Hermine Reuss of Greiz was one of the five daughters of Heinrich XXII, Prince Reuss of Greiz and his wife Princess Ida of Schaumburg-Lippe. Her childhood was overshadowed by the death of her mother in childbirth and the incurable disability of her only brother. A 13-year marriage to Prince Johann Georg of Schönaich-Carolath produced five children before her husband’s death of tuberculosis. However determined never to be married again, Hermine ended up meeting the exiled German Emperor Wilhelm II, and soon fate had other plans.
With the rise of National Socialism and Adolf Hitler, Hermine saw an opportunity for herself to become more than an Empress in name. She wanted the restoration of her husband and encouraged the attention of Hermann Göring – a powerful figure in the Nazi party –- who came to Huis Doorn twice. Unlike her husband Emperor Wilhelm, Hermine was allowed to travel into Germany, which she often did. She also had the use of apartments in a former palace in Berlin.
Hermine attended the Nuremberg Rally – the annual rally of the Nazi Party – in 1929 and even showed up uninvited at a party thrown by Adolf Hitler. On 18 November 1931, an intimate dinner with Hermine, Hitler and Göring in the salon of Baroness von Tiele-Winckler was arranged. She managed to charm Hitler, and he was impressed by her commitment. He presented himself to Hermine as the saviour of the nation. Hermine did not leave until 1 in the morning, bedazzled by Hitler.
The Nazi party had seen the benefits of contact with the former German royals, even minor ones, but were becoming more reluctant to entertain that relationship. In 1933, guests gathered at the house of Frau Victoria von Dirksen, a well-known hostess in Berlin. Hermine was the first to arrive, but Adolf Hitler delayed his arrival for another half hour. According to a British newspaper, Adolf Hitler later told her, “No one is more aware of the great merit that the House of Hohenzollern has acquired for the Fatherland, but unfortunately the time is not ripe, in the present moment such a measure will provoke only unrest and turmoil, this attitude we have to take into account in our delicate situation today, has by no means welcomed a sweep of this kind. I can tell Your Imperial Majesty in the strictest confidence that an exceptionally important English agent will inform me even before we have taken the government the English government has been most concerned about any attempt to reintroduce the monarchy in Germany.”
Hermine believed that the monarchist movement was making progress, and she returned from Berlin a happy woman. Reportedly, Nazi-leader Ernst Röhm had said to expect a monarchy by the autumn. Meanwhile, the Emperor wrote,” My return to the throne cannot happen fast enough for her, but we won’t get there with her way. She follows the Nazis and does all she can in Berlin, and in writing from here, which does more damage than good. I try to give her a good example with my reserved attitude. I’ll have them come to me. I will not follow those people. If I am ever able to take up the reins of government again, then providence will take care of it.”
Adolf Hitler continued to send mixed messages as to a possible restoration, and it seems Hermine remained convinced for quite some time. Hermine wrote at the end of 1935, praising Hitler, “One’s heart leaps when one thinks of what the Führer has again given Germany this past year – universal military service!” She added, “God preserve this man whose aims are so very pure!” To an officer, she wrote, “We are all so proud of our new army – what an achievement by the Führer, what a leap over the ditch of the Treaty of Versailles!”
In August 1940, after the invasion of the Netherlands, Hermine sent a telegram to Adolf Hitler proudly announcing the engagement of her daughter Henriette to her step-grandson Prince Karl Franz of Prussia. If she still had any belief of restoration with the help of the Nazis, this surely ended with her husband’s death the following year.
Adolf Hitler was represented at the funeral by the Reichs Commissioner for the Netherlands, Arthur Seyss-Inquart and a wreath, with swastikas, was sent. Hitler had probably wished to attend himself but in the words of the Emperor’s daughter Viktoria Luise, “He wanted to use this opportunity to walk behind the German Kaiser’s coffin in front of whole German people and the world, to show them he is the legitimate successor.”