PART 6: Peace on Earth at Last
Christmas Army Troops march past the reviewing stands in Straßburg, July 1915
FUNERAL FOR KAISER WILHELM II PLANNED
BERLIN, MAY 25 - The Imperial Government announced that Kaiser Wilhelm II’s funeral will be held on June 1st, in what is being described as a “grand and somber event to bid farewell to a beloved leader.” Wilhelm, 56, has ruled Germany for nearly thirty years since his father’s untimely demise placed him on the throne at the age of 29, and has influenced a generation of young German men. Many throughout the Empire, especially the soldiers in the army, are still in shock that he has passed. The city of Berlin is expected to be packed with mourners that will descend upon the city to pay their respects. The Kaiser’s body will lay in state in the Reichstag starting on May 26, and will remain their until the funeral on June 1st, whereupon it will be moved in a great funeral procession from the Imperial legislature’s seat to the Berliner Dom, where the service itself will be held.
Comrade Juares stated that he will not personally attend the funeral, since the People’s government in Paris is still working on establishing formal relations with the German Empire, but that Foreign Minister Paul Faure would lead a French delegation instead. Minister Faure has been in Strasbourg, and is working with other statesmen to hammer out final preparations for a permanent European peace treaty to end the War of 1914. It is expected that the Peace Congress in Strasbourg will declare a recess prior to Wilhelm II’s funeral, and resume sometime in early June to prepare a final treaty based on requests from the various nations in attendance.
-“Funeral for Kaiser Wilhelm Planned,” Le Monde, May 25, 1915.
KING GEORGE V MAKES SURPRISE APPEARANCE IN BERLIN
BERLIN, JUNE 1 - As leaders from across Germany, Europe and the World descended upon Berlin to pay respects to the late Kaiser Wilhelm II, an unexpected mourner arrived in the German capital that caused quite a stir. Arriving on a private steamship on May 29, Great Britain’s King George V was among those at the Berliner Dom to pay his final respects to his cousin. The visit was publicly unannounced, though it appears that the Imperial Government in Berlin knew that the King was coming. This visit is only the latest sign that the war in Europe really is over, even if not officially. A little over a year ago, Germany and Britain were headed toward the brink of war, and now the leader of one has come to the capital of the other to pay their respects to their fallen counterpart. When those present in the Dom filed past the flower and flag bedecked casket of Wilhelm II, the British monarch paused for a very long time, and was seen whispering final goodbyes to his relative.
-“King George V Makes Surprise Appearance in Berlin,” The Washington Post, June 2, 1915.
On Wednesday, June 9, 1915, the members of the European Peace Congress reconvened in Straßburg following the funeral of Kaiser Wilhelm II, and they had a lot on to complete. All of the governments represented at the congress had approved the basic ideas in the initial draft of the treaty, but had made relatively minor requests for readjustment. The congress set up a special committee to go through all the requested changes and to come up with a new, hopefully final, draft. The diplomats labored long and hard, and finally had a new draft of the treaty ready to present to the whole Congress on June 21. It was approved unanimously, and sent back to the various signatory nations for final approval.
The new treaty established the Congressional Republic of Alsace-Lorraine and the Kingdom of Poland to serve as buffer states between the larger powers on the European continent. It also set up a new Congress of European States, an organization that would meet yearly to discuss the political and economic situations of Europe, and propose solutions in the forms of treaties that would have immediate approval, but could be challenged by individual nations after they were passed. All signatories were agreeing to set up a War Relief Fund to be managed by the CES leadership (elected from the representatives that made up the Congress). In addition, the treaty called for an immediate reduction in arms across the continent, as well as a general pardon for all soldiers who joined the Christmas Army.
As the various nations reviewed what would become the final draft of the Straßburg Treaty of 1915, another committee was formed at the Congress to discuss just when the treaty would be signed, marking the official end to the War of 1914. What was ultimately decided by those delegates and later approved by the whole of the Congress was that the signing would occur in Straßburg on July 28, 1915, on the one year anniversary of the start of the conflict.
-Franklin, Dr. David. Peace on Earth: Christmas 1914. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975.
PRINZ OSKAR WILL BECOME KAISER
BERLIN, JUNE 15 - The Imperial Regency Committee has announced today that Prinz Oskar will succeed his father as Kaiser of Germany. Chancellor von Bethmann Hollweg announced the committee’s decision this morning, and stated that His Highness would officially take his oath on Monday, June 21st in a ceremony at the Reichstag, and that there could be a more formal coronation ceremony later in the year. When asked, the Chancellor stated that if such an event took place, it would happen after the Straßburg Treaty was signed, so as to not upstage that “momentous occasion.”
Most members of the nobility are happy with the decision, saying that young Oskar is a wise choice, and will breath new life and vitality into the Monarchy and help the nation recover from the war. Many liberal members of the Reichstag are also happy, saying that they hope the new Kaiser, who helped put down the conservative coup in early May, will be more supportive of their various proposed reforms.
-“Prinz Oskar Will Become Kaiser,” Berliner Morgenpost, June 16, 1915.
THE WAR IN EUROPE IS OFFICIALLY OVER
STRAßURG, JULY 28 - Today the heads of state of the warring powers of Europe gathered in what has been dubbed the City of Peace, Straßurg, Alsace-Lorraine. In a grand ceremony at the Palace Rohan, where the Peace Congress met throughout the spring, the continent’s leaders officially laid down their arms and brought one of the most devastating conflicts in recent history to a close. Outside the palace, the flags of Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary all flew proudly in the mid-morning sun. In the middle, flying above all the rest, was the flag of the Christmas Truce Army, which has now become a symbol of European Peace.
In the great hall, five copies of the treaty, written in the languages of the signatory countries, were placed on a raised platform. A podium was set up to one side, and the rest of the room was set up with tables where the heads of state and their aids were seated. The ceremony began at 11 a.m, with Pope Benedict XV welcoming all those present, and praising the nations of the Peace Congress for forging what he called a “lasting peace,” and hailing the truce fighters for seizing the miracle of the Christmas Truce and bringing the war to an end, when so many political leaders were afraid to do so. Following his address, King George V spoke to those gathered. In his speech, he praised the bravery of all soldiers from all nations. He then stated that “the members of the Truce Army have proven that it is not always the few great leaders that affect the course of history, but instead the common man, when acting together in defense of a great cause such as peace, can change mankind’s course.” The new German Kaiser, Frederick IV (formerly Prinz Oskar, who led the overthrow of the anti-Peace coup in May), also spoke, followed by the Crown Prince of Austria, and finally Chairman Juares of France. Following the speeches, the heads of state came up one by one and signed each copy of the treaty. Following the last signing, a choir and small orchestra performed Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” followed by “Silent Night,” both of which have become the anthems of the European Peace. After this, the leaders and their aids stepped outside the palace to a special reviewing stand that had been set up, and saluted as members of the Christmas Truce Army marched by.
Within the next month, the First Congress of European States will meet in Straßburg, where they are expected to appoint an executive committee that will oversee the new War Relief Fund. France and Great Britain have both indicated that their representatives will be popularly elected by their citizens. Germany, Austria, and Russia have not stated how their representatives will be chosen yet. Each nation gets five representatives in the new pan-national Congress.
-”The War in Europe is Officially Over,” The New York Times, July 29, 1915.