Historian Stefan Malinowski has been in a legal dispute with the Hohenzollern family since his “report on the political behavior of former Crown Prince Wilhelm, Prince of Prussia” (2014). Perhaps the Prussian noble family did not like his “Die Hohenzollern und die Nazis”, which was published last year. In his work, the historian examines the role of the Hohenzollern after 1918 and concludes that the ruling family and the Nazi movement formed a symbolic political alliance when building the Third Reich.
Combining contemporary social and political history and a family portrait, the book is at the same time a fascinating mid-study of conservative and right-wing hostility to the republic, for which the jury justified awarding it the German Realist Book Prize. Malinowski gave an insight into his work in an interview with NDR Kultur in September 2021.
Mr. Malinowski, your book’s subtitle is History of Collaboration, that is, between the Hohenzollerns and the National Socialists. What kind of cooperation was that?
Stefan Malinowski: I chose the term collaboration carefully because the collaborator is basically someone who doesn’t have to agree 100% with the other party. This is also the case with the Hohenzollerns: with the crown prince, the emperor and other important figures in the family, that they have some things in common with National Socialism. Anti-Semitism is an important bridge. Hate the republic, democracy, socialists, communists and unions. Hating what we call modernity today. In the book I describe how this cooperation worked and why the Crown Prince and other important members of the family ended up publicly supporting National Socialism. An important element is a large public call from the crown prince in April 1932 to vote for Hitler in the presidential election. But this is only one element in a long line of many described in the book. I also had a lot of trouble describing the time after 1945 – the time when myths formed. and the time the Hohenzollern family began explaining and shattering their history in the Third Reich.
Let’s go back to the beginning: How did the two benefit each other? Because such cooperation only works if both have something from each other.
Malinovsky: In 1919/1920 Hitler looked for collaborators and supporters of the old elite. The guy returned from the World War, before the World War he was a somewhat homeless postcard painter in Austria. This young National Socialist movement needs supporters from the old functional elite. Among these is the Hohenzollern family as the chief symbolic bearer of the old elites and the monarchy. In this regard, the National Socialists account for the support partners of the Reichswehr, among the big landowners and other functional elites, who need informants and intermediaries.
On the contrary, the accounts of the fallen dynasty of the Hohenzollerns are that they need bridges with the population and the dynamic far-right movement that emerges. Initially, the National Socialists were just a movement within the radical right schizo class that emerged in the 1920s and 1930s. Having these allies and taking advantage of this dynamic, as it has been developing since 1929/1930, is part of the Hohenzollern family’s calculations.
How much did they actually benefit? Your colleagues underestimate the role of Crown Prince Wilhelm Prince of Prussia.
Malinovsky: There is debate among historians about the role, influence and significance of this man, given that in fact he did not hold any political office. In 1918 he was exiled to a Dutch island and only returned to Germany in 1923. Perhaps – this is my style of the book – you can distinguish between person and character. A person is relatively insignificant: he is not particularly intelligent, he does not have any other outstanding character traits. But as the bearer of the Hohenzollerns name, as a potential claimant to the throne, he represents the supposedly illustrious past of the imperial era. At the same time, it symbolizes the splendor of the entire Prussian aristocracy in a way that very few could have portrayed. If you understand the crown prince and other family members as representatives, then this man also symbolizes a part of the empire, the army, large estates, the German nobility and the upper classes. It is watched by millions of Germans, Europeans and Americans – daily and weekly. This can be very clearly explained by press sources.
Wilhelm Prince of Prussia always made sure that he appeared in the best possible light – very early, but also after the Third Reich. How does this work? In what light did he want to appear?
Malinovsky: The term public relations arose around 1918 from a mixture of political advertising and product advertising. Very early on, the Hohenzollern family began working with ghost writers, journalists, and photographers who modeled this family in a certain way. The point is that the crown prince wanted to return to Germany, which Gustav Stresemann basically arranged for him. In 1923 the goal was to portray him as a private individual wishing to return to his family and his wife. Later it was all about portraying him as a potential leading figure for the future. And after 1945, the family—like other parts of German conservatives—was interested in writing themselves for the conservative resistance to the bomb attack on July 20, 1944. In the early 1950s, the novel essentially emerged that one was in fact a victim of the National Socialists. One of them was deceived and eventually maintained contacts with the resistance and was more or less symbolically affiliated with the resistance. It is a myth relevant to large sections of German conservatives. But it is also very intensely cared for in the family.
led conversation Jurgen Depp On September 28, 2021.