2012-11-28 04:44:32 UTC
World War I
The Kaiser loved to wear military uniforms. When he ate plum pudding,
he put on the uniform of a British admiral.
While the jury is still out on whether Adolf Hitler was insane or
evil, documented evidence from the correspondence of the kaiser’s
relatives as well as his own letters suggests that the German emperor
was clinically nuts.
Wilhelm’s life reads like one long excerpt from the DSM-IV, an
encyclopedia of pathological behavior compiled by the American
Two psychiatrists and contemporaries of the kaiser speculated that he
suffered from bipolar disorder, more commonly known as manic-
A present-day psychologist believes that Wilhelm displayed symptoms of
narcissistic personality disorder.
In the clinical rather than popular use of the term narcissism, a
narcissist is someone who feels that his needs are all important, and
everyone else’s, if the narcissist notices them at all, don’t matter.
The disorder represents a lack of empathy skills so severe that the
narcissist can lie, cheat, and kill without any of the remorse a
healthy individual would feel.
When the affliction causes the death of millions, the perpetrator is
called a "malign" narcissist. Hitler, Stalin, and Saddam Hussein, who
enjoyed feeding his enemies to a wood chip shredder, were all malign
Churchill said that history is written by the victors, so it would be
easy to dismiss diagnoses of the kaiser’s madness as propaganda
perpetuated by his victorious enemies.
Wilhelm's Worried Relatives
But royal relatives of the kaiser also feared that their powerful
kinsman was mentally ill, especially because insanity ran in the
family, whose most famous victim was Wilhelm’s cousin, King Ludwig II
of Bavaria. The letters of the kaiser’s relatives and others was not
translated into English until now.
An Austrian attaché at the German court believed that the emperor was
“not quite sane” and that he had “a screw loose.”
A Prussian diplomat speculated that Wilhelm was possessed “by an evil
spirit, bewitching his mind and compelling him to make speeches which
insult the nation to the quick.”
Chancellor Otto von Bismarck wrote that the emperor suffered from an
“abnormal mental condition.”
An American envoy to Germany, Colonel Edward House, wondered aloud if
the kaiser was, in the diplomat’s undiplomatic language, “crazy.”
Prince Philipp zu Eulenburg, the kaiser's best friend and alleged
The emperor’s best friend and aide-de-camp, Prince Philipp zu
Eulenburg, noted the fragile mental state that made Wilhelm erupt over
Eulenburg wrote, “His Majesty is no longer in control of himself when
he is seized by rage,” which Eulenburg saw as a “weakening of the
When the prince was outed by a homosexual lover, Bismarck spread the
rumor that Wilhelm had also had an affair with Eulenburg.
Testimony during Eulenburg’s trial on charges of homosexuality in 1908
revealed that Wilhelm’s inner circle was largely comprised of gay men,
who referred to Wilhelm as “Liebchen,” German for “darling.”
The kaiser had a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality, which supports
the forensic diagnosis that he suffered from bipolar disorder.
When Wilhelm wasn’t furious about the “most harmless remark,”
Eulenburg wrote, he was “friendly, not obstinate, and relatively easy
to be with and to handle.”
Crazy Unlike a Fox
Belief in the emperor’s mental illness was borne out by a nervous
breakdown he suffered in 1908 after a disastrous interview with a
reporter from Britain’s Daily Telegraph.
The kaiser told the interviewer that the British were “as mad as march
hares” and claimed that the majority of Germans hated Britain.
Wilhelm had granted the interview with the newspaper in an attempt to
gain the friendship of Britain, which was alarmed by the rapid buildup
of Germany’s navy. His comments had the opposite effect.
Willy, We Hardly Knew Ye
The alternately grim and farcical behavior of the kaiser merits a
revival of public interest.
Isabel V. Hull writes in her 2004 account, The Entourage of Kaiser
Wilhelm II, 1888-1918: “To an extraordinary degree [Wilhelm] was
representative of his epoch: brilliant, bizarre, aggressive, insecure.
Yet German historians have virtually ignored him.” [emphasis added]
Not this American historian.
Historians of all nations have exhibited even less interest in other
pivotal figure of the past.
