Wilhelm II (German Empire)

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Wilhelm II , whose full name was Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albert of Prussia , (born January 27, 1859 in Berlin ; † June 4, 1941 in Doorn , Netherlands ) from the House of Hohenzollern , was the last German Emperor and King of Prussia from 1888 to 1918 . Wilhelm was a grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm I and a son of Kaiser Friedrich III. He ruled for only 99 days, so that in the " three emperor year " of 1888 a 90-year-old and a 56-year-old ruler was followed by the 29-year-old Wilhelm II. Through his motherVictoria of Great Britain and Ireland was William's grandson of the British Queen Victoria . With his traditional view of the empire, Wilhelm showed little understanding of the nature of the constitutional monarchy . Only in October 1918, under the pressure of the First World War , which was looming for Germany and its allied other Central Powers , did Wilhelm agree to the October reforms , according to which the Chancellor formally needed the confidence of the Reichstag . The expansion of the Imperial Navy, strongly promoted by Wilhelm, and the closely related so-called world politics became a trademark of Wilhelmine politics, but at the same time a symbol of its failure.

Wilhelm II in 1902 Wilhelm II, German Emperor Signature-.svg

After the beginning of the November Revolution , Chancellor Max von Baden announced the abdication of Wilhelm and his son, Crown Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, on November 9, 1918 . The Kaiser had been at the German headquarters in Spa, Belgium, since October 29 . From there he went into exile in the nearby Netherlands, where Queen Wilhelmina granted him asylum and in 1919 refused the extradition required by the Entente powers as a war criminal . In the House Doorn become a resident of Wilhelm II sought. Unsuccessfully to a restoration of the monarchy in Germany. He died in 1941 at the age of 82 without ever having set foot on German soil again, and was buried in the park of Haus Doorn.

Wilhelmine era

The opening of the German Reichstag in the White Hall of the Berlin Palace on June 25, 1888 (oil painting by Anton von Werner , 1893). The event was Wilhelm's first ceremonial appearance as emperor.

The thirty-year rule of Wilhelm II in the German Empire (from 1888 to 1918) is also known as the Wilhelmine epoch . An essential feature was the emperor's striving to secure the empire as a political force among the existing world powers . Closely linked to this claim was the military armament of the empire and the promotion of colonial policy in Africa and the South Seas . This and Germany's involvement in international crises - for example the events surrounding the Krüger telegram in 1896, the Doggerbank incident in 1904, the Morocco crises 1904–1906 and 1911, and the Daily Telegraph affair in 1908 - led to a destabilization of foreign policy.

Wilhelm's preference for military pageantry, which was expressed, for example, in numerous parades on the most varied of occasions, also led to an overemphasis on the military and the military hierarchy right up to civilian life in German society, in which for a professional career - not just in Administrative apparatus - the performance of military service and the military rank of a person was of crucial importance ( militarism ). In the Wilhelmine bourgeoisie, having a rank as reserve officer was considered a ticket to the “better society”; Likewise, the lack of a military rank was a career obstacle.

The economic upswing in Germany during Wilhelm's rule, combined with technological, scientific and industrial progress, favored a generally widespread belief in technology and progress that was also supported by the Kaiser. Domestically, he continued and expanded Bismarck's social policy, which was considered modern and progressive for its time . He campaigned for the abolition of the Socialist Law and sought, sometimes unsuccessfully, a balance between ethnic and political minorities.

Wilhelm wanted to influence both the domestic and foreign policy of the empire much more than his grandfather Wilhelm I. However, the “ personal regiment ” of the emperor was often a policy controlled by frequently changing advisers, which influenced the decisions of Wilhelm - also in the judgment of most historians - often contradicting and ultimately unpredictable.

The entry of the German Empire into the First World War was a lasting mistake in overestimating military strength on land and at sea. The Moroccan crises and the declaration of unlimited submarine warfare are further examples of decisions that continue to weigh on the emperor's reputation to this day.

His term of office was also marked by political power struggles between the individual parties, which made it difficult for the incumbent Chancellor to remain in office for longer. In the struggle between the so-called national-liberal-conservative cartel (or the Bülow Block ) and the Social Democrats, five out of seven chancellors were dismissed by the Kaiser with the critical cooperation of the Reichstag.

During the First World War from 1914 to 1918, Wilhelm's strategic and tactical ineptitude became apparent. From 1916 onwards, he refrained from making increasingly relevant political decisions and in fact handed the leadership of the Reich into the hands of the Supreme Army Command , namely that of Generals von Hindenburg and Ludendorff , who provided the constitutional monarchy with strong features of a military dictatorship during the final years of the war . When Wilhelm II was persuaded to abdicate as a result of the November Revolution , which led to the end of the monarchy and the proclamation of the republic , and went into exile in the Netherlands, the German Empire had already lost the "Great War". About 10 million people had died on the battlefields.

Life until assumption of power

Childhood and adolescence

Wilhelm as a child with a toy ship
Wilhelm with his father Friedrich Wilhelm at Balmoral Castle , 1863

As the eldest son of Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia and his wife Victoria, who became the Crown Prince couple in 1861, Wilhelm was the grandson of Queen Victoria (1819–1901) and, as a result of his great-aunt Charlotte's connection with Nicholas I of Russia, a second cousin by Tsar Nicholas II. At the time of his birth he was third in the Prussian succession to the throne and sixth in the British. When he was born it was clear that he would one day become King of Prussia.

At the birth of the prince in the Berlin Kronprinzenpalais , high officials were present to witness the birth, as is usual with the birth of heir to the throne. But there were complications: He came as a breech birth to the world and survived only by a last resort should drawn director of the maternity hospital in the Charité Hospital Berlin, Edward Arnold Martin , and by the courageous intervention of a midwife who the seemingly lifeless baby quite contrary to the protocol hit with a wet towel. Professor Martin had to promote the childbirth, which had been delayed for hours, and used the anesthetic chloroform, a new type of anesthetic, to do so . He turned the heir to the throne intrauterine and managed to bring the legs forward so that the buttocks and abdomen emerged. The umbilical cord pulse was almost imperceptible, so the birth process had to be accelerated. Martin still managed to turn his left arm and place it parallel to the torso , and then with a strong pull to deliver the head with the right arm still turned up. As a result of the hours of fruitless labor and the quick emergency delivery (a caesarean section often resulted in the death of the mother, which in this case was completely out of the question), the infant survived, but left arm plexus paralysis occurred . A few days later, it was noticed that the child could not move this arm. From then on, the arm lagged significantly behind in its development and in adulthood was significantly shorter than the right one and only limited mobility. It is controversial to the present day whether Prof. Martin saved the child's life or was responsible for the handicap.

Victoria felt that not having given birth to a healthy heir to the throne was a personal failure, and she found it difficult to accept the son's handicap. Hardly anything was left unturned to remedy his handicap. Cures such as sewing the sick arm into a freshly slaughtered rabbit or metal scaffolding that Wilhelm was strapped around to improve his posture are legendary. In photographs, attempts were made to conceal the physical handicap by resting the left arm on the saber basket or hiding it in the sleeve. Wilhelm, so handicapped from birth, had, according to his own statements, “a very unhappy childhood”.

As is customary in the nobility, his parents stepped back as direct educators behind his Calvinist teacher Georg Ernst Hinzpeter . At the age of seven he experienced the victory over Austria in 1866 with the resulting predominance of Prussia in Germany. At the age of ten, at the usual cadet age at the time , he formally entered the Prussian army as a second lieutenant on foot with the 1st Guard Regiment . At the age of twelve, with the establishment of the German Empire, after the victory over France in 1871, he also became a second contender for the German imperial throne.

Military service and training

Wilhelm as high school graduate in Kassel (1877)

After graduating from the Friedrichsgymnasium in Kassel , he began his real military service with his regiment, the 6th company under Captain von Petersdorff, on February 9, 1877 . In 1880 he was promoted to captain on March 22nd, the birthday of his grandfather, Kaiser Wilhelm I. Already during these years he developed an understanding of his monarchical role that ran counter to the liberal- constitutional ideas of his parents.

The following stages in his life are to be seen under the aspect of an upbringing to become a monarch: He was supposed to gain as many experiences as possible, but was not given the chance to familiarize himself professionally in any field, not even in the military. To study four semesters from October 1877 to 1879, he moved to the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, founded by his great-grandfather . In 1878 he was Corp. loop carrier of Borussia Bonn . In 1881 he married Princess Auguste Viktoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg (1858–1921), also as a dynastic act of reconciliation towards the ducal house that Prussia had deprived of its rule over Schleswig-Holstein. From 1886 onwards, he regularly visited the Liebenberger Kreis around his friend Philipp zu Eulenburg .

Until 1888 he was assigned to changing regiments, the 1st Guards Regiment on foot, then the Guards Hussar Regiment and the 1st Guards Field Artillery Regiment , was quickly promoted to major general and finally commander of the 2nd Guard Infantry Regiment. Brigade . The military service was repeatedly interrupted by leave of absence so that he could familiarize himself as far as possible with the civilian administration. This could not be done very thoroughly, because there was more and more urgency: his grandfather was of old age and his father was now terminally ill.

This was less of a problem for government affairs, since Otto von Bismarck had already concentrated political power firmly in his hands from 1862 , initially as Prussian Prime Minister, and from 1871 as Chancellor . After three victorious wars ( 1864 , 1866 , 1870/71 ) and as the unifier of Germany to the strongest continental European power, Bismarck was a statesman respected worldwide . Wilhelm I. and Friedrich III. had contradicted him occasionally, but always trusted in the end. According to the Reich constitution, the Reich Chancellor also depended on this trust , not on the trust of the Reichstag. Bismarck confidently built on being able to direct the third emperor.

The year 1888 went down in history as the three emperor year . After the death of Wilhelm I on March 9, 1888, the “99-day emperor” Friedrich III ruled . due to his already advanced throat cancer only three months and died on June 15th in Potsdam.

He spoke English easily .

