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Legal dispute over the official residence of the Federal Chancellors: Inheritance dispute over Palais Schaumburg in Bonn continues

Legal dispute over the official residence of the Federal Chancellors : Inheritance dispute over Palais Schaumburg in Bonn continues

Who owns Palais Schaumburg in Bonn? A descendant of the former owner has failed in court with his request to have the land register corrected and announces that he will appeal to the Federal Court of Justice if necessary.

You would think that a building that serves as the second official residence of the Federal Chancellors and that was a prominent venue of the Bonn Republic belongs to the Federal Republic of Germany. In the case of Palais Schaumburg, however, the legal situation appears to be more complicated. At least one descendant of the noble house of Schaumburg-Lippe has strong doubts that everything was done correctly when the palace between Adenauerallee and the Rhine was transferred to state ownership 82 years ago. It is possible that the Federal Republic of Germany "acquired" the official residence of Konrad Adenauer and his successors as a result of Nazi injustice.

However, Alexander vom Hofe's attempt to have the land register corrected has now failed in court for the time being, but the legal process has not yet been exhausted, and the Madrid-based lawyer is determined to pursue it further. "I will take the matter to the Cologne Higher Regional Court, and if possible to the Federal Court of Justice, to provoke a discussion," he says. He is expressly not concerned with ownership claims, but instead wants to "provoke" a historical and legal reappraisal of what happened behind the doors of the Bonn land registry office in the time around 1940. Vom Hofe says that this is because "The reappraisal documents the special relationship between members of the high nobility, the National Socialist power apparatus and the German military organisation (the Reichswehr)." In a sense, he said, it is about the rights of all those who lost out in real estate deals from the summer of 1939.

Business with the National Socialists

Over the decades, Alexander vom Hofe has compiled hundreds of files, due to his interest in his family history. The result is a jigsaw puzzle of sources from the widely ramified family, which initially appears to outsiders to be more of an impenetrable jungle than a solvable puzzle. From Alexander vom Hofe's point of view, however, things are clear and documents suggest that the National Socialists used a number of tricks to help sell the palace to the Wehrmacht at the time.

Alexander vom Hofe is a great-nephew of Adolf Prince of Schaumburg-Lippe, the last princely ruler of that small German state, which existed as a free state until 1946. The prince bought the Palais Schaumburg in 1920 from his aunt, the Hohenzollern Princess Victoria of Prussia, sister of the former German Emperor Wilhelm II. Alexander vom Hofe is convinced that his great-uncle had aroused the suspicions of the National Socialists with his business relations with Jewish bankers.

Certificate of inheritance and community of heirs ignored

After a plane crash under mysterious circumstances in 1936, Adolf left behind four brothers. One of them, Wolrad Prinz zu Schaumburg-Lippe, is accused by Alexander vom Hofe of having deprived his siblings of their inheritance with the help of Nazi injustice. The core thesis is that the ill-fated prince did not die without assets, as is assumed. Rather, he, and not the "house", had been registered in lists and land registers as the owner of numerous properties. In addition, the certificate of inheritance, according to which Adolf would succeed over his siblings, had been suppressed and was not submitted to the courts and land-registry offices. Alexander vom Hofe calls this "illegal" and points out a number of formal errors to the courts. For example, the co-heirs were not even involved in the transaction. Instead of the community of heirs, as should have been the case, a (powerless) representative of the "House of Schaumburg-Lippe" appeared; however, it was not the noble house, but the heirs of the prince who were the owners.

Regional Court rejects complaint

The Regional Court in Bonn cannot follow Alexander vom Hofe’s meticulous family argumentation. After the court had already decided negatively on an application for the correction of the transfer of ownership that occurred in 1939, it now also rejected an appeal against this decision at the beginning of August. In its justification, it said that neither the prerequisites for a correction of the land register nor those for the registration of an objection were fulfilled,". Thus, everything had been correct with the official procedures and the "chain of legitimation", said the regional court. The absence of a will or a certificate of inheritance was not relevant, since there had been an executor.

The little palace was sold for 709 Reichsmarks in cash in February 1939. The new owner was the Army Base Administration and thus, the Reich Treasury. The Palais Schaumburg was to house the staff of the XII Infantry Division in preparation for the French campaign. In return, according to vom Hofe, the head of the family, bypassing the right of inheritance, came to enjoy all of Prince Adolf's property, from which, for example, he in turn gave land, forest and buildings to be used by the Nazis. This was "a mutual deal," according to the lawyer. Today's owner is the Federal Agency for Property Assigments, with the ownership rights being held by the Federal Chancellery. The Chancellery has so far refrained from commenting on the investigations.

The Bonn Regional Court expressly points out the possibility of a further appeal to the Cologne Higher Regional Court and Alexander vom Hofe intends to use this remedy in his function as "heir," especially since other family members have no interest in the matter. Vom Hofe says: "If I don't pursue the matter further, it will be forgotten about forever."