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peared very much surprised, telegraphed immediately
to Washington, and in the afternoon sent Agent Peeke
to me with the request not to write again to Hay. I
have every ground for the assumption that Peeke had
stolen a second letter which I had addressed to John
Hay on the same affair. In any event, I am convinced
that Mr. Hay, whom they later tried to saddle with
responsibility for the incident, was blameless. Amer-
ican federal secret-service agents have singular
powers, they "know" very much, and presume many
things in reliance upon this knowledge.

Prince Henry's visit was approaching its close and
it was necessary to see that the most effective depar-
ture, with calcium lights and all the other appur-
tenances necessary should be supplied. There should
be a finale that would not be forgotten in Berlin for a
long time. Since I did not cease demanding the return
of my papers, Captain Flynn entreated me to have
patience. When the prince should arrive in New
York, he said, to board ship for Germany, something
would "happen." Whereupon my papers would be
given back to me.

From this remark of the chief of the New York
federal secret service bureau, it may be concluded
that the wire-pullers behind the incident of March
1 2th intended to set the stage on American soil dur-
ing the presence of the prince. Apropos of this is
an announcement according to which there was knowl-
edge of the approaching scandal in Washington and
New York eight days before. A German banker from
the Metropolis on the Hudson — presumably James
Speyer, who later donated the means for establish-
ing a Roosevelt professorship in Berlin — is said to
have visited the President at the White House to
bring about a postponement of the final act in the


historic drama of the prince's visit. A witness who
is surely unprejudiced in this case, the correspondent
of the Manchester Guardian, telegraphed to his paper
that he had received confidential knowledge of the
Holleben affair a week in advance. He reported that
the proofs of von Holleben's guilt were laid before
Roosevelt and Hay, who had determined to hush up
the affair until after Prince Henry's departure. Von
Holleben says (so continues the report) that he had
written articles for a press bureau, but that the good
ones had been composed by him and the bad ones
by a paid agent. Roosevelt (the report runs on)
laughed derisively at this statement. In any event
the press had made the most of the entire affair and
although it is almost unbelievable that a diplomat of
von Holleben's experience could have made such a
mistake, the report came from clear-thinking persons,
who were entirely convinced that they were not mis-

Wholly and alone through fear of the German-
American population of the country, which would
have revenged at the polls an insult directed at a
brother of the German Kaiser by the powers that
be in Washington, it was decided, although with re-
luctance, not to explode the carefully prepared mine
while the prince still lingered on American soil.
Hardly, however, had he turned his back on New
York when the uproar broke loose. On the morning
of March nth, Prince Henry left the American shore,
after having exchanged the following telegrams with
the President:

"Hoboken, N. J., March 11, 1902.
"To the President of the United States :

"On the day of my departure, I take pleasure in thanking
you personally, as well as the nation whose guest I have
been, for all the kindness and tokens of sincere and cordial


sentiment which have been shown me during my visit to
your interesting country. I hope that my visit may cement
the feeling of friendship between the land I represent and
the United States.

"In bidding you farewell, allow me to wish you every
possible success, and please remember me to Mrs. Roosevelt
and Miss Roosevelt, who in such a charming manner, and
with so much dexterity, fulfilled her task at the launching of
His Majesty's yacht Meteor. Again, my hearty thanks.
May we meet again.

"Henry, Prince of Prussia."

"White House, Washington.

"March ii, 1902.
"Henry, Prince of Prussia,

"Steamer Deutschland,

"Hamburg Dock, Hoboken, N. J.:
"Not only have I personally enjoyed your visit, but also
I wish, in the name of my compatriots, to express the pleas-
ure it has given us to see you, and to actually perceive the
good your visit has accomplished in promoting the feeling
of friendship between Germany and the United States. It
is my most earnest wish that this feeling may ever grow.

"Mrs. Roosevelt sends her hearty greetings, as would also
Miss Roosevelt if she were not absent.

"Please express my best regards to His Majesty, the Ger-
man Emperor.

"Again thanking you for your good visit, and wishing you
every good fortune, wherever you may be,

"Theodore Roosevelt."

