Wilhelm II (1859—1941)


King of Prussia, Emperor of Germany from 1888 to 1918

He came to the throne unexpectedly after his father’s short rule, which lasted only a few months. A traumatic breech birth left him with a withered left arm which doctors tried to heal using painful forms of treatment. That may be one of the reasons why he saw himself and wanted himself to be seen as a Soldier-Emperor. He was fond of technical novelties and travelled frequently and with pleasure. He was interested in architecture and supported industrial development projects. He did not mind being followed by the press and liked making speeches.

His reign was a period of extraordinary development for Germany and on the basis of these economic and political achievements, the Emperor engaged in ambitious plans. With the impatience of the late arrivals, he acted as a challenger to the great powers who had divided the world among themselves. The birth and swift strengthening of the German Empire was a challenge to the European balance of power controlled by Great Britain and when the danger arose that the German Empire was seeking positions in the seas, Britain lost its patience.

During the war, he allowed the military commanders to take an increasing role in decision making, until he was practically out of control by the end of the war. After military defeat in 1918, the victors forced him to abdicate. His behaviour at this juncture proved to be irresponsible and unworthy of a statesman — he fled to Holland, taking considerable wealth with him and leaving his defenceless country to its destiny.

„I am a tool in God’s hands.”
Speech at Koenigsberg on 25 August 1910),
Michael Balfour: The Kaiser and His Times. Penguin, London, 1975.

„We Germans only fear God and nobody else in the World”
Speech for the 100th anniversary of the uprising against Napóleon in 1813
Budapesti Hirlap, 1913. február 11. 13. o.

„I know no parties anymore, only Germans!”
His opening speech at the assembly of Reichstag on 4 August 1914.
Verhandlungen des Reichstags, Stenographische Berichte, 1914/16, Bd. 306

„The war has ended - quite differently, indeed, from how we expected. Our politicians have failed us miserably.”
His statenemt in September 1918
Fritz Fischer, Germany's Aims in the First World War (New York: W. W. Norton & Co, 1967), p. 634.


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