excerpt from "Mémoires du Prince de BÜLOW" éd. Plon / Paris,1931 and "Correspondance Secrète de BÜLOW et GUILLAUME II" éd. Grasset / Paris 1931.
What one is going to read here seems incredible. However, this story is true, and it exists much more others....... Among the innumerable chats of which the Kaiser was unreasonably prodigal, there was one that got, by chance, advertisement thanks to the Daily Telegraph of London.
To try to bring back to him the public opinion of Britain, on October 18, 1908, Wilhelm II had given an interview made of all pieces where he made a face of unfailing friend of the English people. It comprised four essential points:
- contrary to his people, he was a sincere friend of England.
- in December 1899 he had sent to his grandmother, queen Victoria of England, a plan of campaign which had led to the defeat of the Boers.
- in 1899, France and Russia had come to propose him to force England to finish the war against the Boers, but that he had opposed him to the execution of this plan.
- he had invited English to stand ready to defend, with the help of the German Fleet, their common interests in the Pacific against Japan and China.
The scandal was so " Kolossal ", the produced effect all over the world so disastrous, that the Reichstag, yet out and out monarchist, required explanations and criticized the emperor, his personal regime, and dangers who sharply resulted of that. A press campaign was triggered and several questioning were put down to the Reichstag.
In the famous session of November 10, 1908, the Chancellor von Bülow, roughly handled, declared that he had not personally read the interview that had been submitted him before the release, but that he had made it to merely examine by his secretaries. It disavow the emperor in a way. This one had never had to forgive him. (von Bülow has been dismissed in 1909)
Such a sign that the shade of the disaster of 1914 is on the way, the Daily Telegraph affair, while determining Bülow'sfall, was the precursor sign of the war and the debacle. Precisely ten years later, November 10, 1918 the emperor left in exile......
October 29, I (Bülow is speaking) sat down, as each morning, to my big worktable........ I saw in the packet of mail a long dispatch of the Wolf agency, arrived from London. I took it with my usual calmness. But my phlegm turned into stupor, when I began to read it.
This dispatch was the summary of an article of the Daily Telegraph of London, on an interview with the Emperor of Germany, which would lately have taken place, and the English newspaper assured that the no one that had conversed with the emperor was a figure of an unassailable authority. The article contained a set of rather unhappy declarations; for example, the emperor said with melancholy that a part of the English press interpreted badly, and while distorting the sense of his words, his repeated offers of friendship to English, that it felt himsel injured of it, and that a similar attitude of the English press made him extremely difficult his already delicate task of ruler.
More troublesome and too naïve was this confession of the emperor, that feelings of a big part of the German people in the middle and lower classes were in no way in friendly consideration to England. The emperor added that it spoke, to the name of a German minority, but that this minority understood the best elements of the nation, that it was an additional reason to be very unhappy to see English refusing to admit in all confidence the word he gave to be the best friend of England; that, in spite of all, it always endeavored to improve relations with this nation.
Came then the three following enormities. Wilhelm II declared:
that the Russian and French governments had invited him to join them to save the Boers republics and "to humiliate England until to make bite him the dust ", but that he had refused while declaring in his answer that Germany could never run the risk of a conflict with a naval strength as England; even better, that he had immediately communicated to the queen of England the exact text of the confidential notes of the Russian and French governments and of his answer; the queen, he assured, had put these documents down to the archives of Windsor castle;
that in December 1899, during the darkest period of the south-African war for England, he had not only expressed to his grandmother, his deep sympathy, but still made draw up by a German officer a very exact report on the number of fighters of both armies and on the position of the troops involved in South Africa; that, according to these data, he had elaborated the plan of campaign which appeared him the best for English, had made this plan reviewed by the Great General Staff and had sent it to England, where it was also in the archives of Windsor; he saw a remarkable coincidence in the fact that this plan, by him elaborate, resembled very much to the one that lord Roberts had adopted in fact and had fortunately executed. In other words, it was not lords Roberts, as one had thought it up to now, but Wilhelm II that had defeated and shattered the Boers;
that Germany didn't at all construct its fleet against England, but to use it in Far East and ,in the Pacific, this naturally to the address of Japanese, to make know them that any day maybe Germany would make war against them, allied to England.
