20 March 1919: Hindenburg on Kaiser’s Abdication
Public opinion has been recently discussing the question why the Kaiser went to Holland. To obviate erroneous judgments, I should like to make the following brief observations.
When the Imperial Chancellor, Prince Max of Baden, announced the Kaiser’s abdication on November 9th, without the Kaiser’s previous declaration of assent, the German Army was not beaten, but its strength had dwindled and the enemy had fresh masses in readiness for a new attack.
The conclusion of the armistice was directly impending. At this moment of the highest military tension revolution broke out in Germany, the insurgents seized the Rhine bridges, important arsenals, and traffic centres in the rear of the army, thereby endangering the supply of ammunition and provisions, while the supplies in the hands of the troops were only enough to last for a few days.
The troops on the lines of communication and the reserves disbanded themselves, and unfavourable reports arrived concerning the reliability of the field army proper. In view of this state of affairs the peaceful return home of the Kaiser was no longer to be thought of and could only have been enforced at the head of loyal troops. In that case the complete collapse of Germany was inevitable, and civil war would have been added to the fighting with the enemy without, who would doubtless have pressed on with all his energy.
The Kaiser could, moreover, have betaken himself to the fighting troops, in order to seek death at their head in a last attack; but the armistice, so keenly desired by the people, would thereby have been postponed, and the lives of many soldiers uselessly sacrificed.
Finally, the Kaiser might leave the country. He chose this course in agreement with his advisers, after an extremely severe mental struggle, and solely in the hope that he could thereby best serve the Fatherland, save Germany further losses, distress, and misery, and restore to her peace and order. It was not the Kaiser’s fault that he was of this opinion.
Source: Records of the Great War, Vol. VI, National Alumni 1923
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