How A German Soldier Still Loves His Dead Kaiser
The coffin with the remains of German Kaiser Wilhelm II,
guarded by a uniformed subaltern of the German Bundeswehr
(Picture made June 1998 at the Kaiser's grave in Doorn, The Netherlands)
Clanging of Swords, Sounds of Trumpets and Kettledrums :
Germans Pay Honour at the Grave of Their Beloved Kaiser
Pictures by Piet den Blanken
Text by Rob Ruggenberg
( Click on the thumbnails below to get a full view )
the grave of
the Kaiser No, to them he is no war criminal, no war inciter. To them he is their beloved Kaiser, the personification of a brave Germany, the victim of biased historians and a mean leftish press.
That's why they are here today, sounding their trumpets and beating their kettledrums and clanging their swords. They travelled with busloads from Germany to the Netherlands, because here the German Kaiser and Oberste Kriegsherr Wilhelm II lies buried.
The Kaiser fled to the Netherlands on November 9, 1918, just before the end of the Great War.
His son, the Kronprinz arrived two days later. The Dutch authorities banned the Butcher of Verdun immediately to the isolated island of Wieringen. On 10th November 1923 young Willie escaped Wieringen and went back to Germany.
Kaiser Wilhelm lived in exile for 22 years. The Germans never wanted him back. He died on June 4, 1941 and he was buried in a small mausoleum on the lawn of Huis Doorn, a small castle he had bought in 1919.
He was buried there on purpose, because the Kaiser considered his Dutch castle and its precincts "German soil". His body must stay there, he ordered in his will, until in Germany the monarchy is restored.
boots and spurs
and banners... Now every year in the month of June hundreds of German monarchists - yes, they still exist - come to Doorn to pay respect to the grave. Usually the mausoleum is firmly locked, but for this special occasion the keeper of the Hohenzollern family gives permission to open it up.
And so they arrive, with white flowers and military music: civilians and people marching in Prussian blue toy-soldier uniforms. They wear boots with spurs and bearskins and banners Pro Patria et Gloria. Die Deutschen Kaiserfreunde. Among them this year a subaltern officer of the Bundeswehr (the official German Army). He is in uniform. He carries the flowers and he stands firm at the grave of his Kaiser.
to the grave. The
man in black (in
the second row) is
The Bundeswehr-subaltern knows that the German government does not want her soldiers to take part in political happenings in uniform, "but I consider this not a political occasion", he says.
And besides that, his direct superior, an officer who has a picture of the Kaiser hanging in his office, has allowed him to attend to this commemoration in his uniform, he says.
Yes - he is a strong monarchist, he loves the Hohenzollerns, but he refrains from answering further questions on this subject, "because statements on this matter in the press will sure cause problems for me and for the Bundeswehr."
The commemoration begins. Knut Wissenbach, president of Tradition und Leben from Cologne, addresses the gathered audience, all Germans. He tells them that for eighty years onesided historians have given the world a wrong impression of the Kaiser. "Now it is time for all German officers and other people of good will to stand up and protest against these biased versions of history."
"Wilhelm II", he says, "had a good judgement, whatever others may say about that. The Kaiser might not have been completely free of some racial prejudices, on the other hand he foresaw the problems with the Bolsheviks. He was also a good Christian."
And because of that all monarchists present join him in saying the Lord's prayer.
at the Kaiser's
coffin The Hohenzollern family is still going strong. Crown pretender is Prinz Georg Friedrich von Preußen, born in Bremen on June 10, 1976. The Prinz studied Business Administration at the Technical University Bergakademie Freiberg, in Germany.
The crown pretender visits Huis Doorn and the grave of the Kaiser occasionally. He even met with some members of the Dutch cabinet there. When we took the pictures of the commemoration Prinz Georg Friedrich was absent. His uncle Prinz Michael von Preussen came a few days later and laid flowers on behalf of the family.
on the lawn
of Huis Doorn During his exile in Doorn the Kaiser daily sawed down trees - more than 40.000 in total. He did so to get physical training. When he died in 1941 the country-seat around the castle looked almost as barren as a WW1-battlefield...
Huis Doorn is a museum now. The Dutch government seized the castle and the household effects in 1945 as being hostile German property. Many new trees were planted.
The Hohenzollern family was allowed to take personal belongings from the household, but what remained still forms a gigantic collection. The castle has been renovated and can be visited daily. The furniture is just like it was when the Kaiser lived there.
During the 22 years Wilhelm II lived in the Netherlands he embarrassed the Dutch government many times. He had gotten political asylum only because of his family relations with the Dutch royal family. He had to promise that he would refrain from political activities.
Instead the ex-Kaiser continuously worked for his return as an emperor to Germany. When Hitler took Paris in 1940 he sent him a telegram of congratulation. He invited and received German politicians (including Nazis like Hermann Göring), but the Nazis did not want him back.
Nevertheless two of his sons, including crownprince Wilhelm von Preussen and his daughter Victoria Luise joined Nazi-organizations. Hermine von Reuss, the princess he married in 1922 after his first wife Augusta Victoria passed away an year earlier, was also a devoted follower of Nazi-doctrines.
The allied nations several times asked Holland for extradition of Wilhelm, beyond doubt to try and hang him. But Holland - one of the few neutral countries in the Great War - refused.
The requests for his extradition were not very firm, as all royal houses in Europe - including the British king George - were strongly opposed to it. In the European turmoil of that time, with the Russian Czar murdered, Wilhelm II deposed of and revolutions on the verge everywhere, the kings and queens feared for the surviving of monarchy.
There were a few attempts to murder Wilhelm in Holland, but they were all ill prepared and were easily stopped by his staff.