Wilhelm of Prussia (1882–1951)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Crown Prince Wilhelm, in 1914 in hussar uniform

Friedrich Wilhelm Victor August Ernst, Crown Prince of the German Empire and of Prussia , from 1919 Wilhelm Prince of Prussia (born  May 6, 1882 in the Marble Palace in Potsdam ; †  July 20, 1951 in Hechingen ), was in the government of his father Wilhelm II . from 1888 until the abolition of the monarchy in the November Revolution of 1918, Prussian and German Crown Prince . With the death of Wilhelm II in 1941, he became head of the Hohenzollern family .


Crown Prince Wilhelm in the Corps Borussia Bonn , around 1901
The Crown Prince as a show jumper at a 1906 tournament
The Crown Prince takes over the 1st Leib-Hussar Regiment (Danzig, September 15, 1911)

Wilhelm was the first son of the Prussian Prince Friedrich Wilhelm, who in the Year of Three Emperors in 1888 when Wilhelm II. German emperor, and the Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-August Castle . He spent his school days in the Plön Prinzenhaus . He then studied constitutional and administrative law as well as law at the University of Bonn from 1901 to 1903 . He lived in the Crown Prince's villa, which he had bought specially for the study of the six imperial sons, and, like his father, became a member of the Corps Borussia .

He married Cecilie, Duchess of Mecklenburg , on June 6, 1905, in the palace chapel of the Berlin City Palace . Unlike his father, the Crown Prince was always an excellent rider who competed in many riding competitions.

“He broke in many remonts himself. [...] His enthusiasm went so far that he once rode in a public race in the Berlin-Potsdamer Reiterverein, despite an express imperial ban. "

- Cecilie

On September 15, 1911, he took command of the 1st Leib-Hussar Regiment No. 1 in Gdansk and lived in Villa Seehaus in Sopot with his family . During the First World War , he formally commanded the 5th Army for a long time , including in the Battle of Verdun . The actual operational management lay with his chief of staff, until August 21, 1916 General Konstantin Schmidt von Knobelsdorf , then General Walther Freiherr von Lüttwitz . This powerless representative position was the result of a direct order from his father:

“I have entrusted you with the command of the 5th Army. You get Lieutenant General Schmidt v. Knobelsdorf as chief of the general staff. You have to do what he advises you. "

His strictly soldier-like upbringing, geared towards corps spirit and the fulfillment of duties, but even more the personal attachment to Arthur von Falkenhayn , whom he valued highly as a former tutor, initially forbade the Crown Prince to openly oppose General Erich von Falkenhayn and Schmidt's plans to bleed out to kick from Knobelsdorf. However, according to his own retrospect, written in 1923, he was skeptical of these from the start. As he further reported there, Falkenhayn convinced him, after the offensive had soon lost momentum, that the attacks should cease. However, while the latter - under the influence of Schmidt von Knobelsdorf - changed his mind and ordered the continuation of the Battle of Verdun , the Crown Prince remained convinced. Since he saw General Schmidt von Knobelsdorf as the actual operator of the attack and disapproved of his influence on Falkenhayn's fluctuating will, he was finally able to get his transfer in August 1916. From the end of November 1916 Wilhelm was Commander-in-Chief of the Army Group "German Crown Prince" .

In the power struggle between the Supreme Army Command under Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff and the Reich Government, which came to a head in the course of 1917 , which, initially with the backing of the Kaiser, endeavored to moderate the German war policy and, in the opinion of its opponents, tended towards a peace of understanding, Crown Prince Wilhelm took very firm sides with the military leadership and weakened the position of his father's civil advisers through vehement statements and internal criticism. He described the resignation of Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg on July 13, 1917 as the "most beautiful day of his life". His powerful appearance also contributed to the overthrow of the head of the Imperial Civil Cabinet , Rudolf von Valentini , who was ousted from office by the military in January 1918. All this weakened the political position of Kaiser Wilhelm II, who lost his influence on government affairs and left control of Germany's fate completely to the army command.