Act as emperor

Social reforms

“The employers and shareholders would have to give in, the workers were his subjects for whom he had to look after; if the industrial millionaires did not want to do his thing, he would withdraw his troops; if the villas of the rich owners and directors were then set on fire and their gardens trampled down, they would be small ”

- Wilhelm II, according to Otto von Bismarck, when he refused to send soldiers to suppress a strike in the Ruhr area
Wilhelm II in the year he came to power in 1888

Statements like this quote and Wilhelm's February decrees (1890) aroused hopes of social change in the empire in the first few years of his reign. The social policy was Wilhelm II. Certainly at heart. However, his social reforms were not followed by any structural changes in the empire. On the contrary, he expanded his political influence and refused to democratize the constitution. Prussia retained the three-class suffrage that had existed since the beginning of the 1850s , which prevented representative representation in the state parliament. As before, the head of government was not elected by the Reichstag, but appointed or dismissed by the emperor. The majority ratios in the Reichstag were taken into account at best. However, it was not possible for the Chancellor to pass laws or pass the budget without a majority in parliament.

During Bismarck's chancellorship, on the 178th birthday of Frederick the Great , Kaiser Wilhelm II proclaimed the motto "Je veux être un roi des gueux" ("I want to be a king of beggars") in a proclamation to his people the prohibition of Sunday work , the night work for women and children, the women's work during the last months of pregnancy, and restrictions on employment of children under fourteen years. In addition, he demanded the deletion of the paragraph that allowed the state police authority to deny “convicts” the “residence in certain districts and localities” in the “Law against the endangering efforts of social democracy” (“ Socialist Law ”), which was due for renewal . Bismarck commented on this as "humiliating humanity" and refused to accept the emperor (who was supported in his demands by the Reichstag). The young emperor was only able to meet his demands with Leo von Caprivi , Bismarck's successor. However, despite all social ambitions, Wilhelm II was as little a friend of social democracy as Bismarck had been. He hoped that his reforms would weaken the sympathies for the social democracy, which had been strengthened despite the socialist laws, and by repealing the repressive socialist law of the party, which was renamed from SAP to SPD in 1890, to deprive the party of its martyrs bonus.

“No, he was not expressly just, nor did he deliberately break the law. He believed that he would show the workers graces with social laws. He believed he owed respect only to property. This emperor with the soul of a parvenu constantly courted the richest people, Germany and the world. "

- Heinrich Mann, an age is being visited.

However, under August Bebel, the Social Democrats remained in fundamental opposition due to their anti-monarchist self-image. Although they saw the progress of the reforms summarized in the Occupational Safety and Health Act, they voted against it in the Reichstag. They called for fundamental structural changes, such as a constitutional amendment, democratization, expanded voting rights, priority of parliament in political decisions, a restructuring of the budget, significant reductions in armament spending, freedom for the colonies and other things - concerns that the emperor could not fulfill strengthened his aversion to social democracy.

The prosperity of the German workforce increased from year to year, but Wilhelm II did not succeed in making the workers in the cities feel like recognized members of society. In many Reichstag elections and state parliaments, the SPD's share of the vote grew.

These events gave rise to the thesis in Wilhelm II, who still wanted to be “a king of the poor”, that a reconciliation with the Social Democrats was not possible. He finally called in Koenigsberg “to fight for religion, custom and order, against the parties of the coup!”. As early as 1887, still as a prince, he and his wife founded the Evangelical Church Aid Association for Berlin because he believed that he could solve the “social question” by sponsoring the churches; This was followed in 1890 by the Evangelical Church Building Association , Berlin, with whose help he also exerted influence on new church buildings in the empire outside of Berlin (such as the Church of the Redeemer in Bad Homburg). At the same time he manifested his idea of ​​a new connection between “ throne and altar ” in continuation of a line from Constantine the Great via Otto the Great to himself.

Bismarck is dismissed and Caprivi takes office

The punch caricature Dropping the Pilot (in German mostly translated as “The pilot goes from board”) by Sir John Tenniel on the dismissal of Bismarck

In the last period of Bismarck's reign , the German Reich resembled a “ dictatorship of the chancellor ” whose political goals were not those of the young emperor. Bismarck wanted Russia as a strong ally, while Wilhelm II only trusted Austria-Hungary . Bismarck wanted to continue the "Kulturkampf" against political Catholicism, the Kaiser was strictly against it. Bismarck wanted to tighten the socialist law, Wilhelm II abolished it: “I don't want to stain my first years in government with the blood of my subjects!” When the Chancellor persisted, the Kaiser sent the head of his military cabinet , General von, on the morning of March 17, 1890 Hahnke , to the Reich Chancellery: The Chancellor should come to the castle in the afternoon and bring his resignation letter with him. This was not brought to the emperor by a messenger until the next day. Bismarck's presentation - always to be read as a justification and counterattack - emphasizes the degrading nature of the measure. In the third volume of his memoirs, which was only published posthumously, Bismarck writes that he had felt isolated or even betrayed in the cabinet before his release and that his deputy, Karl Heinrich von Boetticher , had negotiated with the Kaiser in his favor in his absence and without his approval, so that he was compelled to consult a 38-year-old cabinet order of Wilhelm I, which forbade Prussian ministers to speak to the sovereign without the approval of the Prime Minister. With Bismarck's dismissal, the emperor cleared the way for his personal regiment .

On March 20, 1890, Wilhelm II dismissed the "iron chancellor". Bismarck never accepted this internally and indirectly caused lasting criticism of Wilhelm II through multiple criticisms of the “backers” of Wilhelmine politics and through his memoirs Thoughts and Memories . Their third volume, in which Bismarck presented his dismissal, became politically explosive published only in 1919. Bismarck's resignation was primarily due to domestic policy, but in the long term it was primarily fatal in terms of foreign policy. In a letter from Vienna, Emperor Franz Joseph I, remembering the Peace of Vienna in 1866, immediately and explicitly recalled Bismarck's merits. As Bismarck's successor, Wilhelm II appointed General Leo von Caprivi , who was celebrated by the Emperor as a “man of the saving act” and who was raised to the rank of count if his services were given. In Caprivi, Wilhelm II believed he had found a recognized personality with whom he hoped to implement his planned policy of internal reconciliation and the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

An important foreign policy event occurred (“exactly fitting”, as it were) in the year of the change of Chancellor. The reinsurance treaty with Russia partially contradicted the terms of the Triple Alliance pact with Italy and Austria-Hungary. The Kaiser was against violating the latter pact, while Bismarck had considered the reinsurance treaty to be absolutely necessary at the time. Now it was about his extension. Unnoticed by the public (it was a secret treaty) and accepted by Caprivi, the reinsurance treaty, which expired in 1890, was deliberately not renewed by the German Reich. In Russia, realistically, they assumed a German change of course and began to draw closer to France.

Caprivi's time as Chancellor was marked by a decided friendliness towards England. Domestically, he was one of the main people responsible for the change in the German Empire from an agricultural economy to an industrial export economy. The reforms during this period helped Germany overtake Great Britain a little later and become the world's number one economic power. At that time, the term “ Made in Germany ” became a synonym for the highest quality.

Integration policy

The turbulent replacement of the old German Confederation by the newly created German Reich without the German Austrians - the small German solution  - brought with it some problems. The Rhineland, South German and Polish opposition to Prussian supremacy was based on the politicizing Catholic bourgeois, workers and peasants. The German Center Party was formed as a party of political Catholicism in 1870 . Bismarck's attempts to hinder the work of the Catholic parties led to interference in the lives of Catholics. The integration of Jews, which previously only existed in a few other states apart from Prussia, was young, and the noticeable social rise of the Jewish population fueled envy and anti-Semitism in the population. In the eastern areas of Prussia, especially in the province of Posen, there was severe repression of the Polish minority , which led to unrest and feelings of injustice. The emperor recognized the seriousness of these problems and counted them among his main tasks.

The integration policy towards the Catholics worked best. They had previously been disadvantaged by Bismarck's Kulturkampf and prevented from participating in political life and from practicing their religion freely. Even when he was a prince, Wilhelm was against these practices and advocated the end of the Kulturkampf. In order to improve the unity between Protestants and Catholics in the empire, the empire repaid the funds withheld from the victims, but did not repeal all the resolutions and laws that were passed from the previous Kulturkampf.

The eastern provinces of Prussia ( East Prussia , West Prussia and Silesia ) were mostly inhabited by Germans, a minority by Poles and regionally by Kashubians and Masurians . In the province of Poznan , the Poles made up the majority. Since the Bismarckian era, the state tried to Germanize the Poles living here, but this failed and resulted in open protest. Wilhelm II lifted many of these repressions, which mainly regulated the language of instruction and later also that of worship, and recognized the Poles as a separate people and minority in the German Empire.

In terms of his integration policy, Kaiser Wilhelm II was accommodated by parliamentarism in the empire. The election was carried out in one-man constituencies with absolute majority voting rights. The Danes (one or two MPs), Alsace-Lorraine (eight to 15 MPs) and Poles (13 to 20 MPs) always had their own parliamentary groups in the Reichstag from 1871 to the last election in 1912 . Jews, on the other hand, did not organize themselves in their own party . The electoral system did not exclude political minorities either. This ensured that the Welfs hostile to Prussia , but above all the anti-Semites from the Christian Social Party and the German Reform Party, were able to organize themselves. However, the number of its MPs never exceeded the number of MPs from ethnic minority parties.


The classification of the emperor's political opinion in relation to Judaism and anti-Semitism was controversial. Wilhelm II maintained close and friendly contact with many prominent Jews. Some of the politicians, industrialists, bankers and intellectuals later named by Chaim Weizmann partly appreciatively and partly contemptuously “ Emperor Jews ” included Albert Ballin , James Simon , Emil and Walther Rathenau , Eduard Arnhold and Carl Fürstenberg . The assessments of historians differ widely here:

“But even highly respected German historians seem to find it difficult to assess the extent of Kaiser Wilhelm II's anti-Semitism. They point out that Wilhelm was friends with men like Albert Ballin and Walter Rathenau - the so-called 'Emperor Jews' - and appointed numerous Jewish scholars as professors, and conclude from this that he therefore could not have been an anti-Semite. They overlook the fact that the emperor has repeatedly declared that he does not see Ballin as a Jew, that he insulted Rathenau as a `` mean, insidious, vile traitor '' who belonged to the `` inner ring '' of the two hundred Jews who ruled the world , and who was rightly murdered [...] "

- Wolfgang Benz, Werner Bergmann : Prejudice and Genocide. Lines of Development of Anti-Semitism , 1997.

