Dinner on 9th November 2018 in the Oxford and Cambridge Club
Thank you very much for having come here today to remember an event in Germany: the proclamation of the German Republic on 9th November 1918. This is mainly a British-German gathering, but there are also guests here without whom neither the British nor the Germans would want to live. Here is an Italian, Sabina Magnani-von Petersdorff, a Dane, Jorgen Larsen, and a Tibetan, Loden Tashi, who as a child has been recognized to be the re-incarnation of a high Tibetan Buddhist lama. He has become a German citizen, works as a computer programmer and is my neighbour in Berlin.
The World prepares to commemorate the Armistice on 11th November 1918. The Remembrance Day this year is of a special significance because it is the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice that ended the First World War. Max Egremont who is here this evening has written moving and comprehensive works about the First World War.
Almost everybody knows about the Armistice on 11th November, but about the 9th November 1918 most people don’t know very much.
To explain its significance, let me start with some number mysticism. We are here today, on the 9th November 2018, to remember the 9th November 1918. 1918 – 2018 – there are 18 people here for this occasion. If you take the cross sum of 18, you get 9. According to Pythagoras, the number 9 is the last digit in the unit’s place that is not complete before the number 10 that symbolizes completion. Since the number 9 contains all other single digit numbers, it symbolizes the universal world view. Please remember that: the universal world view.
In the Middle Ages, the number 9 was even more important since it contained three times three, the holy Trinity.
Regarding the date of 9th November, there are many coincidences. The 9th November 1918 is not the only 9th November that matters.
On 9th November 1923, a former WWI sergeant of Austrian nationality tried in Munich to make a putsch against the German government, the so-called Beer Hall Putsch, which failed. He deliberately did that on the 5th anniversary of the revolution on 9th November 1918. On 7th November 1938 a young Polish Jew fired several bullets at a German diplomat in Paris who died two days later, on 9th November. Taking this as a pretext, German SA and SS thugs burned down synagogues, demolished Jewish
shops and arrested and murdered many German Jews. The fact that this happened on a 9th November was a mere coincidence.
On 9th November 1989, the Wall that had divided Berlin for more than 28 years came down. It was another coincidence that this happened on Germany’s fateful day, the 9th November.
The last events were not caused by the events of 9th November 1918, but they would not have happened had there not been the November revolution.
So what happened on 9th November 1918? The Kaiser has Abdicated - No! Fake News !
He had not abdicated and he had no intention of doing so! But the German people and the German Army wanted an end to the War. Crowds of workers and soldiers were marching through the streets of Berlin towards the royal palace; it had all the appearances of a revolution. I’d like to ask Sir Konrad Schiemann to kindly tell us hereafter what one of his great-grandfathers, the famous Prof. Theodor Schiemann did on that day.
So was it a revolution? Did the people bring down the Emperor and the Monarchy and introduce a republic? Not really. The truth was that the Western allies refused to negotiate an armistice with the Kaiser. As long as the Kaiser was there, the War would go on. Therefore, in order to avoid a collapse of the German Army and to prevent chaos in the country, both the Army High Command and the German Government (which comprised already Social Democrat ministers) decided that poor old Wilhelm II had to go. The proclamation of the Imperial Chancellor on 9th November that the Kaiser had abdicated, therefore, was in reality a kind of putsch with the intention to prevent a revolution. You may call it a typically German kind of revolution the aim of which was to maintain law and order.
Friedrich Ebert, the chairman of the Social Democratic Party, hated the revolution like hell and did all he could to avoid it. Therefore, his deputy Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed the German Republic from a balcony of the Reichstag only two hours before the communist Karl Liebknecht proclaimed the Free Socialist Republic of Germany from a window of the royal palace. From there comes the saying by left-wingers: „Wer hat uns verraten? Sozialdemokraten!“ „Who betrayed us? The Social Democrats!“
On the other hand, the monarchists and the right-wingers created the so-called „Dolchstoßlegende“ (myth of the stab in the back) according to which the Socialists on 9th November 1918 had betrayed the German Army and prevented it to continue the fight while it was still standing in enemy territory and had not been defeated. This legend proved fatal to the Weimar Republic. The Nazis used to refer to the Social Democrats and other republican parties as the « November criminals ». The former WWI sergeant of Austrian nationality whom I mentioned used to say that a 9th November 1918 must never be repeated in German history. In fact, it was never repeated; there was worse to come.
