Schloss Liebenberg, Parkweg 1, 16775 Löwenberger Land, Germania
Philipp Friedrich Alexander, Prince of Eulenburg and Hertefeld, Count von Sandels (12 February 1847 – 17 September 1921) was a diplomat and composer of Imperial Germany who achieved considerable influence as the closest friend of Wilhelm II. He was the central member of the so-called Liebenberg Circle, a group of artistically minded German aristocrats within Wilhelm's entourage. Eulenburg played an important role in the rise of Bernhard von Bülow, but fell from power in 1907 due to the Harden–Eulenburg affair when he was accused of homosexuality.
Eulenburg was educated at a French grammar school in Berlin before being educated by a tutor from 1859 onwards. Starting in 1863, he attended the Vitzhumsches Gymnasium in Dresden, Saxony. In 1866 the Austro-Prussian War forced him to leave Saxony, which was now enemy territory. Though he did not relish a military career, he joined the Prussian ''Gardes du Corps'' as an officer cadet in accordance with his father’s wishes.> He then attended the War Academy at Kassel from which he graduated in 1868. During his time at the War Academy, Eulenburg become very close to Count Kuno von Moltke, who would also be exposed as homosexual in the 1907 scandal. In 1867 Eulenburg was promoted to the rank of lieutenant before resigning his commission in 1869 in order to pursue an education in the law. When France declared war on Prussia in July 1870, Eulenburg rejoined the Prussian Army. During the Franco-German War of 1870-1871 he served under the German military governor of Strasbourg and received the Iron Cross. In October 1871, Eulenburg again resigned from the army to resume his legal studies.
The exact nature of the relationship between Eulenburg and Wilhelm has been the subject of much speculation. Wilhelm often called Eulenburg "my bosom friend, the only one I have". There is no evidence that Wilhelm and Eulenburg were anything other than best friends. Since Eulenburg was quite open about being gay in the company of his closest friends, and he had been Wilhelm's best friend for twenty-two years, Röhl argued that it is extremely unlikely that Wilhelm knew nothing of Eulenburg's homosexuality as he later claimed. In 2005, Röhl wrote "This view of Wilhelm II as a repressed homosexual is gathering growing support as the Eulenburg correspondence and similar new evidence is studied and digested." The American historian Isabel V. Hull wrote: "Wilhelm never resolved his feelings for Eulenburg, never understood them, and certainly never labelled them...He seems to have remained unconscious of the homoerotic basis of his closest friendship, and, by extension of the homosexual aspects of his own character." After coming to the throne, Wilhelm largely avoided female company and had a marked preference for surrounding himself with handsome young soldiers, which led the British historian Alan Sked to conclude that Wilhelm had at very least homosexual tendencies. In a letter written in slightly broken English (despite having a British mother, the Kaiser never quite entirely mastered English), Wilhelm told Eulenburg how he detested women, and that: "I never feel happy, really happy in Berlin...Only Potsdam is 'my el dorado'...where one feels free with the beautiful nature around you and soldiers as much you like, for I love my dear Regiment very much, those such nice young men in it". Wilhelm went on to tell Eulenburg that he preferred the company of soldiers to his family for only in the all-male world of the Potsdam garrison could he really be himself. Eulenburg himself speculated on these lines, writing in an essay for the benefit of the "Liebenberg Round Table" as his social circle came to be known that a disproportionate number of the men of the House of Hohenzollern over the centuries had been gay, and there was something within Wilhelm's blood that made him inclined to same-sex relationships.