John CG Röhl , who with his numerous publications - especially his biographies based on intensive study of files - about Wilhelm II is one of the best experts on the last emperor, believes in his publication in the FAZ of October 1, 2019 that anti-Jewish attitudes and anti-Semitism held a very important position in Wilhelm II's worldview . Wilhelm II is an example of the development of large parts of the bourgeois and military elites of the imperial era from ordinary to eliminatory anti-Semitism during the Weimar period . Until the 1990s, most historical research assumed, according to Röhl, that Wilhelm II was not an anti-Semite. However, the historical “evidence” available today proves the opposite.

There are several quotes from Wilhelm II that show his anti-Semitic attitude, such as the statement made during the November Revolution: "I am not even thinking of leaving the throne because of a few hundred Jews, the few thousand workers!" In 1940, Wilhelm II claimed ., Jews and Freemasons started wars of annihilation against Germany in 1914 and 1939 in order to establish a "Jewish world empire" supported by British and American gold.

“In a letter dated December 2, 1919 to his former wing adjutant August von Mackensen , he criticized - referring to his abdication - the participation of German Jews - such as the (U) SPD politician Kurt Eisner in Bavaria - in the November 1918 revolution . "

“In a letter to an American friend Poultney Bigelow on August 15, 1927, Wilhelm II's anti-Semitism also becomes clear: 'The Hebrew race is my arch enemy at home and abroad; are what they are and always have been: forgers and masterminds of unrest, revolution and subversion by spreading wickedness with the help of their poisoned, caustic, satirical spirit. Once the world awakens, they must be given the punishment they deserve. ' [...] 'The press, Jews and mosquitoes' (...) are 'a plague from which humanity has to free itself one way or another'. He added with his own hand: 'I think the best would be gas.' [...] Especially in his exile, Wilhelm II developed his resentment against Jews, which existed during the reign - but only privately expressed - towards his anti-Semitism aimed at physical extermination. "

- Anti-Semitism and anti-Semitism among Kaiser Wilhelm II. Scientific Services of the German Bundestag, 2007, pp. 12, 14

Economic Policy and Arms Policy Priorities

In the course of rearmament, Wilhelm had the Mürwik Naval School built in 1910 , which is still used today as a training facility for naval officers (photo from 1929).

Caprivi enforced another of Wilhelm's wishes, which Bismarck had denied, the progressive income tax , which placed a greater burden on higher incomes: the Miquel income tax reform of 1891. Through the industry-friendly and export-oriented containment of protectionism , Caprivi drew the hostility of the landowners organized in the Federation of Farmers (" Ostelbier "," Junker "), which were closely associated with the Conservative Party. The US's growing agricultural exports after the abolition of protective tariffs caused prices to fall. By promoting the use of agricultural machinery, it was possible to partially offset the losses, but increased the agricultural protectionist claims of the large landowners who were already undercapitalized and forced to invest.

Wilhelm II (center) with commandant and first officer on board the Geier , 1894

In 1893 Wilhelm II dissolved the Reichstag in 1890 because it had rejected the armament of the army that he wanted. In the election campaign that followed, the supporters of Wilhelmine politics from the Conservative and National Liberal parties were victorious. The armament of the Imperial Navy propagated by Alfred von Tirpitz against Caprivi's resistance , which was quite popular among the people, recognizable for example by the ubiquitous sailor suit for boys, was subsequently promoted by Wilhelm.

In January 1894 there was a reconciliation meeting with Otto von Bismarck. When Bismarck published the secret reinsurance treaty with Russia in the press in 1896, Wilhelm wanted to arrest it for treason and have it taken to the Spandau Citadel .

Personal regiment of the emperor

Wilhelm in the parade uniform of the regiment of the Gardes du Corps , 1905, a "mythical self-portrayal of the emperor"

Caprivi was released on October 26, 1894. Wilhelm appointed a non-Prussian for the first time, the Bavarian prince (and his uncle, as he writes in his memoirs Events and Figures ) Clovis zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst as Reich Chancellor and Prussian Prime Minister. Unlike his two predecessors, he shouldn't develop any leadership ambition.

Emperor's birthday in 1901: The police force in the protected area of ​​Cameroon greets the emperor.

In 1895 the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal, today's Kiel Canal , was completed and the naval ports of Kiel and Wilhelmshaven expanded on a large scale. In this context, the German Empire occupied and leased the Chinese port city of Tsingtao for 99 years. In spite of his friendliness towards England, Wilhelm did not recognize that the worldwide hegemonic power of Great Britain was being utterly uneasy. The persistent German colonialism  - against which Bismarck and Caprivi had still resisted - was not recognized and approved by him as risky against the great powers England and France: In 1899 the empire acquired the Carolines , Mariana Islands , Palau and 1900 Western Samoa . In 1896 Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst failed to keep Wilhelm from the " Krüger-Depesche ", a congratulatory telegram to the Boers to ward off the British Jameson Raid , which was received with indignation in Great Britain and was interpreted as a departure from Caprivi's pro-England policy. In his memoirs, Wilhelm emphasized that he had been against the dispatch, but had been forced to sign it by Chancellor Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst. Since 1897 Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst had been largely sidelined by the dismissal of important employees; the emperor's personal regiment was now strengthened .

On October 17, 1900, Wilhelm replaced Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst with Count Bernhard von Bülow , who as Reich Chancellor neither pursued the upcoming domestic political reforms nor was able to master the newly grouped foreign policy constellations, which in Germany were increasingly perceived as "encirclement politics". Relations with France were in any case not improved, England was now challenged by naval policy and Russia was not supported in the Balkans against the Austro-Hungarian monarchy . Wilhelm trusted Bülow, who knew how to flatter him, for a long time, until the Daily Telegraph affair in 1908 and the Eulenburg trials .

Construction projects

In addition to the fleet armament policy with naval buildings such as the Naval School Mürwik , for which Wilhelm is known, various other construction projects were carried out. In 1899 the city of Schlettstadt donated the Hochkönigsburg Castle to Wilhelm in Alsace . Wilhelm had it restored in the years 1901–1908 by the Berlin architect and castle researcher Bodo Ebhardt . The construction cost over two million marks, most of which had to be paid for by Alsace-Lorraine. On May 13, 1908, the inauguration took place as part of a big celebration with festive music and historical costumes in rainy weather, in which daughter Viktoria Luise von Prussia also took part. Also at the instigation of Wilhelm II, the Posen Residential Palace was built in the neo-Romanesque style between 1905 and 1913 and the Marienburg Order Castle was renovated from 1896 to 1918.

The building, erected in neo-baroque style as the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum (in memory of the father Friedrich III.), Opened in 1904. The house was intended to serve as a dynastic hall of fame for the Hohenzollern dynasty on the one hand and as an overall view of Renaissance art (painting, sculpture and furniture mixed).

After eleven years of construction , the Berlin Cathedral , designed in the style of the Italian High Renaissance, was replaced by its Frederician predecessor (later rebuilt by Schinkel). Wilhelm II intended to create a "St. Peter's Basilica of Protestantism" with a splendid, majestic building of the appropriate size and commissioned Julius Raschdorff with the plans. Kaiser Wilhelm II inaugurated the church on February 27, 1905.

In memory of his grandfather Wilhelm I and the Prussian-German victory at Sedan in 1870, Wilhelm II had the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church built in the neo-Romanesque style in the western center of Berlin on Kurfürstendamm by the architect Franz Heinrich Schwechten . When it was inaugurated in 1895, it was the tallest structure in Berlin at a height of 113 meters.

Sometimes Wilhelm saw himself as an architect. The most prominent example from the Rhine Province are the emperor's comments on the facade design for the government building in Koblenz . Designed by the architect Paul Kieschke (1851–1905) and realized between 1902 and 1905, the government architect received the plan back with handwritten modifications by the emperor with regard to the execution of the planned towers.

Wilhelm commissioned his court architect Ernst Eberhard von Ihne to design a suitable train station for the imperial salon trains and receptions for high-ranking state guests in the immediate vicinity of the Sanssouci Park in Potsdam . A mighty hall with a porch was created - the actual Kaiserbahnhof - in the English country house style. The sandstone building, which was completed between 1904 and 1909, was called "Hofstation im Wildpark". The emperor's first guest was US President Theodore Roosevelt .

Wilhelm arranged for the Cecilienhof to be built in Potsdam in 1913 - this last palace building before the fall of the monarchy in Germany as a home for the family of his eldest son, Crown Prince Wilhelm, who married Cecilie von Mecklenburg-Schwerin in 1905, after whom the palace was named.

Two other buildings from the Wilhelmine era that shape the center of Berlin to this day are the Royal Library , which was built between 1901–1914, and the New Royal Marstall on Schlossplatz in Berlin, which was built from 1897–1900. One of the buildings that shaped the Cologne cityscape the most, the Hohenzollern Bridge , dates from the Wilhelmine era. It was built from 1907 to 1911 by Franz von Schwechten (architect of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church) in the direct line of sight of Cologne Cathedral in neo-Romanesque style with decorative bridge towers and portals.

Foreign policy problems under Bülow

With the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War in February 1904 and the conclusion of the Entente Cordiale between France and Great Britain on April 8, 1904, the European power structure changed fundamentally. With the Anglo-French colonial settlement, the free trade policy had apparently failed. In Wilhelmstrasse , consideration was given to how to react to the Franco-British rapprochement without losing political room for maneuver and being isolated in terms of foreign policy. After the heavy defeats of Russia in the summer of 1904 and the sharp tensions between London and St. Petersburg after the Dogger Bank incident (October 21/22, 1904), Russia continued to attract interest as a possible partner.

