Wilhelm II, the last Emperor of Germany, dies at 82 (6-4-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (June 4, 1941)


Ruler’s exile to continue even in death

Burial to take place in Holland – funeral services on Monday.

By H. C. Buurman, United Press staff writer

06, Wilhelm II (Norman)

Doorn, Holland, June 4 –
Former Kaiser Wilhelm II, 82, the last of the German Hohenzollern emperors, died at 11:30 a.m. today (5:30 a.m. ET) at Doorn House.

The once-mightiest ruler of the Eastern Hemisphere, warlord of the last war and a figure of world power for 30 years, had suffered an embolism of the lung during the night.

His end was sudden but peaceful.

Definite funeral arrangements awaited instructions from the Hohenzollern family. German sources said, however, that Wilhelm would be buried in Holland.

They said he would be buried Monday in the chapel of Doorn Castle.

Only the closest members of the royal family will attend the funeral. It was believed that representatives of Adolf Hitler would attend.

He had lived at Doorn House all of the more than 20 years since, on Nov. 10, 1918, he fled across the Dutch frontier from Germany with a few faithful officers and surrendered his sword to a young Dutch sergeant.

In Berlin, it was said that Germans learned of Wilhelm’s death calmly. They were too concerned with the present war, and the rule of Nazism under Adolf Hitler, the new warlord, to overemphasize the importance of Wilhelm’s death. The official news agency said:

During the World War, the former Kaiser stood in the center of enemy propaganda, which was based principally on the allegation that Wilhelm II was responsible for the war. On the contrary, documents since published proved that former Kaiser Wilhelm’s government did everything possible to avoid a clash with England and the other former allies.

A well-informed Nazi said:

Although the former Kaiser in recent years was not a German personality, he was the representative of an important period of German history, He was the subject of much calumny in enemy countries but later history will judge him. We refrain at present on commenting except perhaps to say:

Of the dead, speak no evil.

Family not there

Members of the Hohenzollern family were summoned from Germany last week to join the Princess Hermine of Schönaich-Carolath, his second wife, at his bedside. But after spending the Whitsun weekend holiday with Wilhelm, most of them had returned to Germany yesterday and there was no time to call them back.

With Wilhelm’s death, the former Crown Prince, also named Wilhelm, 59, who had remained in Germany quietly during the rise of the Nazis, became the head of the House of Hohenzollern – a family founded by Burkhard I, Count of Zollern, who died about 1061.

In the event of a British victory in the present war, there is a possibility, if not a probability, of the restoration of the Hohenzollern dynasty in a federated Germany in which ruling princes of the German states would regain their autonomous power. It has generally been suggested that not the former Crown Prince but another Hohenzollern prince, in that event, would take the throne.

Wilhelm, once the symbol of Prussian militarism, had remained in exile, embittered for years because of charges that it was he and his little group of confidantes who had precipitated the last war.

Burial in Holland

He fought hard against his illness, and at 7:30 last night, his household said that he had shown such improvement that he was believed out of danger.

He could have spent his last days on German soil, but declined an invitation from Adolf Hitler, preferring to die here since he could not go back to Germany as emperor.

He died a stooped, lonely, white-haired old man, isolated from nearly all human contacts because of a fear of crowds and of “microbes.”

When I visited his estate for a weekend in 1937, he was still permitted to continue his favorite exercise – wood-chopping and sawing trees. His physicians later forced him to give it up.

Short morning walks

He always amazed his attendants with his ability to wield an axe. He had thinned out the groves on his estate and had started cutting down a forest on the estate of a friend, Count Bentinck, where he spent several months after his flight to Holland in November 1918.

Wilhelm in the morning usually took a short walk in the park. But even this activity had to be curtailed for he would go indoors whenever he started coughing. He lived in deathly fear of cancer of the throat, after a warning by a doctor that he must avoid all possible sources of colds.

Book prepared

He had worked lately on his family archives dictating chapters of a book, for publication after his death, that he hoped would prove to the world that Germany did not cause World War I and that his own deeds in the great struggle were inspired by the highest motives.

A courtier told me the former Kaiser was resigned to his exile. The courtier said:

He has always been deeply religious and he believes now, as he always has, that his actions are directed by God. This has enabled him to find a certain kind of peace and happiness, and has prevented him from being overwhelmed by homesickness.

