Bismarck and the Cartoonists

W.A. Coupe explores the polarised opinions aroused by the 'Iron Chancellor', as revealed in the German press.

The current controversy in Germany as to whether a statue of Bismarck should be erected in front of the Bundestag building in Berlin represents merely a further stage in an often acrimonious debate that has been going on since Bismarck (1815-98) first entered politics.

Was the architect of German political unity a force for good or evil in the history of the German nation?

In the political cartoons of his own day Bismarck appeared in both guises. On the one hand, he was admired and honoured as the man whose unique resolution and political wisdom had re-established national unity and grandeur; but on the other he was reviled and hated as the arrogant and intolerant aristocrat who rode roughshod over the true wishes of the people and poisoned the well-springs of German political life.

The intention here is to examine cartoons appearing in two of the principal satirical journals of the period, the Berlin Kladderadatsch, and the Frankfurter Latern, which represent the two extremes.

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