Monday, November 19, 2018

Today -100: November 19, 1918: Of guests, prohibition, and red flags

Former kaiser Wilhelm Hohenzollern is already thinking about going back to Germany. Which must be a relief to Count Bentinck, who didn’t offer to put him up but was asked to by the Dutch government. When Willy arrived Bentinck asked how long he was going to stay and Willy said, “That depends upon the Dutch government,” which is just what you want to hear from a house guest.

Wilson says he will go the peace conference, at least for the start of it, because discussing things via cable is just so impersonal.

The Senate passes “wartime” prohibition, effective until the end of demobilization.

NYC Mayor John Hylan orders the police to pull down any red flags, which he calls “emblematic of unbridled license and an insignia for law hating and anarchy” and to disperse unauthorized gatherings.

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Sunday, November 18, 2018

Today -100: November 18, 1918: Of flu, abdications, grand dukes in a well, and race riots

The Census Bureau says that Spanish Flu killed more Americans than the war did. Indeed, the number of influenza deaths just in army camps nearly matched the number of soldiers killed. Philadelphia and Baltimore had it the worst.

Germany’s political parties are splitting apart and re-forming in exciting new combinations. A Republican Party is expected to form (if it did it wasn’t under that name) from the Progressives and the left-wing of the National Liberals. And the Spartacus group is forming what will eventually be the German Communist Party (KPD).

In the Red Flag (Berlin), Rosa Luxemburg writes that rumors are being spread about the Spartacists having killed 200 army officers, attacking the royal stables, etc etc in order to prepare the public for an anti-Spartacist pogrom.

More abdications in German principalities: Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (he also has British titles: he’s a prince, an earl, a duke and a baron, but he’ll lose those titles next year as well. He won’t get another title until he becomes an obergruppenführer in the Brownshirts). Also Grand Duke Friedrich “Fritz” II of Baden and Duke Bernhard III of Saxe-Meiningen.

Headline of the Day -100:

Is this 1) Just the sort of thing the Whites would make up? 2) Just the sort of thing the Reds would do? 3) An homage to the old nursery rhyme “Five grand dukes down a well?” It’s true, actually!

There is agitation in Luxembourg for Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde to abdicate because of her perceived closeness to the Germans while the country was occupied. Some Luxembourgers want the country annexed by France. M-A is demanding a referendum before she abdicates. She will be forced out in a couple of months in favor of her sister Charlotte, and then there’ll be a referendum.

A race riot in Winston-Salem, North Carolina results in 5 or more deaths: 3 blacks, a spectator and a fireman. A mob tried to storm the jail, going after a black prisoner. They shot one, but later heard that he wasn’t the right black prisoner (I think he actually was), so they came back later in the day, overcame the fire department’s hoses and the Home Guard, but couldn’t find the prisoner. Gov. Thomas Bickett is sending in a tank battalion. 

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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Today -100: November 17, 1918: Of coalitions, abdications, delegations, and stout women

British Prime Minister Lloyd George proposes that the wartime coalition in Parliament continue in next month’s general election and beyond. He says the problems facing the country are just as difficult as the war, and require non-party solutions. He wants imperial tariff preferences, which the Tories will like, and postponing Irish Home Rule “until he condition of Ireland makes it possible,” which the Tories will also like. There isn’t a lot of Lloyd George’s Liberalism left. LG slags off the Labour Party for withdrawing from the coalition government.

Prince Adolf II of Schaumburg-Lippe abdicates. The NYT says King Ludwig III of Bavaria also abdicated but it is wrong. It also says Queen Maria Theresa has died but it is wrong.

The Senate is discussing whether Wilson should submit the names of the delegation to the peace conference to the Senate for approval. He isn’t obligated to do so, but some of them think it would be nice if he did.

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Friday, November 16, 2018

Today -100: November 16, 1918: Of moral revolutions, peace conferences, and thirsty thirsty princes

Former French prime minister Léon Bourgeois, who is in charge of French preparation for the League of Nations, says Germany must undergo a “moral revolution” before being allowed in.

The Allies, who had been inclined to hold off the peace conference until the political situation in Germany and elsewhere settled down, are instead now planning to start quickly to create a more stable environment for food operations to prevent famine. Which rather assumes that negotiations won’t drag on for months. In the US, in addition to the question of whether Wilson will attend in person is that of whether Congress will be represented, as it was in the conference that ended the Spanish-American War.

Headline of the Day -100: 

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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Today -100: November 15, 1918: The place of the President is here

The German government, a coalition of Socialists and Independent Socialists (SPD, USPD), confiscates the property of the Prussian crown. New elections soon, with universal suffrage for both sexes over 20 (it’s interesting that there’s almost no public discussion of the introduction of women’s suffrage. The pre-war suffrage movement was pretty small and quiet in Germany). Censorship is abolished.

The US also abolishes censorship.

Ex-Kaiser Willy is semi-interned by the Dutch in the undistinguished (if you ask me) castle of Count Bentinck.

