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Why did Wilhelm II get rid of Bismarck? (Short Animated Documentary)

2 minutes 54 seconds

Speaker 1

00:00:00 - 00:00:03

Otto von Bismarck is often considered to be 1 of the most competent politicians of

Speaker 2

00:00:03 - 00:00:31

the 19th century. He's credited with being the architect of German unification, with the sidelining of Austria-Hungary and France, and with making Germany into 1 of the world's greatest industrial powers. But in spite of these things, 2 years after Kaiser Wilhelm II took the throne, Bismarck was out of a job. However, given Bismarck's reputation this raises the question, why did the Kaiser get rid of him? So, Bismarck served all 3 German emperors, and he held great sway with Wilhelm I who largely deferred to Bismarck when it came to the running of the empire.

Speaker 2

00:00:31 - 00:00:56

Much of this was down to them largely agreeing on things like workers' rights, foreign relations and economic policy. Bismarck also served as Chancellor for the entire reign of Frederick III. Now, Frederick was seen as a beacon of hope by German liberals, who had hoped that under him reforms would be undertaken to move Germany away from absolute monarchy to something closer to Britain or Sweden. Unfortunately, Frederick died 99 days after becoming Emperor and so his reign amounted to sweet nothing. After Frederick came his son, Wilhelm II.

Speaker 2

00:00:56 - 00:01:22

Now Wilhelm had inherited a Germany which was geopolitically ascendant but domestically there were issues. Social unrest, especially about working conditions in mines and factories, was starting to take its toll on Germany's economy. Wilhelm II was somewhat sympathetic to them but wanted Parliament to improve their lot. However, the Chancellor's plan was to ban socialists and agitators from German life, and in fact some of the law was so harsh that some of his backers and the Kaiser disagreed with them. Another problem was that Wilhelm and Bismarck also had conflicting personalities.

Speaker 2

00:01:22 - 00:01:51

Both men were proud and had very different ideas about how to improve Germany's prestige and power. The Kaiser saw Bismarck as being a pacifist with an outdated view of the world, whereas Bismarck didn't respect the Kaiser and saw him as rash and foolhardy. Another reason was simply that Wilhelm II wanted to be his own emperor. Whilst he did respect Bismarck's achievements, he didn't want to be seen like his grandfather with Bismarck as being the power behind the throne. The Kaiser didn't want to take a back seat in governing Germany, and 1 major way in which Wilhelm could impact things is by appointing his own Chancellor and not keeping the 1 he inherited.

Speaker 2

00:01:51 - 00:02:18

This wasn't the first instance in which Bismarck had been in conflict with the Kaiser, but this time there was a difference. In the past, whenever Bismarck and Wilhelm I had had a disagreement, Bismarck would threaten to resign. He knew the Emperor saw him as irreplaceable and so he would always get his way. Bismarck had hoped that in spite of Wilhelm II's bluster he would have no choice but to retain him as Chancellor. As such, when Wilhelm II demanded that the government report directly to him in all matters and also that Bismarck must give the striking miners a better deal, Bismarck threatened to resign.

Speaker 2

00:02:18 - 00:02:18

To which the Emperor's response was, OK, nice knowing you, thereby ending his 30-year stint at the heart of German politics. I hope you enjoyed this episode and thank you for watching with a special thanks to my patrons... James Bizonette, Kelly Moneymaker, Korsha, Wolf, Kartoitska, Adam Stalter, Jerry Lambdin, Jordan Longley, Alex Schwinn, Marcus Arsner, YN Hockey, Spencer Lightfoot, Marvin Casale, Captain Psydog, The McWhopper, Miss Izzet, Winston K. Wood, Camoon Yoon, Boogalee Woogalee, Gustav Swann, Aaron the White, Daniel Tobian, Anthony Beckett, Maggie Paskowski, Shuenin, Spinning 3 Plates, Words About Books Podcast, Copper Tone and Charles I.