In 1897, Eulenburg's younger brother, Friedrich von Eulenburg, an army officer was charged with being a homosexual. His older brother tried his best to have the Kaiser stop the court-martial, but the Army was unwilling to do so. In 1900, Eulenburg wrote a long memo for the benefit of his social circle about the court-martial of his brother, writing that men like himself and his brother were always threatened with public disgrace, which ended with Eulenburg writing: "Farewell, my friend! Are you certain that you have understood the story ''correctly''? Please read it once again I beg you! So that you understand completely that the path of our lives is crossed by terrible demons, and that we should raise our hands to God in supplication, begging him, begging him ''fervently'' to defend us from them, to defend our loved ones from them!". In 1898, scandal threatened Eulenburg when the wife of Kuno von Moltke, in a sealed deposition, filed for divorce on the grounds that her husband was more interested in having sex with Eulenburg than with her. Moltke promptly instructed his lawyer to settle the divorce in his wife's favor in exchange for her not making these accusations public. Axel "Dachs" von Varnbüler wrote to Moltke telling him not to worry about losing the favor of "the One" [Wilhelm II] saying: "I'm sure I am not mistaken in thinking that your pain is sharpened because you cannot hide, keep at bay, all this ugliness from him, from the ''Liebchen'' ["Darning"-Wilhelm II]. But do not torment yourself unnecessarily about this -- he is man enough to put a stop to nasty gossip -- and he knows and loves you too well in your peculiarity to allow even the shadow of blame to fall upon you". After learning of Moltke's divorce, Wilhelm confronted Varnbüler, and demanded to know what was happening. According to Varnbüler in a letter written on 4 June 1898 to Moltke: "The ''Liebchen'' accosted me in the Tiergarten the day before yesterday. After he duly admired my yellow boots and colour co-ordinated riding costume, he asked me "Don't you know anything about Kuno? I can't get anything out of either him or Philly"". Varnbüler went on to write that Wilhelm used "unrepeatably energetic expressions" which indicated to Varnbüler "that he was extremely well-informed and no longer retained any illusions"."
It was in 1906 that a journalist and critic called Maximilian Harden
started publishing allegations about homosexual relationships at the court of
Wilhelm II. The
Kaiser had left himself open to attack on the occasion of
Friedrich Alfred Krupp’s
funeral, when he accused the Social Democrats, who had published the initial
allegations about Krupp’s sex life, of having carried out an ‘intellectual
‘intellectual murder’. He affirmed that he had come to the funeral with the
specific intention of protecting the reputation of Krupp and his family. Now
Harden was writing openly that the Kaiser was surrounded by ‘sick and
degenerate’ men. Among these was
Philipp zu Eulenberg, who had been an intimate friend of the crown prince,
and then of the Emperor, since 1886.
Although he was married, Eulenburg was connected in homosexual liaisons with members of the Kaiser's inner circle, including Count
Kuno von Moltke, the military commander of Berlin. Sources say that he continued to have homosexual relationships even after the marriage. The public exposure of these liaisons in 1906 led to the Harden-Eulenburg Affair. The scandal was caused by the growing power of the Bülow-Eulenburg clique within the ''Auswärtiges Amt'' at the expense of the Holstein faction. Holstein was known as the "Monster of the Labyrinth", a master of the dark arts of political intrigue with an impressive private intelligence network who had made himself indispensable to successive governments over the years. To get his way, Holstein had often threatened to resign, believing that no government could do without his services, a threat that had always worked in the past. After the debacle of Algeciras Conference, Holstein had quarreled with Bülow and submitted his resignation to Wilhelm; much to his intense shock, it was accepted. After learning from one of his spies that Eulenburg had over the course of a lunch with the Kaiser told him to accept Holstein's resignation, an extremely embittered Holstein decided to seek revenge on Eulenburg.
