Academic journal article The Geographical Review

German Great-Power Relations in the Pages of Simplicissimus, 1896-1914

Academic journal article The Geographical Review

German Great-Power Relations in the Pages of Simplicissimus, 1896-1914

Article excerpt

In the period leading up to World War I, roughly the British Edwardian period, international relations shifted with great rapidity, making this one of the most significant transitional periods in world history. Two polities, the United States and imperial Germany, pulled level with Great Britain on the world stage and began to challenge British primacy for two main reasons. Both began this drive in the 1860s. Once in charge of Congress, in 1862 the American Republican Party declared a form of economic "war" on Great Britain by passing a stiff protectionist tariff against largely British manufacturers. Paul Kennedy dated the start of the Anglo-German rivalry in the early 1860s as coming from "different perceptions of how domestic policies and external strategies should be arranged" (1980, 8). Imperial Germany imposed its own protectionist tariff in 1879. Both challenger polities, their economies driven increasingly by the second industrial revolution and protected behind increasingly steep tariff walls, began to challenge the global manufacturing dominance Great Britain had achieved in the first industrial revolution. Both began to reach economic parity with Great Britain in the 1880s. The second challenge came through global power projection. In the 1880s neither the United States nor imperial Germany could project power globally, because neither had a blue-water battle fleet. Alfred Thayer Mahan's work on the link between seapower and history made a very clear case that the only way to global power was to have a blue-water battle fleet (1890, 1892), and both Germany and the United States took notice. In the United States Theodore Roosevelt wrote approvingly to Mahan within forty-eight hours of his first book's publication and, in Atlantic Monthly, he published one of the first reviews of Mahan's work (Karsten 1971, 589). As president (1901-1909), Roosevelt oversaw the creation of the United States's first global battle fleet. In Germany Kaiser Wilhelm noted in 1894, "I am ... not reading but devouring Captain Mahan's book.... It is on board all my ships and constantly quoted by all my captains and officers" (quoted in Herman 2004, 474). German actions followed in 1898, with the passing of the First Navy Law to build a High Seas Fleet that also became known as the "Risk Fleet," a fleet powerful enough to ensure that Great Britain would not risk war with Germany. The Second Navy Law of 1900 doubled the size of the German fleet (Hobson 2002, 7). "No issue was as likely to turn Great Britain into an implacable adversary as a threat to its command of the seas," yet the navalist pressure groups in Germany "developed a vested interest in tensions with Great Britain to justify naval appropriations" and used the series of crises in odd parts of the globe from Samoa on to do precisely that (Kissinger 1994, 185).

Both economic and military challenges to primacy are conventional parts of international relations theory and well understood. Aaron Friedberg elaborated these in The Weary Titan as challenges based on shifts in relative economic power, financial power, sea power, and land power, all forms of calculative or "hard" power (1988). But this transitional period also saw a third challenge, one that arose out of perceptual or "soft" power: the extent to which a given polity could be said to have a "will to power." Great Britain had long had a clear will to power, and a key, but generally seriously understated, element of international relations theory is the extent to which this was lost by Great Britain in the late 1800s at the same time as it was being gained by the United States and imperial Germany. After summarizing the various realist theories, Friedberg noted that they "leave important unanswered questions. What are the internal characteristics that determine how a state will respond to external pressures?" (p. 6). In the perceptual model of power, "statesmen are seen to deal in less precise but more lingering images, both of other countries and of their own ... 'national images' [that] have received a good deal less direct scrutiny" (p. 15). The reasons for this are obvious--historical data on gross national product, number of capital ships, and the like are easily available and not much in doubt. When Friedberg returned to the perceptual model he concentrated entirely on the perceptions of political and military elites, again because they leave a clearer historical data trail.

In the case of Wilhelmine Germany the will to power is not in doubt: Kaiser Wilhelm made few bones about Germany's need for a "place in the sun," a feeling clearly supported by most of the country's elites at the time. A more critical question, however, is the extent to which this will to power extended beyond the elites into other parts of German life and culture. That question is not, of course, limited to Wilhelmine Germany. The United States is experiencing controversy about exactly this issue, in particular the loss of popular support for the Vietnam War, the propounding of the Powell Doctrine to avoid a similar loss of support in the First Gulf War, and the recent loss of support for the war in Iraq. No one questions American military primacy and economic strength, but American will to power, at least at the deep cultural level, is clearly a serious issue.

