Prince August Wilhelm of Prussia
Prince August Wilhelm Heinrich Günther Viktor of Prussia (29 January 1887 in Potsdam, Germany – 25 March 1949 in Stuttgart, Germany), called "Auwi", was the fourth son of Emperor Wilhelm II, German Emperor by his first wife, Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein.
He was born in the Potsdamer Stadtschloss when his grandfather was still the Crown Prince of Prussia. He spent his youth with his siblings at the New Palace, also in Potsdam, and his school days at the Prinzenhaus in Plön. Later, he studied at the universities of Bonn, Berlin and Strasbourg. He received his doctorate in political science in 1907 "in an exceedingly dubious manner", as one author describes it.
Prince August Wilhelm married his cousin Princess Alexandra Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg (21 April 1887 Germany – 15 April 1957 France) on 22 October 1908 at the Berliner Stadtschloss. The couple had planned to take up residence in Schönhausen Palace in Berlin, but changed their mind when August Wilhelm's father decided to leave his son the Villa Liegnitz in the Sanssouci Park. On 26 December 1912 their only child, Prince Alexander Ferdinand of Prussia (died 12 June 1985), was born. Their Potsdam residence developed into a meeting place for artists and scholars.
During the First World War, August Wilhelm was made district administrator (Landrat) of the district of Ruppin; his office and residence was now Schloss Rheinsberg. His personal adjutant Hans Georg von Mackensen, with whom he had been close friends since his youth, played an important role in his life. These "pronounced homophilic tendencies" contributed to the failure of his marriage to Princess Alexandra Victoria. They never undertook a formal divorce due to the opposition of August Wilhelm's father, Kaiser Wilhelm II.
After the end of the war, the couple separated and formally divorced in March 1920. August Wilhelm was awarded custody of their son. After his divorce and the marriage of his friend Hans Georg von Mackensen to Winifred von Neurath, the daughter of Konstantin von Neurath, August Wilhelm lived a reclusive life in his villa in Potsdam. He took drawing lessons with Professor Arthur Kampf, and the sale of his pictures secured him an additional source of income.
Involvement with National Socialism
August Wilhelm joined the nationalist veteran's group "Stahlhelm". In the following years he had increasing contact with the National Socialists. To the unease of his family and against his father's will, he joined the "dangerous, revolutionary" NSDAP on 1 April 1930, whereupon he received the low membership number 24, for symbolic reasons. In November 1931, he was accepted into the SA with the rank of "Standartenführer". His ingratiation with the National Socialists and his adoration of Adolf Hitler made August Wilhelm often the subject of mockery by the left-wing press ("Braunhemdchen Auwi", i.e. "Auwi the Little Brown Shirt), politicians ("Hanswurst" i.e. "Hans the Brown Sausage" by André François-Poncet), and from National Socialists themselves (Joseph Goebbels referred to him as "good-natured, but slightly gormless boy").
As a representative of the erstwhile Prussian royal dynasty and German imperial dynasty, August Wilhelm was deliberately used by the National Socialists to gain votes in elections such as the lead candidate of the NSDAP for election to the Prussian Landtag in April 1932 or as an election speaker alongside Hitler, whom he accompanied on flights across Germany at the same time. Through his appearances at mass rallies of the National Socialists, he addressed himself to sections of the population that were lukewarm towards National Socialism and convinced them "that Hitler was not a threat, but a benefactor of the German people and the German Empire".
In 1933 August Wilhelm was given a position within the Prussian state, and became a member of the German Reichstag. However, after the abolition of the Weimar Republic with the passing of the Enabling Act of 1933, and the open establishment of the revolutionary dictatorship of the Third Reich, the Nazis no longer needed the former prince, who himself had secretly hoped "that Hitler would one day hoist him or his son Alexander up to the vacant throne of the Kaiser". Thus in spring 1934 he was denied direct access to Hitler and by the summer after the Röhm affair, he found himself in the wilderness politically. This did not, however, reduce his adoration of Hitler.
On 30 June 1939 he was made an SA-Obergruppenführer, the second highest rank in the SA, but after making derogatory remarks about Joseph Goebbels in private, he was denounced in 1942. From then on, he was completely sidelined and was also banned from making public speeches.
At the beginning of February 1945, in the company of the former Crown Princess Cecilie, August Wilhelm fled the approaching Red Army, going from Potsdam to Kronberg to take refuge with his aunt Princess Margaret of Prussia, a sister of his father.
Post World War II
At the end of the Second World War, on 8 May 1945, August Wilhelm was arrested by United States soldiers and imprisoned on the premises of the Flak-Kaserne Ludwigsburg. "At the denazification trial [Spruchkammerverfahren] of 1948, to the question whether he meanwhile had at least repudiated National Socialism, he asked uncomprehendingly: 'I beg your pardon?'" He was thus categorized as "incriminated" by the denazification court of the internment camp of Ludwigsburg, and was sentenced to two and a half years' hard labour. Due to his confinement since 1945 in an internment camp, he was considered to have served his sentence.
Immediately after his release, however, new proceedings were instituted against him. There was an arrest warrant against him from a court in Potsdam in the Soviet zone. He was never arrested, as soon after he became seriously ill and died at a hospital in Stuttgart at the age of 62. August Wilhelm was buried in Langenburg in the cemetery of the princes of Hohenlohe-Langenburg.
With his wife, Princess Alexandra of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, Prince August Wilhelm had an only son:
- Prince Alexander Ferdinand Albrecht Achilles Wilhelm Joseph Viktor Carl Feodor of Prussia (26 December 1912 – 12 June 1985) married Armgard Weygand on 19 December 1938. They have one son.
Regimental Commissions through World War I
- 1. Garderegiment zu Fuß (1st Regiment of Foot Guards), Potsdam: Leutnant à la suite, from January 29, 1897; Oberleutnant, before 1908.
- à la suite, Grenadierregiment Konig Friedrich Wilhelm I. (2. Ostpreussisches) Nr. 3
- à la suite, 2. Gardegrenadierlandwehrregiment (2nd Reserve Regiment of Grenadier Guards)
- Knight, Order of the Black Eagle, January 29, 1897; collar January 29, 1904
- Knight Grand Cross (with Crown), Order of the Red Eagle, January 29, 1897
- Knight First Class, Prussian Crown Order, January 29, 1897
- Grand Commander (with collar chain), Royal House Order of Hohenzollern
- Honor Cross, First Class, Princely House Order of Hohenzollern
- Knight, First Class (with Crown), Order of the Wendish Crown, Mecklenburg Grand Duchies
- Knight, First Class, Order of the Netherlands Lion, Netherlands
- Knight, First Class (Star with diamonds), Osminieh Order, Ottoman Empire (Turkey)