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Kaiser Wilhelm I on the Social Ethos of Prussian Officers (1879)

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The more enthusiastically the officer corps cultivate true comradeship and esprit de corps, the more easily they will prevent excesses, guide comrades who have strayed from the straight and narrow back to the right path, and avoid unnecessary quarrels and disgraceful squabbling.

The justified confidence of the officer must never degenerate into lack of respect or arrogance towards the other classes. The more an officer loves his profession and the more highly he regards its purpose, the more he will understand that the full confidence of other social groups in the officer's profession is a prerequisite for the successful and glorious accomplishment of the armed forces' ultimate and highest objective.

I have full confidence in the officers on leave and in the retired officers, whom I have permitted to keep the external signs of their professional class, and [I believe] that they, having a lasting share in the social ethos, will always remember their obligation to uphold this honor, even in their civilian lives. [ . . . ]

Source: Max Menzel, Der Infanterie-Einjährige und Offizier des Beurlaubtenstandes [The One-Year Infantryman and Officer on Leave], 11th ed. Berlin, 1911, pp. 271-72.

Original German document reprinted in Gerhard A. Ritter and Jürgen Kocka, eds., Deutsche Sozialgeschichte 1870-1914. Dokumente und Skizzen [German Social History 1870-1914. Documents and Sketches], 3rd ed., Munich: Beck, 1982. pp. 227-28.

Translation: Erwin Fink

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