Royals and the Reich: The Princes von Hessen in Nazi Germany


The link between Hitler's Third Reich and European royalty has gone largely unexplored due to the secrecy surrounding royal families. Now, in Royals and the Reich, Jonathan Petropoulos uses unprecedented access to royal archives to tell the fascinating story of the Princes of Hesse and the important role they played in the Nazi regime.
Princes Philipp and Christoph von Hessen-Kassel, great-grandsons of Queen Victoria of England, had been humiliated by defeat in WWI and, like ...
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Royals and the Reich: The Princes von Hessen in Nazi Germany

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The link between Hitler's Third Reich and European royalty has gone largely unexplored due to the secrecy surrounding royal families. Now, in Royals and the Reich, Jonathan Petropoulos uses unprecedented access to royal archives to tell the fascinating story of the Princes of Hesse and the important role they played in the Nazi regime.
Princes Philipp and Christoph von Hessen-Kassel, great-grandsons of Queen Victoria of England, had been humiliated by defeat in WWI and, like much of the German aristocracy, feared the social unrest wrought by the ineffectual Weimar Republic. Petropoulos shows how the princes, lured by prominent positions in the Nazi regime and highly susceptible to nationalist appeals, became enthusiastic supporters of Hitler. Prince Philipp, son-in-law to the King of Italy, became the highest-ranking prince in the Nazi state and developed a close personal relationship with Hitler and Hermann Göring. Prince Christoph was a prominent SS officer and head of one of the most important intelligence agencies in the Third Reich. In return, the princes made the Nazis socially acceptable to wealthy, high-society patrons. Prince Philipp even introduced Göring to Mussolini at a critical stage in the Nazi Party's development and later served as a liaison between Hitler and the Italian dictator.
Permitted access to Hessen family private papers and the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle, Petropoulos follows the story of the House of Hesse through to its tragic denouement--the princes' betrayal and persecution by an increasingly paranoid Hitler and prosecution and denazification by the Allies. Royals and the Reich is a startling and unique portrait of the vanished world of prewar aristocrats and a royal family caught in one of the most tumultuous periods in history.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The development and denouement of Third Reich German culture continues to be a vital area of interest for historians and history readers alike. In a huge literature, some books stand out as particularly intriguing, and this is one of them. Petropoulos (European history, Claremont McKenna Coll.; The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany) examines the German aristocracy and its relations with Nazi Germany. Focusing on the princely Von Hessen family, he unpacks what he describes as "myths and taboos" surrounding aristocratic involvement in the Nazi regime. In the Von Hessen family, active support of the regime and participation in its bureaucracy and programs culminated in a falling out with Hitler that led to imprisonment of princely family leaders in German concentration camps and, in the postwar period, to trials and further imprisonment. Petropoulos has accessed an impressive archive of documents and interviewed key figures to create a thoughtful, readable, and balanced assessment of why and how aristocratic Germans became involved with the Nazi regime and of the impact that era had on today's German aristocracy. For all academic libraries and for public libraries with interested readers.-Barbara Walden, Univ. of Wisconsin Lib., Madison Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

"A devastating portrait of how the highest social stratum in Germany enthusiastically embraced a movement that might truly be said to have come out of the gutter.... Although this book is full of facts and is no mere dry historical text. Mr. Petropoulos knows just how to find telling pieces of evidence and to frame them with excellent commentard."--Washington Times

"The very interesting and quite readable book sheds a great deal of light on what members of European royalty may or may not have know about Nazi criminality during World War Two, and what they certainly may not have shared with members of Western governments." --The Jewish Press

"An enthralling book, well researched in archives and through interviews, including one with the Duke of Edinburgh himself.... Royals and the Reich gets the big picture right--and a disturbing, even sickening, one it is."--Martin Rubin, Los Angeles Times

"This lucid and thoroughly researched book throws much light on the fateful--and sometimes fatal--relationship between the highest reaches of Germany's aristocracy and the basest quarters of that nation's politics during the first half of the 20th century. Along the way, Jonathan Petropoulos illuminates the familial bonds among many European dynasties and their impact on a tumultuous era. All in all, a revealing, penetrating, fair-minded, and sometimes touching work."--Peter Hayes, Theodore Z. Weiss Professor of Holocaust Studies, Northwestern University, and author of From Cooperation to Complicity: Degussa in the Third Reich and Industry and Ideology: IG Farben in the Nazi Era

"In spite of a silken curtain obscuring the roles of royal supporters of the Third Reich, there is here a first truly balanced, thoughtful, and engagingly written account of royal princes and others of noble rank based on unprecedented access to some of the hitherto secreted records. A major and most welcome achievement in opening to readers a world too often closed except for pictures and gossip."--Gerhard L. Weinberg, Professor of History Emeritus, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and author of A World At Arms: A Global History of World War II and Visions of Victory: The Hopes of Eight World War II Leaders

"There is a cornucopia of literature analyzing the relationship between German social strata and the Nazis. What has been missing is an examination of the aristocracy. Using the example of the princely Hessen family, Jonathan Petropoulos now has begun to fill that void. The Hessens--and many of their relatives from other royal houses--sought accommodation with a movement which, from the outset, opposed monarchy. Petropoulos resolves this seeming contradiction with the help of interviews and rare private sources. His book is a pioneering contribution to the social history of the Third Reich." --Michael H. Kater, Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus of History at the Canadian Centre for German and European Studies, and author of Hitler Youth and Different Drummers: Jazz in the Culture of Nazi Germany

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195339277
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/28/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 998,665
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan Petropoulos is the John V. Croul Professor of European History at Claremont McKenna College. He is the author of The Faustian Bargain (OUP), which was named one of the 25 Books to Remember in 2000 by the New York Public Library. He was a Research Director on the Presidential Commission on Holocaust Assets and has served as an expert witness in cases involving Holocaust victims' assets. He lives in Claremont, California.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
A Note about Nomenclature
1. The Interconnectedness of Nobility
2. The Princes von Hessen during the Weimer Republic
3. Nazi High Society
4. A Place in the Reich
5. Roles in an Increasingly Radical Regime
6. Miscalculation and Misfortune
7. Postwar Justice
8. Rebuilding a Life
Conclusion: Understanding German Princes in the Twentieth Century
Appendix I: High Nobility in the Nazi Party
Appendix 2: Genealogical Tree of the Princes von Hessen-Kassel in the Twentieth Century

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 14, 2009

    Achtung! Heavy Going!

    Impressively written and researched, Royals and The Reich gives an in-depth look at the German principalities' participation in the Nazi Regime. It is an important study for historical scholars of World War II and German contemporary history.

    Be forewarned; this is not a book club selection or light reading. This is Ph.D. dissertation material. The author is well-known in his field and was recently featured as a resource scholar in a PBS special. The scholarship is superior and cannot be denied. Read with a good German beer.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2011

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