Heir has demanded return of vast estate nazis took from prince in plot to kill Hitler (Image: Frederick Solms-Baruth)
Prince Friedrich zu Solms-Baruth was involved in a doomed plot to overthrow the Fuhrer, Operation Valkyrie, made famous in the Tom Cruise film of the same name. His grandson, Prince Friedrich V, has been waging a legal battle against the German government and says that the family estate was taken by Himmler after the plot failed. For 30 years German courts have insisted the lands were confiscated after 1945 by East Germany, for which there is no restitution.
And in September judges in Leipzig again upheld the view. This time, however, they ignored “incontrovertible proof” the lands were stolen by the Nazi regime – including ink analysis showing key documents were written by Nazis.
Friedrich also claims his family’s role in the plot and link to the estate has been airbrushed out of history in the town of Baruth, 30 miles south of Berlin. Prince Friedrich III was already on the Gestapo’s watchlist before inviting Valkyrie members to his castle where he agreed to help Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, the one-eyed and one-armed aristocrat who led the assassination plot.
Killing the Fuhrer was vital because soldiers of the Third Reich swore their oaths of allegiances in his name.
The plot – turned into a 2008 Hollywood blockbuster – failed. On July 20, 1944 von Stauffenberg planted a bomb in a suitcase under a table in Hitler’s headquarters, the “wolf’s lair”, in what is now Poland. The bomb exploded but Hitler escaped with little more than a burst eardrum.
Most conspirators were rounded up and executed, including von Stauffenberg, who faced a firing squad the following day.
Frederick Solms-Baruth poses at his hotel in London (Image: Frederick Solms-Baruth)
Others were tortured and interrogated in the dungeons of Prinz Albrecht Strasse prison then strung up with piano wire.
As Himmler’s personal prisoner, Prince Friedrich was only spared that fate because of his royal heritage.
Relatives included Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Alice, as well as members of the Swedish and Danish royal families, and killing him may have deprived Hitler’s SS chief of his chance to pursue secret peace negotiations.
Since German reunification the family has argued that it was while a prisoner, who was tortured, that the noble was forced to hand over his estates to Himmler.
With the deeds missing, German authorities preferred the explanation that they had been confiscated by the East Germans in communist land reforms. That would mean they were not liable for restitution.
But earlier this year Prince Friedrich V made two astonishing discoveries.
The first was an internal document written in 1942 by Himmler outlining how mandarins could secretly confiscate the lands of political prisoners and erase all traces so as not to be seen to be breaking Nazi law. Bureaucrats would painstakingly remove all traces with razor blades.
The second was a handwritten note referring directly to the destruction of the deeds to Solms-Baruth’s estates.
More astonishing, the documents were part of what he calls a “deliberately misfiled” archive containing 10,000 similar claims that the German state had seemingly decided to brush under the carpet.
“We uncovered a major cover-up by chance,” says Prince Friedrich. “We got a tip-off by someone in one