reason for the good mood might have been Hitler’s alleged promise that, if he were appointed chancellor, one of his initial acts would be to facilitate the return of the Hohenzollern family (Machtan 2021). However, these mutual promises were not translated into actions. The prince’s efforts could not ease the tension between Hugenberg and Hitler, and he also received a stern prohibition from Doorn. Wilhelm II threatened to excommunicate his eldest son from the family if he pledged allegiance to the republic as president of the Reich (Ilsemann 1968). Following this verdict, Goebbels publicly announced Hitler’s candidacy for the presidency at a crowded meeting in the Berlin Sportpalast (Goebbels 1994).

In the absence of a common right-wing candidate, in the first round held on March 13, the NSDAP nominated Hitler, the DNVP and Stahlhelm backed Theodor Duesterberg, the bourgeois parties and the Social Democrats supported Hindenburg, and the Communists backed Ernst Thälmann. Hindenburg narrowly missed an absolute majority in the vote, while Hitler gained 30.1%, Thälmann 13.2%, and Duesterberg 6.8%. Consequently, a runoff election was scheduled for April 10. The prince’s hopes for a united right-wing front were shattered, and his expectation of consolidating various factions within this diverse and loose coalition proved illusory. On March 4, the prince attended Duesterberg’s campaign rally,[16] and on the eve of the election, he was present at the NSDAP campaign-closing event. On the evening of the election, he was Göring’s guest at the house of the Nazi luminary, where the possibility of candidacy resurfaced.

A few days later, the prince received representatives from the DNVP and the NSDAP.

However, despite the results of the first round, this meeting, which also included Mussolini’s envoy, failed to bring them any closer to a common candidate. Subsequently, on March 23, the prince composed a letter to Hugenberg and urged him to support Hitler in the runoff. This letter was prompted by the DNVP and Stahlhelm’s call to their supporters to abstain from voting on April 10. In his letter, the prince reminded Hugenberg of the objectives of the Harzburg Front and emphasized that withholding support would lead to the disintegration of the national front (Machtan 2021). Before the runoff, Duesterberg withdrew from the race, but Hugenberg rejected the prince’s request.

In the meantime, the prince remained committed to his candidacy. He wrote another letter to his father, reiterating his reasons for pursuing the presidency. His envoy visited Hermine in Doorn and requested her intervention. Although the imperial couple, particularly Hermine, sympathized with Hitler and viewed his potential appointment as chancellor as a significant step towards monarchy restoration, they strongly criticized the crown prince’s aspirations for the presidency. They had reasonable concerns that the prince aimed to claim the throne for himself rather than for his father. The precise date of Hermine’s initial meeting with Hitler remains uncertain, but it is well documented that during her visits to Germany, she occasionally met with the party leader. For instance, in November 1931, in the salon of Baroness Tiele-Winckler, she listened with enthusiasm to Hitler’s extensive monologue on how to handle all the “November traitors,” referring to those who proclaimed the republic (Malinowski 2021). After her return, she conveyed to the emperor her impressions in warm words, also embellishing and overthinking them, which – not for the first time – raised false hopes in the former emperor.

Their concerns extended to the prince’s wife, who made comments in Berlin’s social circles that raised doubt about the emperor’s suitability to rule. These remarks also reached Doorn. The emperor reproached his daughter-in-law, suggesting that her Russian and Danish ties made her appear disinterested in Germany and Prussia, implying that her support for the prince’s presidential run was driven by her desire for the throne (Ilsemann 1968). However, the accusations against Cecilia, particularly those concerning her emotional attachment, lacked a solid foundation. Besides Hermine, other family members did not take these claims as credible. While it is true that Cecilia’s mother was a Russian grand duchess, her sister became Queen of Denmark, and Cecilia cherished memories of the loving family atmosphere at the estates of her father, the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg, she wholeheartedly and enthusiastically represented German national interests as the crown princess. The emperor and Hermine, however, had valid reasons to assume that Cecilia’s political activism was motivated by her dream of restoring the monarchy. She was the founder and patron of the Queen Luise League (Bund Königin Luise), the women’s “branch” of the Stahlhelm, where she tirelessly worked until its self-abolition in 1934. The organization was named after Queen Luise of Prussia, Cecilia’s grandmother. In the 1920s, it operated as the only women’s organization in the country, excluding Jewish applicants and identifying “foreign races” and monarchy-rejecting individuals as Germany’s internal and external enemies. They promoted these ideals through nationwide educational programs, emphasizing the traditional role of women centered around the concepts of the mother-wife-home.

