Emperor Wilhelm II (namely Wilhelm Friedrich Viktor Albrecht von Hohenzollern) was the last German emperor to rule the German Empire between 1888 and 1918 and came from the Prussian House of Hohenzollern. Like his predecessors, Wilhelm II had initially enjoyed military training before being gradually introduced to diplomatic tasks as well.
Looking at his reign, Emperor Wilhelm II is an extremely remarkable figure in German history. Until the end, he was known above all for his imperialist views. At the same time, the burden of the outbreak of World War I rests on him, the order of which he issued. Furthermore, Wilhelm II was known for his passion in terms of military pomp. He was convinced to the end that Germany had to increase its position in world politics, which was ultimately reflected in his domestic and foreign policies.
Kaiser Wilhelm II is thus considered one of the most remarkable German emperors in the comparatively short imperial history of the German Empire and will therefore be discussed in detail in the following sections. In doing so, the date and place of his death as well as the comprehensive reactions to the death of Emperor Wilhelm II will be discussed.
Significance of Emperor Wilhelm II for German History
In addition to Emperor Wilhelm I, the reign of Emperor Wilhelm II also plays an important role in the history of the German Empire and later Germany. Due to his imperialistic views, Emperor Wilhelm II involved the then German Empire in military conflicts and disputes quite often in the period from 1900 to 1914, which, however, always turned out to the advantage of the Emperor and the German Empire. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, however, Kaiser Wilhelm II now faced a completely different situation: The „Entente Cordiale“ (consisting first of Great Britain and France and later still the United States of America) had a powerful ally raised in the West. At the same time, the powerful Tsarist Empire in the East provided a second, geopolitically very unstable flashpoint.
Kaiser Wilhelm II therefore left a mainly negative mark on Germany’s history and remained in people’s minds primarily as a narcissistic, quarrelsome and greedy personality. Unlike Wilhelm I, Wilhelm II did not lead any groundbreaking, technological or social advances, but focused solely on the military expansion of the German Empire’s power, which was to end in a tragic war brimming with overestimation.
Place of death of Kaiser Wilhelm II
Shortly after his abdication in 1918, Kaiser Wilhelm II left the German Reich forever and settled in his exile in Doorn, in the Netherlands. There he lived in a villa provided by the Dutch government of the time. It served Kaiser Wilhelm II as a refuge and safe place from German persecution due to the drastic consequences of World War 1, which the German Empire famously lost.
Until his death, Kaiser Wilhelm II did not leave the estate and spent his last days in solitary walks and in the presence of his bodyguards. The villa itself is „Haus Doorn“, a small hunting lodge near the municipality of Utrechtse Heuvelrug. After his death, Kaiser Wilhelm II was buried in a mausoleum directly in the castle’s own park.
Time of death of Emperor Wilhelm II
After Emperor Wilhelm II had fled to his exile in the Netherlands shortly after his abdication in 1918, he lived there for a comparatively long time until his death from old age on June 4, 1941. At the time of his death, the negative developments of the Second World War, which were now taking place for the German Reich, were already announced. In 1941, the German Reich had already been under the rule of the National Socialists for about 20 years, and the Nazis were about to bring Germany to ruin once again.
Kaiser Wilhelm II did not think much of the National Socialists until the very end and often refused to cooperate (for example, in the form of an advisory role). Much to the annoyance of the National Socialists, they also did not succeed in gaining access – by the time of his death, the Netherlands had already been occupied for about 1 year, but this was not to have any negative consequences for Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Reactions to the death of Kaiser Wilhelm II
Overall, reactions to the death of Kaiser Wilhelm II were of a very mixed nature. They depended, by and large, on political beliefs about his reign between 1888 and 1918. If Kaiser Wilhelm II was almost revered by the National Socialists (though unintentionally by himself), Kaiser Wilhelm II was strongly hated, especially by the older generations. However, Kaiser Wilhelm II still had a strong following in the German Reich, some of whom instructed unofficial funeral marches as a result of his death.
In the Netherlands itself, the presence of Kaiser Wilhelm II was also highly controversial between 1918 and 1941. Here, however, it was more negative than in the German Reich. For the Dutch, it was considered altogether very unpleasant to hide Kaiser Wilhelm II as a former warmonger from Belgium and France. The relief at his death was correspondingly great here. In France, Belgium and nearby Great Britain, on the other hand, the news of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s death was received rather positively, with the tendency that the latter „could never get his real punishment.“
Conclusion on the death of Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Already about 23 years before his death, the abdication of Emperor Wilhelm II marked the end of an important era in German history: namely, the history of the German Empire. Here, Kaiser Wilhelm II was the last ruler, appointed by God, that Germany was to see to date. His reign initially brought power and great influence to Germany, but then ended in a true fiasco due to the outbreak of World War 1. At the same time, World War I and its harsh punishment also set the course for the advent of World War II (keyword: Treaty of Versailles).
Kaiser Wilhelm II therefore went down in German history mainly with negative headlines and spent the last years of his life until his death on June 4, 1941 in exile in the Netherlands. There he fled from the grasp of the victorious powers of World War I, France and England, and thus escaped potential prosecution or punishment for the rest of his life.