Dear members of the public,
dear website visitors,

Welcome to the official website of the Brandenburg-Prussian line of the House of Hohenzollern.

We’ve created these webpages to provide news and information on the latest developments pertaining to my family – in particular with regard to Hohenzollern Castle near Hechingen, which has been in the family’s possession for much of the past thousand years. We would also like to give you an opportunity to learn about my ancestors and their historical importance. They were the Electors of Brandenburg from 1415, Prussian kings from 1701, and German emperors from 1871. My great-great-grandfather, the King of Prussia and German Emperor Wilhelm II (1859–1941) ruled from 1888 to 1918.

Like other families, the House of Hohenzollern is characterized by the continuity between its past, present, and future. Families with a particularly long legacy demonstrate particularly clearly how one’s ancestry and future are intimately bound. Each of us has ancestral roots going back to time immemorial. A royal dynasty that ruled in the past enjoys the particular fortune of having this past extensively documented. And we would like you to share in this history.

This website, for instance, provides a daily calendar commemorating a particular day in the history of the Hohenzollern family. You can also find answers to the most frequently asked questions as well as current information on our museum, exhibition activities, dining, excursions, and not lastly our social projects involving the Princess Kira of Prussia Foundation. An extensive ten-year renovation of our ancestral seat, Hohenzollern Castle, is currently underway. As one of Germany’s most frequently visited tourist attractions and a particularly vital testimony to German history, it will remain open to the public during this period. We sincerely hope you pay us a visit at Hohenzollern Castle.

I hope that this website will spark your interest and teach you more about my family’s history. Please do not hesitate to send us a message if you have any questions or suggestions.

Warm regards

Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia

News

Current events around the House of Hohenzollern

Frequently asked questions

Explanations concerning current discussions

The Hohenzollerns are one of the most influential aristocratic dynasties in German history and were first mentioned in historical records in 1061. Their ancestral seat is Hohenzollern Castle, located in the Zollernalbkreis district of Baden-Württemberg. The Hohenzollern lineage has several branches, including the Brandenburg-Prussian branch and the Swabian branch (Swabian Hohenzollerns). As Electors of Brandenburg (from 1415), Prussian kings (from 1701) and German emperors (from 1871), they bore great political responsibility for 500 years in northern Germany and for Germany as a whole. The current Head of the House of Hohenzollern (Brandenburg-Prussian line) is the great-great-grandson of the last King of Prussia and German Emperor, Wilhelm II (1859-1941). Wilhelm ruled until his abdication in November 1918 at the end of the First World War.

The matter at hand goes back to the period immediately after 1945, as it relates to a situation that arose within the Soviet occupation zone during the years just after the end of the Second World War. During that period, the Soviet occupation forces expropriated hundreds of thousands of people in the territory without compensation. The government of the GDR undertook further expropriations. These also affected the Hohenzollern family, which lost a large share of its private assets during this time. Today, public authorities as well as aggrieved parties and/or their heirs now face the task of dealing with the aftereffects of these expropriations.
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.
After reunification, several thousands of claimants, including the Hohenzollerns, exercised comparable rights. Prince Louis Ferdinand Sr. did so as well in the 1990s. The proceedings have been pending for over 25 years now.

In the case of real estate or land, EALG provides for certain compensation 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 House of Hohenzollern, this assessed value in the Federal State of Brandenburg is approximately DM 42 million. Based on the statutory regulation, however, it is not a matter of compensating the assessed value or the market value – which would exceed the assessed value several times over. The law yields a theoretical compensation figure of EUR 1.2 million. The amount was calculated by the relevant 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 law adopted in 1994 also provides for the return of movable property, insofar as the items were located on the respective premises. Essentially, any movable property subject to this law must be returned.

The family has on multiple occasions stated publicly in clear terms, however, that it is not interested in exercising such rights to the fullest extent as part of a broad settlement. In cooperation with the involved institutions and state authorities, the House of Hohenzollern is seeking to lay down binding terms for how the affected movable property will be handled, for example, with regard to aspects of preservation, and where items will ultimately be located. The interests of all parties involved must be considered here.

It is true that after the abolition of the monarchy and the founding of the Weimar Republic there was a debate surrounding how the assets belonging to the Hohenzollerns should be handled. Initially, all of the family’s assets were seized. It was not until 1926 that an
agreement was reached between the State of Prussia and the House of Hohenzollern
, the outcome of which was a clear separation between state assets and assets belonging to the family’s private estate. An agreement – passed legislatively by the Prussian state parliament – 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 falling into the category of private property. Everything else remained in possession of the State of Prussia.

The majority of what was designated as the family’s private property in 1926 was located in the part of Germany that became the Soviet occupation zone in 1945. The uncompensated expropriations that occurred in the Soviet occupation zone subsequently affected thousands of families, including the Hohenzollerns, who lost the vast majority of their private property as a result. Contrary to claims that have been made publicly, the family is not seeking compensation a second time. Rather, like so many others, it is merely asking for lost assets to be returned. This request was made on the basis of the legal framework that was established through legislation after Germany’s reunification.

