Wilhelm II: Into the Abyss of War and Exile, 1900-1941

Wilhelm II: Into the Abyss of War and Exile, 1900-1941

John C. G. Röhl

Language: English

Pages: 1593


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

This final volume of John C. G. Röhl's acclaimed biography of Kaiser Wilhelm II reveals the Kaiser's central role in the origins of the First World War. The book examines Wilhelm's part in the Boer War, the Russo-Japanese War, the naval arms race with Britain and Germany's rivalry with the United States as well as in the crises over Morocco, Bosnia and Agadir. It also sheds new light on the public scandals which accompanied his reign from the allegations of homosexuality made against his intimate friends to the Daily Telegraph affair. Above all, John Röhl scrutinises the mounting tension between Germany and Britain and the increasing pressure the Kaiser exerted on his Austro-Hungarian ally from 1912 onwards to resolve the Serbian problem. Following Germany's defeat and Wilhelm's enforced abdication, he charts the Kaiser's bitter experience of exile in Holland and his frustrated hopes that Hitler would restore him to the throne.

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repeatedly made clear, was to overtake the USA in terms of political power by building up his naval strength.37 It is true that the battlefleet-building programme introduced by Tirpitz in 1897 was directed principally against Britain, but from the beginning the Kaiser also had the United States in his sights as a potential opponent. In December 1897 he noted on a letter from the American ambassador Andrew Dickson White: ‘We shall win the favour of America and England in proportion to how much we

no doubt be a strong (?) letter.’85 Lascelles dispatched his full report on the affair direct to the King on 13 September 1905. In it he repeated the Kaiser’s complaint that the letter to the Crown Prince had contained remarks that amounted almost to a personal insult. The King had taken it amiss that the Crown Prince was declining an invitation to England for the second time, Wilhelm said, but in both cases there had been important reasons for refusing. The first invitation had arrived shortly

applicable, particularly when the ruling classes show so little political judgement. By a timely recognition of the signs of the times, much could have been saved that was good and vital. But why should a proletarian feel any sympathy for Crown or Altar when he sees daily that under these banners the most despicable egoism is simply seizing special advantages for itself? . . . The class state and rule by the Grace of God are no longer tenable in the light of modern times.’20 In Berlin and other

the Bosnian annexation crisis of 1908 to 1909 It did nothing to calm the situation that the Daily Telegraph affair, the most serious constitutional crisis since the foundation of the Reich, coincided with the appearance of a threat of war over the Near East. The overthrow of the tyrannical despotism of Abdul Hamid II by the Young Turk movement in July 1908, and the announcement of western-style parliamentary elections throughout the Ottoman Empire were certainly welcomed by most of the Sultan’s

culture, and demands for the abolition of the three-class franchise in Prussia and for a central government responsible to the Reichstag became ever louder, especially from the growing numbers of Social Democrats. Alarmed by the rising democratic tide, reactionary voices at court, in the officer corps, in the German-Conservative party and the Pan-German League called vehemently for a reactionary coup d’état against parliament, universal suffrage, freedom of the press, Social Democrats and Jews –

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