n autumn 1892 the journal Harden published, Die Zukunft (The
Future), appeared in Berlin for the first time. Die Zukunft
took up the struggle against a clique at the court of Kaiser Wilhelm
II which Harden regarded as the decisive obstacle to an extension
of the spheres of influence of the German Empire.
Prince Phillip zu Eulenburg-Hertefeld - called "Phili"
by his close friends - was born on 12. February 1847, the son of
a Prussian nobleman and officer. Phillip wanted to be a poet or
painter, but was forced by his father to take up a military career.
After 2 years, he quit the army. Following a career in law, he was
sent as the Prussian representative to Munich (Bavaria, then a semi-independent
kingdom) where he became known for singing songs he had himself
composed, and as a charming conversationalist.
In 1886 Eulenburg became acquainted with the Crown Prince, who two
years later, became Kaiser Wilhelm II. Even after Wilhelm became
Kaiser the "intense and enthusiastic friendship " continued.
In Liebenberg, Philipp zu Eulenburg's family seat in the Uckermark,
(north of Berlin) important political decisions were taken. The
decision by Wilhelm to sack Bismarck (which he did at the end of
1890) was supported by Eulenburg and decisions were discussed in
Liebenberg such as who should receive which important post in the
army, navy and foreign service.
Ex-Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, had no reason to be kindly disposed
towards the circle around the Kaiser and Eulenburg, who he regarded
as the architect of his dismissal. In 1892 Bismarck presented Max
Harden with detailed background information about the Eulenburg
clique. He described Eulenburg to Harden as "a politician who
is not to be taken seriously, as a diplomat not useable in a position
of importance." - and hinted at Eulenburg's "abnormal
sexual tastes". Bismarck presumably gave Harden something concrete
to go. For the next 15 years Harden fought a journalistic guerrilla
war against the "camarilla" und Eulenburg. An unusual
turn of events since Harden had previously printed articles against
§175 and Magnus Hirschfeldt had written for Die Zukunft.
As early as 1894 Harden wrote in the Zukunft about the powerful
clique know as the "Table Circle" (because they often
had working dinners!) about which he "could report all sorts
of entertaining matters". They were trying to get Duke Phillip
zu Eulenburg appointed as an imperial representative in Vienna,
In 1896 Harden came to know about the relations between Eulenburg
and the then President of the Berlin City Police, Baron von Richthofen,
as well as those to Graf Kuno von Moltke, head of the Berlin Military
Garrison!. Relationships which were confirmed during the Molkte
divorce proceedings in 1899. Harden held back with accusations of
sexual perversions - because, it seems, he held to the idea of there
being a difference between private behaviour and public life.
Harden used the information in an article in 1902, to put pressure
on the (now) Prince Eulenburg, to convince him that he should resign
from his post in the German Embassy to Vienna. It could be called
blackmail and threatened "outing" - but Eulenburg took
the strong hint to heart, resigned and withdrew to his country estate
north of Berlin. An intermediary was even sent to Harden to ask
for a "suspension of hostilities".
The circle around the Emperor (Kaiser) had more than its share
of "queers" - as was shown by the following event which
was hushed up. During one of the hunting trips to the Black Forest
when the group were staying at a hunting lodge one of the men accompanying
the Kaiser was the head of the military Secretariat, Dietrich, Graf
von Hülsen-Häseler. As part of the evening's amusements
he dressed in a ballerina's dress, danced, collapsed, and died !
The circumstances of the death were kept very quiet. It would have
been just what Harden was looking for.
In 1906, almost at the same time as a "disaster" in the
German Imperial foreign policy - Germany gave way to France on the
matter of who should have hegemony over Morocco - Eulenburg returned
to his country estate Liebenberg, in Brandenburg, and began once
again to hold meetings to which diplomats and the Kaiser's circle
were invited. For Harden there was a clear connection between the
policy of appeasement of France on the matter of the Morocco Crisis
and the closed circle of male "softies" surrounding the
It was said that His Majesty "loved Eulenburg more than any
other living being", Phillip zu Eulenburg, and he was ready
to make an agreement with France over the crisis. This readiness,
however, earned him the enmity of the Francophobes among the military
staff and the officials of the Department of External Affairs.
Eulenburg's long-standing friend the Ambassador of Würtemburg,
Axel von Varnbüler, ( a suspected homo) came to a meeting in
Liebenberg, in October 1906. A month later a member of the French
Embassy staff in Berlin, Raymond Lecomte, who was also "known"
as a homosexual was present - and of course, the Kaiser.
When Harden heard of these new meetings in Liebenberg, he flew into
a rage. Otto von Bismarck, had long ago warned Harden about the
"international connections" of the "cinnaedi"
(homosexuals). Harden interpreted the latest events as showing a
close connection between the male-bonded members of the For fourteen
years, Max Harden had held back with the information Bismarck had
given him about Eulenburg, other homosexual members of the nobility,
and supposedly, about the Kaiser - only hinting about what he regarded
as the truth.
Eulenburg, was also known as a composer of somewhat sentimental
songs, and in November 1906 Harden attacked him in an article calling
him the "Harpist", his acquaintance General Kuno Count
von Moltke, who was the top military officer responsible for Berlin,
as "Sweetie", and the Kaiser as "Darling". After
two such articles in the Zukunft the "Table Circle" capitulated.