After the fall of the monarchy

Wilhelm in Amsterdam (1921)
The ex-Crown Prince couple Wilhelm and Cecilie in front of Oels Castle (November 1923)

During the November Revolution of 1918, Wilhelm's covering force mutinied with the 5th Army. Wilhelm was accepted at AOK 3 (Colonel General Karl von Eine ). The chief of staff of the Crown Prince, Friedrich Graf von der Schulenburg , and General Karl von Einem confirmed him is to not follow his father into exile. Therefore he asked the Council of People's Representatives , formed on November 10th, to be allowed to bring his army group back home in an orderly manner. This request was refused and Wilhelm was removed from his military position. Paul von Hindenburg advised the Crown Prince to follow his father into exile in the Netherlands. In order to avoid a civil war, Wilhelm gave in to this demand to Schulenburg's great disappointment. He was housed by the Dutch government on the island of Wieringen in a former rectory and was only allowed to leave the island to visit his parents in Doorn . On December 1, 1918, he signed his declaration of abdication , renouncing the German throne.

Wilhelm was on the list of 895 real and alleged war criminals whose extradition was requested by the victorious powers of the First World War in the Treaty of Versailles . The German Reich did not comply with this demand. It was not until February 1920 that the victorious powers declared that they would be content with a trial in a German court. That didn't happen either. At the end of 1923 Wilhelm returned to Germany, which was made possible for him with the help of Chancellor Gustav Stresemann .

A few days after the November Revolution in 1918, the Hohenzollern property was confiscated and then administered by the Prussian Ministry of Finance. In the dispute over the so-called expropriation of the princes , Wilhelm negotiated with the Prussian state through his lawyers until 1926. On October 26, 1926, the "Law on the dispute between the Prussian state and the members of the former ruling Prussian royal family" was passed. Furthermore, in 1927 the "Administration of State Palaces and Gardens" was founded . The state of Prussia kept 75 castles, the Hohenzollern got 39 buildings and a number of agricultural goods back, including the Cecilienhof in Potsdam, where Wilhelm, who had the house built from 1913 to 1917, had his main residence, the marble palace in the park and the Oels Castle in Lower Silesia, which his family used as a country residence, Monbijou Castle in Berlin and Rheinsberg Castle , which were opened to the public as museums. The former royal Prussian house ministry was privately run as the general administration of the former ruling Prussian royal family and lived in the Dutch palace on Unter den Linden in Berlin.

The married couple (parents of six children) became permanently estranged during the 1920s; In addition to his marriage, Wilhelm had had many love affairs, and Cecilie had gotten into alcohol out of grief . In May 1928 he wrote to his father from Rome: “Socialism, communism, democracy and freemasonry have been exterminated, and with stump and handle; an ingenious brutality brought this about. ” Italian fascism is a“ fabulous institution ”. After the election of the former Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg as the second Reich President of the Weimar Republic in 1925, the ex-Kaiser and his family hoped in vain for initiatives to restore the monarchy from him. In 1930 Wilhelm joined the Stahlhelm .

Wilhelm and Cecilie in Bonn in 1934 with their granddaughter Felicitas von Prussia

Wilhelm reacted with disappointment to the policy of understanding that his friend Stresemann was pursuing with France, and to the German Reich's attempt to join the League of Nations . Stresemann then explained his foreign policy to him in what would later become known as the Crown Prince's letter of September 7, 1925, and presented it as a means of revising the Treaty of Versailles and, in particular, the Polish Corridor . When the Grand Coalition , the last parliamentary government of the Weimar Republic, was overthrown , Wilhelm worked behind the scenes with his long-time friend Kurt von Schleicher , a staunch monarchist , and their liaison man Friedrich Graf von der Schulenburg in 1929/30 . From the subsequent Brüning government , he expected "ruthless measures" to increase their "credit in national and well-bourgeois circles". But in vain: Brüning allowed himself to be tolerated by the SPD from autumn 1930 .

