Imperialists

Kaiser Wilhelm, New Palace, Potsdam, Imperial fleet
Kaiser Wilhelm, New Palace, Potsdam, Imperial fleet

Colonial empires. The great powers divided the world among them.

Lorenz’ granddaughter Chiara

[America, around 1911] For generations, the Bergmanns on both sides of the Atlantic had always kept closely in touch. Since her childhood, Amber’s daughter Chiara had received many postcards from the Rhineland and posted them into an album. “The Rhine, Bonn and Cologne, the Drachenfels, the Siebengebirge .. from here, our family has come to North America about 200 years ago”, she had written underneath. Surely she would love to see the Rhine one day. But the world was getting colder, on both sides of the Atlantic.

Relatives in Europe

Meanwhile Chiara was a grown-up young woman. Her husband John was an instructor at West Point, they had to children. She often thought of her German, or better European family and friends. Sophie’s grandmother had Henriette had been Belgian, her husband Andras was an Austro-Hungarian diplomat. So their children Lottie and Joscha were quite a European mixture. She knew Lottie and her husband Matthias well since they had spent a year on the Mountain Men Vineyard. Sophie had accompanied them on their way to the USA, and then Joscha and Andras had come to accompany them on the way home. They had seen the Austrian embassy in Washington. Chiara smiled, she knew that Joscha would love to represent his country in the USA one day.

The young generation had now taken over the family businesses. Lottie and Matthias were in charge of the Bergmann vineyard at Mount Drachenfels, they had two children, Kathi and Walther. Susan and Etienne from Alsace were happily married and proud parents of a daughter, Marie. This name was popular in Germany and in France.

Anni and Jean, the silver-haired grandparents, had been granted many happy years among their children, grandchildren and loyal friends. Then Anni had died in peace, surrounded by her loved ones, and a little later her husband Jean had followed her.

Farewell to Lorenz

Two years ago, Chiara’s beloved German born grandfather Lorenz had died. His entire German family and friends had come over to support his widow Annelie, even Lottie’s children were on it. Chiara and her mother Amber had met them in New York, then they had travelled to Pennsylvania together, to the “Merry Dragon” inn. Amber ran it now.

The beautiful old country inn from the colonial time had meanwhile been renovated several times and modernized. Amber had a car, a telephone and two refrigerators. But it had retained its individual charm. Chiara’s husband John and their children were already waiting for them. Susan was over the moon to see the little yellow flowers with their black heads again, the “Black-Eyed Susan”. They had enchanted her when on her first visit as a little girl. “Happy years spent together count double,” Annelie had told them all. Chiara had showed them her childhood album.

But when she saw Annelie taking the Csabanys apart, all their faces stern, she knew that they worrying about the growing tensions in the world. Now many of her fellow Americans were looking at Germany with a mixture of admiration of its economic and technical progress, disdain for its autocratic regime and suspicion of the militaristic and nationalist cast who had the Kaiser’s ear. Also America’s foreign policy became increasingly imperialist. Carl Schurz, the “Elder Statesman” had been appalled, until his death in 1906 he had fought against it with all his strength, but in vain.

German colonies

[USA and Europe, around 1910]  Germany wanted to have her “Place in the Sun” just as Britain and France, and behaved like the emperor of a World Power, relying on Germany’s military and economic strength. Despite of the tense political situation in the world, he proclaimed Germany’s claims loud and saber-rattling. His pithy, often overstepping speeches created the ugly image of the aggressive German Emperor. The Boxer Rebellion in China 1900 had been bloodily crushed.

In 1904, the Herero and a little later the Namaqua had risen, German settlers were murdered and settlements were burnt down. The German troops had cruelly retaliated, it had been a campaign of racial extermination. When the Reichstag was discussing a supplementary budget for the war, against the Herero and Namaqua, the roman catholic Centre Party and the Social Democrats voted against it. Matthias Erzberger MP of the Centre Party excoriated the German colonial policy. Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow had dissolved the Reichstag. Running on the slogan “Against Centre and Social Democrats”, his coalition had triumphed in the next elections, whereas the Social Democrats had suffered heavy losses.

Jacob had voted for the Centre Party too. He liked this upright Erzberger who condemned the colonial scandals in Africa. “Hottentots elections” one had called this election 1907. This sounded very disparaging in his ears.

Triple Entente and Dreibund

The German foreign policy got the country more and more isolated. Great Britain, they assumed, was Germany’s “natural” ally as she was against both Russia and France over colonies. But at the same time, a program of warship construction under Admiral von Tirpitz began, and the Foreign Office did not see that it aroused suspicion in Great Britain.

Finally, Great Britain and France compromised over their colonies in Africa and formed the “Entente cordiale” in 1904. In 1907, after setting aside differences with Great Britain over territories in Asia, Russia joined them, forming the “Triple Entente”. Two blocks all armed to a maximum stood against each other: England, France and Russia (“Triple Entente”) on one side, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy (“Dreibund”) on the other. Austria-Hungary, the Habsburg Empire, the multi-ethnic-state, was quite an anachronism, and about to fall apart.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*