War Cry Heal Union: The series (4th of 10)
Empires crumble in willy-nilly ways.
That’s Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) and her mother in 1912. They are Jews in Kaiser Wilhelm’s German Empire ~ and Emperor “Willy” didn’t like Jews.
In Russia and cousin Tsar Nicholas’ empire, the world of Emperor “Nicky,” Jews weren’t liked much either. Examples: the 1891 Ukase (executive order) expelling 20,000 Jews from Moscow and the Russian language gave us the word pogrom ~ an organized, sanctioned and violent assault on a Jewish community.
In Germany the clearest example is Emperor Wilhem. John Röhl, in The Kaiser and His Court: Wilhelm II and the Government of Germany (1994: p. 210), provides some choice 1919 anti-semitic Willy words. First, the former Emperor calls his abdication: “the deepest, most disgusting shame ever perpetrated by a person in history, the Germans have done to themselves... egged on and misled by the tribe of Judah ... Let no German ever forget this, nor rest until these parasites have been destroyed and exterminated from German soil!” Second, Willy praises Russia’s pogroms and, chillingly, said the Jews were a nuisance and should be gotten rid of; in 1919, the fallen German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm even stated how: “I believe the best thing would be gas!”
From 28 July to 1 August 1914, the two Emperors exchanged telegrams with the intention of avoiding “bloodshed” ~ the Willy-Nicky Telegrams. The telegrams are ego-empiric (it is 1914 and Sigmund Freud is nearby in Vienna, Austria); they read nice at the beginning, both talking of peace and accommodation. In the end, on the eve of catastrophe, the letters expose the underlying insecurity and paranoia inherent to empire; Willy and Nicky boxed themselves into their hubristic minds, and in that state one never hears the cries of Others ~ emperor or Jew.
Willy and Nicky’s failure produced 15 million dead, the Soviet Union and Hitler's Third Reich (two more empires really), and sowed the harvest we call World War II. Kaiser Wilhelm abdicates in 1918 and is exiled to the Netherlands; he blames his “Hebrew subjects” and “the tribe of Judah” for his fall and writes Hitler congratulatory notes (on the 1939 invasion of Poland, for example). Tsar Nicholas’ fate is fatal: he abdicates in 1917, is imprisoned and then murdered on the orders of the new Others.
In October 1964, Gunter Gaus interviewed Hannah Arendt on “Zur Person” (The Person); the show was taped for a West German audience and she answers questions about heritage, growing up in Konigsberg and her mother’s influence. The interview highlights Arendt as a political theorist; when asked about 1933 Germany, the year the Nazis came into power, and what that was like, Arendt describes the motivating will of the Unrepresented ~ of the Other ~ that speaks in all ages: “Indifference was no longer possible in 1933. It was impossible even before that.”
Tomorrow on the War Cry Heal Union series ~ Civil War Battle Flags, Medals of Honor and Soldiers Unknown.
Posted by Bryan W. Brickner