Author Topic: The Kaiser and Britain  (Read 22656 times)

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Offline Josť

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The Kaiser and Britain
« on: February 03, 2008, 10:56:12 AM »
On a bio of Wilhelm II there was this passage claiming that when Germany invaded the Netherlands during WW2, Britain offered asylum to the old Kaiser, which he swiftly refused.

On what grounds ? Surely Nazi Germany wouldn't harm the old kaiser (some of his sons had joined the Party, and his 2nd wife was very sympathetic to the cause).

For a country who had refused to the russian IF during WW1 it sounds strange that they would offer asylum to their former enemy.

AFAIK during WW1 british propaganda was aimed to the kaiser, as the source of every evil on face of earth, not to the Tsar

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: The Kaiser and Britain
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2008, 12:03:08 PM »
I would think that is was part of a blanket invitation for assylum. The Dutch royal family  went to Britain, as did the Norwegians. If it was indeed offered, I would imagine that it was not seriously expected to be accepted by him. I can't see that he would have been much use to the Brits, and as you mentioned, he had family in the Nazi Party.
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Offline HerrKaiser

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Re: The Kaiser and Britain
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2008, 01:31:42 PM »
I suspect the invitation had nothing to do with family values, family attachments, or consideration of William's safety at all. The offer was very likely a strategy to hopefully show that EVEN the former Kaiser is fleeing Hitler, the Germans, and his own family and HAD to accept the good graces of his former death-struggle enemy, the English. Rather than remaining neutral, had William made such a choice, it would have been a public relations coup that would have substantially garnered and strenghtened the already strong anti-German, war-ready British government and citizenry.

If such an offer had actually been made, I think the Brits were wishing and hoping would accept and then the Brits would have made a huge deal out of it. In fact, I would not be surprised if a lucrative deal was not presented to Wiliam for him to accept the assylum offer.

It would also have been a nice slap in the face to Wallis and Edward, which many would have loved to witness.

However, at that time, William was cheering on the successes of the Wehrmacht. The Netherlands surrendered on May 15 and a month later when France lost the war to Germany, William sent a congratulatory telegram to Hitler on the success. So, I don't think William was afraid for his safety nor, at that time, very willing to join the other side in spirit.
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Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: The Kaiser and Britain
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2008, 02:05:10 PM »
I tend to agree that family issues would have had little to do with it by that time.
 Propaganda? I wonder.  As Jose mentioned, there were many in the UK who have just as soon seen the Kaiser  shot as given any assistance.
 I LOVE the idea that it might have been a bitchy "slap in the face" to David & Wallis though!
 However, as you said HK,  he [the Kaiser] really had nothing to flee from. His life was almost over and he remained rather comfortable.
  One scenario might have him kidnapped and brought to Britain, but the movie has not been made yet, that I know of. Has it?
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Offline Adagietto

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Re: The Kaiser and Britain
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2008, 08:17:30 AM »
This was actually a rather peculiar episode. Churchill became Prime Minister on May 10th 1940, and on that very day he asked his private secretary to arrange for the the ex-Kaiser to be informed that he would be welcome to come to England if he wanted leave the Netherlands before it was occupied. This was a characteristic gesture which would not have been made with any ulterior motive. He had known the Kaiser before the First World War after having been invited by him to attend military manoeuvres in Germany. Whether he had any real expectation that the Kaiser would take up the offer I cannot say. The issue does not seem to have been discussed with anyone else, and the politicians who were entering  the new government would have had far more pressing concerns in any case.

The British government was quite happy to offer asylum to the Tsar and his family during the First World War, it was George V who rejected the idea, fearing that the position of the (constitutional) British monarchy might be weakened through association with a deposed autocrat. In this he showed a rather unexpected vein of ruthlessness, and probably a meaure of panic, underestimating the support that the monarchy enjoyed in Britain. To be fair to him, this was at a time when the Imperial family did not appear to be under any threat and would have been expected to be able to find a home elsewhere. When the family was shifted away from Petrograd by the Bolsheviks and was clearly coming under real danger, the British secret services in Russia were instructed to try to make plans to extricate them, but nothing practical could be achieved. I am reminded of how all the main Western governments were unwilling to offer sanctuary to the Shah of Iran after he was deposed.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2008, 08:19:39 AM by Adagietto »

Offline Mari

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Re: The Kaiser and Britain
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2008, 08:56:51 AM »
Quote
Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi and his wife, Empress Farah, left Tehran and flew to Aswan in Egypt.

The couple's three youngest children were flown to the United States yesterday.  http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/january/16/newsid_2530000/2530475.stm

Yes, the Shah went to Egypt although I think I read somewhere Africa offered him a haven also.


