LONDON -- The father of Princess Michael of Kent -- the European noblewoman who married Queen Elizabeth II's cousin -- was a Nazi SS officer involved in the selection of inmates for concentration camps, an Australian author alleged today.
The princess' admission Monday that her father Baron Guenther von Reibnitz, was a member of Adolf Hitler's elite SS regiment sparked allegations of a cover-up by Britain's royal family.
'Princess Michael confirmed tonight that it is true that her father was a member of the SS,' Buckingham Palace spokesman Michael Shea said following a story in the mass circulation Daily Mirror.
Shea added, however, that the princess had been unaware of her father's background before the Mirror story, but he did not explain how she confirmed what the newspaper published.
'It came as a total surprise to her when she heard the news ... and it came as a total shock,' Shea said on behalf of the princess, who married the queen's cousin Prince Michael of Kent in 1978.
Barry Everingham, a former diplomatic correspondent for a leading newspaper in Australia, where the princess was brought up, said von Reibnitz 'was in charge of one group who rounded up people who were to go into the concentration camps.'
Quoted in London's evening newspaper The Standard, Everingham, who is researching a book on the Nazis, said he was 'not prepared to go so far as to say what his involvement with the atrocities happened to be, but I know that he knew that the atrocities were taking place and his own rationale was that there was nothing wrong with what was happening.'
He said that there were indications from Princess Michael's family that her mother and brother were 'mortified' when they learned this, and this was the reason for the break-up of the marriage when the princess was still a baby.
In Vienna, Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal said von Reibnitz was a Nazi SS officer involved in Adolf Hitler's 'Lebensborn' program in which selected Germans deemed pure Aryan by the Nazis were used as studs to contribute to the promotion of an Aryan master race.
'We know for sure that he was a member of the SS and that he was part of the Lebensborn program, but we have no evidence that he carried out atrocities,' Wiesenthal said.
A spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace said the princess was making no comment on Everingham's claims. The Palace did confirm the Mirror story but indicated the newspaper's evidence was the first the princess knew of her father's Nazi past.
The Daily Mirror described the palace statement as 'unbelievable' and a historian who confirmed the Nazi link hinted at a cover-up.
British historian Philip Hall told the British Broadcasting Corp. he found while researching a book on the Royal family that Baron Guenther von Reibnitz was Germal, not Austrian as the princess claimed.
'It struck me that someone was covering something up,' he said.
The Mirror said von Reibnitz joined the SS -- the Schutzstaffel -- in 1933, obtained a position on the recommendation of Luftwaffe chief Herman Goering and ended up a major.
'The SS was Hitler's elite. It ran the concentration camps. No one could be an officer in that fanatical corps without being implicated in its crimes,' the Mirror said.
It reproduced documents showing the baron was an SS major when he married in 1941 and had permission to wear the SS 'Death's Head' uniform. He died two years ago.
Hall said he discovered evidence at the Berlin Documentation center that the baron joined the Nazi party in 1930 and the SS three years later.
'He was obviously a committed Nazi. He was not someone who drifted with the tide into the Nazi movement,' Hall said. But he found no specific details about von Reibnitz's war record or any war crimes.
Princess Michael, a tall aristocratic blonde, born Marie Christine von Reibnitz, married Prince Michael in Vienna in June 1978.
There was disapproval from the start since she was foreign, a Catholic, and divorced after her 1971 marriage to an English merchant banker.
Recently, as she approached her 40th birthday, she gave a series of newspaper interviews talking about her happy royal marriage, her family and her public duties.
The princess said she was brought up to believe her father w!s a prisoner in a concentration camp in 1944, later fleeing from the family homeland as the Russian army advanced through Czechoslovakia in 1945.
After the war he left the family to start a new life as a citrus farmer in Mozambique and remarried.