In November 1906, Harden ran an article about an unnamed senior German diplomat being gay who was clearly meant to be Eulenburg whom Harden called "the Harpist", and accused him of having a relationship with an unnamed senior French diplomat, stating the two frequently went on hunting trips together. Raymond Lecomte, the First Secretary at the French embassy in Berlin—who was a close associate of Eulenburg, whom he frequently went hunting with—promptly burned all of his papers relating to Eulenburg after Harden's article. Harden made much of the Eulenburg-Lecomte relationship to suggest that Eulenburg was being blackmailed into working as a French spy; Eulenburg and Lecomte were lovers, but there is no evidence to suggest that Eulenburg ever provided intelligence to France. Beyond that, Harden made much of Eulenburg's effeminate ways and love of singing to suggest that Eulenburg was simply not manly enough to properly direct the affairs of the ''Reich''; Harden's hero was Bismarck, whom Harden admiringly presented as an ideal Prussian man: tough, militaristic, ruthless, hard, decisive, and certainly not someone who liked to sing as Eulenburg did. In his articles Harden claimed that to direct the affairs of state required "hard men" like Bismarck who could make the necessary decisions such as taking the nation to war (Harden saw war-making as the principal purpose of the state), and Harden charged that women were simply too soft to be leaders, that women would rather submit to force than fight. Harden thus argued that someone effeminate like Eulenburg was too "womanly" to be guiding the German state, and suggested that Germany's diplomatic defeat in the First Moroccan Crisis of 1905–06 was due to Eulenburg's influence on the Kaiser. Harden's initial target was not Wilhelm, but Eulenburg; Harden believed that the Kaiser would have gone to war with France in 1905 on his own, and it was Eulenburg who had supposedly held him back. The American historian Elena Mancini argued that the relentless way that Harden pursued Eulenburg despite constant harassment from the Prussian authorities was due to more than his ultra-nationalism, and that the root reason was Harden's "...thoroughly masculine idea of politics, which was distilled in images of decisiveness and a readiness for war". Mancini further suggested that Harden himself was gay, and that as a repressed homosexual, attacking another homosexual was his way of validating himself as heterosexual. Despite his homophobic attacks on the Liebenberg Round Table as a degenerate gay clique mismanaging foreign policy, Harden had surprisingly liberal views on homosexuality and often called for the repeal of Paragraph 175.
In 1907 Moltke sued Harden for libel after the latter ran an article accusing him and Eulenburg of having a sexual relationship and lost. At the trial, the sexologist and early gay rights advocate Magnus Hirschfeld testified for Harden, stating that Moltke was gay. The homosexual Hirschfeld-who passionately wanted to make homosexuality legal in Germany-believed that proving that Army officers like Moltke were gay would help his case for legalization, and as such he also testified that he believed there was nothing wrong with Moltke. Hirschfeld's testimony caused outrage all over Germany; the ''Die Vossische Zeitung'' newspaper condemned Hirschfeld in an editorial as "a freak who acted for freaks in the name of pseudoscience" while the ''Die Mūnchener Neuesten Nachrichten'' declared in an editorial: "Dr. Hirschfeld makes public propaganda under the cover of science which does nothing but poison our people. Real science should fight against this!". After the jury ruled in favor of Harden, Judge Hugo Isenbiel was enraged by the jury's decision, which he saw as expressing approval for Hirschfeld, and overturned the verdict under the grounds that homosexuals "have the morals of dogs". After that verdict was overturned, a second trial found Harden guilty of libel. Harden appealed and was again found guilty and agreed to an out-of-court settlement. At the same time the much publicized Moltke-Harden-Eulenburg case played out to banner headlines all around the world, the gay rights campaigner Adolf Brand-who believed that the public would accept homosexuality as normal if only enough high-profile gays were outed-published a pamphlet alleging that Chancellor Bülow was gay. Bülow then sued Brand for libel, and during the course of this trial, Eulenburg testified as a character witness, during which he denied under oath that he had ever committed any "depravities" with Bülow or any other men. Eulenburg also testified that he was appalled by the attempts of Brand and Hirschfeld to legalize homosexuality, saying that he believed that homosexuality was a disgusting evil that should be stamped out without any mercy. The anti-Semitic Eulenburg saw himself as the victim of a Jewish plot to ruin him for his role in promoting his type of "aesthetic anti-Semitism", and called Hardan a "rascally Jew".