Scholars have long used nonconventional sources to more closely approach cultural history, illustrations and "popular" literature in particular. Geographers have, for example, studied maps as texts (Harley 1989), boys' adventure novels as indicative of a culture's rising or declining will to power (Hugill 1999b), and iconographic illustrations to better analyze shifting relationships between the human body and the natural world (Della Dora 2005). Recent work on political cartoons examines the British magazine Punch and the German magazine Simplicissimus for their use of cartoons as weapons in World War I (Hunig 2002). A brief article in History Today notes the anti-Nazi stance of Simplicissimus before 1933 (Bryant 2005). A deeper analysis is possible: Simplicissimus was a highly influential German publication that appealed very much to the German educated classes. It was an avant-garde, illustrated, satirical, weekly published in Munich from 1896 through late 1944 that, especially in the Wilhelmine period, commented frequently on the emergence of the German military-industrial state and the development of German geopolitical relations. Much of this comment was encapsulated in its front-page illustrations, many drawn by the brilliant satirical liberal artist and cartoonist Thomas Theodor Heine. Some measure of the importance German scholars attach to Simplicissimus may be seen in the fact that Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft posted PDFs of the entire run of the magazine, in full color, at [] in July 2007.


In Hans von Grimmelshausen's famous seventeenth-century novel the main character, Simplicius Simplicissimus, exposed the horrors of the Thirty Years' War ([1669] 1993). Albert Langen, the editor of Simplicissimus, chose his title to reflect his concern over the increasing militarization of Wilhelmine Germany. In its origins and early development Simplicissimus was intellectually very much part of the Vienna Secessionist art nouveau movement and visually very daring. As the secession artists showed signs of becoming too mainstream, Simplicissimus broke away (Waissenberger [1971] 1977; Hiles 1996). Considering how anti-British some of the magazine's front-page illustrations were, it is of note that Heine, whom Langen had hired early in the magazine's history, had a British mother (Bryant 2005). Heine also became, far more than Langen, "the creative leader among the magazine's artists" (Hiles 1996, 68). He became editor in 1906 and, when Langen died three years later, Heine's name moved to the magazine's masthead (Bryant 2005).

Analyzing the geopolitical stance of Simplicissimus and its stable of artists accesses a deeper level of Wilhelmine culture than does the culture embraced by political, military, or economic elites. Part of Simplicissimus's role as a satirical magazine, in particular one based in Munich away from the Prussian center of political and military power and close to a Viennese center of cultural power, was to use "barbed wit" to provide "an outspoken commentary on German politics and social mores" (Bryant 2005, 58). Scholars have examined other themes in Simplicissimus, such as the journal's effective use of satire to express a rather jaundiced view of sexuality, middle-class morality, and family life in the Wilhelmine period (Allen 1977,1984). Just as Simplicissimus provides some measure of shifting cultural attitudes toward sexuality it also provides some measure of Germany's developing geopolitical goals and aspirations.

As the "creative leader" of Simplicissimus Heine's work is of great interest. Heine began his professional life as a painter, a career well studied by Vincent Kubly and Elisabeth Stuwe, before moving to illustration (Kubly 1969; Stuwe 1978). Heine's first painting, Before Sunrise (1890), not only anticipates artistically Edvard Munch's much more famous The Scream (1893) but also displays the strong social conscience that pushed Heine toward satire as a more effective way of reaching his audience (Hiles 1996, 61-62). It depicts a woman uncertain of which way to go: to the burgeoning factories of industrializing, urbanizing Germany, or to ...? The theme of choosing a direction, even if one direction is unknowable, turns up in many of Heine's cartoons between 1896 and 1914. In part he was concerned about choosing between military or social spending; in part, between spending on the army or spending on the navy. For example, in "Flight of the Imperial Eagle" Heine depicted, above a totally industrial landscape, the Prussian eagle holding a soldier in one claw and a battleship in the other, saying, "I can't afford both for very long" (Simplicissimus, 4 December 1897, 281) (Figure 1).

Heine was assuredly no fan of Kaiser Wilhelm or the developing Wilhelmine military-industrial state. He depicted the kaiser as foolish and militarism as a great consumer of money better spent on social programs to ease the social costs of industrialization and urbanization. Such criticism cost him. In 1899 Heine spent six months in jail on the charge of lese-majeste for his 1898 cartoon "Palestine," in which he attacked "Kaiser Wilhelm's recent embassy to Damascus ... as a 'useless crusade'" (29 October 1898, 241). The incident did not hurt Simplicissimus: Sales jumped from 15,000 to more than 80,000 for the offending issue, and from that point on the magazine became the most popular humor magazine in the country. By 1908 its circulation had risen to 100,000, twice that of its nearest rival, the more socially conservative and overtly political magazine Kladderadatsch, and "a figure surpassed by very few magazines in its period" with an appeal that "transcended class barriers" and seems to have extended to many walks of German life (Allen 1977, 20). Jail certainly did not constrain Heine's politics: Once released, he went on to attack Kaiser Wilhelm and his entourage "over sixty more times between 1899 and 1909" (Hiles 1996, 66-68).


