The Personality Cult
The militarists were dismayed by the Kaiser's 1908 Daily Telegraph interview even though William's professions therein included belligerent implications for anyone who might want to block Germany from kicking open doors around the world in the name of Equality and Free Trade, that the Fatherland would have a glorious place in the Sun. Not that the Second Reich desired to put anyone in the shade; or so Chancellor Bulow had said some time ago, in an 1897 speech to the Reichstag; however, the subtext reveals that Germany was now to be a World Power State with a World Mission instead of just another state with a world policy.
No doubt the militarist in every beating heart, in some more than others, wanted to get on with the inevitable war and were accordingly dismayed by the affection the Supreme War Lord had displayed for the English in the interview. This instant indiscretion of the Kaiser was a good excuse to tighten the skins on the war drums. Prince von Bulow observed in retrospect, "Such political observations and remarks as the Emperor had made in the Daily Telegraph were only the decisive drops in a cup already filled to the brim with discontent at the ever-recurring aberrations, the gossiping imprudence, of his Majesty. This publication, as by some sudden slap in the face, had roused the nation to the memory of all the political faults, through a reign that had lasted twenty years, which William II had permitted himself to commit." True to form, Prince von Bulow, nicknamed "the Eel" for his flexible spine, and "the Lucky" for rising so quickly to high office, neglected to mention that those twenty years had been peaceful ones, and that the slap had been aggravated by German journalists after the interview was published in England, as if Germany would add insult to injury and get itself riled up by slapping itself in the face. With the help of the media, Germany was taking itself personally. Nationhood amounted to personhood. Friedrich Meinecke expounded on this subject in Cosmopolitanism and the National State (1908). The nation as a person rises above the cosmopolitan inclinations of individuals - as we said, it becomes a World Power State. Let us eavesdrop briefly on Professor Meinecke:
"Of all the great spheres of life that a man can enter, there is probably none that speaks so directly to the whole man as the nation, none that carries him so strongly, none that renders so faithfully his entire natural and intellectual being, none that can so readily be or become both macroanthropos and fully realized individual. Thus, it is not coincidence that an era of individualistic strivings for freedom immediately preceded the era of modern national thought. The nation drank the blood of free personalities, as it were, to attain personality itself.... The lofty insight that the state is an ideal supra-individual personality - this insight that sustains and justifies all our thought and concern about the state - could only come ot life when the political feelings and energies of individual citizens permeated the state and transformed it into a national state."
Meinecke rejoiced when the Great War broke out, survived it and lived long thereafter, long enough to regret world wars, and to continuously revise his philosophy at length. The restoration of the heroic ages in the "cult of personality" is now recognized as a defect given the world's experience with the likes of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Saddam Hussein. Just lately Europeans who vividly remembered the first three personages had serious reservations about the highly personalized style and bellicose conduct of U.S. President George Bush, Jr., and analysts noted, "Like father like son." Angry white American males in all their political correctness expressed outrage throughout the establishment media that caters to their fear and anger; we do see the difference between their president and Hitler; yet they should see there is a legitimate cause for concern with the cult of personality in the White House.
Of course Jesus was the Kaiser's personal hero. During the 17 October 1903 speech given after a dinner at Potsdam in honor of the confirmation of his fourth and fifth sons, William averred: "As princes of the Royal House you are authorized to wear a uniform even in your tenth year. Let me compare this to your baptism. You have received the advanced mark for a warrior in Christ.... I am intentionally speaking in military terms because I assume that you know the fine simile which likens Christ to a warrior.... Your spiritual teacher very wisely emphasized one idea in the magnificent speech he addressed to you, when he urged you to be 'personalities.' This is something which concerns, I believe, every Christian, for there can be no doubt that we are right, when we say our Lord, that his was the most personal of personalities...."
That being said, we recall that young William II, who was not a Stalin or a Hitler, had cultivated under the tutelage of Phillip Eulenberg, who loved him as a person, his sovereign personal regime under God. As the Reich's unimpeachable Head, he isolated himself from personal criticism coming from the lower body, He lost his dearest friend, Phillip Eulenberg, to the homophobic hysteria, unhesitatingly dismissing him. His new best friend, the enormously wealthy Prince zu Furstenberg, was frank and vulgar, a great friend for a man to have at times; he was an intelligent man, an aristocratic plutocrat, a soldier, sportsman, archaeologist, poet, artist, musician; but his was not known for political wisdom, and was more of a follower than a leader in politics. In the final analysis, the Kaiser in secret chambers was fatally manipulated by the class he had so loved in his youth - the military class. Nonetheless, with all his strengths and weaknesses, he happened to be the epitome of the precocious state. If we count him among the mad, he would be personally insignificant given the millions in the madhouses. If we were to peel off the roof of every house now matter how large or small and peer into the private lives of the residents, madness would seem to be the rule rather than the exception.
In any case, William appeared to act whimsically, constantly traveling about the land in his famous train - it was said that he was too busy to rule - as if he simply could not sit still and concentrate on anything for very long. At least he acted on his own whim and not that of others; he was as constitutionally stubborn as his liberal English mother: he was not one to be pushed around, although his stubborn attempt to be constitutional and cooperate with his ministry went against the grain. He sincerely contradicted himself depending on his mood at the time, as if he were being torn apart inside by his Prussian father and English mother, between being Prussian and being English. His physical mutilation at birth was a fundamental factor in all this: he might sympathize with the statement of Frida Kahlo, the postmodern artist who was crippled by an accident in her youth and went on to paint beautiful yet morbid images: "I am not sick, I am damaged."
