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On this date in History: June 4, 1941. Death of former German Emperor and King of Prussia Wilhelm II at his home in exile, Huis Doorn, the Netherlands.


Wilhelm II (Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albert von Hohenzollern; January 27, 1859 – June 4, 1941) was the last German Emperor (Kaiser) and King of Prussia, ruling the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia from June 15, 1888 to his abdication November 9, 1918. He was the eldest grandchild of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and related to many monarchs and princes of Europe, most notably King George V of the United Kingdom and Emperor Nicholas II of Russia.


Wilhelm was born on January 27, 1859 at the Crown Prince’s Palace, Berlin, to Prince Friedrich-Wilhelm of Prussia (the future Friedrich III) and his wife, Victoria, Princess Royal, the eldest daughter of Britain’s Queen Victoria. At the time of his birth, his great-uncle Friedrich-Wilhelm IV was king of Prussia, and his grandfather and namesake Wilhelm was acting as Regent. He was the first grandchild of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, but more important, as the first son of the Crown Prince of Prussia, Wilhelm was second in the line of succession to Prussia, from 1861 onwards and also, after 1871, to the newly created German Empire, which, according to the constitution of the German Empire, was ruled by the King of Prussia.


Kaiser Wilhelm II. im Exil

Wilhelm died of a pulmonary embolus in Doorn, Netherlands, on June 4, 1941, at the age of 82, just weeks before the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union. German soldiers had been guarding his house. Hitler, however, was angered that the former monarch had an honor guard of German troops and nearly fired the general who ordered them when he found out. Despite his personal animosity toward Wilhelm, Hitler wanted to bring his body back to Berlin for a state funeral, as he regarded Wilhelm a symbol of Germany and Germans during World War I. Hitler felt that such a funeral would demonstrate to the Germans the direct descent of the Third Reich from the old German Empire, thereby giving his regime a sense of continuity.


However, Wilhelm’s wished to return to Germany only after the restoration of the monarchy. The Nazi occupational authorities granted him a small military funeral, with a few hundred people present. The mourners included August von Mackensen, fully dressed in his old imperial Life Hussars uniform, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, and Reichskommissar for the Netherlands Arthur Seyss-Inquart, along with a few other military advisers. However, Wilhelm’s request that the swastika and other Nazi regalia be not displayed at his funeral was ignored, and they are featured in the photographs of the event taken by a Dutch photographer.


Wilhelm was buried in a mausoleum in the grounds of Huis Doorn, which has since become a place of pilgrimage for German monarchists. Small but enthusiastic and faithful numbers of them gather there every year on the anniversary of his death to pay their homage to the last German Emperor.