Despite his criticism of the kaiser, Heine was a fervent German nationalist who, with no satirical intent, depicted Otto von Bismarck upon his death as a demigod ascending to heaven (Simplicissimus, 20 August 1898, 161). Although Heine may have had reservations about its cost, his cartoons supported the navy while lampooning the army, which is perhaps why Wilhelm jailed him only once. His cartoons also expressly and often viciously attacked the international actions of other great or near-great powers, with Great Britain singled out for particular criticism, most notably during the Boer War. While recognizing Great Britain's immense global power, Simplicissimus was harshly critical of that power, especially at times of geopolitical crisis. A major theme in Simplicissimus was that the English were an immoral folk who did not do their own dirty work: "For fifty shillings a day we can hire guys who will fight the greatest wars for the honor of our nation. No English gentleman will ever lower himself to this dirty business" (30 October 1899, 245).

I follow two themes in this examination of the development of a popular will to power in Wilhelmine Germany as expressed in the illustrations in Simplicissimus. The first deals with the need for Germany to become a great and moral power to balance immoral Great Britain, a goal that required construction of a blue-water battle fleet. The second deals with Germany's increasing need for a European security partner as Great Britain abandoned its long-standing policy of "splendid isolation" in the 1890s and structured a series of appeasements, rapprochements, and alliances designed to deal with the rising power of Germany.

Simplicissimus anthropomorphized Germany and Germany's potential security partners or problems, generally the great or rising powers of the United States, Great Britain, France, Japan, and Russia, into a cast of characters around which it structured its geopolitical discourse. Lesser powers, mainly Italy and Spain, appeared when necessary, such as at the time of the Morocco Crisis, but in "bit parts." Simplicissimus was published in Munich and represented Bavaria separately, with the Bavarian lion, usually weeping, always subordinate to the Prussian eagle. Many cartoons show clear disapproval of the Prussian dominance of Germany. Great Britain, France, and Germany had a consistent set of male and female symbols, often sexually charged, and animal ones. The British characters were the most variable and complex. Before World War I the males were military figures, of all ranks, but with the "Tommy" predominating, or tweedy gentlemen, or John Bull, or, occasionally, kings, prime ministers, and cabinet ministers. Until her death the British female was Queen Victoria, later a dried-up character usually depicted as a governess and eventually named "Irene." The British animal was a bulldog or a lion. For France the male figure was never named and usually feminized. The French female in the prewar period was always the young, attractive Marianne. The French animal was a monkey early on and a cockerel later. The German male was always Michel, the female always Germania, and the animal the Prussian eagle.

The interplay among these characters in the visual and written texts of the Simplicissimus cartoons allows the modern reader to reconstruct a coherent view of how a certain sector of German society constructed German international relations in the Wilhelmine period. To this group, as to many contemporaries, Germany needed a battle fleet and a reliable European security partner, the search for the latter being focused on France. The implication in the pages of Simplicissimus was that Germania and Michel were partners, that Marianne had no effective partner, that Michel preferred Marianne to Germania, but that Marianne was remarkably fickle. Simplicissimus's cartoons between 1898, when Michel and Germania first appear, and 1912, when Germania makes her last bid for a security partner, show Great Britain, France, and Germany caught up in what can best be described as a complex, ultimately deadly geopolitical menage a trois they are never able to resolve, with the other characters merely adding to the complexity.

Simplicissimus structured these relations around a series of international events as they occurred: the Samoa Crisis, the Boer War, the Boxer Rebellion, the Russo-Japanese War, and the Morocco Crisis. Intriguingly, the major German American crisis, the Venezuelan debt crisis of late 1902, seems to have attracted no cartoons. At the height of the Venezuelan debt crisis Roosevelt, convinced that Wilhelm was seeking a treaty port in lieu of debt settlement, went so far as to invoke the Monroe Doctrine and warned the German Ambassador to Washington that he was "very definitely" threatening war if the Germans persisted (Morris 2002, 82). Wilhelm backed down because of a convincing U.S. naval threat. Absent a blue-water battle fleet Germany was powerless: one of Heine's very first cartoons for Simplicissimus was "teaching the young prince to swim" (28 November 1896, 5). Alone this cartoon would mean little, but given Heine's later output it clearly refers to the debate over creating a German battle fleet.


