Dear members of the public,
dear website visitors,

My family and I would like to thank you for taking an interest in the long history of the House of Hohenzollern, the formerly-ruling royal house of Prussia.

Our family’s ancestral Seat, Hohenzollern Castle near Hechingen, in Baden-Württemberg, sees 350,000 visitors from all over the world each year, making it one of the most popular private museums in Germany. Hohenzollern Castle is still privately owned by the two branches of our house. It was here that my family’s history began over 950 years ago – a history that has significantly shaped Europe over the last millennium. Today, the royal palaces in Potsdam and various royal parks are world cultural heritage sites. Many of my direct ancestors were important historical figures, including the Prussian kings and German Emperors who succeeded them – Wilhelm I, Friedrich III and Wilhelm II – as well as Queen Victoria of Great Britain, the grandmother of Emperor Wilhelm II.

The private art collection I presently manage includes numerous important artifacts from our family’s nearly 1,000-year history. A large portion of the collection has been on public display at Hohenzollern Castle for over 70 years. It includes the Prussian royal crown that was made for Emperor Wilhelm II. Because the exhibition has been so popular, we will be gradually increasing the exhibition space in the coming years, which will enable us to display even more artworks from my private collection at our ancestral seat. Hohenzollern Castle also houses our family’s private archive, which is open to scholars and researchers.

The castle has also been used as a holiday retreat for students from disadvantaged families since 1954. The Princess Kira of Prussia Foundation sponsors a free holiday retreat at Hohenzollern Castle for children and young people, which includes a music education programme. Over 14,000 children and young people have stayed at our castle since the foundation began its work.

My private estate includes another popular destination as well, the Princes’ Island at the Großer Plöner See near Hamburg. The restaurant there was renovated in winter 2020/2021.

Other prominent works of art from my collection are currently on display at the various sites of the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) and the Stiftung Preussische Schlösser (Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation). As early as the 1950s, my grandfather, Dr. Louis Ferdinand, Prince of Prussia (1907 – 1994), was among the most open-handed private lenders in former West Berlin. These loaned items have been on display, free of charge, since 1994 in the castles and museums open to the public in Berlin and Brandenburg.

Since Germany’s reunification, my family has been engaged in an active dialogue to finally resolve the issue surrounding ownership of around 15,000 further works of art, which my great-grandparents Wilhelm and Cecilie, as well as my grandparents Louis Ferdinand and Kira, had to leave behind when they fled to West Germany in 1945.

The fact that the issue concerning which artworks belong to our private collection and which items belong to the state collections remains unresolved after 30 years highlights just how complex the matter is. Settling it in court might take several more decades.

For this reason, I am firmly of the belief that an out-of-court compromise is in the interest of all parties involved and would benefit the state collections in particular. I myself am willing to make considerable concessions in favour of the Federal Republic of Germany and the states of Berlin and Brandenburg, affording planning certainty to all parties involved while upholding my family’s historical responsibilities. In any case, my private collection will remain on public display for art enthusiasts visiting Hohenzollern Castle and other palaces and museums.

I look forward to posting updates on this website to keep the public informed of any relevant developments. Transparency towards the public with regard to the future of our common cultural heritage is important to me and to my family.

Sincerely,

Georg Friedrich
Prince of Prussia

Frequently asked questions

Explanations concerning current discussions

The House of Hohenzollern is among the most influential aristocratic dynasties in Europe. The family was mentioned for the first time as early as 1061. The family’s ancestral seat is Hohenzollern Castle, situated in the Zollernalbkreis district of Germany’s federal state of Baden-Württemberg. Today, the House of Hohenzollern has two branches: the formerly-royal Prussian line and the formerly-princely Swabian line. The members of the formerly-royal Prussian line have carried the title Prince/Princess of Prussia since 1919. The members of the formerly-princely Swabian line carry the titles Prince/Princess of Hohenzollern; the head of the formerly-princely Swabian line carries the title Prince of Hohenzollern. The family played a prominent political role in Europe for 500 years as Electors of Brandenburg (from 1415), Prussian kings (from 1701) and German emperors (from 1871). Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, has been the Head of the House of Hohenzollern since 1994. This position within the House of Hohenzollern is not connected with any political or public mandate, nor is this being sought either. Rather, Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, represents the family’s public interests. Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, is the great-grandson of the last King of Prussia and German Emperor, Wilhelm II (1859 – 1941), and direct descendant of British Queen Victoria.