In 1932, the DNVP considered whether Wilhelm should run as a candidate for unity in the nationalist camp in the 1932 Reich presidential election in order to prevent an election campaign between incumbent Hindenburg and the challenger Adolf Hitler - provided that both were in the Case would withdraw. Wilhelm also invited Hitler to Cecilienhof Palace to discuss a power-sharing between him as President and Hitler as Chancellor. Hitler agreed to the plan, but it failed due to the objection of Wilhelm II. In his letter from exile, Wilhelm II wrote, among other things:

“If you take this post, you must swear the oath on the republic. If you do that and hold it, you are done for me. I disinherit you and shut you out of my house. If you only swear to break the oath on occasion, you will perjury, you are no longer a gentleman and for me also finished. Hohenzollern do not break their oath. It is impossible for the Hohenzollern to regain power via the republican, red Ebert presidential chair. "

Hitler made clever use of Wilhelm in the years up to 1933. As early as 1926, during a visit to Cecilienhof Palace , Hitler assured Wilhelm that politically he would pursue the restoration of the monarchy and the rule of the House of Hohenzollern alone. In December 1931, the former Crown Prince protested to Schleicher and Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord in a letter against the uniform prohibition that the Brüning government of the National Socialist SA, as well as all other armed forces in its organization, had enacted. In the 1932 presidential election, Wilhelm supported Hitler's candidacy, which was defeated by Hindenburg. On April 14, 1932, he protested to Reich Interior Minister Wilhelm Groener against the ban on the SA and SS that had been imposed the day before with the words:

"[...] I can only describe this decree as a serious error. It is also incomprehensible to me how you, as Reichswehr Minister, are helping to smash the wonderful human material that is united in the SA and SS and that enjoys a valuable education there. "

In January 1933, Wilhelm and Elard von Oldenburg-Januschau and others at Hindenburg campaigned for Hitler's appointment as Reich Chancellor , as Schleicher's chancellorship was considered a failure. He showed his joy at the chancellorship of Hitler and expressed the expectation that this man could achieve for Germany what Mussolini had achieved in Italy (which had given the country an economic boom and nominally exercised his dictatorship under the monarch Victor Emmanuel III ). In the same year he joined Motor-SA , which was taken over the following year in the National Socialist Motor Corps (NSKK).

Wilhelm and Hitler in 1933 on the day of Potsdam
Cecilienhof in Potsdam

In the following years he promoted the young regime and defended it with open letters to the world public. In April 1933 he wrote to Geraldine Farrar that the Jews had driven out Christian elites and were responsible for the economic crisis. The 'brilliant leader Adolf Hitler' had to be given the necessary time for 'certain cleanup work', his fight against communism was being waged 'for the whole world', which would thank him. The National Socialists did not thank him for it. On February 10th, Joseph Goebbels commented on a friendly letter he had received from Wilhelm: “A starter! Nausea! "

Attempts to use the influence he had left on the basis of his name and his ancestry as well as his social position as a legitimist heir to the throne in favor of the victims of the regime were mostly unsuccessful: When Wilhelm, at the request of the mother of the lawyer Hans Litten , who was deported to the concentration camp in 1933, made the attempt Was hated by those in power as defenders of communists and tried to speak up for Hitler when he tried to defend him, the dictator harshly disgusted him and explained to him: "Anyone who advocates Litten will be thrown into the camp, even if you are."

After the murder of his friend Schleicher on June 30, 1934 and the arrest of his adjutant Major a. D. Louis Müldner von Mülnheim on July 1, 1934 during the “ Röhm Putsch ” determined the desire to secure a livelihood and the urge to participate in social life Wilhelm's attitude. During the almost four weeks imprisonment in the Gestapo, “a bitter time of physical and mental strain”, Müldner had been made clear that he would have to abstain from “monarchical activities” in the future. When in 1936 a private congratulatory telegram from Wilhelm von Prussia to the successful warlord Benito Mussolini went through the world press and led to a conflict with the Nazi leadership as an undesirable political statement, Wilhelm resigned from the NSKK. However, this did not detract from his support for Hitler. After the conquest of the Netherlands and Belgium, Wilhelm Hitler congratulated Hitler by telegram on June 26, 1940 with the words: "God protect you and our German fatherland!"