In any event, although Wilhelm II signed his abdication only two weeks later, he had effectively lost the throne on 9th November and went into exile in the Netherlands. And now lets look at the connections between Germany and the United Kingdom. Wilhelm II was the eldest grandchild of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. He loved his grandmother dearly. When he received the news that Queen Victoria was dying at Osborne House in January 1901, he travelled to England and was at her bedside when she died, remaining for the funeral.
Queen Victoria was the last British monarch of the House of Hanover. She had been raised under close supervision by her mother, Princess Victoria of SaxeCoburg-Saalfeld. Her son and successor, Edward VII, initiated the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the line of his father, Prince Albert. If you want to have any details about the differences between the principalities of Saxe-CoburgSaalfeld and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and half a dozen of other Thuringian principalities, my friend Hannes Wiesel here can answer your questions since he is from Saxe-Gotha.
Another one of Queen Victoria’s grandchildren also had to abdicate: Charles Edward (German: Carl Eduard), who from 1900 until 1918 was the last reigning duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. A male-line grandson of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, he was born on 19 July 1884 at Claremont House near Esher, Surrey. He was educated at Eton, but as of 1900 he had to continue his education in Germany in order to become the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. His sister Alice wrote: "It was a very great heartbreak for my mother that my brother had to succeed to Coburg. 'I have always tried to bring Charlie up as a good Englishman,' she once said, 'and now I have to turn him into a good German.' His mother, the Duchess of Albany, "reluctantly" decided that "Charlie should accept--and he was too young to resist."
In our days Germany is being criticized for having an export surplus in industry products. From the 17th until the 19th century, Germany had an export surplus in princes and princesses to almost all European countries. Great Britain was a major recipient of German royalty. The first important one was George I, King of Great Britain and Kurfürst, Prince Elector, of Hanover.
It should be mentioned that without George I the United Kingdom might not have come into existence. In 1703, the Scottish Parliament, the Estates, passed a bill declaring that their selection for Queen Anne's successor would not be the same individual as the successor to the English throne, unless England granted full freedom of trade to Scottish merchants in England and its colonies. In response the English Parliament passed measures that threatened to restrict Anglo-Scottish trade and cripple the Scottish economy if the Scottish Parliament did not agree to the Hanoverian succession. (Does this sound familiar ?) Eventually, in 1707, both Parliaments agreed on the Act of Union, which united England and Scotland into a single political entity, the United Kingdom of Great Britain. My friend Evan Cruickshank from Edinburgh who is here to-night is very much in favour of maintaining this Union, although there are no more Hanoverians around.
In order to continue ruling the electorate of Hanover, George I established a socalled « German Chancellery » in London which was headed by the Hanoverian diplomat Johann Caspar Count von Bothmer. The German Chancellery office was at No. 10 Downing Street. (Please remember that the number 10 symbolizes completion.) Count Bothmer had been instrumental in securing the succession of King George I. His mother was Margarete Eleonore, born von Petersdorff. A relative of her is here to-night: my friend Ulrich von Petersdorff.
But not only German royalty and aristocrats immigrated into Great Britain. George I brought with him the Kapellmeister he had appointed at his Court in Hanover, the German composer Georg Friedrich Händel. He became the English composer George Frederic Handel and now lies buried in Westminster Abbey. I think Handel was a better deal for Britain than Charlie Saxe-CoburgGotha was for Germany.
