dilluns, 20 d’abril de 2015

THE MAN WITH THE HYENA'S EYES Here we sit all the time on a volcano. We expect the revolution any day! The Slavs are not faithful, they are not at all monarchical, all of them are republicans at heart; they disguise their sentiments, and they lie, every one of them, all the time When I had thus become more intimate in the Bismarck circle I heard more open talk about Herr von Holstein. I heard that he was very clever, a good worker, inordinately proud, an odd sort of man, who never showed himself anywhere and had no social relations, full of distrust, much influenced by whims, and, besides all this, a good hater, and, therefore, dangerous. Prince Bismarck called him "The Man with the Hyena's Eyes," and told me that it would be well for me to keep away from him. It was quite apparent that the bitter attitude which the Prince showed later toward Holstein, his former collaborator, was forming even at that time. [Pg 6] The Foreign Office was conducted with the strictest discipline by Count Herbert, whose rudeness toward his employees particularly struck me. The gentlemen there simply flew when they were summoned or dismissed by the Count, so much so that a joking saying arose at the time that "their coat tails stood straight out behind them." The foreign policy was conducted and dictated by Prince Bismarck alone, after consultation with Count Herbert, who passed on the commands of the Chancellor and had them transformed into instructions. Hence the Foreign Office was nothing but an office of the great Chancellor, where work was done according to his directions. Able men, with independent ideas, were not schooled and trained there. This was in contrast to the General Staff under Moltke. There new officers were carefully developed and trained to independent thinking and action, in accordance with approved principles, and by dint of preserving old traditions and taking into account all that modern times had taught. At the Foreign Office there were only executive instruments of a will, who were not informed as to the important interrelationship of the questions turned over to them for treatment, and could not, therefore, collaborate independently. The Prince loomed up like a huge block of granite in a meadow; were he to be dragged away, what would be found beneath would be mostly worms and dead roots. I won the confidence of the Prince, who consulted[Pg 7] me about many things. For instance, when the Prince brought about the first German colonial acquisitions (Gross and Klein Popo, Togo, etc.), I informed him, at his wish, concerning the state of mind created in the public and the navy by this move, and described to him the enthusiasm with which the German people had hailed the new road. The Prince remarked that the matter hardly deserved this. Later on I spoke often with the Prince about the colonial question and always found in him the intention to utilize the colonies as commercial objects, or objects for swapping purposes, other than to make them useful to the fatherland or utilize them as sources of raw materials. As was my duty, I called the Prince's attention to the fact that merchants and capitalists were beginning energetically to develop the colonies and that, therefore—as I had learned from Hanseatic circles—they counted upon protection from a navy. For this reason, I pointed out that steps must be taken for getting a fleet constructed in time, in order that German assets in foreign lands should not be without protection; that, since the Prince had unfurled the German flag in foreign parts, and the people stood behind it, there must also be a navy behind it. BISMARCK'S CONTINENTAL PREPOSSESSIONS But the Prince turned a deaf ear to my statements and made use of his pet motto: "If the English should land on our soil I should have them[Pg 8] arrested." His idea was that the colonies would be defended by us at home. The Prince attached no importance to the fact that the very assumption that the English could land without opposition in Germany—since Heligoland was English—was unbearable for Germany, and that we, in order to make a landing impossible from the start, needed a sufficiently strong navy, and, likewise, Heligoland. The political interest of the Prince was, in fact, concentrated essentially upon continental Europe; England lay somewhat to one side among the cares that burdened him daily, all the more so since Salisbury stood well with him and had, in the name of England, hailed with satisfaction the Double (i. e., Triple) Alliance, at the time of its formation. The Prince worked primarily with Russia, Austria, Italy, and Rumania, whose relations toward Germany and one another he constantly watched over. As to the prudence and skill with which he acted, Emperor William the Great once made a pointed remark to von Albedyll, his chief of Cabinet. The General found His Majesty much excited after a talk with Bismarck, to such an extent that he feared for the health of the old Emperor. He remarked, therefore, that His Majesty should avoid similar worry in future; that, if Bismarck was unwilling to do as His Majesty wished, His Majesty should dismiss him. Whereupon the Emperor replied that, despite his admiration and gratitude toward the great Chancellor, he had[Pg 9] already thought of dismissing him, since the self-conscious attitude of the Prince became at times too oppressive. But both he and the country needed Bismarck too badly. Bismarck was the one man who could juggle five balls of which at least two were always in the air. That trick, added the Emperor, was beyond his own powers. Prince Bismarck did not realize that, through the acquisition of colonies for Germany, he would be obliged to look beyond Europe and be automatically forced