Wilhelm II in Russian and Nikolaus II in Prussian uniform, 1905 in Björkö

In November 1904 Wilhelm submitted a defensive alliance to Tsar Nicholas II . France should only be informed of the alliance after the conclusion of the treaty. The Russian government opposed such an alliance. In the First Morocco Crisis (1904–1906), tensions between France and Germany were soon in focus again. In terms of peace policy, Wilhelm II took an initiative in July 1905: in the spirit of rapprochement with Russia, which was in danger of losing its war against Japan , he concluded the Björkö Treaty of Friendship with Nicholas II . France should be included.

However, as early as 1907 Russia declared the Björkö Treaty to be irrelevant because it was incompatible with the Franco-Russian rapprochement that had taken place in the meantime. This rapprochement arose after Wilhelm II visited Tangier in March 1905 during the First Moroccan Crisis (details here ). The result was also a deterioration in relations with Japan, which Prussia-Germany had previously regarded as a scientific and military teacher.

In 1908, Wilhelm's helplessness became apparent through the Daily Telegraph affair : in an interview with the newspaper, he complained about his own government that it was not friendly enough to England. Bismarck had been a master at supporting his politics with the media. In the case of Wilhelm II, on the other hand, interviews and pithy speeches were supposed to replace politics. The Emperor had given a particularly striking example with the Huns' speech given in Bremerhaven on July 27, 1900 . With the interview in the Daily Telegraph he now stabbed Reich politics in the back by declaring that he was a good “protector of England”, since he always held back the other European powers from provoking England. This was perceived as a nuisance in England: It did not allow anyone to protect it and found the interview to be presumptuous . Wilhelm buckled in the face of the German press storm and promised to hold back in both foreign and domestic politics in the future.

Bernhard von Bülow , Kaiser Wilhelm II and Rudolf von Valentini (from left to right) on board the Hohenzollern in Kiel , 1908

Increasing criticism of the Kaiser and dismissal of Bülow

In the meantime, public opinion had begun to be fundamentally critical of the Kaiser long before the Daily Telegraph affair. As early as 1902 he had interfered in Bavarian domestic politics with the Swinemünder Depesche , moreover without consulting the Chancellor beforehand, and thus caused a scandal. One campaign actually harmed Wilhelm: in 1906 the journalist Maximilian Harden , a hardliner on foreign policy who had already called for a preventive war against France in 1905, attacked the alleged " camarilla " surrounding the emperor in his magazine Die Zukunft . The Liebenberger Kreis , a circle of friends around Wilhelm and Prince Philipp zu Eulenburg that has existed for two decades and which is said to have moved the Kaiser to his " personal regiment ", was presented as a "homoerotic round table of political sissies", the Kaiser from the "male" He wanted to change Bismarck's course and move towards a lasting peace policy towards France and Great Britain and therefore even discussed the return of the annexed empire of Alsace-Lorraine . Harden pulled out all the stops of sensational journalism by exposing and denouncing Eulenburg's homosexuality ( which was then a criminal offense under Section 175 ). Through manipulation he achieved that Eulenburg got involved in a perjury and was finally arrested. There followed three sensational trials against Eulenburg, which despite acquittals damaged the emperor's reputation and in which Chancellor Bülow was also drawn. The Harden-Eulenburg affair , which smoldered from 1906 to 1909, grew into one of the greatest scandals in the empire and also attracted international attention.

Imperial parade on the occasion of the autumn maneuver in southern Germany in 1909

In 1909, the so-called Bülow Block , in which the left - wing liberal parties supporting the government, as well as the National Liberals and the Conservative Party, collapsed. The trigger was Bülow's attempt to reform Prussian electoral law, whereupon the conservatives who dominated the Prussian state parliament refused to follow him. Social Democrats and the Center Party , who support this attempt in its principles, nevertheless refused to work with Bülow. They accused him of lack of principle because he had only recently implemented new reprisals against the Polish minority in cooperation with the conservatives. The Germanization policy was restricted at the instigation of Kaiser Wilhelm. The fact that Bülow was now facilitating the expropriation of Polish property in order to secure the loyalty of the Conservative Party was initially ignored by the Kaiser in order not to endanger the stable parliamentary majority.

But he dismissed Bülow and on July 7, 1909 appointed Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg as Chancellor of the Reich.

Wilhelm with his sons on the Schloßbrücke on January 1st, 1913

Foreign policy problems under Bethmann Hollweg

After the year of crisis, Wilhelm left the foreign policy to the new Chancellor, but this did not achieve its goals - rapprochement with England and distancing from the anti-Russian Balkan policy of Austria-Hungary. Anti-French policy was intensified in 1911 in the second Moroccan crisis by German interventionism in the “panther jump to Agadir ”. The army and navy were further strengthened. There were no significant interventions by Wilhelm. The Kaiser was a militarist , but not a bellicist ; despite his bellicose speeches, he basically did not want a war of aggression or a preventive war. But he also did little to make this clear.

Overall, Wilhelm's II stake in German foreign policy is controversial. While John CG Röhl emphasizes in it a powerful authority that intervened independently in the politics of the empire, the majority of historians such as Wolfgang J. Mommsen see the civil government of the empire as the focus of responsibility. It is indisputable that the Kaiser did not act as a coordinator between foreign, army and naval policy. So it came about that the Chancellor, Army and Navy command each pursued different goals that were incompatible with one another. The development of the fleet in particular created a foreign policy problem.

First World War

July crisis

Wilhelm in army uniform, around 1915

In the July crisis of 1914, Wilhelm II played an ambivalent role. On the one hand, he tried to save the peace through a feverish correspondence with the Russian tsar ("Dear Nicky!" - "Dear Willy!"), Which, given the now objective determination of all major continental powers, did nothing. On the other hand, he urged to strike. In fact, the emperor ultimately increased the risk of war, because after the assassination attempt in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, he authorized Bethmann Hollweg to grant Austria-Hungary blanket power for its aggressive policy against Serbia.

Although Germany's strength had increased more and more, Wilhelm, with his fears of “socialism”, “yellow danger”, “Slavic flood” and his idea of ​​the “inevitable opposition between Slavs and Teutons”, thought the time had come for the final reckoning. He underestimated the Serbian-friendly Pan-Slavism with which Russian policy had been determined to curb the unrest in its own empire since 1905. The German ambassador in Vienna, Heinrich von Tschirschky , urged Wilhelm to take action against Serbia: He should "declare with all emphasis that an action against Serbia is expected in Berlin and that Germany would not understand if we pass the given opportunity left without leading a blow ”.

In fact, after the Austro-Hungarian declaration of war on Serbia, the foreign policy of the Emperor and Chancellor was left to the German General Staff : the mobilization in the Russian Empire did not allow the German Empire to wait any longer before declaring war on Russia and France, according to the judgment of the generals otherwise the German Schlieffen plan , first quickly defeating France and then Russia in a two-front war, threatened to become impracticable. Wilhelm subsequently did not interfere in military objectives, but did not leave them constitutionally to the Reich Cabinet, but to the Supreme Army Command (OHL).

Increasing loss of power

Wilhelm II among the German generals (photo montage)

In the course of the First World War 1914–1918 the importance of the emperor declined. Especially with the Third Supreme Army Command under Hindenburg and the dominant Ludendorff, he was increasingly excluded from the politico-military decisions from 1916 to 1918. However, in 1917 the army command pushed the decision, which was also controversial in the Reich, to resume the "unrestricted" submarine war that had ceased after the " Lusitania incident " in 1915 . He agreed - against the advice of his Chancellor - the opinion of the military, which in April 1917 should lead to the United States declaring war. These later made the emperor's abdication a condition for opening peace negotiations. On July 13, 1917, Bethmann Hollweg resigned. Ludendorff now had a de facto dictatorial position. Wilhelm II did not exert any influence on further changes of Chancellor, first from Bethmann Hollweg to the inexperienced Georg Michaelis and in the same year to the elderly Bavarian center politician Georg von Hertling ; the 1918 reform of the imperial constitution towards a parliamentary monarchy was attempted without him. The "silent dictatorship of the OHL" was also due to the weakness of Kaiser Wilhelm, who acted more and more helplessly in the last two years of the war, which strengthened the position of the OHL.

War aims

Wilhelm II with Field Marshal von Hindenburg (left) and First Quartermaster General Ludendorff in the main headquarters , 1917

On May 13, 1917, Wilhelm II presented his State Secretary for Foreign Affairs with a war target program that provided for the punishment of all opponents, even the United States, in the form of reparations. In addition to extensive colonial expansion - Malta , Cyprus , Egypt , Mesopotamia should fall to the Ottoman Empire , Madeira , Cape Verde , Azores and the Congo to Germany - he expected the connection of Poland, Courland , Lithuania , Ukraine , Livonia and Estonia to his empire . He also demanded unrealistic war compensation from all war opponents.

However, Wilhelm II was more in the background at this time, he seldom had a decisive say, so that his program in Kreuznach was not taken very seriously and only, as far as the colonial area was concerned, was taken into account in the political planning. During a trip to the Balkans, the emperor was enthusiastic about the rich areas of Romania . The conquered country had "pleased him extremely", "with good administration the country would become a source of the greatest wealth".

In 1918 he authorized the plan to divide Russia after the cession of Poland , the Baltic States and the Caucasus into four independent "tsarist states", namely central Russia , Siberia , the Ukraine and a south-east alliance as an anti-Bolshevik area between the Ukraine and the Caspian Sea . This form of domination would have created a "bridge to Central Asia threatening the British position in India ". The plan of a "south-east alliance" was in competition with Ottoman intentions. Chancellor Hertling , who described Livonia and Estonia “from a certain distance as friendly states with us”, was rejected by Wilhelm: “Nonsense! The Baltic States are one, and I will be its master and will not tolerate any contradiction, I have conquered it and no lawyer can take it from me! "

Wilhelm saw his Protestant empire, especially in contrast to the house " Habsburg - Parma ", increasingly as his mission:

"The ultra-big house of Parma strives for a denominational encirclement of the Germany ruled by the hated Hohenzollern House. Under Vienna's leadership, in an alliance with Italy - won by returning Trentino and Tyrol - France, Poland and Lithuania should be united to the sea! Hence Poland's independence and the resumption of the Austro-Polish solution eliminated in Homburg . Hence an independent Lithuania under Catholic princes; hence the resistance to our annexation of the Baltic including Livonia and Estonia, which Lithuania should be connected to and catholicized in order to cut us off from the sea. "

The central politician Matthias Erzberger , who serves these interests, is "a rogue traitor who must be rendered harmless."

