Otto von Bismarck

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Otto von Bismarck, 1886
Otto vonBismarck Signature.svg

Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck-Schönhausen , from 1865 Count von Bismarck-Schönhausen , from 1871 Prince von Bismarck , from 1890 also Duke of Lauenburg (born April 1, 1815 in Schönhausen (Elbe) ; † July 30, 1898 in Friedrichsruh near Aumühle ) , was a German politician and statesman . From 1862 to 1890 - with a brief interruption in 1873 - he was Prime Minister of Prussia and from 1867 to 1871 he was also Federal Chancellor of the North German Confederation. From 1871 to 1890 he was the first Chancellor of the German Empire , the establishment of which he played a key role. Bismarck is considered to be the perfecter of German unification and the founder of the welfare state of the modern age .

As a politician, Bismarck first made a name for himself in Prussia as a member of the First United State Parliament with predominantly conservative positions. He was a diplomat for the Bundestag of the German Confederation as well as in Russia and France from 1851 to 1862 . In the Prussian constitutional conflict , he was appointed Prime Minister by King Wilhelm I in 1862 . In the fight against the liberals, Bismarck defied parliament and was able to solve the German question in the small German sense under the predominance of Prussia in the German-Danish War and the German War between 1864 and 1866 . In the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71 he was the driving force behind the establishment of the German Empire .

As Chancellor and Prussian Prime Minister, he played a decisive role in the policy of the newly created empire until his dismissal in 1890. In terms of foreign policy, he relied on a balance between the European powers (→  Otto von Bismarck's alliance policy ) and for a long time turned against a German colonial policy .

Domestically, his reign after 1866 can be divided into two phases. First there was an alliance with the moderate liberals. During this time there were numerous domestic political reforms such as the introduction of civil marriage , whereby Bismarck fought resistance on the Catholic side with drastic measures (→  Kulturkampf ). From the late 1870s onwards, Bismarck increasingly turned away from the liberals. In this phase the transition to protective tariff policy and state interventionist measures falls . This included, in particular, the creation of the social security system . Domestically, the 1880s were shaped not least by the repressive socialist law . In 1890 differences of opinion with Kaiser Wilhelm II, who had been in office for almost two years, led to Bismarck's dismissal.

In the years that followed, Bismarck still played a certain political role as a critic of his successors. In particular through his much-read memoir, Thoughts and Memories, he himself played a decisive and lasting role in his image in the German public. In popular parlance and historiography , Bismarck was also called the "Iron Chancellor".

Until the middle of the 20th century, German historiography was dominated by an extremely positive assessment of Bismarck's role, which in some cases bore traits of idealization. After the Second World War , critical voices increased who made Bismarck jointly responsible for the failure of democracy in Germany and portrayed the empire he had shaped as a misconstruction of the authoritarian state . More recent representations mostly overcome this sharp contrast, whereby the achievements and shortcomings of Bismarck's politics are equally emphasized, and show him as embedded in contemporary structures and political processes.

Early years

Origin, youth and education

Otto von Bismarck as a boy , chalk drawing by Franz Krüger , Berlin 1826

Otto von Bismarck was born on April 1, 1815 at Schönhausen Castle near the Elbe near Stendal in the province of Saxony as the second son of Rittmeister Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand von Bismarck (1771–1845) and his wife Luise Wilhelmine, née Mencken (1789–1839) , born. He was paternal scion of the old noble family Bismarck , a landsässigen Uradelsgeschlechts the Altmark , which since the beginning of the 18th century at the same time in Pomerania in Pomerania had three goods. His mother was of bourgeois origin, her father Anastasius Ludwig Mencken was Frederick the Great's secret cabinet secretary . The Mencken family had produced scholars and high officials in the past. Otto von Bismarck's older brother, Bernhard von Bismarck (1810-1893), became District Administrator and Privy Councilor. The later sister Malwine (1827-1908) married the district administrator of the Angermünde district, Oskar von Arnim-Kröchlendorff .

In 1816, the young family moved, without giving up the Schönhausen estate, to the Kniephof estate in western Pomerania , where Otto von Bismarck spent the first years of his childhood.

The different social origins of the parents had significant consequences for Bismarck's socialization. He inherited his pride in his origins from his father; his mother not only gave him his keen intellect, a sense of rational action and linguistic sensitivity, but also the desire to escape from his circle of origin. Bismarck was thanks to his mother that he enjoyed an education that for a scion of the less for a country gentleman than the educated middle class was common. Their sons were not only supposed to be Junkers, they were supposed to join the civil service. However, the strictly rational upbringing of his mother meant that, as he later wrote, Bismarck never really felt at home in his parents' house. While he was reserved towards his mother, he loved his father.


At the age of six, Bismarck's school education began in 1821 at the request of his mother in the Prussian capital Berlin in the Plamann educational institution . This boarding school, to which high officials used to send their sons, was originally founded in the spirit of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi . By the time of Bismarck, this phase of reform had long since ended and the upbringing was characterized by drill and German drudgery. Bismarck found the transition from childish play on the home farm to boarding school life, which was characterized by coercion and discipline, extremely difficult. During this time his unwillingness to recognize authorities was clearly expressed.

In 1827 Bismarck moved to the Berlin Friedrich-Wilhelms-Gymnasium , from 1830 he attended the humanistic Berlin Gymnasium at the Gray Monastery until he graduated from high school in 1832 . With the exception of ancient Greek , which Bismarck soon saw as superfluous, at school he showed himself to be extremely talented in languages, even if not always as hard-working.


Bismarck was a member of the Lutheran denomination. He received religious instruction from Friedrich Schleiermacher , who also confirmed the sixteen-year-old in the Trinity Church in Berlin . During this time, Bismarck dealt with questions of religion mainly from the point of view of the intellect and, in retrospect , saw himself in it, influenced by Hegel or Spinoza , more as a deist and pantheist than as a devout Christian. However, he was never an atheist, even if those around him mostly regarded him as an ungodly mocker. During his legal clerkship, he wrote to his brother Bernhard in 1836: "I only notice that you do not expect me to be too prudent if you consider me an atheist." Christianity intervened decisively in his life when he unexpectedly died Friend Marie von Thadden-Trieglaff met.

Study and training

As an 18-year-old student in Göttingen (miniature by Philipp Petri , 1833)

After graduating from high school, Bismarck began studying law at the age of seventeen on May 10, 1832 (1832-1835), initially at the University of Göttingen (1832-1833), which later also awarded him an honorary doctorate on the occasion of his 70th birthday. He emphatically rejected the political aftermath of the July Revolution . It was therefore no coincidence that he did not join the fraternities , which were opposition at the time , but the striking country team student union Corps Hannovera Göttingen . He remained a staunch corps student throughout his life. What he disliked about the fraternities was “their refusal to give satisfaction and their lack of external upbringing and forms of good society, as well as, on closer acquaintance, the extravagance of their political views, which are based on a lack of education and knowledge of the existing, historical ones Living conditions was based ". He later summarized his observations to the remark that it was a matter of a connection between utopia and lack of education. On the other hand, he described himself as in no way influenced by Prussian monarchical ideas. History and literature interested him, law studies less. The only academic teacher who impressed and probably influenced him was the historian Arnold Heeren , who outlined the functioning of the international state system in his lectures. He built closer personal relationships with his corps brother Gustav Scharlach and the later American diplomat John Lothrop Motley , who remained one of his few personal friends throughout his life.

In November 1833 Bismarck continued his studies at the Friedrich Wilhelms University in Berlin . In 1835 he graduated with the first state examination. Then he was initially an auscultator at the Berlin City Court. At his own request, he switched from judicial to administrative service. He was not only looking for diversion in the circle around the novelist Carl Borromäus Cünzer : Soon bored of the day-to-day office work of a government trainee in the fashionable spa town of Aachen , he fell in love with Laura Russell, a niece of the Duke of Cumberland , in August 1836 . After the affair with an (older) French woman, he traveled through Germany in the summer of 1837 with a (younger) English woman, a friend of Laura Russell. This resulted in a fourteen-day holiday being exceeded for several weeks, which meant that he lost his legal clerkship.

Bismarck struggled with expenses for women and also incurred debts by visiting casinos. He stayed away from official business for months. He later tried to continue his traineeship training in Potsdam , but turned his back on administrative work after a few months. He explained this step in retrospect by saying that he did not want to be a mere cog in the gears of the bureaucracy: "But I want to make music as I see it as good, or none at all."

military service

In 1838 Bismarck did his military service as a one-year volunteer , initially with the Guard Jäger Battalion . In autumn he moved to the Jäger Battalion No. 2 in Greifswald in Western Pomerania, where he also prepared for the management of family businesses at the Royal State and Agricultural Academy in Eldena .

Bon vivant and successful estate manager

After the death of his mother in 1839, Bismarck moved into the Kneephof estate in western Pomerania and became a farmer. Together with his brother Bernhard, who was five years older than him, he managed the paternal estates Kniephof, Külz and Jarchlin in the Naugard district . After Bernhard von Bismarck had been elected district administrator in 1841, it was temporarily divided. Bernhard now managed Jarchlin, Otto Külz and Kniephof. After his father's death in 1845, Otto took over the management of the Schönhausen family estate near Stendal .

Bismarck quickly acquired a good knowledge of rational agricultural management. In the ten years or so in which he acted as administrator of his parents' property, he not only succeeded in restoring the property, but also in repaying his own debts that he had accumulated over the past few years.

On the one hand he liked being his own master, on the other hand he was not satisfied with the agricultural activity and the life as a squire. At the same time, he dealt intensively but unsystematically with philosophy, art, religion and literature, without this having had a lasting impact on him. In 1842 he went on a study trip to France, England and Switzerland. He gave up trying to return to civil service in 1844 - again because of his aversion to everything bureaucratic. During these years he was a welcome guest at numerous social events in the region. Among other things, he took part in numerous hunting events, but also in excessive carousing parties. According to his own statements, he had acquired a kind of drinkability in this context; with the squires he had gained in respect because he was able to "drink his guests under the table with friendly cold-bloodedness". This, as well as his tendency to be the center of attention at social events, earned him the reputation of the "great Bismarck".

Wife and children

Johanna von Bismarck, née von Puttkamer, 1857
Otto and Johanna von Bismarck as young married people

Through Moritz von Blanckenburg , a school friend from Berlin, Bismarck came into contact with the pietistic group around Adolf von Thadden-Trieglaff . Blanckenburg was engaged to his daughter Marie von Thadden-Trieglaff . She and Bismarck felt like kindred spirits, but for the young woman breaking up her engagement was out of the question. In October 1844 she married Blanckenburg. At the wedding reception she chose her twenty-year-old friend Johanna von Puttkamer to be the table lady for Bismarck. In the summer of 1846, the married couple Blanckenburg, Bismarck and Johanna von Puttkamer traveled to the Harz Mountains together . Marie died on November 10, 1846 after a brief, serious illness. Shortly before Christmas 1846, Bismarck asked for Johanna's hand in a now famous letter to Heinrich von Puttkamer. The latter answered hesitantly; Bismarck then traveled to Reinfeld near Rummelsburg in Western Pomerania at the beginning of 1847 and convinced Johanna's parents in a personal conversation.
The marriage took place in Reinfeld ( Rummelsburg i. Pom. District ) in 1847 . Since then, belief in a personal God has played a central role for Bismarck.

The marriage with Johanna von Bismarck had three children:

Johanna subordinated her needs to those of her husband and at the same time offered him - unlike his mother - a firm emotional bond. The letters the two exchanged were among the highlights of the 19th century letter literature.

Political beginnings

Conservative agitator

Bismarck initially emerged politically at the local level. During his time at Gut Kniephof he was a deputy of the Naugard district , in 1845 he became a member of the provincial parliament of the province of Pomerania and in some cases supported his brother in his work as district administrator. Through his pietistic circle of friends he came into contact with leading conservative politicians around 1843/1844, in particular with the brothers Ernst Ludwig and Leopold Gerlach . In 1845, not least to expand this connection, he leased the Kniephof and moved to Schönhausen. This place was closer to Magdeburg , the then official seat of Ludwig von Gerlach. Bismarck received his first public office in 1846 when he was appointed dike captain in Jerichow .

His main concern during this time was to preserve the supremacy of the land-owning nobility in Prussia. The conservatives rejected the absolutist-bureaucratic state and dreamed of a re-establishment of the co-government of the estates, especially the nobility. Together with the Gerlach brothers, for example, Bismarck advocated the preservation of patrimonial jurisdiction .

As a successor in the Saxon provincial parliament , Bismarck became a member of the United Landtag in 1847 as a representative of the knighthood of the province of Saxony . In this body, which was dominated by the moderate liberal opposition , he was already noticed in his first plenary speech as a strictly conservative politician when he denied that the liberal reforms had also been implemented during the wars of liberation . In the “Jewish question” he spoke out clearly against the political equality of the Jewish population. These and similar positions led to indignant reactions from the Liberals. During this time, Bismarck found a field of activity in politics that suited his inclinations: "The matter affects me much more than I thought."

Bismarck (right) and King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. 1848 (drawing by Hermann Lüders)

The passion of the political struggle made him hardly eat or sleep. At the end of the meeting, Bismarck had made a name for himself in conservative circles. The king too had noticed him. Even though he took a clearly conservative position, Bismarck was also a pragmatist at this time and ready to learn from his political opponents. This came into play, for example, in the plan to found a conservative newspaper as a counterweight to the liberal Deutsche Zeitung .

Bismarck resolutely rejected the March Revolution . When the news of the movement's success in Berlin reached him, he armed the peasants in Schönhausen and suggested that they move to Berlin with them. However, General Karl von Prittwitz , who was in command in Potsdam, refused this offer. Then Bismarck tried to convince Princess Augusta , the wife of the heir to the throne Wilhelm, of the need for a counter-revolution. Augusta rejected the request as scheming and disloyal. Bismarck's behavior attracted the permanent dislike of the future queen. After Friedrich Wilhelm IV recognized the revolution , Bismarck's counter-revolutionary plans initially failed.

Bismarck was not elected to the Prussian National Assembly. For this he took part in the extra-parliamentary collection of the conservative camp. In the summer of 1848 he was involved in founding and developing the content of the Neue Preußische Zeitung (also known as the Kreuzzeitung because of the cross on the title page ). He wrote numerous articles for the paper. In August 1848 he was one of the main initiators of the so-called Junker Parliament . Several hundred aristocratic landowners gathered here to protest against the encroachment on their property.

These activities meant that the conservative camarilla around King Bismarck began to appreciate more and more. However, his hope of being rewarded with a ministerial post after the counter-revolution in November 1848 was not fulfilled, as he was considered too extreme even in conservative circles. The king wrote on a corresponding list of suggestions as a side note: "Only to be used if the bayonet is unrestricted".