to act, politically, on a large scale—with England especially. England, to be sure, was one of the five balls in his diplomatic-statesmanly game, but she was merely one of the five, and he did not grant her the special importance which was her due. For this reason it was that the Foreign Office likewise was involved entirely in the continental interplay of politics, had not the requisite interest in colonies, navy, or England, and possessed no experience in world politics. The English psychology and mentality, as shown in the pursuit—constant, though concealed by all sorts of little cloaks—of world hegemony, was to the German Foreign Office a book sealed with seven seals. SOURCE OF RUSSIAN ENMITY Once Prince Bismarck remarked to me that his main object was to not let Russia and England come to an understanding. I took the liberty of observing that the opportunity to postpone such[Pg 10] an understanding for a long time lay ready to hand in 1877-78, when the Russians might have been allowed to occupy Constantinople—had this been done, the English fleet would have sailed in without further ado to defend Constantinople and the Russo-English conflict would have been on. Instead, I continued, the Treaty of San Stefano was forced upon the Russians and they were compelled to turn about at the very gates of the city which they had reached and saw before them, after frightful battles and hardships. This, I went on, had created an inextinguishable hatred in the Russian army against us (as had been reported by Prussian officers who had accompanied the Russian army on the Turkish campaign, especially Count Pfeil); moreover, the above-mentioned treaty had been cast aside and the Berlin Treaty substituted for it, which had burdened us even more with the hostility of the Russians, who looked upon us as the enemy of their "just interests in the East." Thus the conflict between Russia and England, which the Prince desired, had been relegated far into the future. Prince Bismarck did not agree with this judgment of "his" Congress, concerning the results of which he, as the "honest broker," was so proud; he remarked earnestly that he had wished to prevent a general conflagration and had been compelled to offer his services as a mediator. When I, later on, told a gentleman at the Foreign Office about this conversation, he replied that he had[Pg 11] been present when the Prince, after signing the Berlin Treaty, came into the Foreign Office and received the congratulations of the officials assembled there. After he had listened to them the Prince stood up and replied: "Now I am driving Europe four-in-hand!" In the opinion of the said gentleman the Prince was mistaken in this, since, even at that time, there was the threat of a Russo-French friendship in place of the Russo-Prussian—in other words, two horses were already to be counted out of the four-in-hand. As Russia saw it, Disraeli's statecraft had turned Bismarck's work as "honest broker" into the negotiation of an Anglo-Austrian victory over Russia. Despite considerable differences in our opinions, Prince Bismarck remained friendly and kindly disposed to me, and, despite the great difference in our ages, a pleasant relationship grew up between us, since I, in common with all those of my generation, was an ardent admirer of the Prince and had won his trust by my zeal and frankness—nor have I ever betrayed that trust. During the time of my assignment at the Foreign Office, Privy Councilor Raschdau, among others, discoursed with me on commercial policy, colonies, etc. In these matters, even at that early date, my attention was called to our dependence upon England, due to the fact that we had no navy and that Heligoland was in English hands. To be sure, there was a project to extend our colonial possessions under the pressure of necessity, but all this could happen only with England's permission.[Pg 12] This was a serious matter, and certainly an unworthy position for Germany. INTERCOURT POLITICS My assignment at the Foreign Office brought a very unpleasant happening in its wake. My parents were not very friendly toward Prince Bismarck and looked with disfavor upon the fact that their son had entered into the Prince's circle. There was fear of my becoming influenced against my parents, of superconservatism, of all sorts of perils, which all sorts of tale bearers from England and "liberal circles," who rallied around my father, imputed against me. I never bothered my head with all this nonsense, but my position in the house of my parents was rendered much more difficult for me and, at times, painful. Through my work under Prince Bismarck and the confidence reposed in me—often subjected to the severest tests—I have had to suffer much in silence for the sake of the Chancellor; he, however, apparently took this quite as a matter of course. I was on good terms with Count Herbert Bismarck. He could be a very gay companion and knew how to assemble interesting men around his table, partly from the Foreign Office, partly from other circles. However, true friendship never ripened between us two. This was shown particularly when the Count asked to go at the same time that his father retired. My request that he stay by me and help me to maintain tradition in our political policy elicited the sharp reply that[Pg 13] he had become accustomed to report to his father and serve him, wherefore it was out of the question to demand that he come, with his dispatch case under his arm, to report to anybody else than his father. When Tsar Nicholas II, he who has been murdered, came of age, I was assigned at the instigation of Prince Bismarck to confer upon the heir-apparent at St. Petersburg the Order of the Black Eagle. Both the Emperor and Prince Bismarck instructed