Kaiser Bill

I have just read Christopher Clark’s Kaiser Wilhelm II: A Life in Power. Wilhelm was King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany from 1889 until 1918, when his nation’s defeat in the Great War preciptated his abdication. He is a complex character, and Clark’s fair and scholarly treatment awakened in me a certain sympathy for the often well-meaning but excitable monarch who did not know when to shut his mouth. Like most Prussian aristocrats, he had an ingrained antisemitism, yet he opposed measures to harm Jews and had friendships with ‘Hebrew’ industrialists. Having lost the war, fleeing into Dutch exile, his bitterness sought scapegoats for the defat; he generally blamed the Jews, the Freemasons and the British who were controlled by both. He admired Hitler’s military greatness while despising the man himself (the feeling was mutual). For a man whose mouth ran away with him, he inevitably pronounced some unsavoury opinions about the Jews, yet in 1938 when the Nazi government led a nation-wide destruction of Jewish shops and businesses, he wrote:

"For the first time, I am ashamed to be a German.”

Some have seen him a proto-Hitler, others a far more reasonable ruler who even tried to avert the dreadful European war for which his nation and throne were blamed. Whatever our view, this exiled former monarch was summoned to stand before the King of kings in 1941 to answer for his conduct. A Lutheran member of the Evangelical State Church of Prussia, time will tell if he had saving faith in Christ the Jewish Messiah, or in some wily spirit of teutonic pride.

Image by Thomas B. from Pixabay