He maintained connections with the German resistance, which after a successful coup against Hitler wanted to appoint the Crown Prince or his second son Louis Ferdinand as the new representative of Germany. However, he evaded the coup d'état of July 20 and also instructed Louis Ferdinand to stay away from it.

After the end of the war he was captured by Moroccan troops in Vorarlberg and imprisoned in Lindau for three weeks on the orders of the French general Jean de Lattre de Tassigny . According to his wife, Wilhelm von Prussia returned from this captivity as a broken man. He was then placed under arrest for several years at the self-chosen place of residence in Hechingen, where he was allowed to move freely within a radius of 25 km. There he lived until October 1945 at Hohenzollern Castle , which was hardly suitable for residential purposes , then in a spacious villa, and a year later in a smaller 5-room house until his death. In the same year the Soviet occupying power expropriated the Hohenzollern family without compensation. In the Cecilienhof, the victorious powers divided the German Reich into zones of occupation at the Potsdam Conference from July 17 to August 2, 1945 and, in the Potsdam Agreement , decreed the cession of the German areas east of the Oder-Neisse line to Poland.

Wilhelm, who was a heavy smoker, died in 1951 of complications from a heart attack . He is buried in the small family cemetery in the officers' garden of the St. Michaels Bastion within Hohenzollern Castle, where the graves of his wife and several of their children are also located.


Since the 2000s, the Crown Prince has been the subject of closer scrutiny through specialist historical research. In connection with applications of his descendants to the government of the state of Brandenburg for the receipt of benefits within the meaning of the Burden Equalization Act passed in 1991 - which regulates the granting of resitution benefits to persons or the descendants of persons whose property between 1945 and 1989 in the Soviet occupation zone and / or was expropriated from the GDR - the focus is particularly on the question of whether the Crown Prince, through his political activities in the 1920s and 1930s, "encouraged" the establishment and consolidation of the Nazi regime to a "considerable extent" or not According to an exception clause, the claims to burden compensation, which are basically due to every person (or their descendants) who were the victim of expropriation in the Soviet Zone / GDR, are excluded from the establishment of the Nazi dictatorship or the establishment of the SED dictatorship through their actions have made a "considerable" push. In the case of such persons, the right to equalization is deemed forfeited.

Applications by the son of the Crown Prince, Louis Ferdinand of Prussia , and his great-grandson, Georg Prince of Prussia, for burden compensation for family property in Brandenburg (and subordinate in Berlin and Saxony-Anhalt) that were expropriated between 1945 and 1989 led to a series of expert reports and essays to examine the question of the role the Crown Prince had played in the 1920s and 1930s and how it should be assessed. These clearly contradict each other.

On the one hand, there are two expert reports that were commissioned by the descendants of Wilhelm, one by the Australian historian Christopher Clark and one by the historians Wolfram Pyta and Rainer Orth . In his report, the former came to the conclusion that the Crown Prince was an insignificant figure ("a bottle") and was therefore not in a position to contribute in any significant way to the establishment of the Nazi dictatorship, which was not a "substantial advance" in the sense the exclusion clause of the Load Equalization Act. He notes that the crown prince's descendants would have better waived the right to restitution claims for visual reasons. The historians Wolfram Pyta and Rainer Orth again came to the conclusion in an elaboration on ways to prevent a Hitler dictatorship that the Crown Prince was decisively involved in the complicated strategy of the then political puller, General Kurt von Schleicher, in the years 1931 to 1933 , was involved, which aimed to prevent a transfer of state power to Hitler and his National Socialists.