Turning to Realpolitik

Meeting of the Volkshaus of the Erfurt Union Parliament in the nave of the Augustinian Church, 1850

In January and July 1849 Bismarck was elected to the second chamber of the Prussian state parliament. During this time he decided to devote himself entirely to politics and moved to Berlin with his family. This made him one of the first professional politicians in Prussia. In the state parliament he appeared as the mouthpiece of the ultra-conservatives. He defended the rejection of the imperial dignity and the imperial constitution by Friedrich Wilhelm IV, because from his point of view it was to be feared that Prussia would become part of Germany. For him, the national question was secondary to securing Prussian power.

The king and his advisor Joseph von Radowitz wanted to achieve German unity primarily through consultation with the middle states. In addition, the desired Erfurt Union should be more conservative and federalist than the Frankfurt model. Bismarck found this unrealistic and meaningless. In the Prussian parliament he made no secret of his criticism of the plans. His speech of September 6, 1849 changed the attitude of interested political circles towards him. From then on, he was no longer just a harassment because of his deliberate and flexible argumentation, even in his own conservative ranks. Bismarck recommended himself for the first time for a post in high civil service or in diplomacy . Despite his criticism of the Union, he was elected to the Volkshaus of the Erfurt Union Parliament and became its secretary.

Although he was fundamentally opposed to parliamentarianism, Bismarck developed into one of the most important parliamentary speakers of the time in Erfurt, to whom his political opponents also paid attention because of his language rich in images and punch lines. After the failure of the union plans, Bismarck took on the difficult task of defending the Olomouc punctuation in the Prussian state parliament . He managed on the one hand to take conservative standpoints, but on the other hand to commit himself to a state power politics far removed from any ideologies: “The only healthy basis of a large state, and this differs significantly from a small state, is state egoism and not romanticism, and it is not worthy of a great state to fight for a cause that does not belong to its own interests. ”With his emphasis on the state, power and interest politics, Bismarck distanced himself from traditional conservatism, which (in a more defensive Basic attitude) arose out of opposition to the modern, central, bureaucratic and absolutist state.


Bundestag envoy

Palais Thurn und Taxis in Frankfurt, seat of the Bundestag, around 1900

On August 15, 1851, at the instigation of Leopold von Gerlach, Bismarck was appointed Prussian envoy to the Bundestag in Frankfurt by Friedrich Wilhelm IV . He had no diplomatic training and the king was also very suspicious. After the Olomouc punctuation , Prussia was forced to fill the position of the Bundestag envoy. Although you really couldn't break any political china in this position, nobody believed that Bismarck was the right person. Bismarck had to assure the questioning king that he would stand back if he was not up to the task:

“Courage is entirely on Your Majesty's part if you entrust me with such a position; however, Your Majesty is not bound to maintain the appointment as soon as it fails. I myself cannot be certain whether the task is beyond my abilities until I have approached it. If I find myself unable to cope there, I will be the first to ask for my recall. I have the courage to obey when your Majesty has orders. "

- Bismarck

Finally, the ambassador to Russia Theodor von Rochow was appointed, who was accompanied by Bismarck at the insistence of Leopold von Gerlachs . Both of them arrived in Frankfurt on May 11, 1851, and on July 15, 1851, Bismarck replaced Rochow as Minister of the Bundestag, who in turn returned to his embassy in Petersburg. Bismarck's first action in Frankfurt was to support the federal reaction decision . Therefore his appointment was seen by the public as a sign of the victory of the social and political reaction as well as a surrender of Prussia to Austria.

In Frankfurt, Bismarck acted very independently. At times it was in opposition to the Berlin government policy. However, as envoy, he made it clear that he was still a man of the highly conservative. His position in a chamber debate led to the Vincke – Bismarck duel on March 25, 1852 , in which neither of the two duelists was hit.

When Prussia and the Austrian Empire worked together after the autumn crisis of 1850 , Bismarck did not want to accept that the Austrian Prime Minister Felix zu Schwarzenberg intended Prussia to play the role as a junior partner. For him and ultimately also for the government in Berlin, it was a matter of enforcing the recognition of Prussia as an equal power. To this end, he constantly sought a dispute with the Austrian envoy Friedrich von Thun and Hohenstein , attacked Vienna sharply and temporarily paralyzed the work of the Bundestag in order to show the limits of Austrian competencies in Frankfurt. He also contributed to the failure of Austria's wish to join the German Customs Union. Bismarck rejected an expansion of the institutions and a federal reform in general , as long as Austria did not treat Prussia as equal.

The decision of the Prussian government in 1854 (against the background of the Crimean War ) to renew the protective and defensive alliance with Austria met with criticism from Bismarck. When Austria then turned openly against Russia, Bismarck succeeded in 1855 by clever tactics in averting the Austrian request to mobilize the federal troops against Russia. This success increased his diplomatic reputation. After the defeat of Russia in the Crimean War, he pleaded in various memoranda for a reference to the tsarist empire and France, through which he hoped to weaken Austria further. He laid down his foreign policy concept in great detail in the “splendid publication” of 1856. His remarks sparked a violent conflict with the highly conservative around the Gerlach brothers , who in Napoleon III. saw only a proponent of the revolutionary principle and a "natural enemy". Bismarck replied that he ultimately did not care about the legitimacy of the heads of state. For him, it was not the conservative principles, but the state interests in the diplomatic business that were the focus. In the conservative camp, he was now increasingly seen as a selfish opportunist.

Bismarck attached great importance to Prussia's neutral stance in the Crimean War and to its independent position at the conference in Paris that led to the Paris Peace of 1856 . So he did not like the fact that, in addition to England, Austria was also exerting pressure in Berlin and Frankfurt to force Prussia to go to war in the service of the Western powers. In contrast, Napoleon III. much more forgiving of these "sins".

Envoy to St. Petersburg and Paris

Katharina Orlowa, around 1860, painting by Franz Xaver Winterhalter

The conflict with the Gerlachs also had domestic political reasons. After Prince Wilhelm took over the reign in 1857, the highly conservatives lost their influence; instead, the moderately liberal-conservative weekly paper party increased in importance. In the beginning of the New Era , Bismarck also tried to maintain his position by distancing himself from the extreme conservatives. In an extensive memorandum, he now spoke of a “national mission” by Prussia and of an alliance with the national-liberal movement. With that he made a remarkable change of course. However, his aim was not to fight for German unity for its own sake, but rather to make German nationalism serve to strengthen Prussian power.

The expectations that he associated with adapting to a changed political climate in Prussia were not initially fulfilled for him. In January 1859 he was transferred to Saint Petersburg as the Prussian envoy ; he himself spoke of having been sidelined on the Neva . The change was difficult for the family; The Bismarck couple had had the happiest time of their marriage in Frankfurt. In his new role, however, Bismarck expanded his diplomatic knowledge and enjoyed the goodwill of the Russian court and the imperial couple. But his ambition was increasingly directed towards the highest offices in the Prussian state. He closely observed the development of the Prussian constitutional conflict . The hope of being appointed Prime Minister in April 1862 was not fulfilled. Instead he became an envoy in Paris , where he resided in the Palais Beauharnais . From the start, however, this post was only considered a waiting position.

During this time, his wife tolerated his love affair with Princess Katharina Orlowa (1840–1875), wife of the Russian envoy in Belgium Nikolai Alexejewitsch Orlow . On August 22, 1862, shortly before his appointment as Prime Minister, Bismarck almost drowned in Biarritz with Katharina Orlowa and was rescued by a lighthouse keeper. On that day he only wrote to his wife: "After a few hours of rest and writing letters to Paris and Berlin, I took the second drink of salt water, this time in the harbor, without the waves, with a lot of swimming and diving, two wave pools would be too much for me during the day." It was Bismarck's last private escapade before he devoted himself exclusively to politics.

Prussian Prime Minister


Otto von Bismarck, around 1862

In Berlin the negative attitude of the Liberals against a planned army reform became more solid . The political public did not seriously question the need to modernize the army. However, the dispute was sparked by military-political details. Among other things, the Prussian King Wilhelm I was not prepared to abandon his plan of three instead of two years of military service. This made it impossible to reach an agreement with the Prussian state parliament. In this seemingly hopeless situation, Wilhelm I brought a possible resignation in favor of his son, the future Emperor Friedrich III. in the game.

War Minister Roon saw in the appointment of Bismarck as Prime Minister the only way to prevent the change of the throne in favor of the liberal Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm . With a telegram - “ Periculum in mora. Dépêchez-vous! "(" Imminent danger. Hurry up! ") - he called Bismarck back to Berlin. After a 25-hour train journey, Bismarck arrived in Berlin on September 20, 1862. Two days later he was received by King Wilhelm I in Babelsberg Palace . Only Bismarck's report is available on the content and course of the conversation, but in contrast to other parts of his memoirs, it should be essentially correct. Bismarck won the still hesitant king by pretending to be his absolute follower. He promised the implementation of the army reform and, for his part, emphasized the fundamental importance of the dispute over it. The king finally appointed Bismarck prime minister and foreign minister.

Relationship with the King and Principles

The appointment interview laid the foundation for the extraordinary relationship between the king and Bismarck in the decades that followed. Bismarck created the basis for an extraordinary position of trust with Wilhelm I and obtained a blanket power of attorney that expanded his room for maneuver beyond the usual extent of a leading minister ( Lothar Gall ) by offering himself to the monarch as a "Kurbrandenburg vassal" who served in in a precarious situation, brave to fight and in unswerving loyalty to his liege lord. In the years that followed, there were repeated differences of opinion, but they did not affect King Bismarck's basic trust.

In particular, Bismarck was given very strong powers, which he later referred to. One of them was that his ministers were only allowed to report to the monarch individually with his consent .

Bismarck remained a conservative, but an increasingly pragmatic politician who did not cling to ideological fixations. Ideals, theories and principles were not primarily decisive for him; what counted above all were the interests of the states. This resulted in the expansion of Prussia as a decisive goal. From Bismarck's point of view, it was only possible to preserve Prussia's claim to great power if it could gain a hegemonic position in Europe at the expense of Austria and if the other European powers tolerated it. To nationalism in the usual sense, it was not his doing, but to foreign policy realism. He insisted that foreign policy successes would also have a positive effect on his domestic policy. He wanted to preserve the monarchy and the authoritarian state as well as the special position of the military and the nobility. In cases of doubt, however, the first priority was the power of the state. This was also the aim of the temporary alliance with the national and liberal movement.

Conflict minister

Bismarck as Minister of the Bundestag , 1858

At the beginning of his ministerial presidency, a rejection of Bismarck's policy prevailed in large parts of the political public. He was still considered an extreme reactionary and therefore had a hard time finding suitable ministers. The first Bismarck cabinet consisted for the most part of rather secondary personalities. Among them were Carl von Bodelschwingh , Heinrich Friedrich von Itzenplitz and Gustav von Jagow . As head of a conflict ministry, Bismarck was initially involved in a dispute with the liberals.

At first he tried to neutralize the opposition through compensatory efforts. This failed because his blood-and-iron speech once again seemed to confirm the image of a very conservative politician:

“Germany does not look to Prussia's liberalism, but to its power. [...] The big questions of the time are not decided by speeches and majority decisions [...] - but by iron and blood. "

The speech was intended as a far-reaching alliance offer to the liberal and national movement. Although the liberal majority in the House of Representatives was of the opinion that the “ German question ” could not be enforced without violence, it was understood, especially the (liberal) press, “iron and blood” as an announced tyranny, which plunged into foreign policy adventures . This has helped to cement Bismarck's reputation as a violent politician. As a result, Bismarck gave up his lurching course and fought the liberals with all sharpness. Parliament was adjourned. Bismarck thus ruled in the autumn of 1862 without a proper budget. Parliament was convened again in early 1863. Bismarck justified himself with the famous, heavily controversial gap theory . After that, normal government action is based on compromises between the crown, the manor and the House of Representatives. If one of the sides refuses to give in, conflicts arise, “and conflicts, since state life cannot stand still, become questions of power; whoever has power in his hands then proceeds in his own way, because state life cannot stand still for a moment ”.

Power takes precedence, caricature from the Kladderadatsch of February 8, 1863

Behind this was Bismarck's premise that the case of an indissoluble dissent between monarch and parliament was not regulated in the constitution . Accordingly, there is a loophole that must be closed by the prerogative of the king. In the opinion of many contemporaries, this interpretation of the legal situation was simply a breach of the constitution. Maximilian von Schwerin-Putzar judged that this means "power comes before law". So far, the size of Prussia and the recognition of the royal family have been based on the principle “Right comes before power. Justitia fundamentum regnorum! That is the motto of the Prussian kings, and it will remain so on and on. "

In order to mobilize against the liberals, Bismarck pursued different plans at times. This also included an alliance with the social democratic movement . In 1863 he met Ferdinand Lassalle several times without this having any practical impact at the time.

Despite violent protests - public criticism even came from the heir to the throne - and the general expectation that the government would fail, Bismarck survived the crisis politically. He used repressive means up to and including dismissals against high-ranking liberal officials, including not least MPs. At the same time, freedom of the press was practically abolished in disregard of the constitution. In 1865, Bismarck challenged Professor Rudolf Virchow (a member of the Prussian House of Representatives) to a duel, but the latter refused because it was not a contemporary form of argument.

Of course, nothing changed in the political situation. The constitutional crisis remained unsolved until 1866 and degenerated into something like a positional war. Bismarck tried to wear down the opposition. He ruled with the state apparatus, and for a long time parliament was not even convened. It was dissolved again on May 9, 1866. Bismarck initially toyed with the idea of ​​a coup d'état by abolishing the right to vote and the constitution. The longer the conflict lasted, the more he rejected such demands, which were made by the conservative side, but because they did not promise a long-term stable political order.

Meanwhile, Bismarck tried to exert domestic pressure on the opposition with successes in foreign policy. At first this calculation only worked to a limited extent. The first agreement, the Alvensleben Convention of February 8, 1863, in support of Russia against the uprising in Poland , met with widespread opposition in Prussia, even in conservative circles. The pressure from Great Britain and Napoleon III. moreover made the convention worthless.

Austria saw Bismarck weakened and tried to use this to implement a reform of the German Confederation in favor of the Habsburg monarchy . Bismarck succeeded only with difficulty in dissuading the king from participating in the planned Prince’s Day in Frankfurt . In return, the Prime Minister presented the Prussian ideas for federal reform. As before, they aimed for equal rights for Austria and Prussia. What was new, however, was the demand for “national representation resulting from the direct participation of the whole nation”. This was nothing more and nothing less than an offer of alliance by Prussia to the national movement, which was closely linked to liberalism. In the short term, this was of no use to Bismarck, as he was out of the question as a partner for the liberals in view of the constitutional conflict. The opposition in Prussia was able to maintain its position in the new elections at the end of October 1863.