Michel first appeared in Simplicissimus in 1897, though only as a generic military figure akin to the British Tommy, in "Design for a Memorial to the German Michel." The tension in this cartoon is between the needs of the army to project power in Africa and the navy, a small battleship being strapped to the side of a giant camel carrying a giant cannon (13 March 1897, 4). Germania first appeared in 1898 in "The Tightrope Walker" as a young and zaftig figure walking a tightrope above the naval powers en route to the Boxer Rebellion (2 April 1898, 1) (Figure 2). Global power projection was difficult without a blue-water battle fleet, and, although Simplicissimus clearly had reservations about the tension between military and social spending, it supported "teaching the young prince to swim"; thus the construction of a German blue-water battle fleet that began with the First Naval Law of April 10, 1898.

Michel is first personified in late 1898, as a rather elderly and embarrassed male being told by Queen Victoria, "C'mon, Michel, give me the shirt off your back. Iwant to see you totally naked" (22 October 1898, 240). Much of the geopolitical insecurity embedded in this cartoon came from the Samoa Crisis, to which Simplicissimus devoted numerous cartoons; but Samoa was, in turn, symptomatic of the rapidly intensifying competition with the United States in the Pacific.



American expansion in the central Pacific was steady throughout the 1800s, the main focus of American attention from the 1830s onward being the Hawaiian Island chain, the logical center from which to dominate the entire Pacific region. During the Spanish-American War, with the United States needing to transport troops, livestock, and equipment to the Philippines, the need to secure the Hawaiian Islands finally became undeniable. Annexation occurred in 1898--with tacit British support.

With Hawai'i clearly in the United States's orbit, the first arena of conflict for Germany in the greater Pacific region was China. After two German missionaries were killed in 1897 Germany forced China to cede the Kiao-chau Peninsula in Shandong Province to Germany on a ninety-nine-year lease. The Germans built the port of Tsingdao as a base for the German navy's East Asia squadron. The British perceived this as a clear threat to their naval interests in the region, leased Weihaiwei, also in Shandong Province, as a naval base, and began talks with Japan that would lead to the 1902 Naval Alliance.

The second U.S. push into the Pacific and the second arena of potential conflict for Germany was in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War of 1898. As in the annexation of Hawai'i, Great Britain clearly favored the United States, allowing the U.S. fleet to coal at British stations before successfully taking control of the Philippines. After Admiral George Dewey's victory at Manila Bay, the kaiser dispatched the East Asia cruiser squadron from Kiao-chau, a force more powerful than the U.S. cruiser squadron. However, the British squadron at Manila Bay clearly sided with Dewey, so Wilhelm dared not open hostilities with the United States, although he said at the time, "after twenty years, when it [the battle fleet] is ready, I will adopt a different tone" (quoted in Herwig 1976, 29, 34).

The most serious of this rolling set of Pacific crises was the second Samoa Crisis (for an excellent summary of this complex problem, see Kennedy 1974). Under agreements reached in Berlin in 1889 after the first Samoa Crisis the United States, Great Britain, and Germany guaranteed the security of Samoa. When King Malietoa of Samoa died in August 1898 a struggle to succeed him broke out, with the United States and Great Britain backing one side and Germany the other. On 31 August 1898 Prince Bernhard von Bulow (the German state secretary at the time; German chancellor, 1900-1909) telegraphed Count Paul von Hatzfeldt-Wildenburg (German ambassador to Great Britain, 1885-1901) to have him propose to Arthur Balfour (acting British foreign secretary during the illness of Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, Marquess of Salisbury; prime minister, 1902-1905) a three-way partition of the islands:

  Malietoa's death, combined with the arrangements of the United States
  to construct a coaling station at Pago-Pago may cause fresh
  difficulties in Samoa. We consider that there is only one way to guard
  against these in good time and to obtain a tolerable solution of the
  Samoa question. This is to embark on a plan of partition, whereby
  America would receive the islands of Tutuila (with Pago-Pago) and
  Manua, Germany Upolu (with Saluafata) and Savail, and England the
  Tonga Islands. (Dugdale 1930, XIV #567)

But the Americans and British continued to act in concert against Germany, and on 1 April 1899 Prince von Bulow telegraphed the emperor:

  What has happened in Samoa is a fresh proof that an overseas policy
  can only be carried on with a sufficiently powerful navy. (The
  Emperor: 'What I have been preaching for 10 years to those thickheads
  in the Reichstag'). The duty of the moment appears to me to be to
  state all this emphatically in our Press, and also to maintain our
  prestige in the world intact, despite all our present difficulties.
  (Dugdale 1930, XIV #590)

Perhaps the most cogent comment on Germany's geopolitical need for Samoa came on 11 October 1899 in a telegram from Alfred von Tirpitz, the secretary of state of the German Admiralty and the architect of the High Seas Fleet, to Prince von Bulow. Tirpitz saw the utility of Samoa not only as a coaling station but also as a telegraph repeater station for the "world-cable" Germany needed in order to compete with Great Britain on the world stage. The United States and Great Britain were also working hard to complete trans-Pacific cable links by the 1890s (Hugill 1999a).

