Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Wilhelm II. Und Die Religion: Facetten Einer Personlichkeit Und Ihres Umfelds

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Wilhelm II. Und Die Religion: Facetten Einer Personlichkeit Und Ihres Umfelds

Article excerpt

Wilhelm II. und die Religion: Facetten einer Personlichke it und ihres Umfelds. Edited by Stefan Samerski. [Forschungen zur Brandenburgischen und Preussischen Geschichte, neue Folge, Beiheft 5.] (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot. 2001. Pp. 320. DM 138.00 paperback.)

Recent writings regarding the person, career, and reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941) remain preoccupied with his autocratic pretensions, his unbridled and dangerous egotism, his role in the outbreak of World War I, even his putative responsibility for the disastrous turn in German politics that led to the Nazi regime in 1933. Arguing that little more is to be gained from this approach and seeking to produce a more balanced view of Germany's last monarch, the contributors to this volume instead call attention to the widely acknowledged but little analyzed role of religion in Wilhelm's thinking and behavior. The result is not a comprehensive synthesis of the Kaiser's life and work, but a series of ten essays that trace and interpret the development of his thought and conduct in relation to the religious currents of his era. This religious focus, as employed here, transcends the boundaries of a narrow church-bound piety to assess Wilhelm's core religious values in an increasingly secular world and to emphasize the complexities and contradictions of his thinking.

Solidly based on both printed and archival sources, this collection is informed by a finely tuned appreciation for the relevant theological issues and sectarian controversies of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Germany. Since the conception of the volume is multidisciplinary, however, the topics are extraordinarily diverse. They range from the Kaiser's relationship with Adolf Stoecker's Christian-Social movement to an assessment of his early life, religious training, and intellectual formation, from his conflicted opinions regarding his Roman Catholic fellow countrymen and Catholic emancipation to the fate of Polish-speaking Protestants in Prussia's eastern districts, and from his personal contacts with the papacy in Rome or the church hierarchy in Germany itself to his use of religious instruction to combat revolutionary ideas and promote loyalty to the Crown. Nonetheless, much is left out, and nowhere is that more obvious than in the absence of an essay that confronts the Kaiser's "ambivalent" relationship with Germany's Jewish minority. …

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