Wilhelm II at the Swearing-in of New Recruits in Potsdam, November 23, 1891. (Two versions.)

Source: Ernst Johann (ed.), Reden des Kaisers: Ansprachen, Predigten und Trinksprüche Wilhelms II (Munich, 1966), pp. 55-56.

TEXT

Version 1, according to the Breslauer Lokalanzeiger

Recruits of my Guards Regiment!

You are assembled here from all quarters of my realm in order to meet your military obligation and have in this holy place [1] sworn loyalty to your kaiser even unto your last breath. You are still too young to understand all of this, but little by little it will be made known to you. Do not bother yourselves too greatly about all this but trust in God, now and again say an "Our Father," which has many a time renewed a warrior's courage.

Children of my Guards, from this day you are incorporated into my army. Now you stand under my command and have been permitted the privilege of wearing my uniform. Wear it with honor. Think on our fatherland's glorious history. Think also that the German army must be armed against the inner foe as well as the foreign. More than ever unbelief and discontent raise their head in the fatherland, and it may come about that you will have to shoot or bayonet your own relatives and brothers. Then seal your loyalty with the offering up of your heart's blood. Now, go home and fulfill your duty.

Version 2, according to the Neisser Zeitung

Recruits!

Before the sacred servants of God and in sight of this altar, you have sworn loyalty to me. You are still too young to understand the true meaning of what has just been spoken. But be diligent and follow the prescribed regulations and teachings always. You have sworn loyalty to me. That means, children of my Guards, you are now my soldiers. You have given yourselves to me, body and soul. There is for you but one enemy, and he is my enemy. With the current socialist machinations it can happen that I order you to shoot your own relatives, brothers, even parents--may God prevent it--but even then you must obey my order without a murmur.

END OF TEXT


FOR FURTHER READING

Thomas Kohut, Wilhelm II and the Germans. A Study in Leadership (New York, 1991)

NOTES

[1] The swearing-in ceremony took place in the Garrison Church of Potsdam, a site revered because of its close association with Frederick the Great. Jump back to text.