Prince Friedrich I of Waldock and Pyrmont and Duke Eduard of Anhalt are reported to have abdicated, which is quite a trick for the latter, since he died two months ago. It’s his 17-year-old son Joachim Ernst who abdicated, or actually his uncle, acting as regent, abdicated on his behalf. Joachim Ernst will die in 1947 in the prison camp the Soviet NKVD established at Buchenwald.

There is talk of Woodrow Wilson going to Europe to participate in the peace conference. The NYT finds that other newspapers are mostly against the idea, as is the NYT: “The place of the President is here”. Furthermore, negotiating is beneath the dignity of his office (Fun Historical Fact: the office of the president had dignity in Ye Olde Times): “We are accustomed to feel that when the President speaks he speaks with authority. It is not quite the thing that he should engage in argument”. There’s a fine line between authority and arrogance. We’ll see on which side of that line Wilson chooses to stand. (Spoiler Alert: the same side he always stands on).

Parliamentary elections are called in Britain for next month.

Anti-Jewish riots with the occasional murder in Poland, as was the custom.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Today -100: November 14, 1918: Of premature anschlusses, non-flights, and abdications

The State Council of German Austria says German Austria is now part of Germany. I think some other countries might want to weigh in on that one. There is some question about whether Bavaria will declare itself independent from Germany.

Ex-Kaiser-Now-Herr Wilhelm Hohenzollern says his leaving Germany was not a “flight,” he just wanted to assist the new socialist government by removing the embarrassments his presence would cause. Isn’t that helpful of him?

Grand Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach and Prince Leopold IV of Lippe-Detmold abdicate.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Today -100: November 13, 1918: Germany has completed her revolution

Emperor Karl of Austria-Hungary abdicates. “Filled with an unalterable love for my peoples I will not, with my person, be a hindrance to their free development.”

There are (false) reports that German Crown Prince Wilhelm is dead, possibly shot.

Germany asks – begs, really – for peace talks to be sped up, because Germany is facing famine.

Prince Heinrich XXVII of Reuß abdicates. Reuß is a place. Two of them, actually, German micro-states. Every male in both their ruling houses is named Heinrich and has been since 1200 or so.  One branch of the family numbers its Heinrichs up to 100 and then starts over, the other branch starts over every century. And the numbering is across the entire family, not father->son->grandson. So this is Heinrich XXVII, son of Heinrich XIV, father of Heinrichs XL, XLIII and XLV.

German Chancellor Friedrich Ebert says “Germany has completed her revolution.” Oh, he hopes. He says Prince Maximilian has handed over the government to him; in fact, “the people had already elected me as chancellor by their elementary will.” Whatever that means.

The NYT considers what should be done with ex-kaiser Wilhelm, “this man of altogether unspeakable sin,” “this incomparable malefactor.” It thinks he shouldn’t be executed but left alive to suffer the humiliation of his fall from kaiserdom. “He knows that earth’s millions detest him, loathe him, hate him with a hatred never before visited upon mortal man.”

Russian composer/conductor Sergei Rachmaninov, who fled Russia last year, arrives in New York, where he’s greeted by Prokofiev. He will remain in the US until his death in 1943.

The US plans to demobilize the 4 million members of the military only as and when civilian jobs open up for them.

The last issue of the British trench newspaper The Wipers Times next month refers to being demobilized (which etymonline says isn’t being called “demobbed” quite yet) as being given “the order of the bowler hat.” The last 2 issues (now renamed The Better Times) don’t have specific dates so here are two pieces from the penultimate issue:

A letter: “Dear Sir. – I hear that the people who joined early are going to be demobilised first. I think this is very unjust. Surely those who joined first were much more eager to join the Army than we who were combed out later. As they were more eager to join, it must have been because they liked it. Therefore they should be demobilised much later than we who joined up reluctantly.”

And excerpts from a poem titled “Cease Fire”:
“Oofs!! Compree, eggs?”
Will you e’er forget the jargon? Will these four years pass away
Till their memory is but an ugly dream?
Yet I would not lose the friends one found when life was less worth while
Than I had thought that life could ever seem.
“Hostilities cease at 11 a.m.!”
Though these words marked hours which hist’ry well may hold divide the world
And the centuries in half by all they mean,
Yet our brains could not conceive it, and the Column plodded on–
You cannot blot out years as from a screen!
‘Tis the small things make one’s world up,
and the greatest slither by,
‘Tis “the canteen’s closed” “late rations”
make you curse;
What do emperors and empires going bust
concern you when
The mud and rain and filth are getting worse?
There’s a phrase in a part of that poem I didn’t quote which is worth separating out: “while greedy Belgium laps up blood.”

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Monday, November 12, 2018

Today -100: November 12, 1918: We made the broom that swept the Hohenzollerns out

Woodrow Wilson addresses a joint session of Congress: “The war thus comes to an end; for, having accepted these terms of armistice, it will be impossible for the German command to renew it.”

He enumerates those terms: The armistice to last 30 days, extendable. Germany to withdraw its troops from all occupied territories (including Russia)(and Alsace-Lorraine) within 14 days, preferably without looting, please and thank you. The return to occupied countries of their prisoners and hostages. Surrender of various war materials including specified numbers of ships, u-boats, planes, machine guns, as well as non-materials including 150,000 railway cars, etc. Abandonment of the treaties forced on Romania and Russia. Etc etc etc.