With the end of the monarchy in November 1918 in the federal states of the former German Reich and the ratification of the Weimar Constitution in 1919, the members of the former ruling royal houses received common names.

The former Emperor, Wilhelm II, then became the Head of the House of Hohenzollern, tending to the many private-law matters of his extended family from then on. As a consequence of dissolving the family’s royal estate, private-law agreements were reached in the 1920s concerning the positions of the family’s head of house and remaining members of the formerly-ruling royal house. Some of these legal arrangements were handed down in the former emperor’s will to the generations succeeding him, namely in the role of Head of the House of Hohenzollern. Other formerly-ruling royal houses in Germany have reached similar arrangements and have also given their families’ heads of house this same formal title. Both branches of the House of Hohenzollern still share ownership of and responsibility for the family’s ancestral seat, Hohenzollern Castle.

In his present role as Head of the House of Hohenzollern, Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, is a sort of public representative for the family. In his capacity as Head of the House of Hohenzollern, Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, receives various invitations to events in and outside of Germany each year. At the request of Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, other family members often attend these occasions to represent the House of Hohenzollern on behalf of him and his wife Sophie, Princess of Prussia. The general administrative office of the former ruling Prussian royal house, located in Potsdam, normally coordinates public appearances.

After the founding of the Weimar Republic, the Prussian royal house reached an agreement with the government of the Free State of Prussia in 1926. Portions of the royal estate were transferred to the state while some of it remained in the possession of the House of Hohenzollern. In 1927, the settlement was formally approved in the Landtag of Prussia with SPD votes. This was the beginning of the House of Hohenzollern’s private art collection, which the current head of the House of Hohenzollern manages for the family. Over 15,000 works of art, including some particularly notable pieces, had to be left in the Soviet occupation zone and in East Berlin when the great-grandparents of Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, fled to West Germany in 1945. Parts of the collection were temporarily taken out of the country by the Soviet occupiers, while others were expropriated as part of the so-called land reform (Bodenreform), without any legal process. The government of the GDR undertook further expropriations. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, public authorities as well as aggrieved parties or their heirs now face the task of dealing with the aftermath of these expropriations. The same is true for the family of Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia. Legal provisions were adopted for this purpose during and after Germany’s reunification. These provisions are set out in the Law on the Settlement of Open Property Issues (Vermögensgesetz – VermG) of 1990 and the Indemnification and Compensation Act of 1994 (Entschädigungs- und Ausgleichsleistungsgesetz – EALG). The law distinguishes between immovable assets, such as real estate, and movable property, which also includes works of art.
Since Germany’s reunification, thousands of citizens whose families were victims of these expropriations have been able to recover their property. The grandfather of the current Head of the House of Hohenzollern, Dr. Louis Ferdinand, Prince of Prussia (1907-1994), also took legal action to reclaim expropriated property. The matter is so complex, however, that even 30 years after reunification it has still been impossible to fully resolve it.

A distinction is made here between real estate and movable property, such as furniture and works of art. In the case of real estate or land, the EALG provides for compensation in certain cases based on a specific scale of assessment. When applying this scale, the calculation of the potential compensation is not based on the present-day market value of the expropriated real estate. Rather, officials use the value assessed in 1935 as the basis of the calculation. In the case of the real estate expropriated from the family of Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, the value in the Federal State of Brandenburg was assessed at roughly DM 42 million. According to the statutory regulations, however, it is not a matter of granting compensation for the assessed value, nor for the market value, which would exceed the assessed value several times over. Statutory compensation yields a theoretical figure of EUR 1.2 million. This amount was calculated by the competent authority. Furthermore, the law offers expropriated parties the opportunity to reacquire land used for agriculture and forestry, provided that the land has not already been disposed of by the state.

The 1994 legislation also has provisions for the return of expropriated movable property, which includes, among other things, valuable pieces of furniture and works of art. As a rule, the law states that such property must be returned to the victims of expropriations or their heirs.
At issue in the case of the Hohenzollern family is the still-unresolved question of who owns around 15,000 works of art. All of the parties involved are acting on the assumption that a large number of these either belong to the Hohenzollern family already or need to be returned to the family. According to the legal rules, some specific items would presumably be awarded to the state. Resolving the matter for each individual item would likely take decades. For this reason, the Head of the House of Hohenzollern had already reached an agreement in 2014 with state representatives to work out a compromise. At this point, Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, had already made substantial concessions to uphold his family’s historical responsibilities in relation to our common cultural heritage.

