Monday, February 4, 2013

Silent Night, Part 5

My apologies for taking so long to get this update out. I hope you enjoy it. 

PART 5: Writing the Peace, Act II

German soldiers march through Berlin, April 1915. 

LONDON, APRIL 20 - The “Treaty of Strasbourg” has been in the hands of government ministers across Europe for nearly a month now, and it is expected that there will be votes in several countries soon on whether or not to approve the treaty. The strongest support comes from the socialist government of France, which has stated to the press that they will vote on the treaty once a clean up from the civil war is completed. The anti-socialist forces of George Clemenceau surrendered on April 16th, after loosing the Second Battle of Auxerre on April 14th. The head of the government in Paris, Jean Juares, says that as soon as representatives of all regions of France have been able to assemble in the capital they will vote on the treaty, though he expects it to be approved by this new “National People’s Assembly.” 
In Germany, it appears that most commoners approve of the new treaty, or most of it, and are vehemently against the return of hostilities. Despite this, there seems to be a lingering animosity to the peace process among the German nobles, especially those from Prussia, and these men are doing all they can to influence Kaiser Wilhelm II to not approve the current draft of the treaty. They want to punish the mutineers, and most do not support giving up Alsace-Lorraine, even if it wouldn’t be given to France. In addition to this, there are serious reservations held by the government in Berlin about recognizing the legitimacy of the new socialist government in Paris. 
Support for the treaty is fairly strong in Russia. Despite not being involved in the initial Christmas Truce, the Russians fear facing Germany alone, and so have backed the treaty at the conference and it is expected that the Russian Tsar will give his consent soon. There are those in the Russian government and the Court of Tsar Nicholas II that fear revolt if the war were to drag on. Outside observers have repeatedly stated that the political and economic situation in the Russian Empire is on the verge of becoming quite dangerous, and it would not take much for that country to spiral into revolution. According to those stationed at the British Embassy in St. Petersburg, the Imperial government has gone through great lengths to keep a lid on the revolution in France, fearing that such news would bolster revolutionaries in their own country. 
Here in Britain, support for the peace is mixed. The common man calls for peace, while the upper classes are outraged at the mutiny that occurred and believe that not doing anything about it could lead to worse problems in the future. Debate in the House of Commons is set to begin within the next week, and it is unclear just where the support of Prime Minister Grey’s government lies. What it will ultimately come down to is whether or not the government can ignore popular opinion that supports the treaty. Many clergymen have spoken out against the recent war, and have begun to turn this into a moral and religious issue, which will make rejection of the peace harder to swallow. 
-”Treaty Draft Receives Praise and Criticism,” The Times (London), April 20, 1915. 

BERLIN, APRIL 28 - The Chief of the German General Staff, Erich von Falkenhayn, along with General Paul von Hindenburg, announced today that Kaiser Wilhelm II had taken ill and was no longer able to lead the nation, and that his son, Prince Wilhelm, will serve as regent for the time being. Although trying to give the semblance of legitimacy, it is very clear that this is anything but legitimate. The Chancellor, Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, has been dismissed by the Emperor, and rumor has it that the Reichstag may be dismissed as well. In addition, the German delegation in Strasbourg have received orders to return to Berlin. Among those in the delegation at the moment is Prince Oskar, the 25 year old son of Kaiser Wilhelm II, and he was one of the first to refer to what occurred as a coup. He and others in the delegation, including the Foreign Minister, have stated that they are refusing to return to Germany. 
Just what this means for the peace process in Strasbourg, or the state of the German Empire, is anyone’s guess at this point in time. Comrade Juares and Defense Minister Thomas has ordered a heightened alert for all troops stationed near the German boarder, and it is possible that additional troops may be sent to frontier fortifications. Officials at the People’s Palace in Paris have stated that, while the government believes that they can deal with this crisis without armed conflict, they want to be ready in case things deteriorate. 
-”Coup in Berlin: Anti-Treaty Generals Take Power,” Le Monde, April 29, 1915.

STRASBOURG, APRIL 29- Prinz Oskar of Prussia, one of the sons of Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Foreign Minister Gottlieb von Jagow are decrying what is obviously a coup against the Kaiser and those in the German government who have supported the truce. The ministers and military officials that made up the German delegation in Strasbourg have been meeting non-stop since word of the actions of Generals von Falkenhayn and Hindenburg, and there are many here in the so-called “City of Peace” that think the delegates will back von Jagow as emergency Chancellor and Prinz Oskar as regent until the Kaiser can be liberated from the custody of the new regime in Berlin. The German members of the Christmas Army are in an uproar, and many are calling on the Army Consulate to order an invasion of Germany and put an end to the coup. 
Meanwhile, in Germany, Prince Wilhelm, as acting regent, has ordered all newspapers to stop publishing any news coming out of Strasbourg. In addition, General von Falkenhayn has ordered the armed forces to prepare for action, especially in Berlin and on the boarders with France. There is speculation that the coup leaders may order their troops to march on Strasbourg and close the peace congress. 
-”Prinz Oskar, von Jagow Rally Against Coup,” The Times (London), April 30, 1915. 