German-Danish War

The question of federal reform was soon masked by a crisis of international magnitude. After the death of Frederick VII of Denmark , a dispute broke out over the future of the two duchies of Schleswig and Holstein . Schleswig was a fiefdom of Denmark, while Holstein was a member of the German Confederation . However, both territories were subject to the Danish king in personal union ( Danish state as a whole ). Friedrich von Augustenburg claimed the lands for himself. The German national movement supported him and called for the unification of the two duchies and their incorporation into the German Confederation as an independent state. The new Danish King Christian IX. , who was under pressure from the national movement in his own country, reluctantly signed the November Constitution instead , which bound Schleswig closer to Denmark in constitutional terms than Holstein and thus violated the provisions of the London Protocol on the existence of the state as a whole.

To the disappointment of the national and liberal movement, Bismarck refused to support Friedrich von Augustenburg's claim. At the same time, however, he turned against the Danish position and sought in the medium term to integrate the two duchies into the Prussian sphere of influence. At the time of the crisis, however, this was not enforceable in terms of foreign policy. That is why Bismarck, like Austria, initially had an interest in a new Augustenburg state. The Austrians saw a "national solution" to the Schleswig-Holstein question as a threat to their own multi-ethnic state. Against this background, the two German great powers could once again work together.

As on other occasions, Bismarck's policy in the Schleswig-Holstein crisis did not follow a fixed plan. Rather, he assumed that the circumstances would most favor those who let themselves be guided by them, wrested solutions from them and did not try to impose them on them.

Bismarck initially appeared as a defender of the existing international law and asked Denmark to return to the soil of the London Treaties of 1852 . In doing so, he calmed the major European powers. Austria sided with Prussia. The other German states in the German Confederation and the Bundestag were largely marginalized as a result. In fact, Bismarck and the Austrian envoy Alajos Károlyi declared in Berlin that both great powers claim the right to disregard the decisions of the Bundestag. This was the first time that Prussia and Austria jointly called into question the continued existence of the Confederation.

Storming the Düppeler Schanzen

The conflict over Schleswig and Holstein first led to a federal execution against Holstein and Lauenburg in December 1863 and then - against the protests of the German Confederation - in February 1864 to the German-Danish war between Prussia and Austria on the one hand and Denmark on the other. In contrast to earlier Prussian wars, the actual leadership did not lie with the king or the high military, but with the prime minister, whose political calculations were subordinated to military steps. When the reports of ill-considered orders from the 80-year-old Commander-in-Chief General Friedrich von Wrangel piled up and he had applied to the king to recognize Schleswig-Holstein as an independent duchy , he was replaced at the instigation of Bismarck.

After Prussia's victory at the Düppeler Schanzen on April 18, 1864, the first negotiations on the settlement of the conflict took place at the London Conference , which failed not least because of Bismarck's tactics. The war continued and the allied Austrians and Prussians conquered Jutland . With that Denmark was defeated. The war ended with the Vienna Peace Treaty of October 30, 1864. In this, Denmark renounced the duchies of Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg. The temporary considerations of forming a federal state of their own among the Augustenburgers remained fruitless because Bismarck tried to turn such a federal state into a kind of Prussian protectorate. Instead, the duchies were jointly administered by Austria and Prussia . For Bismarck, this construction was only a temporary solution. Not least because of his goal of sole control over the duchies, the Prussian-Austrian antagonism emerged again.

Domestically, the success in Denmark did not cause the Progress Party to give in in the Prussian parliament. The Liberals were now on the defensive against Bismarck with various motions. B. rejected the expansion of the navy because of the constitutional dispute, which was objectively wanted by the majority. In the liberal movement, former critics of the Prime Minister such as Heinrich von Treitschke began to change their position. The liberals began to split into two camps: those who clung to the link between national unification and political liberalization, and those who pursued the first goal while neglecting the second.

German war

After the German-Danish War, Bismarck played seriously for some time with the idea of ​​a Prussian-Austrian agreement under a conservative auspices. When it became clear that the Austrian policy towards Germany determined by Ludwig von Biegeleben did not allow an expansion of Prussian power, Bismarck opted for an alliance with the liberal and national movement with the aim of creating a small German state . However, he by no means steered towards a military conflict from the start. Rather, he initially kept all options open with the aim of sole control over Schleswig and Holstein. In the Gastein Convention in August 1865 it was divided. Holstein was administered by Austria and Schleswig by Prussian. The Duchy of Saxony-Lauenburg came to Prussia. In gratitude, Bismarck received the Prussian title of count. For him, however, the conflict with Austria was only postponed.

Assassination attempt on Otto von Bismarck by Ferdinand Cohen-Blind on May 7, 1866

Bismarck ultimately decided to go to war because he hoped to end the Prussian constitutional conflict, as a split in the opposition camp was becoming more and more apparent. The main course was set at a meeting of the Privy Council on February 28, 1866. Bismarck succeeded in convincing the king, who was afraid of a "fratricidal war", of the war policy, and he managed to prevent Wilhelm I from changing his mind in the following months.

Bismarck then did everything possible to isolate and provoke Austria. However, he also kept the possibility open of breaking off the course of confrontation should there be excessive resistance from the great powers. With success Bismarck held especially Napoleon III. adopt a neutral stance. Bismarck secured the support of Italy through a fixed-term alliance treaty (April 8, 1866). After he brought the election of a directly elected German parliament into play again in order to provoke Austria, he triggered massive criticism in the Prussian conservative camp. Even Ludwig von Gerlach distanced himself sharply from him. The Liberals continued to regard Bismarck as implausible and did not accept his offer of an alliance. A German civil war was also extremely unpopular with the public. To avert the war, Ferdinand Cohen-Blind even carried out a pistol attack on Bismarck on the afternoon of Monday, May 7th, 1866 after 5 p.m., but survived it.

When Austria transferred the decision on the future of Schleswig-Holstein to the Bundestag on June 1, 1866 , Bismarck allowed the Prussian army to march into Holstein, arguing that this was a violation of the Gastein Convention. Therefore , on June 14th, at the request of Austria , the Bundestag decided to mobilize the armed forces . Prussia then declared the federal government to be dissolved, as such a resolution was inadmissible. It began on June 16, 1866 with the military operations against the kingdoms of Hanover , Saxony and against Kurhessen . A success of the Prussian army seemed by no means certain. Most of the contemporaries, including Napoleon III, expected an Austrian victory. Bismarck put everything on one card. “If we are beaten […] I will not return here. I'll fall in the last attack. "

Otto von Bismarck, Minister of War Albrecht von Roon and Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke (from left to right)

Bismarck endeavored to keep the war under control himself. This was in contrast to the plans of Chief of Staff Moltke, who planned an unlimited war. The danger that the military might evade political leadership did not come into play because of the shortness of the campaign. For various reasons - such as the division of the armed forces of the German Confederation, the strategic use of the railroad and new tactics on the battlefield - the Prussian army proved to be superior and won the decisive victory in the Battle of Königgrätz on July 3, 1866 .

While Wilhelm I and the military pushed for Vienna to be conquered and harsh peace conditions to be imposed on Austria, Bismarck enforced moderate conditions, assuming that a weakened Austria would be forced to form an alliance with France, which would have led to a two-front war against Prussia be able. In the Peace of Prague of August 23, 1866, Austria did not have to cede any territories to Prussia , but had to agree to the cession of Veneto to Italy, the dissolution of the German Confederation and the formation of a North German Confederation under Prussian leadership. Schleswig and Holstein were annexed by Prussia as well as Hanover, Kurhessen, Nassau and the Free City of Frankfurt . The southern German states initially remained independent.

In 1867, Bismarck acquired the Varzin manor from the endowment of 400,000 thalers that had been granted to him because of the successful German War . He had the Hammermühle paper mill built on its land , which would soon develop into the largest company in East Pomerania, as well as other paper mills. He sold the Kniephof estate to his nephew Philipp von Bismarck in 1868 .

Almost at the same time, he was appointed commander of honor of the traditional Order of St. John in 1868 .

End of the Prussian constitutional conflict

The war meant, among other things, that the conservatives were able to considerably expand their position in the Prussian state parliament. In order to finally settle the conflict with the liberals, Bismarck had it announced that he wanted to ask the state parliament for “ indemnity ”, that is, for the subsequent approval of the expenditure. This meant the admission that in the years since 1862 he had effectively governed without a legitimate budget. Bismarck did not want this to be seen as an admission of guilt. According to the historian Heinrich August Winkler , the government's position was constitutionally untenable.

Nevertheless, there was a change in policy that no one had expected. The question of how to judge Bismarck's offer led to a split in the liberals. While some argued that further progress on the national question could be expected from Bismarck, others believed that liberal civil liberties should take precedence over national unity. This conflict led to the separation of the moderate and national liberals from the Progressive Party and the formation of the National Liberal Party . Similar changes took place in the Conservative camp. From the ideologically influenced old conservatives around Leopold von Gerlach, who had already turned away from Bismarck before the war of 1866, now politically minded Bismarck supporters separated and formed the Free Conservative Party . In the years that followed, Bismarck was able to rely on national liberals and free conservatives for his policy.

Reform work

First session of the constituent Reichstag of the North German Confederation on February 24, 1867; Bismarck stands directly below the desk of the President of the Reichstag
“The disguises of our court master” - caricature alluding to Bismarck's accumulation of offices. Kladderadatsch , 1867

The victory in the German War brought about a change in the opinion of Bismarck in the German and Prussian public. With the annexations, Bismarck did not concern himself with the principle of monarchical legitimacy, which is central to the conservatives . The Reichstag of the new North German Confederation was elected according to democratic principles. The central aspects of the federal constitution were largely determined by Bismarck himself ("Putbuser dictates"), although he also had to agree to some compromises in the parliamentary deliberations. The constitution, which in essence continued to apply during the German Empire, is therefore also called the Bismarckian Reich constitution .

Together with the position of the Prussian Prime Minister and the office of Foreign Minister, Bismarck now held an extremely strong position of power as the North German Chancellor. In the constituent Reichstag (February to April 1867) it was decided that, according to the constitution, neither the chancellor nor other members of the government could be brought down by the Reichstag - a constitutional situation that is not unusual in Europe. All in all, Bismarck was very accommodating to the liberal demands, ultimately implementing reforms that were common at the time and could hardly be prevented in a modern state.

The internal changes went far beyond the constitution anyway. They included the general legal system, the economic and social constitution and the administrative structure. Despite all the shortcomings (which were typical of the period), it is noteworthy that under the responsibility of Bismarck, who a short time previously had been generally considered to be an arch-conservative, a state system that was very modern for the time emerged. In many areas this corresponded to liberal ideas. The actual implementation was in other hands. Rudolph von Delbrück in particular was a formative personality here. Nevertheless, Bismarck's personal influence should not be underestimated. The historian Lothar Gall sees the final implementation of the modern, bureaucratic, centralized institutional state in Central Europe with the legal forms and institutions that are important for the development of industrial society as essentially Bismarck's work.

Franco-Prussian War and the establishment of an empire

The way to war

In continuation of his functional relationship to the national idea, the nation became important for Bismarck as an integration factor after 1866. Bismarck recognized that the monarchy and the associated state could only survive in the long run if Prussia placed itself at the head of the national movement. At the same time, for reasons of power politics, he endeavored to unite the southern German states with the North German Confederation. His goal now was the creation of a small German nation state under Prussian leadership.

Bismarck and his staff in Versailles 1871 (sitting to the right of Bismarck Count Hatzfeld and von Keudell, standing from left to right: Count Wartensleben, Wellmann, Count Bismarck-Bohlen, Blanquart, Delbrück (with cylinder), Zezulke, Bucher, Wiehr, Abeken, Willisch, Dr. Busch, Taglioni, Wagner and v. Holstein)

Protective and defensive alliances were concluded with the southern German states , but the North German Confederation did not turn out to be the magnet Bismarck had hoped for and which led to the annexation of the distant German states. The elections for the customs parliament won opponents of union in Bavaria and Württemberg .

Bismarck was of the opinion that only an external threat could change the mood in his mind. However, he did not try to create a specific threat situation himself. Although he considered it likely that German unification had to be promoted by force, “an arbitrary intervention in the development of history, determined only on the basis of subjective reasons, has only ever resulted in the chopping off of unripe fruits; and in my opinion it is obvious that German unity is not ripe at this moment ”.

In terms of foreign policy, Bismarck reckoned on the part of France that there would be the strongest resistance to a German nation-state. In the French public, territorial demands were made under the slogan “ Vengeance for Sadowa ” (Königgrätz), which led to the Luxembourg crisis. With the neutralization of Luxembourg in May 1867, the problem was solved. Bismarck used the opportunity to reinforce the anti-French mood through parliamentary speeches and press articles . Napoleon III saw the outcome of the conflict as a defeat and then did everything possible to suppress further Prussian ambitions. It is unclear whether Bismarck was actually ready to accept the acquisition of Luxembourg by France, and only the circumstances prevented this, or whether the outcome of the crisis arose from his conscious calculation. Regardless of this, the North German Confederation and France now faced each other in all sharpness.

Another conflict with France arose in early 1870 over the question of the Spanish succession to the throne . Bismarck urged Prince Leopold von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen to run for office. The prince came from the Catholic line of the Hohenzollern rulers in Prussia, which is what Napoleon III believed him. made unacceptable. At first, Bismarck was only concerned with achieving a diplomatic victory while keeping several options open. Both Bismarck and Emperor Napoleon III. wanted to prevent a loss of reputation for themselves, so that the diplomatic conflict escalated into a national question.

Napoleon III and Otto von Bismarck after the Battle of Sedan

In France, the Hohenzollern candidacy had the effect Bismarck had hoped for, as there was fear of being encircled by Hohenzollern states in the future. The prince's resignation initially seemed to defuse the crisis. Wilhelm I, however, rejected France's request that he should renounce similar candidacies for all future in the name of the House of Hohenzollern. The king informed Bismarck about this in the so-called Emser Depesche . The latter took the opportunity and described Wilhelm's encounter with the French ambassador as particularly harsh in a press release. Napoleon III. had been snubbed before the whole world. Given the reactions in the French public, he saw no choice but to declare war on Prussia. With this, France, as intended by Bismarck, appeared as the aggressor . In Germany public opinion was now wholly on the side of Prussia, and the southern German states took the fall of the alliance for granted. In contrast, France was completely isolated in terms of foreign policy.

War and the founding of an empire

The Franco-Prussian War initially seemed to bring about a quick decision, following the usual pattern. As a result of the capture of Napoleon III. the Second Empire collapsed at the Battle of Sedan . However, a quick peace was not reached because the German side, with Bismarck in a leading role, made the cession of Alsace-Lorraine a condition. This territorial demand was also made under the influence of public opinion in Germany. In the short term, this meant that the newly formed French government not only continued the war, but even elevated it to a national people's war. In the long term, Franco-German relations were severely strained by the Alsace-Lorraine question. The permanent weakening of France developed into a central goal of Bismarck's foreign policy.

The proclamation of the German Empire , painting by Anton von Werner (1885). Werner painted the participants as they looked in 1885; Bismarck wears a white cuirassier uniform

The Prime Minister repeatedly interfered in the decisions of the military during the war. This led to violent conflicts with the military leadership, which culminated on the question of a siege or bombardment of Paris . Here Bismarck prevailed with his demand for a bombardment.