Of course the Kaiser, no matter how divided within and formally separated from his subjects without, identified himself with his great rising nation and craved the limelight, and he could not seem to keep his mouth shut. The collection of his statements published in the 1908 Daily Telegraph as a so-called interview were indiscreet and injudicious, a laughing matter in several parts of the world, and, as we have observed, a source of serious political ammunition for the German press. It was the publicity straw that broke the camel's back in an adolescent nation naturally oversensitive and credulous, hence vulnerable to public embarrassments. Although the Kaiser was admired and even adulated as the national idol by many Germans, quite a number of admirers, duly informed by the unflattering German press, were beginning to believe their Emperor might be mad if not a fool.
Dr. Emil Reich, doctor juris, did not think so. Dr. Reich was educated at universities in Prague, Budapest, and Vienna. Having moved to England and identified with the British, he thought he had better warn them about the true nature of the Kaiser and his subjects. His prophetic book entitled Germany's Swelled Head was published in 1907; King Edward enjoyed the book about his nephew and passed it on to a friend in military service. Two statements, said Dr. Reich right off the bat, are the "entire burden" of his book - a book intended to forewarn the British to forearm themselves with ground forces. One: "The Germans are afflicted with the severest attack of swell-headedness known to modern history." Two: "The British are practically ignorant of the dangerous state of mind in their greatest rivals." The Kaiser is thought of in England as an "impulsive young man", a "reckless after-dinner talker", "hasty telegraphist", and "commercial traveler of the Germanic firm." But do not be deceived! For the real Kaiser is "a man of ripe, sober, and substantial judgment. On all outstanding questions of European policy he is undoubtedly the best informed individual in existence.... The information possessed by the Kaiser on international policies is true and valuable knowledge. It is in the light of this knowledge that we must view all his apparently rash and impulsive acts. The famous wire to President Kruger was, as we now know, a carefully thought-out lightning. He wanted to embroil England in South Africa, so as to win time for his naval preparations. Prussian policy has always been what soldiers call ricochet shooting: one aims at A, but shoots at B."
Furthermore, Dr. Reich says, the Kaiser is a great orator but he is disrespected by the British because they do not appreciate talkative people; whereas, on the Continent, long conversations are the rule and good long-winded speeches are given deference. However that may be, the gist of the Kaiser's speeches is that Germany's future lies on the water; that is, figuratively speaking, Germany should lay off the beer and totally commit itself to soberly sailing the seas to the end that the Pan-German world be ground up into a Great German Universal Sausage - the Kaiser did not drink much later on because he apparently once had a drinking problem. In other words, Germany is preparing for war - that much is obvious. "In Germany every able-bodied person is a soldier filled with the great military spirit... the spirit that prompts every German to think that if he were not ready to die for his country, what on earth is living for?" And do not expect Socialism to incapacitate or impede Germany's totalitarian political moves: "No greater illusion can be possibly indulged in. Socialism in Germany, as everywhere else on the continent, except France, is a pure theoretical force. It yields to the first onslaught of any one of the old historical and real forces on the Continent.... Socialism in Germany is politically not a party based on historical realities, but only a maneuver based on abstract ideas of certain economists."
"Swell-headedness": apparently a form of madness - Dr. Reich's book was also published with the title, Germany's Madness. Well, them, madness must have its reason. William has been psychoanalyzed to death; no less than Sigmund Freud threw his hat into the ring, in part to contest his wayward disciple's (Alfred Adler) hypothesis - the will to superiority causes one to overcompensate for his feelings of inferiority due to some defect such as the tragic results of William's birth trauma. As for the popular psychoanalysis of William, Dr. Freud understood that, when our lives want personal meaning we may project our want onto a majestic personal authority and hold him (or her) responsible for current events and their outcomes, as if he guided the events and purposed the fates. Perhaps we may avoid our own complicity and feelings of guilt by distancing ourselves from the person by analyzing him. People close to the Emperor depended on him for their status and good feelings, or bad feelings when their balloons were punctured - we must keep that in mind when considering their testimony, as well as the old adage that familiarity breeds contempt.
