Twelve

MICHAELIS AND HERTLING:
THE SCARED RABBIT AND THE
WORN-OUT PROFESSOR

THE KAISER'S appointment of Georg Michaelis as chancellor at a desperate juncture in the war took Germany by surprise, since he was an unknown chosen for inscrutable reasons. The new chancellor was, to be sure, a man of great seriousness and considerable energy; he had a likable disposition and vast confidence that God would show him the way in which Germany was to be led. The choice, however astounding, did not prevent Michaelis's being at once desperately hailed as the German version of David Lloyd George, the dynamic prime minister who had taken office in December 1916 and then infused extraordinary determination into the British war effort. 1 Michaelis was in fact quite unlike Lloyd George, for he entirely lacked the charisma (and also the arrogance and immorality) that characterized the British premier. He could certainly advance no claim on the basis of experience, whereas Lloyd George had held a number of preeminent cabinet posts during his long service as a member of Parliament. Michaelis knew nothing of foreign affairs and little of warfare, all of which indicated that rather than being the prime minister's equal, he would in fact be General Paul von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg and General Erich Ludendorff's puppet. On the day that he assumed office, the new chancellor, outfitted in a military uniform, admitted his lack of preparation to a group of Reichstag deputies: "I have tried to keep myself informed only as a newspaper reader might." 2 A week after Michaelis's appointment, General Hans von Beseler, the governor of Warsaw, spent two and a half hours with him at the eastern front headquarters at Pless and later declared that the new chancellor was "a little, insecure scared rabbit," in whom Beseler could not "detect the savior of the fatherland." 3 While at Pless, Michaelis did not demand that he be fully

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