Sixteen

THE KINGDOM OF DAMP

WILHELM WATCHED with perverse satisfaction as Germany sank in the late I920s into increasing financial distress and political instability, for he was convinced that when the Fatherland came to the brink of destruction, as it seemed to be surely headed from I930 to 1932 under what he considered to be the incompetent leadership of the conservative Catholic chancellor Heinrich Brüning, it would call him back as kaiser. 1

Although Wilhelm had little use for either Adolf Hitler or Hermann Göring, their movement was quite another matter. The rightist German National Party and the militantly antirepublican Stahlhelm, a veterans' organization, had utterly failed to promote his candidacy, whereas Hitler, he believed, was prepared to do so. He argued that the Führer's silence about his monarchical sentiments proceeded purely from tactical considerations. 2 In February 1932, the Kaiser gave his son Auwi permission to stand as a Nazi candidate for the Reichstag, but only after his pro-Nazi house minister in Berlin, Leopold von Kleist, sought out Hitler and ascertained that the Führer agreed. 3 In the course of his conversation with Kleist, Hitler had declared that he favored a restoration, but not under Wilhelm II or the crown prince, both of whom were too unpopular. Kleist probably did not tell the Kaiser what Hitler had said about him, but in any case Wilhelm was adamant that no one would come to the throne but himself. In late April 1932, he warned his son Oskar that if any of the Kaiser's other sons attempted to advance themselves as candidates, they would be expelled from the family. 4 In his tirade, Wilhelm specifically referred to the crown prince, at whom he was violently angry because of his suspicion that his eldest son and the crown princess were conniving to make themselves Germany's future monarchs. The Kaiser's wrath had been excited at the end of March when the crown prince told his father that he intended to stand as a candidate in the second round of the presidential elections scheduled for 10 April 1932 and that he had written to Hitler to ask for the support of the Nazis. 5 In March Paul von Benecken

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