Besides Hitler stealing the Kaiser’s limelight, another likely reason
that German historians and biographers have turned into a silent
majority is that they’re simply embarrassed by the antics of a leader
once revered by their fellow citizens.
Some Germans, like Russians who romanticize Stalin’s genocide, still
hold a minority opinion of the Kaiser’s greatness. The esteem is
comparable to the reverence accorded America’s Founding Fathers.
Imagine the presidential idolater, uh, biographer, Pulitzer-Prize
winning plagiarist Doris Kearns Goodwin, revealing that George
Washington enjoyed getting sponge baths from Thomas Jefferson.
If that hypothetical joke were real, descriptions of Wilhelm’s foibles
would be more embarrassing, a tragicomedy that would make readers of
the kaiser’s biography alternately laugh and gasp.
Invisible People of the Past
Another cause for the historical blackout on Germany’s last monarch is
the same as the self-censorship imposed on so many of the other
figures historians shove into a closet their subjects never occupied
in their lifetime:
Wilhelm’s sexual orientation, one of the worst-kept secrets in his day
and one of the best-kept secrets of the present.
The absence of Wilhelm’s madness in modern accounts disproves the
claim that you can’t shove the genie back into the bottle – or the
bisexual back into the closet.
The kaiser’s courtiers and relatives were treated with a contempt one
biographer characterized as “physical sadism.” Wilhelm once beat up
his cousin, his grandmother Queen Victoria’s nephew, the Duke of Saxe-
Coburg-Gotha and sovereign ruler of the duchy his title refers to.
On several occasions, the emperor forced the royal duke to lie on his
back while Wilhelm sat on his stomach. Acting like a sadistic personal
trainer, the kaiser forced elderly ministers to perform strenuous
exercises - knee jerks and jumping jacks – which amounted to torture
since it was inflicted on senior citizens.
Dietrich von Hulsen, commander in chief of Germany’s High Command and
a Prussian aristocrat of advanced years and ancient lineage, died of a
heart attack while dancing at the kaiser’s request in a large
feathered hat and tutu.
Naughty, naughty, nutty
Other courtiers courted their sovereign’s favor by happily
participating in their humiliation. The obese Count Emil Görtz von
Schlitz once dressed up like a circus poodle, barking and crawling on
all fours, with a “marked rectal opening” under his costume’s tail,
according to the correspondence of an eyewitness.
The count put a healthy spin on his aberrant behavior by claiming the
kaiser’s laughter helped him forget that Görtz’s “beloved sister – the
dearest thing I have on earth – is at this moment dying in Breslau.”
Meanwhile, the dying woman's brother was doing a dog without a pony
show for the adolescent amusement of his sovereign. The homoerotic
flavor of the feathered hat, tutu, and anal aperture was probably not
An even more pervasive silence hides widespread rumors at the time but
no longer mentioned that the kaiser was a precocious bisexual, who
displayed his affinity for the same sex as early as high school.
An incident from those years also diminishes the severity of the
kaiser’s anti-Semitism, suggesting that like so many other bigots then
and now, he hated Jewry in the abstract but subscribed to the
condescending cliché, “Some of my best friends are Jewish.”
The Kaiser’s Childhood Crush on a Jewish Boy
Wilhelm's friend at the Friedrichsgymnasium, a private high school in
Kassel, Germany, Siegfried Sommer, who exited the closet during
adulthood, was Jewish.
He ate all his meals with Wilhelm, an unheard of honor for a royal to
grant a commoner in a society with a caste-system almost as rigid as
Circumstantial evidence that relationship was more than platonic
comes, ironically, from one of the most vociferous defenders of the
kaiser’s heterosexuality, the Anglo-German don, John C.G. Röhl, who
wrote that Wilhelm on one occasion put his arm around his “friend’s”
waist “as one might around a pretty girl’s.”
Besides this incident, there is much stronger, documented evidence of
the kaiser’s bisexual inclinations described in testimony from several
libel trials in 1906 and 1907, forgotten now but as much an object of
international obsession in its day as Michael Jackson’s or O.J.’s
trials almost a century later.