How sincere those words sounded! How genu-
inely and highly must these two men have appre-
ciated one another in order to send such telegrams!
But even on the afternoon of the same day there
reigned in Washington the wildest excitement, which
reminded one of the day before the beginning of the
Spanish-American war, and the announcement was
given out that the German Ambassador had received
his passports with the request to leave the United
States within forty-eight hours ! ! !

The 1 2th of March, 1902, came, and brought me


the visit from Mr. Egan of which I spoke at the
beginning of this book.

Man had deserted me, but God had heard my
prayer and that of my children, and he humbled my
arrogant enemy in the hour of, apparently, his great-
est triumph, even into the dust.

It may, perhaps, seem unchristian when I say it;
but the satisfaction which I experienced in that mo-
ment, when Mr. Egan handed me the copy of the
extra edition of the New York World containing the
ominous announcement, dissipated a great part of my

As you remember, I explained to Mr. Egan that
for the present I was unable to make any expression
concerning the announcement, and that I should re-
quest Dr. Mantler, the general director of Wolff's
Bureau, with whom he had spoken before he came to
me, to visit me at once in my apartments.

Though under the circumstances it was his first and
foremost duty, even without being told, to seek an
interview with me, the director of the semi-of^cial
German News Bureau did not put in an appearance.
His attitude at that notable time was more than am-

Herr von Holleben and his advisers handled the
afifair in a thoroughly senseless passion and showed
themselves in no wise equal to the occasion, as the
many contradictory newspaper announcements clearly
showed. In one paper it was stated that Herr von
Holleben had already sailed with the prince for Ger-
many; in another that he had gone to New York in
a special train to consult with Dr. Biinz and others of
the secret service, and a third one read that he had
suddenly been taken very ill and had gone to the sea-
shore to recuperate.


I had made up my mind to keep silence and speak
only after the Ambassador had spoken. With feverish
pulses, I had gone to my rest that evening but not
to sleep. Suddenly the bell began to ring insistently.
I opened the door to a reporter for the New York
Herald, who wished most earnestly to speak to me.
There had arrived from Washington at the Herald
office, so he told me, a telegram of eighteen hundred
words, and he had been given the order, so he laugh-
ingly said, to fetch me alive or dead. I replied that
I was unable to express my views on the affair, but
finally allowed myself to be persuaded to accompany
him and look into the telegram.

In the publisher's sanctum of the Herald, I found
its leading spirits assembled around a table. They
looked at me with gleaming eyes, as if expecting great
things of me, and pressed me to break my silence.
From a telegram which they had received, they had
been led to believe, so they said, that I would be able
to disclose an intrigue between the Democratic can-
didate, William Jennings Bryan, and the German
Ambassador, Herr von Holleben, which latter had
promised the former the support of the German-Amer-
ican voters in case the former, in event of his election,
would guarantee to the German Empire the possession
of a coaling station in the West Indies. If I so under-
stood the case, I had only to acknowledge it, and they
would take care of the rest.

At that moment the cloven hoof of the Washington
republican Urian came to light. The Herald atmos-
phere suddenly appeared to me to smell of sulphur,
and I replied that I was not in a position to give them
the answer they were apparently expecting. I saw
long faces. They had not expected this, and their
hopes of a Herald sensation had come to naught.


After they had assured me that they would observe
absohite silence, I gave the assembled editors some
facts about my conflict with Herr von Holleben. Their
promise, however, was not kept, and my confidences
appeared in the next edition of the Herald in a malev-
olent, changed and disfigured form. Why had I not
given the New York Herald the expected *'Bryan sen-
sation" ?

The next morning at six o'clock my bell again rang
and from that time on was not quiet the rest of the
day. My first visitor was a young reporter for the
New York Evening Journal, that yellowest of all yel-
low afternoon papers of America, belonging to Wil-
liam Randolph Hearst. He went straight to his pur-
pose in a business-like manner.

''Ambassador von Holleben says," he began, and
handed me a newspaper, "that you have accused him
of embezzling fifteen thousand dollars. What can
you tell me about it?" He brought out a notebook
and waited with itching pencil for my answer.