The war had put the opponents of German unification on the defensive in southern Germany as well. From mid-October 1870, Bismarck negotiated in Versailles with the delegations of the southern German states. Last but not least, an alliance of German princes and free cities was intended to counter more far-reaching ideas of the national and liberal camp. During the negotiations, Bismarck avoided direct pressure and instead argued with the advantages of such a merger. Overall, he put his ideas through.

Baden and Hessen-Darmstadt were the first to declare their accession to the North German Confederation. Württemberg and Bavaria paved the way for the establishment of the German Empire after they had been granted reservation rights. Bismarck himself wrote the “ Kaiserbrief ”, with which Ludwig II of Bavaria asked Wilhelm I to accept the imperial crown. In this context, Bismarck also bribed Ludwig with funds from the Welfenfonds . However, it was only with difficulty that he succeeded in persuading King Wilhelm, who feared that the Prussian monarchy would lose importance, to accept the title of emperor.

On January 18, 1871, the “Imperial Proclamation” took place in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles . It marked the foundation of the German Empire . A few days later Paris capitulated. The Franco-Prussian War ended on May 10, 1871 with the Peace of Frankfurt . On June 16, 1871, he and the Kaiser took part in the brilliant Berlin Victory Parade .

Bismarck had thus reached the climax of his political career. He was raised to the rank of prince and Wilhelm I gave him the Sachsenwald near Hamburg as a gift. Bismarck was now one of the great landowners in the empire and, thanks in part to the skillful administration of his funds by Gerson Bleichröder , was a wealthy man. He earned most of his fortune by selling the wood from the Sachsenwald. Between 1878 and 1886, his main customer, Friedrich Vohwinkel , bought wood worth more than one million marks from Bismarck's forests. Bismarck acquired a former hotel in Friedrichsruh in the Sachsenwald and had it converted. After 1871 Friedrichsruh became the focus of his private life.


The new empire largely adopted the constitution of the North German Confederation. As Reich Chancellor , Chairman of the Federal Council, Prussian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Bismarck remained the dominant politician. In addition, he was able to build on his immense prestige as the founder of the empire. This weighed heavily against Wilhelm I, so that Bismarck was mostly able to get his way through with the German Kaiser . Wilhelm therefore complained: "It is not easy to be emperor under such a chancellor."

Family and way of life

The only known recording of Bismarck's voice from 1889. He recites parts of the English song In Good Old Colony Times , the ballad Schwäbische Kunde by Ludwig Uhland , the song Gaudeamus igitur and the Marseillaise ; then he gives advice to his son.

As much as Bismarck was permeated with a passion for politics and a love of power, he also longed for a release from this burden. As early as 1872 he complained: "My oil has been used up, I can no longer." During the years of his chancellorship, Bismarck was not only psychologically stressed, but also physically badly damaged. More and more often he had to withdraw to his estates, sometimes for months. Bismarck drank and ate in abundance. He got bigger and bigger; In 1879 he weighed 247 pounds (124 kilograms) and was 1.90 meters tall. He suffered from numerous sometimes chronic diseases such as rheumatism , phlebitis, digestive disorders, hemorrhoids and above all from insomnia, caused by gluttony . In addition to consuming alcohol and tobacco, contemporaries such as Baroness Hildegard von Spitzemberg also reported taking morphine . Only Ernst Schweninger , his new doctor, was able to persuade him to adopt a healthy lifestyle in the 1880s. He previously suffered from facial neuralgia, which is why he grew a full beard before Schweninger's treatment so that he did not have to shave.

The family played a major role in Bismarck's private life. But also in this area he always got his way. When his son Herbert von Bismarck wanted to marry the divorced Princess Elisabeth zu Carolath-Beuthen in 1881 - a Catholic who was related to and related by marriage to numerous Bismarck opponents, such as Countess Marie Schleinitz - Bismarck ultimately prevented this by only giving him disinheritance, then threatened suicide. Herbert complied, but has been a bitter man ever since.

Bismarck had been made major general in 1866 , lieutenant general in 1871 and general of the cavalry in 1876 . In 1890, on the occasion of his resignation, he was appointed colonel general of the cavalry with the rank of field marshal .

Foreign policy

The founding of the German Empire fundamentally changed the European balance of power. The new empire was initially outside the pentarchy that had developed over the past hundred years, as it had a completely different power-political quality than the very small Prussia. Therefore, the empire was seen as a troublemaker of the international order. After a long learning process, Bismarck realized that the general mistrust of the other states towards Germany could only be reduced by self-restraint and the renouncement of further territorial gains. He therefore assured that the empire was saturated . "We are not pursuing a power policy, but a security policy," he affirmed in 1874.

One of the basic aims of Bismarck's foreign policy was to weaken France. In order to achieve this, he tried to establish good relations with Austria and Russia, without preferring either side. The result of this strategy was the Three Emperor Agreement of 1873. How difficult it was for the German Empire to consolidate its new position at the expense of France, however, was shown in 1875 by the " war-in-sight crisis " largely provoked by Bismarck himself . Bismarck's attempt to implement a German hegemonic policy against France failed.

Even if Bismarck only wanted to threaten the resurgent France and did not specifically plan a war, the crisis was instructive for him. It showed that rapprochement between France and Russia could not be ruled out in principle. The possibility of an alliance between the two worried him for the remainder of his term in office. But England had also made it clear that it would not accept a further increase in Germany's power. In case of doubt, the European wing powers worked together to prevent a disturbance of the power-political equilibrium.

Bismarckian alliance system

Berlin Congress, painting by Anton von Werner ; front center: Otto von Bismarck

Especially from the war-in-sight crisis, Bismarck drew the conclusion that a defensive policy was the only realistic alternative for the Reich. Due to its location in the center of Europe, the empire threatened to be drawn into a great European war. Against this background, Bismarck developed a diplomatic concept aimed at shifting the tensions between the great powers to the periphery in order to save the center of Europe from wars. This concept first came to fruition during the Balkan crisis between 1875 and 1878. Bismarck encouraged tensions between the powers, but at the same time prevented the conflicts from spiraling out of control. He summarized his foreign policy strategy in 1877 in the Kissinger Dictation . In doing so, he proceeded from "an overall political situation in which all powers except France need us, and where possible are deterred from coalitions against us through their relationships with one another."

During the Berlin Congress to end the Balkan crisis in 1878, Bismarck presented himself as an “honest broker”. Although this strengthened his foreign policy prestige abroad, the limits of his concept were immediately apparent. Tsar Alexander II blamed Bismarck for ensuring that Russia's successes remained very limited. This led to Bismarck pushing for cooperation with Austria. This in turn resulted in the two- alliance treaty of 1879. This defensive alliance against Russia became a permanent alliance that was to shape foreign policy throughout the empire. Bismarck himself stylized the connection as a kind of contemporary new edition of the German Confederation and as a “bulwark of peace for many years. Popular with all parties, exclusive nihilists and socialists. "

Bismarck also succeeded in relieving tensions between Germany and Russia and in 1881 concluded the three emperor alliance. This initially prevented close ties between Russia and France. The alliance system was supplemented in 1882 by the Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy, and in 1883 by the annexation of Romania to the Dual Alliance .

Imperialist episode

“The new crinoline. Bismarck tailors a fashionable colonial circlet for the unwilling Germania. ”Woodcut by Gustav Heil for the satirical magazine“ Berliner Wespen ”from March 13, 1885

In the mid-1880s, Bismarck seemed to have successfully completed the diplomatic safeguarding of the empire. The concept of saturation, however, was increasingly called into question by the imperialist tendencies of the time. Bismarck himself was actually an opponent of colonial acquisitions.

In Germany, too, an imperialist movement emerged that pushed for the acquisition of German colonies . Bismarck could not escape the pressure of this in the long run. Which domestic and foreign policy reasons led to a change of heart on the part of the Chancellor is still controversial today. The upcoming Reichstag elections are mentioned , the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce's insistence on protection of the Reich for its trade interests in West Africa, the social-imperialist strategy of diverting attention from the domestic political problems of the Empire, the attempt to drive a wedge between Great Britain and the England-friendly Crown Prince, whose accession to the throne he feared, and securing the global balance of power . In 1884 Bismarck finally seemed to be convinced that a successful colonial policy contained more opportunities than risks.

In 1884 and 1885 several territories in Africa and the Pacific were acquired. However, as the domestic political constellations in France and Great Britain changed, Bismarck quickly lost interest in German colonial policy. At first it remained an episode. In 1888 Bismarck told the colonial advocate Eugen Wolf : “Your map of Africa is very nice, but my map of Africa is in Europe. France is on the left, Russia is on the right, we are in the middle. This is my map of Africa. ”However, Bismarck had unintentionally released forces that could no longer be controlled during the Wilhelmine era.

Crisis of the alliance system

In the second half of the 1880s, Bismarck's foreign policy system was increasingly threatened. From 1886 the revanchist tendencies increased in France. At times there was a threat of a Franco-Russian alliance and with it the danger of a two-front war for the German Reich. Bismarck, however, exaggerated the crisis with France in order to be able to implement his domestic political plans to reinforce the army.

A new Balkan crisis arose almost at the same time. Bismarck tried in vain to balance the tensions between the two opponents Austria and Russia. The three emperor alliance broke up. In Russia, as a result, the votes for an alliance with France continued to increase. Problems caused by Bismarck's protective tariff policy exacerbated the situation. In Germany, influential figures from the military and diplomacy such as Friedrich von Holstein , Helmuth Karl Bernhard von Moltke and Alfred von Waldersee pleaded for a preventive war against Russia. Bismarck strictly rejected such ideas. He continued to think the war was avoidable. As a power and real politician, nationalist and social Darwinist ideas played no role for him.

Bismarck's old alliance system was broken, but he was able to defuse the crisis again. In the Balkans he refused to "get the chestnuts out of the fire for England and Austria." Without breaking with Austria, he managed to prevent an open war. In February 1887, Bismarck was involved in the background in bringing about the Mediterranean Entente between Great Britain, Austria and Italy. Its aim was to limit the Russian urge to expand. A short time later, Bismarck concluded the reinsurance treaty with Russia in order to tie Russia to Germany again.

Domestic politics

The liberal era and the Kulturkampf

Caricature by Wilhelm Scholz on the end of the Kulturkampf . Pope Leo XIII and Bismarck ask each other to kiss their feet . Caption: Pontifex: “Well please, don't be embarrassed!” Chancellor Bismarck: “Please also!” In the background, Bismarck's Catholic opponent Ludwig Windthorst observes the scene (from: Kladderadatsch , No. 14/15, March 18, 1878).
Bismarck in the interim uniform of the cuirassier regiment No. 7 (in the war year 1870). In 1868 he was placed there à la suite , in 1894 he became its head of the regiment .

As in the time of the North German Confederation, the domestic policy of the German Reich was based in the first few years on Bismarck's cooperation with the Free Conservatives and the National Liberals. These exerted a considerable influence on the standardization, design and modernization of the economic and legal system, both in the Reich and partly in Prussia. At times, Bismarck did not shy away from a conflict with the conservatives. When the Prussian mansion refused to approve a reform of the district order in 1872, Bismarck prompted Wilhelm I to appoint additional mansion members in order to get the law through with the help of this " pair push ". There was great outrage among the conservatives, and Roon even spoke of a coup. This led to Bismarck's resignation from the post of Prussian Prime Minister in favor of Roons. However, since he was not up to the office, Bismarck took it over again after a short time.

The first limits of Bismarck's cooperation with the liberals soon became apparent in various fields. The most important point of contention from 1873 onwards was the area of ​​military organization, over which there were violent disputes. The National Liberals could not agree to the factual waiver of parliamentary control of the military budget ("Äternat") demanded by Bismarck. A compromise proposal by Johannes Miquel came up with a solution in 1874 . Thereafter, the expenditure was approved for seven years each (" Septennat "). Despite this relative success, Bismarck had made the liberals aware of the limits of his willingness to cooperate, even though they de facto gave him eight years of freedom of action. At the same time, the agreement in principle with parliament strengthened Bismarck's position vis-à-vis the military.

National Liberals and Bismarck agreed in their opposition to a Catholic party. For Bismarck, it also played a role that the Center Party, founded in 1870, was a Catholic party that was essentially conservative and withdrawn from his influence. The center created a link between the Catholic workforce, dignitaries and the church. Bismarck consequently reduced it to the ultramontanism he feared . In fact, in the first Reichstag elections in 1871 , the center immediately became the second strongest force. Thus the electoral success of the National Liberals fell, especially in the Catholic-bourgeois camp. For Bismarck, the Kulturkampf had mainly political reasons, but he saw Ludwig Windthorst , the outstanding politician of the Center Party, as a personal opponent: “Two things preserve and beautify my life, my wife and Windthorst. One is there for love, the other for hate. "

Bismarck stylized the Catholics as enemies of the Reich - also to counter rising criticism of his administration. From 1872 various special laws against the Catholics were passed and repeatedly tightened as part of the so-called Kulturkampf . In the course of this dispute, the rights and power of the church were curtailed by imperial and Prussian state laws ( pulpit paragraph , bread basket law ), but civil marriage was also introduced. In this context, Bismarck said to the Reichstag on May 14, 1872: " Don't worry , we're not going to Kanossa , either physically or mentally."

The first, hard stage of the Kulturkampf ended in 1878. In that year Pius IX died. , his successor Leo XIII. signaled a willingness to communicate, which Bismarck was keen on in order to disembark the center. Negotiating directly with the Holy See harmed the party and diminished its reputation among the Catholic population. In addition, the Chancellor had not achieved what he had planned. The Catholic base and the Catholic party did not allow themselves to be divided; rather, the state attacks promoted the formation of a Catholic milieu . In addition, the Catholic press supported the party, which increasingly won seats in the Reichstag. A final reason for Bismarck arose from the break with the National Liberals that had ultimately taken place. He explored the possibility of integrating the center into his politics and thus forming a “blue-black coalition” with the conservatives.

The Kulturkampf ended in April 1887 with the second peace law. Until then, both sides contributed to the de-escalation. Civil marriage and state schools are a consequence of the Kulturkampf to this day. It was not unimportant for Bismarck's future policy that Windthorst was by no means an ultramontane zealot. He was critical of Prussia, but also pragmatic and constitutional, which opened up new political options for Bismarck.

Chancellor crisis and political change

The basis of Bismarck's cooperation with the Liberals grew weaker and weaker. With the start of the crisis , numerous large landowners and industrialists began to raise demands for protective tariffs. Bismarck hoped that economic policy would split the Liberals. Although he did not speak publicly on the matter, he encouraged the stakeholders to split, which was carried out. Bismarck saw a possible ally in the newly founded German Conservative Party ; the party program was coordinated with him personally. The resignation of Rudolph von Delbrück from the office of President of the Reich Chancellery in 1876 became a sign of the looming conflict with the Liberals . Delbrück had been seen as the embodiment of Bismarck's cooperation with the liberals and as the main representative of economic liberalism.

