Bismarcks shadow: the cult of leadership and the transformation of the German right, 1898-1945

Historian Richard Frankel, an expert on Nazi Germany, says history doesn’t have to repeat itself.
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Wilhelm countered that he was not willing to open his reign with a bloody campaign against his own subjects. The next day, after realizing his blunder, Bismarck attempted to reach a compromise with Wilhelm by agreeing to his social policy towards industrial workers and even suggested a European council to discuss working conditions, presided over by the Emperor.

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Feinman Job Board. Peaceful relations with France became impossible after when Germany annexed all of the province of Alsace and much of Lorraine. For other uses, see Bismarck disambiguation. Retrieved 22 June Das Jahr Meanwhile, as the war began, a German radical named Ferdinand Cohen-Blind attempted to assassinate Bismarck in Berlin, shooting him five times at close range. A crisis arose in , when the Diet refused to authorize funding for a proposed re-organization of the army.

Still, a turn of events eventually led to his breaking with Wilhelm. Bismarck, feeling pressured and unappreciated by the Emperor and undermined by ambitious advisers, refused to sign a proclamation regarding the protection of workers along with Wilhelm, as was required by the German constitution.

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His refusal to sign was apparently to protest Wilhelm's ever increasing interference with Bismarck's previously unquestioned authority. Bismarck also worked behind the scenes to break the Continental labour council on which Wilhelm had set his heart. The final break came as Bismarck searched for a new parliamentary majority, as his Kartell was voted from power as a consequence of the anti-socialist bill fiasco.

Bismarck wished to form a new block with the Centre Party and invited Ludwig Windthorst , the parliamentary leader, to discuss an alliance. That would be Bismarck's last political maneuver. Upon hearing about Windthorst's visit, Wilhelm was furious. In a parliamentary state, the head of government depends on the confidence of the parliamentary majority and has the right to form coalitions to ensure their policies have majority support.

However, in Germany, the Chancellor depended on the confidence of the Emperor alone, and Wilhelm believed that the Emperor had the right to be informed before his minister's meeting. After a heated argument in Bismarck's office, Wilhelm—to whom Bismarck had shown a letter from Tsar Alexander III describing Wilhelm as a "badly brought-up boy"—stormed out, after first ordering the rescinding of the Cabinet Order of , which had forbidden Prussian Cabinet Ministers from reporting directly to the King of Prussia and required them instead to report via the Chancellor.

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Bismarck's Shadow: The Cult of Leadership and the Transformation of the German Right, [Richard Frankel] on dipotsdern.ga *FREE* shipping on. Bismarck's Shadow. The Cult of Leadership and the Transformation of the German Right, By: Richard Frankel Media of Bismarck's Shadow.

Bismarck, forced for the first time into a situation that he could not use to his advantage, wrote a blistering letter of resignation, decrying Wilhelm's interference in foreign and domestic policy. The letter, however, was published only after Bismarck's death. Bismarck resigned at Wilhelm II's insistence on 18 March , at the age of seventy-five.

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Steinberg sums up:. Thus ended the extraordinary public career of Otto von Bismarck, who Now the humble posture that he had necessarily adopted in his written communications with his royal master had become his real posture. The old servant, no matter how great and how brilliant, had become in reality what he had always played as on a stage: a servant who could be dismissed at will by his Sovereign.

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He had defended that royal prerogative because it had allowed him to carry out his immense will; now the absolute prerogative of the Emperor became what it has always been, the prerogative of the sovereign. Having crushed his parliamentary opponents, flattened and abused his ministers, and refused to allow himself to be bound by any loyalty, Bismarck had no ally left when he needed it.

It was not his cabinet nor his parliamentary majority. He had made sure that it remained the sovereign's, and so it was that he fell because of a system that he preserved and bequeathed to the unstable young Emperor. He was also given a new title, Duke of Lauenburg, which he joked would be useful when traveling incognito. He was soon elected to the Reichstag as a National Liberal in Bennigsen's old and supposedly safe Hamburg seat, but he was so humiliated by being taken to a second ballot by a Social Democrat opponent that he never actually took up his seat. Bismarck entered into resentful retirement, lived in Friedrichsruh near Hamburg and sometimes on his estates at Varzin , and waited in vain to be called upon for advice and counsel.

After his wife's death on 27 November , his health worsened and one year later he was finally confined to a wheelchair.

In December , Wilhelm visited Bismarck for the last time. Bismarck again warned him about the dangers of improvising government policy based on the intrigues of courtiers and militarists:. Your Majesty, so long as you have this present officer corps, you can do as you please. But when this is no longer the case, it will be very different for you.

Jena came twenty years after the death of Frederick the Great ; the crash will come twenty years after my departure if things go on like this. One day the great European War will come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans. Bismarck spent his final years composing his memoirs Gedanken und Erinnerungen , or Thoughts and Memories , a work lauded by historians.

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He also published the text of the Reinsurance Treaty with Russia, a major breach of national security, for which an individual of lesser status would have been heavily prosecuted. Bismarck's health began to fail in He was diagnosed with gangrene in his foot, but refused to accept treatment for it; as a result he had difficulty walking and was often confined to a wheelchair.

By July he was permanently wheelchair-bound, had trouble breathing, and was almost constantly feverish and in pain.

Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898) / German Unification

His health rallied momentarily on the 28th, but then sharply deteriorated over the next two days. He died just after midnight on 30 July , at the age of eighty-three in Friedrichsruh , [] where he is entombed in the Bismarck Mausoleum. He was succeeded as Prince Bismarck by his eldest son, Herbert. Bismarck managed a posthumous snub of Wilhelm II by having his own sarcophagus inscribed with the words, "A loyal German servant of Emperor Wilhelm I".