I’d like to mention another German who emigrated to England whom I admire a lot. This is Friedrich Max Müller, generally known as Max Müller. He was the son of Wilhelm Müller, a lyric poet whose verse Franz Schubert had set to music in his song-cycles Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise. In 1850 he was appointed a professor of modern European languages at Oxford University and lived in Britain until the end of his life. He was one of the founders of the western academic field of Indian studies and the discipline of comparative religion. The Sacred Books of the East, a 50-volume set of English translations, was prepared under his direction. He translated many works from Sanscrit. In 1881, he published a translation of the first edition of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. In his Translator's Preface, Müller wrote
The bridge of thoughts and sights that spans the whole history of the Aryan world has its first arch in the Veda, its last in Kant's Critique. ... While in the Veda we may study the childhood, we may study in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason the perfect manhood of the Aryan mind. ... The materials are now accessible, and the English-speaking race, the race of the future, will have in Kant's Critique another Aryan heirloom, as precious as the Veda—a work that may be criticised, but can never be ignored.
Also many ordinary Germans immigrated into Great Britain for various reasons. I have sent you an excerpt from an old German textbook on how the situation was in 1892, when in London Germans were to be found in almost every possible position. I liked best that „the German street-musician was everywhere — at any rate every company of street-musicians went by the name of ‘German band’.“
Most of these German immigrants stayed in Britain and became English. The mother of the great British writer Robert Graves was Amalie Elisabeth Sophie von Ranke, the niece of the famous historian Leopold von Ranke. In the First World War Robert von Ranke Graves had to fight against his German cousins.
We have living examples of later German immigrants here in our company: Helge Rubinstein who came to England as a refugee with her parents shortly before the war and Sir Konrad Schiemann who came to England as an orphan shortly after the war. By the way, Helge has just received her German citizenship, so this is a fitting celebration for her. Willkommen, liebe Helge!
Immigration worked both ways. Over centuries there was immigration of Englishmen and Scots into East Prussia and its capital Königsberg. When in April 2013 Max Egremont presented his book „Forgotten Land. Journeys among the Ghosts of East Prussia“ in the Kant University of Kaliningrad, he said:
Baltic trade brought the world to Königsberg. British merchants settled there, providing some of Kant’s table companions. Part of the port of London became identified with traders from Königsberg.
You can find the full text of his lecture on the website of our association « Freunde Kants und Königsbergs », several members of which are here tonight.
A couple of years ago we discovered a gobelet inscribed with the names of Immanuel Kant and his English friends and the following words in English:
All Happy together notwithstanding what happened in the World
August of 30th 1763
Christine Battersby did some enlightening research on this friendship gobelet. I am glad to say that to-night we, too, are all happy together notwithstanding what happened in the world, just like Kant and his English friends.
In the present troubled times, with Brexit and so many other world problems, I propose to consider that there is a special relationship between the British and the Germans. We are cousins and will remain so, even if our countries don’t continue as members of the European Union. Our peoples are united not by bureaucratic measures or economic rules, but by the Spirit.
At the beginning I said that the number 9 symbolizes the universal world view. The universal world view – that’s what I mean by « the Spirit ». As an example, let me read you a quotation from the foreword by Victor Gollancz to a little book entitled « Above all Nations » that was published in London in February 1945, three months before the end of the Second World War :
The purpose of this little book, which owes its inspiration primarily to Professor Catlin, is a simple one. The war draws to its close in a welter of terror and agony for millions. While humanity so suffers, voices are raised – in Christian England, in Socialist Russia as well as in Nazi Germany – to preach a hatred which is as corrupting and in the end as fatal to its begetters as to its recipients. These pages tell another story. They show that even amidst the illimitable degradation of modern warfare men of all nations can be decent and merciful to those who, at the very moment, are their mortal enemies.
Two of the three authors of this little book, namely Sir George Catlin and Vera Brittain, are the parents of Shirley Williams.
I’d now like to ask Shirley Williams to say a few words to us.
Danke für Ihre Aufmerksamkeit. Thank you for your attention.
© 09. November 2018 Gerfried Horst