The Schrippenfest Incident

Godfrey Hodgson tells of a little-known episode in which an unofficial American diplomat attempted to redraw the political map in the summer of 1914, bringing peace to Europe and development to the Third World.

Long after the War was over, the deposed Kaiser Wilhelm II received a German-American journalist, George Sylvester Viereck, in his exile at Doorn in Holland. Viereck was surprised to hear him say that ‘The visit of Colonel House to Berlin and London in the spring of 1914 almost prevented the World War’. 

This, so far as I have been able to discover, is the only evidence of the Kaiser’s view of an extraordinary episode. This was nothing less than a semi-official attempt on the part of an American private citizen, President Woodrow Wilson’s confidential agent, Edward Mandell House (1858-1938), to save Europe from the war that cost millions of lives, destroyed four empires and the old European civilisation for ever. 

House met Wilhelm alone for half an hour on June 1st, 1914, on the terrace of one of the Kaiser’s palaces in Potsdam, just south-west of Berlin, while the American ambassador, the German chancellor and the top officials of imperial Germany craned their necks in vain to hear what was being said.

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