In view of the expected imminent change to the throne, the Liberals represented a danger for Bismarck. Under an emperor Friedrich III. the change to a liberal government was to be expected - along the lines of the British government under Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone . In 1877, Bismarck tried to eliminate Albrecht von Stosch , the chief of the navy, as he was considered to be the future emperor's chancellor. When this failed, Bismarck threatened to resign and temporarily withdrew to his estate in Varzin. The attempt to win over the National Liberals from there with offers - such as a ministerial office for Rudolf von Bennigsen - and concessions for his policy was unsuccessful. He was presented with counterclaims that ran counter to his plans to curb parliamentarism. Thereupon he decided to break with the National Liberals.

With the demand of the National Liberals to reorganize the Imperial Constitution in a more parliamentary sense, a limit had been reached that Bismarck was not prepared to cross. In the Reichstag he declared in 1879: "A parliamentary group can very well support the government and gain influence over it, but if it wants to govern the government, then it forces the government to react against it." In view of the mutual political blockade saw Bismarck forced himself to flee forward. In a speech in the Reichstag on February 22, 1878, he announced a change of course in domestic politics. The goal of a state tobacco monopoly, which he indicated, contradicted central economic principles. Beyond the specific occasion, the members of the government, who are close to liberalism, saw this as a first step towards a fundamentally changed economic policy. Heinrich Achenbach and Otto Camphausen resigned from their offices.

Socialist law and protective tariff

Reichsgesetzblatt of October 21, 1878 with the text of the "Law against the endangering efforts of the Social Democrats"

Since August Bebel's speech in the Reichstag on May 25, 1871 in favor of the Paris Commune , Bismarck saw the Social Democrats as a revolutionary threat. Even then he outlined his future policy as follows: “1. Compromise against the wishes of the working classes, 2. Inhibition of agitation that is dangerous to the state through prohibition and penal laws. "

In Bismarck's view, the social repercussions of the founder crisis increased the revolutionary danger. Two assassinations on Kaiser Wilhelm I in 1878 gave Bismarck a welcome opportunity to take action against the Socialist Workers' Party with a socialist law . He wanted to "wage a war of extermination through bills that would affect social democratic associations, assemblies, the press, freedom of movement (through the possibility of expulsion and internment) [...]."

In addition to the fight against social democracy, the attacks also offered Bismarck the opportunity to go on the political offensive again in the face of a lack of parliamentary support and to gain new majorities. A first draft law failed because of the overwhelming majority in the Reichstag. After the second attack, Bismarck had parliament dissolved. He wanted to regain the support of the National Liberals and, moreover, move the base of government further to the right. After the election, the two conservative parties together were stronger than the National Liberals.

In the new Reichstag, after a few concessions, the National Liberals also finally approved the Socialist Law. It remained in force until 1890, extended several times by Parliament. This exceptional law forbade socialist agitation, while the political work of the social democratic parliamentarians remained unaffected. Ultimately, the law failed to serve its purpose and inadvertently contributed to the consolidation of a socialist milieu, because it was only now that Marxist theory really took hold. It is noteworthy that Bismarck later devoted not a single word in his thoughts and memories to the subject .

Against the background of the economic crisis, calls from large landowners and heavy industrialists for protective tariffs grew louder in 1878. When a majority in the Reichstag emerged in favor of this demand, Bismarck, who was hoping for increased state income, also spoke in the so-called “Christmas letter” of December 15, 1878, in favor of a combination of tax reform and protective tariff policy. In the end, only a few National Liberals agreed to this. Instead, Bismarck relied on the German Conservative Party, the Free Conservatives and the Center. The liberal era was over. Bismarck now emphasized the importance of the authoritarian state as a guarantor of national unity and relied on a national-conservative collection movement including the center. However, this party constellation did not offer a solid parliamentary basis, as had previously been provided by the National Liberals. Many of Bismarck's political initiatives were therefore unsuccessful in the years that followed.

The transition from free trade to protectionism took place in several steps in the years that followed. Bismarck hoped to be able to make political capital from his response to the wishes of the connection between “rye and iron” in order to expand the conservative base of the empire and to consolidate his own position.

Social legislation and coup plans

In view of his difficult parliamentary situation, Bismarck tried to reduce the previous importance of the parties. The field of dispute should be social and economic policy. Therefore, in 1880, he himself took over the office of Minister of Commerce , which he held until 1890. In order to influence the economic legislation , he tried to establish an economics council made up of representatives of the business associations, with which the parliament should be bypassed. However, this failed due to the resistance of the parties.

The main aim of Bismarck's social policy was to create stronger ties to the state. The parties should be separated from their base. Bismarck by no means obscured his actual goal of maintaining power. Initially, only accident insurance was planned , later insurances against illness , disability and old-age poverty were added. These should largely be controlled by the state - at times Bismarck even spoke of state socialism . He wanted to "create in the great mass of the dispossessed the conservative attitude that brings with it the feeling of entitlement to a pension."

"My idea was to win over the working classes, or should I say to bribe them, to see the state as a social institution that exists because of them and wants to look after their well-being"

- Otto von Bismarck : Collected Works (Friedrichsruher Edition) 1924/1935, Volume 9, pp. 195/196

Not the insurance itself, but Bismarck's personal motives met with fierce opposition. Ultimately, Parliament deleted all "state socialist" elements from the accident insurance bill. Bismarck's plan to convince voters with the slogan of “social royalty” and anti-parliamentary tones after the dissolution of the Reichstag did not work out. In particular, the left-wing liberals gained significantly in the Reichstag elections on October 27, 1881 . Bismarck then briefly considered resigning, but decided against it and even hinted at coup plans.

Instead of the originally planned Reichsanstalt, he later enforced the employers' liability insurance association . Conceived as a neo-corporate association beyond the parties, the cooperatives were dominated by the entrepreneurs. Contrary to the original aim, the representatives of the right-wing parties gained weight in them. Health insurance, on the other hand, was dominated by the self-government of the workers; Social Democrats dominated many of the general local health insurance funds .

With the social legislation, Bismarck created a pillar of the modern welfare state ; But he did not achieve his political goals. The attempt to “dig up the roots” of the social democracy failed in the medium term, as did the project to expand the authoritarian state at the expense of the parties. Bismarck's interest in social legislation waned: he handled the old-age and disability insurance from 1889 on a business basis.

Protectionism and nationalism as domestic political instruments

Bismarck and Interior Minister Robert von Puttkamer succeeded in obliging the Prussian officials to unconditionally support government policy. Bismarck benefited from the fact that representatives of a protectionist and state-oriented course prevailed within the National Liberals, under the leadership of Johannes Miquel . They confessed to essential aspects of Bismarck's politics. Not least with the aim of serving the material interests of the conservative voters, Bismarck presented a protectionist tariff bill in 1885, with which imports were massively restricted.

Bismarck also reinforced anti-Polish politics in the Prussian eastern provinces in order to make use of nationalist emotions. With the expulsion of 35,000 non-Prussian Poles from 1885 and the settlement law of 1886, intensive Germanization began. Bismarck used the French revanchism movement to discredit all critics as traitors to the fatherland who opposed his military-political plans in particular with a broad press campaign. After the dissolution of the Reichstag, the nationalist agitation was intensified again.

From the Reichstag elections of February 1887, the government camp of conservatives and national liberals emerged with an absolute majority. With the so-called cartel parties, Bismarck now had the parliamentary majority that he had striven for over the past ten years. He was now able to push through both his military-political plans and favors for his conservative clientele.

Due to Bismarck's new position of power, the accession to the throne of Friedrich III. hardly a role in March 1888. When the terminally ill new emperor refused to agree to an extension of the legislative period and the socialist law, Bismarck instructed the empress that the monarch "as such is not a legislative factor".

"The pilot disembarks"

The punch caricature Dropping the Pilot (in German usually translated as: The pilot goes off board ) by Sir John Tenniel on the dismissal of Bismarck in 1890

Even if Bismarck did everything to eliminate potential successors, there had been increasing signs since the late 1880s that his political leadership role was coming to an end. The political public was calling for a departure from Bismarck's diplomacy, which was only conservative, in favor of a dynamic and risk-taking foreign policy. After the short reign of Friedrich III . faced two unequal personalities with the new Kaiser Wilhelm II and Bismarck. Bismarck considered Wilhelm immature and unprepared to take on responsibility. He was a "shower head, could not remain silent, was accessible to flatterers and could plunge Germany into a war without suspecting or wanting it." For Wilhelm, on the other hand, Bismarck was out of date and he made it clear that political influence himself was increasing want: "I want to let the old man breathe for six months, then I'll rule myself."

Against this background, Bismarck saw the wanton aggravation of the domestic political situation as an opportunity to convince the new emperor that he was indispensable. He therefore introduced a new, tightened and unlimited socialist law, knowing full well that this would disrupt the cartel parties, as the National Liberals could not support it. Wilhelm, who did not want to begin his reign with such a course of conflict, opposed the Chancellor's plans. In a meeting of the Privy Council on January 24, 1890, the two clashed. In the months that followed, Bismarck tried desperately to hold onto his position and again toyed with the idea of ​​a coup d'état, but also with the plan for close cooperation between the center and the conservatives.

On March 15, 1890, Kaiser Wilhelm finally withdrew support from the Chancellor because of his conflict course. Bismarck's application for dismissal was dated March 18, 1890. The majority of the public reacted with relief to his resignation. Theodor Fontane wrote: “It is lucky that we are rid of him. He was actually just a habitual ruler (sic!), Did what he wanted, and demanded more and more devotion. His greatness was behind him. ”As Otto von Bismarck's successor, the emperor chose the politically inexperienced General Leo von Caprivi .

After the resignation

Otto Fürst von Bismarck, painting by Franz von Lenbach , 1894
Bismarck speaks to a delegation from the German student body, Friedrichsruh, April 1, 1895
Bismarck with his " Reichdogs " Tyras II and Rebecca in Friedrichsruh, July 6th, 1891
Bismarck's death medal by the Stuttgart artist Karl Schwenzer .
First edition of the two-volume so-called “people's edition” of Bismarck's memoirs, Cotta, Stuttgart / Berlin 1905

Bismarck bitterly withdrew to Friedrichsruh, but did not finally say goodbye to politics. "But you can't ask me, after forty years of politics, suddenly not to bother with it." His aloofness was heightened by this seclusion, so that soon the word "hermit in the Sachsenwald" made the rounds. Just one day after his resignation, Bismarck announced that he wanted to write his memoir. Bismarck not only tried to shape his image for posterity, but also did not forego intervening in daily politics. Soon after his release, he embarked on an extremely active press policy. In particular, the “Hamburger Nachrichten” became his mouthpiece. Above all, Bismarck attacked his successor Caprivi sharply. In doing so, he indirectly criticized the emperor, for whom he had not forgiven his dismissal. On April 30, 1891, on the initiative of the young Diederich Hahn in the constituency of Neuhaus (Oste) , Hadeln , Lehe , Kehdingen , Jork , Bismarck was elected to the Reichstag for the resigned MP Hermann Gebhard . Wilhelm II even believed for a short time that the former chancellor would return to politics. However, Bismarck never entered his constituency and never made use of his mandate. In the Reichstag election in 1893 , he renounced the candidacy in favor of Diederich Hahn. The press policy in its own right was quite successful. Public opinion turned increasingly to Bismarck again, especially after Wilhelm II began to attack him publicly. For the reputation of the new Chancellor Caprivi, his attempt to prevent a meeting of Bismarck with Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria had a catastrophic effect . The trip to Vienna turned into a triumphal procession for the former chancellor, who declared that he no longer had any obligations to the German government: "All bridges have been broken."

As a result, Wilhelm II tried to make a gesture of reconciliation that was effective for the public. Several meetings with Bismarck in 1894 were received positively, but this did not result in any real relaxation. How low Bismarck's reputation was in the Reichstag was shown in 1895 by the failed vote for a congratulatory telegram on the occasion of his eightieth birthday. As a result, around 400 German cities made Otto von Bismarck an honorary citizen , including the members of the emerging city ​​associations in a closed form, such as the Baden, Thuringian and Saxon.

In 1896, Bismarck once again attracted the attention of the German and international press by disclosing the top secret reinsurance treaty . The creation of the memoirs was supported by Lothar Bucher , without whose insistence the work would probably never have been completed. Bucher not only complained about Bismarck's rapidly waning interest in his memoirs, but also described how the former chancellor deliberately misrepresented facts in them: "He does not want to be involved in anything that has failed, and he does not allow anyone to stand beside him." According to Buchers Bismarck's death in October 1892 improved the manuscripts, but the work was not continued.

The death of his wife in 1894 struck Bismarck deeply. From 1896 his health deteriorated more and more and he was finally dependent on a wheelchair. In 1897 Bismarck made a special gift to the towns of Birkholz and Schwanebeck . On March 22nd, on the occasion of the commemoration celebrations for Wilhelm I's 100th birthday, two strong imperial oaks (common pedunculate oaks ) were planted from his holdings in Sachsenwald . The illnesses of old age and other ailments, which he concealed from the public and even from his family, led to his death on July 30, 1898. Immediately after his death, two paparazzi created the photograph of Bismarck on his deathbed . His doctor reported about the end of his life:

"On July 30, 1898 [...] at 11 o'clock in the night, a rapidly progressing paralysis (acute pulmonary edema ) ended the only life rich in work, effort and success, but unfortunately also in physical and mental distress, Sr. Your Highness of Prince Otto v. Bismarck. The immortal had reached the age of 83 years and four months. A termination like the one brought about by the paralysis had been feared for a long time. After unusually strong breathing difficulties, gasping for air and very painful distension made the existence in the hours preceding the end - the morning had begun reasonably well after a not very quiet night - the end was relatively gentle and calm ... "

- Ernst Schweninger : In memory of Bismarck , quoted in the Neue Wiener Tagblatt from April 1, 1899

When Bismarck died, Wilhelm II was on the imperial yacht Hohenzollern during his summer trip to Norway . After the news of his death had reached him on the morning of July 31, he sent a telegram to Herbert von Bismarck. In it, Wilhelm announced a pompous burial of Bismarck in the Hohenzollern crypt in the Berlin Cathedral , since Bismarck was a friend of his grandfather Wilhelm I and the thanks of the German people were due to him forever for his achievements. Wilhelm II also sent the sculptor Reinhold Begas by telegram to design a sarcophagus for Bismarck; August zu Eulenburg should design the program of the celebration as a national event. Bismarck, however, had already decreed in his will in 1896 that he wanted to be buried in Friedrichsruh. His family complied with this request. Now, after his arrival in Kiel on August 1st, Kaiser Wilhelm wanted at least to stand by Bismarck's open coffin in Friedrichsruh and went there with his wife. When he arrived the following day, however, the coffin was already soldered.

Bismarck found his final resting place next to his wife in a mausoleum in Friedrichsruh .

