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28-Oct-1908 - The Daily Telegraph Affair


"You English, are mad, mad, mad as March hares."

Kaiser Wilhelm II as published in the London Daily Telegraph 8-Oct-1908.

The Kaiser has been accused of many things; suffice it to say that "political correctness" was never one of them. The Daily Telegraph affair is included in this brief history because it will provide you with insight into the Emperor’s personality. The affair polarized the sentiments of the British public against Germany at a pivotal time when the German naval buildup already had the island nation worried. This was not the result the Kaiser had in mind. He intended the interview as yet another olive branch offering to Britain.

The interview was conducted by Colonel Stuart-Wortley who wished it published in the London Daily Telegraph. The Kaiser obtained the manuscript and, according to the German constitution, submitted it to his Prime Minister, Prince Bernhard von Bulow, for review and approval. Too busy for the task, von Bulow passed the interview on to the State Secretary's Office requesting the document be reviewed for any inappropriate comments and returned to him. The task of editor ultimately fell to one Rienhold Klehmet, counselor in the political division for some 12 years..

Here’s where issues start to get cloudy. Klehmet was somehow under the impression that the Kaiser wished the document published in an "as-is" state, so he only edited it for form, not content. He promptly returned the document to von Bulow as requested who, without reading it, or so he claimed, sent it on to Stuart-Wortley. It was published, "as-is", in the Daily Telegraph on 8-Oct-1908. Among the Kaiser's implications:
  • The German people, in general, do not care for the British.
  • The French and the Russians had tried to persuade Germany to enter into the Boer War against the British.
  • The German naval buildup was aimed more at Japan than the British.
Let's see..., those items successfully alienated the British, the Franco-Russo alliance, and Japan all in one fell swoop. In other countries the interview was received with feelings ranging from horror to amusement. The unusual thing about this whole mess was that von Bulow knew the Emperor and he knew of the importance of the interview. Why he would disregard his constitutional responsibilities, not to mention plain common sense, and allow it to be published blindly has been argued for some time. A common belief is that he would attempt to use the tangle that followed to further his own political position. Up to his dying day, von Bulow maintained he had not read the interview prior to its publication.

Rather than further von Bulow’s career, the Daily Telegraph affair greatly contributed to the end of it. He resigned from office 26-Jun-1909 and was replaced by Theobald von Bethmann-Holweg. The Kaiser kept a low profile for many months after the affair.

Please take a few minutes and ø read the interview. The years have not dulled its impact.

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