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Mr. Gerard in due course, but only after he had already been selected as Ambassador by Mr. Wilson. Before he had been chosen I was not asked. If at that time in the year 1913—I had advised the rejection of Mr. Gerard, it would only have created a lot of unnecessary ill-feeling, as was the case at the nomination of Mr. Hill. It is the custom in America to select the Ambassadors from politically influential circles of the triumphant party; irrespective of whether Tammany Hall or any other organization is concerned.
Moreover, in 1903 I believed that Mr. Gerard would be welcome in Berlin, for social reasons alone. Everybody knew that the Kaiser liked to have Ambassadors who entertained on a lavish scale. Mr. Gerard was the only man, among all the candidates of that day, who seemed fitted for this and in a position to live up to it, while his rich and amiable wife was admirably suited to help him in his task. Before the war, an American Ambassador in Berlin really never had any political business to transact, for it was the tradition with the United States Government to conduct all negotiations almost exclusively with the diplomatic corps in Washington. In 1913, therefore, I had no reason to advocate the rejection of Mr. Gerard in Berlin. Unfortunately, it was precisely in the social sphere that he had, before the war, experienced certain disappointments in Berlin, which, as far as we were concerned, might have been avoided, and it is possible that Mr. Gerard may have been influenced by these regrettable incidents. In any case, the Ambassador did not like Berlin, and he took too little pains to conceal the fact. Mr. Gerard was not the sort of man to be able to swim against the tide of anti-German feeling, once it had become the proper thing in America to be pro-Ally. As to whether any other United States Ambassador would have shown less hostility to us, however, may be reasonably doubted. I have already singled out the Adlon dinner as a proof of the fact that Mr. Gerard could behave differently.
Be all this as it may, the reasons which were alleged genuinely to justify the hostile attitude of General Headquarters towards myself, struck me as not being sufficiently weighty. I say “General Headquarters" intentionally, for the Kaiser was manifestly only prejudiced against me by the usual whisperings that characterized the Wilhelminian epoch.
Nevertheless, I had conducted the most important negotiations of the war, and the Monarch must, in any case, have had the wish to hear the report of it all from the person chiefly concerned. Besides, the Kaiser knew as well as I did, that in Washington I had pursued the policy of which he and the Chancellor were actually in favor. Otherwise, the Imperial Memorandum, which was sent to me about the U-boat war, and to which I have already referred, would be inexplicable. Meanwhile, however, this policy had not been able to prevail against the preponderating influence of the military party, who demanded the U-boat campaign. Now, of course, I have no longer any doubt that the views which General Ludendorff expressed against me before the Examination Committee of the National Assembly, simply as his personal opinion and without proof, constituted more or less what was suggested to the Kaiser at this time. Briefly, they wished to make me the scapegoat for the United States' entry into the war, and this, despite the fact that all that I had prophesied in regard to American policy had proved correct, and all that my opponents had prophesied had proved wrong. In their efforts to accomplish this end, they found that a poisonous mixture could be brewed out of my efforts for peace, and my well-known democratic views, which the Kaiser was not able to resist.
The unhappy Monarch unfortunately never once realized that the “Democrats” were his best friends. The Imperial power could, in the long run, only be upheld, if it found both its support and its counter-weight in a strong democracy. Like Friedrich Wilhelm IV., William II. was also unable to adapt himself to the changing circumstances of his time. The one-sided composition of his entourage, which was always recruited from among people who held his own views, was, at all events, chiefly to blame for this.
Although the Imperial Chancellor had told me that he would overcome the Kaiser's displeasure in regard to myself, almost two months elapsed before I was received at General Headquarters, and even then, it was only because a question had been asked about the matter in the Reichstag. When I saw the Kaiser, towards the beginning of May, in Kreuznach, the American question was of interest merely to historians, and no longer to politicians. Consequently, my interview with the Monarch, which took place on a walk, was not of very great moment. With his customary skill, the Kaiser steered clear of any attempt to enter deeply into the political problems of the hour, and behaved towards me, for the rest, just as affably as he had been wont to do in the past.
I had made the journey to Kreuznach in the company of my late friend, Ballin, whom I was never to see again. Whereas I was invited to lunch at the Imperial board, Herr Ballin was only asked to dinner.
Among the many and various charges which were brought against me in my Washington days, was the allegation that I was principally an agent of Ballin's. I had, in cordial agreement with Herr Ballin, always energetically supported the interests of German Shipping Companies; but even my most bitter enemies can only justify their charge against me for the period preceding the war. For, during the war, Herr Ballin had no influence at all, either in America or at home. He was, for instance, kept aloof from the Kaiser, because he was regarded as an "interested party” and as a pessimist. On the occasion in question, a high official of the Court said to me at the Imperial table that if I was seeing Ballin again before I left Kreuznach, would I please tell him that he was not to speak so pessimistically to the Emperor as he was wont to do. The Emperor ought not to be allowed to hear such stuff, otherwise he would lose nerve. This little passage of conversation is a proof of the carefully "insulated” position in which, as everyone knows, the Kaiser was kept.
After lunch I paid a visit to both of our great Army Commanders, whose acquaintance I made for the first time on this occasion.
“Bowing to necessity rather than to my own personal tastes," I must now, unfortunately, enter into personal matters, which hitherto I have diligently avoided in this book. I cannot, however, help referring here to the utterly unwarranted attacks made upon me by General Ludendorff, in his evidence before the Examination Committee of the National Assembly, with the view of refuting my own account of the interview which we had at G. H. Q. At all events, the General so completely lost control of himself before the Examination Committee, that this possibly explains his false interpretation of my evidence.
To deal first with the reason which actuated me in visiting General Ludendorff, I reproduce below the dialogue which took place thereanent before the Examination Committee:
Delegate Dr. Cohn: Was your interview with FieldMarshal Hindenburg and General Ludendorff brought about by any particular person or persons, either by yourself, by the Imperial Chancellor, or by the Foreign Office; or was it purely accidentals
Witness Count von Bernstorff: It was the outcome of the circumstances. I received a telegram which informed me, through the Foreign Office, that I was to report to the Kaiser at Kreuznach on the 4th of May. Now, FieldMarshal Hindenburg and General Ludendorff were also present at the lunch table, and I felt that I was bound in courtesy to pay a visit to the two gentlemen after the meal.
Delegate Dr. Cohn: Good. If I understand you correctly, my lord, G. H. Q. did not even feel the need of speaking with the Ambassador just recently returned from America !
Witness Count von Bernstorff: No. I never received any summons for that purpose.
I abide by these utterances to this day, because I actually remained seven weeks without being summoned to an interview with General Ludendorff, and then only visited him of my own free will, on the occasion when I reported to the Kaiser. In these circumstances, therefore, I was entirely justified in describing my visit as simply an act of courtesy. In view of the circumstances, I might perhaps say: an act of super-courtesy.
I do not dispute General Ludendorff's statement that I had expressed the wish to see him; for if I had not had the wish, I should have left Kreuznach without paying him a visit. As, however, General Ludendorff, in his evidence before the Examination Committee, allowed it to be plainly understood that, owing to the difference of our views, he did not like to have anything to do with me, I will at once emphasize the fact, that my wish to see him was actuated by purely official motives. In politics