Bernhard von Bulow, in a letter to Phillip Eulenberg dated 28 May 1891, eulogized Eulenberg's beloved Kaiser, "His ideas and plans are almost always right, often brilliant; they rise up from the well of singular and splendid individuality, which combines rare energy and prudent consideration with remarkable understanding for the requirements of the time, (an individuality) that wants the best and usually perceives what the best is. It is another question whether the All-Highest's intentions are always efficiently carried out." Eulenberg had met Bulow in 1880, and thereafter championed him with the Kaiser. Eulenberg reached the pinnacle of his influence in 1897. On 21 June 1897 Bulow was summoned by the Foreign Office to report to the Kaiser on the Kaiser's yacht. Eulenberg urged him to honor the summons. Before he left, Eulenberg slipped him a note and said, "This is my last word, my last request. It comes from the heart of a true friend and patriot. Only if you take the Kaiser in the right way psychologically, can you be of use to your country. You are Kaiser Wilhelm II's last card." Bulow read the note handed to him:
"Wilhelm II takes everything personally. Only personal arguments make an impression on him. He wants to teach others, but learns unwillingly himself. He endures nothing that is boring; slow, stiff, or too serious people get on his nerves and have no success with him. Wilhelm II wants to shine and to do and decide everything for himself. What he wants to do unfortunately often goes awry. He loves glory and is ambitious and jealous. In order to get him to accept an idea you must act as though the idea were his. You must make everything easy for him. He readily encourages others to take bold steps but throws them overboard if they fail. Never forget that His Majesty needs praise every now and again. He is one of those people who grow bad tempered if they do not, from time to time, hear words of appreciation from the lips of some important person or the other. You will always obtain his consent to all your wishes as long as you do not neglect express appreciation of His Majesty whenever he deserves it. He is as grateful for it as a good and clever child. If instead of appreciation he gets nothing but unbroken silence, he concludes that there is ill somewhere. We two will always respect the border line between praise and flattery, we will respect it scrupulously."
We might include much of the above advice in our own How to Succeed manual. William appointed him Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs in June 1897, and, in 1900, Imperial Chancellor and Prussian Prime Minister. Once Bulow had reached the highest possible office that a subject can reach, he wanted more, and his tune changed - his Memoirs at least are sprinkled with all sorts of aspersions. And from other familiars we hear a number of negative epithets applied to the Kaiser over the years. We might as well cite a few: impulsive; self-deluded; an explosive powder keg; self-reliant on nonexistent experience; impetuous; fitfully angry; pugnacious; tactless; bellicose; splenetic; wild; out of control; neurotically compelled to be manly; purposeless; pathological liar.
We have seen that Dr. Reich, who did not know William personally but knew some Germans, pointed his finger at the Kaiser as being the most characteristic of the Germany public's real character, and he predicted what everyone knew was coming although most could not say why. He was not the only one to credit the Kaiser for his positive characteristics, then cry wolf. Yet others thought the Kaiser was not only sane but brilliant; that is, until the Great War came to pass and even the mass murder of non-combatants was joyfully celebrated in beer halls. Take, for instance, a man we have mentioned before, the Kaiser's American dentist of fourteen years, Arthur N. Davis, who wrote The Kaiser As I Know Him (1918). Dr. Davis stayed in Germany during the war. He had this to say in his discussion of the "the Kaiser's dual personality":
"If I had come away from Germany in January, 1914, instead of in January, 1918, and had then written the impression I had gained of the Kaiser in the ten years I had known him, what a false picture I would have painted of the man! It would have been a picture of a man who in general appearance and bearing was every inch an emperor and yet who could exhibit all the courtesy, affability, and gentleness of the most democratic gentleman; a man soft of eye and kindly in expression; a man of wise reading and attainments, perhaps the most versatile man in the world; a man possessed of a most alert mind, a remarkable memory, and the keenest observation; a man who was not generous in nature and yet was at times considerate of others; a man of charming personality and amiability. It would have shown a man of unparalleled egotism, a man who would brook no opposition. There might have been in the picture a suggestion of the dire lengths in which he would go to have his way, but it would have been only a suggestion. As far as that picture went, it would have been accurate; but it would have been sadly incomplete - with all the lights worked in, but lacking in the shadows. It took the war and its attendant horrors to reveal the Kaiser in his true colors. The war has not changed his character. It has uncovered it for all the world to see."
[Why should a man's faults always define his "true " character?]
According to Dr. Davis, the Kaiser made approximately 150 visits to the dental office over the years. While admiring crowds gathered on the sidewalk outside and other patients gladly rescheduled, his royal patient was as talkative as he could be during the procedures, and, after each sitting, he liked to stay for awhile and chat.
"In every act he was conscious of the public," relates Dr. Davis. "A post-card picture of the Kaiser, was, in his own estimation, one of the most priceless gifts he could bestow.... He is widely read on almost all subjects and knows the literature of England, France, and America, as well as that of Germany....Of his own taste in art little need be said. The monuments which he caused to be erected... are the laughing-stock of the artistic world.... His readiness to talk to me was undoubtedly due to a tendency he had to trust every one with whom he came in intimate contact.... He seemed to trust every one; his sense of personal security loosened his tongue and made him more talkative, perhaps, than was always discreet.... No matter how gloomy the outlook for Germany, the Kaiser seldom exhibited concern...."
"Veneration and awe of the Kaiser are bred in the bone of the German," Dr. Reich points out in a chapter on the relationship of the Kaiser and his people. "Even among the Socialists, who are not nearly so opposed to the monarchical idea as is commonly supposed, there is a strong sentiment of loyalty toward the Emperor. True, the socialists are clamoring constantly for the reform vote and other political changes, but I doubt very much whether - before the war at any rate - any large percentage of Socialists would have seized an opportunity to dethrone the Kaiser, even had one presented itself."
