lørdag 6. mai 2017

Philip at a Nazi funeral and the day his sister had lunch with Hitler: TV documentary reopens painful chapter of duke's family past

  • Photograph shows Prince Philip, 16, in a funeral procession in Germany
  • He was mourning death of his older sister Cecile, who died in an air crash
  • Three of his sisters married German aristocrats who became leading Nazis
  • The family links are set to be revisited in a new Channel 4 documentary
 Fred Johs

Wearing a long, dark overcoat and a sombre expression, a handsome blond man marches through the streets of Germany.

The remarkable photograph from 1937 shows Prince Philip, then just 16, in a funeral procession for his older sister Cecile, who was killed in an air crash.

The young prince is flanked by grieving relatives, all wearing distinctive Nazi uniforms. One is clad in the uniform of the Brownshirts; another wears full SS regalia. The street in Darmstadt, near Frankfurt, is lined with crowds – many giving the ‘Heil Hitler’ salute.

Sombre: Philip, circled, is pictured with relatives wearing Nazi uniforms at his sister Cecile's funeral in Germany in 1937
Sombre: Philip, circled, is pictured with relatives wearing Nazi uniforms at his sister Cecile's funeral in Germany in 1937

In another extraordinary photograph Prince Philip’s youngest sister Sophie – elegantly dressed with a fur hanging on the back of her chair – is seen sitting opposite Hitler at the wedding of Luftwaffe commander Hermann Goering and his bride Emmy.
The pictures, featured in next week’s Channel 4 documentary Prince Philip: The Plot To Make A King, have been published before – and of course do not reflect on the duke, who can hardly be reproached for mourning one sister or for the company kept by another.
But the images lay bare the unfortunate family connections brought into focus by the programme.

Sophie was not the only sibling with Nazi links. Three of Philip’s four sisters – Margarita, Cecile and Sophie – married German aristocrats who became leading figures in the Nazi party.

The documentary features an interview with Prince Rainer von Hessen, the son of Sophie and Prince Christoph. In it, he reveals the contents of his mother’s memoir for the first time.

Princess Sophie writes of a private lunch with Hitler and how she thought he was a ‘charming and seemingly modest man’. She married Prince Christoph von Hessen, a director in the Third Reich Air Ministry, an SS colonel and the chief of Goering’s secret intelligence service – responsible for spying on anti-Nazis.

The couple were such devoted Nazis that they named their first son Karl Adolf in honour of Hitler.

Celebration: Philip's sister Sophie, right, opposite Hitler at the 1935 wedding of Goering (with gold braid) in scene featured in Channel 4 documentary
Celebration: Philip's sister Sophie, right, opposite Hitler at the 1935 wedding of Goering (with gold braid) in scene featured in Channel 4 documentary

Prince Philip’s oldest sister, Princess Margarita, married Gottfried, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg. During the war, Prince Gottfried fought for the Germans on the Russian front, where he was badly wounded. But he turned against the Fuhrer, and was among the aristocratic officers implicated in the plot to assassinate Hitler on July 20, 1944 – which led to Prince Gottfried’s dismissal from the army.

Philip broke a 60-year public silence about his family’s Nazi ties in 2006. In an interview for a book titled Royals and the Reich, he said that – like many Germans – they found Hitler’s early attempts to restore Germany’s power and prestige ‘attractive’.

‘There was a great improvement in things like trains running on time and building,’ he explained.

The duke has previously stressed he was never ‘conscious of anybody in the family actually expressing anti-Semitic views’
The duke has previously stressed he was never ‘conscious of anybody in the family actually expressing anti-Semitic views’

‘There was a sense of hope after the depressing chaos of the Weimar Republic. I can understand people latching on to something or somebody who appeared to be appealing to their patriotism and trying to get things going. You can understand how attractive it was.’

The duke stressed that he was never ‘conscious of anybody in the family actually expressing anti-Semitic views’.

But he added that there were ‘inhibitions about the Jews’ and ‘jealousy of their success’. 

Unsurprisingly, none of Prince Philip’s sisters were invited to the Queen’s wedding in 1947. The German connection was still too shaming, only two years after the end of the war.

Philip’s opposition to the Nazis has never been in doubt.

He fought valiantly for Britain during the war, seeing action in the Battle of Crete, the Battle of Cape Matapan in Greece and the Allied invasion of Sicily. But, as the documentary shows, there were questions and disquiet at court about the prince’s German blood.

The Queen Mother apparently referred to Prince Philip as ‘the Hun’. And, although he was born a prince of the Greek royal family, his mother was Princess Alice of Battenberg, daughter of a German prince.

Prince Philip’s father, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, is descended from the German ducal house of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg – Philip’s real surname.

But, on his marriage to Princess Elizabeth, he assumed his mother’s maternal surname – Mountbatten, which is an Anglicised version of the German ‘Battenberg’.
The Queen’s real surname is also is German – Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. That was the surname of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, who was born near Coburg in Germany.

The Royal Family’s surname was changed to Windsor in 1917, during the First World War, when Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was considered too German a name – not least because the planes coming over to bomb Britain were called Gotha bombers.

HOW THE 'FUHRER TURNED ON CHARM OVER MEAL AT OUR FLAT' 

By Vanessa Allen
Prince Philip’s older sister Sophie met Adolf Hitler and his henchman Hermann Goering after she married a German aristocrat.

In a previously unpublished memoir, written in her old age, she described how family friend Goering came for tea at her flat near Frankfurt before the Nazis rose to power.
She wrote: ‘He talked a lot about the new political party which he had joined, the “Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei”.

‘He was very enthusiastic about it all, especially about the party leader, a man called Adolf Hitler.

‘As Germany was going through hard times and there was a lot of poverty and general dissatisfaction everywhere, we were interested to hear about the great improvements his party was planning to do.’
Hermann Goering
Adolf Hitler
Prince Philip’s older sister Sophie met Adolf Hitler and his henchman Hermann Goering (right) after she married a German aristocrat

Princess Sophie later met the Nazi leader at her home.

‘As Goering was insistent we should meet Hitler personally, we decided to ask him to lunch at our flat,’ she wrote.

‘I had been warned he was a vegetarian, and found it difficult to plan an appropriate meal. In those days we had a cook-housekeeper, which was just as well, as my ideas about cooking and housekeeping were fairly hazy (being only eighteen at the time).
‘We settled for an assortment of vegetables which turned out to be a great success.

‘I have to say here, that, although Chri [her husband Prince Christoph von Hessen] and I changed our political view fundamentally some years later, we were impressed by this charming and seemingly modest man, and by his plans to change and improve the situation in Germany.

‘This explains why Chri joined the SS in 1932, as his new friends had urged him to do.
‘In 1935 he was appointed head of the “Forschungsamt” [research bureau] of the Air Ministry.

‘Its employees were pledged to secrecy and Chri never spoke about his work.’
The couple married in 1930 when Sophie was 16. Her meetings with Goering and Hitler appear to have taken place in 1931 or 1932.

Prince Christoph was killed in a plane crash in 1943 and his wife died in 2001.

Excerpts from her private memoir were read by the couple’s son – Prince Rainer von Hessen – as part of the Channel 4 Secret History documentary Prince Philip: The Plot To Make A King. The programme is due to be shown at 9pm on July 30.

Harry Mount