On the other hand, there are two separate reports by the historians Stephan Malinowski and Peter Brandt . Both found that the Crown Prince had made an important contribution to the establishment of the Nazi dictatorship through his effectiveness, especially in 1932 and 1933. The reports were commissioned by the state.


The sons of the Crown Prince in 1914, from left to right: Friedrich, Hubertus, Louis Ferdinand and Wilhelm
⚭ 1933 Dorothea von Salviati (1907–1972)
⚭ 1938 Kira Kirillowna Romanowa (1909–1967), former Grand Duchess of Russia
⚭ 1941–1943 Maria Anna Freiin von Humboldt-Dachroeden (1916–2003)
⚭ 1943 Magdalene Pauline Princess Reuss (1920–2009)
Crown Prince's coat of arms
⚭ 1945 Lady Brigid Katherine Rachel Guinness (1920–1995), daughter of the British industrialist Rupert Guinness, 2nd Earl of Iveagh
⚭ 1949 Clyde Kenneth Harris (1918–1958)


  • From my hunting diary. German publishing company. Stuttgart and Berlin 1912.
  • Memories of Crown Prince Wilhelm. From the records, documents, diaries and conversations. published by Karl Rosner, Cotta, Stuttgart and Berlin 1922.
  • My memories from Germany's hero struggle. ES Mittler & Sohn . Berlin 1923.
  • I am looking for the truth! - A book on the question of war guilt. Cotta, Stuttgart and Berlin 1925.


Biographies :

  • Paul Herre : Crown Prince Wilhelm. Its role in German politics. Beck, Munich 1954.
  • Klaus W. Jonas: The Crown Prince Wilhelm. Scheffler, Frankfurt / Main 1962.

Memoirs of related persons :

  • Crown Princess Cecilie: Memories of the German Crown Prince. Koehler, Biberach 1952.