The former Kaiser’s rambling country estate was surrounded by a high steel fence topped by barbed wire. On it were a rosarium and a “pinetum” where he had planted every type of rose and pine tree that would grow in this climate.

Medieval moat

In the evenings, he liked to stroll in the rose garden and pause at a small stone tablet inscribed:

To the memory of my beloved brother and true friend, Henry, Prince of Prussia, who died 20 April 1929, and who personally assisted in laying out this part of the ground.

In thankful remembrance, Wilhelm II.

Doorn House, where he lived and kept his treasured souvenirs, was an ivy-covered, two-story house surrounded by a medieval moat.

Wilhelm had expressed a wish in his later years that he be buried either in the white gallery of Potsdam, near the remains of his favorite ancestor – Frederick the Great – or near the ancestral castle at the village of Zollern, where the first bearers of the Hohenzollern name lived in the early Middle Ages before setting out on the conquest of Prussia and domination of all Germany.

It was believed that Adolf Hitler would grant this wish, for he had sent a delegation to Doorn in May 1940 during the Lowlands campaign, to invite the former Kaiser to return to Germany and live in any one of the Hohenzollern castles he might choose.

Letter of thanks sent

Wilhelm at the time wrote a letter of gratitude to Hitler, expressing his “delight” at the Nazi Third Reich’s victories, but said he preferred to remain at Doorn. He wrote:

I am an old man and now I’ve lived in Holland since 1918. I want to die here.

At Doorn, he surrounded himself with photographs and other momentos of his years at the German helm. A statue of Frederick the Great stood in the entrance hall. In his study, transformed into a chair, was the saddle from which he used to review his goose-stepping regiments.

Always treated as king

His retainers at Doorn House treated him as though no change had come in his fortune. They stood at attention in his presence, bowed to his commands, always addressed him as “Your Majesty.”

In the later years of his exile, he became increasingly the “Hermit of Doorn.” Largely responsible was an attempt on his life in December 1932, when a German, armed with a pistol and a huge dagger, was found crouched in the tower of Doorn House.

Toward the end, his chief preoccupation was charting the fortunes of Hitler’s military machine. On a map propped on the statue of Frederick the Great, he methodically followed every move with little colored pins to represent opposing armies in their advances and retreats. He would remain seated beside a radio for hours at a time to hear the latest war bulletins.


The life of a warlord –

Once the most-hated man in the world, the former Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany stepped into the pages of memories and histories today to take a place alongside the ghosts of Napoleon of France, Czar Nicholas Romanov of Russia, and other mighty men of war whose castles crumbled and whose thrones were toppled because of their imperialistic, autocratic ideas.

Hun!, Boche!, Kultur! – these words, harsh and cruel-sounding, became synonymous with Kaiserism during World War I. And it was German Kultur and the German Huns who made Wilhelm a hated man, as hated in his day in America as Adolf Hitler, Germany’s new warlord, is hated and feared today.

A man of fabulous wealth, Kaiser Wilhelm became a man of fabulous ideas. He was at one time, as Hitler is now, the most powerful man in the world, with the most powerful army on the face of the earth at his command.

At another time, Wilhelm was virtually in complete oblivion, banished by his own people to an inglorious exile, almost forgotten, powerless.

Historic megalomaniac

History will probably list him as one of the greatest megalomaniacs of all time – a man who clung to the outworn idea of the divine right of kings, and who apparently honestly believed that die gute, treue, alte Deutsche Gott was only a slight step higher than Seiner Majestät, Wilhelm der Zweite.

Wilhelm’s hallucinations of grandeur was, however, partly the results of childhood influences and the toadyings of servile courtiers in later life. His English mother scorned this partly-crippled son – he had a withered arm – and from this spirit arose his hatred of Great Britain.

As a baby, he suffered convulsions. An attending nurse immersed the royal infant in a tub of too hot water. She killed the nerves in the fragile little arm – the left – as she hastily jerked him out. Europe’s greatest surgeons were unable to prevent the arm from hanging withered, limp and useless. Despite this, however, Wilhelm became an expert horseman, tennis player, fencer and a crack shot.

