European RoyalsHistoryPalaces & Buildings

Heirs of Kaiser Wilhelm II launch bid to reclaim art and palace from German state



Descendants of the last German Emperor are locked in a legal battle with the German state to reclaim thousands of valuable artworks and historical artefacts. They also reportedly want to the right to live in one of their former palaces.

The claims are thought to be led by Georg Friedrich, nominally Prince of Prussia, but officially Mr Georg Friedrich Prinz von Preußen, who is the great-great-grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm II. The demands reportedly include the return of artworks by Lucan Cranach the Elder, Friedrich Tischbein and the “New Cabinet” created by master craftsman David Roentgen. Reports state that they also want to live rent-free in the former royal palace of Cecilienhof, which is perhaps best known as the site of 1945 Potsdam Conference where Europe was divided up after the Second World War. Cecilienhof is currently a museum, and the reception rooms are restored to how they were at the time of the conference, including the table where the world leaders met.

Cecilienhof – Photo by Moniek Bloks/Royal Central

“The House of Hohenzollern has repeatedly stated in talks that it takes account of its historical responsibility and mission,” a lawyer for the family told the Telegraph. “Contrary to various reports, the House’s primary objective is to maintain the collections in existing museums and continue to make them available to the public…Speculation that museums would be forced to close can, therefore, be dismissed as utter nonsense.”

Most of the family’s possessions were in the Russian occupied zone in East Germany and were expropriated. Their claim is based on German laws which mandate the return of property seized under communist rule. However, opponents say that the family is not eligible under the law because it excludes those who were involved in the Nazi regime – such as Wilhelm’s eldest son the Crown Prince.