Fritz & the Hohenzollerns


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A nice quote from close to the end of Carlyle’s History of Frederick, I now have one volume left to read.

Prussia has been a meritorious Nation; and, however cut and ruined, is and was in a healthy state, capable of recovering soon. Prussia has defended itself against overwhelming odds,–brave Prussia; but the real soul of its merit was that of having merited such a King to command it.

Without this King, all its valors, disciplines, resources of war, would have availed Prussia little. No wonder Prussia has still a loyalty to its great Friedrich, to its Hohenzollern Sovereigns generally.

Without these Hohenzollerns, Prussia had been, what we long ago saw it, the unluckiest of German Provinces; and could never have had the pretension to exist as a Nation at all.

Without this particular Hohenzollern, it had been trampled out again, after apparently succeeding. To have achieved a Friedrich the Second for King over it, was Prussia’s grand merit.

Sad that within 60 years of writing this (1865 or so) Prussia as a nation would be no more and the Hohenzollerns in exile.

I wonder about the Windsors…

Wolfersdorf at Torgau


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A great little anecdote from Thomas Carlyle’s History of Frederick the Great, how Colonel von Wolfersdorf “beautifully defends himself in Torgau”, and beautifully leaves the same. This would make a great scene in a film, perhaps it already is?

Colonel von Wolfersdorf withdraws, also beautifully (August 15th).

Accordingly, Wednesday, August 15th, at eight in the morning, Wolfersdorf by the Elbe Gate moves out; across Elbe Bridge, and the Redoubt which is on the farther shore yonder. Near this Redoubt, Stolberg and many of his General Officers are waiting to see him go. He goes in state; flags flying, music playing. Battalion Hessen-Cassel, followed by all our Packages, Hospital convalescents, King’s Artillery, and whatever is the King’s or ours, marches first. Next comes, as rear-guard to all this, Battalion Grollmann;–along with which is Wolfersdorf himself, knowing Grollmann for a ticklish article (Saxons mainly); followed on the heel by Battalion Hofmann, and lastly by Battalion Salmuth, trusty Prussians both of these.

Battalion Hessen-Cassel and the Baggages are through the Redoubt, Prince of Stolberg handsomely saluting as saluted. But now, on Battalion Grollmann’s coming up, Stolberg’s Adjutant cries-out with a loud voice of proclamation, many Officers repeating and enforcing: “Whoever is a brave Saxon, whoever is true to his Kaiser, or was of the Reichs Army, let him step out: Durchlaucht will give him protection!” At sound of which Grollmann quivers as if struck by electricity; and instantly begins dissolving;–dissolves, in effect, nearly all, and is in the act of vanishing like a dream! Wolfersdorf is a prompt man; and needs to be so. Wolfersdorf, in Olympian rage, instantly stops short; draws pistol: “I will shoot dead every man that quits rank!” vociferates he; and does, with his pistol, make instant example of one; inviting every true Prussian to do the like: “Jägers, Hussars, a ducat for every traitor you shoot down!” continues Wolfersdorf (and punctually paid it afterwards): unable to prevent an almost total dissolution of Grollmann. For some minutes, there is a scene indescribable: storm of vociferation, menace, musket-shot, pistol-shot; Grollmann disappearing on every side,–”behind the Redoubt, under the Bridge, into Elbe Boats, under the cloaks of the Croats;”–in spite of Wolfersdorf’s Olympian rages and efforts.

At sight of the shooting, Prince Stolberg, a hot man, had said indignantly, “Herr, that will be dangerous for you (das wird nicht gut gehn)!” Wolfersdorf not regarding him a whit; regarding only Grollmann, and his own hot business of coercing it at a ducat per head. Grollmann gone, and Battalion Hofmann in due sequence come up, Wolfersdorf,–who has sent an Adjutant, with order, “Hessen- Cassel, halt,”–gives Battalion Hofmann these three words of command: “Whole Battalion, halt!–Front!–Make ready!” (with due simultaneous click of every firelock, on utterance of that last);– and turning to Prince Stolberg, with a brow, with a tone of voice: “Durchlaucht, Article 9 of the Capitulation is express on this point; ‘All desertion strictly prohibited; no deserter to be received either on the Imperial or on the Prussian side’!” (Durchlaucht silently gives, we suppose, some faint sniff.) “Since your Durchlaucht does not keep the Capitulation, neither will I regard it farther. I will now take you and your Suite prisoners, return into the Town, and again begin defending myself. Be so good as ride directly into that Redoubt, or I will present, and give fire!”

A dangerous moment for the Durchlaucht of Stolberg; Battalion Salmuth actually taking possession of the wall again; Hofmann here with its poised firelock on the cock, “ready” for that fourth word, as above indicated. A General Lusinsky of Stolberg’s train, master of those Croats, and an Austrian of figure, remarks very seriously: “Every point of the Capitulation must be kept!” Upon which Durchlaucht has to renounce and repent; eagerly assists in recovering Grollmann, restores it (little the worse, little the fewer); will give Wolfersdorf “command of the Austrian Escort you are to have”, and every satisfaction and assurance;–wishful only to get rid of Wolfersdorf. Who thereupon marches to Wittenberg, with colors flying again, and a name mentionable ever since.