In 1907, Otto von Bismarck, still smarting over his dismissal as
chancellor by the kaiser two decades earlier, wrote to his son that
the relationship between Wilhelm and his best friend, Prince
Eulenburg, “could not be confided to paper,” then proceeded to do so
in the letter to his son.
Public exposure of Eulenburg’s bisexuality originated with a series of
editorials written by Maximilian Harden, the Jewish, anti-monarchist
publisher of an obscure weekly newspaper, Die Zukunft (The Future).
In a country without our First Amendment rights, the editorials
claimed, without naming names, that Eulenburg and another courtier,
Count Kuno von Moltke, a scion of a prominent military family and
commandant of Berlin, were lovers.
Harden hoped that some of taint would rub off on Eulenburg’s best
friend, Wilhelm, in a classic case of guilt by sexual association and
The Kaiser’s Gay Camarilla
To make sure readers would read between the lines of his editorials,
he dropped enough hints about the alleged lovers, including Moltke’s
well-known nickname, “Tutu,” and referred to the unnamed Eulenburg as
“leader of a sinister and effeminate camarilla.”
(Note the obsessiveness of the literally feminine “a” ending of a word
always spelled with the masculine final letter, camarillo.)
One editorial of the time contained a fictitious conversation between
Moltke and Eulenburg, in which they discussed a mutual gay friend
identified only as “Liebchen,” whom readers easily recognized as the
affectionate nickname for the kaiser among his inner circle.
“Liebchen’s” literal translation is “sweetheart.”
Today, German gays consider the term campy, effeminate and pejorative,
much as prior to the gay lib movement in America some male homosexuals
called each other “Mary” and used feminine pronouns when referring to
Syntax served as the Esperanto of an international subculture, from
“Liebchen,” to “camarilla” to “Mary, she’s such a queen!”
A panicky kaiser turned out to be a fair-weather lover, if indeed
that’s what Eulenburg and he were.
Wilhelm ordered Eulenburg to either disprove the editorials’
insinuations or forfeit his palatial estate and income and leave the
country. Their estate had made the Eulenburgs one of the richest
families in Germany.
There must have been some truth to the stories, because a heart-broken
Eulenburg chose exile, but almost immediately had a change of heart
and returned to Germany.
There, the prince hired an attorney who made a secret deal with a
sympathetic prosecutor by admitting his homosexual behavior and
violation of Paragraph 175 of the German penal code that forbade
“unnatural vices” between men.
The law remained on the books until German reunification in 1994.
Strangely, even in the Third Reich, lesbianism was not a criminal
offense, although the Marxist government of the Weimar Republic
(1919-1933) tried to criminalize sex between women.
In return for Eulenburg’s confession, the prosecutor promised not to
file criminal charges that would have sent the prince to prison, as
similar charges a few years earlier had resulted in Oscar Wilde’s
incarceration in England’s Reading Gaol. Eulenburg’s admission was
never made public, but it satisfied the kaiser, who restored his
friend to favor.
Moltke employed a more aggressive strategy and sued the publisher for
civil libel, which was easier to prove. The plaintiff seriously
undercut the charges against the defendant with his flamboyant,
effeminate behavior during the trial, frustrated and abetted by the
testimony of a star witness, a quack, and an eyewitness.
The star of the show trial was Moltke’s disgruntled ex-wife, Lili, who
testified that during their two-year marriage, the couple only had sex
once. She also complained that her husband spent all his time with
Eulenburg, including Christmas.
Cosmetic Proof of Guilt
The trial degenerated into farce when an “expert” witness, a famous
sex researcher and early gay rights advocate, offered “proof” of
Moltke’s homosexuality by noting that the plaintiff was wearing
makeup. At least Moltke had the wisdom not to appear in the ballerina
outfit that had earned him the nickname “Tutu.”
The mountain of evidence against Moltke turned into an avalanche that
buried him when a young soldier and courtier, unlike the cautious
newspaper publisher, was willing to name names and testified.
The soldier testified that many members of the kaiser’s inner circle
were gay and engaged in orgies. The young man testified that he once
saw Eulenburg and Moltke having sex.
