13/7/1917 Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg leaves the stage #1917Live

Germany’s politicians are restive. The dawning realisation that the U-boat campaign is not going to win the war has led to a rising dissatisfaction in the Reichstag. Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg is in an awkward position. He was never a supporter of the U-boat war but has been obliged to defend it on behalf of the army and navy. Now he tries to broker some kind of compromise between the parliamentarians and the regime. He suggests extreme political reforms to the Kaiser: extending the vote to all adult men and bringing Reichstag leaders into the government. But he is unable to convince the Kaiser and he is unable to bring the Reichstag into line, with it becoming apparent that the parliamentarians are about to pass a resolution calling for a compromise peace.

In France or Britain the prime ministers must retain the confidence of parliament to remain in office but in Germany the Chancellor serves at the pleasure of the Kaiser. Kaiser Wilhelm is now little more than a figurehead, with real power lying with Hindenburg and Ludendorff in the army. As far as they are concerned, Bethmann Hollweg has failed in his job of keeping the Reichstag in line. Therefore he has to go. He tenders his resignation. Another of the leaders at the war’s start leaves the stage.

Hindenburg and Ludendorff pick Bethmann Hollweg’s replacement. He is Georg Michaelis, a bureaucrat seen to have successfully administered food distribution in Prussia. He is Germany’s first Chancellor not to be drawn from the aristocracy.

image sources:

Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg (Wikipedia)

Hindenburg & Ludendorff (Wikipedia)

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