So much for Dr. Jekyll. Now Mr. Hyde: "If there could be any doubt as to the Kaiser's direct responsibility for the sinking of the Lusitania, certain it is that he fully approved, openly defended, and even exulted in the murder of women and children by Zeppelin raids in London, Manchester, Liverpool, and other non-military cities and towns. 'England expects to starve my women and children to death,' he declared to me, early in the war - long before we in Germany had begun to feel the slightest effect of the diminishing food-supply, 'but our Zeppelins will give their women and children a taste of war, too. Confound them! They sit on their island and try to starve us. We will give them a taste of what war is!"
[During the 'November Storm' raging in the Reichstag on 10 November 1908 over the Kaiser's Daily Telegraph interview, William was praising Count Zeppelin at an airship show, calling him "the greatest German of the twentieth century," a statement that gave cause for laughter and satire since only 8 years of the century had elapsed. William loved the new air-power technology: The dirigible flight he saw was, he said, "one of the greatest moments of human culture."]
"This was the man," Dr. Davis continued, "whose various acts of consideration toward me, whose talents and personal charms, had made such a favorable impression upon me! How trivial and inconsequential they all seemed now! Clearly, they were all a part of the role he had been playing for years. While he was outwardly displaying all the earmarks of a gentle character, he was plotting to dominate the world. For twenty-five years he maintained the peace of Europe - this he constantly made his boast. He maintained peace - just long enough to complete his final preparation for the wickedest was that was ever waged!"
As we now have the privilege of knowing, the wickedness would be surpassed a few years later, and far worse atrocities would be uncovered for the entire world to see. Of course the world, like the Kaiser's dentist, roundly condemned the German emperor during and after the fact, as practically the cause of it all. Still we might wonder what would now be said if Germany had won the Great War. After all, there are those who, following Hegel, believe that he who wins must have been right, hence their positive aspects should be accentuated; and, on the other hand, he who loses must have been wrong; at least they are right or wrong in the eyes of the presumably same god who provides moral obstacle courses and determines the fates of all, so that man may be free to choose rightly, in order to rise to heaven, or sink into hell. Therefore those who are attuned to the spirit of world history will condemn the losers for war crimes, but should not question the winner for his role in bringing about the war in the first place, at least not while the graves are fresh in mind.
"I have a vivid impression of him now as I write,” reminisces Dr. Davis. "He is standing in the center of my room, drawn up to his full height, his shoulders thrown back, his left hand upon the hilt of his sword, and his right hand emphasizing his remarks, protesting in the most earnest manner that it was not he who was responsible for the war and all its horrors, but that it had come upon the world despite all he had done to prevent it. His ready, well-chosen words entrance me, and under the spell of his personality I feel that this man must be telling me the truth and I am ready to believe that before me stands the most unjustly judged man in the world. He shakes my hand in farewell and is driven away, and then as I gaze at the spot where he just stood there comes before my eyes the desolation... the tragedy... the destruction... atrocious deeds.... and I realize that I have been talking to the world's most finished actor and have simply been bewitched by the power of his personal magnetism."
Germany and the English Octopus
The 1908 Daily Telegraph interview with German Emperor William II made His Highness look like a political moron. The Kaiser and his English confidants had expected the interview to make a favorable impression on the English, whose lion-hearted tempers, provoked by jingo journalism, were almost at the boiling point. Publication of the pacific interview had nearly been suppressed by chauvinists in the British government. Of course the jingo press expressed outrage over the Interview; however, many members of parliament chuckled over the obvious attempt of the Kaiser to kiss the proverbial ass by claiming that he had always been England's best friend, and that he had won the Boer War for her by giving her good advice - which apparently consisted of some irrelevant maxims, including one about a football match. On the other hand, the mood in Germany was au contraire, first of all among the militarists and their press organs. And since the newspapers were gospel to many Germans, the gaffe embarrassed even those who were devoted to the Kaiser.
"I have said time after time," the Kaiser reiterated in the Interview, "that I am friend of England, and your press - or, at least, a considerable section of it - bids the people of England refuse any proffered hand and insinuates that the other holds a dagger. How can I convince a nation against its will? I repeat that I am a friend of England, but you make things difficult for me. My task is not of the easiest. The prevailing sentiment among large sections of the middle and lower classes of my own people is not friendly to England. I am, therefore, so to speak, in a minority in my own land, but it is a minority of the best elements as it is in England with respect to Germany."
The Kaiser, Supreme War Lord and Prince of Peace, or rather the diplomat in the German Foreign Office who edited the pertinent clause to include other German friends of England besides the Emperor, was referring to a pacific-minded minority of elements in the upper crust. Peace was professedly preferred among the higher ranks; nevertheless, war was considered inevitable, especially among the militarists who were armed to make peace with the sword. In any case, Germans of all parties and persuasions were personally embarrassed if not indignant over the Kaiser's indiscreet effusions; he was the person they identified with, whether they were for him or not. Some people, particularly the intellectuals, thought that they could make do rather well without an Emperor or a monarchy; yet few people were willing to take that leap so soon. The Second German Empire was barely out of its crib as a political entity, and the states it tenuously comprised, or rather, consisted of, were hardly of one cloth. General Friedrick von Bernhardi, in Britain as Germany's Vassal, carefully noted the modern effects of the ancient parochial particularism of Germanic tribes:
"The peoples and States which are united in the German Empire," wrote the General, "have had a long and tragic history. That history, it is true , is filled with great and glorious deeds. At the same time, it cannot be disguised that it has been the history of gradual decline from the time when the ancient German Empire broke up, down to the moment when, in our own time, Germany once more became united....