Fall and escape to the Netherlands

After the failed spring offensive in the West in 1918, the successes of the Western Allies on the Western Front and the impending collapse of the allied Austria-Hungary, the Supreme Army Command demanded on September 28, 1918 that an armistice petition be submitted to the war opponents and the government of the German Reich for one to provide a broader basis.

In several diplomatic notes , US President Woodrow Wilson made the granting of the armistice indirectly dependent on the emperor's abdication. The US refused to start peace negotiations beforehand. Since they were considered the most moderate of the coming victorious powers as a result of Wilson's 14-point program , his demand found an echo in Germany.

On September 30, the emperor issued a decree on parliamentarization. Hertling's successor as Chancellor was Prince Max von Baden on October 3 . On October 16, 1918, the Progressive People's Party recommended Wilhelm II's voluntary abdication. Chancellor Prince Max von Baden had been running this since October 28; the next day Wilhelm, on the advice of Friedrich von Berg in particular, traveled from Berlin to Spa (Belgium). He resided there at La Fraineuse and tried a shuttle diplomacy between himself and the OHL (whose headquarters were in the Hotel Britannique ). In view of the mood among the people and the opinion of the Cabinet, Wilhelm thought the army was most likely to be loyal. These hopes were dashed in the course of the Kiel sailors' uprising and the November revolution . In order to take the lead from the more radical demands of the revolutionaries, the majority Social Democrats also demanded the resignation of the Emperor and Crown Prince from November 7th. The next day the Center Party also spoke out in favor of the abdication. In the course of the November Revolution, Kurt Eisner proclaimed the Free State of Bavaria on November 7, 1918 in Munich and declared Ludwig III. deposed as Bavarian king for. Thus the first German federal prince had been driven out by the revolution.

The monarch, politically paralyzed at the time, was now faced with three options. General Groener , also based on the results of a questioning of 39 generals and regimental commanders, took the view that the army was no longer in the hands of the commanders; military action against the revolution was desirable, but impossible for the time being, especially with the emperor at the helm. Groener's analysis, which implicitly suggested that the emperor had to disappear, was de facto covered by Hindenburg - a constant source of embarrassment after the war - and found in Paul von Hintze and Werner Freiherr von Grünau two energetic advocates, who were also the “Holland- Solution ”. Another group around General Friedrich Graf von der Schulenburg , chief of staff of the German Crown Prince Army Group , however, considered a “march on Berlin”, ie the military crushing of the revolution, to be feasible. Wilhelm also initially tended to this position. The third possibility was only hinted at by the emperor's military entourage: the monarch should go “to the front”, that is, to the front, in order to seek death there. Such a gesture would, according to the speculation of younger general staff officers in particular, bring about a complete change of opinion in favor of the dynasty or the monarchy as an institution. Groener and Major Joachim von Stülpnagel , the head of the operations department of the OHL, had already made preparations for such an undertaking .

Escape of Wilhelm II on November 10, 1918: The Kaiser (center, fourth from left) on the platform of the Belgian-Dutch border crossing in Eijsden shortly before his departure into exile in the Netherlands.

The last initiative of Wilhelm, already overtaken by the events, was the decision made in the late morning of November 9th to abdicate as emperor but not as Prussian king. The revolution had meanwhile reached Berlin. While a deed of abdication was being worked on in Spa, the news arrived that Max von Baden had announced the abdication of Wilhelm as Emperor and King and that Friedrich Ebert had transferred the office of Chancellor. With this maneuver, the prince of Baden tried at the last minute to channel the revolutionary pressure and to save the monarchy as such, which in fact no longer existed. On the same day, Philipp Scheidemann (SPD) and Karl Liebknecht ( Spartakusbund ) proclaimed the republic .

Since rumors circulated that the crews in the vicinity of the headquarters were no longer reliable, the Kaiser moved to the court train on the evening of November 9th and left early the next day after reports of "advancing insurgents" had been reported. Near the Dutch town of Eijsden (south of Maastricht ) he asked the Netherlands for internment . Through the mediation of the Dutch government (Beerenbrouck I cabinet under Prime Minister Charles Ruijs de Beerenbrouck ) Wilhelm II and his entourage found accommodation with Count Godard von Bentinck in Amerongen Castle .

After the end of the monarchy


Wilhelm II officially abdicated on November 28, 1918, 19 days after the proclamation of the republic, according to his own statement, in the hope of stabilizing the situation in the Reich. He never gave up the desire to return to the throne.

The text of the certificate of abdication read:

“I hereby waive the rights to the Prussian crown and the associated rights to the German imperial crown for all future. At the same time I release all officials of the German Reich and Prussia as well as all officers, NCOs and men of the Navy, the Prussian Army and the troops of the federal contingents of the oath of loyalty that they have given to Me as their Emperor, King and Supreme Commander. I expect them to help the owners of actual violence in Germany until the reorganization of the German Reich to protect the German people against the threatening dangers of anarchy, famine and foreign rule.
Documented under our signature and with the imprinted imperial seal.
Given to Amerongen, November 28, 1918.
Wilhelm "

On December 1, his son renounced the succession.

On March 27, 1920, the Prussian Ministry of the Interior published a decree by which all symbols of the monarchy - including the images of the emperors - were to be removed from public space.


Wilhelm II. In Amerongen, first photo with a beard, 1919

On January 22, 1920, the Dutch government rejected an Allied request to hand the former regent over to the victorious powers. Wilhelm II lived in Amerongen Castle (Netherlands) until 1920 , then in exile in Doorn near Utrecht . His wife, Empress Auguste Viktoria, died on April 11, 1921. Shortly before her death, Auguste Viktoria expressed the wish for the emperor to be remarried after her death. On November 5, 1922, he married the widowed Princess Hermine von Schönaich-Carolath , born Princess Reuss older line (1887-1947), who from then on had the title of "Empress", while she was officially only a "Princess of Prussia".

The emperor's departure without a fight, widely perceived in the conservative milieu as a “desertion”, was the subject of a debate until the 1940s, in which there were bitter phases over the interpretation of the event and the question of responsibility. The more recent research ascribes the conspicuous structural weakness of the explicitly monarchist-restorative tendency of the German right, which was already evident in the first half of the 1920s, to a considerable extent to the devastating impression of the "emperor's flight". Here lies the decisive milestone of a "movement away from the emperor, which can be proven even for the innermost core of the Prussian nobility" and viewed as the basis of the  surprisingly quick and permanent "dissolution of monarchism" in Germany compared to the longevity of French legitimism , for example must be.

Wilhelm II in civilian clothes with a cigarette, 1933
Wilhelm II with his wife Hermine, 1933

Wilhelm gathered scholars around him for cultural-historical studies (“Doorner Arbeitskreis”), wrote his memoirs and other books, and kept himself ready for the restoration of the monarchy. Among other things, the Hitler putsch in 1923 confirmed his thesis that only a monarch can guarantee peace and order. At the same time, hopes for a short-term and seamless restoration of the monarchy were soon also seen in the closest circle around Wilhelm as - according to Magnus von Levetzow in 1927 - an expression of “complete madness”. This lasting disillusionment was promoted not least by the fact that leading monarchists in Germany openly stated after 1925 that neither Wilhelm nor any of his sons could seriously be considered as pretenders to the throne. The Crown Prince, who had been regarded as “impossible” since 1919 because of the flight and the rumors about his way of life, agreed with his father as early as May 1924 that “a dictator must first pull the cart out of the mud”.

Although the Hohenzollern were generously resigned from republican Germany, Wilhelm made no secret of his hatred of the "Saurepublik". During the final phase of the Weimar Republic , Wilhelm (encouraged by his wife, who traveled around the Reich, and two visits by Göring in 1931 and 1932) hoped that the monarchy would be restored by the National Socialists . At the time, this did not seem entirely unrealistic, as the Italian fascists, who were exemplary in many respects for the National Socialists, kept the King of Italy in office even during Mussolini's dictatorship. Hopes for a reinstatement of the emperor turned out after the seizure of power of the NSDAP in early 1933 as an illusion. Wilhelm developed an increasingly distant attitude towards political developments in Germany.

“Everything is eliminated by the people: the princes, the nobility, the officers, the estates, etc .; but that will take revenge, the only flag they have left, the one with the swastika, will be curse again, and the Germans themselves will burn it one day, ”he judged on September 7, 1933. When Wilhelm II . In November 1938 , when he heard about the anti-Jewish November pogroms , he expressed his horror, called it a shame and called on every German to protest against it.

The Dutch Queen Wilhelmina , who had avoided any direct contact with Wilhelm during his entire exile, let him know in view of an imminent German attack on the Netherlands in April 1940 that he could no longer consider himself an internee and could therefore leave when and when wherever he wants. The Dutch government advised him several times to go to a place that was not directly in the combat zone. Even the British royal family under the reign of King George VI. offered Wilhelm asylum. The emperor, however, declined all offers with thanks, declaring that he wanted to stay in Doorn because of his old age and face his fate there. During the occupation of the Netherlands in May 1940, Hitler had the property cordoned off by the Secret Field Police . The emperor was still only allowed to leave it for short excursions and with company.

Wilhelm sent Adolf Hitler a congratulatory telegram on June 17, 1940, in which he congratulated him on the German victory over France shortly before:

“Under the deeper impression of France's extension of arms, I congratulate you and the entire German armed forces on the tremendous victory given by God with the words of Kaiser Wilhelm the Great in 1870: 'What a turning point through God's dispensation'. The chorale of Leuthen , which the victors of Leuthen , the soldiers of the Great King , intoned: 'Now all thank God' "

- Files on German Foreign Policy 1918–1945 . Series D, Volume 9: The War Years. March 18 to June 22, 1940 .

