Holstein and Eulenburg
Harold Nicolson assesses the impact of the German minister in the post Bismarck era.
The first volume of the eagerly awaited Holstein papers has now been published by the Cambridge University Press. It is excellently translated and edited by Mr. Norman Rich and Mr. M.H. Fisher.
During the interlude between his retirement in 1906 and his death three years later, Holstein had every opportunity to revise his Memoirs and to destroy any damaging evidence.
The self-portrait he has bequeathed to posterity is therefore that of a pacific and far-seeing European, a loyal and devoted civil servant, whose aims and ideals were falsified by the blind malignity of foolish men. Only very occasionally is his true nature revealed in this his Nachlass by a sudden flash of fury.
“I am now,” he writes, “for the first time, in all the years I have been anonymously slandered and persecuted, writing an account of those events.” It is only in such sharp snarls that the reader is allowed to feel the wind of the wings of madness: all his life Holstein was haunted by persecution mania.
As a young attaché he served under Bismarck, at that time Prussian Minister to the Court of St. Petersburg. After the Franco-Prussian War he was secretary to the newly created German Embassy in Paris.