This Wolfersdorf was himself a Pirna Saxon; serving Polish Majesty, as Major, in that Pirna time; perhaps no admirer of “Feldmarschall Brühl” and Company?–at any rate, he took Prussian service, as then offered him; and this is his style of keeping it. A decidedly clever soldier, and comes out, henceforth, more and more as such,–unhappily not for long. Was taken at Maxen, he too, as will be seen. Rose, in after times, to be Lieutenant-General, and a man famous in the Prussian military circles; but given always, they say, to take the straight line (or shortest distance between self and object), in regard to military matters, to recruiting and the like, and thus getting himself into trouble with the Civil Officials.

Tagebuchblätter eines Feldgeistlichen


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Another acquisition, I found a reference to this in a very interesting modern book about the Finckensteins (thanks Maria!); 1813/14 Tagebuchblätter eines Feldgeistlichen.

It contains a collection of letters and diary entries of an army chaplain during the Freiheitskrieg/Befreiungskrieg of 1813/1814.

I’ve yet to read it but on the back of the title page is a nice dedication from 1917:

I hope that little Theo and his aunt Emma got through the war OK…

Posen 1848


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Sorry for the long delay, I’ve had, and still have, a lot of letters to write, amongst other stuff.

I wonder how long since copies of these two books have sat together?
Don’t tell anyone butt I had to cut the pages on the military account, no doubt the resale value was affected, but books are intended to be read, and there’s a guilty pleasure in knowing that in 172 years I’m the first person to see those pages.

Trying to get a grip on what happened during the Polnisch Aufstand in Posen in 1848 is not easy.

Willisen’s account, which I read first (although it’s an answer to the military account) because I acquired it first, sounds perfectly reasonable, especially I imagine to modern ears more used to calls to freedom and anti-imperialism. Basically the Poles are just looking to get some autonomy back after years of double dealing and germanisation by the Prussians, and all they need is a little more time to gain trust before they disband the various armed groups that had formed. Rumours of atrocities by the Poles are of course just exaggerations or downright fabrications by the Germans and the Jews. Even before reading the military account though I must admit to wondering if Willisen was not being a bit naïve.

The military account takes the more cynical view that the Poles just want total control over the country, not the promised reörganisation, and that all the negotiations are just buying them time to build up arms and train their fighters. Looked at from the Army’s point of view the accusations of attacks and atrocities by the Poles also sound a lot more credible.
Looking at events later in the year, and subsequent centuries, I think the military might have had a point, but it’s hard not to have some sympathy for Poland.

See also:
Offener Brief an den Herrn Major von Voigts Rhetz
Denkschrift über die Ereignisse im Großherzogthum Posen seit dem 20. März 1848

The conclusion? I think I’ll leave it to the reader to decide who was in the right, I don’t want to get involved. It reminds me too much of us English and the Irish, and nobody wants to go down that road…

Preuß – Fritz, Buch für Jedermann


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Very pleased with my copies of “Die Lebensgeschichte des großen Königs Friedrich von Preußen“, or “Fridrich” if you go by the label on the spine… One of the source books that Carlyle used to write his history, and an author that he, unusually, had a good word for. Both volumes for under 50 quid.

It´s been rebound I think, but professionally and not recently, not at all bad for 1834.
I particularly like the instructions to the bookbinder at the front of the title page, which I presume should have been trimmed off;
Nachricht für den Buchbinder: die Vorrede wird mit dem zweiten Theilen ausgege(ben?)”
although the Vorrede is, logically, attached to the first book?

Nettelbeck und Gneisenau


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Als wir dort angekommen und unter sechs augen Waren, wandte sich der Hauptmann zu mir mit den Worten:

“Freuen Sie sich, alter Freund! Dieser Herr hier — Major von Gneisenau — ist der neue Kommandant, den uns der König geschickt hat“,

und zu seinem Gaste:

“Dies ist der alte Nettelbeck!“

Ein freudiges Erschrecken fuhr mir durch alle Glieder; mein Herz schlug mir hoch im Busen, und die Tränen stürzten mir unaufhaltsam aus den alten Augen. Zugleich zitterten mir die Kniee unterm Leibe; ich fiel vor unserm neuen Schutzgeist in hoher Rührung auf die Kniee, umklammerte ihn und rief aus:

“Ich bitte Sie um Gottes willen! verlassen Sie uns nicht: wir wollen Sie auch nicht verlassen, solange wir noch einen warmen Blutstropfen in
uns haben; sollten auch all unsre Häuser zu Schutthaufen werden! So denke ich nicht allein; in uns allen lebt nur ein Sinn und Gedanke: die Stadt darf und soll dem Feinde nicht übergeben werden!“

–Joachim Nettelbeck (gekürzte Fassung von Otto Zimmermann, 1906. Seite 258)

Schloß Monbijou – Amtlicher Führer


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Die Besessenheit für Schloß Monbijou geht weiter, ob als königlicher Palast oder Hohenzollern Museum.

Monbijou Guide









Es ist mir unglaublich, daß dieses Buch einst im Schloß war, und nur vor 90 Jahren. Es gibt Fotos, eine ausgearbeitete Beschreibung der Inhalte der einzelnen Räume, und einen schönen Grundriß.

Monbijou Grundriß