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Kaiser Wilhelm II, Cabinet Order on the Officer Corps (March 29, 1890)

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Prussian officer since time immemorial. It is the responsibility of troop commanders to devote the utmost effort to pursuing this goal. They must realize without fail that today, more than ever before, it is essential to awaken and cultivate personalities, to increase the level of self-abnegation among their officers, and that their own example must advance this objective above all. As I again charge commanders with the responsibility of countering a number of luxury excesses, manifested in costly presents, frequent banquets, exaggerated extravagance for social events, and similar things, I also deem it appropriate to oppose the notion that the commander is, by virtue of his rank, obligated to spend large sums for purposes of representation. Each officer can serve his circle of comrades through the appropriate sponsorship of a simple kind of sociability befitting the profession; according to My wishes, only commanding generals have a “representative” obligation, and in My army, accomplished field officers will not have to anxiously anticipate the financial sacrifices supposedly awaiting them in the case of a promotion to regiment commander. From time to time, in addition to the requests concerning officer candidates, I will ask for submission of proof regarding the usual contributions and pay deductions in the various military units. Just as I hereby demand to be provided the names of officers who do not comply with their superiors’ efforts to simplify their lifestyle, so too will I judge commanders as to whether, among other things, they succeed in recruiting suitable young officers in sufficient numbers, and in organizing the activities of their officer corps in a simple way at little cost. – It is My wish that, after duty is done, each of My officers takes joy in his life. The uncontrolled spread of luxury in the army, however, has to be combated with all seriousness and vigor.

Berlin, March 29, 1890
Wilhelm R.

Source: Militär-Wochenblatt [Military Weekly], vol. 75, no. 32, Berlin, 1890, April 9, 1890, pp. 1009-12.

Original German text reprinted in Gerhard A. Ritter, ed., Das Deutsche Kaiserreich 1871-1914. Ein historisches Lesebuch [The German Kaiserreich 1871-1914: A Historical Reader], 5th ed. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1992, pp. 95-97.

Translation: Erwin Fink

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