Hitler replied to Wilhelm, addressed as "His Majesty Kaiser Wilhelm II, Doorn, Holland" on June 24, 1940.

Death and burial

Wilhelm II died on June 4, 1941 at 12:30 p.m. in Haus Doorn after a pulmonary embolism . Funeral ceremonies in the empire were banned. The Nazi rulers only allowed a small number of people (close family members, some former officers, including Field Marshal August von Mackensen ) to travel to the occupied Netherlands to attend the burial. The emperor had ordered his burial in the closest circle and prohibited funeral speeches, wreaths, flags (to avoid swastika flags). Deputies from the old army and the new Wehrmacht took part in the funeral service, and at the emperor's request, the burial ended with the chorale and prayer song of the great tattoo " I pray to the power of love " played by the Wehrmacht band .

Bust of Wilhelm II by Max Bezner in front of Doorn House (1928, photo 2005)

Wilhelm was first buried in a chapel near the Doorner Gatehouse, with three hands of Potsdam soil from the area of ​​the Temple of Antiquities , Auguste Viktoria's burial site, being strewn on his coffin. He himself had decreed that his bones would only be "reburied in German soil" after the reestablishment of the monarchy in Germany. His coffin was later transferred to the mausoleum in the park of Haus Doorn, which was built posthumously according to his drawings . His funeral motto, chosen by himself, reads:

“Do not praise me, for I need no praise;
Do not praise me, for I have no need of fame;
Do not judge me because I will be judged. "


Max Koner : Kaiser Wilhelm II. (1890). A French general commented on this pose with the words: "This is not a portrait, but a declaration of war!"
Wilhelm II and Auguste Viktoria in a mosaic designed by Hermann Schaper in the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (1891–1895)

Wilhelm II did not receive any special attention from his parents, which led to persistent resentment, especially against his mother, who, according to her family letters, also viewed him politically very critically. The family's attempts to counteract his handicap were painful. His stunted left arm caused problems with balance and posture, as well as frequent pain in his left ear. But the future King of Prussia should be a "whole man" and not a cripple. The child was subjected to various painful therapies. The often required riding was difficult for him for a lifetime.

The disability presumably decreased his self-esteem and increased his egocentricity , easily ill health and volatility. Wearing uniforms and resting your left hand on the gun were helpful habits. Whether one can speak of a serious mental illness or a predisposition to a mental illness is debatable. A melancholy move is attested to him from time to time. Also from neurasthenia , or manic-depressive psychosis was a contemporary of the speech, with most psychiatric write-ups were made only after the abdication of the emperor. The psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin , who is still famous today, even saw Wilhelm's state of mind - in a remote diagnosis based on publicly available sources - as a "typical case of periodic disturbance", whereby the manic-depressive disposition insinuated here was disputed from another side.

The American historian Robert K. Massie describes him when he took office:

“Anyone looking at the new German Kaiser saw a man of almost medium height with restless, bright blue eyes and curly light brown hair. Its most striking feature was a bushy, curled-up mustache, the creation of a skilled barber who appeared at the castle every morning with a can of wax. [...] Wilhelm II wanted the approval and affection of his people, even longed for it, but for him the highest power lay not with the people or their representatives in the Reichstag, but with the monarch, who was loyally supported by his army. "

The historical journalist Volker Ullrich regarded the emperor as “insecure and arrogant, intelligent and impulsive, infatuated with modern technology and at the same time in love with pomp and theatricality”. Wilhelm II hated persistent difficulties. That probably also favored his proverbial desire to travel. Above all, however, he quickly abandoned trusted friends and partisans, so that courtiers with a more diplomatic character increasingly made his dealings with him and determined his personnel selection (including the choice of Bülow). Officers, among whom he felt comfortable, extended his judgment little, because they doubt the political prejudices of their box- like enclosed profession, and her style of bluster rubbed off on him.

In terms of personality, narcissistic traits hindered his empathy and judgment of others, such as Nicholas II of Russia. He saw himself as straightforward and open, but his tactlessness was well known. They caught the eye of those around him especially when he took office and when Bismarck was dismissed, and they were eagerly spread by him in his thoughts and memories . His career did not allow him to acquire a knowledge of the world and people that balanced these disadvantages.

Despite the essential differences to his old Prussian, simple and personally loyal grandfather Wilhelm I, Wilhelm II always tried to follow his pattern of government. One can interpret his initial relationship with Caprivi in ​​such a way that he hoped to have found “his own Bismarck” here. He appointed the nephew of the famous Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke (“I want a Moltke too”) as military commander in chief , who was then unable to step out of the shadow of Alfred von Schlieffen . However, his grandfather's reluctance to intervene directly in politics was by no means a permanent feature of his grandson. Wilhelm II repeatedly intervened directly in politics through personnel decisions and orders for bills.

The Achilleion , Wilhelm II's summer residence on Corfu
Wilhelm II hunting with Crown Prince Wilhelm and his wife Cecilie, 1908

He did not at all obey the public reticence of the old emperor. With enthusiasm for self-expression, Wilhelm II often ostentatiously pushed into the public domain, whereby his not inconsiderable speaking ability earned him a lively response, but also led him to politically questionable formulations. This excessive zeal also favored his relationship with the mass media . He can be seen as the first media monarch of the 20th century.

His penchant for uniforms and medals contributed to the cliché image of the Wilhelminism that was named after him . His mustache became fashionable and testified, among other things, that his subjects were loyal to the emperor. The "Kaiser-Wilhelm-Bart" advertised by the court hairdresser of Emperor François Haby as "It-is-achieved-beard" underscored the strikingly masculine message of his uniforms. Theodor Fontane took up the advertising slogan in the title of his working draft , and Heinrich Mann , too, borrowed from the popular advertising language in his novel Der Untertan (1914) , as evidenced by the well-known terms “imperial band” or “German beard costume”. In this way he linked the plot of his novel with reality and at the same time gave it an ironic leitmotif. This connects different levels of action, for example it alludes - on the political one - to the finally achieved unification of the empire . Even if the beard may seem unfashionable and silly today, it was undoubtedly modern in its literal symbolism. But Wilhelm's beard costume only stood out from the patriotic of his imperial ancestors in a blatantly modernist dynamic. Wilhelm's second operetta-like overall appearance was - if you look closely - exaggeratedly provocative and out of date. It illustrated his ill-conceived, militantly exaggerated, neo-absolutist and person-focused regiment.

A high point of this style was the pompous Siegesallee in the Great Tiergarten, mocked as "Puppenallee" in the usual way by the Berlin population, with 32 statues of the Brandenburg margraves and electors , the Prussian kings and a further 64 minor figures. Wilhelm himself made costume sketches for the statue of the Ascanian Albrecht the Bear . In the so-called “gutter speech” at the opening of the splendid boulevard on December 18, 1901, Wilhelm decreed the style of the fine arts from above (“no gutter art!”).

He also developed his own interests in archeology , which determined his stays in Corfu . In addition, as is not uncommon in aristocratic circles, he was enthusiastic about hunting . He was pleased with the number of trophies (he killed around 46,000 animals). In exile he liked to fell and chop trees. During the hunt, Wilhelm had met his later close friend Philipp Graf zu Eulenburg , who was one of his most important advisors, especially from 1890 to 1898.

Wilhelm loved as his brother Henry the sailing . He sailed off the coast of southern England with his yachts Meteor I – V in prestigious regattas and was a regular at the Kieler Woche , which he first visited in 1894. Even automobiles made him happy. He enjoyed driving the newest cars and was the protector of the Imperial Automobile Club .

A leisure activity of Wilhelm II, the drawing and painting of naval pictures, is linked to his preference for the navy. His mother, Empress Friedrich, was also a talented dilettante. As a prince, Wilhelm II had lessons from the marine painter Carl Saltzmann and from the court painter Paul Bülow . He also designed numerous monuments and corrected architectural designs for imperial buildings by hand.

Disengagement, when things turned out differently than he wanted, remained his trait. In 1918, in view of the November Revolution, he escaped to a neutral country. His autobiography , written in Holland, gives telling testimonies from his childhood, but with its justifications or avoidance of topics testifies to his weaknesses in judgment.

Public image

Wilhelm II in the tradition of the House of Hohenzollern . Postcard from 1901 to commemorate the bicentenary of the Kingdom of Prussia

Wilhelm was quite popular at first. The less valued features of unification of the empire "from above" with the preservation of old power structures found a welcome balance in the adoration of the emperors. The largely monarchist-minded press took up this, and one found for him the terms “worker emperor” and “peace emperor”. The latter designation goes inter alia. returned to Emanuel Nobel's suggestion in 1912 to award Kaiser Wilhelm II the Nobel Peace Prize donated by Alfred Nobel , at that time the German Empire had held peace for 24 years under his empire. But on the other hand it was also perceived as threatening (cf. Ludwig Quiddes as a criticism of Wilhelm II. And much received 1894 study Caligula on “ Caesar madness ”) or mocked: “The first was the aged emperor, the second was the wise emperor, the third is the travel emperor. ”There was also criticism in the term“ speech emperor ”. Jokes were made about his many different uniforms  - Count Philipp zu Eulenburg spoke of "Every day masked ball!"

“Serenissimus, a pipe has burst in the bathroom. - Bring the admiral's uniform. "

More dangerous than the criticism of the Democrats, Socialists, Catholics, including the minorities represented in the Reich (the Poles, the Danes since 1864, the Welfisch-minded Hanoverians since 1866, the Alsace-Lorraine since 1871) was the skepticism of the bourgeoisie, who dominated public opinion . He was not respected by many writers; the ironic Thomas Mann had treated a handicapped and somewhat simple-minded dynast in his novel, Royal Highness , most mildly. Direct criticism was forbidden by the “ libel of majesty ” section of the Criminal Code, but the jokes about him grew increasingly pungent. Just compare the much more positive image of the emperor Franz Joseph in Austria-Hungary.

His own uncle, the British King Edward VII , once described him as "the most brilliant failure in history".

