|Kronprinz Wilhelm, Dutch Princess Juliana & the Kaiser|
The Kaiser, of course, followed German politics quite closely and hoped that an opportunity to restore the monarchy might present itself even as he gloomily admitted that such second chances seldom to never come about. His days were further darkened in 1921 when his beloved wife, Kaiserin Augusta Victoria passed away. The Kaiser accompanied the remains of his wife to the German border but could go no farther. However, some 200,000 Germans turned out to mourn her, which was noted as a hopeful sign that considerable monarchist support remained in Germany. Only the year before about 5,000 men had staged a coup in Berlin, under the nominal leadership of Wolfgang Kapp, that aimed to restore the Kaiser but it had been swiftly suppressed. In 1923 Hitler launched his “Beer Hall Putsch” in Munich which was suppressed even faster but the Kaiser certainly did not support it. He feared that behind it was an effort by the Bavarian royal House of Wittelsbach to replace the House of Hohenzollern on the German throne. In fact, however, the popular Bavarian Crown Prince had refused to have anything to do with Hitler’s wild scheme and remained staunchly opposed to the Nazis for the rest of his life.
In January of 1931 Goering visited the Kaiser at his home in Doorn for the first time. It was a brief visit and somewhat stormy. Princess Hermine (the Kaiser’s second wife) stated that the conversation between the two had become quite heated, probably due to the Kaiser not being used to being challenged and disagreed with. For her part, Princess Hermine was rather hopeful about the Nazis but Wilhelm II distrusted them. For someone who had been around politics for as long as he had, there seemed to be something unsavory about them. When Goering returned in May of 1932 he stayed for a week and afterwards there were reports that the Kaiser had been completely won over. They were entirely mistaken. The Kaiser adopted a wait-and-see attitude about them but while he praised the positive changes that came with the Nazi takeover (and no one denies that these existed), he was never taken in by them and warned his family to keep their distance. When, on his second visit, Goering claimed to be in favor of restoring the imperial throne (which he certainly was not as he was set to be Hitler’s designated successor), the Kaiser stood up for his fellow German royals and insisted that such a thing would not be sufficient as the whole “princely brotherhood” had to be revived as well. The Bavarian monarchists and others of the German states should remember that in his haggling the former King of Prussia had not abandoned them.
|Hermann Goering, Hitler's #2|
Princess Hermine, who had actually met Hitler once, remained hopeful and after the visit by Goering she asked her husband if he might have some place of honor in the restored German Empire if their hopes were realized. The Kaiser remained dubious and said, at best, he might give him command of the air force. He was more positive about the prospects of Mussolini and Italian Fascism under which the monarchy remained in place and which hearkened back to Italian tradition and history in Imperial Rome. However, when he sent one of his courtiers to Rome to convey his greetings to Mussolini, the Duce refused to even see him, so that was the end of that. When Hitler began his talks with Field Marshal Hindenburg, President of Germany, the Kaiser was disgusted by the whole scene, still regarding Hindenburg as a traitor and dismissing Hitler as “a fool”. The higher the Nazis climbed the less likely it seemed that they would do any favors for the monarchists. As far as Hitler was concerned, giving the former German monarch a pension as a former head-of-state was more than sufficient.
|Wilhelm II, last legitimate German leader|
From that point on, the whole hope for the Kaiser to enjoy his own again would purely depend on the generosity of Hitler or the overthrow of his regime. An overthrow was not likely to happen as Hitler enjoyed widespread popular support and was successfully suppressing those who opposed him. An early target, of course, was the Jews. Critical historians have tried to portray the Kaiser as an anti-Semite and he certainly made some anti-Semitic statements but it would be a total deception to portray this as being anything at all like the Nazi position. When the Kaiser condemned “the Jews” he did so in the context of condemning a variety of peoples whom he believed had betrayed him. However, when the Nazis began their first organized persecution of Jews the Kaiser was disgusted, famously saying that it made him ashamed to be a German for the first time in his life. Such activities, he thought, showed the Nazi regime to be gangsters, unworthy of a position of national leadership. Still, for the time being, care had to be taken not to offend Hitler or it would have meant ruination for everyone.
|Princess Hermine & Kaiser Wilhelm II|
After the conquest of Poland, a courtier wrote to Hitler (as the Kaiser would not) pointing out that nine Prussian princes had served at the front and after the German invasion and occupation of the Netherlands an honor guard was posted at Doorn. Churchill, once his enemy, had offered to take the Kaiser away to England but Wilhelm II refused, preferring to stay where he was and, in any event, would not countenance “escaping” from German troops. When the Nazi regime expressed their displeasure that there had been no formal word from Doorn about the Nazi victory over France, the Kaiser finally sent a message of congratulations. However, while the Kaiser certainly did relish the defeat of France as revenge for 1918 his message was less than well received as the Kaiser referred to the victorious troops as ‘his’ army and expressed his hope that the monarchy would be restored. Hitler, upon reading the message, referred to the Kaiser as “an idiot”. At his home, the Kaiser would often go out to chat with the German guards and to the horror of the strict Nazi-types these men soon began snapping to attention, saluting and treating the Kaiser as if he were still their sovereign. Hitler was less than pleased.
|Seyß-Inquart, Mackensen, Canaris, Christiansen, |
Haase and Densch at the Kaiser's funeral
However, in spite of Hitler’s order, a number of serving German officers attended the funeral in uniform (and there was a small official delegation) such as Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of military intelligence, General Friedrich Christiansen of the German occupation forces in the Netherlands, Admiral Hermann Densch, III Corps commander General Curt Haase and others. Nazi commissioner for the Netherlands Arthur Seyss-Inquart was the highest ranking political official present but the most prominent attendee was General Field Marshal August von Mackensen who appeared in his old Life Guard Hussars uniform, clutching the marshal’s baton that the Kaiser had given to him in the First World War. The 91-year old veteran was a committed monarchist. He was also suspected of “disloyalty” to the Nazi regime and, as most know, Admiral Canaris was later executed on such a charge after it was found he was actively working to thwart the Nazi Party. Hitler himself, of course, would have a very different sort of funeral, his remains being doused with gasoline and burned in a ditch.
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