After the founding of the Weimar Republic, discussions went on for several years concerning which assets were to be considered part of the House of Hohenzollern’s private estate. After the abdication of Emperor Wilhelm II, all of the family’s assets were initially seized. It was not until 1926 that an agreement was reached between the Free State of Prussia and the House of Hohenzollern, the outcome of which was a clear division of state assets and assets belonging to the family’s private estate. An agreement – passed into law by the Landtag of Prussia with SPD votes – specified exactly which assets were to be considered property of the state and which belonged to the family’s private estate. Restitution was subsequently granted for the seized assets that were considered private property. This was the beginning of the Head of the House of Hohenzollern’s private art collection, which still exists today. The majority of what was awarded to the family’s private estate in 1926 was located in the Soviet occupation zone after liberation from the Nazi dictatorship and what later became the German Democratic Republic (GDR). From 1945 to 1949, thousands of families were victims of expropriations without compensation or legal process, including the paternal great-grandparents and grandparents of Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia. The Hohenzollerns lost a large portion of their private estate during that period. Only a small portion of the assets were located in the western occupation zones or West Berlin, meaning that they remained in the family’s possession.

Unlike moveable property, such as works of art and furniture, the Indemnification and Compensation Act of 1994 (Entschädigungs- und Ausgleichsleistungsgesetz – EALG) does not normally provide for the return of land and real estate expropriated without compensation. This also applies to the House of Hohenzollern’s formerly private castles, which were declared as private property of the former royal family following the transfer of assets in 1926. As part of a settlement, however, the state would in principle be able to grant the Head of the House of Hohenzollern rights of use at residential and commercial properties in exchange for works of art. In this context, back in the 1990s the government of Brandenburg began discussing rights of residence at Cecilienhof Palace as compensation for the concessions made by the House of Hohenzollern in relation to the appropriation of works of art. Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, is not interested in these rights of residence and has emphasized this publicly on several occasions.

One objective of the settlement talks is to determine which of the roughly 15,000 works of art will be transferred to the Head of the House of Hohenzollern’s private art collection and which works will become part of the state collections. Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, is open to trading works of art for other assets. A large portion of the private art collection is currently on display at Hohenzollern Castle, which welcomes over 300,000 visitors each year and is one of the most popular private museums in Germany. Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, wants his private art collection to be seen by as many art enthusiasts as possible from all over the world. This is true despite the still-unresolved ownership situation and will continue to be the case once an agreement has been reached –
not least because the personal examination of the family’s history is an affirmation of the idea that promoting the European project is an exceptionally important endeavour in our present age. The Hohenzollern family strives to meet its responsibilities in this regard through its work with young people, its organisation of relevant events and exhibitions, and by loaning works to institutions in neighbouring European countries and other projects.

The historical influence of Prussia goes well beyond the borders of present-day Germany. If, for instance, one were to project a map of the Hohenzollern’s sphere of influence onto a current map of Europe, it becomes apparent that numerous European countries have a direct link to Prussian history or even have a Prussian background. If nothing else, Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, specifically seeks to promote the European idea by supporting exhibition projects with items loaned to museums and institutions in neighbouring European countries. This is one mission of the Hohenzollern network, for example, which is already active and will be expanded across Europe in cooperation with various state institutions.

For some of the 15,000 disputed works, the 1994 EALG provisions are applicable. Should the great-grandfather of the Head of the House of Hohenzollern – former Crown Prince, Wilhelm of Prussia – be found to have played a significant role in the Nazis’ rise to power, the pieces of art covered by the EALG provisions would end up in the state collections. In the case of the former crown prince, historians disagree as to whether a significant role of this nature can be proven in court. While two historians commissioned by Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, did not find there to be any significant contribution by the former crown prince, other historians have come to the opposite conclusion. Similarly, jurists disagree on whether the historical question of culpability can still be resolved legally 70 years after the death of Wilhelm, Prince of Prussia (1951), especially considering there are no living witnesses. During his life, the former crown prince was never investigated for any legal offences in the Weimar Republic or other offences during the Nazi regime. The former crown prince never held any political office after 1918, nor was he a member of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) either.
Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, expressly welcomes a critical, scholarly examination of the roles his great-grandfather Wilhelm and grandfather Louis Ferdinand played during the years between the wars. This is why the House of Hohenzollern’s private archive is open to any researcher who expresses an interest.

Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, believes that both press and academic freedom are fundamental pillars of our plural democratic society. They are explicitly and rightly afforded specific protections under Germany’s Basic Law. This is why the Head of the Hohenzollern and his family, whenever possible, support the important work done by journalists and scholars. The fact that Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, and Sophie, Princess of Prussia, have in certain cases taken legal action against the intentional spreading of misinformation does not contradict their willingness to critically examine the family’s history, regardless of the outcome.

In February 2014, Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, had expressed his willingness to resolve his property issues out of court with representatives of the federal government and the federal states of Berlin and Brandenburg. At the proposal of the public authorities, the parties agreed to confidentiality at the time. In retrospect, Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, believes this agreement to confidentiality was a mistake, particularly in view of the fact that the agreement was not honoured by certain parties.
This notwithstanding, the public is nevertheless entitled to information about the negotiations. After all, it concerns the future of our common cultural heritage. For this reason, the House of Hohenzollern will post updates on its website about the progress of the talks with the state representatives, as well as statements on the latest developments. By doing so, the Head of the House of Hohenzollern intends to contribute to the public debate in addition to its organising of events, publications, interviews, and providing access to its archive.

Restitution claims and the course of events

Abdication

9. November 1918

Emperor Wilhelm II’s abdication of the throne and exile in the Netherlands marks the end of the German monarchy. All property belonging to the Prussian royal dynasty is seized by the Council of the People’s Deputies in November.

Allocation of assets

10. December 1925

The State of Prussia and Chief Representative of the House of Hohenzollern, Friedrich von Berg, sign an agreement detailing which private assets are to remain in possession of the House of Hohenzollern and which items (real estate and movable property) belong to the state. This agreement is ultimately passed into law by the Landtag of Prussia, in part thanks to SPD votes.

Looted Art

1. May 1945

Following the liberation of Germany from Nazi tyranny, thousands of works of art located in castles and museums in the Soviet occupation zone are taken out of the country between May and September 1945 without any legal basis. By then, the great-grandparents and grandparents of Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, have already fled to the western occupation zones.

Land reform

3. September 1945

From September 1945 to 1948, thousands of families in the Soviet occupation zone suffer expropriations without compensation or legal process, including the paternal great-grandparents and grandparents of Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia. Many who remained in the Soviet occupation zone, including members of the resistance against the Nazi regime, are captured and put in Soviet camps. By some estimates, one in four prisoners dies in the camps by 1949.

Return of looted Art

1. June 1955

During the second half of the 1950s, several thousand pieces of art are brought back to the GDR from the Soviet Union. These items are classified as movable property or “looted art” taken out of the country between May and September 1945, i.e. before the land reform. They are returned without any formal retroactive expropriation process.

GDR leaders offer Cecilienhof Palace

1. January 1983

The Head of the House of Hohenzollern, Dr. Louis Ferdinand, Prince of Prussia, accepts invitations to visit East Germany on several occasions. A native of Potsdam, he is offered the return of Cecilienhof multiple times. Prince Louis Ferdinand – himself an avowed democrat and staunch proponent of the European idea – turns down the GDR regime’s offer, affirming his position to have all property issues settled by democratically legitimised governments after a reunification (at the time, still unlikely).

Fall of the Berlin Wall

9. November 1989

For many of the families that fled East Germany, the fall of the Berlin Wall rekindles hopes of recovering their expropriated assets.

Reunification

3. October 1990

Like thousands of others after reunification, the grandfather of Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, also requests the return of land and other assets that were expropriated without legal process. Due to the murky legal situation, the claim is dismissed until a clear legal provision is adopted in 1994.

A new Generation

25. September 1994

Prince Louis Ferdinand dies at the age of 86. His successor and Head of the House of Hohenzollern is his 18-year-old grandson, Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia (*1976). One generation is skipped due to the untimely death of Georg Friedrich’s father, Prince Louis Ferdinand Jr., in a military accident at the age of 33.