me concerning the relationship of the two countries and the two reigning dynasties with each other, as well as concerning customs, personages, etc. The Emperor remarked in conclusion that he would give his grandson the same piece of advice that was given him, on the occasion of his first visit as a young man to Russia, by Count Adlerberg, viz., "In general, there as well as elsewhere, people prefer praise to criticism." Prince Bismarck closed his remarks with these words: "In the East, all those who wear their shirts outside their trousers are decent people, but as soon as they tuck their shirts inside their trousers and hang a medal around their necks, they become pig-dogs." From St. Petersburg I repeatedly reported to my grandfather and to Prince Bismarck. Naturally, I described, to the best of my knowledge, the impressions which I got. I noticed especially that the old Russo-Prussian relations and sentiments had cooled to a marked extent and were no longer such as the Emperor and Prince Bismarck in their talks with me had assumed. After my return, both[Pg 14] my grandfather and the Prince praised me for my plain, clear report, which was all the pleasanter for me since I was oppressed by the feeling that, in a number of things, I had been forced to disillusion these high personages. TO OFFER DARDANELLES TO RUSSIA In 1886, at the end of August and beginning of September, after the last meeting at Gastein of Emperor William the Great and Prince Bismarck with Emperor Franz Josef, where I also was present at the command of my grandfather, I was commissioned to report personally to Tsar Alexander II concerning the decisions made there and to take up with him the questions relating to the Mediterranean and Turkey. Prince Bismarck gave me his instructions, sanctioned by Emperor William; they dealt most especially with Russia's desire to reach Constantinople, to which the Prince meant to raise no obstacles. On the contrary, I received direct instructions to offer Russia Constantinople and the Dardanelles (in other words, San Stefano and the Berlin Treaty had been dropped!). There was a plan to persuade Turkey in a friendly way that an understanding with Russia was desirable for her also. The Tsar received me cordially at Brest-Litovsk and I was present there at reviews of troops and fortress and defensive maneuvers, which, even then, unquestionably bore an anti-German look. To sum up my conversations with the Tsar, the following remark by him is of importance: "If[Pg 15] I wish to have Constantinople, I shall take it whenever I feel like it, without need of permission or approval from Prince Bismarck." After this rude refusal of the Bismarck offer of Constantinople, I looked upon my mission as a failure and made my report to the Prince accordingly. When the Prince decided to make his offer to the Tsar, he must have altered his political conceptions which had led to San Stefano and the Congress of Berlin; or else, on account of the development of the general political situation in Europe, he considered that the moment had come for shuffling the political cards in another way or, as my grandfather had put it, to "juggle" differently. Only a man of the world importance and diplomatic ability of Prince Bismarck could embark on such a course. Whether the Prince had planned his big political game with Russia in such a way that he might, first, by means of the Congress of Berlin, prevent a general war and cajole England, and then, after having thus hindered Russia's Eastern aspirations, cater to these aspirations later, by a stroke of genius, in an even more striking manner, it is impossible for me to say—Prince Bismarck never told anyone about his great political projects. If the above is true, Bismarck, trusting absolutely to his statesmanlike skill, must have reckoned upon bringing Germany all the more into Russian favor because Russian aspirations were brought to fulfillment by Germany alone—and that at a moment when the general European political[Pg 16] situation was less strained than in 1877-78. In this case, nobody except Prince Bismarck could have played the tremendous game to a successful end. And therein lies the weakness in the superiority of great men. Had he also informed England of his offer to the Tsar? England must have been opposed to it, as in 1878. In any event, the Prince now adopted the policy which I had already noted when I realized the disillusion of the Russians at having stood before the gates of Constantinople without being allowed to enter. PROPHECY OF RUSSIAN DOWNFALL At Brest-Litovsk, in the course of the constant military preparations of all kinds, I could easily see that the conduct of the Russian officers toward me was essentially cooler and haughtier than on the occasion of my first visit to St. Petersburg. Only the small group of old generals, especially those at the Russian court, who dated from the days of Alexander II, and who knew and esteemed Emperor William the Great, still showed their reverence for him and their friendly feeling toward Germany. In the course of a talk with one of them concerning the relations between the two courts, armies, and countries, which I had found undergoing a change in comparison with former times, the old General said: "C'est ce vilain congrès de Berlin. Une grave faute du Chancelier. Il a détruit l'ancienne amitié entre nous, planté la méfiance dans les cœurs de la Cour et du Gouvernement, et fourni le sentiment d'un grave tort[Pg 17] fait à l'armée russe après sa campagne sanglante de 1877, pour lequel elle veut sa revanche. Et nous voilà ensemble avec cette maudite République Française, pleins de haine contre vous et rempli d'idées subversives, qui en cas de guerre avec vous, nous coûteront notre dynastie.