At the beginning of December (1906) Eulenburg, "moved"
to Switzerland, but at the end of January he returned to Liebenberg,
and was reportedly even awarded a new "Order" by the Kaiser,
who along with the Councillor at the French Embassy, Lecomte, were
once again sitting with their feet under the same table as the Kaiser.
The Berlin Department of Police "took an interest" in
the activities of prominent homosexuals through a special bureau
- just as a preventive measure1, of course. A pink list was kept.
It included some hundreds of homosexuals "from the genteel
social circles" with details of who had done what with whom.
Eulenburg was also on the list: In a note of protocol from the Ministry
of External Affairs it was recorded that attempts at blackmail had
been made while Eulenburg was in Vienna.
On April 1906 The German Chancellor von Bülow collapsed in
the Reichstag. He did not belong to the "Table Circle"
- and rumours sprang up that efforts were being made by the "camarilla"
to get one of the circle - perhaps Eulenburg - appointed as the
new Chancellor - because he was one of the "inner circle".
The extent of the intrigues is shown by the fact that Chancellor
von Bülow approached Commissar von Treskow to obtain "material
which he could use against Eulenburg".
Now, in April 1907, Harden denounced Phillip, Prince zu Eulenberg-Hertefeld
as a "pervert", asserting that his sexual life was no
healthier than that of Friedrich Heinrich, Prince of Prussia"
- who had been driven into exile by the scandals around him. This
was all too much for Max Harden. He accused Eulenburg, von Moltke,
and others of homosexual activities.
"These people get up to things that cause
great damage to the German Empire. Until the end Harden insisted
that the great damage, which "screamed to the heavens"
came from Eulenburg and his circle. If a circle of men with abnormal
sensitivities win power of the decisions of the ruler" it
is a danger to the Fatherland - a national disaster." ! These
people he continued are a swarm of peace perpetrators."
In article upon article Harden accused Eulenburg, von Moltke and
others of the "Table Circle" of taking part in homosexual
acts and following a "female" policy, which amounted to
high treason. He wrote to his friend Walther Rathenau, (- a homosexual
who was for a short period in the early twenties Foreign Minister
of the Weimar Republic), "..with the material, that I have
- and no-one knows about - I can cause a scandal which will echo
round the world! The princes and those who are near to the throne
will be for ever covered in mud "...
In June 1907 Harden wrote in Die Zukunft, "The Kaiser
cannot be aware that he is surrounded by a circle of abnormal men,
who are women-haters or homosexuals ..." Harden was in the
meantime fully convinced that these homosexuals were a threat to
the "State" and hope with one blow against Eulenburg to
attack the tree at its roots.
Possible the revival of Eulenburg's influence on the Kaiser was
more than some of his opponents - and these may well have included
the sister of the Kaiser, along with the top military, could take.
In addition Harden was convinced that the Empire was on the brink
of collapse due to the "homosexual intrigues". A few years
previously Alfred Krupp, the industrialist and homosexual was forced
to take up exile in Capri. Between 1903 and 1906, 20 Military Officers
were condemned in courts-martial for homosexual activities - and
in 1906/7, six officers committed suicide as a result of blackmail.
Wilhelm, Count von Hohenau, who was also accused of homosexual activities,
was not only the Commandant of the Kaiser's personal bodyguard,
the Garde du Corps in Potsdam, but was a blood relative of the Kaiser.
Wilhelm's son, the Crown Prince, served in a regiment which was
stationed din Potsdam - and he spoke about his concerns to his superior,
General von Kassel. Kassel, however, was in a long-term relationship
with an ex-policeman ! At the beginning of May the Crown Prince
took the next step - he informed his father. "Darling",
the Kaiser, recognised how dangerous the situation was for himself
- and demanded resignations.
Harden's empty victory
With challenges to a duel, legal proceedings, and counter-actions,
processes going to appeal, as well as theatrical and diplomatic
(also real) sickness, a media storm worthy of the last decade of
the 20th century, the Eulenburg Affair, dragged out over months,
and literally years. At the end all, including Eulenburg who lied
like a swindler to protect his honour as "head of a family",
Dr. Magnus Hirschfeldt, - who first gave an "expert's opinion"
in the Eulenburg trial - and then withdrew it - and Harden too,
were covered in the mud of lies and intrigue. Several high-ranking
military officers resigned.
Harden's victory was an empty one, as he himself later recognised.
After the 1st World War he admitted that the campaign against Eulenburg
was the worst mistake of his life.
Although it is difficult to overstress the importance
of the Eulenburg affair for the internal and external history
of the German Empire, it is almost impossible to find a reference
to this in the history books which deal with the period.
With the elimination of the power of the Eulenburg Circle, the
path to war, as historians from several countries have recognised.
Magnus_Hirschfeldt said in 1933: "The result of the regrettable
affair was nothing more or less that a victory for the tendency,
which finally led to war."
Colin de la Motte-Sherman
(1) "Wilhelm II. Sündebock und Herr der Mitte", Nicolaus
Sombart, Verlag Volk und Welt, Berlin 1996. ISBN 3-353-01066-1
(2) Iconography of a Scandal, James D. Steakley, in "Hidden
from History". Eds.: Duberman, Vicinius + Chauncey, Penguin,
London 1991, ISBN 0-14-014363-7
(3) Ein Pitaval, Friedrich Karl Kaul, Verlag Das Neue Berlin, Berlin,