Historians have reached a broad consensus on the content, function and importance of the image of Bismarck within Germany's political culture over the past years. Bismarck's most important legacy is the unification of Germany. Germany had existed as a collection of hundreds of separate principalities and Free Cities since the formation of the Holy Roman Empire.

Over the centuries various rulers had tried to unify the German states without success until Bismarck. Largely as a result of Bismarck's efforts, the various German kingdoms were united into a single country.

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Following unification, Germany became one of the most powerful nations in Europe. Bismarck's astute, cautious, and pragmatic foreign policies allowed Germany to peacefully retain the powerful position into which he had brought it, while maintaining amiable diplomacy with almost all European nations. France was the main exception because of the Franco—Prussian War and Bismarck's harsh subsequent policies; France became one of Germany's most bitter enemies in Europe.

Austria, too, was weakened by the creation of a German Empire, though to a much lesser extent than France. Bismarck believed that as long as Britain, Russia and Italy were assured of the peaceful nature of the German Empire, French belligerency could be contained; [ citation needed ] his diplomatic feats were undone, however, by Kaiser Wilhelm II , whose policies unified other European powers against Germany in time for World War I. Historians stress that Bismarck's peace-oriented, "saturated continental diplomacy" was increasingly unpopular, because it consciously reined in any expansionist drives.

Likewise Bismarck's policy to deny the military a dominant voice in foreign political decision making was overturned by as Germany became an armed state. Bismarck's psychology and personal traits have not been so favourably received by scholars. The historian Jonathan Steinberg portrays a demonic genius who was deeply vengeful, even toward his closest friends and family members:. His easy chat combined blunt truths, partial revelations, and outright deceptions.

His extraordinary double ability to see how groups would react and the willingness to use violence to make them obey, the capacity to read group behavior and the force to make them move to his will, gave him the chance to exercise what [Steinberg has] called his "sovereign self" []. Evans says he was "intimidating and unscrupulous, playing to others' frailties, not their strengths.

Being a committed monarchist himself, Bismarck allowed no effective constitutional check on the power of the Emperor, thus placing a time bomb in the foundation of the Germany that he created.

Otto von Bismarck

Observers at the time and since have commented on Bismarck's skill as a writer. As Henry Kissinger has noted, "The man of 'blood and iron' wrote prose of extraordinary directness and lucidity, comparable in distinctiveness to Churchill 's use of the English language. He played his parts with perfect self-confidence, yet mixed them with rage, anxiety, illness, hypochrondria, and irrationality. He used democracy when it suited him, negotiated with revolutionaries and the dangerous Ferdinand Lassalle , the socialist who might have contested his authority.

He utterly dominated his cabinet ministers with a sovereign contempt and blackened their reputations as soon as he no longer needed them. He outwitted the parliamentary parties, even the strongest of them, and betrayed all those By even his closest friends During most of his nearly thirty-year-long tenure, Bismarck held undisputed control over the government's policies.

He was well supported by his friend Albrecht von Roon , the war minister, as well as the leader of the Prussian army Helmuth von Moltke. Bismarck's diplomatic moves relied on a victorious Prussian military, and these two men gave Bismarck the victories he needed to convince the smaller German states to join Prussia. Bismarck took steps to silence or restrain political opposition, as evidenced by laws restricting the freedom of the press, and the anti-socialist laws. He waged a culture war Kulturkampf against the Catholic Church until he realized the conservatism of the Catholics made them natural allies against the Socialists.

His king Wilhelm I rarely challenged the Chancellor's decisions; on several occasions, Bismarck obtained his monarch's approval by threatening to resign. However, Wilhelm II intended to govern the country himself, making the ousting of Bismarck one of his first tasks as Kaiser. Bismarck's successors as Chancellor were much less influential, as power was concentrated in the Emperor's hands. Immediately after he left office, citizens started to praise him and established funds to build monuments like the Bismarck Memorial or towers dedicated to him. Throughout Germany, the accolades were unending, several buildings were named in his honour, portraits of him were commissioned from artists such as Franz von Lenbach and C.

Allers and books about him became best-sellers.

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Numerous statues and memorials dot the cities, towns, and countryside of Germany, including the famous Bismarck Memorial in Berlin and numerous Bismarck towers on four continents. Pauli district, and is the largest, and probably best-known, memorial to Bismarck worldwide. The statues depicted him as massive, monolithic, rigid and unambiguous. Bismarck was the most memorable figure in Germany down to the s. The dominant memory was the great hero of the s, who defeated all enemies, especially France, and unified Germany to become the most powerful military and diplomatic force in the world.

Of course, there were no monuments celebrating Bismarck's devotion to the cause of European peace after His fellow Junkers were disappointed, as Prussia after became swallowed up and dominated by the German Empire. Liberal intellectuals, few in number but dominant in the universities and business houses, celebrated his achievement of the national state, a constitutional monarchy, and the rule of law, and forestalling revolution and marginalizing radicalism.

Especially negative were the Poles who hated his Germanization programs. Robert Gerwarth shows that the Bismarck myth, built up predominantly during his years of retirement and even more stridently after his death, proved a powerful rhetorical and ideological tool. Gerwarth argues that the constructed memory of Bismarck played a central role as an antidemocratic myth in the highly ideological battle over the past, which raged between and This myth proved to be a weapon against the Weimar Republic and exercised a destructive influence on the political culture of the first German democracy.

Frankel in Bismarck's Shadow shows the Bismarck cult fostered and legitimized a new style of right-wing politics. It made possible the post-Bismarckian crisis of leadership, both real and perceived, that had Germans seeking the strongest possible leader and asking, "What Would Bismarck Do? It was a product of the desire of Hamburg's patrician classes to defend their political privileges in the face of dramatic social change and attendant demands for political reform.