The Proclamation of the German Empire, 150 years ago
In 1871, Emperor Wilhelm I proclaimed the German Reich in Versailles. The event heralded the beginning of a new political, economic and cultural era.
The Kaiser's proclamation
On January 18, 1871, Otto von Bismarck read out the proclamation of the Emperor of Prussia in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles. The German Reich was founded after Germany won the 1870-1871 war against France. The painter Anton von Werner was an eyewitness to the event and documented it in this painting made in 1885. Wilhelm I is standing on a stage surrounded by princes.
The Reichstag in Berlin
Berlin was the first capital of the German Reich. The Reichstag's foundation stone was laid on June 9, 1884, in a ceremony led by Emperor Wilhelm I and Otto von Bismarck, the first chancellor of the Reich. However, the Reichstag's construction took 10 years, and Wilhelm II put the final stone in the new building. Parliament was called to session a day after.
The Kyffhausen Castle
This monument with a statue of Emperor Wilhelm I on horseback and Emperor Friedrick I (1112-1190) was built upon the remains of the Kyffhausen Castle from around the 11th century. Today, the castle is one of the main tourist attractions in Thuringia.
Living as the Wilhelminians did
The Gründerzeit ("Founder Epoch") Museum in Berlin takes the visitor back to the era between 1871 and 1914. The valuable furnishings of the time aimed to reflect prestige. With angular forms, elaborate decorations, curved legs with ball-like bases, chairs, grandfather clocks and mirrors often had crown-like decorations.
A Bismarck made of stone
Globally, there are around 10,000 places with a reference to Otto von Bismarck. Bismarck monuments were made between 1868 and 1934 and include statues of the chancellor riding a horse or depicting him as a warrior. Former colonies of Germany also have some leftover monuments to the German statesman. There is a Bismarck square in Dar es-Salaam and Bismarck mountains in Papua New Guinea.
A towering chancellor
Otto von Bismarck was the founder of the German Reich in 1871. As the first chancellor, he was conservative but also modern. The Bismarck monument in the Old Elbe park in Hamburg was constructed in the years between 1901 to 1906, following plans by the architect Emil Schaudt and the sculptor Hugo Lederer.
The Franco-Prussian war
Scenes from the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871, with Germany's victory over the French, was one of the favorite themes of painters in the Wilhelminian period. This painting is also by Anton von Werner. It shows a French soldier taking leave from his wife, while a German musketeer holds the baby.
The Berlin Cathedral
The new German Reich also needed a representative church. As the King of Prussia, Wilhelm II ordered the demolition of the Schinkel Cathedral and the construction of a new cathedral according to the plans of the architect Julius Raschdorf. Its form is reminiscent of Italian renaissance and Baroque styles. The cathedral was inaugurated on February 27, 1905.
The Bode museum
In memory of his father, Wilhelm II ordered the construction of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, now known as the Bode Museum, in Berlin. With its stucco-decorated domed hall and the twin stairways, it became known as the "museum palace." It served as a hall of fame for the Hohenzollern dynasty and for renaissance art. It was renovated and reopened in 2006.
Heinrich Mann's "Der Untertan"
In his novel "Der Untertan" (translated into English under the titles "Man of Straw," "The Patrioteer," and "The Loyal Subject"), Heinrich Mann analyzed power relations in the Reich under Wilhelm II. Mann wrote the novel between 1906 and 1914. It was released as a book in 1918. The story is about the moral cowardice and opportunism of Diederich Hessling, who elbows his way up the social ladder.