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William was born in Marmorpalais of Potsdam in the Province of Brandenburg. He was the eldest son of Wilhelm II, German Emperor (1859-1941) and his first wife Princess Augusta Viktoria of Schleswig-Holstein (1858-1921). When he was born, he was third in line for the throne, behind his grandfather and father, as the reigning Emperor was his great-grandfather. He was the eldest of the Kaiser's seven children, and his birth sparked an argument between his parents and grandmother. Before William was born, his grandmother had expected to be asked to help find a nurse, but since her son did everything he could to snub her, Wilhelm asked his aunt Helena to help. His mother was hurt and his grandmother furious. William was a supporter of football, then a relatively new sport in the country, donating a cup to the German Football Association in 1908 and thereby initiating the Kronprinzenpokal, the oldest cup competition in German football.
World War I
The Crown Prince was raised within militaristic circles. However, he had little command experience when he was named commander of the 5th Army in August 1914, shortly after the outbreak of World War I. In November 1914 William gave his first interview to a foreign correspondent and the first statement to the press made by a German noble since the outbreak of war. He said this in English:
"Undoubtedly this is the most stupid, senseless and unnecessary war of modern times. It is a war not wanted by Germany, I can assure you, but it was forced on us, and the fact that we were so effectually prepared to defend ourselves is now being used as an argument to convince the world that we desired conflict."
—Crown Prince Wilhelm, Wiegand
He led the 5th Army until November 1916, a two-year period which included the battle of attrition known as the Verdun Offensive. From April 1916 onward he tried in vain to convince the supreme command that the Verdun offensive no longer made any sense, but the campaign continued until 2 September of that year.
After the German revolution
After the outbreak of the German Revolution in 1918, both Emperor William II and the Crown Prince signed the document of abdication. The Crown Prince went into exile to the isle of Wieringen, in the Netherlands. In 1923, he returned to Germany after giving assurances that he would no longer engage in politics. The former Crown Prince held some political ambitions, and was reportedly interested in the idea of running for Reichspräsident as the right-wing candidate opposed to Paul von Hindenburg in 1932, until his father forbade him from acting on the idea.
The Crown Prince supported Hitler for some time, hoping and announcing in public that this man would do for Germany what Mussolini had done for Italy - making an end to all Bolshevist/Marxist influence. He had connections with some organizations, more than loosely connected with the National Socialist Party (Nazi Party) and allowed himself to be used by the Nazi government in various symbolic actions. After the murder of his friend, in the Night of the Long Knives (1934), he temporarily retreated from all political activities. Most of his efforts from 1919 until 1934 had been directed to make a return of the Hohenzollerns to the throne a viable option again, and he had assumed that Hitler would give this idea his support.
World War II
Führer und Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler was assassinated on 1 January 1936 by left-wing terrorists. Crisis broke out, and a provisional government was formed, with Generaloberst Ludwig Beck and Carl Friedrich Goerdeler as acting Reichspräsident and Reichskanzler, respectively. The 1936 election resulted in the collapse of the provisional regime, and former Emperor Wilhelm of Hohenzollern was called to Berlin to discuss the future of the country. After six hours of negotiations, a settlement was agreed: Wilhelm would return as German Emperor and former-Chancellor Gustav Stresemann would head the government.
William lived as a private citizen on his family's estates throughout World War II. Upon his father's death in 1941, William succeeded him as German Emperor and King of Prussia. The British surrendered to the Axis Powers in August 1941, and at once the Kaiser began working with foreign minister Ulrich von Hassell to achieve a friendly and co-operative foreign policy. The Franco-German Nonaggression Pact sent shockwaves over the continent; previously, the countries of Europe had seen republican France and imperial Germany as staunch rivals, ready to launch a new conflict in several years time. William hailed this "important friendship, newly found but ever-lasting."
The New German Policy
In 1942, Gustav Stresemann was succeeded as Chancellor by Centre Party leader Konrad Adenauer. The new government introduced many reforms, including the Antifaschistischer Dekret (Anti-Fascist Decree), the Gewerkschaftsgesetz (Trade Unions Act) and, most important of all, the Neue deutsch Politik (New German Policy). The Kaiser was an early supporter of the New German Policy, which incorporated Bismark's conservative Realpolitik and Hitler's expansionist Lebensraum ideas. Germany, Adenauer believed, required a "strong, sensible foreign policy capable of restoring the nation to its pre-WWI glory, without plunging her into another deadly conflict."
Ulrich von Hassell was replaced as foreign minister by Count Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg, former ambassador to the Soviet Union, on 20 October. The Chancellor appointed him with the hope of improving Russo-German relations, as well as entering Germany into an alliance with the UK and her allies.
Early 1943 saw Germany return to the status of Great Power with the Berlin Agreement. Emperor William met with Winston Churchill (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom), Charles de Gaulle (President of France) and Benito Mussolini (Duce of Italy) at the Charlottenburg Palace on 01 February. The four leaders hoped to form a united front against Soviet Russia, whose communist dictator Joseph Stalin was making steady gains in eastern Europe and central Asia. Things began well, with William and de Gaulle agreeing on certain vital issues, such as the restoration of Germany's pre-1914 eastern borders if the USSR were to occupy Poland and force a war on the Reich. However, Mussolini soon pressed impossible demands on Britain and France, arguing for the Italian receival of Egypt, Somaliland and Tunisia. After Churchill deemed Il Duce's requests "pathetic and non-negotiable", Italy pulled out from the Berlin Agreement on the 7th.
Germany entered into a powerful alliance with the UK and France, and the Kaiser soon gained a new colonial empire with Cameroon and the Colony of Kenya. These became German West Africa and German East Africa, both of which helped fuel the growing Reich.
World War III
1945 began with a tranquil Europe, its nations flourishing. The USA prospered in quiet isolation, and the juntas of South America were starting to collapse, to be replaced by either democratic or socialist governments. Even Hirohito's militaristic Japanese Empire was at peace, having already conquered the whole of China in a bitter struggle. The first dispruption of this "new world order", as the Germans called it, was the Soviet invasion of Persia. Twenty-five divisions poured into the neutral state, and the attack triggered widespread critism from the western powers.
Sanctions crippled Russia's fragile economy, and Stalin was thus forced to take further action. Once their enemy in the south had been annexed to the USSR, the Russians moved against Poland. Stalin saw a revival of the war of the 1920s, where Poland was bitterly defeated. At 4am on 23 June, the Red Army crossed into Eastern Galicia, and the Poles declared war two hours later. Britain concluded the Anglo-Polish Mutual Assistance Treaty, which saw the Allies join the conflict on Poland's side.
Emperor William said in an interview for The Manchester Guardian:
"This is no small struggle. This is the third great war, a war of morality versus immorality; hope versus surrender; freedom versus oppression. The Russians have tipped this world's great nations into a struggle from which they can only escape if the eastern war machine is destroyed."
In the early afternoon of 10 May 1946, William began his second tour of the eastern front. His carriage arrived at Minsk, where the British-led White Russia Offensive was about to take place. Suddenly, a bomb exploded from under one of the seats, and everybody on the carriage died. The bomb had been sneaked into the carriage by two Russian spies, who flew back to Moscow the next day.
The Kaiser's death envoked widespread panic and uproar amongst the German population. Thousands of people took to the streets, vandalising Russian shops and discriminating against Russian immigrants. Prince Louis Ferdinand became King of Prussia and German Emperor.