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Prince Philipp of House of Hesse-Kassel file photo [24020]


Given NamePhilipp
Born6 Nov 1896
Died25 Oct 1980


ww2dbasePrince Philipp of the House of Hesse-Kassel was born at Schloss Rumpenheim in Offenbach, Grand Duchy of Hesse, German Empire. He was the third son of Prince Frederick Charles and Princess Margaret (daughter of German Emperor Frederick III and granddaughter of British Queen Victoria). He was of twin birth, having been born moment before his immediate younger brother Wolfgang. As a child, he had an English governess. In 1910, he was sent to Bexhill-on-Sea, England, United Kingdom for schooling. Upon his return to Germany, he continued his education in Frankfurt and Potsdam. Although he was the only one among the six male siblings who did not attend a military academy, he nevertheless served with the Hessian 24th Dragoon-Regiment during WW1, where he would witness the death of his older brother Maximilian in Belgium. In 1915 and 1916, he was transferred to the the Eastern Front, where he served in Ukraine as a low ranking (lieutenant) logistics officer. In 1916, his older brother Friedrich Wilhelm passed away, thus making him next in line to succeeded his uncle as the head of the House of Hesse-Kassel. In 1917, he returned to the Western Front in a combat role and was wounded. On 9 Oct 1918, his father Prince Frederick Charles was elected the king of a planned Kingdom of Finland, which had just broken away from the Russian Empire, but Philipp was not named the planned Crown Prince of Finland (Wolfgang was planned to hold this title instead) as he was already the heir to the House of Hesse-Kassel; ultimately the formation of the Kingdom of Finland was aborted, and Prince Frederick Charles renounced the throne on 14 Dec 1918. After WW1, Philipp was briefly a member of the √úbergangsheer (the Transitional Army) before attending the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany between 1920 and 1922, studying art history and architecture, but never achieving a degree. In 1922, he worked at the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum in Berlin, Germany. In 1923, he traveled to Rome, Italy and worked as an interior designer for the Italian aristocracy. In Sep 1925, he married Princess Mafalda of the House of Savoy, daughter of King Vittorio Emanuele III of Italy; they would have three sons and one daughter.

ww2dbaseIn Oct 1930, Prince Philipp returned to Germany and joined the Nazi Party. In 1932, he became a member of the Nazi Sturmabteilung (SA) paramilitary organization. In Jun 1933, he was appointed the governor of Hessen-Nassau. He later became a member of the German Reichstag and a member of the Prussian Staatsrat. Because of his relations to the Italians through his marriage, he was at times a special envoy between Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini and an agent for Hitler for the purchase of Italian art. During this time, he was in close correspondence with his British cousin Prince Edward, who would be briefly crowned King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom; this close relationship would for some time add to the suspicion that the Germans would use this former monarch as a puppet ruler should Germany defeat the United Kingdom. In 1940, Philipp became the head of the House of Hesse-Kassel. In Feb 1941, as the governor of Hessen-Nassau, he signed the contract placing the psychiatric hospital Hadamar Clinic in Limburg under Aktion T4, a program in which doctors of the Nazi Party forcibly euthanized the disabled and patients with incurable diseases; between 10,000 and 15,000 mentally ill patients were killed at the Hadamar Clinic between 1941 and 1945.

ww2dbaseWhile the Nazi Party actively sought support from the German princely houses in its early years, by the 1940s Nazi control over Germany was total, and the attitude quickly reversed. Prince Philipp's lineage had been a reason for his quick rise in the Nazi Party in the past, but by this time it had become a burden. In late Apr 1943, he was summoned by Hitler, upon which time he was effectively placed under a soft arrest for the following four months. Meanwhile, in May 1943, Hitler issued the Decree Concerning Internationally Connected Men, which banned princes from holding high party, state, and military positions, thus effectively ended his governorship of Hessen-Nassau. In Jul 1943, Mussolini was ousted from power, and King Vittorio Emanuele III, Philipp's father-in-law, appointed Allied-leaning Pietro Badoglio as Mussolini's successor; this led to the arrest of Philipp and his wife on 8 Sep 1943. He was stripped of his Nazi Party membership, and his honorary membership with the German Luftwaffe was also revoked. Before the month's end, he found himself in solitary confinement at the Flossenb√ľrg Concentration Camp in southern Germany; his wife, Princess Mafalda, would be sent to Buchenwald Concentration Camp near Weimar, Germany. Although due to his status he was given ample clothing and good food, his room of imprisonment was cruelly positioned so that his window directly faced the gallows where he would witness hangings regularly. In Jan 1944, he was officially removed from the government of Hessen-Nassau. On 24 Aug 1944, his wife Mafalda, who had been purposefully placed in a room near armament works at Buchenwald, was seriously injured from Allied bombing on 24 Aug 1944; she died three days later from the combination of burns, loss of blood, and trauma from the amputation of an arm. Near the end of the European War, Philipp was transferred to Dachau Concentration Camp in southern Germany. Ten days after his arrival at Dachau, he was transferred to Niederdorf in northern Italy. He was arrested by US troops at Niederdorf on 4 May 1945.

ww2dbaseAfter the war, Prince Philipp was held in a series of detention centers. In 1946, he was charged with murder in relation to his involvement with Aktion T4 during his tenure as the governor of Hessen-Nassau, but the charges were later dropped, leading to his release. After de-Nazification programs, he returned to his Hesse family estate and found that a number of treasures were looted, possibly by the US troops who had occupied it for some time. Although he was not charged with crimes for Nazi atrocities, he nevertheless had to pay large sums of money as penalties, which diminished his financial standing. In 1968, when his distant cousin Prince Louis, head of the House of Hesse-Darmstadt, passed away, Philipp became the head of the entire House of Hesse. Philipp passed away in Rome, Italy in 1980.

Deborah Cadbury, Princes at War

Last Major Revision: Aug 2015

Philipp Interactive Map


Wilhelm von Leeb, Prince Philipp, and others at a Nazi state function in Kassel, Germany, 1933

Philipp Timeline

6 Nov 1896 Philipp was born in the castle Schloss Rumpenheim, Offenbach, Grand Duchy of Hesse, Germany.
23 Sep 1925 Philipp married Princess Mafalda of the House of Savoy, daughter of King Vittorio Emanuele III of Italy, at the Castello di Racconigi in Italy.
8 Sep 1943 Philipp was arrested by the Nazi Party.
25 Jan 1944 Philipp was formally dismissed as the governor of Hessen-Nassau, Germany.
4 May 1945 Prince Philipp was arrested by US troops at Niederdorf in Sudtirolo (South Tyrol), Italy.
25 Oct 1980 Prince Philipp passed away in Rome, Italy.

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Wilhelm von Leeb, Prince Philipp, and others at a Nazi state function in Kassel, Germany, 1933

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