Last weekend I visited Huis Doorn in the Netherlands, home of the former German Kaiser (Emperor) who lived from 1859 – 1941. After Germany lost WW I, Wilhelm II obtained asylum in the Netherlands (which had been neutral during WW I). Wilhelm II subsequently bought Huis Doorn and ordered extensive alterations. Fortunately enough he did not have to worry about furnishing his house; the German government enabled him to take whatever he wanted from his palaces in Germany. All in all 59 railway carriages were needed to transport his selection of furniture and other possessions to the Netherlands.
The transition from Kaiser to civilian provided him with lots of spare time. One of the hobbies of Wilhelm II developed was felling trees from the estate and chopping them up. It was rumored that he was so dedicated to this activity that he was solely responsible for significantly reducing the number of trees in the woods surrounding the house.
Important persons in his life in Doorn included his wives, first Augusta Victoria van Sleeswijk-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, who died in 1921; and secondly, Hermine von Schönlach-Carolath. He married her in 1922, one year after the death of his first wife. After Wilhelm’s death Hermine returned to her estate in Silesia, where she died in 1947 during imprisonment by the Red Army. Another important person in the life of Wilhelm II at Huis Doorn was Sigurd Von Ilseman, his adjudant, who had followed him into exile at the end of WW I. Sadly, Von Ilseman committed suicide in 1952 on the premises of Huis Doorn.
The emperor always kept hoping that one day the monarchy in Germany would be restored and stated that he wanted his body only to be transported back to Germany once that would be the case. To no avail. Although Hermann Goering visited the Kaiser a couple of times in Doorn before Hitler came to power, Hitler was not interested in a political role for Wilhem II.
The attitude of Wilhem II towards the Nazis was a bit ambiguous. On the one hand, he sent Hitler a telegram to congratulate him with the victory over France; on the other hand, he did not want the Swastika symbol to be present at his funeral. His telegram of gratulations to Hitler was the reason for the Dutch government to confiscate Huis Doorn after the war. His wish of a funeral without Swastikas was ignored by the German authorities when they arranged Wilhelm’s funeral in 1941.
The relationship with the Dutch royal family also was interesting. Despite the fact that they were relatives, Queen Wilhelmina never paid him a visit, though her daughter Juliana and her husband Prince Bernhard did.
After his death Wilhelm II was put on a bier in the Mausoleum (which he had designed himself) on the premises of Huis Doorn. In the field in the front of the mausoleum there are also graves of five of his dogs.
All pictures are taken with an Olympus OMD-EM10 camera in combination with the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 9-18mm f/4-5.6 ED wide angle lens. The pictures in the house were taken without a tripod with an ISO between 3200-6400, hence the noise level of the pictures. All pictures were taken in RAW and post-processed in Adobe Lightroom.
I would highly recommend a visit to the estate, combined with a guided tour by enthusiastic volunteers. For more information go to www.huisdoorn.nl