In late 1907 during the course of the second Moltke-Harden libel trial, Eulenburg had been subpoenaed by Harden's lawyers and testified that he never engaged in homosexual acts with Moltke or any other men. Harden-who had realized to his cost-that it as hard to win a case in Prussia, came up with a new strategy. Harden had a friend in Munich, Anton Städele, run a false article in his newspaper ''Neue Frie Volkszeitung'' saying that Eulenburg had bribed Harden; Harden then sued Städele for libel. During this trial, on 22 April 1908, two Bavarian lake fishermen named Jakob Ernst and Georg Riedel testified under oath in a Munich courtroom that they both been sodomized by Eulenburg when he had vacationed on the ''Starnbergersee'' in the 1880s, which led to Eulenburg being indicted for perjury. Harden won his libel case against Städele, and then secretly paid him back the sum he had just won against him in court. On 30 April 1908, Eulenburg was interviewed by three detectives from the Berlin police department during a visit to Liebenberg about the revelations from the Munich trial; in their report one of the detectives wrote that Eulenburg was the greatest liar he had ever met during his career as a policeman and should definitely be indicted for perjury.
In 1908, Eulenburg was placed on trial for perjury due to his denial of his homosexuality; the trial was repeatedly postponed due to Eulenburg's claim of poor health. After Eulenburg was arrested on 8 May 1908 at his Liebenberg estate, the Prussian police seized and burned all of his papers while on 27 May 1908, the Bavarian police raided the estate of Baron Jan von Wendelstadt—who was yet another of Eulenburg's gay friends-to seize and burn all of his papers relating to Eulenburg. Eulenburg, who had been expecting this move from the authorities for some time, had copied certain of his letters and had them hidden all over Germany; the last known of these caches of letters were discovered in 1971 hidden in the wine cellar of the Hemmingen castle. None of the surviving Eulenburg letters indicate that Wilhelm II was gay, but they do mention that Jakob Ernst, the fisherman on the ''Starnbergersee''-whom Eulenburg had a relationship with in the late 1880s-was a friend of Wilhelm II at the same time, being employed to row the Kaiser and Eulenburg around the ''Starnbergersee'' when the two vacationed there in the 1880s. Since the Kaiser did not normally associate with Bavarian lake fishermen, people in 1908 would have suspected something very unusual in this friendship, and given the relationship between Ernst and Eulenburg, many people would have concluded that Wilhelm was also having sex with Ernst, through the surviving Eulenburg letters give no such indication. After Eulenburg's arrest, Wilhelm wrote him a very cold letter saying he wanted no homosexuals at his court, as such their friendship was now over and he never wanted to see or hear from Eulenburg again. Eulenburg was utterly heart-broken that Wilhelm had turned against him. Varnbüler wrote, but did not send Eulenburg a letter suggesting that he commit suicide to save the honour of the Kaiser. Varnbüler later wrote in 1912 that he changed his mind on whatever Eulenburg should take his life after considering how Wilhelm had abandoned Eulenburg, when "all members of the court and military circles avoided Eulenburg as though he were a criminal and a leper", when even Bülow "failed the test of friendship", when Moltke refused to answer Eulenburg's letters and members of the Eulenburg family "shamefully distanced themselves from Liebenberg", that he could not turn against his friend Eulenburg and decided to stand by him.