  The possession of the Samoan Islands would even now be of great
  strategic value to the German navy, as an important stopping place on
  the voyage from Kiao-chau, via our possessions in the South Seas, to
  South America. A time will come when German control of the Samoan
  Islands will be still more important, since the Panama Canal will mean
  new routes for the world's trade, and new strategic military routes
  will result from it.... I must not fail also to point out the
  extraordinarily favourable situation of Samoa as a landing place
  and ... [repeater] station for a German world-cable (South America-
  Samoa-New Guinea-East Africa-West Africa), which we shall have to aim
  at in future. (Dugdale 1930, XIV #660)

By the end of the crisis Simplicissimus depicts, under the title "Samoa," the crew of a German cruiser looking dismayed that they have achieved little: The officer says, "Rubbish--the next fleet parade will fully satisfy our ambitions" (8 May 1899, 41). In the same issue Michel asks, "Who would have thought fifty years ago that we would ever be able to conduct great world politics? Now we are even embarrassing ourselves in the most distant parts of the world!" (p. 43). In the next week's issue "The German Eagle on a Trip" shows Queen Victoria and Theodore Roosevelt looking on as little John exclaims, "Look, grandmamma, the bird [the German eagle] is only stuffed!" (15 May 1899, 49) (Figure 3). In reality, the German eagle was not as stuffed as Simplicissimus implied. Great Britain traded its claims in Samoa for German acceptance of British annexation of Fiji. But the United States annexed the eastern group of islands as the territory of American Samoa and, at the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, Germany lost its rights to the western group of islands, which were handed to New Zealand under League of Nations mandate.



On Germania's first appearance she is walking a tightrope above the combined fleets of the great naval powers en route to the Boxer Rebellion (see Figure 2). The Bavarian lion, weeping as usual, is chained to a Prussian sentry box with a smartly uniformed Prussian on guard. Here Germania walks the geopolitical tightrope because all Prussia's spending has been on the army, which is of little use for global power projection. Even Holland has a fleet--the Dutch character sits placidly by the sea observing his ships, smoking (2 April 1898, 1). In "England in China" Heine depicted Queen Victoria, her battleships in the background, beating up the Chinese Empress with her umbrella while the kaiser, unable to intervene, looks on in despair (15 October 1898, 225). Two years later, however, the First German Naval Law was beginning to bring results. In "The Powers in China" German, British, and American naval officers agree that "our relations are at their most hearty--let the world war begin" (26 June 1900, 107).


Unlike the Pacific and Chinese crises, Germany was not directly involved in South Africa's Boer War. But given the recent unification of most of the German-speaking peoples under Bismarck and the irredentist push of German geopolitical reasoning, seeing the Boers as "Germanic" peoples oppressed by Great Britain is hardly surprising. More to the point, encouraging the destabilization of South Africa made good geopolitical sense on two grounds. First, control of Capetown had long allowed the British and their Dutch predecessors to control the critical sea passage around Africa. Second, and much more important by the Boer War, the Rand gold-fields were the main supplier of gold to the British economy. On the eve of the Boer War in 1898, South Africa's gold output was worth [pounds sterling]16 million, about as much as the combined output of gold in the rest of the world. A typical American cartoon of the 1890s depicted "The English Octopus: It Feeds on Nothing but Gold!" (Bernstein 2000, 229, 261).

Simplicissimus and Heine devoted many illustrations to the Boer War, none of them favorable to Great Britain. In "Boer Tactics" one Boer sharpshooter says to another, "Just target the mouths of the English, Peter. That's where they are most dangerous" (11 December 1899, 300). Simplicissimus's obsession with morality plays out here on the international stage, with Great Britain's behavior depicted as grossly immoral and only Germany able to correct it, although Simplicissimus clearly doubts whether Germany will or even can. In "Robbery and Murder in South Africa" British soldiers attack Boers with axes and knives. Two German observers look on. Queen Victoria says to Joseph Chamberlain, colonial secretary at the time, "Don't worry Joe, the guys back there won't be in our way. They're our relatives" (5 June 1900, 85). The nastiest anti-British cartoon appeared toward the end of the war under the title "English Concentration Camp" A British Tommy and King Edward VII are shown as giants stamping hundreds of tiny Boers in a compound to death. King Edward says, "The blood is splashing up to here. This mob is going to tarnish my crown" (29 October 1901, 249) (Figure 4). Although British concentration camps in the Boer War were not extermination camps of the type later developed by the Nazis, death rates from a combination of starvation, disease, and exposure may have been as high as 25 percent. The German lack of a powerful navy meant that it could not intervene successfully in support of the Boers, however much it armed and supported them financially and desired their victory geopolitically.