Offline Learning

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Re: The Kaiser and Britain
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2008, 10:29:55 AM »
In one of the biographies I read many many years ago, the offer of asylum from Britain to the UK was discussed. It has always remained in my mind as a noble offer and, frankly, a strange one. My understanding is that the Kaiser and his wife at first accepted and that she was thrilled to be going to Britain. However, the Kaiser felt that the Dutch had been very good to him and he wanted to share their sufferings rather than run out on them. His later telegrams of congratulations to Hitler on the fall of Paris were not entirely heartfelt. At least according to the biographies I have read the telegram was meant to help improve relations for his family which was under scrutiny by the Nazis.

Offline HerrKaiser

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Re: The Kaiser and Britain
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2008, 10:47:56 AM »
This was actually a rather peculiar episode. Churchill became Prime Minister on May 10th 1940, and on that very day he asked his private secretary to arrange for the the ex-Kaiser to be informed that he would be welcome to come to England if he wanted leave the Netherlands before it was occupied. This was a characteristic gesture which would not have been made with any ulterior motive.

Nothing at that high level is done without an ulterior motive, nothing. Particularly from Churchill. He was a supreme political chess player and anticiapted every action and its potential reactions, each designed for his political to do list. The continued distain, as Robert Hall has pointed out, for William in Britain after 22 years would not have been reduced by a German occupation of the Netherlands. In fact, it would seem most people would have thought any discomfort William would endure would be just desserts.

What would William have to fear anyway? Prison? Death camp? Rations? Loss of home? There were plently of opportunities to offer William the conciliatory olive branch over the years, but it never occured, so why at that point? From a political view, it does seem most likely Churchill saw a large benefit in having the former Kaiser "flee" to England and use it for political/social propaganda.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2008, 10:51:52 AM by HerrKaiser »
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Offline Adagietto

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Re: The Kaiser and Britain
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2008, 11:12:24 AM »
I cannot agree about that, I think that Churchill would have regarded it as wholly improper to make a personal gesture like that that and then milk it for political advantage. If this had been a decision reached by the government after a discussion  in cabinet, <i>then</i> I would agree that one should enquire into any possible political motives.

It in interesting to hear that the Kaiser may have at least thought of accepting. Can anyone confirm this or offer any further details? I would be most surprised, though, to learn that his wife really was happy with the idea, since she was an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazis.

The Kaiser's attitudes to Britain were both confused and complicated, he had a curious of love/hate relationship with his grandmother's country which was subject to considerable fluctuation; it is an over-simplification to say that he ever felt disdain for it.

Offline HerrKaiser

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Re: The Kaiser and Britain
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2008, 12:00:36 PM »
I cannot agree about that, I think that Churchill would have regarded it as wholly improper to make a personal gesture like that that and then milk it for political advantage. If this had been a decision reached by the government after a discussion  in cabinet, <i>then</i> I would agree that one should enquire into any possible political motives.

It in interesting to hear that the Kaiser may have at least thought of accepting. Can anyone confirm this or offer any further details? I would be most surprised, though, to learn that his wife really was happy with the idea, since she was an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazis.

The Kaiser's attitudes to Britain were both confused and complicated, he had a curious of love/hate relationship with his grandmother's country which was subject to considerable fluctuation; it is an over-simplification to say that he ever felt disdain for it.

thanks for your note, but you misread my post. It was Britain, not William, who I said held the significant disdain for William, and as such would not have felt any compassion just because the German army was possibly approaching.

You have a much greater sense of honor for politicians than I do! :) National leaders actually do not make "personal" gestures the way i am thinking you mean, especially when it affects national policy and security etc. And, he like most all the others milk everything to further their political agenda. There is little to believe from Churchill's bios that would suggest he made any decisions and judgments that were personal in nature or for personal reasons. I do think his personal background and experiences molded his attitudes which led to his dogma, but in his roles in the government, he was all business. He was the quintessential politician and defender of Britain's interests. I could believe Chamberlain would have made such an outreach for purely personal reasons, but not Churchill.

« Last Edit: February 04, 2008, 12:05:00 PM by HerrKaiser »
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Offline Adagietto

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Re: The Kaiser and Britain
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2008, 01:23:56 PM »
Sorry for the carelessness in reading your post! It's not that I have any undue regard for politicians, but Churchill was not always so calculating in his actions, he was quite a romantic in his way and I can see him as having this offer out of a personal impulse. I don't think he would have regarded it as being of any real significance from the point of view of practical politics. But I could be wrong! It is possible that he may have said something in his war memoirs which may throw some light on the matter.

