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William II

Decline and Abdication

After the outbreak of World War I William's power declined. From 1917 the military leaders Erich Ludendorff and Paul von Hindenburg were the virtual dictators of Germany. The failure of the great German drive of 1918 was a prelude to the collapse of the Hohenzollern dynasty. The last chancellor of the German Empire, Maximilian, prince of Baden, negotiated for an armistice, but clamor for the emperor's abdication began to be heard in Germany, especially after U.S. President Woodrow Wilson made it a prerequisite of peace negotiations. Naval mutiny and civilian revolt were followed by republican proclamations in leading German cities.

On Nov. 9, 1918, Prince Max, without William's consent, announced the emperor's abdication. William fled to Holland and two weeks later formally abdicated in his own name and that of his family. Although the Treaty of Versailles provided that William be tried for promoting the war, the Dutch government refused to extradite him, and he remained in retirement at Doorn. There, after the death of Augusta Victoria, he married the widowed Princess Hermine of Schönaich-Carolath (1922).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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