The Harden-Eulenburg affair occupied the socio-political debate in Germany from 1907–1909. Wilhelm's closest friend, Philipp Fürst zu Eulenburg, and his Liebenberger circle are compromised. The emperor, worried about his image, drops Eulenburg and breaks away from his Liebenberger friends.

After his long-delayed decision not to fall at the head of his troops but to go into exile in 1918, he was also accused of cowardice . For many, opinion shifted to contempt . Nevertheless, the monarchist wing remained strong through the years of the Weimar Republic. But Wilhelm's hopes of a return as a monarch were dashed after Hindenburg's presidential election in 1925 and again after Hitler came to power in 1933. Hindenburg took his oath to the republic seriously, Hitler his “ Führer ” dictatorship. Volker Ullrich judged on the basis of Röhl's now complete study of Wilhelm II. 2008:

“With his disdain for everything civil, his contempt for the Slavs, his hatred of the Jews, his rampant world power fantasies, he represented attitudes and ideas that were taken up, radicalized and put into practice by the National Socialists. In this respect, it is entirely justified to call him a harbinger of Hitler. "

The historian Christopher Clark comes to a different conclusion in his work Wilhelm II. The Rule of the Last German Emperor . Clark advocates rethinking what he sees as the outdated theory of the German Sonderweg and not seeing the German Empire and its last emperor as a forerunner of the National Socialist dictatorship.

“The mocking, disparaging, even demonizing tone of many historiographical comments on Wilhelm is one of the most concise and striking features in this area. You don't need to be an advocate for rehabilitation to feel that this language is a little excessive and out of place. It is as if Wilhelm were made a symbolic figure for something that extends beyond himself and is greater than himself. "


Wedding medal 1881, obverse by Kullrich .
Back of the wedding medal with the coats of arms of Prussia, the German Empire and Schleswig-Holstein carried by 3 pages. The bridal couple in medieval costume.

Wilhelm married Princess Auguste Viktoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg (1858–1921) in 1881 . They had seven children. After the death of his first wife in 1922 he married the widowed Princess Hermine von Schönaich-Carolath , née Princess Reuss a. L. (1887–1947), who was dubbed "Empress" by him, but officially only a "Princess of Prussia" was.

The British King George V was his first cousin. His brother Prince Albert Wilhelm Heinrich von Prussia was Grand Admiral of the Imperial Navy .


Pedigree of Wilhelm II (German Empire)

Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia (1744–1797)
⚭ 1769
Friederike von Hessen-Darmstadt (1751–1805)

Grand Duke
Charles II of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1741–1816)
⚭ 1768
Friederike Caroline Luise of Hesse-Darmstadt (1752–1782)

Grand Duke
Carl August von Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach (1757–1828)
⚭ 1775
Luise von Hessen-Darmstadt (1757–1830)

Paul I of Russia (1754–1801)
⚭ 1776
Sophie Dorothee of Württemberg (1759–1828)

Franz von Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld (1750–1806)
⚭ 1777
Countess Auguste Reuss zu Ebersdorf (1757–1831)

August von Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg (1772–1822)
⚭ 1797
Luise Charlotte zu Mecklenburg (1779–1801)

George III of Great Britain and Ireland (1738–1820)
⚭ 1761
Sophie Charlotte von Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744–1818)

Franz von Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld (1750–1806)
⚭ 1777
Countess Auguste Reuss zu Ebersdorf (1757–1831)

Great grandparents

King Friedrich Wilhelm III. von Prussia (1770–1840)
⚭ 1793
Luise von Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1776–1810)

Grand Duke Karl Friedrich of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (1783-1853)
⚭ 1804
Grand Duchess Maria Pawlowna Romanowa (1786-1859)

Duke Ernst I of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1784–1844)
⚭ 1817
Luise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (1800–1831)

Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (1767–1820)
⚭ 1818 Victoire von Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld (1786–1861)


Kaiser Wilhelm I (1797–1888)
⚭ 1829
Augusta von Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach (1811–1890)

Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1819–1861)
⚭ 1840
Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Ireland (1819–1901)


Emperor Friedrich III. (1831–1888)
⚭ 1858
Victoria of Great Britain and Ireland (1840–1901)

Kaiser Wilhelm II. (1859–1941)

Sons and daughter

Wilhelm II with his family, 1896

Titles and ranks

Imperial standard of Wilhelm II, followed by the Prussian motto God with us




The following were named after Wilhelm II:



Historical works

  • Comparative history tables from 1878 to the outbreak of war in 1914. KF Koehler, Leipzig 1921.
  • My ancestors. Verlag für Kulturpolitik, Berlin 1929.

Works of cultural history

  • The essence of culture. Lecture by His Majesty the Emperor Wilhelm II based on a preliminary sketch drawn up by Leo Frobenius for His Majesty. Private print, Berlin 1931.
  • The Chinese monad, its history and its interpretation. KF Koehler, Leipzig 1934.
  • Studies on the Gorgon. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 1936. (The occasion was the discovery of an ancient Gorgon -Bildwerks on his property in Corfu.)
  • The kingship in ancient Mesopotamia. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 1938.
  • Origin and application of the canopy . A. de Lange, Amsterdam 1939.

Source editions

  • Holger Afflerbach (Ed.): Kaiser Wilhelm II as Supreme Warlord in the First World War. Sources from the military environment of the emperor 1914–1918. Verlag Oldenbourg, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-486-57581-3 .
  • Hellmuth von Gerlach (ed.): Letters and telegrams from Wilhelm II to Nicholas II (1894-1914). Meyer & Jessen, Vienna 1920.
  • Walter Goetz (Ed.): Letters from Wilhelm II to the Tsar 1894–1914. Ullstein, Berlin 1920.
  • Ernst Johann (ed.): Speeches of the emperor. Speeches, sermons and toasts. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 1966.
  • Axel Matthes (arrangement): Speeches by Kaiser Wilhelm II. Rogner and Bernhard, Munich 1976, ISBN 3-8077-0065-X .