Tutor’s description

Dr. Hinzpeter, his boyhood tutor, once gave the following characterization of his royal pupil:

He is a human being who possesses a peculiarly constituted individuality, the natural outcome of an ancestry which on one side represented the Guelphic perseverance, and on the other the proud insistence of the Hohenzollerns, wedded to the profoundest idealism. He is a creature who was destined to develop into a singularly strong character, implacable, indomitable, and insusceptible to foreign influence.

To hide his physical defect, Wilhelm early adopted a superior, haughty tone, and did all he could to hide his arm. But without question, this thing caused an inferiority complex which found its outlet in a domineering megalomania.

Wilhelm will be remembered as a man who believed in Germany’s right to “a place in the sun” and who always strove to assure such. Some of these strivings, badly bungled and tactlessly launched, were destined with the years to group a set of powers against him and his Reich that ended with the collapse of his empire and the loss of millions of good young soldiers.

Despotic ruler

Few modern rulers were more despotic. He accepted the adoration of his subjects as God’s instrument to rule the world. He had implanted into his subconsciousness years before World War I, some idea that he would be selected by Providence as the instrument by which Germany would be made the dominant power in the world.

Probably he caught the fire from the “Iron Chancellor,” Prince Otto von Bismarck, in spite of his personal hatred of the man. His Berlin-to-Baghdad railroad plan was the string on which he planned to make the backbone of a combined Eurasian empire which would dominate two continents.

First he had to reduce to impotence the enemies at his back, mainly France. He could not venture on the Asiatic excursion with a German-hating France in the rear. Belgium was a mere incident. The German war party didn’t regard England as an active enemy. Wilhelm ignored the United States.

Fatal error

A swift dash to Paris, and France would be left helpless. That was the plan drawn up for Wilhelm by his general staff. But General von Kluck made an error by swinging his German army too close to Paris before his support came up. Just as a night of rain robbed Napoleon of Waterloo, so von Kluck’s lack of judgment of distance wrecked Wilhelm’s dream of empire.

There were still years of fighting ahead for Wilhelm. Sometimes victory was almost in sight, but the German dream of world empire died before Paris.

Fate twisted Wilhelm’s destiny long before he arrived on earth in Berlin on Jan. 27, 1859.

Under a normal succession of the line, Wilhelm would have gone along through life as a prince of a cadet branch of the Hohenzollerns. But fate arranged matters so that his great-uncle, the demented Friedrich Wilhelm IV, died childless. Hence, Wilhelm I – grandfather of Wilhelm II – became King of Prussia.

’Me und Gott’

The grandfather said at his coronation in Königsberg on Oct. 18, 1861:

I rule by the favor of God, and no one else.

Here was a definite precedent for Wilhelm’s oft-repeated declaration that he, too, ruled by divine right; a declaration that translated itself into the Me und Gott quips of war days.

The grandfather was Wilhelm’s hero. As a boy, he showed little affection and respect toward his parents – Emperor Frederick III and Victoria, Princess Royal of Great Britain – but he looked upon Wilhelm I with unbounded admiration. It seems strange, perhaps, that Wilhelm cared so little for his father, who was regarded as a great soldier, beloved by all his men and his people, but such was the case.

Upon the death of Wilhelm I, Frederick III ascended the throne on Mar. 9, 1888. He died three months later from cancer of the throat.

Thus, Wilhelm II became Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia on June 15, 1888, at the age of 29.

His ambition to distinguish himself at once became apparent and caused uneasiness in all the chancelleries of Europe.

Speaking from the throne for the first time, Wilhelm used the personal pronoun “I” instead of the “we” used always by his royal predecessors.

Dismissed Bismarck

Almost his first official act was to call an international congress to protect labor. The meeting brought to a head the difference between Wilhelm and his “Iron Chancellor.” He dismissed Bismarck, the real founder of the German Empire, and retired him to political oblivion.

Bismarck resigned Mar. 20, 1890 and Wilhelm became his own chancellor although he appointed others to fill the post nominally.

Wilhelm refused to renew the socialist laws which became invalid on Oct. 1, 1890 and announced he would put down any revolutionary uprising with an iron hand.

He immediately began welding his nation together for the empire expansion he had in mind. One of his earliest acts was to negotiate the Heligoland Treaty with England whereby Germany obtained a “worthless” island and converted it into a naval base which dominated the North Sea.