While awaiting his father’s response, the prince conveyed to Hitler through one of his confidants, the playwright Joachim von Ostau, his intention to run in the runoff election. If elected, his plan was to dissolve the Reichstag and appoint Hitler as chancellor. According to Ostau’s account, Hitler accepted the proposal. The party leader suggested that the prince be nominated by Hugenberg’s party, with the condition that if this prompted Hindenburg to withdraw, the NSDAP would also withdraw Hitler’s nomination. However, the meeting between the prince and Hugenberg never took place because in the final days of March, the emperor informed his son via telegram of his rejection. The prince resisted Cecilia’s efforts to turn him against his father (Machtan 2021). This settl ed the matter, and in the runoff election, Hindenburg had to compete with Hitler.

On April 1, in Oels, the prince issued a statement signing it as Crown Prince Wilhelm. In it, he asserted that abstaining from the runoff election incompatible with the principles of the Harzburg front and declared support Hitler on April 10. German and foreign audiences learned about the prince’s position as early as April 3. Most newspapers covered the news extensively, portraying it as a sensation and continuing to do so until election day. The liberal Vossische Zeitung reminded its readers that in the first round, the prince voted for Duesterberg, and had previously identified as a libe ral. Therefore, his public support for Hitler was deemed as credible as his promise from 1923.[17] The next day, the newspaper did not interpret the prince’s actions as his own decision but as an order originating from Doorn. With this decision, the article continued, the Hohenzollerns had turned their backs on Hugenberg, who had distanced himself from Hitler, and had endorsed the “man from Braunau.”[18] The following day, the Vossische Zeitung found it peculiar that, while the National Socialist electoral machinery was roaring with renewed vigor, even the Völkischer Beobachter was embarrassingly silent about the prince’s statement.[19] A day later, the paper published a letter from Hindenburg to Marshal Ferdinand Foch dated July 9, 1919, in which he requested Foch’s intervention to prevent the extradition and prosecution of Wilhelm II. The newspaper criticized the ex-emperor for campaigning against his protector after almost a decade and a half, showing ingratitude instead of gratitude.20 One day before the vote, the [20]Vossische Zeitung reported on a National Socialist election rally in Erfurt attended by August Wilhelm, one of the prince’s younger brothers. There, the prince had confirmed that the emperor had “explicitly permitted” him to participate in the National Socialist election campaign. This statement served as a response to Elard von Oldenburg-Januschau,[21] a staunch supporter of the Hohenzollern monarchy and, not incidentally, Hindenburg’s old comrade-in-arms, who was calling for Hindenburg’s support in this fierce election campaign.

The Berliner Tageblatt brought up longstanding rumors suggesting that the Hohenzollerns had been making donations to the National Socialists.[22] Conversely, the Welt am Montag presented the regular financial support of the NSDAP as an established fact, implying that the Hohenzollern family aimed to soften the party leaders’ hostility towards the monarchy through this financial support.[23] The communist newspaper, Die Rote Fahne, also featured a statement by the former crown prince endorsing Hitler. This gave the newspaper an opportunity not only to criticize the “Hohenzollern gang” campaigning for the National Socialist but also to launch an attack on the Weimar system, which they accused of squandering the workers’ taxes to enable a lavish lifestyle for the former crown prince.[24] The Social Democratic Vorwärts sarcastically remarked that the prince should be thanked for his statement,[25] while the conservative Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, closely aligned with the industrial magnates of the Ruhr region, expressed regret for the prince, who they saw as aligning with the losing side.[26]

The prince’s statement also made its way into Hungarian newspapers. Most of them, such as the Budapesti Hírlap[27] and the Magyar Hírlap,[28] simply reported it without adding further commentary. Only the Pesti Hírlap went a step further and reflected on reports from German newspapers, quoting an article from the Berliner Tageblatt that mentioned the crown prince’s breach of his oath to the government in 1923.[29]

We only have one recorded response from Hitler to the prince’s statement. He expressed his gratitude, stating, “I greatly appreciate the former crown prince’s action.

This was a completely spontaneous statement on his part, and with this, he has publicly aligned himself with the core of the German nationalists.” He conveyed these remarks to Sefton Delmer, a British journalist born in Berlin, who worked for the Daily Express. However, Hitler also made it clear in his response to a question regarding any potential quid pro quo that Germany had more important issues to address than debating the form of government (Machtan 2021). Delmer first interviewed Hitler in April 1931 (Delmer 1962), and they continued to meet on several occasions. On April 5, 1932, for example, the quoted interview took place while Delmer accompanied Hitler and his entourage on a plane during their travels to election rallies (Delmer 1962).