Having been asked by a French comrade whether the Russians believed that they could beat the Germans, the gallant Slav replied: "Non, mon ami, nous serons battus à plate couture, mais qu'est-ce que ça fait? 


Nous aurons la République

("No, my friend, we shall be thoroughly beaten, but what does that matter? We shall get a republic"). At first the Prince eyed me, speechless, then, shrugging his shoulders, he remarked: 

"Oh, la guerre, il ne faut pas même y penser

("Oh, war, one must not even think about it")


The great Westphalian coal workers' strike in the spring of 1889 took the civil administration by surprise, causing great confusion and bewilderment, especially among members of the Westphalian provincial administration. From all sides[Pg 37] came calls for troops; every mine owner wanted, if possible, to have sentries posted outside his room. The commanders of the troops which were summoned immediately made reports on the situation as they had found it.
Among these was one of my former barrack comrades, belonging to the Hussar Guard Regiment, von Michaelis by name, who was famous as a wit. He rode, alone and unarmed, among the striking crowds of workers, who—the early spring being remarkably warm—were camped upon the hillsides, and soon managed, by his confidence-inspiring, jovial ways, to set up a harmless intercourse with the strikers. By questioning them he obtained much valuable information about the grievances—real and imaginary—of the workers, as well as about their plans, hopes, and wishes for the future. He soon won for himself general appreciation and affection among the workers and handled them so well that complete quiet reigned in his territory. When I, on account of nervous and worried telegrams from the big industrial leaders and officials received at the office of the Imperial Chancellor, inquired of Michaelis how the situation stood, the following telegraphed answer came from him: "Everything quiet excepting the Government officials."
A mass of material was collected, during the spring and summer, from the announcements and reports received which showed clearly that all was not well in industrial circles; that many a wish of the workers was justified and, to say the least,[Pg 38] entitled to sympathetic investigation on the part both of the employers and of the officials. The realization of this, which was confirmed in me when I questioned my former private teacher, Privy Councilor Dr. Hinzpeter—a man particularly well informed on social phenomena, especially those in his own province—caused the resolve to ripen in me to summon the State Council, include employers and employees in its deliberations, and bring about, under my personal direction, a thorough investigation of the labor question. I decided that in so doing guiding principles and material were to be acquired which would serve the Chancellor and the Prussian Government as a basis for working out appropriate projects for new laws.
Inspired by such thought I went to His Excellency von Bötticher, who at once prophesied opposition on the part of the Chancellor to such action, and advised strongly against it. I stuck to my ideas, adducing in support of them the maxim of Frederick the Great: "Je veux être un Roi des gueux" ("I wish to be King of the rabble"). I said that it was my duty to take care of those Germans who were used up by industry, to protect their strength and better their chances of existence.