"At the time of Germany's weakness the German people lost their sense of national consciousness. They lost their faith in their own strength and in their destiny. Germans began to overvalue everything foreign. The people became accustomed to narrow parochial conditions in their country, and they acquired narrow and parochial political views. Germany's reunion became their greatest ideal.... However, they had completely lost the idea of world-politics.... Even to-day many German people do not realize the necessity of a world-policy and cannot make up their minds to pursue a larger policy. There are many Germans who would like to confine their country to its continental position, and who describe those who desire to open up their country a great future as advocates of a policy of reckless adventure.... There are people who do not object to the alliance which Germany's enemies have concluded among themselves, for they believe that the Triple Entente serves to maintain the peace of Europe.
"Under these circumstances it seems necessary to tell the people again and again that Germany is an exceedingly important factor in human civilization...."
And that the German press set about doing, time and time again, often prompted by provocative statements in the British jingo press. We must not imagine that all Germans were petty and small-minded; as a matter of fact, many of them were interested in the world about them, so much so that "cosmopolitan" rather than "parochial" would be a more appropriate term for their disposition; yet that too was a threat to German unity: the independent state must be elevated over the world, hence Germany as a world-state, engaged in world-power politics, was emphasized. People are frequently their own worst enemy. The English language owes its existence to Low German. Whether the English as well as Germans are Teutons or not, German and English people have a reputation for stubborn particularism. England's independent spirit inspired her to rule the waves, and her cousins in the Fatherland who wanted the Roman Empire restored were jealous of the British Empire. Britain, on the other hand, looked down on the rude Prussian upstart; whether Germany be her cousin or not, she could not allow the continental applecart to be upset and the nations gathered up against her.
Prussian historians contemptuously referred to the England as a nation of shopkeepers whose previous conquests and narcotic materialism had lulled them into a false sense of security. There is nothing like an enemy to bring a great nation together. Millions of lives have been lost to world wars, yet even today proud leaders speak at length on how war makes a nation great by exalting heroic individuals on the high altar of sacrifice. And all those who oppose reckless adventures that lead to war are called cowards if not enemies of the state. The Soviet Union, the most recent Evil Empire, if the United States is the Good Empire, was secretly missed. Now, thank Mars! Dualism has been restored! the world is divided into Good and Evil again! there is a deadly enemy again! Unfortunately, the enemy is elusive today, has no country, and wears no uniform. On the other hand, the German Empire did not want for easily identifiable enemies; their location was obvious; the Fatherland had grounds to be paranoid: Germany was being encircled by enemies. Absolute Power, the god of worldly religion, is what was sorely wanted and loved above all. Decrepit Britain had the lion's share and no longer deserved it. In any event, something had to be done and soon, and for that a pretext was needed.
Of course ordinary people do not need sophisticated explanations for disliking or even hating a people who seem to be posing a threat or standing in their light. Even family members are notoriously ambivalent towards one another. William II loved and hated his English mother. Of course, like many children with problems at home, he loved most of all his grandparents. He loved his grandfather, William I, King of Prussia and German Emperor - he was also fond of his grandfather's Iron Chancellor, Bismarck, until he saw fit to dismiss him. He loved perhaps most of all his grandmother, Queen Victoria of England, who died in his arms - he tried to lift her into her coffin despite his withered arm. There existed a corresponding, natural love and hate relationship between the English and German people. Certain members of the German power elite genuinely appreciated Britain's global glory: for instance, Admiral Tirpitz, who was busy building up the German Fleet for its inevitable stand off with the British Fleet - no admiral in his right mind would risk his entire fleet in a battle to the death on the deep blue waters - admired his English friend and enemy. Germans who could afford it visited England, even sent their kids there to school, yet they expected her glory to fade fast as Germany eclipsed the global robber-state and converted it into Germany's lackey. There was considerable moral justification rooted in legend and myth for same. Rather than casting so much blame on William II for failing to reign in the militarists who were eager to do what they do best, make war, we should give more credit to the Kaiser for fighting against his Prussian heritage, for stubbornly holding out for peace as long as he did, surrounded as he was from birth by the cultivation of war - as every self-respecting Prussian prince was destined to be.
In any case, German patriotism did not depend on princely disposition for its expansive mood: populist patriotic leagues such as the Pan-German League, the Alldeutscher Verband, arose in Germany. The Pan German League was a nationalistic folkish organization seemingly opposed to Imperial politics at the time - the Imperial government was quick to co-opt elements of the movement and adopt its symbols for its own purposes. An especially sore spot was the Heligoland Treaty entered into, on the German side, by the Caprivi government: Germany relinquished claims to choice African lands in return for Britain's cession to German of the island of Heligoland.