I could not believe my ears. Yes, there truly could
be seen in black and white what his excellency had
to say about an international occurrence that had
come like lightning from heaven; that, namely, the
whole affair was an act of revenge of a former em-
ploye who had accused him of embezzling fifteen
thousand dollars.

The diplomat, von Holleben, in this explanation,
had overstepped himself !

The accusation, of which no one in America knew
anything, and of whose existence the public had its
first news from his own lips, had not come from me,
but from some of the officials of the Embassy who
had been ruined by him and who charged him, to-
gether with a diplomat since murdered, of taking a


fee of fifteen thousand dollars at the purchase of the
embassy building, 1435 Massachusetts Avenue.*

Great as was my temptation f to enlighten the re-
porter on this subject, as he waited in tense anticipa-
tion for my reply, I overcame it; but gave him, how-
ever, other information which entirely satisfied him.
On leaving, he cordially shook my hand. "You have
given me a 'scoop* over all the other papers," he said,
''and I shall see to it that our paper does you justice.

He kept his word.

He had hardly left me when the bell rang again.
A reporter and a photographer from the New York
Evening World, Herr Joseph Pulitzer's yellow after-
noon sheet, which was competing successfully with
the New York Evening Journal for the palm in sensa-
tionalism, stood before me. The reporter could not
complain that I had let his colleague get ahead of
him. The photographer got several pictures of me and
the members of my family. Almost a hundred report-
ers and photographers were admitted to my apart-

* In addition, other serious charges are raised against the
Ambassador of the Embassy staff. When a rich German
had died in New Orleans, without direct descendants, so the
story goes, he entrusted an American politician with the
execution of the estate, against the demands of the German
consul at New Orleans, and thereby had injured the heirs
living in Germany to the extent of several hundred thousand
marks, for which the government was liable. The inception
of a disciplinary investigation is still to come.

f Since the Embassy building purchased by Herr von Hol-
leben was wholly unsuited for its purposes, the successor to
the ambassador, Herr von Sternburg, received the commis-
sion to secure damages and to help the German government
toward an establishment more worthy of itself. If I remem-
ber rightly, the purchase of the old Embassy building took
place in 1897. That was rather a costly joke for the tax-
payers of the German Empire.



ments in those days. Since his excellency von Holle-
ben had first broken the silence, no obligation was laid
upon me to further continue my reserve, and I com-
municated to my visitors what seemed best to me of
my experience and adversities.

Among my visitors was also the New York Herald
man who had gotten me out of bed in the night and
persuaded me to go with him to the publishing office.
To my question as to how it happened that Mr. Ben-
nett's paper had published an account of my visit to
the office, after promising that it would not be done,
he replied, not without embarrassment, that it was not
he but one of the editors of the Herald who had given
the promise and broken it. I curtly refused to give
him any information. The reporters present witnessed
the scene with interest and remarked, when their col-
league had withdrawn, "That is the way the Herald
always does."

As it was known that my papers were still in Wash-
ington and that they were known to have given a
start to the incident, there existed among the New
York papers a struggle for the possession of my
records. The editors of the New York Staats-Zeitung
were particularly anxious to get hold of Professor
Miinsterberg's letters addressed to me. Repeatedly
their representatives spoke to me and made me en-
ticing offers. ''The letters are at the disposition of
your paper," I replied, "if on their account you will
demand an investigation of the affair. But I shall
not be a party to any muck-raking." Nothing came
of it.

The incident occasioned another by-play in the press
which is worth noting. On the 15th of March, the
New York American published a letter from S. M.
Buck, who had formerly lived in Berlin, and had


there heard from the mouths of high officials sur-
rounding the Emperor that the Ambassador von Hol-
leben and Professor Miinsterberg had instituted a
far-reaching spy system in the United States. Pro-
fessor Miinsterberg had been sent to America by the
direct request of the Emperor to bhnd pubHc opinion
to the true policy of Germany toward the United
States, and the trip of Prince Henry had been spoken
of in official circles two years before it took place.
In case of a war, so Mr. Buck expressed himself, the
German fleet would immediately possess itself of the
harbours of Boston and New York. He named as
witnesses Count Serenyi and consul for the admiralty,
Langer. The New York Staats-Zcitnng thereupon
published a long cable story from their Berlin corre-
spondent, C. A. Bratter, as to an interview with Count
Serenyi, in which the latter absolutely denied the
words which had been put in his mouth. Herr Brat-
ter, who at the present time is living in Constanti-
nople and writing for the Laffan Bureau, the New
York Sun and a Hamburg paper, was moreover *'dis-
tinguished" on the occasion of the prince's visit by
the chancellor in an autograph letter.

