Günther von Reibnitz
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|Günther von Reibnitz|
Baron von Reibnitz as a lieutenant in 1918
8 September 1894|
Mistitz, Silesia, German Empire
|Died||2 March 1983
Breitbrunn am Chiemsee, Germany
Maria Anna Szapáry of Muraszombath, Countess Szapár
(m. 1941; div. 1946)
(m. 1950; div. 1956)
(m. 1956–83; his death)
|Children||Margarita von Reibnitz
Friedrich von Reibnitz
Marie Christine, Princess Michael of Kent
|Parent(s)||Baron Hans Egon von Reibnitz
Baroness Ida von Eickstedt
Freiherr Günther Hubertus von Reibnitz (8 September 1894 – 2 March 1983) was a cavalry officer of the German Empire during the First World War. He joined the Nazi Party in 1930 and was a member of the SS Cavalry Corps.
Reibnitz married four times and was the father of Baroness Marie Christine von Reibnitz, who in 1978 became Princess Michael of Kent on her marriage to Prince Michael of Kent, taking the traditional form of title and style. Two of his grandchildren, Lord Frederick Windsor and Lady Gabriella Windsor, are in the line of succession to the British throne.
Reibnitz was a member of the ancient Reibnitz family, Silesian landowners, and was the son of Baron (Freiherr) Hans Egon von Reibnitz (1856-1918), who on 19 February 1887 had married Ida von Eickstedt (1867-1937) in Gieraltowitz, Upper Silesia. Reibnitz was born on 8 September 1894 at Mistitz in the Prussian province of Silesia, now called Miejsce Odrzańskie, having since become part of Poland. He was educated at the Royal Prussian Military Academy at Berlin-Lichterfelde, from which he graduated at the end of 1913. In March 1914 he was commissioned as an ensign into the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg 2nd Regiment of Dragoons, No. 18, in Parchim. In August 1914, soon after the beginning of the First World War he was severely wounded and captured, remaining a prisoner of war of the French for most of the duration of the war. On 20 September 1918, shortly before Reibnitz was released in exchange for a French officer, his father died in Berlin. After the war, in the lead-up to the plebiscite to resolve competing German and Polish territorial claims in Upper Silesia, Reibnitz and his brother Joachim founded two regiments of German irregulars (Freikorps), aiming to guard the border on the River Oder from Cosel to Ratibor. Reibnitz married firstly Margherita Schoen, the widow of Friedrich Ernst Graf von Seherr-Thoss (1881-1918), and a daughter of Gustav Schoen by his marriage to Elisabeth Wentzel. Thereafter, he took over the management of her estate of Krzanowitz in Upper Silesia. Their daughter Margarita was born on 18 January 1924 at Krzanowitz. After separating from his wife, Reibnitz established a farm at Hahnenvorwerk, near Silverberg in Silesia, breeding animals for the fur trade. In 1933 this activity ended when he was appointed to the honorary position of Regional Director of Hunting for Silesia. On 1 December 1930 Reibnitz joined the Nazi Party, becoming member number 412855. On 15 April 1933 he then became a member of the Cavalry SS, with the SS number 66010.
As an officer of the Army Reserve, Reibnitz was recalled to active service at the beginning of the Second World War. However, he was not a very loyal party member. In 1937 he had been summoned to appear before the highest party tribunal accused of denigrating the swastika flag. By reaffirming his loyalty, he was able to extract himself from the affair; he had also referred to the leader of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, as the "chicken farmer". Soon after he rejoined the armed forces on active service, Reibnitz was sent back to the home front due to heart problems. He informed the SS of his marriage (on 17 December 1941 in Breslau) to his second wife Maria Anna Countess Szápáry de Muraszombath, Széchysziget et Szapár (1911-1998), a daughter of the Austro-Hungarian diplomat Count Frigyes Szapáry (1869-1935), but he did not inform them of his intention to seek an annulment of his first marriage so that he could marry his second wife in a Roman Catholic ceremony, nor that the children of the marriage would be raised in that faith. This was interpreted by the regime as disloyalty. It was also seen as incriminating that he and his wife practiced their faith openly. Because his wife was already under observation by the Gestapo over her contacts before the war with supposed British Secret Service agents, as well as in connection with a range of essentially minor "transgressions", his situation became increasingly critical, and in 1944 he was dismissed from the Nazi Party, from the Cavalry SS, and from the post of Regional Director of Hunting for Silesia. On 16 November 1942, Reibnitz's son Friedrich was born in Breslau, and on 15 January 1945 his daughter Marie Christine was born in Karlsbad (now Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic), near the estate of her maternal grandmother Countess Hedwig Szápáry, a daughter of Alfred III, Prince of Windisch-Grätz.
