Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany

August 8, 2009 at 6:44 pm | Posted in God machine, Historical | 1 Comment
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Caricature of Kaiser Wilhelm as Devil, title translated: Enemy of humanity.  Reproduction of lithograph by I.D. Sytina, Moscow.  c. 1915.  (Library of Congress)

Caricature of Kaiser Wilhelm as Devil, title translated: Enemy of humanity. Reproduction of lithograph by I.D. Sytina, Moscow. c. 1915. (Library of Congress)

In looking around the Library of Congress archives for an illustration for an earlier post, I found the “caricature of Kaiser Wilhelm as Devil.” My curiosity piqued, I found many more. So then I did some poking around to see if I could find out why he was so reviled.

It’s a long and complicated story, but I found this article of particular interest given current events here in the United States.

Only three years after the Reichsgründung [German unification, 1871] and the emancipation of the half million Jews that lived in the new Reich, the Great Crash of 1873 and the beginnings of the ‘Great Depression’ shook the faith of millions in the values of capitalism, free enterprise and progressive Left Liberalism with which the Jewish minority, by virtue of its unique occupational structure, was closely identified. As the cartoon demonstrates (see fig. 2), in the new Germany of burgeoning cities, rapid industrialisation, mass circulation newspapers and mass politics, those in traditional occupations, high and low, felt threatened by this modern world and longed for the security of the old monarchic ‘Christian state’. The Hohenzollern military monarchy was looked up to as a bastion against the rising tide of modernity, symbolised by the Jews.

Caricature of two devils, one of them being Kaiser Wilhelm II, looking at monthly report of murders.  c1918 (Library of Congress)

Caricature of two devils, one of them being Kaiser Wilhelm II, looking at monthly report of murders. c1918 (Library of Congress)

Does any of this sound depressingly familiar?

One of the more depressing truths about this first wave of German antisemitism is the extent to which it was led not by guttersnipes such as Ahlwardt, Glagau, Böckel, Foerster, Henrici and their ilk, but by university professors such as Treitschke and court clergymen such as Stoecker. Another is the degree to which, even at this early stage, the anti-semitism of these learned agitators was unequivocally racial. Adolf Stoecker, who founded his ‘Christian-Social Workers’ Party’ in 1879, proclaimed in the Prussian House of Deputies that the Jews were ‘leeches’ and ‘parasites’, ‘an alien drop in our blood’. The struggle against them was a struggle of race against race’, for the Jews were not part of the German nation but ‘a nation unto themselves’, linked to all other Jews in the world to form ‘one mass of exploiters’. The ‘war’ against the Jews was a fight for the very existence of the German nation, cried Stoecker in 1882. ‘We offer the Jews a fight until complete victory and we will not rest until they have been thrown down from the high pedestal on which they have placed themselves here in Berlin into the dust where they belong.’ Berlin must be a Hohenzollern city, not a Jewish city, he declared.” As the Left Liberal parliamentarian Eugen Richter explained in November 1880, there was something ‘particularly perfidious in this anti-Jewish movement, since what it nourished was ‘racial. hatred, that is to say something that the individual cannot alter and which can therefore only end either in his being clubbed to death or his expulsion over the border.’

The significance of Stoecker’s movement for the political and cultural development of Germany can, as Werner Jochmann has pointed out, hardly be overestimated. In 1891, a quarter of a million people signed a petition demanding the prohibition of Jewish immigration into Germany, the exclusion of Jews from public office, their removal from all teaching posts in public schools and the reduction of their numbers at universities. As Norbert Kampe’s excellent study has shown, the many thousands of university students who signed this mass petition were destined to move into positions of great influence in the state bureaucracy, army, diplomatic corps arid the medical, legal and teaching professions at all levels. Most alarming of all was the support the movement received from the Prussian officer corps and the imperial court.

It’s interesting that Bismarck, who was dismissed from his post as Chancellor by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1890, was an anti-socialist but oversaw passage of the Health Insurance Bill of 1883, the Accident Insurance Bill of 1884 and the Old Age and Disability Insurance Bill of 1889.

Unfortunately, Kaiser Wilhelm II was as deluded as Hitler with respect to the idea of the Jewish Menace born out of Torquemada‘s Inquisition which came about as a result of “infidel hordes from hither Asia … pressing hard on the flanks of Eastern Europe” in the 11th century:

By 1096 these descendants of Attila, known as Seljuk Turks, had overrun all of Asia Minor, threatening at any moment to burst into Europe itself. Worst of all, they had seized the Holy City of Jerusalem, polluting the Purple Blood of the Lamb with their unclean Mohammedan abominations, as Western holy men liked to put it. West Europeans responded to the Saracen threat with a series of military expeditions to the East which ultimately came to be known to Christian posterity as the Crusades to the Holy Land.

To stimulate enthusiasm for the Crusades, preaching friars, hermits, and other persons of undoubted sanctity travelled about Europe enumerating the virtues of exterminating the Infidel and exhorting the Faithful to take up arms against the Saracen host. The precarious toleration accorded the Jews in Europe quickly dissolved in the universal excitement created by the prospect of a Holy War. If it was a pious necessity to destroy infidels in the deserts of Asia, why should they be permitted to blaspheme the Savior at home? Peter the “Venerable, ” abbot of the great French monastery at Cluny, in urging Louis VII of France to undertake the second crusade, spoke for a whole generation:

There were multiple factors which led to the First Crusade to capture Jerusalem. The fractured nature of Europe was changing, smaller kingdoms and fiefdoms were beginning the consolidation which continued through WWII. Nationalism as we know it today did not exist. Instead, religious identification was the tool with which people separated themselves from “the other.”

The spirit of religious reform that had led to the Investiture Controversy had been accompanied by an increase in popular spirituality. People were no longer to accept their religion passively; many wanted to participate actively and to do something positive in honor of their god.

Galilee. Tiberias. The Lido Terrace showing ancient crusader tower, between 1940 and 1946.  Matson Photo Service (Library of Congress)

Galilee. Tiberias. The Lido Terrace showing ancient crusader tower, between 1940 and 1946. Matson Photo Service (Library of Congress)

In a December 1938 interview, 20 years after the beginning of the German Revolution and his abdication, Kaiser Wilhelm II said of Hitler:

“But of our Germany, which was a nation of poets and musicians, of artists and soldiers, he has made a nation of hysterics and hermits, engulfed in a mob and led by a thousand liars and fanatics …”

Calling Kaiser Wilhelm II the devil seems to be overwrought hyperbole. He certainly earned his place among those without whom we wouldn’t be where we are today, but he seems to have been more reactive than proactive in the damage he contributed to events which followed.


1 Comment »

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  1. The above quote concerning the Kaiser’s thoughts about Adolf Hitler was pulled from a 1938 article from “Ken Magazine” which can be read on this page:

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