On March 17th I received my papers from Captain
Flynn's hands and signed a receipt for them. Thus
the incident was disposed of, in so far as Mr. Roose-
velt was concerned. It had been handled with brutal
rough-rider ruthlessness and the world had been
shown that an attempt at interference in the inner
affairs of the country would not be tolerated.



Who is responsible for the deception of the German press
in March, 1902? — A campaign of secret lies and calumny.
— My suit against the Grosz Nezu Yorker Zeitung. — "Thou
shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." — False
material against me is furnished from German official
sources to my opponents. — Pastor O. Frommel, former
German ambassador to Rome, now at Gera, Russia, be-
comes the victim of a shameful deception. — An almost
unbelievable perversion of justice. — Appearance of the
"United States Correspondence." — "A Herald Hater." —
New York Herald's slander suit against three Berlin pa-
pers. — "There are judges in Berlin." — I am summoned as
a witness. — Why the case never came to trial. — Astounding
solution of the riddle.

The truth about these critical March days of the
year 1902 has never been known in Germany.

That sounds unbelievable, but it is nevertheless a
fact. While the relations between Germany and the
United States were strained to the utmost, and the
decision for or against war was literally in the bal-
ance, the majority of the German press was dealing in
page-long effusions over the result of the prince's
trip. But not a mortal word did the public in the
dear German fatherland learn of the deadly insult
to the German Ambassador, and in his person to the
Emperor, as the one responsible for the German for-
eign policy. Never before had the union between the
Imperial Chancellor and the Foreign Office in the
VVilhelmstrasse and the semi-official and semi-Bleich-



roeder-Reuterschen-Wolff Bureau so brilliantly sus-
tained each other as in those days.

The general director of the official German tele-
graph bureau, Dr. Heinrich Mantler, was at that time
himself in New York. The report certainly then lay
in the surest and most worthy hands ! He might have
been able to prevent the whole monstrous scandal and
have spared the German Empire the greatest diplo-
matic defeat that it had ever endured, but he pre-
ferred to play the role of the disinterested third party
and let the evil run its course. And why not ?

He was absolute master of the German news
cables, and Wolff's Bureau on the corner of Zimmer
and Charlotten streets in Berlin despatched nothing
which had not first been examined and approved by
those commissioned by him.

As the ''disturber of the peace," Witte, lived in New
York, and his return to Germany might be discounted,
there was nothing simpler for that trio, Holleben,
Mantler and Miinsterberg, than to make him the scape-
goat for the whole affair. While doing so, the leaders
of Wolff's Bureau might at the same time wreak their
anger on the offender who had exposed their dis-
graceful manoeuvre on the Vienna exchange, and
thereby made it necessary for the Austrian govern-
ment to install its own telegraph connection with St.
Petersburg. Now the time had come, once and for
all, to "gag" the prying fellow !

What in those fateful days was telegraphed
FROM New York to Berlin has never been


I learned of it only in the year 1906, after my re-
turn to Berlin, when my wife took the trouble to look
back over the paper files in the Imperial Library in


Behren Street, to the March editions of 1902; she
could hardly believe her eyes, but the following is
what she read:

"The German Ambassador declares Witte menaced
him with murder."

And similar articles in the Frankfurter Zeifiing and

i the Berliner Tagehlatt, and further:

I *'Witte has been arrested, but released again, as

! the Ambassador has failed to prosecute."

The reporter for the Berliner Tagehlatt who sent

I this private telegram was guilty of a direct lie, as I
was never arrested, and also the State Department
had never had the intention of prosecuting me.

