Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Royal Profile: Prince August Wilhelm of Prussia
During this time rumors began to swirl of an improper relationship between Prince August Wilhelm and his adjutant Hans Georg von Mackensen. According to the gossipmongers this was what drove the marriage of Prince August Wilhelm to ruin. How much of it is true; who can say? The two had been friends since childhood and it would not be the first time that a close friendship was blown out of proportion. On the other hand, accusations of homosexual relationships were not uncommon for that time and place. Similar accusations were made about Prince Joachim and even the Kaiser himself during his youth, which were ridiculous indeed, at least so far as Wilhelm II and his conduct were concerned. As for the failure of the marriage of Prince August Wilhelm, others at the time attributed it simply to being incompatible compounded with the loss of status for the House of Hohenzollern following the German defeat in 1918. Whatever the cause, the timing certainly raises suspicions as Prince August Wilhelm and Princess Alexandra separated as soon as the war was over and, to the disappointment of the Kaiser, divorced in 1920. It is also noteworthy that the Princess remarried within three years but later divorced that husband as well.
As with many members of “Stahlhelm” however, it did not end there and soon many were looking with hope for the future at the rising power of the National Socialist German Workers Party, the NSDAP or Nazis. Eventually, as the Nazis came to dominate the political scene, “Stahlhelm” was absorbed into the SA, the brown-shirted storm troops of the Nazi Party. Although it thoroughly outraged his father, Prince August Wilhelm joined the Nazi Party on April 1, 1930 and because of his status was rewarded with the prestigiously low membership number of 24. At the time, a low membership number was considered impressive as it implied that someone was a “true believer”, a Nazi from the beginning and not someone who joined the party later only to benefit themselves or make life easier. Obviously, this was not the case with Prince August Wilhelm but Nazi leader Adolf Hitler did it because he intended to make use of the Prince as a symbol to win support from the monarchists and more traditional conservatives who might be reassured about the Nazi Party if they were to see one of the sons of their beloved Kaiser wearing the brown shirt. Similar efforts had been made to win the support of the Crown Prince and the Kaiser himself but it was to no avail.
In 1931 Prince Auwi joined the brown shirts, becoming a colonel in the SA and in due course being promoted up to the equivalent of a major general in the organization. He traveled around Germany making speeches, oftentimes alongside Hitler, sometimes introducing him. This was all part of the effort of the Nazis to win the support of traditional conservatives or to at least convince them not to oppose the Nazis in their rise to power. In 1932 he stood as a Nazi Party candidate in elections for the Prussian Landtag and later in 1933 he was given a place in the Prussian government and a seat in the Reichstag. Not everyone in the Nazi hierarchy was happy about the presence of the Prince though. Joseph Goebbels, who came from the very left end of the party, was certainly the least friendly toward royals of any kind and Hitler himself tolerated them only so long as it served his interests to do so. Any hope that Prince Auwi maintained that he or his son might have been elevated to the throne by a victorious Nazi Party were soon dashed. Once Hitler decided he no longer needed the Prince, August Wilhelm was quickly sidelined. By 1934 he was being kept away from Hitler and after the purge of the SA and their being eclipsed by the SS, there was no doubt that Prince August Wilhelm was no longer in favor with the Nazi elites.
He carried on as before with the outbreak of World War II but his former political friends soon turned on him. When it became known in 1942 that he had spoken out privately against Dr. Goebbels, Prince Auwi was officially denounced and forbidden to speak publicly again. He fled the approaching Red Army in 1944 with his sister-in-law Crown Princess Cecilie and was later arrested by the United States Army. He was judged to be an ‘unredeemed’ Nazi, was sentenced to time served and released. Another arrest warrant was issued for him from the authorities in East Germany but before anything could be done about it Prince August Wilhelm died in Stuttgart in 1949 at the age of 62. His decisions had caused a great deal of bitter feelings amongst his family, caused his father to practically disown him and finally he was blacklisted even by his former Nazi friends only to have the war end in their defeat and with the ruination of Germany that caused his own people to view him with nothing but contempt. It is certainly not fair that he should be singled out before others that did exactly the same, and there were oh-so many in those days, but the fact remains that no good came from his foray into politics.