On May 1, 1915, the members of the German delegation to the Strasbourg Peace Congress announced that they were recognizing Prinz Oskar of Prussia as acting Regent, and Foreign Minister Gottlieb von Jagow as emergency Chancellor, and called on Generals von Hindenburg and von Falkenhayn to release Kaiser Wilhelm II and restore the legitimate government. Within hours, many of the leaders of the provinces in western Germany announced allegiance to Prinz Oskar, denouncing the leaders of the coup. Very quickly, the leaders of Europe feared that Germany would find itself plunged into civil war. To avert this, Prinz Oskar and von Jagow and the leaders of the Christmas Army acted fast. 
A mere two days later, on May 3, the Regent, the Chancellor, and approximately one third of the German Contingent of the Christmas Army boarded express trains bound for Berlin, with the goal of ousting the coup leaders from power. As the trains crossed Germany, they met only light resistance, which they took as a sign that the coup was not as strong as it claimed to be. On the early morning of May 5, the so-called “Prinz Oskar’s Army” arrived in the imperial capital. They quickly secured the main train station. Outside, soldiers loyal to the coup opened fire, and the Battle of Berlin began. By noon, the anti-coup forces had pushed its way into the city center, and the pro-coup forces were fraying, as the populace of Berlin began to come out in support of Prinz Oskar. Just after noon, Prinz Oskar and von Jagow entered the City Palace, where their soldiers had captured General von Falkenhayn. They found out that General von Hindenburg and Prinz Wilhelm had fled to the palaces at Potsdam. In the upper level of the palace, soldiers found Kaiser Wilhelm, who’d been locked in a small room, and appeared to be suffering from some sort of pneumonia. 
By that evening, the troops loyal to the coup had either surrendered or fled the city to Potsdam. Three days later, reinforcements arrived and the anti-coup forces marched on Potsdam, overwhelming the coup and bringing about it’s end. Prinz Wilhelm and Hindenburg both died during the fighting. The legitimate government was restored on May 10. 
  • Heim, Dr. Rudolph. The Birth of the New Germany. Berlin: Humboldt University Press, 1989. 

BERLIN, MAY 15- In the wake of the recent coup that occurred in Germany, the recently restored Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg announced today that Germany would fully support the Strasbourg Treaty, seeking only minor changes in the territorial concessions that Germany would make to the newly independent boarder states. The other main issue that had previously been mentioned, punishment of the mutineers, has vanished since the coup, due to fact that the German members of the Christmas Army are now being hailed as heros of the Empire and saviors of the Kaiser. If Britain and Austria-Hungary will back the treaty, then the Great European War could come to an end by June or July, one year after it started. 
-”Germany Backs Treaty,”  The Washington Post, May 16, 1915. 

BERLIN, MAY 21- The Imperial Government of Germany announced this morning that Kaiser Wilhelm II died from complications to the pneumonia that he contracted before the start of the coup last month, and that was left untreated by the coup leaders. Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg has declared a state of mourning throughout Germany. Wilhelm II, son of Wilhelm I, the first Emperor of a a united Germany, was 56 when he passed from this world, reportedly surrounded by his wife, Prince Oskar, and other family, friends, and members of the Government. 
It is not entirely clear who will succeed Wilhelm II as Emperor. Since the coup, one high possibility is that Prince Oskar could ascend to the throne. This is not a guaranteed thing, since he is not the first in line for the throne. However, since Crown Prince Wilhelm died during the coup, exactly who is in line is unclear. Prince Eitel Friedrich, 31, is now the oldest surviving child of Wilhelm II, but he and his brother Prince August Wilhelm both gave tacit support to the coup in April. The government in Berlin may convene a regency council to determine who will ascend the throne as the next Kaiser. 
-”Kaiser Wilhelm II Dead,” The Times (London), May 22, 1915. 

VIENNA, MAY 24- After Britain’s recent announcement on the 23rd that they were giving consent to the Strasbourg Treaty, and in light of the loss of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the Austro-Hungarian Empire has announced that they are giving their approval of the treaty as well. They were the last major power of the Great European War to agree to the peace proposal. Emperor Charles I & IV stated that, “the time for war is over. We must now make peace, we must stop the killing. Too many good and innocent people have perished since the war broke out in the summer of 1914. I say no more. No more killing, no more death.” 
President Wilson, on hearing that the Austro-Hungarian Empire had agreed to the treaty, told reporters at the White House that, “this is a great day for all humanity. Soon Europe can put this terrible conflict behind them, and our world will be a better place for it.” 
-”Austria Agrees to Treaty, Final Peace Imminent,” The Washington Post, May 25, 1915. 

(Click Here for Part 6)