No, Ursula von der Leyen’s grandfather was not an SS general

The Cube takes a look at claims the European Commission president’s grandparents were Nazis and pictured shaking hands with Adolf Hitler.


False claims are circulating on social media that Ursula von der Leyen’s grandparents were Nazis and supporters of Adolf Hitler, but there’s no evidence whatsoever to back this up.

This tweet, seen over 30,000 times as of the time of this fact check, claims the European Commission President’s grandfather was an SS general called Karl Albrecht Oberg.

The tweet says he first served in Poland and promoted the extermination of Jews and Slavs, as well as the purge of Poles, before moving to Paris where he led the fight against the French resistance and took charge of the so-called “Jewish Question”.

He made wearing the yellow star mandatory and ordered around 100,000 people to be sent to death camps, according to the tweet.

The post is accompanied by a black and white photo allegedly showing von der Leyen’s grandmother shaking hands with Adolf Hitler, with a supposed quote from von der Leyen herself, which says “My sweet granny didn’t wash her hand for a month after this precious occasion.”

Both claims that her grandparents were associated with the Nazis in any way are false. 

An SS general called Karl Albrecht Oberg did exist, and he did indeed order the deportation of thousands of Jews from France to concentration camps, but he was not von der Leyen’s grandfather.

The claim likely stems from the fact that her paternal grandfather was called Karl Albrecht – a common German name.

According to German fact-checkers, this Karl Albrecht studied medicine in the 1920s and worked as a doctor during wartime.

They said there is no evidence of him ever having SS membership.

The same is true of his son, Ernst Albrecht, Ursula von der Leyen’s father, who served as director-general for competition within the European Communities, and later became minister-president for the state of Lower Saxony. Any links to the Nazis would surely have come to light during that time.

As for the photo of Hitler shaking hands with von der Leyen’s alleged grandmother, it’s not her.

A reverse image search takes us to various articles using the picture, which tell us that it comes from various photo agencies.

The photo descriptions tell us it shows a young woman called Hildegard Zantop with Hitler on the third of October 1937 in Bückeburg.

Looking back at von der Leyen’s family tree, neither of her grandmothers go by that name, and as far as we know, Hildegard Zantop is no relation to von der Leyen at all.

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