The alleged witness didn’t seem to realize he was incriminating
himself by revealing he had attended the same orgy that Moltke and
Eulenburg had. The non-jury trial ended with the judge acquitting the
publisher of all charges.
Undeterred by his public humiliation, Moltke persisted and filed new
charges, this time, of criminal libel. The new judge shared the
public’s respect and admiration for the aristocracy, the celebrities
of the pre-movie star era. The groupie jurist found the publisher
guilty and sent him to prison for four years.
The same clueless history professor, John C.G. Röhl, who wrote about
the future Kaiser’s boyhood tryst with a male classmate, only to deny
it represented a homosexual romance, contradicted his denial with
Writing in a supposedly more enlightened era – 1997, Röhl demonstrated
his ignorance of psychology and history by serving up two more fatuous
arguments to shove Wilhelm back into the closet:
1) The kaiser’s numerous extramarital, heterosexual affairs, Röhl
claimed, “proved” that Wilhelm wasn’t bisexual. Tell that to Hugh
Hefner, who recently admitted to engaging in ménage à trois which
included gay sex, but “only in a heterosexual context,” as Hef
explained, sort of.
2) Röhl also claimed what no other historian has even hinted at:
Handsome homosexuals, not international Jewry – Hitler’s scapegoats -
had caused Germany’s defeat in World War I:
“It is indeed disturbing to reflect that the generals who took Germany
and Europe into the Armageddon of 1914 not infrequently owed their
career to the kaiser’s admiration for their height and good looks in
their splendid uniforms.”
To which a more astute observer of human nature and history might
respond with a vulgar variant of the Marx Brothers’ movie title,
The Male Models Who Waged World War I?
Germany's World War I leaders, Hindenburg and Ludendorff. The kaiser
allegedly chose his officers based on their good looks.
Germany’s military leaders during both world wars consisted almost
exclusively of Prussian aristocrats, called Junkers, who for centuries
comprised Prussia’s, then post-unification Germany’s warrior caste.
Photographic evidence discredits Röhl’s implication that the German
high command during the First World War might have stepped off the
cover of GQ or moonlighted as Playgirl centerfolds had they been
Photos of the top two military leaders, Field Marshal Paul von
Hindenburg and General Erich Ludendorff (above), who led Germany to
defeat, prove that they would never have found employment by a
modeling agency or posed for a magazine centerfold with the possible
exception of AARP’s.
Both men were ancient and obese. The gay aesthetic considers even a
bit of extra poundage a worse affliction than leprosy, which is at
least susceptible to antibiotics. As British actor Rupert Everett
said, “The only cure for old age in the gay community is euthanasia.”
The Color-coordinated Uniform Kaiser Wilhelm Admired
Röhl unwittingly suggested that the kaiser did share another aesthetic
stereotypically attributed to gay men, a greater fashion sense than
their heterosexual peers. The historian quoted a courtier who had been
questioned by Wilhelm:
“After he [the kaiser] had duly admired my yellow boots and colour co-
ordinated riding costume, he asked me, ‘Don’t you know anything about
Kuno? I can’t get anything out of either him or Philly.” “Kuno” was
Moltke, and “Philly,” Eulenburg.
The kaiser also loved to dress up, another gay stereotype. His massive
wardrobe was macho, however, filled with military uniforms - not gowns
- from all over the world.
Before he ate plum pudding, Wilhelm would don the outfit of a British
admiral, according to Röhl, who remained unpersuaded by the
implications of the kaiser’s fashion fetish and another (true)
stereotype that the majority of male fashionistas are gay.
Homophobic commentators claim that misogynistic couturiers dress up
women in grotesque, expensive haute couture.
Why the Kaiser Abandoned Anti-Semitism
Toward the end of his life, Wilhelm did a volte-face about the Jews,
whom he also believed had stabbed Germany in the back, leading to its
defeat in the First World War. Among others, one gay-related event
shocked Wilhelm into temporary sanity and transformed him from Jew-
baiter to Nazi-hater.
Was the kaiser mad or evil or both? Almost a century later, the
question may seem sensational to some, irrelevant to most with the
exception of history buffs.
But the answer remains of deadly importance to the 20 million souls
who perished in the conflict the Madness of Kaiser Wilhelm II ignited.