Web links

Further content in the
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Commons-logo.svg Commons - Media content (category)
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Wikisource-logo.svg Wikisource - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Martin Kohlrausch : The man with the eagle helmet and Wilhelm II - media star around 1900. In: Gerhard Paul : Pictures that made history: 1900 to today. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011, p. 20.
  2. ^ John CG Röhl: Wilhelm II. Volume 1: The Emperor's Youth, 1859-1888. Munich 1993, p. 25 ff.
  3. Kösener Corpslisten 1930, 11, 613.
  4. Otto von Bismarck: Thoughts and Memories . Speeches and letters . Herbig, Munich 1982, ISBN 3-7766-1207-X , p. 543.
  5. ^ Heinrich Mann: An era is visited. Fischer, 3rd edition 2001, p. 515.
  6. Otto von Bismarck: Memory and Thought (= thoughts and memories , vol. 3). Cotta, Stuttgart and Berlin 1922, pp. 88-100.
  7. Otto von Bismarck: Memory and Thought (= thoughts and memories , vol. 3). Cotta, Stuttgart and Berlin 1922, pp. 37-44 .
  8. Otto von Bismarck: Memory and Thought (= thoughts and memories , vol. 3). Cotta, Stuttgart and Berlin 1922, p. 82 f.
  9. Wolfgang Benz: Prejudice and Genocide. Lines of Development of Anti-Semitism. Freiburg et al. 1997, p. 255.
  10. ^ John Röhl, Wilhelm II .: The Emperor's Crusade Against the Jews , FAZ, October 1, 2019. Retrieved October 18, 2019.
  11. Holger Afflerbach (Ed.): Kaiser Wilhelm II as Supreme Warlord in World War I. Sources from the military environment of the emperor 1914–1918. Verlag Oldenbourg, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-486-57581-3 , p. 57.
  12. Anti-Semitism and anti-Semitism among Kaiser Wilhelm II. , Scientific Services of the German Bundestag, November 30, 2007. Retrieved October 18, 2019.
  13. Sebastian Diziol: "Germans, become members of the fatherland!" The German Fleet Association 1898–1934. Solivagus Praeteritum, Kiel 2015, ISBN 978-3-9817079-0-8 , pp. 231-254.
  14. Volker Ullrich : Otto von Bismarck. Rowohlt, Reinbek 1998, ISBN 3-499-50602-5 , p. 125.
  15. Thomas Hartmut Benner: The rays of the crown. The religious dimension of the empire under Wilhelm II against the background of the Orient trip in 1898. Tectum Verlag, Marburg 2001, ISBN 3-8288-8227-7 , p. 94.
    Martin Kohlrausch : The man with the eagle helmet. Wilhelm II. Media star around 1900. In: Gerhard Paul (Hrsg.): The century of pictures. 1900 to 1949. Göttingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-89331-949-7 , pp. 68-75.
  16. William II.de: Architecture private website
  17. William II.de: Architecture
  18. ^ Rhenish history: The emperor's new buildings
  19. William II.de: Architecture
  20. ^ [Dülffer, Kröger, Wippich]: Vermiedene Kriege , 1997, p. 559.
  21. Stefan Gammelien: Wilhelm II and Sweden-Norway 1888-1905:. Scope and limits of personal rule. Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-8305-3122-7 , also dissertation 2008, footnote 369.
  22. ^ Klaus Hildebrand: German Foreign Policy 1871-1918. Verlag Oldenbourg, Munich 1994, p. 35.
    Friedrich Kracke: Prince and Kaiser. Wilhelm II. In the judgment of his time. Olzog, Munich 1960, p. 202.
  23. Liebchen and the Harper : Essay by Volker Ullrich , in: Die Zeit No. 45/2006, p. 92
  24. Martin Kohlrausch : The monarch in the scandal. The logic of the mass media and the transformation of the Wilhelmine monarchy. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-05-004020-3 , p. 158 ff.
  25. William Jannen, Jr: The Austro-Hungarian Decision For War in July 1914. In: Samuel R. Williamson, Jr, Peter Pastor (Ed.): Essays On World War I: Origins and Prisoners of War. New York 1983, pp. 55-81, here: p. 73; and Fritz Fischer: World politics, striving for world power and German war aims. In: Historische Zeitschrift 199 (1964), pp. 265–346; here p. 271.
  26. Imanuel Geiss (ed.): July crisis and outbreak of war. A collection of documents . Hannover 1963, Volume 1: p. 128 (No. 50); and Ludwig Bittner , Hans Uebersberger (ed.): Austria-Hungary's foreign policy from the Bosnian crisis in 1908 to the outbreak of war in 1914. Diplomatic files from the Austro-Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Vienna / Leipzig 1930, Volume 8: p. 370f. (No. 10145).
  27. Martin Kitchen: The Silent Dictatorship. The politics of the German High Command under Hindenburg and Ludendorff, 1916–1918. Publisher Croom Helm, London 1976, ISBN 0-85664-301-7 , pp. 272 ​​f.
  28. ^ André Scherer, Jacques Grunewald: L'Allemagne et les problemèmes de la paix pendant la première guerre mondiale. Documents extraits des archives de l'Office allemand des Affaires étrangères. Four volumes (German original documents), Paris 1962 and 1978, ISBN 2-85944-010-0 , Volume 2, pp. 194 f. (No. 115).
    Oleh S. Fedyshyn: Germany's Drive to the East and the Ukrainian Revolution 1917–1918 . New Brunswick / New Jersey 1971, p. 52f.
    Frank G. Weber: Eagles on the Crescent. Germany, Austria, and the Diplomacy of the Turkish Alliance 1914-1918 . Ithaca and London 1970, p. 221.
  29. ^ André Scherer, Jacques Grunewald: L'Allemagne et les problemèmes de la paix pendant la première guerre mondiale. Documents extraits des archives de l'Office allemand des Affaires étrangères. Four volumes (German original documents), Paris 1962 and 1978, ISBN 2-85944-010-0 , Volume 2, pp. 452 f. (No. 266).
    Ingeborg Meckling: Count Czernin's foreign policy. Vienna 1969, p. 103 f.
  30. Fritz Fischer: Reach for world power. The war policy of imperial Germany 1914/18. Düsseldorf 1964, p. 674.
    Gerhard Ritter: Statecraft and war craft. The problem of "militarism" in Germany. Volume 4: The rule of German militarism and the catastrophe of 1918. Munich 1968, ISBN 3-486-47041-8 , p. 359.
  31. ^ Winfried Baumgart: Deutsche Ostpolitik 1918. From Brest-Litowsk to the end of the First World War. Vienna / Munich 1966, p. 68.
  32. Fritz Fischer: Reach for world power. The war policy of imperial Germany 1914/18. Düsseldorf 1964, p. 568.
  33. Michael Kotulla : German Constitutional Law 1806-1918. A collection of documents and introductions. Volume 1: Germany as a whole, Anhalt states and Baden. Springer, Berlin / Heidelberg 2006, ISBN 978-3-540-29289-0 , p. 308 .
  34. Manfred Rauh: The parliamentarization of the German Empire. Droste Verlag, Düsseldorf 1977, pp. 430-432.
  35. Manfred Rauh: The parliamentarization of the German Empire. Droste, Düsseldorf 1977, pp. 465-467.
  36. Stephan Malinowski : From the king to the leader. German nobility and National Socialism. Frankfurt am Main 2004, p. 235 f.
  37. Thomas Nipperdey : German History 1866-1918. Vol. 2: Power state before democracy. 2nd Edition. Beck: Munich 1993, pp. 873 and 874.
  38. Joachim von Kürenberg : Was everything wrong? Athenäum Verlag, Bonn, 1951, p. 381 f.
  39. ^ Rudolf Weber-Fas : Epochs of German statehood. From the empire of the Franks to the Federal Republic. Stuttgart 2006, p. 163.
  40. Prussian and Hessian Railway Directorate in Mainz (ed.): Official Gazette of the Prussian and Hessian Railway Directorate in Mainz from June 26, 1920, No. 39. Announcement No. 581, p. 331.
  41. ^ Deutsches Historisches Museum: Chronik 1920 , accessed on January 22, 2012.
  42. Westarp, Kuno Graf von (Ed .: Werner Conze ), The End of the Monarchy on November 9, 1918. Final report based on the statements of those involved , Stollhamm-Berlin 1952, is still the most thorough reconstruction of the processes and positions (as of 2010) .
  43. ^ Hermann Schreyer: Monarchism and monarchist restoration efforts in the Weimar Republic. In: Jahrbuch für Geschichte (Studies on Politics and Ideology in Imperialism), 29 (1984), (East) Berlin 1984, pp. 291-320.
  44. Stephan Malinowski : From the king to the leader. German nobility and National Socialism. Frankfurt am Main 2004, p. 249.
  45. Stephan Malinowski: From the king to the leader. German nobility and National Socialism. Frankfurt am Main 2004, p. 247.
  46. Quoted from Stephan Malinowski: From the king to the leader. German nobility and National Socialism. Frankfurt am Main 2004, p. 246.
  47. Stephan Malinowski: From the king to the leader. German nobility and National Socialism. Frankfurt am Main 2004, p. 249.
  48. Quoted from Stephan Malinowski: From the king to the leader. German nobility and National Socialism. Frankfurt am Main 2004, p. 245.
  49. Quoted from Stephan Malinowski: From the king to the leader. German nobility and National Socialism. Frankfurt am Main 2004, p. 244.
  50. Wilhelm II. Dream of the throne . In: Der Spiegel . No. 37 , 1968 ( online ). As well as Harald von Koenigswald (ed.): The Kaiser in Holland. Notes from the last wing adjutant of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Sigurd von Ilsemann. Volume 2: Monarchy and National Socialism 1924–1941. Verlag Biederstein, Munich 1968, p. 230.
    Wilhelm II. And National Socialism
  51. ^ John CG Röhl : Wilhelm II: Into the Abyss of War and Exile, 1900-1941. Cambridge University Press 2014, p. 1263. Quoted by Willibald Gutsche ( Ein Kaiser im Exil , p. 208) and Michael Balfour ( Der Kaiser , p. 456).
  52. Christoph Driessen : History of the Netherlands. From sea power to trend land . Regensburg 2009, p. 177.
  53. Knut Wissenbach: From the manuscripts of the court preacher Friedrich August Henn .
  54. ^ Verlag Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1962, p. 494.
  55. ^ Wilhelm Treue (Ed.): Three German Emperors. Wilhelm I., Friedrich III., Wilhelm II. Their life and time, 1858–1918. Ploetz, Freiburg 1987, ISBN 3-87640-192-5 , p. 173.
  56. ^ Wilhelm Schüssler: Kaiser Wilhelm II. Fate and Guilt. Musterschmidt, Göttingen 1970, pp. 130f.
  57. ^ Friedrich Hartau: Wilhelm II. 9th edition, rororo, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-499-50264-4 , p. 130.
  58. ^ Friedrich Hartau: Wilhelm II. 9th edition, rororo, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-499-50264-4 , p. 42.
  59. Florian Bruns, Axel Karenberg: From neurasthenic to bipolar: Kaiser Wilhelm II in the mirror of psychiatric diagnoses of the 19th and 20th centuries (=  advances in neurology psychiatry ). Thieme, Stuttgart, New York 2019, doi : 10.1055 / a-0942-9575 .
  60. John CG Röhl: Kaiser, Hof und Staat. Wilhelm II and German politics. Beck, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-406-49405-6 , p. 32f.
  61. Robert K. Massie : The Bowls of Wrath. Britain, Germany and the approach of World War I. Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1998, ISBN 3-596-13497-8 , p. 134.
  62. Volker Ullrich: The nervous great power. Rise and fall of the German Empire 1871–1918. Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1999, ISBN 3-596-11694-5 , p. 144.
  63. Martin Kohlrausch: The monarch in the scandal. The logic of the mass media and the transformation of the Wilhelmine monarchy. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-05-004020-3 , p. 19.
  64. ^ Iwan-Michelangelo D'Aprile: Fontane: A Century in Motion , Rowohlt Verlag GmbH, 2018
  65. Martin Kohlrausch : The man with the eagle helmet and Wilhelm II - media star around 1900 , in: Gerhard Paul : Pictures that made history: 1900 to today , Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011, pp. 20-21.
  66. Illustration by Uta Lehnert: The Kaiser and the Siegesallee. Réclame Royale . Dietrich Reimer Verlag, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-496-01189-0 , p. 101.
  67. Spanke, Daniel., Exhibition Kaiser Wilhelm II. As a draftsman and painter <2003, Wilhelmshaven>, Kunsthalle <Wilhelmshaven>, exhibition "Kaiser Wilhelm II. As a draftsman and painter" (Wilhelmshaven 2003.09.14-11.16): Kaiser Wilhelm II. as a draftsman and painter: [Publication on the occasion of the exhibition "Kaiser Wilhelm II. as a draftsman and painter" in the Kunsthalle Wilhelmshaven from 14.9. – 16.11.2003] . Kunsthalle, Wilhelmshaven 2003, ISBN 3-936848-04-1 .
  68. ^ Wilhelm was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize: The Nomination Database for the Nobel Peace Prize, 1901–1956 .
  69. ^ "[...] the most brilliant failure in history", quoted from: Richard F. Hamilton, Holger H. Herwig: Decisions for War, 1914-1917 . Cambridge University Press, 2004, p. 72.
  70. Volker Ullrich: He is wrong through and through. Review of the third and final volume of John CG Röhl's biography of the emperor. In: Die Zeit , Hamburg, No. 41, October 1, 2008.
  71. Christopher Clark: Wilhelm II. The rule of the last German emperor. Munich 2008, p. 334.
  72. See also B. Marschall: Reisen und Regieren - Die Nordlandfahrten Kaiser Wilhelm II. Heidelberg 1991.
predecessor Office successor
Friedrich III. German Emperor
King of Prussia
Monarchy abolished
November Revolution
Friedrich III.
as German Emperor
German head of state
as German Kaiser
Friedrich Ebert and Hugo Haase
as chairmen of the Council of People's Representatives
Friedrich III. Head of the House of Hohenzollern
Wilhelm of Prussia