Although Africa was clearly important to Germany and Fritz Fischer argued that one major German aim in World War I was the creation of Mittelafrika (1967, 596), Simplicissimus, perhaps conditioned by the problems of intervening in the Boer War, was harping on the irrelevance of Africa to Germany from 1900 on. In 1906 Simplicissimus published "Imperial Geography." The kaiser's tutor asks the young kaiser to recite the names of the continents. When the tutor chides him, "You forget Africa," the kaiser replies, "That's not mentioned here at court" (10 October 1905, 325). This cartoon must be read in the context of the debate in Germany over the wisdom of colonial policy in Africa. Between 1904 and 1907 German troops in German Southwest Africa massacred some 65,000 Herero and 10,000 Nama people in reprisals for the killing of some 140 German colonists. In 1985 the United Nations described this as one of the earliest acts of genocide in the twentieth century, for it was clearly an attempt to exterminate an entire ethnic group. In German East Africa some 75,000 natives died in the Maji Maji Uprising of 1905-1906, an uprising caused by German insistence that the local population continue to grow cotton in the midst of severe drought.


The French female character, Marianne, first appears in Simplicissimus enigmatically alone in bed in a sexually charged cartoon entitled "A Kingdom for a Man," implying that she, and thus France, is all that a man, and thus Germany, could ask for (3 April 1899, 1). The longer text reads, "Damn, my groom [Napoleon, whose picture hangs above her bed] didn't show up for the wedding again. If I wasn't so proud I'd ask my neighbor [Germania] for hers." This was a period of Franco-German rapprochement, during which France, Germany, and Russia acted in unison against the ambitions of Japan to acquire treaty ports in China while acquiring their own, events that pushed Japan toward war with Russia. Marianne may be too proud to ask Germania for Michel, but she is interested. Increasing British distrust of German naval ambitions was, however, pushing Great Britain into more and more attempts to restrain the growth of German ambitions: appeasement of and rapprochement with the United States, alliance with Japan, entente with France. This last rankled Germany most. If Marianne was interested in Michel, how could Michel tolerate the Entente Cordiale of 1904? Simplicissimus returned to this theme time and again from 1904 until World War I, the main themes being French flightiness and British subversion of German security interests, first by allying with Japan, then by getting into bed with France.


Anglo-Russian and, eventually, Anglo-Russian-Japanese relations were also a central theme in Simplicissimus. In "In East Asia" the Russian shoves the British officer to the end of the Indian bench, leeringly asking, "Do you mind, sir?" (28 August 1900, 181). In "Stories from the Chinese Forest" the British Tommy asks the Russian bear why he has such a big mouth and paws. The bear answers, "To smile at and hug you," then asks the Tommy why he is armed. The Tommy replies, "So that nobody can harm you, dear brother bear" (4 March 1902, 393). In "Faithful Allies" Simplicissimus depicts "the Anglo-Japanese Alliance" as pushing Japan into war with Russia in Manchuria as Great Britain runs away (11 August 1903, 153). All this is in line with Simplicissimus's depictions of Great Britain as using its allies to do its fighting.

In the Russo-Japanese War the European powers were supposed to stay neutral. Simplicissimus published a cartoon satirizing this. One panel shows Prime Minister Balfour complaining bitterly to his Japanese comrade, "Damn! The Germans broke their neutrality. They sold another rubbishy little river patrol boat to Russia." In the second panel Balfour studiously ignores the frantic Japanese character, who screams, "Mr. Balfour, Mr. Balfour, the Russian fleet is anchoring in a French port." Balfour patronizingly replies, "Well, eventually it will leave again" (16 May 1905, 73).