Expansion in Africa

Then in rapid succession, he proclaimed the German rule of East Africa on Jan. 1, 1891. By 1897, he had won control of Kiautschou. Two years later, the German flag was flying over the Marianas, the Carolines, Palau and Western Samoa. By 1911, the flag had advanced to rule a part of the section north of the African Congo.

In the Boxer Rebellion in China, Germany, under Wilhelm’s leadership, cooperated with the other European powers in putting down the uprising in 1900. During the years 1904 to 1907, the Hereros and Hottentot uprisings in German Southwest Africa were put down.

Wilhelm enlarged and perfected his army with each of these mile posts in colonial expansion until it began to be talked about as the most perfect military machine in the world.

By 1904, he had put the two-year enforced military training system into effect. The following year, he dedicated the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Kanal which was built because of its naval and military strategic value.

Encouraged Kruger

When the Transvaal trouble broke out, Wilhelm telegraphed President Paul Kruger and encouraged his resistance to England.

In 1889 and 1898, Wilhelm made visits to Turkey to see how his Baghdad-Berlin railway was getting along. In 1905, the Moroccan peril was out aside and the Triple Alliance between Germany, Italy and Austria was renewed. Wilhelm was leaving no preparation for the coming war undone.

Along political lines, Wilhelm’s reign saw many reforms, among which were labor protective legislation, old age pensions and electoral reforms.

A social insurance law was among the first bills passed under his reign. When these benevolent measures failed to check the growth of socialism, the young monarch planned to return to Bismarck’s “blood and iron” policy. He sought to have a bill passed threatening strike leaders with penitentiary terms. Leo von Caprivi, the man he had chosen as Bismarck’s successor, opposed the bill and was immediately dismissed. Later, the Reichstag rejected the bill.

Bolstered navy, too

Wilhelm’s other protection against war was the strengthening of his army and the construction of a big navy which he considered the task of his life. From 1898 until World War I, he pursued his “big navy” policy. Two men aided him: Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz and Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow.

More than anything else, the big navy policy increased Wilhelm’s popularity with his people. But some historians say it was his greatest blunder. It caused the complete alienation of England.

Great Britain had sounded Germany’s willingness to conclude a political treaty in 1898 and the Kaiser had rejected the offer. At the same time, he launched his big navy policy. The situation was unmistakable to English statesmen. England, to whom Bismarck had looked as a potential ally, sought other friends.

Three things brought the bad feeling between England and Germany to a head. The first was the telegram which Wilhelm had dispatched to the Boer president. The second was the Kaiser’s landing troops in Morocco in 1905, which was followed by England’s military convention with France. The third was the Kaiser’s famous anonymous interview with The Daily Telegraph on Oct. 28, 1908.

English boomerang

The interview was an unintentional blunder. In that case, the Kaiser was full of good will. He amiably harangued the English and the boomerang it turned out to be was much of a surprise to him.

He said, amiably:

You English are mad, mad, mad as March hares. What has come over you that you are so completely given over to suspicions quite unworthy of a great nation?

Then he went on to explain what he had done for England, suggesting that the campaign plan which enabled Lord Roberts to beat the Boers was really his work, conceived by him and sent to Queen Victoria after approval of the German General Staff.

An exploding bombshell would have caused no more public resentment. The English really saw red. The Germans openly talked of dethroning their monarch. Although Wilhelm preserved his throne, the Daily Telegraph interview was the turning point in his life.

Statements censored

For the first time, Wilhelm realized that it was possible for him to make a mistake. He consented then and there to make no more public utterances without first consulting his chancellor.

With England aligned with the Entente, Germany had only one powerful ally in Europe, the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, because the third partner in the alliance, Italy, was becoming more and more an uncertain factor.

Still, Germany marched straight on to war. Wilhelm led it. Advocates of the policy of unlimited armaments won. Von Tirpitz asked for and obtained additional appropriations for battleships every few years.

Morocco crisis

The international horizon grew darker and darker as Wilhelm refused to apply the brakes to his coasting military machine. During the Morocco crisis in 1911, Germany stood practically isolated. The only thing that probably prevented the World War occurring in that year was that the other nations were not ready.

Foreign Secretary Alfred von Kiderlen-Waechter adopted a policy of intimidation towards France. The Kaiser disagreed with this policy, but was not able to counteract it. A consolidation of the Entente resulted.

