Department of History

From estate to 'elite': Countess Dönhoff and the Nobility in Germany in the Twentieth Century

Project summary

The project builds on the first scholarly analysis of the newly released and archived papers of the former editor-in-chief of Die Zeit Marion Countess Dönhoff (1909-2002). The papers offer a new view on the history of the Prussian-German ‘Junker’. Historians have so far argued that the 'Junker'-class came to an end in Germany in 1945 when more than 80% of all German nobles were expelled from the areas East of the river Elbe. 



However, this project shows that more than 60,000 of 80,000 East Elbian nobles survived the Second World War and resettled in West Germany. The majority of them were women, such as Countess Dönhoff. They helped rekindling the nobility as an 'elite' and promoted typical noble 'elite'-practices. Their former regional identity, in Dönhoff’s case as an ‘East Prussian elite’, was central to their lives in the Federal Republic and helped them to re-affirm their noble values in the Federal Republic.

Who's involved

Christian Haase


Various External Funding Bodies


Selected Publication

Forthcoming in press:

Haase, C: From estate to ‘elite’: Countess Dönhoff and the German Nobility in the Twentieth Century (2019, forthcoming)

Department of History

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

Contact details