The predicted opposition from Prince Bismarck was not long in coming. There was much trouble and fighting before I put through what I wanted, owing to the fact that some of the big industrial[Pg 39] interests ranged themselves on the side of the Chancellor. The State Council met, presided over by me. At the opening session the Chancellor unexpectedly appeared. He made a speech in which he ironically criticized and disapproved the whole undertaking set in motion by me, and refused his co-operation. Thereupon he walked out of the room.
After his departure the strange scene had its effect on the assemblage. The fury and ruthlessness which the great Chancellor brought to the support of his own policy and against mine, based upon his absolute belief in the correctness of his own judgment, made a tremendous impression upon me and all those present. Nevertheless, it stood to reason that I was deeply hurt by what had occurred. The assemblage proceeded to take up its work again and turned out a wealth of material for the extension of that social legislation called into being by Emperor William the Great, which is the pride of Germany, evincing, as it does, a protective attitude toward the laboring classes such as is not to be found in any other land on earth.
Thereupon I decided to summon a general social congress. Prince Bismarck opposed this also. Switzerland was contemplating something similar, and had thought of convening a congress at Berne. Roth, the Swiss ambassador, hearing of my scheme, advised canceling the invitations to Berne and accepting an invitation to Berlin. What he wished occurred. Thanks to the generosity of Herr Roth, it was possible to convene the congress at Berlin.[Pg 40] The material collected as a result of it was worked out and applied in the form of laws—only in Germany, however.
Later on I talked with Bismarck concerning his project of fighting the socialists, in case they resorted to revolutionary acts, with cannon and bayonets. I sought to convince him that it was out of the question for me, almost immediately after William the Great had closed his eyes after a blessed reign, to stain the first years of my Government with the blood of my own people. Bismarck was unmoved; he declared that he would assume responsibility for his actions; that all I need do was to leave the thing to him. I answered that I could not square such a course with my conscience and my responsibility before God, particularly as I knew perfectly well that conditions among the laboring classes were bad and must be bettered at all costs.
The conflict between the views of the Emperor and the Chancellor relative to the social question—i. e., the furtherance of the welfare of the laboring classes of the population, with participation therein by the state—was the real cause of the break between us, and caused a hostility toward me, lasting for years, on the part of Bismarck and a large part of the German nation that was devoted to him, especially of the official class.
This conflict between the Chancellor and me arose because of his belief that the social problem could be solved by severe measures and, if the worst came to the worst, by means of soldiers;[Pg 41] not by following principles of general love for mankind or humanitarian nonsense which, he believed, he would have to adopt in conformity to my views.


Bismarck was not a foe to the laboring classes—on that I wish to lay stress, in view of what I have previously said. On the contrary! He was far too great a statesman to mistake the importance of the labor question to the state. But he considered the whole matter from the standpoint of pure expediency for the state. The state, he believed, should care for the laborer, as much and in whatever manner it deemed proper; he would not admit of any co-operation of the workers in this. Agitation and rebellion, he believed, should be severely suppressed; by force of arms, if necessary. Government protection on the one hand, the mailed fist on the other—that was Bismarck's social policy.
I, however, wished to win over the soul of the German workingman, and I fought zealously to attain this goal. I was filled with the consciousness of a plain duty and responsibility toward my entire people—also, therefore, toward the laboring classes. What was theirs by right and justice should become theirs, I thought; moreover, I believed that this should be brought about, wherever the will or power of the employers ceased, by the lord of the land and his Government, in so far as justice or necessity demanded. As soon as I had recognized the necessity for reforms, to[Pg 42] some of which the industrial elements would not consent, I took up the cudgels for the laboring classes, impelled by a sense of justice.
I had studied history sufficiently to guard myself against the delusion of believing in the possibility of making an entire people happy. I realized clearly that it was impossible for one human being to make a nation happy. The truth is that the only nation which is happy is the one that is contented, or at least is willing to be contented; a willingness which implies a certain degree of realization of what is possible—a sense of the practical, in short. Unfortunately, there is often a lack of this.
I was well aware that, in the unbounded demands of the Socialist leaders, unjustified greed would be constantly developed anew. But, for the very reason that I wished to be able to combat unjustified aspirations with a clear conscience and in a convincing way, it behooved me not to deny recognition and aid to justified aspirations.


