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FACTCHECK

Debunked: Nazis falsely identified as members of Ursula von der Leyen’s family

Her actual grandfather was a psychologist who researched mystical experiences.

A SENIOR OFFICER of the SS has been falsely identified as the grandfather of Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission.

Von der Leyen’s grandfather was a well-known psychologist who authored a number of books. He was not a known member of the SS. 

A photo of a woman shaking hands with Adolf Hitler has also been spread online with a caption saying that the woman is Von der Leyen’s grandmother. However, the woman in the photo’s name has long been known and does not match any known family member of Von der Leyen.

False claims that European figures have Nazi ancestry are common, and have been levied against German politicians Olaf Scholz and Angela Merkel, as well as the Hungarian Jewish billionaire George Soros

SS Officer

“The grandfather of the Chairman of the European Commission was SS General Karl Albrecht Oberg,” a Facebook post reads, spreading a false rumour about von der Leyen’s family.

Ursula von der Leyen’s maiden name is Albrecht.

The post goes on to recount the cruelty of Karl Albrecht Oberg, which is well documented as he was an SS and police leader in occupied France and became known as the Butcher of Paris.

However Karl Oberg was not Von der Leyen’s grandfather as the post suggests, nor was Albrecht the SS officer’s family name — it was his middle name.

Factcheckers with AFP found records of Von der Leyen’s family at the Austrian National Library. Their photographs of pages from the Deutsches Geschlechterbuch, a genealogical handbook with family lists and coats of arms, can be found here.

This book confirms that Von Der Leyen’s grandfather was Carl Eduard Albrecht, a doctor and psychologist.

Similar given names, as well as the fact that Karl Oberg’s middle name is the same as Carl Albrecht’s family name, appear to be the cause of some of the confusion.

There is little else to connect the two figures. Photos of Karl Oberg and Carl Albrecht are both available online; in them, the men do not look alike.

Further significant details of their biographies would rule out the two being the same person.

For example, Karl Oberg enlisted in the army as a Lieutenant in 1914; Carl Albrecht was 12 years old at the time.

Conversely, the psychologist Carl Albrecht began researching the scientific basis of spiritual experiences in 1947, resulting in the publication of his book Psychology of Mystical Consciousness in 1951.

During those same years, Karl Oberg was imprisoned in France for crimes committed during the war.

Photograph

Posts also often feature a photo of a woman shaking the hand of Adolf Hitler with captions claiming that it shows Von Der Leyen’s grandmother.

“A Photo from Ursula von der Leyne’s Family Album,” says a tweet by Norman Finkelstein that has been viewed more than 2,300,000 times “‘My Sweet Granny Didn’t Wash Her Hand for a Month after This Precious Occasion’”

Hitler The photo that has been falsely claimed to show Von Der Leyen's grandmother.

Finkelstein, an American Jewish critic of Israel, has previously accused Von Der Leyen of being a Nazi, sometimes accompanied by photos that are presumably not meant to be presented as factual.

In either case, the claim has been widely shared despite the woman in the photo having no known connection to Von Der Leyen.

German photo archives describe the photo as showing a woman called Hildegard Zantop meeting Hitler in Bückeburg in 1937.

There is no known person of that name in Von Der Leyen’s family history.

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