The Eulenburg Affair - "Outing" as delayed Revenge ?H-11-Eulenburg-(OA( E)  

The Eulenburg Affair -
"Outing" as delayed Revenge ?
The main actors in the 15-year long tragic-comedy surrounding Prince Phillip von Eulenburg-Hertefeld were Eulenburg himself and a journalist named Maximilian Harden (born 1861) - an ex-actor who was known for his hard-hitting style of journalism.

Published in Die Andere Welt,
February 1997, pp8-9

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, he asserted.

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 Kaiser.

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.

Nicolaus Sombart:

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, 1966

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