Thoughts and memories

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Thoughts and Memories is the name of Otto von Bismarck's autobiography . He wrote it after his discharge from the office of Chancellor in March 1890 with the help of his long-time colleague Lothar Bucher . The first two volumes were published after Bismarck's death on July 30, 1898, and proved to be bestsellers. The third volume was published in 1919/1921 against the resistance of the Bismarck family .


The impetus for writing the memoir came from Bismarck's doctor Ernst Schweninger , who saw it as the right occupation for the ex-chancellor and assured him that the German people had a right to know what it really was like. A total of 43 publishers agreed to publish the work, and the prestigious Cotta'sche publishing bookstore was awarded the contract with an offer of 100,000 marks per volume.

From October 1890 to December 1891, Bismarck recounted his past in loose succession, while Bucher wrote in shorthand . Until May 1892, Bucher put the bulk of these records into a chronological order with the addition of letters and other documents. He died on October 12, 1892.

The proofs were already available in October 1893 . But Bismarck, who was primarily concerned with justifying his policy, corrected the flags with his doctor and secretary Rudolf Chrysander until 1897. He had the content checked by his lawyer because he feared that the publication could be viewed as an act endangering the state. Until his death on July 30, 1898, Bismarck could not make up his mind to publish it.

His son Herbert von Bismarck now entrusted the historian Horst Kohl with the publication of the work. In November 1898 the first two volumes appeared under the title of Kohl's thoughts and memories at the high price of twenty marks. The print run of 100,000 copies was quickly sold out and triggered numerous corrections, diatribes and attacks by the press. Kohl's editorial work was also criticized. It was not until 1932 that Gerhard Ritter and Rudolf Stadelmann published an edition that made use of the entire manuscript material. Because of the attacks on Kaiser Wilhelm II it contained, the third volume was not to appear until after his death, but it was published as early as 1919 (recte 1921) after the emperor's resignation, accompanied by civil litigation.


In the first volume, Bismarck tells in a colorful, often dramatically pointed manner, from his youth to his work as the Prussian envoy in St. Petersburg and Paris. The second volume deals with his time as Prussian Prime Minister and Reich Chancellor and extends to Friedrich III.

In the third volume, Bismarck added the dedication to the sons and grandchildren for understanding the past and teaching for the future . In it he deals exclusively with the time under Kaiser Wilhelm II.


On the one hand, the work - like most of the self-portrayals of politicians  - is only suitable to a limited extent as a historical source , since the embittered founder of the empire wrote it after his dismissal as a justification for his political life and work. Bismarck attacked his political and personal opponents, including the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, whose personal endeavor had been to get rid of the dominant Chancellor after his accession to the throne. On the other hand, it reveals the self-interpretation of one of the most important statesmen of the 19th century in clear and sometimes ironic prose .



  • Rudolf Radler: Thoughts and Memories . In: Kindlers Literatur Lexikon im dtv in 25 volumes . Volume 9 Fal-Gia. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 1974, ISBN 3-423-03149-2
  • S. Fischer-Fabian: Wonderful times . Verlagsgruppe Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 1986. New edition: Bastei Lübbe, Taschenbuch Volume 64206, 2005, ISBN 3-404-64206-6 , pp. 242–246

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