During his time in jail (Eulenburg had been denied bail) while he was taken back and forth to his trial, a deeply depressed Eulenburg so often spoke of taking his own life that he was put under suicide watch. During the trial, the major prosecution witness was Ernst as Riedel had a "typically Bavarian" criminal record for drunken brawling as he had been convicted of assault 32 times, all under the influence of alcohol, and thus was not seen as the most credible of witnesses. Eulenburg testified that Ernst's daily beer consumption was "excessive, even by Bavarian standards" and claimed that his accounts of sexual encounters between himself and him were unreliable, coming from someone who spent so much of his time in a drunken daze. Eulenburg explained the trial as part of a Catholic plot to destroy him, as he was a leading defender of the "Protestant empire" and so he claimed that the Jesuits wanted to discredit him in order to enable Bavaria to break away, a remark that sparked enormous controversy as it suggested that Germany was and should be a Protestant-dominated state. During the trial, it was revealed that Eulenburg had engaged in witness tampering for he had sent his servant Georg Kistler with a letter he had written to meet Riedel telling not to mention what they had done together in the 1880s and that he was safe from prosecution for the statute of limitations for violating Paragraph 175 had expired. Eulenburg's trial was for perjury, but effectively it was homosexuality as the prosecution presented a long list of witnesses, mostly working-class young men who testified that Eulenburg had tried to engage them in sex, or had made inappropriate remarks. Eulenburg did not help his cause when he testified that he had never broken Paragraph 175 in the narrow, technical sense that Paragraph 175 had specifically prohibited only anal sex-thereby implying that he engaged in sexual acts other than sodomy with Moltke and other men. Finally, it was revealed that despite Eulenburg's claim he was stoutly opposed to efforts of Brand and Hirschfeld to legalize homosexuality that the police search of Liebenberg after his arrest had discovered that he owned numerous pamphlets produced by the gay rights group the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee calling for the legalization of homosexuality. On 13 July 1908, Eulenburg collapsed in court, and the judge ruled that the trial was over as Eulenburg was medically unfit. Right until his death in 1921, Eulenburg was examined by doctors twice every year to see if he was fit to stand trial and was always found to be unfit.
After World War I, Eulenburg changed his mind about the war, and then claimed in his letters that, had he remained Ambassador to Austria during the July Crisis, he would have prevented the war. In a letter, Eulenburg asked whether one should "lay the blame on the Austrian Government ''alone'' because they followed the incitements of their ''stronger and therefore in military matters'' absolutely dominant ally?" Eulenburg argued that: "Germany is the stronger of the Allies. Without her consent, Austria cannot go to war with Russia-Serbia. The stronger partner is in a position to propose a ''conference'' and the weaker is ''compelled'' to accept." Eulenburg went on to write: "Serbia ''is'' Russia. If Austria marches against Serbia and ''if Berlin does not prevent'' Austria's ''belligerent'' action, then the great breaking wave of World War rolls irresistibly towards us. I repeat: Berlin ''must'' know that, otherwise ''idiots'' live in the Wilhelmstrasse. Kaiser Wilhelm must know that. If Austria takes the step upon which she has decided at the Cabinet meeting of July 7th and if Kaiser Wilhelm assures Austria of his loyalty to the Alliance under any circumstances, then he also ''shares'' Count Berchtold's policy with regard to ''war with Russia''-and Russia is the ally of France. The situation which I have briefly described here is an established fact that cannot be masked." In a letter to his friend Wolfgang Putlitz, Eulenburg stated that his views about the truth of 1914 were "dangerous", and "this letter must be destroyed for the sake of the Fatherland." Eulenburg died in Liebenberg in 1921, aged 74. In 1932, Eulenburg's friend Professor Kurt Breysig, with whom Eulenburg shared many secrets, published the book ''The German Spirit and its Essence'', which stated that Germany could have avoided World War I by taking up the "excellent" British offer of an international conference. When the book was republished later in 1932 by the German Book Society, the passages critical of German actions in the July Crisis were removed without Breysig's knowledge or permission. In Nazi Germany, Eulenburg was remembered as a martyr, a straight Aryan hero framed on false charges of homosexuality by the gay Jewish sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld. However, on 6 October 1942, the film ''Die Entlassung'' ("''The Dismissal''") was releaseermany dealing with Bismarck's downfall in 1890, which features a scene where Wilhelm II is portrayed as a homosexual who makes "coy advances" to another homosexual playing the piano. The piano-playing homosexual who sings as well as he plays the piano is not named, but the character is evidently meant to be Eulenburg, who often entertained Wilhelm with his piano playing and singing.
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