The Kaiser himself wanted to keep his country free from international entanglements. He saw clearly as early as 1908, when Austria annexed the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, that it would be disastrous to commit Germany to Austria’s Balkan quarrels. Yet it was precisely over such a quarrel that Germany stumbled into World War I.

Encouraged Austria

When the Austrian heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated by a Serbian student on June 28, 1914, Wilhelm’s personal indignations unbounded. He encouraged his ally Austria to take the strongest steps against Serbia, and rebuked his envoy in Vienna for having counseled moderation.

While the diplomatic conflict was at its height, the Kaiser calmly went on a cruise in the Baltic. But he continued sending telegrams recommending severity toward Serbia. He lost all sense of proportions and declared that:

Serbia is a gang of bandits which cannot be spared.

Apparently, he was unaware of the danger of a worldwide conflict. He was convinced Russia would not support Serbia, as, in his opinion, no nation could protect the murderers of a Prince. He realized his tragic error when he returned from his Baltic cruise to find Russia in the frenzy of mobilization. At the last moment, he instructed his envoy in Vienna – whom he had rebuked for moderation a few days earlier – to try a last-hour mediation. He sent telegrams to the Czar imploring him to call off his army. But it was too late.

Power declined

Wilhelm’s power began a gradual decline the moment his nation began war. He was unable to take supreme command of his armies and insisted, at first, that all decisions be nominally referred to him. But he was reduced to the rank of onlooker more and more by his generals, a fate which, in the new war, has not been Hitler’s.

The Kaiser’s authority collapsed altogether when Hindenburg became chief of the Imperial German Staff and Ludendorff the General Quartermaster. That was August 1916.

Ludendorff was really the man who dethroned the Kaiser. He was virtually the dictator. Everybody depended on him for the next two years. Military defeat ended Ludendorff’s dictatorship and on Oct. 26, 1918, he handed the Kaiser his resignation.

The Kaiser said, in accepting the resignation:

I thank you for going. You facilitate my task enormously. Now I will try to build up a new Empire with the help of the Socialists.

His last illusion

That was the Kaiser’s last illusion. He soon lost it. Revolution broke out in the cities. His first impulse was to crush the rebels at the head of the army. General Hindenburg and General Groener persuaded him, however, that such an attempt would have no chance of success.

Germany’s transformation into a parliamentary democracy was watched by Wilhelm from his headquarters at Spa. The day after the republic was proclaimed in Berlin, Nov. 11, 1918, he fled to Holland. By leaving the country, he dealt a death blow to monarchism. He abdicated formally on Nov. 28.


Well as another rabid antisemite. who called Jews"parasites" which must be eliminated" in a 1919 letter to Mackensen. He is one of those people who has his reputation “saved by the next guy”: At least he is better that Hitler , as some German tourists in Doorn say. Probably the worst “compliment” ever, although I am still not sure if these tourist see the irony of this remark or still have some deference to their old Emperor who is still there in a draped coffin on a table untill Germany becomes a Monarchy as per his last will.

Source: the German/British writer John C.G. Rohl, Emperor Wilhelm 2.


Wilhelm said this about Hitler after Kristallnacht:

There’s a man alone, without family, without children, without God… He builds legions, but he doesn’t build a nation. A nation is created by families, a religion, traditions: it is made up out of the hearts of mothers, the wisdom of fathers, the joy and the exuberance of children… For a few months I was inclined to believe in National Socialism. I thought of it as a necessary fever. And I was gratified to see that there were, associated with it for a time, some of the wisest and most outstanding Germans. But these, one by one, he has got rid of or even killed… He has left nothing but a bunch of shirted gangsters! This man could bring home victories to our people each year, without bringing them either glory or danger. But of our Germany, which was a nation of poets and musicians, of artists and soldiers, he has made a nation of hysterics and hermits, engulfed in a mob and led by a thousand liars or fanatics.


The Pittsburgh Press (June 7, 1941)


Berlin, June 7 (UP) –
Dr. Bruno Doehring, pastor of the Berlin Cathedral, will conduct funeral services for former Kaiser Wilhelm II at Doorn, Holland, on Monday, the official German news agency DNB reported from Doorn today.

When the Kaiser was in power, he attended Dr. Doehring’s church, which is opposite the Imperial Palace in Berlin.

All of the former Kaiser’s children and many of his relatives have arrived at Doorn for Monday’s services.