While I read these verbal "élucubrations", as lightheaded and incongruous as possible, I had the sudden suspicion that I had in front of me the article that His Majesty had commissioned Mr. of Jenisch to send me to Norderney (the residence of Bülow) and that I had not read myself.
I called out legation-adviser Klehmet, in charge, as reporter; to examine the manuscript in question. Having run one's eye over the Wolff dispatch, he declared, with hesitation and a visible embarrassment, that it was effectively the article sent from Rominten (the Kaiser's hunting land) to Norderney and passed on for exam to the Foreign Ministry. I asked Klehmet how he could have let pass these incredible declarations. He answered that he had had the very definite impression that His Majesty wanted briskly to see this article published and precisely the vigorous passages that appeared me inadmissible. …… . I answered answered him in the first movement of nervousness: "Don't you therefore have yet understood that the personal desires of His Majesty are sometimes nonsense ?"…..
I called out then the chief of the chancellery, Mr. von Loebell, and Mr. Hammann, chief of the press service, to explain them the situation and to tell them that it was about to be flustered. I indicated two open courses: on the one hand, to say the whole truth about the whole affair, without worrying to know if the foreign ministry and I would be compromised; on the other hand, and above all, to keep the Crown out of all debate of opinion.
October 30, 1908, previously to the session of the Reichstag, the chancellor Prince von Bülow sent this mail to the emperor:
Berlin, 30 October 1908.
In the enclosed documents, I pass on to Your imperial and royal Majesty, a set of newspaper articles on the publication of the interview that colonel Stuart Wortley got of Your Majesty (in 1907, the colonel Stuart Wortley had received in his property of Highcliffe the emperor Wilhelm II, at the time of a journey of this one in England).
The tone that dominates to this subject in the English press is skeptical, critical and distant. Of the ruling personalities as Lord Roberts (the English general who was in command of the English forces in Transvaal, at the time of the Boers war) and Sir Edward Grey (the state secretary of the Foreign Office) refused once for all to explain themselves thereon.
The French and Russian newspapers take advantage of this opportunity to engage themselves into violent outbursts against Your Majesty and the German politics.
The German press is moreover the first of opinion, except some exceptions, that the interview caused a serious harm to our politics and our country.
German newspaper attacks are unjust. Your Majesty had had the kindness to send me by Baron von Jenisch, so that I examine them, the taken notes by the author of the interview. I was then at Norderney overwhelmed by serious matters, I don't have therefore read myself the long development that Colonel Wortley had written a pretty much illegible way on a bad paper and I sent it to the Foreign Ministry so that it would be examined there. At the same time, I gave the strict order to study very seriously the article on the point of view of the effect it could produce, and to let me know which modifications, additions and excisions would appear necessary. The Foreign Ministry sent me back the English manuscript with a note proposing some modifications, but raising no objection against its publication. It is in this sense that the reporter advisor, then close to me, wrote to Baron von Jenisch. If I had personally perused the manuscript, I would have asked Your Majesty not to allow the its publication, especially in the present time .......Bülow takes an umbrella
With regard to the effect produced in England by declarations of the emperor, I could have added this to my report to the ruler:
As soon as the article of the Daily Telegraph had appeared, a deputy asked the the War minister, to House of Commons, if indeed the emperor was the author of the campaign plan that put an end to the Boers war; war which until then, passed to have been won by feld-marshal Roberts; if the thing were true, would the War minister Haldane not want to publish this plan of campaign ?
The War minister answered that archives of his ministry didn't contain any document of this kind, and that none of services in link with his ministry did possess anymore. " Therefore, had concluded the minister Haldane (the one who qualified Wilhelm II of "insane" mind), I am not in position to give satisfaction to the expressed desire"
. The report of the English Parliament followed this answer of the minister by the mention: General hilarity. This hilarity probably translated the state of mind of the members of the House of Commons in presence of the fancifull talk of the emperor,…..