Web links

Commons : Wilhelm von Prussia  - collection of images

Individual evidence

  1. According to the provisions of the Weimar Constitution of 1919 (abolition of the nobility), the designation “Prince of Prussia” became the surname of the Hohenzollern prince (or the nobility title “Prince” became part of his surname). It is listed in contemporary reference works such as the Reich Handbuch der Deutschen Gesellschaft from 1931 under "Prince of Prussia, Wilhelm".
  2. Jörg Kirschstein : imperial children. The Wilhelm II family in photographs , p. 19 ( online )
  3. June 6, 1905: To the wedding celebration of the Crown Prince. The wedding ceremony . In: Vossische Zeitung , June 7, 1905, morning edition, p. 14, accessed on December 25, 2019.
  4. ^ Crown Princess Cecilie: Memories of the German Crown Prince. Biberach 1952, p. 92 ff.
  5. ^ Crown Prince Wilhelm: My memories from Germany's heroic struggle . Mittler & Sohn, Berlin 1923, p. 4.
  6. Crown Prince Wilhelm: Memories , Cottasche Buchhandlung Stuttgart-Berlin, 1922, 2nd edition, p. 26 f.
  7. ^ Crown Prince Wilhelm: My memories from Germany's heroic struggle . Mittler & Sohn, Berlin 1923, p. 160.
  8. ^ Crown Prince Wilhelm: My memories from Germany's heroic struggle . P. 225.
  9. Friedrich Wilhelm Prince of Prussia: The House of Hohenzollern 1918-1945. Langen Müller, Munich / Vienna 2003, p. 281 ff; Karl von Eine: An army leader experienced the world war. Hase & Koehler, Leipzig 1938, p. 468 f.
  10. ^ Heinrich August Winkler : Weimar 1918–1933. The history of the first German democracy. CH Beck, Munich 1998, p. 158.
  11. Kurt Koszyk : Gustav Stresemann: The democrat loyal to the emperor. A biography. Kiepenheuer & Witsch , Cologne 1989, p. 266 f. (cf. “ The Return of the Crown Prince ”: representation of the process in the files of the Reich Chancellery in the Federal Archives ).
  12. ^ DIE ZEIT (archive): representative of German hubris . November 8, 1991.
  13. ^ Eberhard Kolb : Gustav Stresemann . cH Beck, Munich 2003, p. 107 f.
  14. ^ Gerhard Schulz : From Brüning to Hitler. The change in the political system in Germany 1930–1933 (= between democracy and dictatorship. Constitutional policy and imperial reform in the Weimar Republic. Vol. 3). Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, New York 1992, p. 472 f.
  15. Stephan Malinowski : The brown Crown Prince , DIE ZEIT, No. 33 of August 13, 2015
  16. ^ Günter Grützner, Manfred Ohlsen: Cecilienhof Palace and the Crown Prince Couple , Museum and Gallery Publishing House, Berlin 1991, p. 46.
  17. ^ Crown Princess Cecilie : Memories of the German Crown Prince. Biberach 1952.
  18. ^ Johannes Hürter : Wilhelm Groener. Reichswehr Minister at the end of the Weimar Republic (1928–1932). Oldenbourg, Munich 1993, p. 320.
  19. Bernd Ulrich: Last defense attempt , Deutschlandfunk, April 13, 2007
  20. ^ Ernst Klee : The culture lexicon for the Third Reich. Who was what before and after 1945. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2007, ISBN 978-3-10-039326-5 , p. 466.
  21. Friedrich Wilhelm Prince of Prussia: The House of Hohenzollern 1918-1945. P. 208.
  22. Stephan Malinowski : The brown Crown Prince , DIE ZEIT, No. 33 of August 13, 2015.
  23. Ralf Georg Reuth (Ed.): Joseph Goebbels. Diaries 1924–1945. Piper, Munich 1992, Vol. 2, p. 762.
  24. Knut Bergbauer, Sabine Fröhlich, Stefanie Schüler-Springorum: Monument figure. Biographical approach to Hans Litten, 1903-1938. 2008, p. 303.
  25. ↑ On this and the following: Friedrich Wilhelm: Das Haus Hohenzollern. P. 215ff.
  26. Friedrich Wilhelm Prince of Prussia: The House of Hohenzollern 1918-1945. Long miller. Munich, Vienna 2003, p. 281 ff.
  27. Arno Widmann: Hohenzollern for Germany: "Your Mussolini was Adolf Hitler". In: Frankfurter Rundschau. August 1, 2019, accessed August 25, 2019 .
  28. ^ Crown Princess Cecilie: Memories of the German Crown Prince. Biberach 1952, p. 19 ff.
  29. See on this and on the arrest: Friedrich Wilhelm: Das Haus Hohenzollern. P. 225 f.
  30. ^ A b Gustav Seibt: Hohenzollern dispute: Historical confusion of voices. Retrieved March 7, 2020 .
  31. Klaus Wiegrefe, DER SPIEGEL: Historian Hohenzollern dispute: "The man was a bottle" - DER SPIEGEL - Politics .
  32. Klaus Wiegrefe, DER SPIEGEL: Hohenzollern dispute: Was Crown Prince Wilhelm a Nazi sympathizer - or did he want to prevent Hitler? - THE MIRROR - Panorama .
  33. ^ Hermann Beck, Larry Eugene Jones: From Weimar to Hitler: Studies in the Dissolution of the Weimar Republic and the Establishment of the Third Reich, 1932-1934 . Berghahn Books. 29th November 2018.
  34. ^ Opinion by Malinowski , PDF.
  35. Brandt report , PDF.
  36. Stephan Malinowski: Nazi history: The brown Crown Prince . August 13, 2015.
  37. Peter Brandt, Stephan Malinowski: Wilhelm Prince of Prussia: A Prince in Resistance? . November 13, 2019.
predecessor Office successor
Wilhelm II. Head of the House of Hohenzollern
Louis Ferdinand