Offline grandduchessella

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Re: The Kaiser and Britain
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2008, 09:58:46 PM »
This story was first broken in 1959 when a documentary was done. The offer was extended May 12, 2 days after Churchill became PM and the Germans invaded the Netherlands. The Kaiser and his wife were offered the use of an RAF plane to make their way to England and live there. The offer was relayed via Neville Bland, the British minister, to Baron von Nagell, burgermeister at Doorn, who gave his story in the documentary. It wasn't a full-fledge offer of asylum but rather a 'hint', according to the Foreign Office, that if the Kaiser wished asylum he would be received with dignity & consideration. The Kaiser discussed it with Hermine, then declined with 'grateful thanks' citing his bad heart and doctor's orders not to fly. The producer of the documentary, Christopher Sykes, came across the information when examining captured papers of the Kaiser's doctor detailing day-to-day events. Given what happened post-war, Hermine probably came to wish she'd hopped the plane.

On 10 May 1940, Churchill's secretary R.C.S. Stevenson wrote to the Foreign Office that Churchill wondered if perhaps "it would not be a good thing to give the ex-Kaiser a private hint that he would be given consideration and dignity' if he should choose to seek asylum. Giles MacDonogh's bio of the Kaiser stated he would rather be 'shot in Holland than flee to England" and be photographed with Churchill. On 14 May, he was given the salute by the local German commander and photographed speaking to German officers at the gate. This was enough to enrage the post-war Dutch government, who didn't forget the slight to their decades long hospitality, and who impounded Doorn and its contents post-war--of course, the Kaiser was deceased by then.

Churchill and the Kaiser in 1913

« Last Edit: February 04, 2008, 10:18:08 PM by grandduchessella »
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Offline Adagietto

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Re: The Kaiser and Britain
« Reply #12 on: February 05, 2008, 08:45:52 AM »
Thank you, that is interesting. He was assured, as one would expect, that he would be received with dignity and consideration; in other words, he would not be drawn into some sort of public circus (e.g. being paraded in front of photographers with Churchill). Since he had been given sanctuary by the Dutch and had been protected by them against extradition proceedings, a German invasion and occupation of the Netherlands could be seen as putting him in a highly awkward postion if he remained, though he probably did not have the delicacy of feeling to really appreciate the point. It was surely unforgivable to allow himself to be photographed chatting to members of the occupying forces. I'm not surprised that the Dutch were incensed.



Offline HerrKaiser

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Re: The Kaiser and Britain
« Reply #13 on: February 05, 2008, 11:16:51 AM »

On 10 May 1940, Churchill's secretary R.C.S. Stevenson wrote to the Foreign Office that Churchill wondered if perhaps "it would not be a good thing to give the ex-Kaiser a private hint that he would be given consideration and dignity' if he should choose to seek asylum.

thanks Granduchessella; great find! To me, Churchill's phrase "...it would be a good thing..." is telling. I have never seen other evidence that Churchhill ever forgave or buried the hatchet with Wilhelm on any level. What "good thing" could Churchill now be referreing to? I still feel it had to be a ploy to build public support for the coming war, much the same way Einstein's fleeing to the U.S. helped demonstrate that the good people were escaping the nazi horror.

The fact that Wilhelm replied as he did further indicates the unlikelihood that the offer was actually genuinely sincere and without primary political motiviation.
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Alixz

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Re: The Kaiser and Britain
« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2008, 10:46:34 PM »
Mention has been made that while the government of the UK was in favor of asylum for the Romanovs that George V was the one to "not insist".  England was in a state of social unrest by the time that Nicholas abdicated in 1917 and George was afraid for his own throne.  By bringing the imperial family to the UK, George thought that he would be undermining his own popularity.  Remember the changing of the names from German to British?  So much was going on.

I, too, like the idea of a "slap in the face" to David and Wallis.  I can not imagine what would have happened if David had not abdicated.  He admired Hitler and the progress that was being made in Germany in the 1930s.

It has always been an historical mix up to me (a cruel joke) that the Kaiser, who lobbied for and declared war and should have been found at fault was the only person (except George V) who survived to old age and lived a fairly comfortable life.  To an extent he was "protected" by the Dutch.

And when the Shaw was deposed the US took in his family and ultimately the Shaw.  If I remember correctly, he needed hospitalization or surgery or something like that and he came to the US for that.

The US took in Emelda Marcos and her huge shoe collection when she and her husband fled the Philippines.  I have never quite understood that one.

Winston was a willy old soldier (actually a reporter during the Boer War) and politician.  I wouldn't put anything past him.  It is said that he may have "staged" the sinking of the Lusitania in order to bring the US into the Great War. If that has any truth to it, then his invitation to the Kaiser could have been another "staged" event for political reasons.