Baron Held Only Honorary SS Rank, Documents Show
LONDON (AP) _ Princess Michael of Kent released a court document Tuesday that said her late father held only an honorary rank in the Nazi SS and that he had hoped Germany would lose World War II.
Kensington Palace, the princess’ London residence, published the text of a May 14, 1948, judgment on her father, Baron Gunther von Reibnitz, by the Upper Bavaria Appeal Tribunal.
After a London newspaper disclosed his membership in the SS April 15, the 40-year-old princess had said she would produce documents exonerating her father from atrocities committed by SS troops.
The SS, Hitler’s elite guard, was responsible for the deaths of millions of Jews in World War II concentration camps. The princess said she was ashamed of her father’s association with the group but would ″have to live with it.″
The princess, whose husband Prince Michael is a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, was born Marie-Christine von Reibnitz, near the end of the war in Bohemia, then German territory and now part of Czechoslovakia.
The 1946 ruling was made by three German judges in Moosburg under a de- Nazification law enforced by the Allied victors who ruled West Germany at that time. It said von Reibnitz ″went well beyond the normal limits in helping those subjected to racial persecution.″
It categorized him only as a ″nominal party member.″ Von Reibnitz, it said, was ″equivalent to a non-accused person.″
The document said von Reibnitz, a wealthy landowner and a horse breeder, joined the ″Cavalry SS″ in 1934 but was in conflict with Nazi officials until they expelled him in 1944 for disciplinary reasons.
Von Reibnitz also incurred the party’s displeasure because of his Roman Catholic beliefs, the court said.
His rank of major was purely honorary, the judgment said.
″The accused never served with the SS in such rank. As such, he had no authority to give orders of any kind and had merely the right to wear the uniform and hold the rank. It was thus a matter of pure honorary rank,″ the ruling said.
It said von Reibnitz joined the Nazi Party in 1931 because he thought the group would help Germany’s economy. ″He took only a nominal part in National Socialism and lent it only insignificant support,″ the document said.
″He never made any secret of his desire to stand apart from the party. As early as 1940, he expressed the views that one could only hope that Germany would lose the war since that was the only way in which the Nazis’ predominance could be broken.″
The princess’s press secretary, Col. Michael Farmer, said the document ″effectively puts him in the lowest grade possible without actually taking up arms against Adolf Hitler.″
Press Secretary Farmer said the document had been sent to Princess Michael last week by members of her family in West Germany.
Kensington Palace issued the original court document in German, with an English translation, through Britain’s domestic news agency, Press Association.