The following week Heine drew the feminized, flighty French male sitting under the umbrella of entente and quite obviously fondling the British governess, by now named "Irene," the Japanese character looking most unhappy at being literally left out in the rain (Simplicissimus, 23 May 1905, 93) (Figure 5). In 1902 the British had signed the Naval Treaty with Japan, which allowed the increasing withdrawal of British ships from the east to combat the building German fleet, although it had the effect of turning over much of imperial naval security in the Asian Pacific and Australian region to Japan. Depicting the Entente Cordiale of 1904 as threatening to Japanese security interests made sense if Michel still had aspirations for Marianne. The illustration also plays on the meaning attached to the name "Irene," Irene being not only the Greek goddess of peace but also the eighth-century Byzantine empress who served as regent for her son but later had him killed so she could rule alone. From the German perspective the entente implied Great Britain had turned on Japan and might well turn next on France in order to rule alone.

A few days later, however, on 27 and 28 May 1905, the mostly British-built Japanese battle fleet pulled off a stunning upset victory against the Russian fleet at the Battle of Tsushima Straits. Eventually Simplicissimus published a cartoon showing a British tweedy gentleman telling the Japanese, "Your references may be recent, but you can fight all my wars from now on" (17 October 1905, 338).

The main theme of the Michel/Marianne cartoons as they developed was that the characters should marry but that Marianne was flighty. As the Russo-Japanese War drew to a close a young, attractive Marianne bends over a child, and the definitive version of Michel, younger and masculine, says, "Marry me, Marianne. If we like each other there is nothing to get in our way. We'll name the child Europe's Peace" (1 August 1905, 212) (Figure 6). The geopolitical messages here are obvious. France and Germany "belong together," and if they are together the result will be a peaceful Europe. But Marianne seems more interested in the child than in Michel, and nothing comes of it, although the message that France and Germany belong together clearly reflects the ideals of the Wilhelmine dream of Mitteleuropa and the reality of the modern European Union.

Marianne, however much she may be interested in Michel, is flighty. In 1906 she is shown going off with Russia, taking him away from Germania in the process (Simplicissimus, 9 April 1906, 36). In 1908 Marianne appears criticizing an older Germania for wastefulness: "[Chancellor] Bulow is right--you're wasteful Germania. Look at your expensive hat" (7 December 1908, 597). The Anglo-German naval arms race was intensifying heavily and very expensively with the development of the new dreadnought battleships, and Bulow was opposed to the substantial expense they entailed. The sexual undercurrents here are that Marianne would be a better partner for Germany than would Germania and that France would get her way by feminine wiles rather than by force. In 1909 Marianne finally turns her sexual attention to Michel, in a cartoon that probably refers to the British political crisis over how many dreadnoughts should be built that year. Michel sheds his armor, with a seductive Marianne suggesting, "Maybe we can get a bit more comfortable now" (1 March 1909, 824). By 1908 the British were also becoming worried about the expense of the battleship race with Germany, and the Admiralty asked for only four new ships that year. Mounting fears of German naval construction caused this to be overturned in mid-1909 by the Conservative campaign "We Want Eight and We Won't Wait" (Moll 1965, 140). This lull in the arms race was the only time Marianne would set her cap directly for Michel.


The final major security crisis before World War I was the Second Morocco Crisis of 1911, and it produced a series of geopolitical cartoons. Under the title "Agadir" three children play at a pond. The German child has a toy gunboat aimed at Agadir. The French and Spanish children appeal, "Uncle [John] Bull, please don't allow the bad boy to play with us!" (Simplicissimus, 31 July 1911, 301). In "The Spanish-French Conflict" the French and Spanish characters are brawling, with an unidentifiable character saying enigmatically, "Don't let him get away with anything" (7 August 1911, 317). Heine's cartoon in the same issue shows British Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George disqualifying the German from the race for Morocco on the grounds that he "might win," and the French participant in the race is highly feminized and depicted wearing pantaloons (7 August 1911, 324). The next cartoon in the Morocco series shows a British Tommy complaining that the French cockerel he is prodding won't fight the Prussian eagle on the perch next to him (18 September 1911, 413). After many other Morocco cartoons Marianne reappears at the end of the crisis, disconsolate, now with a tweedy British husband. Under the title "Entente Cordiale" her husband says, "What do I care about your Spanish affairs--I only married you to piss off Michel" (22 January 1912, 767) (Figure 7).