Pan-Germanism originated in the Alldeutschtum and Pangermanismus cultural movements. The Grossdeutschland solution to cultural fragmentation was largely educational at first, purposed to entice German emigrants back to the Fatherland or to provide them, with the help of German writers and professors, with German culture wherever the German flag was flown. But the vague cultural movement was soon provided with a rigid ideological scheme for fighting the flood tide of foreign immigrants inundating Germany and its provinces; and, externally, for expanding the German ethnic community about the globe. The cultural movement was couched in apocalyptic or millenarian rhetoric, its key element being Water, representing enemies surging, flooding, streaming, and storming about the fertile German lands, threatening to drown the Fatherland itself. The world was divided into twain for battle: into good, the Germans, and evil, the non-Germans. Socialists, Catholics, Jewish intellectuals and capitalists, homosexuals, and other internationalists were of course the true German's mortal enemies, just as the Roman Empire had been the mortal enemy of apocalyptic Jews and Christians. Ironically, in context of the holocaust to come, some Pan-Germans thought of themselves as the genuine Jews of the world - witness the Boer patriarchs in South Africa. Pan-German colonists and ideologues at-large were pioneers; prophets in the wilderness; martyrs; lighthouses or rocks or islands in the raging seas, swimming against the flood tide. One recalls the enemy, the Whore of Babylon, the Hills of Rome, the Grand Dragon - the conglomerate political totem resulting from miscegenation, associated with floods and the birth of the anti-Christ - and so on. Hence a dragon-slayer is wanted, a messiah gifted with charisma.
Professor Max Weber, who thought the Kaiser was a dangerous fool, stepped forward and asserted the superiority of the German power state over the cosmopolitan world. His timing was perfect. German group-love was feeling especially expansive notwithstanding the fact that particular states in the new imperial federation such as Bavaria did not appreciate Prussian domination or its belligerent plans for European dominion. Yet, despite their primordial particularist tendencies, Germans were rightly taking more pride every day in their nascent national unity, a nationality religiously preached in the admirable school system. And they had every right to be proud of their almost miraculous progress, at least in raw, economic terms. Not that all was peaches and cream: the prosperity of average Germans was modest to say the least; but Germany industry had surpassed Great Britain and was second only to the United States. The population and production explosion wanted somewhere to go.
Alas, the world was hardly encircling the rambunctious new empire on the block with warm welcoming embraces - Germans were being stiff-armed here and there by their old French brothers and English cousins. Wherefore Weber inflamed ambitious intellectuals with his 1895 Inaugural Lecture at the University of Frieburg: he said the unification of Germany would merely be a "youthful folly" unless followed up on with Weltmachpolitik, or World Power Politics. In brief: Might makes right. Power takes precedence over ethics, if you will. Professor Weber's speech was lengthy and quite rational, but the powerful gist of it was nothing new: the popular or vulgar version circulated with myths of the barbaric paradise of Nordic gods who are instinctively overjoyed by uninhibited violence. Then Weber prayed for the rise of a charismatic leader. As the saying goes, we must be careful what we pray for: Germany got Hitler - but we should not place too much blame on Professor Weber. The dragon-slayer was about to become the dragon, his own worst enemy. The cause is One, is the Original or First Cause, the Will to Overpower. However that may be, the sacred national symbols must be conserved; that responsibility eventually fell to the Pan-German League - Max Weber was one of its early supporters.
The Pan-German League was a reorganization of the General German League, which, in turn, was an umbrella organization of other societies. The General German League was stillborn in 1886; it was revived in 1891, under the leadership of one Carl Peters, for the "activation of patriotic consciousness at home and combating all tendencies opposed to national [volkisch] development.... Fostering and support of German ethnic aspirations in all countries.... Promotion of... German power in Europe and overseas, especially the continuation of the German colonial movement toward tangible results." It's main symbol was 'Germandom everywhere on earth.'
The General German League asserted the right of the German folk, clearly distinguished from the Imperial government, to be the nation; that is, the people and not the imperial elite are the nation, hence the national symbols belong to the people. Many members of the league were National Liberals, a party of middle-class urbanites who had split off from the Progressive Party. The National Liberal Party became more national than liberal: it abandoned its liberal ideals and advocated the military-industrial strengthening of German. Carl Peters went back to Africa; the General German League was beset with organizational and financial problems and was on the verge of collapse in 1893. Its membership ranged from a few hundred people in the Berlin chapter, in the first three years if its existence, to a few thousand people at its peak. One persistent bone of contention within the organization was the inclusion or exclusion of Jews from its membership. That question was not fully resolved until Hitler's time, when Jews were selected as the scapegoat for German unity; Jewish intellectuals even participated in early activities of the National Socialist organization. But prior to the Great War, the Navy and not the Jew was employed as the unifying symbol.
The Pan-German League succeeding the General German League was organized in 1894 by a prominent member of the General German League, Professor Ernst Hasse, statistician, Reichstag member for the National Liberal Party. He was said to be a most candid man, a rigid thinker, enthusiastic, humorless, volatile, and impatient. He had the ideologue's intolerance for ambiguity. Haase was the League's chairman and chief ideologue until 1908. Deutsche Politik, his attempt to voice a coherent doctrine, was published between 1905 and 1908. He was dedicated to imperial expansion and to the defense of German culture. The Pan-German League's Constitution provides that its organization "strives to quicken the national sentiment of all Germans and in particular to awaken and foster the sense of racial and cultural kinship of all sections of the German people.... These aims imply that the Pan-German League works for preservation of the German people in Europe and overseas and its support wherever threatened, (and) settlement of all cultural, educational, and school problems in ways that shall aid the German people." The League's 1898 convention specified certain policies, including "Transference to the west of all officials and military men of Polish race.... Employment of only German labor in imperial and state possessions and domains.... Possession of German citizenship by all Germans from the Empire in foreign countries.... Prohibition of the use of foreign languages in clubs and meetings.... Germanization of all foreign place names in the German Empire...." and more.
