Wilhelm II or William II (German: Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albert; 27 January 1859 – 4 June 1941) was the last German Emperor (Kaiser) and King of Prussia. He reigned from 15 June 1888 until his abdication on 9 November 1918 shortly before Germany's defeat in World War I.

 

As the eldest grandchild of Queen Victoria, Wilhelm's first cousins included King George V of the United Kingdom and many princesses who, along with Wilhelm's sister Sophia, became European consorts. For most of his life before becoming emperor, he was second in line to succeed his grandfather Wilhelm I on the German and Prussian thrones after his father, Frederick. His grandfather and father both died in 1888, the Year of Three Emperors, making Wilhelm emperor and king. He dismissed the country's longtime chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, in 1890.

 

Wilhelm took control of foreign and military policy with a bellicose "New Course" to cement Germany's status as a feared world power. However, he frequently undermined this goal by making tactless, alarming public statements without consulting his ministers. Additionally, his regime did much to alienate itself from the other Great Powers by initiating a massive naval build-up, and challenging French control of Morocco. His turbulent reign ultimately culminated in his absolute guarantee of military support to Austria-Hungary during the crisis of July 1914 which gave rise to World War I. A lax wartime leader, he left virtually all decision-making regarding military strategy and organisation of the war effort in the hands of the German General Staff. This broad delegation of authority gave rise to a de facto military dictatorship whose belligerent foreign policy led to the United States' entry into the war on 6 April 1917. After losing the support of the German military and his subjects in November 1918, Wilhelm abdicated and fled to exile in the Netherlands. He remained there during the German occupation, and died in 1941.

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During World War I, the German Empire was one of the Central Powers that lost the war. It began participation in the conflict after the declaration of war against Serbia by its ally, Austria-Hungary. German forces fought the Allies on both the eastern and western fronts, although German territory itself remained relatively safe from widespread invasion for most of the war, except for a brief period in 1914 when East Prussia was invaded. A tight blockade imposed by the Royal Navy caused severe food shortages in the cities, especially in the winter of 1916–17, known as the Turnip Winter. At the end of the war, Germany's defeat and widespread popular discontent triggered the German Revolution of 1918–19 which overthrew the monarchy and established the Weimar Republic.

The German population responded to the outbreak of war in 1914 with a complex mix of emotions, in a similar way to the populations in other countries of Europe; notions of overt enthusiasm known as the Spirit of 1914 have been challenged by more recent scholarship. The German government, dominated by the Junkers, thought of the war as a way to end Germany's disputes with rivals France, Russia and Britain. The beginning of war was presented in Germany as the chance for the nation to secure "our place under the sun," as the Foreign Minister Bernhard von Bülow had put it, which was readily supported by prevalent nationalism among the public. The Kaiser and the German establishment hoped the war would unite the public behind the monarchy, and lessen the threat posed by the dramatic growth of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, which had been the most vocal critic of the Kaiser in the Reichstag before the war. Despite its membership in the Second International, the Social Democratic Party of Germany ended its differences with the Imperial government and abandoned its principles of internationalism to support the war effort.

It soon became apparent that Germany was not prepared for a war lasting more than a few months. At first, little was done to regulate the economy for a wartime footing, and the German war economy would remain badly organized throughout the war. Germany depended on imports of food and raw materials, which were stopped by the British blockade of Germany. Food prices were first limited, then rationing was introduced. In 1915 five million pigs were massacred in the so-called Schweinemord to both make food and preserve grain. The winter of 1916/17 was called "turnip winter" because the potato harvest was poor and people ate animal feed including vile-tasting turnips. During the war from August 1914 to mid-1919, the excess deaths over peacetime caused by malnutrition and high rates of exhaustion and disease and despair came to about 474,000 civilians.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

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German Empire (Deutsches Reich) Military Propaganda Postcard- Kaiser Wilhelm II

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