The policy that kept in view the welfare of the workers unquestionably imposed a heavy burden upon all the industrial elements of Germany in the matter of competition in the world market, through the well-known laws for the protection of workingmen. This was especially true in relation to an industrial system like the Belgian, which could, without hindrance, squeeze the last drop out of the human reserves of Belgium and pay[Pg 43] low wages, without feeling any pangs of conscience or compassion for the sinking morale of the exhausted, unprotected people. By means of my social legislation I made such conditions impossible in Germany, and I caused it to be introduced also in Belgium, during the war, by General von Bissing, in order to promote the welfare of the Belgian workers. First of all, however, this legislation is—to use a sporting term—a handicap upon German industry in the battle of world competition: it alienated many big leaders of industry, which, from their point of view, was quite natural. But the lord of the land must always bear in mind the welfare of the whole nation; therefore, I went my way unswervingly.
Those workers, on the other hand, who blindly followed the Socialist leaders, gave me no word of thanks for the protection created for them nor for the work I had done. Between them and me lies the motto of the Hohenzollerns, "Suum cuique." That means, "To each his own"—not, as the Social Democrats would have it, "To everyone the same!"
I also harbored the idea of preventing to some extent competitive warfare, at least in the industrial world of the European continent, by bringing about a sort of quota-fixing in foreign lands, thereby facilitating production and making possible a healthier mode of life among the working classes.
There is great significance in the impression which foreign workers get in studying Germany's social legislation. A few years before the war people[Pg 44] in England, under the pressure of labor troubles, awoke to the conviction that better care must be taken of the workers. As a result of this, commissions visited Germany, some of them composed of workingmen. Guided by representative Germans, among them Socialists, they visited the industrial regions, factories, benevolent institutions, sanatoria of insurance companies, etc., and were astonished at all the things they saw. At the farewell dinner given them the English leader of the workingmen's deputation turned to Bebel and made this concluding remark:
"After all we have seen of what is done in Germany for the workers, I ask you: Are you people still Socialists?" And the Englishmen remarked to a German that they would be quite satisfied if they could succeed, after long fights in Parliament, in putting through one tenth of what had already been accomplished years before in Germany toward bettering the condition of the laboring classes.
I had observed with interest these visits of the English deputations and marveled at their ignorance of German conditions. But I marveled even more at a question asked by the English Government, through the channel of the English Embassy, on the same subject, which betrayed an absolutely amazing lack of knowledge of the progress made in Germany in the province of social reform. I questioned the English ambassador, remarking that England, having been represented in 1890 at the Berlin Social Congress, must certainly have[Pg 45] been informed, at least through the Embassy, of the Reichstag debates, which had dealt in a detailed way with the various social measures. The ambassador replied that the same thing had also occurred to him and caused him to have the earlier records of the Embassy investigated, whereupon it had transpired that the Embassy had sent the fullest reports on the subject to London and that thorough reports had been forwarded home concerning every important stage in the progress of social reform; but, "because they came from Germany, nobody ever read them; they were simply pigeon-holed and remained there ever since; it is a downright shame; Germany does not interest people at home."
Thus the Briton, with a shrug of his shoulders. Neither the British King nor Parliament had enough conscience or time or desire to work for the betterment of the working class. The "policy of encirclement" for the annihilation of Germany, especially of its industry, and, thereby, of its working population, was, in their eyes, far more important and rewarding. On the 9th of November (1918) the German Radical Socialist leaders, with their like-minded followers, joined forces with this British policy of annihilation.