In the confusion towards the end of the war, Reibnitz managed to avoid being transferred, on the personal orders of Himmler, to the Dirlewanger special unit, and was able to find refuge with his old army regiment. In May 1945 he escaped from Soviet captivity and made his way back to Bavaria. There he was interned by the Americans, was investigated and was eventually classified by the Appeals Tribunal for Upper Bavaria on 14 May 1948 as a “nominal party member”, “not a member of any organization condemned as criminal in the Nuremberg judgment” and “equivalent to a non-accused person”.
His second marriage had ended in divorce in 1946. In 1950 his former wife moved with her children to Australia. Reibnitz lived first in Munich, where he worked in the fur trade and then in insurance. In 1950 he moved to South Africa to open his own insurance business. On 12 May 1950 in Johannesburg he married Esther Schütte (born in 1909). The marriage ended in divorce on 12 July 1956 in Pretoria when he decided to become a farmer in Mozambique. On 15 December 1956 in Umtali, Southern Rhodesia, he married Rosemarie (née Kramer), widow of Baron Gustav von Buddenbrock (1907-1955) and widow of Ulrich Otto Hoesch (1899-1941), and daughter of Alois Karl Kramer. He developed his wife’s farm Maforga and made it economically productive. As the widow of Gustav von Buddenbrock, his wife is called Baroness Rosemarie von Buddenbrock in some sources.
In 1976 Reibnitz retired to Germany, while his wife travelled between Germany and Mozambique and continued to manage the farm. He spent his old age in Hemmingen and died on 2 March 1983 in Breitbrunn am Chiemsee in Bavaria. His grave is in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. In 1986 his widow returned to Germany on health grounds and left the farm to neighbouring Christian missionaries. She died on 30 November 1999 in Marquartstein, Bavaria. Maforga continues to this day as a mission.
On 30 June 1978 in Vienna, Reibnitz had attended the civil wedding of his daughter Marie Christine to Prince Michael of Kent. He became the grandfather of Lord Frederick Windsor (born in 1979) and Lady Gabriella Windsor (born in 1981). On 30 June 1979 in Sydney, Reibnitz’s only son Frederick married secondly Helen Rodda Williams, daughter of Professor Sir Bruce Rodda Williams, vice chancellor of the University of Sydney.
In 1985 details became public for the first time concerning Reibnitz's role at the time of National Socialism. A biography of Elizabeth II by John Parker states that by the end of the Second World War, the Berlin Documents Centre had held a dossier on Reibnitz said to be four inches thick. Writer Barry Everingham stated that "historians at the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem claimed that the baron was planted in the SS to act as Goering's spy". However, Everingham's source for this has been questioned.
- Bundesarchiv Berlin (ehem. Berlin Document Center) NSDAP-Gaukartei
- SS-Stammkarte des „NS-Archivs“ des Ministeriums für Staatssicherheit der DDR (MfS), ZB5983, S.155, Günther Freiherr von Reibnitz
- Günther-Hubertus Freiherr von Reibnitz at genealogics.org, accessed 17 March 2015
- Günther-Hubertus Freiherr von Reibnitz pedigree at genealogics.org, accessed 17 March 2015
- Obituary in The Sunday Telegraph dated 28 April 1985
- Leo van de Pas, Günther-Hubertus Freiherr von Reibnitz at world roots.com, citing Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels
- L'Intermédiaire des chercheurs et curieux, vol. 29, (1979) p. 845
- Bundesarchiv Berlin, Oberstes Parteigericht, I. Kammer
- Bundesarchiv Berlin, file Rasse- und Siedlungsamt
- finding of the Appeals Tribunal for Upper Bavaria, Senat Moosburg-Dachau, Ber. Reg. Nr. 859/48, Aktenzeichen I. Case number 9464
- The Times dated 24 April 1985 “Baron nominal party member, tribunal said, complete English translation of the finding
- The Times 25 April 1985
- Ronald Allison, Sarah Riddell, “The Royal Encyclopedia” (1991), p. 297
- ”L'Intermediáire des chercheur et curieux!, vol. 29 (1979) p. 601: “Maisons souveraines GRANDE-BRETAGNE: Naissance à Londres le .05.1979 de Lord Frederick Windsor, fils du prince Michel et de la baronne Marie-Christine Reibnitz.”
- John Parker, The Queen: The New Biography (Ulverscroft, 1993), p. 483
- Barry Everingham, Wiesenthal's Nazi Tracking In Australia from The Australian dated 9-22-05
- Barry Everingham, MC: the adventures of a maverick princess (1985) p. 22
- Simon-Wiesenthal-Institut Vienna, file Gunther von Reibnitz
- Yad Vashem, ref.no. 262278 date 8 October 2013