The Pan-German League like other patriotic societies had chapters all over the world to serve the German race. The 'races' of popular 'racism' are not scientific facts but are fictions or myths; the Germanic linguistic group and ethnos was diffused about the world, far from their obscure origin in time and place. In fine, it is difficult if not impossible to define just who was German, although there were Germans almost everywhere. Some of the more expansive definitions included certain categories elsewhere despised: the English, and, more significantly, the Slavs, on whom Frederick the Great had used his propaganda machine - to disparage them as crude and uncouth barbarians.
Of course there were plenty of 'Germans' in Austria, where the Pan-Germans were led by Hitler's model for agitation: Georg Ritter von Schonerer. Schonerer looked like a jovial farmer: broad, bearded, pot-bellied. He was a demagogue who used his perch in parliament to agitate for German unity as the response to a single issue: "the Jews versus the people." He regarded anti-Semitism as "the greatest achievement of our century. We regard as a deserter anyone who knowingly supports Jewry and its agents." He divided the world into anti-Semites, Jews, and "Jewish stooges." Furthermore, during a speech supporting his "Chinese Bill", so-called because it resembled the U.S. Congress exclusion of Oriental immigrants, he declared, "We... regard anti-Semitism as the cornerstone of our nationality, as one of the most important means of inculcating volkisch values, and as the greatest sign of this century...." His associates employed simple slogans such as "fighting corruption" and "destroying capitalism", implying, "burn the Jews." Pan-Germanism abhorred the economic determinism of socialism as well as that of capitalism, and, instead of the commodity-fetich and its money-god, the movement relied on its ethnic or folkish spirit as the determining cultural force.
Schonerer developed vulgar obstructionist tactics in the parliament: interrupting speeches with derisive hoots and personal insults in tavern terminology; insisting on reading out the names of long lists of persons who had signed petitions; and so on. He used his privileged position to debase the constitutional process, slandering and intimidating people, while, at the same time, incongruously appealing to high ideals. In the same emotional speech he would, for instance, demand censorship and press freedom. The ambiguity did not matter since the underlying question demanding a solution was, for him and his ilk, the Jewish question. Hitler perfected Schonerer's incongruous approach; for instance, addressing strikers, Hitler promised them higher wages, and, in the next breath, promised their employers higher profit margins as a consequence - many people walked away knowing very well that the contradictions amounted to absurdity, but that was not the point during Hitler's rise to power: the point was always the unpatriotic Jewish merchants and capitalists, and, since capitalism and socialism had failed, their need for any kind of action at all in response to the desperate economic situation.
In 1884 Schonerer gained widespread admiration for his opposition in parliament to the renewal of a railroad franchise owned by the Vienna Rothschild bank. Democrats wanted all railroads nationalized. Schonerer got petitions together and proceeded with a vilification campaign against "the worst enemies of the people", the "capitalist Jews" and their allies, the Vienna press, the "Jew journalist slaves" - most of the editors and writers of the Vienna press were Jews. As a consequence of Schonerer's scandalous agitation, a new, revised railroad bill was submitted by the government. The new bill was in fact a victory for Schonerer and for the public: the state immediately benefited by three times the railroad's annual net profit; 300 million gulden would be saved in the long run; the political benefit to the public of the pioneering, popular opposition to the government was immeasurable.
The Austrian Pan-Germans wanted Austria to be ceded by Germany - that would be accomplished later by Hitler. In Germany, Pan-Germanism was largely a reaction to the "soft" policies of Chancellor Caprivi, who cared little for imperialism and who was, like Bismarck before him, more interested in consolidating and strengthening Germany's position on the Continent - a policy that alienated German super-patriots. William II supported his Chancellor for awhile, but so much opposition arose that he had to wash his hands of Caprivi's liberal 'New Course' and abruptly dismiss him.
The Pan-German League was certainly influential despite its small membership of a few thousand, primarily middle-class, people. Even those who scoffed at the Pan-Germans sympathized with their views. As we have noted, the Imperial government was quick to co-opt the most popular ideas. The disenchantment with all things not German, and lover for things German including the Fatherland was widespread. To counter the flood tide of aliens everywhere, a wave of chauvinism was sweeping over Germany at the turn of the century. The crests were blown to new popular heights by big businessmen interested in unloading their surpluses overseas and paying off employees at home to stave off a social revolution. To that vertical end they profited at every level; most importantly and at enormous expense, they were building the fleet to protect their imperialism on the high seas. "Tear down your houses and use them to build an Ark!" we heard from Sumeria long before. If the dragon symbolizes the raging flood, one way to control the disorder is to ride the dragon with a big fleet of capital ships. But Navy officials were leery of the Pan German League's grass-roots advocacy of a big navy, lest the enthusiasm get out of hand and jeopardize the building program with undue agitation and populist influence on Navy administration. The Navy had become the symbol for national unity in Germany; this symbol might be a folk symbol but its application was to be in the hands of the power elite. Another league was wanted to that end. Patriotic industrialists and bankers, with vested interests in building the Navy for the Imperial government and in revitalizing the economy at the same time, organized the enormously popular Navy League. In contrast to the few thousand members of the Pan-German League, Navy League membership grew to nearly one-million members.