In principle, the Indemnification and Compensation Act (EALG) does set out rules governing the return of real estate. The means for doing so are highly restrictive.
To the extent that the matter relates to the family’s right of residence at properties formerly belonging to it, it should be noted that the settlement agreement reached in 1926 granted the right of residence at Cecilienhof Palace for a period limited to three generations. Irrespective of that agreement, a similar proposal was made by Brandenburg’s government in the 1990s after reunification. The government in Potsdam as well as the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg made specific proposals as part of a compromise to transfer properties (back) to the family. During the GDR era, there were specific deliberations as to whether to offer the family a right of residence at Cecilienhof Palace. In other words, the issue concerning the right of residence has not been “fabricated” by the family.

In this context, Prince Georg Friedrich has stated publicly on multiple occasions since July this year that reaching a comprehensive settlement will not hinge upon the matter of right of residence.

The relevant questions of ownership have been unresolved for decades, meaning that the first task is to establish legal certainty. Once that has occurred, this still poses no “danger” for museums. Prince Georg Friedrich has repeatedly emphasised that the family is aware of its cultural responsibility and indicated that he would like to leave the items at their present locations, particularly if they are on public display. In this regard, the restitution of famous works of art is not an issue either.

Some people in the media have written that these claims will result in the closure of at least two museums. This allegation lacks any factual basis. On the contrary, the Hohenzollern family has long been a major lender to prominent museums in Brandenburg and Berlin and would like this to remain so.

The Hohenzollern family is seeking a comprehensive, amicable settlement. This would ensure legal and planning certainty for everyone as well as lay a foundation for lasting, productive cooperation, which is why Prince Georg Friedrich is seeking such a settlement. In his view, it will ensure, among other things, that prominent works remain accessible to the public.
It should be noted here that it was and continues to be state institutions that have advocated for the idea of a Hohenzollern museum and have continued developing previous concepts for the museum site(s). It was only later that the project was proposed to the family, which has embraced and supported it ever since.
Pieces that are particularly relevant to the public could be put on display in a permanent exhibit, and the respective institutions as well as the family could place items on loan for this purpose. Obviously, this type of long-term project only makes sense if the parties involved are committed to a permanent exhibit of this sort. The family certainly is willing.

The Hohenzollern family played a special role in Prussia’s and Germany’s history for several centuries. The academic literature on the topic would likely fill entire libraries, and it goes without saying that this history is a topic of discussion within the family as well. Due to the nature of the matter, the discussion is unavoidably self-critical and sometimes controversial. More than forty years ago, Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia already began exploring the subject of individual family members’ influence and roles during the Weimar Republic and the “Third Reich”. The book was re-released most recently in 2003 in a revised and expanded edition. No other academic study of comparable depth has been published on the topic to date. Prince Louis Ferdinand Sr. was at one point a patron to the publication of a biography of the Crown Prince written by Klaus W. Jonas. The work, which provides critical insights about the eldest son of the Emperor, still remains the most comprehensive biography of the Crown Prince.

The pending proceedings have once again brought about a critical discussion of this topic. Four expert opinions have been submitted, some of which arrive at very different conclusions concerning the historical role and significance of the Crown Prince, as well as the motivations behind and consequences of his actions. Two expert opinions were commissioned by Brandenburg’s former Minister for Finance (The Left party). Based on well-documented sources, parts of which were already included several years prior in the aforementioned publication, they conclude that the Crown Prince did make a “significant contribution” to the rise of the National Socialist regime. These experts’ reasoning would rule out any claim to compensation.

Two expert opinions commissioned by the family contradict these findings. Based on new sources and knowledge that had previously not been considered, they conclude that the facts at hand do not satisfy the criteria defining a “significant contribution” and would therefore justify the claim for compensation.

The family is committed to an open discussion about its history and acknowledges the critical aspects as well, which is also why the party experts commissioned by the Federal State of Brandenburg were granted access to the family’s archives at Hohenzollern Castle.
By the same token, the family is committed to an unbiased exploration of historical topics, and it goes without saying that it places its full trust in resolving the matter through proceedings under the rule of law. The family is optimistic about the outcome of these proceedings.

The family is one of the largest private lenders to the museums in Brandenburg and Berlin, which means it has already been part of many successful projects in partnership with public cultural institutions. The family is eager to continue this work as part of its cultural responsibilities.

In confronting its own history, the family finds, if nothing else, that promoting the European idea is one of the most salient endeavours of our time. The family is rising to this challenge through its work with youth, organising relevant events and exhibitions, as well as loaning works to institutions in neighbouring European countries and other projects.

Prussian history has been influential in ways that go far beyond our national borders. For instance, if one were to project a map of Prussia at the height of its power onto a map of present-day Europe, it becomes apparent that numerous European countries have a direct link to Prussian history or even have a Prussian past. The family consciously seeks to promote the European idea by supporting exhibition projects though the loaning of items to neighbouring European countries. This is one mission of the envisaged Hohenzollern network, which will be developed across Europe in cooperation with various state institutions.

