And so my story has reached the year 1871, my twelfth year, and now I must part from these most beautiful years in my memory. A fateful hour has arrived, not only for our small family circle but for political and social conditions throughout the fatherland. The victorious war ended in the glorious Peace of Frankfurt and the founding of the new German Reich. On the 15th and 16th of June the proud troops had marched into the new imperial city, and it made an indelible impression on me that once again I was able to observe the magnificent spectacle from the window of my father’s business. The day before, we had watched the decoration of the triumphal route, which was done by the artists in a way never imagined possible. The route went from Kreuzberg by way of Belle-Alliance-Strasse and Königgrätzer Strasse, past Potsdam Gate, through Brandenburg Gate to Unter den Linden, which marked the highpoint of the decorations, and to the Lustgarten. The unveiling of the monument for Friedrich Wilhelm II, which had just been completed there, was the final act. I don’t remember what the monuments, made of light materials and set up temporarily along the main points of this triumphal route, represented. They must have been embodiments of the victory, of the German and the more narrowly defined Prussian fatherland.
What made this unforgettable occasion superb was the elated mood, which no one could resist. Even if the captured guns that lined the entire route reminded one that the road to the unification of the fatherland had led through three bloody wars, the joy over the end of this time of great violence was still stronger than the pride in the victory gained. The entire world expected, above all, the end of the hard internal struggles among the parties and among the separate German lands and, as a result of peace, an upswing in trade and industry, from which, in turn, art and science would receive the best incentives. The likable figure of the over-seventy-year-old first emperor of the Hohenzollern dynasty, who, for his part, was so modest, seemed to secure the monarchic system for all time to come. The strong opposition that Bismarck had brought upon himself by his political conduct subsided, not only in the face of his successes but also because of the greatness that he showed when, disavowing his earlier Junker ideals, he had not hesitated to pay the price for the unification of Germany by granting the new Reich a seemingly democratic-parliamentary constitution. Old republicans joined in the jubilation, and Uncle Moritz recast an old 1848 freedom song into a German song of unity. It begins with the words:
Forward! Forward! Germany’s sons,
With courage forward to the fight,
Let no one ever dare to mock
Our freedom and our rights.
Wilhelm Taubert, the well-known composer, did not pass up the chance to set it to music. Let me add the second stanza here. It goes something like this:
For life’s greatest goods,
For the German fatherland,
We stand as guardians and protectors
With head, and heart, and hand.
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