For the conditions of the 19th century, the sales success of the memories, initially published in two volumes by Cotta'schen Verlagsbuchhandlung , was sensational: The first edition of more than three hundred thousand copies was out of print in the first days of December 1898, and from 1905 it was published as a so-called “people's edition”. The discussion of Kaiser Wilhelm II, which was of interest to the general public and historical research, and the dismissal of the Reich Chancellor were reserved for the third volume, which was not published until 1921.

Development of the Bismarck Memorial

Obituary notice of the corps students
Street sign in Bismarck-Str. Swakopmund , Namibia (2014). Former German South West Africa
Bismarck mausoleum in Friedrichsruh
Bismarck Square and Monument in Dar es Salaam

After his dismissal, an unprecedented personality cult around Bismarck began in Germany , which intensified after the death of the former chancellor. Around 500 monuments, columns and towers were dedicated to him, most of which were financed with donations. His bust was included in the Walhalla . Numerous streets were named after him. Industrial companies such as the Graf Bismarck colliery also bore his name. The Gelsenkirchen district of Bismarck emerged from the company's colliery colony . The dye Bismarck brown Y , the palm species Bismarckia nobilis , a method of preparing herring fillets ( Bismarck herring ) and, during the Second World War, the type ship of the Bismarck class (battleship Bismarck ) were named after the founder of the empire . Before that, the warships SMS Bismarck (1877) and SMS Fürst Bismarck (1897) had already been put into service with his name. Ornamental fountains were set up in numerous German cities after his death . Individual trees also got his name ( Bismarck fir ).

Particularly in the German colonies in Africa and in the Pacific , geographical conditions or places were given Bismarck's names ( Bismarck Archipelago , Bismarck Mountains , Bismarck Mountains , Bismarckberg , Bismarck Glacier , Bismarcksee , Bismarck Street , Bismarckburg , Bismarckplatz , German in Oessalfrika , for example ). But also in the United States several settlements were named after Bismarck. Among them was the capital of the state of North Dakota since 1873 .

Bismarck monument at the Deutsches Museum
( Fritz Behn )

Bismarck societies came into being in Germany. After his death, Bismarck monuments, mostly financed by donations , were erected in numerous cities , often in the form of Bismarck towers . The first statue erected during Bismarck's lifetime was created in 1877 in the Bad Kissingen district of Hausen , where he had been on a cure several times since 1874 (see Bismarck Memorial (Bad Kissingen) ). The largest Bismarck statue in Germany is the Bismarck Monument in Hamburg, inaugurated in 1906 . The construction of a gigantic Bismarck national monument near Bingerbrück was prevented by the outbreak of the First World War . Most of the bronze portraits show Bismarck in uniform. This form of representation covered up Bismarck's maxim of a foreign policy compromise and reflected less Bismarck's person than the zeitgeist of the Wilhelmine era.

In addition to historicizing paintings (e.g. by Franz von Lenbach ) and more private, everyday depictions (e.g. by Christian Wilhelm Allers ), there were also transfigured and exaggerating paintings that primarily addressed the establishment of an empire. The Chancellor was also celebrated in patriotic poems such as the Bismarck songs by Paul Warncke (1895) and Wilhelm Berger.

Also in 1895, on Bismarck's 80th birthday, the large-format book Our Bismarck was published , which over the years had a circulation of 100,000 copies. On his 80th birthday, he became an honorary member of the Pan-German Association for Proganda purposes .

In Friedrichsruh there had been a Bismarck Museum set up by the family since 1927. Since 1951 it has been in the old country house (with furnishings, documents, painting Proclamation of the German Empire by Anton von Werner ), opposite the family seat, which was newly built after the castle was destroyed in World War II, and also looks after the accessible Bismarck mausoleum .

In the old station building of the station Friedrichsruh is the Otto von Bismarck Foundation in 1996 by the Federal Republic of Germany as one of now five political foundations memorial has been set up and there is a permanent exhibition on Bismarck. Its main aim is to produce a new critical edition of Bismarck's writings. In Göttingen , Bismarck's student apartment, the Bismarckhäuschen , is accessible as a small museum. In Bismarck's birthplace Schönhausen, “the German people” acquired Gut Schönhausen II from the Gaertner family in 1885 and gave it to Bismarck on his 70th birthday. In this manor house, which formerly also belonged to the Bismarck family, a Bismarck Museum was built, which existed until 1948. In 1998, with funds from the State of Saxony-Anhalt, it was restored in the side wing that had been preserved, the so-called gatehouse of Schönhausen I Palace. In the same year, another Bismarck Museum was opened in Bad Kissingen , where Bismarck had taken a cure a total of 15 times between 1874 and 1893. On November 1, 2004 in Jever one another Bismarck Museum opened.


More than 150 years of Bismarck's reception have produced a multitude of interpretations of his personality and his actions, which are often contrary to one another. Until after the Second World War, the tendency of authors to let their own political and religious viewpoints influence their valuation predominated in German-language literature. The historian Karina Urbach sums it up in 1998: “At least six generations have already been brought closer to his life, and it can be said that almost every second generation in Germany has come across another version of Bismarck. No other German political figure has been used and abused for political purposes in such a way. "


Bismarck was already seen controversially during his lifetime. Already in the first biographical studies, some of them in several volumes, the complexity and impenetrability of Bismarck's personality was emphasized. In his inaugural speech in Freiburg in 1895, the sociologist Max Weber criticized Bismarck's role in the German unification process: “Because this life's work should have led not only to the external, but also to the internal unification of the nation, and we all know that this has not been achieved. It could not be achieved with his means. ” As Hans-Jürgen Perrey writes, Theodor Fontane was“ full of admiration for the historical achievements and the historical greatness of Otto von Bismarck, in order to express equally serious reservations in the same breath when he responded to the People and their character looked. ”“ He is the most interesting figure imaginable, I don't know any more interesting, but this constant tendency to deceive people, this perfected cunning is actually repugnant to me, and if I want to stand up, I have to look at other heroes ”, Fontane wrote on August 5, 1893 to his friend August von Heyden

Bismarck monument
in Bad Kissingen
(by Heinrich Manger , 1877)
Otto von Bismarck medallion from 1916 on the Bismarck Bridge Dresden-Löbtau from 1837 . Nachguss Kunstgießerei Lauchhammer 1998 .

These negative assessments could not prevail in the long run, not least because of Bismarck's memoirs, which, in addition to an almost inexhaustible supply of quotations, provided the Bismarck admirers with the basis for the image that many nationally-minded Germans had of Bismarck; this made it difficult to take a critical look at the founder of the empire. During his lifetime, Bismarck also had a personal influence on his representation in historiography by regulating historians' access to documents and, in some cases, reading manuscripts. After his death, his son Herbert von Bismarck took control of the Bismarck image for posterity for a few years.

Against the background of the unification of the empire, professional history could not escape Bismarck's fascination and contributed to the idealization of his person. Heinrich von Treitschke went from being a political critic of Bismarck to an ardent admirer. Bismarck's founding of the empire was a heroic feat of German history. Treitschke and other historians of the Little German- Borussian school of historiography were fascinated by the structure-breaking power of Bismarck. The Bismarck biographer Erich Marcks wrote in 1909: “And I like to admit the belief: this existence was so great, so powerful in itself, so comprehensively meaningful for its people that everything about it, insofar as it only has life, was historically valuable is. ”However, in agreement with other historians of the Wilhelmine era such as Heinrich von Sybel , Marcks emphasized the secondary importance of Bismarck's role compared to the achievements of the Hohenzollern. Not Bismarck, but Wilhelm I was portrayed in school books as the founder of the German Empire until 1914.

1915 , First World War , Paul Sturm's silver medal on Bismarck's 100th birthday. Published by Hugo Grünthal , owner of the Berlin company Robert Ball Nachf., Front page.
The reverse of this medal symbolizes the war effort: A giant carries Germany.

The decisive step towards an extreme exaggeration of Bismarck's image in historiography was taken during the First World War. On the occasion of Bismarck's 100th birthday in 1915, dedicatory writings were created that hardly obscured their purely propagandistic purpose. With patriotic exuberance, historians emphasized the duty of the German soldiers to defend the unity and greatness of Germany brought about by Bismarck against the other European powers, but withheld Bismarck's constant warnings against such a war in Central Europe. Rather, Bismarck researchers such as Erich Marcks, Max Lenz and Horst Kohl portrayed Bismarck as a leading figure in the German war effort.

Weimar Republic and the time of National Socialism

The German defeat in the war and the change to the Weimar Republic did not bring about a fundamental change in this nationalist image of Bismarck, because the elite of the historians' guild remained committed to the monarchy. In a situation in Germany that was perceived as humiliating and chaotic, Bismarck was portrayed as an orientation-giving father figure, whose genius had to be linked in order to overcome the "shame of Versailles". Insofar as criticism of its historical role was expressed, it referred to the “small German” solution to the German question, not to the unification per se brought about by war and “from above”. Traditionalism prevented innovative Bismarck biographies from appearing at this time. After all, the release of further documents in the 1920s enabled new detailed studies that highlighted Bismarck's diplomatic skills. In a forward-looking monograph, Otto Jöhlinger also analyzed Bismarck's anti-Semitism for the first time in 1921. The historian emphasized that the Chancellor had made such statements mainly in reactionary political circles, but that his own behavior towards Jews was shaped by pragmatism. The most popular Bismarck biography of the time was presented in 1926 by the writer Emil Ludwig with a critical psychological study in which Bismarck was portrayed as the Faustian hero in the drama of 19th century history.

During the time of National Socialism , a historical line of continuity between Bismarck and Adolf Hitler was often asserted in order to portray the National Socialist state as the completion of the German unity movement (but with the correction of the "small German solution"). Erich Marcks, Nestor of Bismarck Research, supported this ideological interpretation of history. In Great Britain, too, Bismarck was increasingly seen as a predecessor of Hitler during the Second World War, the beginning of the historiographical definition of a German Sonderweg . During the Second World War, however, the appeal of the National Socialists to Bismarck waned; Above all, his well-known warnings about a war between Germany and Russia were no longer opportune from 1941 onwards. Instead, conservative members of the resistance saw Bismarck as a leading figure.

In 1944, Arnold Oskar Meyer's Bismarck appeared, the man and the statesman , in which Bismarck was interpreted as national German and folkish. With this work, the Bismarck glorification reached a final climax in the tradition of the empire. In view of the defeat in World War II and the division of Germany, Meyer's exaggerated political interpretation could no longer exert a greater influence on the assessment of Bismarck's role through historiography.

The lawyer Erich Eyck raised an important critical voice with his three-volume biography of Bismarck, published in 1941–1944 while in exile in Switzerland. He accused Bismarck of Machiavellian methods and a lack of respect for the law, condemned his cynicism towards democratic, liberal and humanitarian values ​​and made him responsible for the failure of democracy in Germany. Bismarck's alliance system was built with skill, but it was artificial and doomed to failure from the start. However, Eyck could not escape Bismarck's fascination either: “But no one, wherever he stands, can fail to recognize that he is the central and dominant figure of his time and that he showed it the way with tremendous strength and tyrannical energy. And nobody can escape the fascinating attraction of this person, who is always peculiar and always significant in good and bad. "

Post-war period until 1990

After the Second World War, influential German historians such as Hans Rothfels and Theodor Schieder , albeit differentiated, stuck to an overall positive image of Bismarck. Many German specialist reviews of the Eyck biography, which did not appear until the 1950s, were accordingly extremely critical. In a letter, Gerhard Ritter accused Eyck of merely confirming anti-German clichés. In contrast, Friedrich Meinecke , who had previously been a Bismarck admirer himself, argued in 1946 in The German Catastrophe that the traumatic failure of the German nation-state prevented Bismarck from celebrating for the foreseeable future.

The Briton Alan JP Taylor published in 1955 a psychologically tinged and not least controversial biography of Bismarck, in which he tried to explain the complex personality of the subject of his study with the inner struggle between paternal and maternal inheritance. Taylor contrasted Bismarck's political instinct in the struggle for a peace order in Europe with the aggressive German foreign policy since the Wilhelmine era. The first German post-war biography of Bismarck by Wilhelm Mommsen differed from its predecessors primarily in its sober style, which sought an objective perspective. Mommsen emphasized Bismarck's political flexibility and took the view that his domestic political mistakes should not cover up the achievements of an eminent statesman.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the approach centered on the biographies of “great figures” lost a lot of ground in the West German historians' guild. Accordingly, Bismarck's person and actions were no longer the preferred subject of study, but rather the political, social and cultural structures in which he was integrated, but which he himself also influenced. In the social history school around the Bismarck-critical Hans-Ulrich Wehler , among other things, Bismarck's practice of campaigning against supposed enemies of the state (social democrats, Jesuits, etc.) was problematized. In the form of a “negative integration”, the stirring up of fears served the Reich Chancellor to bind social milieus to the new empire. From 1878 onwards, Bismarck had also succeeded in using a “collection policy” to combine the interests of two influential groups, namely the leading landowners (Junkers) and the industrialists, in an “alliance against progress”. Wehler characterized Bismarck's system of rule in 1973 as a Bonapartist dictatorship. This included charismatic, plebiscitary and traditional elements. Wehler later tried to interpret Bismarck's position with the help of Max Weber's concept of “charismatic rule”.

At the end of the 1970s, a counter-movement began to prevent social historians from doing biographical studies. Since then, new Bismarck biographies have appeared at regular intervals, most of which paint a nuanced picture of the first Reich Chancellor beyond exaggerated exaggeration or demonization. Most of the more recent biographies have in common that while attempting a synthesis they emphasize the power of Bismarck, but show his person embedded in contemporary structures and political processes.

Fritz Stern , who in 1978 presented a double biography of Bismarck and his banker Gerson von Bleichröder , took an unusual approach . Lothar Gall drew the picture of a "white revolutionary" in 1980, taking up a term used by Ludwig Bamberger and Henry Kissinger . Afterwards, Bismarck was an arch-royalist who wanted to preserve the conservative structures, but for this purpose also overturned existing orders and had a modernizing effect. In the end, however, he was no longer able to control the forces he had called and tried to suppress modern tendencies.

The American historian Otto Plant published a multi-volume biography of Bismarck between 1963 and 1990, which, in contrast to other works, focused less on Bismarck's actions than on his personality and examined this in part with psychoanalytic methods. Plant criticized Bismarck for having adapted the imperial constitution and the dealings with the parties entirely to his immediate political purposes and thereby set a powerful negative example. According to Plant, the portrayal of the unifier of the German nation goes back to Bismarck's late self-stylization, although originally he only wanted to strengthen Prussia's influence in the concert of the European powers.