October 30, I made also publish in head of the Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeïtung, the following press release :
A big part of the foreign and German press formulated various critical against the person of the emperor, following the article published in the Daily Telegraph, while supposing that the emperor had let it appear without the office responsible for politics of the Reich knowing it. This supposition is not founded……. (Bülow covered so his emperor).
The storm that the interview of the Daily Telegraph raised in Germany didn't have for reason mistakes of forms committed in this affair. The political considerations exposed thus by the emperor had been, for the public, tired of the carelessness and perpetual gaps of language of His Majesty, the drop that makes the vase to overflow.
This publication was like a violent punch in ribs, that made remind the country of all the mistakes committed by the emperor in his twenty years government; all warnings, all snarling prophecies of the dismissed Prince Bismarck. A lot of Germans had also the dark forewarning that these speeches and these so inconsiderate, so clumsy acts and even though puerile, could lead to a final disaster.
The emperor himself felt, at least one instant, to quake the ground under his feet. He had had the intention to make a short visit to Hamburg and Kiel, at the end of October, but he gave up this project, when Ballin (the director of the Hamburg Amerika Linie) had written him to dissuade him to pass by Hamburg, where it was necessary to expect troublesome demonstrations. This opinion let the emperor all bewildered.
October 31, two days after the publication of the Daily Telegraph, one day after the Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung press release, he made me a two hours visit. As always in the critical moments, he toed the line.
I told him that I was not only ready, as it was my duty, to pass before him to serve him of shield, but again to attract on me strokes and to insist well on mistakes committed by the offices, but I didn't hide him that it would finish again by a big debate to the Reichstag on the personal government of His Majesty, so frequently criticized already.
I recalled to the emperor that November 14, 1906, precisely two years before, I had declared to the Reichstag "that a minister could find troublesome for the monarchical interest that the monarch got too forward, and that, if the ruler gave up too much to his personal impulses, this minister could not assume before the Crown, the country and history, the responsibility of the affairs".
I would be obliged to speak once again in the same sense, and it in his same interest. The emperor answered me with calmness: "Make what you cannot not to make ". Nearly on a tone of prayer he added: "Make take us out of there, above all extricate us from there !".
He had a child's confident attitude, that affected me all the more that he didn't address me any reproach for the insufficiency of which had showed the Foreign ministry, that yet he didn't like.
November 17, I found the emperor on, the terrace in front of the New Palace. The empress was standing next to his august husband. She made some fast steps and met me; she told me softly: "Be very good and very soft with the emperor. He is quite broken ".
The emperor invited me to come with him in his office. Arrived there, we sat down. The emperor had in fact the very demoralized look. Especially he was very pale. Obviously, he waited of me for strong reprimands. It would have been displaced to make one in this instant.
I contented myself to notice that we often had already discussed all points, all questions that now made the object of passionate recriminations and complaints. The emperor retorted in a natural and franc air: "Definitely, you predicted me all it ". Then he asked while hesitating and with a visible concern: "But now? what is it going to happen ? will we leave out from there ?" I answered that I didn't doubt about that, if only His Majesty was decided to show to the future more of prudence and reserve, especially concerning foreign politics, that the "speech of Huns" and the "speech of the trident" were even more troublesome than the dispatch of Swinemünde, or the "speech of black grinders", that didn't deserve a praise naturally hardly, in short that the joke on "the admiral of the Atlantic" and the personal letter to lord Tweedmouth had made more pain than of whims launched on occasion between compatriots. The emperor approved by movements of head. He told me that he wanted "henceforth" to watch further his language and to avoid to offend of course people's feelings.
