A descendant of a German prince is fighting a legal battle against Berlin to recover property “stolen” by the SS chief, Heinrich Himmler, after his grandfather aided in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler.
Prince Friedrich zu Solms-Baruth V’s family has waged a 30-year legal battle to get back land in the eastern German state of Brandenburg. He claims it was seized by the Nazis due to his father’s major role in the July 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler, known as ‘Operation Valkyrie’ and involving many top brass.
German authorities have been reluctant to acknowledge the family’s right, arguing that the estate was either voluntarily handed over to the Nazi regime or confiscated by the East German authorities under a land reform program long after the World War II. Prince Friedrich, however, accuses German authorities of covering up Nazi crimes.
“It is iniquitous that my family’s property remains sequestered by the German state who prefer to uphold torture, murder and theft by a regime widely accepted as one of the most evil and corrupt in modern history,” he told the Times of Israel ahead of yet another court hearing on his case.
Solms-Baruth V believes his case could pave the way for other victims of the Nazis, including German Jews, who seek to have property stolen by the regime returned. His case, he says, could be a litmus test to see if modern Germany “really learned the lessons from its dark past.”
He maintains that his grandfather had a longstanding hatred of Hitler and was “completely against” him “even before he came to power.” He said that the Brandenburg estate offered the “perfect cover” for a meeting ground for the 1944 anti-Nazi coup plotters.
Research by former British MP Rupert Allason confirmed the estate was “the headquarters of the preparations” for the July plot, Friedrich said. When the coup failed, his grandfather was tortured by the Gestapo secret police and was coerced into signing papers to hand over the estate.
German authorities have dismissed evidence presented by the family, including written testimony by another Operation Valkyrie plotter who survived the Nazi crackdown. The prince told the Times of Israel that the idea of the land handover being legal was “extremely cynical and absurd.”
The family plans to turn to the European Court of Human Rights if legal options in Germany are exhausted. There are thought to be between 10,000 and 20,000 similar cases in Germany’s restitution archives.