The GDR historian Ernst Engelberg published the first volume of his Bismarck biography in 1985, which met with amazement in East and West because she treated the Chancellor rather lovingly and, apart from the persecution of socialists, not very critically. Engelberg saw, in agreement with other Marxist-Leninist historians of the time, the founding of the empire as a phase of progress that had made a national union possible for the working class. Engelberg did not see Bismarck himself as an adventurer, but as a deliberately acting politician whose character defects could not be blamed on him personally, but rather could be explained by his social roots in Junkerism. The First World War was not Bismarck's legacy, but the fault of his successors.

See also

Literature, sources and representations

Writings and speeches of Bismarck

  • Collected Works - New Friedrichsruher Edition . Schöningh, Paderborn [a. a.] 2004 ff.
  • Thoughts and memories . Herbig, Munich 2007 (1898-1919), ISBN 978-3-7766-5012-9 .
  • Prince Bismarck's political speeches . Historical-critical complete edition provided by Horst Kohl. 14 volumes. Cotta, Stuttgart 1892-1905.
  • Bismarck letters 1836–1872 . 6th, heavily probable edition. Edited by Horst Kohl. Velhagen & Klasing, Bielefeld and Leipzig 1897.
  • Collected Works. Letters, speeches and files . Ges. And ed. by Bruno Walden. 4 vol. Fried, Berlin 1890.
  • The political reports of Prince Bismarck from Petersburg and Paris (1859–1862) . Edited by Ludwig Raschdau. Vol. 1: 1859-1860 . Vol. 2: 1861-1862 . Hobbing, Berlin 1920.
  • Bismarck's correspondence with Minister Freiherr von Schleinitz. 1858-1861 . Cotta, Stuttgart and Berlin 1905.
  • Bismarck and the State. Selected documents . 2nd Edition. Introduced by Hans Rothfels. Knowledge Book Society, Darmstadt 1953 (1925).
  • The speeches of Prince Bismarck 1848–1894 . Edited by Heinrich von Poschinger. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1895.
  • Prince Bismarck's letters to his bride and wife . Edited by Prince Herbert von Bismarck. Cotta, Stuttgart 1900.
  • Bismarck's letters to his wife from the war of 1870/71 . Cotta, Stuttgart and Berlin 1903.
  • Letters Otto von Bismarck to sister and brother-in-law Malwine von Arnim nee v. Bismarck and Oskar von Arnim-Kröchlendorff 1843–1897 . Edited by Horst Kohl. Dieterich, Leipzig 1915.
  • Bismarck. Letters, reports, memoranda, decrees, discussions, speeches, contracts . Edited by Karl Mielcke. Limbach, Braunschweig 1954.
  • Bismarck's Spanish "Diversion" in 1870 and the Prussian-German war for the establishment of an empire. Sources on the pre- and post-history of the Hohenzollern candidacy for the throne in Madrid 1866–1932 . 3 vol. Ed. By Josef Becker with the assistance of Michael Schmid. Schöningh, Paderborn [a. a.] 2003-2007.
  • Otto von Bismarck - A selection of works . Edited by Alfred Milatz. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1981.

Depictions of Bismarck's life and the Bismarck myth

Literature on the epoch


  • Bismarck . Feature film, Germany 1913. Directors: William Wauer , Gustav Trautschold, Richard Schott. With Franz Ludwig in the role of Bismarck.
  • Bismarck. The film of the Germans . Feature film, world premiere December 23, 1925 (1st part), January 7, 1927 (2nd part). Director: Ernst Wendt . Screenplay: Ludwig Draw .
  • Bismarck 1862-1898 . Feature film, Germany 1927. Director: Curt Blachnitzky .
  • Bismarck . Feature film, Germany 1940. Director: Wolfgang Liebeneiner .
  • The discharge . Feature film, Germany 1942. Director: Wolfgang Liebeneiner.
  • Made in Germany - a life for Zeiss . Feature film, FRG 1956. Director: Wolfgang Schleif . With Heinz Klevenow as Bismarck.
  • Prussia above all ... Bismarck's German unification . TV fiction film (ZDF) about Bismarck and the founding of the German Empire, FR Germany 1971. Director: Rudolf Jugert ( entry on IMDB ).
  • Bebel and Bismarck . TV feature film, GDR 1987. Director: Wolf-Dieter Panse . With Wolfgang Dehler in the role of Bismarck.
  • Bismarck . TV play in three parts. Part 1: I am a Prussian . Part 2: iron and blood . Part 3: Virtuoso of Power . Federal Republic of Germany 1989/1990. Director: Tom Toelle.
  • Bismarck - Chancellor and Demon . TV docu-drama in two parts. Part 1: From squire to founder of an empire . Part 2: Governance and Loss of Power . Germany 2007. Script and direction: Christoph Weinert.
  • Bismarck and the German Empire (= The Germans , Season 1, Episode 9). Documentary, ZDF. Germany 2008. Director: Friedrich Scherer.
  • The establishment of an empire . Documentary game, ARD-alpha. Germany 2012. Book: Klaus Gietinger and Bernd Fischerauer. Director: Bernd Fischerauer.
  • The nervous great power . Documentary game, ARD-alpha. Germany 2012. Book: Klaus Gietinger and Bernd Fischerauer. Director: Bernd Fischerauer.
  • The two lives of Otto von Bismarck . Documentary, ZDF history . Germany 2015. A film by Annette Tewes.

Web links

Commons : Otto von Bismarck  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Otto von Bismarck  - Sources and full texts