The fictitious H. telegram in the German papers
originated with Paul Haedicke, the New York special
correspondent of Wolff's Bureau, and von Holleben's
confidential man. An unheard-of crime had been
committed, so low, so cowardly, so brutal, so refined,

1 so devilish, that happily there have been few like it in
history. And in order to cover it up and prevent the
truth from becoming known, a further crime must
be committed.

In Washington, as in Berlin, the world went forth
to hush up the von Holleben affair, and certain influ-
ences were brought to bear in order to reach this end
and not allow me to be heard from.

I I learned nothing of these machinations, but I did

' know of the lies which certain German papers in
New York circulated about me, and I strove to have
a judicial settlement through a damage suit against
the editor of the Grosz New Yorker Zeitung, the New

I York Herald and the New Yorker Revue.

I The outcome of the suit was typically American.
The accused publishers. Wolfram and Mayer (Mayer
is now representative of the Mergenthaler Linotype


Machine Company in Berlin), retained the more than
well-known New York attorney, Benno Loewy, and
sent him to Germany to gather ''material" against me.
As hotly as he worked, his mission would have failed
and he would have returned with empty hands had not
false information been given him from official sources.
From documents I now have, it seems that the de-
fendant, Mayer, was close to the German consul at
Rome, Nast-Kolb, and that person gave him the ad-
dress of Dr. Otto Frommel, former chaplain of the
imperial Embassy at Rome, now in Gera, Russia, with
the remark that this person could tell him something
about Witte. The shamefully deceived clergyman
was now so belaboured personally and by mail by
Mayer, Loewy and other Berlin lawyers that he, to
secure relief, made a deposition, later attested by the
American consul at Leipzig, that he had been swindled
by one Dr. Georg Witt (alias Witte) in Rome in
1902. This person who had been, he said, the pri-
vate secretary of Consul Nast-Kolb, had secured pos-
session of the official German seal, deceived a poor
German school teacher and taken money from her
under promise of marriage, jumped his bills and fi-
nally fled to Paris, where he wrote insulting letters
to the consul. For identification of Georg Witt, Pas-
tor Frommel enclosed a photograph with the swin-
dler's autograph, and added that he now carried on
his operations disguised with a wig.

Since in 1892 I was engaged as director of the Ren-
ter Bureau in Berlin and was received as such at the
Foreign Office, it should have been easy to determine,
were the intention honourable, that I was not the
same as the Georg Witt of Rome. But the honourable
intention was absent and the lawyer Benno Loewy


could report to his principals that his German mission
had been crowned with success.

Meanwhile I had found a poorly paid position as
editor of a German weekly, which was housed in the
building of the New Yorker Zeitung, the publisher of
which, as I later learned, was a friend of the defend-
ant publishers. Three days before the hearing of the
case I was faced with the alternative of withdrawing
my suit or losing my position at once. They told me
that a German minister, by name Frommel, had testi-
fied under oath before the American consul, submitting
my photograph, that he and others had been swindled
by me. Should I prove obstinate in spite of this evi-
dence, the publishers of the New Yorker Zeitung
would use their considerable influence with the officials
to render me harmless once and for all time; there
were enough means to that end.

Since I did not wish to rob my family of the meagre
support I was affording, I withdrew my case under
this threat.

But the devilish vengeance of my enemies was not
appeased by that. From that time on all sorts of
fairy tales were spread all over America, that I was
the swindler Georg Witt, and in this way my progress
was impeded.

It was a terrible battle for existence that I carried
on then; and I could hope for freedom from it only
if I succeeded in securing an official investigation.
But for this very little chance was visible, for my
petitions to that end remained unanswered. I must
therefore go at it by indirection. At my instance,
the publisher of the weekly I edited decided on a
newspaper correspondence for the press of the Ger-
man-speaking countries of Europe. It appeared under
the title, ^'United States Correspondence," and was


well received. Almost every article made the rounds
of the German papers and there was hardly a day

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Online LibraryEmil WitteRevelations of a German attaché; ten years of German-American diplomacy (Volume 1) → online text (page 12 of 18)