The family has not contested any cases of critical reporting whatsoever. That would not even be possible under press law. It has merely defended itself against misinformation. Especially in the context of such an intense and controversial discussion, it is important that all parties be furnished with accurate information and have the ability to form an opinion based on these facts. Numerous judicial rulings throughout Germany have consequently shown that the actions taken by the family to counter misinformation have been in the public interest.

It is totally inaccurate to speak of “closed-door negotiations”. The media first reported that the various parties were engaged in talks several years ago. Furthermore, the usual confidentiality provisions apply to this case, in particular Article 30 VwVfG and Article 5 VwVfG, which entitle every citizen to confidentiality during administrative procedures. The fact that these are not “closed-door negotiations” is further underscored by the fact that agreements resulting from negotiations must still be approved by the state parliaments.

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 of the former emperor and royal dynasty is seized by the government of the Weimar Republic before the end of 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 property the House of Hohenzollern is entitled to and which items (real estate and movable property) are to be transferred to the state. This agreement is eventually accepted by the Landtag of Prussia and passed into law.

Expropriation

8. May 1945

After the end of the Second World War, a land reform is passed in the Soviet occupation zone. Nearly 3.3 million hectares of agricultural and forestry land are expropriated, as well as 750,000 factory, business, and residential buildings, including livestock and equipment. This also applies to all property belonging to the Hohenzollern family located in the Soviet occupation zone.

Fall of the Berlin Wall

9. November 1989

The fall of the Berlin Wall rekindles many families’ hopes of having their expropriated assets returned to them.

Reunification

3. October 1990

Like many thousands of others affected by expropriation, after reunification Prince Louis Ferdinand Sr. petitions to reclaim expropriated properties and other assets. 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 Sr. dies at the age of 86. His successor and head of the House of Hohenzollern is his grandson Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia. One generation is skipped due to the untimely death of his father, Prince Louis Ferdinand Jr., who was killed in a military accident at the age of 33.

EALG

27. September 1994

The Indemnification and Compensation Act (EALG) is passed.

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.

Chancellery

26. February 2014

The Federal Commissioner for Culture and Media (BKM) calls an initial session in the hopes of reaching a comprehensive and amicable settlement. At the suggestion of the public authorities, the parties agree to confidentiality.

Expert assessors

1. June 2014

Brandenburg’s Minister of Finance, Christian Görke (Die Linke party) commissions two experts to provide their assessments: historians Dr. Stefan Malinowski (University of Edinburgh) and Professor Peter Brandt (University of Hagen). The House of Hohenzollern gives the scholars the opportunity to use the family archives at Hohenzollern Castle, but they do not take up the offer. The results of the expert assessments are also made available to the press. Moreover, Malinowski publishes results from both assessments in the newspaper Die Zeit while proceedings are still ongoing. 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 recognized expert on the Weimar Republic. His task is to examine the role of the Crown Prince during the Weimar Republic and the Nazi regime.

Reversal

1. June 2014

Brandenburg’s Minister of Finance, Christian Görke (Die Linke party) commissions two experts to provide their assessments: historians Dr. Stefan Malinowski (University of Edinburgh) and Professor Peter Brandt (University of Hagen). The House of Hohenzollern gives the scholars the opportunity to use the family archives at Hohenzollern Castle, but they do not take up the offer. The results of the expert assessments are also made available to the press. Moreover, Malinowski publishes results from both assessments in the newspaper Die Zeit while proceedings are still ongoing. 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 recognized expert on the Weimar Republic. His task is to examine the role of the Crown Prince during the Weimar Republic and the Nazi regime.

Claim denied

27. October 2015

Separate from the exploratory talks currently underway, the family’s restitution claim is denied by the Brandenburg Ministry of Finance.

Lawsuit

27. November 2015

The House of Hohenzollern 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

The House of Hohenzollern and the public authorities agree to suspend the pending proceedings with the Administrative Court of Potsdam in the hopes of coming to a comprehensive and amicable agreement.

Inventory

12. June 2018

The public authorities, cultural institutions, and House of Hohenzollern agree to cooperate on the creation of a database to catalogue the 15,000 items in question.

Disclosure

1. July 2019

Once again, documents from the negotiations are revealed to the public.

Hearing

29. January 2020

The negotiations between the federal government, federal states, and the House of Hohenzollern are the subject of a hearing before the Bundestag’s committee on cultural affairs.

Statements

Debates surrounding the House of Hohenzollern’s compensation proceedings as well as its dialogue with government authorities have attracted intense media attention from the very beginning. Reporting on the process, which has been going on for over 25 years now, had always been objective and balanced. However, false statements have been made on several occasions in connection with the disclosure and publication of certain documents in June of this year. Such claims have repeatedly become the basis for public debate on the matter. The claim that the family “used the FRG’s legal system to stamp out unflattering reporting” is one example. So, too, is the claim that the family is trying to “reframe its own history”. The following section provides some additional information for the purposes of facilitating a more balanced debate.

Press release – 8 October 2020

Repeating falsehoods does not make them true The debate surrounding compensation claims lodged by the House of Hohenzollern has heated up once again. Unfortunately, in the context of this debate, false claims continue to be made periodically by journalists as well as historians. These supposed facts were not verified before being reported, and subsequent requests […]