  1. According to Volker Ullrich's account ( Otto von Bismarck . 4th edition, Rowohlt , Reinbek 1998), Bismarck consistently rejected the title of Duke of Lauenburg and also returned mail that was addressed in this way.
  2. ^ Max Osborn : Franz Krüger. Velhagen and Klasing, Bielefeld / Leipzig 1910 (= H. Knackfuß (Ed.): Artist Monographs , Vol. 101), pp. 44, 97.
  3. Christopher Clark : Prussia. Rise and fall 1600–1947. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 978-3-421-05392-3 , pp. 592 f .; Lothar Gall : Bismarck. The white revolutionary. 2nd edition Ullstein, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-548-26515-4 , pp. 27-30; Volker Ullrich: Otto von Bismarck. Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1998, ISBN 3-499-50602-5 , p. 14 f.
  4. Ullrich: Bismarck , p. 17; Gall: Bismarck , p. 29.
  5. Ullrich: Bismarck. Pp. 16-20.
  6. Bridal recruitment letter to Heinrich von Puttkamer. In: Prince Bismarck's letters to his bride and wife. Published by Prince Herbert von Bismarck. Cotta, Stuttgart 1900.
  7. ^ Letter from Bismarck to his brother Bernhard from October 16, 1836. In: Otto Becker : Bismarck's Ringen um Deutschlands Gestaltung. Edited and supplemented by Alexander Scharff. Quelle & Meyer, Heidelberg 1958.
  8. Ludwig Reiners : Bismarck's rise 1815-64. CH Beck, Munich 1956.
  9. Rudolf von Jhering, on his visit to Otto von Bismarck , p. 144 f.
  10. Bismarck: Thoughts and Memories I , p. 1 ff.
  11. Ullrich: Bismarck , p. 23; Gall: Bismarck , pp. 33-36.
  12. ^ Paul Kuetgens (Ed.): Carl Borromäus Cünzer Foil des Dames. Illustr. Bert Heller. Aachen 1932, p. 11.
  13. Quoted from Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 26.
  14. Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 27.
  15. Ernst Engelberg: Bismarck - Urpreuße and founder of the empire. Siedler, Berlin 1985, p. 181.
  16. Ullrich: Bismarck , p. 27; Gall: Bismarck , pp. 42-49.
  17. Bismarck's bridal letter to Heinrich von Puttkamer (full text)
  18. ^ Kolb: Bismarck , p. 18.
  19. ^ Gall: Bismarck. Pp. 50-55.
  20. Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 32 f.
  21. ^ Theodor Wengler : The Pomeranian Provincial Association. Directory of the members of the Provincial Parliament. Publications of the Historical Commission for Pomerania, Series V, Vol. 44, Böhlau, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-412-20109-8 , p. 159; Eberhard Kolb : Bismarck. CH Beck, Munich 2009, p. 13 .
  22. ^ Gall: Bismarck. P. 63.
  23. Eberhard Kolb: Bismarck. CH Beck, Munich 2009, pp. 19-20 .
  24. Quoted from Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 36.
  25. Ullrich: Bismarck. Pp. 34-36.
  26. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wehler: German history of society. Volume 2: From the reform era to the industrial and political 'German double revolution'. 1815-1845 / 49. Beck, Munich 1987, p. 451.
  27. ^ Gall: Bismarck. P. 70; Ullrich: Bismarck , p. 38.
  28. Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 38 f.
  29. Otto von Bismarck: Thoughts and Memories. Second Chapter, IV: The year 1848 in the Gutenberg-DE project
  30. ^ Gall: Bismarck. P. 83.
  31. ^ Ernst Rudolf Huber: German Constitutional History since 1789. Volume II: The struggle for unity and freedom 1830 to 1850. 3rd edition, W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [et al.] 1988, p. 886.
  32. ^ Gall: Bismarck. Pp. 102-106.
  33. Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 44.
  34. Quotation from Ullrich: Bismarck. Pp. 39-45 (45).
  35. Thomas Nipperdey: German History 1800–1866. Citizens' world and a strong state. 6th revised edition. CH Beck, Munich 1993, ISBN 3-406-09354-X , pp. 316, 673.
  36. Adolf Matthais: Bismarck: His life and his work, p. 143.
  37. Petra Dollinger: Women at the Ballenstedter Hof: Contributions to the history of court society and the position of women in the 19th century, Leipzig 1999, ISBN 393324059X , p. 537.
  38. ^ Gall: Bismarck. P. 123.
  39. ^ Gall: Bismarck. P. 141 f.
  40. ^ Gall: Bismarck. P. 148.
  41. Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 48.
  42. Ullrich: Bismarck , pp. 46-52; Gall: Bismarck , p. 161 f.
  43. Otto von Bismarck: Thoughts and Memories . Berlin edition 2013 by Michael Holzinger, Part I, Chapter 5, p. 84.
  44. Otto von Bismarck: Thoughts and Memories . Berlin edition 2013 by Michael Holzinger, Part I, Chapter 8, p. 109.
  45. Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 52.
  46. Lutz Krusche: If only Bismarck had drowned / A summer starting point. The lighthouse keeper and Europe's fate , Berliner Zeitung , August 21, 2006.
  47. Herbert von Bismarck : Prince Bismarck's letters to his bride and wife , Stuttgart 1919, p. 453.
  48. Ullrich: Bismarck. Pp. 53-58.
  49. ^ Gall: Bismarck. P. 201.
  50. Ullrich: Bismarck , p. 59; Gall: Bismarck , p. 242.
  51. a b Gall: Bismarck , p. 244 f.
  52. Quotation from Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 60.
  53. ^ Nipperdey: Bürgerwelt. P. 757; Ullrich: Bismarck , pp. 58-60.
  54. ^ Gall: Bismarck. P. 246 f.
  55. Otto von Bismarck: Thoughts and Memories , especially Part III (only published in 1919)
  56. ^ Nipperdey: Bürgerwelt. P. 759 f.
  57. ^ Gall, Lothar: Bismarck. P. 254.
  58. Otto von Bismarck: Thoughts and Memories. Chapter fourteenth: Ministry of Conflicts in the Gutenberg-DE project
  59. Quotation from Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 61; GHDI document - excerpt from Bismarck's speech on "Blood and Iron" (1862)
  60. ^ Basic course in German military history. The time until 1914 . On behalf of the Military History Research Office , ed. by Karl-Volker Neugebauer . Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-486-57853-7 , p. 324.
  61. Eberhard Kolb: Bismarck. CH Beck, Munich 2009, p. 57.
  62. ^ Gall: Bismarck. P. 256 f.
  63. Quotation from Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 62.
  64. Quotation from Gall: Bismarck. P. 279.
  65. Ullrich: Bismarck. Pp. 60-65; Nipperdey: Bürgerwelt , pp. 761–768.
  66. Quotation from Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 67.
  67. ^ Nipperdey: Bürgerwelt. Pp. 707-709; Ullrich: Bismarck , p. 66 f.
  68. ^ Gall: Bismarck. P. 299.
  69. Ullrich: Bismarck , p. 68 f .; Gall: Bismarck , pp. 301-303.
  70. Clark: Prussia . Pp. 598-605; Kaiser Friedrich III., Diaries 1848–1866 , Leipzig 1929, p. 242.
  71. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: The long way to the west. German history 1806–1933. Federal Agency for Civic Education / bpb, Bonn 2002, ISBN 3-89331-463-6 , pp. 161–164; Ullrich: Bismarck , pp. 70-72.
  72. Winkler: Weg nach Westen , p. 165.
  73. ^ Gall: Bismarck. P. 324.
  74. Winkler: Weg nach Westen , p. 167.
  75. Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 73 f.
  76. About the assassination attempt on Count Bismarck . In: Morning Post . Vienna May 10, 1866, p. 1 ( [accessed on August 29, 2019]).
  77. Clark: Prussia . P. 611.
  78. Quoted from Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 75.
  79. ^ Gall: Bismarck. P. 366 f.
  80. Ernst Gottfried Mahrenholz: A kingdom becomes a province. About Hanover’s fateful year 1866. Göttingen 2011, p. 67 f.
  81. Ullrich: Bismarck , pp. 72-78; Clark: Prussia , pp. 608-620; Winkler: Weg nach Westen , pp. 166–178.
  82. Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 83.
  83. Johanniterorden (Ed.): List of the members of the Balley Brandenburg of the Knightly Order of St. Johannis from the Hospital in Jerusalem 1890 . Julius Sittenfeld, Berlin 1890, p. 3 ( [accessed September 1, 2021]).
  84. Winkler: Weg nach Westen , p. 187.
  85. Ullrich: Bismarck , p. 78 f .; Gall: Bismarck , p. 378 f.
  86. Martin Kirsch: Monarch and Parliament in the 19th Century. Monarchical constitutionalism as a European type of constitution - France in comparison, Göttingen 1999.
  87. Hedwig Richter , Modern Elections. A history of democracy in Prussia and the USA in the 19th century. Hamburg 2017, pp. 330–335; Christoph Nonn , Bismarck. A Prussian and his century. CH Beck, Munich 2015, p. 356; Gall, Bismarck, p. 515.
  88. ^ Gall: Bismarck. Pp. 393-400.
  89. ^ Gall: Bismarck. P. 401 f.
  90. ^ Gall: Bismarck. P. 415 f.
  91. Ullrich: Bismarck. Pp. 83-87.
  92. ^ Gall: Bismarck. P. 406.
  93. ^ Thomas Nipperdey: German History 1866-1918 . Volume II: Power State Before Democracy. CH Beck, Munich 1992, pp. 60/61.
  94. ^ The original version of the Emser Depesche and the version edited by Bismarck (GHDI document).
  95. Ullrich: Bismarck. Pp. 87-89.
  96. ^ Gall: Bismarck. P. 438.
  97. Sample document on the dispute between Bismarck and the military (December 1870) (GHDI document).
  98. ^ Gall: Bismarck. P. 447 f.
  99. ^ Letter from Bismarck to Ludwig II of Bavaria (November 27, 1870) (GHDI document)
  100. Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 93 f.
  101. ^ Fritz Richard Stern: Gold und Eisen: Bismarck and his banker Bleichröder , Munich 2008, p. 418.
  102. Ullrich: Bismarck , pp. 90-94; Gall: Bismarck , p. 461 f.
  103. Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 102 f.
  104. Sensational sound recordings - this is how Bismarck sounded! on one day ( Spiegel Online ) from January 31, 2012.
  105. Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 111.
  106. ^ Rudolf Vierhaus (ed.): The diary of the Baroness Spitzemberg. Records from the court society of the Hohenzollern Empire. Göttingen 1989, p. 146.
  107. Oswald Müller-Plathe: Bismarck's "Black Tyrann". In: Hamburger Ärzteblatt, May 10, 2016, p. 34.
  108. See Philipp zu Eulenburg : The tragedy of Herbert Bismarck , in: From fifty years . Berlin 1923, pp. 81-107; Ullrich: Bismarck , pp. 111-114.
  109. ^ Thomas Nipperdey: German History 1866-1918 . Vol. 2: Power state before democracy . 3rd, through Edition, Beck, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-406-34801-7 , p. 426.
  110. Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 95; Nipperdey: power state . P. 427 f.
  111. ^ Nipperdey: Power State . P. 432.
  112. Ullrich: Bismarck. Pp. 95-97; Nipperdey: power state . P. 433.
  113. Quoted from Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 98.
  114. ^ Gall: Bismarck. P. 595.
  115. Ullrich: Bismarck. Pp. 97-100; cf. in detail on this Nipperdey: Machtstaat . Pp. 433-445.
  116. Dirk van Laak : Imperial Infrastructure. German plans for the development of Africa from 1880 to 1960. Schöningh, Paderborn 2004, p. 64 f .; Beate Althammer: The Bismarck Empire 1871-1890 . Schöningh, Paderborn 2009, pp. 228-231.
  117. ^ Gordon A. Craig : German History 1866-1945. From the North German Confederation to the end of the Third Reich. Beck, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-406-42106-7 , p. 114.
  118. ^ A b Winfried Baumgart : Bismarck's colonial policy. In: Johannes Kunisch (ed.): Bismarck and his time (= research on Brandenburg and Prussian history, new series, volume 1), Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1992, ISBN 3-428-07314-2 , pp. 141–154 , here p. 143 f.
  119. Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 101.
  120. Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 100 f .; see Nipperdey: Power State . Pp. 445-453.
  121. ^ Nipperdey: Power State . P. 459.
  122. ^ Nipperdey: Power State . Pp. 454-461.
  123. a b Gall: Bismarck , p. 529.
  124. Wilfried Loth: Das Kaiserreich. Authority and Political Mobilization . Dt. Taschenbuch-Verlag, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-423-04505-1 , pp. 44-50.
  125. ^ Rudolf Morsey : Bismarck and the center . In: Lothar Gall (ed.): Bismarck and the parties . Paderborn 2001, pp. 43–72, here pp. 48–51.
  126. Quoted from Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 105; Loth: Kaiserreich , p. 53; Gall: Bismarck , p. 473.
  127. Reichstag protocols 1,872.1 S. 356 top left ; also reprinted in Provinzial-Correspondenz No. 20 of May 15, 1872, p. 2 r.Sp.
  128. ^ Rudolf Morsey: Bismarck and the center. In: Lothar Gall (ed.): Bismarck and the parties . Paderborn 2001, pp. 43–72, here p. 52.
  129. ^ Rudolf Morsey: Bismarck and the center. In: Lothar Gall (ed.): Bismarck and the parties . Paderborn 2001, pp. 43–72, here p. 57.
  130. ^ Rudolf Morsey: Bismarck and the center. In: Lothar Gall (ed.): Bismarck and the parties . Paderborn 2001, pp. 43–72, here p. 54.
  131. ^ Rudolf Morsey: Bismarck and the center. In: Lothar Gall (ed.): Bismarck and the parties . Paderborn 2001, pp. 43–72, here pp. 55–57 and 71 f.
  132. ^ Rudolf Morsey: Bismarck and the center. In: Lothar Gall (ed.): Bismarck and the parties . Paderborn 2001, pp. 43–72, here p. 61.
  133. Ullrich: Bismarck , p. 104 f .; Loth: Kaiserreich , pp. 50–59.
  134. ^ Gall: Bismarck. P. 548.
  135. Loth: Empire. Pp. 59-63.
  136. Quoted from Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 108.
  137. ^ Gall: Bismarck. Pp. 558 f., 563.
  138. Ernst Schraepler, August Bebel. Social Democrat in the Empire . Göttingen 1966, p. 33.
  139. Quoted from Gall: Bismarck. P. 497.
  140. Quoted from Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 106.
  141. ^ Gall: Bismarck. Pp. 564, 570 f.
  142. Loth: Kaiserreich , pp. 64–67; Gall: Bismarck , pp. 584, 589.
  143. Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 108.
  144. ^ Gall: Bismarck. P. 604.
  145. ^ Gall: Bismarck. P. 606.
  146. On the emergence of Bismarck's social insurance, see the collection of sources on the history of German social policy 1867 to 1914 , Section I: From the Age of Establishment to the Imperial Social Message (1867–1881) , Volumes 2, 5 and 6; Collection of sources on the history of German social policy from 1867 to 1914, Section II: From the Imperial Social Message to the February decrees of Wilhelm II (1881–1890) , Volume 2, Part 1 and 2; Volume 5 and 6.
  147. Quoted from Loth: Kaiserreich , p. 68.
  148. cf. Wolfgang Ayaß / Wilfried Rudloff / Florian Tennstedt : Sozialstaat im Werden . Volume 1. Founding processes and setting the course in the German Empire , Stuttgart 2021, Volume 2. Highlights on basic issues , Stuttgart 2021.
  149. Loth: Kaiserreich , pp. 68–72; Ullrich: Bismarck , p. 106; Gall: Bismarck , p. 649.
  150. See Bismarck's attitude towards the Poles: .
  151. Loth: Kaiserreich , pp. 72–81.
  152. Quoted from Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 117.
  153. Quoted from Martin Kohlrausch : The monarch in the scandal. The logic of the mass media and the transformation of the Wilhelmine monarchy. Berlin 2005, p. 104.
  154. Cf. the print of the minutes of the meeting in: Collection of sources for the history of German social policy 1867 to 1914 , Section II: From the Imperial Social Message to the February decrees of Wilhelm II (1881–1890) , Volume 1: Basic questions of social policy. The discussion of the workers' question on the government side and in public , edited by Wolfgang Ayaß , Florian Tennstedt and Heidi Winter, Darmstadt 2003, No. 113.
  155. see e.g. B. Wolfgang Neugebauer (Ed.): From the empire to the 20th century and major themes in the history of Prussia. Volume 3 of the Handbook of Prussian History , Berlin 2000, p. 113 f.
  156. ^ Alfred Milatz (ed.): Otto von Bismarck. Selected Works. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1981, Volume 7, p. 758.
  157. Quoted from Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 120.
  158. Ullrich: Bismarck. Pp. 115-121.
  159. Quoted from Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 122.
  160. ^ Friedrich Gundolf, Contributions to the history of literature and intellectual history. 26 works from the years 1900–1931 , 1980, ISBN 3-89244-134-0 , p. 304.
  161. ^ Alfred Vagts: Diederich Hahn - A politician's life. In: Yearbook of the Men of the Morning Star. Vol. 46, Bremerhaven 1965, p. 161 f.
  162. Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 124.
  163. Rainer F. Schmidt (see list of references), p. 277.
  164. a b Ullrich: Bismarck , pp. 122-128.
  165. Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 7.
  166. Niederbarnimer Kreisblatt, Wednesday, March 17, 1897 (No. 33), Kreis-Nachrichten excerpt from
  167. Volker Ullrich: Death of a Patriarch. In: Die Zeit 40/1998 ( digitized version ).
  168. ^ Bismarck's last days. (Schweninger's report). In:  Neues Wiener Tagblatt , April 1, 1899, p. 3 (online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / Maintenance / nwg
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  176. s: Allgemeines Deutsches Kommersbuch: 7 # 14 , s: Allgemeines Deutsches Kommersbuch: 8
  177. Andrea Hopp: Otto von Bismarck from the perspective of the Jewish bourgeoisie. In: Ulrich Lappenkühler (Ed.): Otto von Bismarck and the "long 19th century". Lively past as reflected in the "Friedrichsruher Contributions" 1996–2016. Schöningh, Paderborn 2017, pp. 90-103, here p. 98.
  178. In the original: “ His life has been taught to at least six generations, and one can fairly say that almost every second German generation has encountered another version of Bismarck. No other German political figure has been used and abused for political purposes. “See Karina Urbach: Between Savior and Villain. 100 Years of Bismarck Biographies , in: The Historical Journal , Vol. 41, No. 4, December 1998, pp. 1141-1160 (1142).
  179. Georg Ezekiel: The book from Count Bismarck . Velhagen & Klasing, Bielefeld [u. a.] 1869; Ludwig Hahn: Prince of Bismarck. His political life and work . 5 vol. Hertz, Berlin 1878-1891; Hermann Jahnke : Prince Bismarck, his life and work . Kittel, Berlin 1890; Hans Blum: Bismarck and his time. A biography for the German people . 6 vol. With reg. Vol. Beck, Munich 1894–1899.
  180. Max Weber: s: The nation state and economic policy .
  181. Hans-Jürgen Perrey: "Nowhere is he to be completely trusted." Bismarck in the judgment of Theodor Fontanes. 2002.
  182. Quotation from Hans-Jürgen Perrey: "Nowhere is he to be completely trusted." Bismarck in the judgment of Theodor Fontanes. 2002.
    See also Fontane's letters to his daughter Mete of January 29, 1894 ( reprint ) and April 1, 1895 ( reprint ).
  183. Löbtau bridges. Bismarck Bridge in the direction of Kesselsdorfer Straße. In: Dresden City History. Lars Herrmann, Dresden, accessed on October 31, 2017 .
  184. Ullrich: Bismarck. P. 8.
  185. a b Urbach: Between Savior and Villain . Pp. 1145-1146.
  186. Ewald Frie : The German Empire . Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2004, ISBN 3-534-14725-1 (=  controversies about history ), p. 3.
  187. Erich Marcks: Bismarck. A biography. First volume Bismarck's Youth 1815–1848 . Cotta 1915. S. IX.
  188. ^ Adolf Matthias: Bismarck. His life and his work . Beck, Munich 1915.
  189. Erich Marcks: From the legacy of Bismarck. A war speech . Quelle & Meyer, Leipzig 1916.
  190. Max Lenz: The world war in the mirror of Bismarckian thoughts . In: Max Lenz, Erich Marcks (ed.): The Bismarck year. An appreciation of Bismarck and his politics in individual descriptions . Broschek, Hamburg 1915.
  191. With Bismarck at home and in the field. Key words from his letters and speeches . Zsgest. by Horst Kohl. Runge, Berlin-Lichterfelde 1915.
  192. ^ Urbach: Between Savior and Villain . Pp. 1146-1148.
  193. a b Urbach: Between Savior and Villain . Pp. 1148-1149.
  194. Otto Jöhlinger: Bismarck and the Jews. Using unpublished sources . D. Reimer, Berlin 1921.
  195. on Jöhlinger see Walter BraeuerJöhlinger, Otto. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 10, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1974, ISBN 3-428-00191-5 , p. 453 ( digitized version ).
  196. ^ Emil Ludwig: Bismarck . Unabridged new edition, Herbig, Munich 1975 (first 1926), ISBN 3-7766-0733-5 ; Urbach: Between Savior and Villain , p. 1149.
  197. ^ Urbach: Between Savior and Villain . Pp. 1149-1153.
  198. ^ Arnold Oskar Meyer: Bismarck. The man and the statesman . Koehler & Amelang, Leipzig 1944.
  199. ^ Loth: Kaiserreich , p. 203; Urbach: Between Savior and Villain , p. 1152.
  200. ^ Loth: Kaiserreich , p. 205; Urbach: Between Savior and Villain , pp. 1152–1153.
  201. Erich Eyck Bismarck. Life and work . Third volume, 1944, p. 638.
  202. Loth: Kaiserreich , p. 204.
  203. ^ Urbach: Between Savior and Villain . P. 1153.
  204. ^ Alan JP Taylor: Bismarck. The Man and the Statesman . H. Hamilton, London 1955. German edition: Bismarck. Man and statesman . From the English by Hansjürgen Wille and Barbara Klau. Piper, Munich 1962.
  205. ^ Urbach: Between Savior and Villain . Pp. 1154-1155.
  206. ^ Wilhelm Mommsen: Bismarck. A political picture of life . Bruckmann, Munich 1959.
  207. ^ Urbach: Between Savior and Villain . P. 1154.
  208. ^ Urbach: Between Savior and Villain . Pp. 1155-1156.
  209. Hans-Ulrich Wehler: The German Empire . 6., bibliogr. renewed edition, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1988 (first 1973), ISBN 3-525-33542-3 , p. 64 ff.
  210. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wehler: German history of society . Vol. 3: From the 'German double revolution' to the beginning of the First World War. 1849-1914 . Beck, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-406-32263-8 , p. 849 ff.
  211. ^ Urbach: Between Savior and Villain . Pp. 1156-1160.
  212. ^ Fritz Stern: Gold and Iron. Bismarck, Bleichröder, and the building of the German Empire . Knopf, New York 1977. German edition: Gold und Eisen. Bismarck and his banker Bleichröder . Ullstein, Frankfurt am Main [a. a.] 1978, ISBN 3-550-07358-5 .
  213. Lothar Gall: Bismarck .
  214. Ullrich: Bismarck , p. 10. Detailed information on Gall and Stern: Jürgen Kocka: Bismarck-Biographien. In: History and Society . Vol. 7, No. 3/4, 1981, ISSN  0340-613X , pp. 571-582.
  215. Otto Plant: Bismarck and the Development of Germany . 3rd Vol. Princeton University Press, Princeton 1963-1990. German edition in two volumes: Bismarck. Vol. 1: The founder of the empire . Vol. 2: The Reich Chancellor . From the English by Peter Hahlbrock. Beck, Munich 1997–1998, ISBN 3-406-42725-1 and ISBN 3-406-42726-X .
  216. Ullrich: Bismarck , p. 10 f .; Urbach: Between Savior and Villain , pp. 1156–1157.
  217. Ernst Engelberg: Bismarck. Original Prussians and founders of the empire . Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1985, also under license from West Berlin Siedler-Verlag, ISBN 3-88680-121-7 . The second volume, Bismarck. The empire in the middle of Europe , published in 1990 by Akademie-Verlag and under license from Siedler, ISBN 3-88680-385-6
  218. ^ Urbach: Between Savior and Villain . Pp. 1158-1159.