"But therefore, about what is one so much angry ?" I answered that what had annoyed incontestably was not of political order. I spoke of the peremptory and too violent tone of which he criticized modern tendencies in art and in literature, the point exactly on which Germans are very susceptible and don't like to receive from the top such or such impulse. Here the emperor protested for the first time, saying that if it took a stand against Liebermann (a painter) and Hauptmann (a writer), it was not only his right, but his duty, because such men poisoned the German people's soul. I replied ….. that it is always dangerous to grapple the talent and the genius; that certainly in this struggle, the emperor would get the worst of it. I say it without toughness, of the easy tone of the conversation, while recalling previous interviews with His Majesty on this topic. But I immediately felt that it was there the emperor's most sensitive point and I oriented the conversation toward the political questions, for me well more important...........
Just as I had entered the study, situated close to the room where died the emperor Friedrich III (his father), the emperor said me, while giving me a strong handshake: "Help me! Save me !" Just as I was going to leave the room, he passed me arms around my neck and kissed me on both cheeks. While I bowed under the door, the emperor repeated two times: "I thank you! I thank you from the bottom of my heart !" Back to the Chancellery palce, I told my wife "This time again, I got the emperor and the Crown out of the affair. But how long will we stay in this house, is another matter".
November 19, 1908, to the session of the Reichstag, I had just asked for permition to speak to motivate the project of fiscal reform, when one of these gentlemen of the chancellery slipped me in a low voice: "His Majesty the emperor makes Your Excellence know by phoned message of the chamberlain Schulz, that he intends to abdicate". I had the time to answer rightly: "Phone as answer, in express terms, that one would avoid to hasten anything and in any case to wait for the Rathaus feast, that will take place the day after tomorrow".…..
I left the Reichstag. I walked in the direction of the Great-Star (where stands still the victory column) to stretch my legs and to cool off my mind, when a gentleman approached of me, in whom I recognized a royal lackey, although he was in civilian and not in livery. He put aletter back on me.
I saw immediately to the adress writing that it was the empress' one. The note only contained these few words "I would want to see you. The carrier will tell to you anymore of it". We walked together. Some minutes after, my companion had a stopped a hackney cab, which drove us to the Postadam station, from where we left to Potsdam by the Wannsee line. To be not recognized, we traveled in second class. Of Potsdam we went, again in closed carriage, close to the New Palace. Her Majesty, the empress, received me to the ground floor. She had the red eyes to have cried, but her attitude was absolutely royal. She immediately asked me: "Is it therefore necessary that the emperor abdicates? Do you want he abdicates ?".
I answered without one instant of hesitation, and very distinctly that such was not my idea, and that I didn't think at all that this abdication would be necessary. The empress sat down and asked me to do so. She told me that the emperor had had a "nervous shock" a "collapsus", that he had already had similar accesses after strong emotions, for example after his unsuccessful speech to these gentlemen of Brandenburg, after his dispatch of Swinemunde to the prince-regent of Bavaria, but that this time, it was worse, that it had been obliged to go to bed with thrills and tears attacks.
Then I explained the situation to the empress. I need not to tell her the reasons that had caused the violent emotion of the public, because although she would devoted to the emperor with an unshakable fidelity and an affection without limit, she didn't delude herself, with all her tact and her common sense, any illusion on the dangerous sides of her husband's temperament. I said her my whole conviction was that the storm, that already lulled since my speech to the Reichstag, would have passed soon; she could be absolutely sure that I would not let restrict the constitutional and traditional right of the crown of Prussia; to tell the thruth, it was necessary that the emperor became quietter, more circumspect and more prudent in his attitude, his speeches, his writings, all his actions; I judged useful that he appeared to the Berlin Rathaus feast, November 21, that is to say two days later.
The empress answered she did not know if since the two days later, the emperor would be in a state to appear.
I answered that the emperor had spririt. If Her Majesty bucked him up with good words, he would come and revive very well his affairs to the Rathaus; I had prepared him a pretty speech.
When the empress let me leave, she seemed me consoled and reassured. By the same way and in the same manner, I went back home without being recognized; my absence had not stroken anybody; one had thought merely that I had made a long walk in the Tiergarten, as it enough often happened to me to make so, without being even accompanied by the brave policemen attached to my person.......