The father of the Swedish Queen, Walther Sommerlath, took part in the expulsion of Jews from the German business sector. In April 1939, he bought a metal engineering plant in the Kreuzberg neighbourhood of Berlin. The previous owner was a Jewish engineer who, now destitute, had to leave Germany shortly afterwards. The Royal Court of Sweden declines to comment these new facts from the Swedish investigative documentary show Kalla Fakta broadcast by TV4.
In the TV documentary series “Bernadotte”, broadcast by TV4 earlier this year, the Queen confirmed that her father, in fact, had been a member of the German Nazi Party. However, she also said that he was not politically active, and that claims of his engineering plant being part of the munitions industry are false. Kalla Fakta has asked the Queen to consider a new interview, but HRH has declined to comment further on this matter. The Queen’s brother, Ralph de Toledo Sommerlath, has said that he once asked his father if the former owner of the plant in Berlin was Jewish. Walther Sommerlath denied that this was the case.
Walther Sommerlath, born in Heidelberg in 1901, joined the German Nazi Party on December 1, 1934. A resident of São Paulo at the time, Sommerlath became a member of the “Ortsgruppe”, a local chapter of the Party, in what was known as the “Auslands-Organisation” of the NSDAP, its official organization for Germans abroad. Nothing is known about to what extent he personally took part in any political activities, but the activities of this chapter of the Nazi Party abroad have, in recent years, been investigated by Brazilian historians.
As the Brazilian historian Ana Maria Dietrich makes clear, only the most dedicated Germans joined the Party – there were several other ways to prove allegiance to Germany. The NSDAP-AO-group in São Paulo is not known for any violent excesses. However, its weekly newspaper, the Deutscher Morgen, was no less extreme in its Antisemitism than any publications in Germany. The São Paulo chapter, which in 1937 had more than 700 members, also organised elaborate festivities at the Day of Work, May 1st, at Sportplatz Germania, where the arena was painstakingly decorated to resemble the “Reichparteitagen” rallies in Nürnberg. Like other local chapters, the one in São Paulo also tried to influence other German organisations, in order to spread a uniformly positive view of the National Socialist regime in Germany. It also attempted to influence the curricula of the German schools, which by all accounts was successful in one case, the school in Vila Mariana. Walther Sommerlath worked for the Brazilian affiliate of the German steel corporation Röchling-Buderus, a company that provided the local chapter of the Party and its newsletter with financial support. He was also a member of the Sportclub Germania and the Deutsche Schule.
In April 1938, Walther Sommerlath and his family moved to Germany and he started working for the company HQ in Völklingen, located in Saarland, in southernmost Germany. At that time, the family consisted of Sommerlath’s Brazilian wife, Alice de Toledo, and their sons Ralph and Walther Jr. He worked for Röchling-Buderus in Völklingen for nearly a year. In April 1939, Sommerlath went to Berlin, where he bought a small engineering plant located on Wassertorstrasse 14, Kreuzberg, in downtown Berlin: the Wechsler & Hennig Metallwaren- und Apparatefabrik. The deal was conducted at the local Deutsche Bank office on Oranienstrasse 140-142. The purchase price is not known, since the Deutsche Bank invokes the bank secrecy clause.
However, it is clear that the owner of the business was under heavy pressure. As far back as in 1935, his German citizenship had been taken away, and in December 1938, the now-former owner of the plant was ordered by the police to leave the country immediately. Before he was allowed to leave, however, he also had to pay the “Reichsfluchtssteuer”, a confiscatory tax levelled at wealthy people who left Germany, and the so called “Sühneleistung”, another confiscatory tax aimed at the Jews after the so called “Kristallnacht”, the 1938 pogrom. Shortly after the purchase, on May 26, 1939, he left Germany for Brazil on board the steamer Antonio Delfino.
It is not known whether Walther Sommerlath used his membership in the NSDAP to earn any advantages for the purchase or not, but at this point, in the final phase of the so called “Aryanisation”, there is no doubt that members of the NSDAP had great advantages. The firm he bought was very prosperous before the war and had, by 1938 – under the leadership of its former, Jewish, owner – acquired a contract with the munitions industry. In 1943, when the plant manufactured parts for the air defence forces, its workforce consisted of 38 people.
In March 1947, Walther Sommerlath once more left Germany for Brazil, accompanied by his family, which now included Hans-Jörg, born in 1942, and Silvia, born in 1943. Sommarlath never went through a denazification process, and never compensated the former owner for any losses he concurred as result of the sale of his plant back in 1939.