But the Morocco crisis, the accelerating failure of the Ottoman Empire, and the frantic German search for a reliable security partner were increasing European pressure for the war that all were sure was coming. Germany's relationship with Great Britain became more and more fraught. In a six-panel cartoon entitled "The Poor Cousin" Mr. Bull is shown using his "poor cousin," Michel, to fight wars in the U.S. colonies, as a source of "pretty young princes to improve his family," and as someone to whom he can send "spare princesses" to marry them off. In the last panel of this cartoon, "all that has now changed and Mr. Bull is angry that Mr. German is no longer poor" (Simplicissimus, 18 September 1911, 428). In "Sir Edward Grey," the British foreign secretary cuts a small slice of the Africa cake, saying, "There you go, Michel. It's only a little bit, but it's meant sincerely" (18 December 1911, 665). Under the title "England's Politics" the British bulldog growls menacingly at Michel, ignoring the Russian bear that is eating other people: "Michel is being peaceful. Russia's the problem. England is only paying attention to Germany" (5 February 1912, 799). Under "Germany and England" Michel and the Tommy each hold arms full of battleships, asking, "How are we supposed to shake hands?" (26 February 1912, 847). The same theme recurs in "The German and English Neptunes": Both hold tridents they are trying to blunt, saying, "We might get hurt with these things" (14 April 1913, 33).


By late 1912 it had become clear that France was no longer a possible security partner for Germany. Under the title "The Paris Peace Plume" Marianne, in a suit of armor, preens before her mirror declaring, "My latest fashion has been well received in Europe" (Simplicissimus, 17:34, 18 November 1912, 560); every previous Marianne cartoon showed her in a simple shift. Shortly after "The Paris Peace Plume" Simplicissimus published its last "security partner" cartoon before the outbreak of war. Germania solicits "a kiss under the mistletoe" from the British Tommy in a last effort to keep the peace (23 December 1912, 645).


Simplicissimus depicted the need for a powerful battle fleet as central to German geopolitical concerns at the cultural level from 1896 though 1914. Lacking a blue-water fleet in the first part of this period, Germany simply could not act to counter Great Britain's immoral behavior in the international arena, especially the appalling treatment of the Boers. By 1912 Germany had its fleet, but the fleet itself had become an insurmountable barrier to any possible Anglo-German rapprochement. The fleet and the naval arms race that produced it may not itself have caused the war that would break out in 1914, but it certainly prevented Great Britain from accepting Germany as a possible security partner.

Despite attempts in the late 1890s to create an Anglo-German security partnership, Germany's search for a European partner between 1898 and 1912, as depicted in the pages of Simplicissimus, focused mostly on France. This search was epitomized by Michel's attempts to bed Marianne, who is depicted as physically attractive, sexually alluring, and independent, if flighty. Michel's true partner, Germania, sought to seduce Russia and Great Britain, but in each of these cases Marianne succeeded where Germania failed, seducing Russia away from Germania and marrying Great Britain.

From 1898 to 1912 Simplicissimus depicted a developing, complex, increasingly desperate, and ultimately deadly Anglo-French-German geopolitical menage a trois that the actors could not resolve. Although Germania and Michel were partners, Marianne's male partner was always depicted as highly effeminate, and Michel was shown as a more appropriate sexual partner for Marianne, even though Michel had one early fling with Queen Victoria. The British characters caused great sexual complications. Irene allowed herself to be seduced by the effeminate French male, and the British male both married Marianne and chased after Germania! If there is a clear message in the pages of Simplicissimus it is that all three powers were well aware that none of this was likely to turn out well.

Simplicissimus's depiction of Marianne changed radically with World War I. The attractiveness of the prewar Marianne vanished, and by 1917 she was being depicted as an aging whore, making up to President Woodrow Wilson and saying, "Tell Ivan [who is passed out on her bed] the American Uncle is here. Maybe he'll wake up again" (Simplicissimus, 24 April 1917, 44). The Treaty of Versailles, which clearly rankled Simplicissimus as much as it did German society in general, brought even nastier changes. By the time of the reparations crisis of 1923 Heine depicted Marianne fat, ugly, and covered in blood, as "The Mass Murderer of Essen" (23 April 1923, 45) (Figure 8). Heine, a Jew, and most of the Simplicissimus staff were purged in 1933 when the Nazis came to power, but the magazine's depictions of France and Marianne never varied. From August 1914 to the conquest of France in 1940, at which point captions were briefly printed in French as well as German, Europe's security problems were all Marianne's doing.


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* I would like to thank two of my graduate students, Veit Bachmann for help translating Simplicissimus into modern, colloquial English, and Tracey Hayes for her exploration of the artistic elements of Simplicissimus, as well as my colleague in history at Texas A & M University R. J. Q. Adams for sharing his unparalleled knowledge of the British Edwardian period. The remaining errors are of my making, not theirs! I also thank the Simplicissimus On-Line Projekt, a Joint Undertaking of the Deutschen Literaturarchivs Marbach, Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek / Klassik Stiftung Weimar, and the Institut fur Germanistische und Allgemeine Literaturwissenschaft der RWTH Aachen, for permission to reprint material from its Web site.

DR. HUGILL is a professor of geography at Texas A & M University, College Station, Texas 77843.

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