Wilson: “Armed imperialism such as the men conceived who were but yesterday the masters of Germany is at an end, its illicit ambitions engulfed in black disaster. Who will now seek to revive it?” Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answer to, Woodrow. He admits he has no idea what form of government may take hold in Germany and that this makes things a little tricky. But, “I am confident that the nations that have learned the discipline of freedom and that have settled with self-possession to its ordered practice are now about to make conquest of the world by the sheer power of example and of friendly helpfulness.”

Allied troops continued to fight the war right up until armistice, with some new advances ordered that morning, even though the armistice was signed at 5:10 a.m. and the time of armistice was well known. A lot of people died for no particular reason before 11:00. Gen. Pershing will tell Congress a year from now that no one had informed him that the armistice was about to be signed, which is nonsense. Messages informing US units that the war would end at 11:00 failed to give any orders about what to do in the meantime, and different commanders made different decisions. Some wanted to be able to claim that their unit fired the last shots of the war.  There were 11,000 casualties on all sides on November 11th before 11:00, more than on D-Day.

Hindenburg hands over command of the German army to the revolutionary People’s Government, supposedly.

One German king (Friedrich August III of Saxony) and two grand dukes (Frederick Augustus II of Oldenburg and Friedrich Franz IV of Mecklenburg-Schwerin) are out. Hesse-Darmstadt declares itself a free socialist republic.

People celebrate the end of the war. Not, the NYT thinks, quite as enthusiastically as they celebrated the false armistice news last Thursday, but still pretty fucking enthusiastically. Schools and places of work closed, mostly because no one showed up.

The kaiser is burned in effigy. Lots of burning effigies. Municipal Judge William Wadhams announces that the former Kaiser Wilhelm is a fugitive from justice and orders a bench warrant for his arrest. Soldiers and sailors in Newport News, Virginia destroy street cars, break windows, raid restaurants and set fires to, you know, celebrate. There’s a small riot in Harlem when a cop tries to arrest black soldiers & sailors engaging in similar “alcoholic patriotism.” The people who are really pissed off are the hotels, which could have made a fortune from the celebrations but for the waiters’ strike.

The Netherlands is not exactly thrilled that Willy has chosen their country as his new home, and may intern him. In a nice château.

Theodore Roosevelt celebrates by checking into Roosevelt Hospital with “lumbago.”

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

I blogged about it 100 years later

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Today -100: November 11, 1918: On the 11th hour of the 11th day...

Headline of the Day -100: 

Kaiser Wilhelm and Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm go into exile in Holland.

King Wilhelm II of Württemberg abdicates (no he doesn’t, but never mind).  The kings of Bavaria and Saxony probably will soon, the NYT says (Ludwig of Bavaria fled but didn’t actually abdicate; I don’t think he ever actually did). Hesse-Darmstadt declares itself a republic.

Revolutionaries are trying to set up a German People’s Government while Friedrich Ebert tries to establish a Social Democratic one. In a fight with army officers, the revolutionaries shell the “Cockchafer” Barracks (hi, disappointed Google searchers!). The Workers’ and Soldiers’ Council of Berlin declares a general strike. Ebert says his government’s job will be to “preserve the German people from civil war and famine”. He appeals to officials, who he assumes with good reason are mostly right-wing: “I know it will be difficult for some to work with the new men who have taken charge of the empire, but I appeal to their love of the people. Lack of organization would in this heavy time mean anarchy in Germany and the surrender of the country to tremendous misery.”

The NYT celebrates “The Overthrow of Autocracy.” “Autocracy dies with the Hohenzollern,” it says. Autocracy-lovers “were fools not to see and understand that the world long ago had outgrown them. They sought to perpetuate in Western lands an Oriental form of government, fit only for the ignorant and superstitious.” It goes on to bitch about the aftermath of The Overthrow of Autocracy: “There are omens of evil in the character of the revolt. The red flag is everywhere, the Bolshevist spirit rages, there is a general strike, and in place of government we see Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Councils... That virus of the proletariat pestilence with which the Imperial Government infected Russia at the cost of millions of marks now courses through German veins. A Socialist is made Chancellor... the German insurgents set out upon the road that leads to the tyranny of one class over all others, that ends inevitably in social disorganization, the horror of indiscriminate murder and ruin, until reason and law resume their sway.”

A Polish republic is proclaimed.

Gen. Rudolf Gaida of the Czechoslovak Legions fighting the Bolsheviks in Siberia makes an urgent appeal for assistance. He wants a $100,000 Interallied Siberian Winter Tobacco Fund because they have NOTHING TO SMOKE!

Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (NY) asks for the captured German colonies in Africa to be turned over to the natives. 

Now Playing: Little Women, actually filmed in Louisa May Alcott’s home. The NYT gives it a mixed review. The acting is “satisfactory” but with “too much conscious posing” and there are too many inter-titles.  It is not the first movie to be made from the book. The film is now lost.

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