In a small way, in places where I had influence, as, for instance, in the administration of my court and in the Imperial Automobile Club, I laid stress upon the social point of view. For instance, I[Pg 46] caused a fund to be established, out of the tips paid for visiting palaces, which was destined solely to the benefit of the domestic staff, and which, in the course of time, reached a magnificent total. From this fund the domestics and their families received money for trips to bathing resorts, cost of taking cures, burial expenses, dowries for their children, confirmation expenses, and similar payments.
When I, at the request of the newly founded Imperial Automobile Club, took it under my protection, I accepted an invitation to a luncheon in the beautiful rooms of the clubhouse, built by Ihne. In addition to magnates like the Duke of Ratibor, the Duke of Ujest, etc., I found there a number of gentlemen from Berlin's high financial circles, some of whom behaved rather wildly. When the conversation turned to the subject of drivers, I suggested establishing a fund which, in case of accident, illness, or death befalling these men, should provide means of livelihood for those whom they left behind. The suggestion met with unanimous approval, and the fund has had most excellent results. Later on I brought about the establishment of something similar for the skippers and pilots attached to the Imperial Yacht Club at Kiel.
Special pleasure was afforded me by the Kaiser Wilhelm Children's Home, founded by me at Ahlbeck, at which, in peace times, between May and the end of September in each year, a large number of children from the most poverty-stricken working people's districts in Berlin were accommodated[Pg 47] in successive detachments, each lot staying four weeks. This home is still under the tried direction of the admirable superintendent, Miss Kirschner, daughter of the former Chief Burgomaster of Berlin, and it has achieved most brilliant results, both in the physical and the psychical domain. Weakened, pale, needy children were transformed there into fresh, blooming, happy little beings, concerning whose welfare I often joyfully convinced myself by personal visits.
For the very reason that I have spoken of my quarrel with Bismarck as a result of labor questions, I wish to add to what I have already said about his basic position in the matter—an example showing how brilliantly the Prince behaved in something that concerned the workers. In this, to be sure, he was impelled by nationalistic motives, but he also realized at once that it was necessary to protect a large element against unemployment, which caused him to intervene with the full weight of his authority.
Sometime around 1886, while I was still Prince Wilhelm, I had learned that the great Vulcan shipping concern at Stettin was confronted, owing to lack of orders, with bankruptcy, and its entire force of workmen, numbering many thousands, with starvation, which would mean a catastrophe for the city of Stettin. Only by an order for the building of a big ship could the Vulcan shipyards be saved.
Spurred on some time before by Admiral von Stosch, who wished to free us once and for all[Pg 48] from the English shipbuilders, the Vulcan people had set to work courageously to build the first German armored ship, christened by my mother in 1874 on her birthday, on which occasion I was present. Ever since that time the warships built at the Vulcan yards had always satisfied naval experts—the concern, however, seldom built warships.


The German merchant marine, on the other hand, had not dared to follow the path courageously blazed by Admiral von Stosch. And now the brave German shipyard company was faced with ruin, since the North German Lloyd had refused its offer to build a passenger steamer, alleging that the English, because of their years of shipbuilding traditions, could build it better. It was a serious emergency. I hastened to Prince Bismarck and laid before him the matter as I have described it above.
The Chancellor was furious; his eyes flashed, his fist came crashing down on the table.
"What! Do you mean to say that these shopkeepers would rather have their boats built in England than in Germany? Why, that is unheard of! And is a good German shipyard to fail for such a reason? The devil take this gang of traders!"
He rang the bell and a servant entered.
"Have Privy Councilor X come here immediately from the Foreign Office!"
In a few minutes—during which the Prince[Pg 49] stamped up and down the room—the man summoned appeared.
"Telegram to Hamburg, to our envoy—the Lloyd in Bremen is to have its new ship built by the Vulcan Company in Stettin!"
The Privy Councilor vanished in hot haste, "with his coat tails sticking straight out behind him." The Prince turned to me and said: "I am greatly obliged to you. You have done the fatherland, and also myself, an important service. Henceforth ships will be built only in our yards—I'll take care to make this clear to the Hanseatic crowd. You may telegraph to the Vulcan people that the Chancellor will guarantee that the ship will be built in the Vulcan yards. May this be the first of a whole lot of such ships! As for the workers whom you have thus saved from unemployment, I hope that they will express their thanks to you!"
I passed on the news to Privy Councilor Schlutow at Stettin and great was the joy caused thereby. This was the first step upon the road destined to lead to the construction of the magnificent German express steamers.
When I went, after I had ascended the throne in 1888, to Stettin, in order to place honorary insignia on the flags of my Pomeranian Grenadiers, I also visited the Vulcan shipyards, at the invitation of the directors. After my reception by the directors outside the yards, the great doors were flung open and I walked inside. But, instead of work and pounding hammers, I found deep silence.[Pg 50] The entire body of workmen was standing in a half circle, with bared heads; in the middle stood the oldest workman of all, a man with a snow-white beard, bearing a laurel wreath in his hand.
I was deeply moved. Schlutow whispered to me: "A little pleasure for you, which the workmen themselves have thought up." The old workman stepped forward and, in pithy, plain words, expressed to me the gratitude of the workmen to me for having saved them, and, above all, their wives and children, from hardship and hunger, by my appeal to Bismarck about the building of the ship. As a token of their gratitude, he asked my permission to hand over the laurel wreath. Most deeply moved, I took the wreath and expressed my pleasure at receiving my first laurels, without the shedding of a drop of blood, from the hands of honest German workmen.
That was in the year 1888! In those days, the German laboring classes knew how to appreciate the blessing of labor.

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