Yes, Germany's time had come to build a dreadful fleet to sail the deep blue waters, that Germany might bask in the Sun. Great Britain ruled the waves, but not to worry, for her fortunes were bound to sink forthwith. The message of Germany unity and its mission was repeated time again and again. The great English robber-State had become a nation of shopkeepers cravenly depending on her fleet and mercenaries instead of her own army of valiant warriors. She will as a matter of course be replaced by ascending Germany. After all, Germany is a nation inspired by Prussian militancy and by the ancient religious spirit of the four great world religions, to pursue those ideal ends which led Frederick the Great to mock the myth of the Holy Roman Empire, just as Germany now mocks the myth of the English Empire. England's possessions, England's arrogance on the seas, her claim to world-wide empire, is a provocative insult to Germany. How dare the German Emperor proclaim his friendship for England in the Daily Telegraph interview!
Britain, the elder power, had already glutted herself, lectured Professor Heinrich von Treitschke, leader of the patriotic Prussian School of History. England's "supremacy is an unreality," he said to his audience of both German and English students, who listened rapturously to his heartfelt propaganda. "Her political power is as hollow as her moral virtue; the one an arrogance and pretence, the other hypocrisy. She cannot long maintain that baseless supremacy." Moreover, "A German could not live long in the atmosphere of England - an atmosphere of sham, prudery, conventionality, and hollowness."
Max Weber believed that Professor Trietschke had gone overboard with his professional propaganda, which he was pandering to his students with what they wanted to hear; nonetheless, Weber admired Trietschke's patriotic German idealism. He also admired and to a far greater extent the English intellectual and leading philosopher of the Enlightenment: Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes was a master of clear thinking and English prose; his ideas about the solution to man's presumably natural state, the war of all against all, rang a bell in the Fatherland, and quite naturally so, since the most generous Pan-German thinking included the Anglo-Saxons as a branch of the original superior race - Professor Weber personally excluded the Poles from original superiority, saying, "It is only thanks to us that Poles are human beings!" Hobbes was of course taken a bit out of context in Germany, but Machiavelli was taken true to heart. However that might be, one thing is for sure: Prussia, and not England, is now to be the leading cause of world progress.
Prussianized Germany, now a nation of warriors, must and will take her turn and play the leading role on the world stage, for Germany is the agent of the world spirit confronting opium-dealing, parochial Bible-thumping England - the Anglican Church has contributed nothing of lasting value to the world, whereas Germany's professors and scholars instruct the world in the great world religions. To use another one of Treitschke's phrases to reiterate the proper German attitude toward England: "A thing that is wholly a sham cannot in this universe of ours endure forever. It may endure for a day, but its doom is certain; there is not room for it in a world governed by valour, by the Will to Power."
And Germany, if anything, is valiant. She does not, like England did in the Boer War, "march chained Boer women together in order to form a screen to protect themselves from the bullets of outraged husbands and fathers." As for women, German women are not loud-mouthed English Suffragettes who wage war on flower-beds and shop windows. At least Prussian women are noble women! Witness how, in the heroic rising of the Prussian Schill in 1809, when in more than one instance, as the helmets of the dead were removed, a flood of golden hair rolled down from under the helmet to the waist of the fallen. That, they say, is how German women go to war.
It all makes sense now, it is quite simple, according to the Prussian historians. Frederick the Great, like Alexander the Great, was an astounding military genius, yet he was content with the Prussia he had secured at the time. Furthermore, in 1871, nearly a century after Frederick, the "bad boy of Europe", had made a mockery of the crumbled Holy Roman Empire, Germany was inspired to a genuine Imperial unity, led, of course, by the Hohenzollern Dynasty. Thanks to Bismarck, Germany had by force of arms and clever diplomacy achieved its unity under Prussian hegemony. The north would rule the south, but with some trepidation, under Bismarck's constitution, of an incongruous imperial federation.
We must not blame Bismarck for the fatal defect of his constitution: he did not foresee the full force of the social revolution coming from below; rather, he was anxious about holding the various states together under the Prussian dominance, and did not realize a dragon would soon be unleashed on the world. And now, with the restoration of the Imperial Roman Majesty in the Second Reich, and with Kaiser William II of the Hohenzollern House on the Imperial Throne, the Time had finally come for every patriotic German to carry on where Napoleon had failed, to accomplish what Nature demanded: a United States of the World!
First of all, Europe must be saved. Since England was the greatest impediment to progress, the world must be saved from the clutches of the decrepit old English octopus. William II is at the helm of the Imperial Ark, yet the World Spirit is steering. The Kaiser is the genius of the German people whether he likes it or not, and he will soon become, against his will as a mere individual, the "mad dog of Europe."
Yes, indeed, the day of reckoning is coming, the hour is nigh, "Germany is watching and waiting, Year by year silently she prepares."
TO BE CONTINUED
Note: This article is the sixth of a series of twelve significant events of the year 1908.
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