Hope Stalin doesn’t hear it! Last German emperor’s heirs demand Potsdam Conference palace for living

FILE PHOTO: (L-R) British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, American President Harry Truman, and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin at the Potsdam Conference, in July 1945. / Free

In a bizarre property dispute, the heirs of the last German emperor are said to have claimed ownership over the palace where Stalin, Truman, and Churchill once decided the fate of the world back in 1945.

Georg Friedrich, the great-great grandson of the last German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, still carries the title of prince of the long-gone kingdom of Prussia, but what he lacks is a royal palace. So, according to the local media, he wants to get his hands on the Cecilienhof Palace – a UNESCO world heritage site and location of the 1945 Potsdam Conference, which largely defined the post-WWII world order. Two other villas at the Palace are also considered as an alternative.

The descendant of the emperor has a truly regal appetite as he has demanded no less than a “permanent free-of-charge residence” in the former royal palace and iconic landmark, which was recently renovated at the expense of German taxpayers. The claim, as Tagespiegel has learned, is part of a dispute between the Prussian royals and the German authorities over the property of their ancestors, which was nationalized when Germany moved from monarchy to republic after World War I. 

FILE PHOTO: The Palace of Cecilienhof, Potsdam, Germany. / Free

Besides the place, the Prince of Prussia wants other real estate objects and hundreds of paintings, sculptures, and other pieces of art, which are currently in the collections of several German museums.

Their claims, if met, would spell an end to at least two museums, which would be literally left with almost nothing to show, Spiegel reports. Apart from that, Georg Friedrich’s family also wants at least one of the buildings to serve as a “venue used to host private, public or social events,” as well as to have their say on how their ancestors are portrayed at the museums.

FILE PHOTO: Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia. / Free

The imperial clan has been bargaining with the local authorities of Berlin, the German state of Brandenburg, as well as the Federal Culture Ministry since 2014 behind closed doors, but details of the litigation were leaked to German media only this week.

So far, the sides have stayed conspicuously mum on the matter, with Wilhelm II’s descendants being particularly tight-lipped as they refuse to comment on the issue even now, saying instead through their lawyer that “negotiations are ongoing.”

Berlin is apparently not ready to bow to their demands. In a letter sent to Georg Friedrich in mid-June, the Culture Ministry said the authorities “do not see a sufficient basis for promising negotiations.”

Earlier, the state reportedly offered the aristocratic house 10 paintings out of those they requested as a sign of compromise.However, the Hohenzollern dynasty seems to be unrelenting. They refused the compromise and issued new demands that involved claims for things ranging from the Prussian kings’ library to real estate objects, including Cecilienhof.

While stating their case, the family referred to a 1926 agreement between the former royal family and the then-German authorities that settled property matters at the time. The modern Hohenzollerns say the document contained “legal ambiguities” that leave the dispute open.

Eventually, they even pulled out the trump card of modern Western politics and… blamed the Russians.They claimed that some provisions of the agreement “have changed as a result… of the actions of the Soviet occupying powers” and the government of East Germany.

Neither side seems ready to give up, and the dispute is bound to last for quite some time. It has reached such proportions that the Hohenzollerns terminated the leasing agreements with the public museums for those pieces of art they do legally own. Another round of negotiations is scheduled for July 24, according to Tagesspiegel.

The House of Hohenzollern might, however, want to think twice before raking up the past. If the German authorities find tangible proof of the family supporting the Nazi regime in any way, their claims are likely to be dismissed.

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