Wilhelm Hohenzollern, Prince Friedrich Wilhelm Victor August Ernst.

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Wilhelm Hohenzollern, Prince Friedrich Wilhelm Victor August Ernst.

Wilhelm, German Crown Prince (Friedrich Wilhelm Victor August Ernst, born 06-05-1882, in Potsdam was the eldest child of the soon-to-be German Kaiser (Emperor) Wilhelm II  and his wife Empress Augusta Victoria,  and the last Crown Prince of the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. After the death of his grandfather Emperor Frederick III,  Wilhelm became crown prince at the age of six, retaining that title for more than 30 years until the fall of the empire on 05-11-1918.  During World War I, he commanded the 5th Army  from 1914 to 1916 and was commander of Army Group German Crown Prince for the remainder of the war. Crown Prince Wilhelm became Head of the House of Hohenzollern on 04-06-1941 following the death of his father and held the position until his own death on 20-07-1951.

The oldest of seven children and his birth sparked an argument between his parents and grandmother. Before Wilhelm was born, his grandmother had expected to be asked to help find a nurse, but since her son did everything he could to snub her, the future Wilhelm II asked his aunt Helena to help. His mother was hurt and his grandmother, Queen Victoria,  who was the younger Wilhelm’s great-grandmother, furious. When his great-grandfather and grandfather both died in 1888, six-year-old Wilhelm became the heir-apparent to the German and Prussian thrones..The Dutch Queen Wilhelmina  was a niece of Wilhelm II. Wilhelm was a supporter of association football, then a relatively new sport in the country, donating a cup to the German Football Association in 1908 and thereby initiating the Kronprinzenpokal (now Länderpokal), the oldest cup competition in German football. The German club BFC Preussen was also originally named BFC Friedrich Wilhelm in his honour.

Wilhelm had been active in pushing German expansion, and sought a leading role on the outbreak of war. Despite being only thirty-two and having never commanded a unit larger than a regiment, the German Crown Prince was named commander of the 5th Army in August 1914, shortly after the outbreak of World War I. However, under the well-established Prussian/German General Staff model then in use, inexperienced nobles who were afforded commands of large army formations were always provided with (and expected to defer to the advice of) experienced chiefs of staff to assist them in their duties.

From August 1915 onwards, Wilhelm was given the additional role as commander of the Crown Prince’s Corps. In 1916 his troops began the Verdun Offensive, a year long effort to destroy the French armies that would end in failure. Wilhelm relinquished command of the 5th Army in November of that year, but remained commander of the Crown Prince’s Corps for the rest of the war.

After the outbreak of the German Revolution in 1918, both Emperor Wilhelm II and the Crown Prince signed the document of abdication. On 13 November, the former Crown Prince went into exile and was interned on the island of Wieringen (now part of the mainland), near Den Helder in the Netherlands. In the fall of 1921, Gustav Stresemann visited Wilhelm and the Crown Prince voiced his interest in returning to Germany, even as a private citizen. After Stresemann became chancellor in August 1923, Wilhelm was allowed to return after giving assurances that he would no longer engage in politics.  He chose 09–1923 for this, which infuriated his father, who had not been informed about the plans of his son and who felt the historic date to be inappropriate.

Prince Wilhelm was married  with Crown Princess Cecilie of Germany    and they had six children, four sons and two daughters, Wilhelm (1906-1940), Louis Ferdinand ( 1907-1994), Hubertus (1909-1950), Frederik ( 1911-1966), Alexandrine (1915-1980) and Cecilia (1917-1975).

  Wilhelm’s wife, Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin here with her daughters, Princess Alexandrine (left) and Princess Cecilie (right), pictured in 1934

In June 1926, a referendum on expropriating the former ruling Princes of Germany without compensation failed and as a consequence, the financial situation of the Hohenzollern family improved considerably. A settlement between the state and the family made Cecilienhof property of the state but granted a right of residence to Wilhelm and Cecilie. This was limited in duration to three generations.The family also kept the ownership of Monbijou Palace in Berlin, Oels Castle in Silesia, and Rheinsberg Palace until 1945.

Wilhelm broke the promise he had made to Gustav Stresemann   to stay out of politics. Adolf Hitler visited Wilhelm at Cecilienhof three times, in 1926, in 1933 (on the “Day of Potsdam”) and in 1935. Wilhelm joined the Stahlhelm  which merged in 1931 into the Harzburg Front, a right-wing organisation of those opposed to the democratic republic  Gustav Stresemann died of a stroke on 03-10-1929 at the age of 51 n Berlin.

The former Crown Prince was reportedly interested in the idea of running for Reichspräsident as the right-wing candidate against Paul von Hindenburg  in 1932, until his father forbade him from acting on the idea. After his plans to become president had been blocked by his father, Wilhelm supported Hitler’s rise to power.   After the murder of his friend Kurt von Schleicher,  the former Chancellor, in the Night of the Long Knives (1934), he withdrew from all political activities.

When Wilhelm realized that Hitler had no intention of restoring the monarchy, their relationship cooled.  Upon his father’s death in 1941, Wilhelm succeeded him as head of the House of Hohenzollern, the former German imperial dynasty. He was approached by those in the military and the diplomatic service who wanted to replace Hitler, but Wilhelm turned them down. After the ill-fated assassination attempt on 20 July 1944,  Hitler nevertheless had Wilhelm placed under supervision by the Gestapo  and had his home at Cecilienhof watched.

In January 1945, Wilhelm left Potsdam for Oberstdorf for a treatment of his gall and liver problems. His wife Cecilie fled in early February 1945 as the Red Army drew closer to Berlin, but they had been living apart for a long time. At the end of the war, Wilhelm’s home, Cecilienhof,  was seized by the Soviets.[7]:15–16 The palace was subsequently used by the Allied Powers as the venue for the Potsdam Conference.

At the end of the war, Wilhelm was captured by French Moroccan troops in Baad, Austria and was interned as a (World War I) war criminal. Transferred to Hechingen, Germany, he lived for a short time in Hohenzollern Castle under house arrest before moving to a small five-room house at Fürstenstraße 16 in Hechingen where he died on 20-07-1951, age 69, of a heart attack.  Three days later, his opponent in the Battle of Verdun, Marshal , Henry Petain died in prison in France.

Death and burial ground of Wilhelm Hohenzollern, Prince Friedrich Wilhelm Victor August Ernst.

Prince Wilhelm of Prussia (4 July 1906–26 May 1940),     son of WilhemHohenzollern,  Prince Wilhelm, left, with his brother, Louis Ferdinand, in 1926,  1st child of Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia.

In May 1940, Wilhelm took part in the invasion of France. He was wounded during the fighting in Valenciennes and died in a field hospital in Nivelles on 26-05-1940, leaving behind a wife and 2 young daughters. His funeral service was held at the Church of Peace, and he was buried in the Hohenzollern family mausoleum in the Antique Temple in Sanssouci Park.  The service drew over 50,000 mourners, by far the largest unofficial public turnout during Nazi rule in Germany.

His death and the ensuing sympathy of the German public revealed that despite years of Nazi ideologic indoctrination large parts of the German society still were affectionately bound to the former German royal houses. Shortly after Wilhelm’s death, a decree known as the Prinzenerlaß, or Prince’s Decree, was issued, barring all members of the former German royal houses from service in the Wehrmacht.

 Wilhelm Hohenzollern, Prince Friedrich Wilhelm Victor August Ernst.   

Wilhelm and his wife  are buried at Hohenzollern Castle.


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