Bethmann-Hollweg, Theobald von. (1856-1921). Born, Howenfinow, Brandenburg. Imperial German Chancellor from 1909 to 1917.
Bethmann was a moderate and able politician, whose strength was in forging coalitions and finding acceptable compromises. He served as Prussian minister for the Interior until 1907, and state secretary in the Imperial Office of the Interior. In 1909, he was appointed Imperial Chancellor by Kaiser Wilhelm II, succeeding Prince Bernhard von Bulow whom the Kaiser had come to mistrust. Wilhelm thought that in Bethmann, he had a man who would faithfully do his (Wilhelm's) will.
This did not make him the best man for the Chancellor's office during the turbulent years leading up to the war. Where a strong voice like Bismark's would have said 'no' from time to time -- 'no,' to some of Wilhelm's impusles, 'no' to radical rightist ideas -- Bethmann worked doggedly at conciliation and workable compromises. Because of his more parliamentary style, Bethmann developed a reputation within Germany for being too pliable and too 'soft.' To the right wing, he was too indecisive and liberal. To the left, he was too indecisive and conservative. As the pressures of war caused German politics to polarize into strong right, strong left and invisible middle, Bethmann's support eroded quickly. He became the focus for why Germany was suffering. He was finally forced to resign in July 1917. Succeeded by Georg Michaelis, who fared little better.
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