A Berlin court ruled on Thursday in a dispute with a historian in favor of the heirs of the Prussian monarchy. This is the latest turning point in a legal battle seeking compensation for amounts lost by the Hohenzollern family after World War II. The family who ruled Germany until the abdication of Emperor Guilherme II in 1918 demanded the return of thousands of paintings, sculptures and books to the German state, as well as compensation for the expropriation of property by the Soviet Union, whose armed forces occupied Germany .
The question of the Hohenzollern’s relationship to Hitler is of central importance for the family’s claims. According to German law, compensation is only possible if the applicant was not involved and contributed significantly to the rise of the Nazis to power. In the case of the former royal family, some historians argue that the role of the Hohenzollerns was insignificant. Others contradict each other, and one of the evidence presented is a photo of the German dictator in Potsdam with Crown Prince Guilherme, the eldest son of Wilhelm II, in 1933.
The family reported on their website that they had ordered two reports that indicated that they had not given the Nazi regime any significant support. These documents support your claim for damages. As part of a seven-year dispute with the federal states of Berlin and Brandenburg and the federal government, Georg Friedrich Ferdinand, Prince of Prussia and Tetranet Wilhelms II, also filed a lawsuit against dozen of historians and journalists.
The Berlin district court issued a precautionary measure against the historian Winfried Suss, which forbade him to make statements about the former German royal family. The decision was made after a complaint against the academic, who in 2019, while discussing possible plans for a Hohenzollern museum to display the returned valuables, asked whether the family should attend the opening of the space.
“The defendant is prohibited from making statements as to whether the plaintiff, as the head of a former German aristocratic family, should attend public ceremonies or meetings as a representative of the family and be entitled to vote,” the court ruled. Critics say such a decision could lead to revisionist interpretations of the story.
After the decision was known, Suss told Spiegel Online: “If this legal opinion prevails, it will be difficult for researchers in the future to talk about their work without legal support.” The Association of Historians of Germany (in German Association History – VHD) condemned the decision. “This can be important for academic freedom if the statements of historians about the Hohenzollern dispute about obvious facts cannot be publicly discussed without the risk of legal action,” says Eva Schlotheuber, director of the VHD.