Outcome

1. January 2010

After a period of assessment lasting more than 20 years, the authorities tasked with settling open property issues in Brandenburg, Berlin, and Saxony-Anhalt conclude that Crown Prince Wilhelm satisfies the criteria set out in the EALG and that the Hohenzollern family’s public-law claims are admissible. The grounds for the decision also cite an expert assessment by Professor Christopher Clark.

Ruling

1. January 2014

After more than 20 years of review and assessment, the competent authorities presiding over the settlement of outstanding property issues in Brandenburg, Berlin and Saxony-Anhalt conclude that there is no evidence supporting a substantial role in the Nazis’ rise to power on the part of Crown Prince Wilhelm, the great-grandfather of Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia. Thus, the criteria for returning movable property located on properties expropriated between September 1945 and 1948 are satisfied.

Federal Chancellery

26. February 2014

Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, expresses his willingness to settle unresolved property issues out of court with representatives of the federal government and the federal states of Berlin and Brandenburg. The Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media (BKM) invites him to a first meeting at the Federal Chancellery. At the proposal of the public authorities, the parties agree to confidentiality, a decision which Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, considers a mistake in retrospect.

Reversal

20. March 2014

Brandenburg’s Ministry of Finance, led by Christian Görke (Die Linke party), takes over the proceedings and overturns the decision of the three government bureaus with respect to the settlement of unresolved property issues.

New assessors

1. June 2014

Brandenburg’s Minister of Finance, Christian Görke (Die Linke party) commissions two expert assessments by historians Dr. Stefan Malinowski (University of Edinburgh) and Professor Peter Brandt (FernUniversität in Hagen). The House of Hohenzollern offers the scholars the opportunity to use the family archives at Hohenzollern Castle, but they do not take up the offer. In addition to Professor Clark (University of Cambridge), Prince Georg Friedrich commissions a report by Professor Wolfram Pyta (University of Stuttgart, Forschungsstelle Ludwigsburg zur NS-Forschung), a recognised expert on the Weimar Republic. His task is to examine the role of the former crown prince during the Weimar Republic and Nazi regime.

Claim denied

27. October 2015

Irrespective of the exploratory talks taking place, the EALG restitution claim put forward by Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, is rejected by Brandenburg’s Ministry of Finance.

Lawsuit

27. November 2015

Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, files a lawsuit with Potsdam’s Administrative Court (Verwaltungsgericht) to appeal the decision made by Brandenburg’s Minister of Finance.

Proceedings supended

30. January 2018

In the interest of a compromise, representatives of the federal government, the federal states of Berlin and Brandenburg, and the Head of the House of Hohenzollern agree to suspend the proceedings pending before Potsdam’s Administrative Court. Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, expresses his willingness to make substantial concessions that would benefit the state collections.

Catalogue

12. June 2018

The representatives of the federal government, the federal states of Berlin and Brandenburg, the state collection, and the House of Hohenzollern agree to cooperate on the creation of a database to catalogue the 15,000 items in question.

Proceedings resume before Potsdam’s Administrative Court

1. July 2019

In the course of the Landtag election, the intermediate status of the settlement talks between the public authorities and Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, are leaked to the press. Brandenburg’s Minister of Finance subsequently announces the termination of the talks and motions to resume the proceedings before Potsdam’s Administrative Court.

Reporting

1. August 2019

With the resumption of the court proceedings and termination of negotiations, certain false claims are made about the Head of the House of Hohenzollern, claims which are also made in a public context on multiple occasions. Members of the press as well as historians are contacted and asked to help rectify the situation. This also leads to media-related legal disputes in some instances.

Hearing before the German Bundestag

29. January 2020

The talks conducted by the federal government and federal states with the head of the House of Hohenzollern are the subject of a hearing before the Bundestag’s Committee on Cultural and Media Affairs.

Court proceedings suspended again

1. August 2020

The Administrative Court in Potsdam once again calls for a settlement between Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, and the state representatives. The state of Brandenburg and Head of the House of Hohenzollern subsequently agree to suspend court proceedings for one year to prepare for reaching a settlement.

Proposed compromise and willingness to negotiate

1. January 2021

Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, proposes (publicly, it should be noted) resuming negotiations with representatives of the federal and state governments in February and stresses his willingness to reach a compromise. The Head of the House of Hohenzollern is still of the opinion that a settlement would be the best solution for all representatives and institutions involved.