Grandson of Hitler death-plot prince loses estate bid
Published 16/02/2010 | 05:00
A GERMAN COURT has rejected a demand for the return of thousands of acres of land to the family of an anti-Nazi aristocrat who was tortured by the Gestapo and stripped of all his property as punishment for taking part in the abortive World War Two plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.
Prince Friedrich zu Solms-Baruth was one of a handful of aristocrats who took part in the failed attempt to blow up the Nazi leader on 20 July 1944. The Gestapo arrested him the next day and forced him to sign a legal contract formally handing over 17,300 acres of family estates and castles to Heinrich Himmler, the Gestapo chief.
But a legal bid by the Prince's grandson, Prince Friedrich zu Solms-Baruth V, to have the properties returned failed yesterday. A court in the city of Potsdam rejected pleas for their restitution; arguing that the contract was legal because German law still recognised Nazi Germany as a constitutional state in which the rule of law prevailed.
The verdict provoked a furious response from the zu Solms-Baruth family, German legal experts and historians specialising in the Nazi-era.
"The court's ruling is outrageous," Prince Friedrich V said. "My grandfather was coerced into signing away his estates to Himmler. He had to do it to save his own life and that of his family. The whole world knows that the Nazis put a veneer of legality on their criminal activities."
Antony Beevor, the British historian and Nazi-era expert, said the mere fact that the prince's grandfather signed over his estates while being held prisoner in the Gestapo's infamous Berlin headquarters rendered the signature invalid.
"It is quite simply unimaginable that a document presented to a prisoner arrested in connection with the 20 July plot could be deemed to have been a contract entered into willingly and without coercion," he said.
The prince's grandfather joined the so-called 'Valkyrie' plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944. His country estates were used as meeting places for the conspirators.
The case will now be heard by Germany's federal supreme court in Leipzig. (© Independent News Service)