In the runoff election, Hitler lost to Hindenburg by nearly six million votes. Following the first round, Carl von Ossietzky noted with restrained optimism that, while Germans had said no to fascism on March 13, the defeat did not push Hitler into a catastrophic situation. Ossietzky remarked, “Adolf Bonaparte will have to wait for his own 18 Brumaire.”[30] However, Ossietzky’s colleague, Hanns-Erich Kaminski, expressed a more bitter perspective after the runoff. He contended that although Hindenburg had won, fascism was far from defeated. He warned the German populace that “contrary to the illusion created by Hindenburg’s re-election, it must be clearly stated: this election was not a struggle between democracy and dictatorship. Instead, it was more akin to two competing business entities quarreling over profits before ultimately merging.”[31]

In a letter to the British media mogul Lord Rothermere on June 20, 1934, the prince proudly asserted that he had thrown his support behind Hitler at a time when numerous conservative politicians were still hesitating. He asserted that his political endeavors, particularly the appeal he had made between the two rounds of the presidential election, had garnered two million votes for Hitler (Pekelder – Schenk – Bas 2021). However, the accuracy of this claim remains uncertain, and it is unclear upon what evidence the prince based this statement.


Subsequent events proved Kaminski’s keen insight. In the spring of 1932, Hitler officially lost the presidential race, but the true losers were the proponents of the Weimar Republic. The Hohenzollerns did not come any closer to the throne either. The prince’s aspirations were impeded not only by the family’s deep-seated conflicts, but also, and primarily, by his own personality. He positioned himself poorly in the complex web of alliances, misunderstanding the complex political landscape and placing undue faith in Hitler as a custodian of Prussian traditions. The prince’s involvement in the presidential election contributed to the downfall of the Weimar Republic. By putting his name and symbolic authority in the service of the National Socialists, he bore responsibility for weakening the traditional strongholds of the right and facilitating the acceptance of the NSDAP.

Moreover, his modest personal qualities also hindered his ability to temper rival forces, especially as political animosity escalated and violence became a daily occurrence. For him, comfort took precedence over hard work, his ambitions tended towards grandiosity, and his lack of strategic vision was not compensated for by an effective operational planning. Whereas, for a monarchy, a king is needed, just as a hare is needed for stew, as Otto von Bismarck aptly noted long ago, “Pour faire un civet, il faut un lièvre, et pour faire une monarchie, il faut un roi” (Bismarck 1928: 155).


Ausgleichsleistungsgesetz (AusglLeistG) (Gesetz über staatliche Ausgleichsleistungen für Enteignungen auf besatzungsrechtlicher oder besatzungshoheitlicher Grundlage, die nicht mehr rückgängig gemacht werden können (

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Delmer, S. 1962. Die Deutschen und ich. Hamburg, Nannen Verlag.

Fröhlich, E. 1987. Joseph Goebbels und sein Tagebuch. Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte. München, 1987/4.

Goebbels, J. 1994. Napló. Dunakönyv Kiadó.

Ilsemann, v. S. 1968. Der Kaiser in Holland. Aufzeichnungen des letzten Flügeladjutanten Kaiser Wilhelms II. Monarchie und Nationalsozialismus 1924-1941. (Edited by Harald von Koenigswald) München, Biederstein.

Machtan, L. 2021. Der Kronprinz und die Nazis. Hohenzollerns blinder Fleck. Berlin, DunckerHumblot.

Malinowski, S. 2014. Gutachten zum politischen Verhalten des ehemaligen Kronprinzen (Wilhem Prinz von Preußen 1882-1951). (2014 online publication).

Malinowski, S. 2021. Vom König zum Führer. Sozialer Niedergang und politische Radikalisierung im deutschen Adel zwischen Kaiserreich und NS-Staat. Berlin, Akademie Verlag.

Pekelder, J. – Schenk, J. – Bas, v. d. C. 2021.  Der Kaiser und das Dritte Reich. Die Hohenzollern zwischen Restauration und Nationalsozialismus. Göttingen, Wallstein Verlag.

Röd, I. 2014. Kritik an Hohenzollern-Entschädigung ― Grüne und Linke reagieren mit Unverständnis auf den Vorbescheid des Amts zur Regelung offener Vermögensfragen.

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