Review: All the Kaiser’s Men (Passingham)


All the Kaiser’s Men: The Life and Death of the German Soldier on the Western Front.

Most of the Great War books that are in English are written from the Entente point of view, but this one is a preliminary go-to source for Weltkrieg writing.

Apart from the author’s tendency to repetitive hyperbole (a Kipling he is not), and a few horrific spelling and vocabulary mistakes (whoever did the editing, his name is mud, for overlooking a misspelled name, and accepting obviously inappropriate spell-checker word substitutions), I disagree with how leniently the author treats the Kaiser. Passingham is not the only writer to do this; even Butler, in The Burden of Guilt, sometimes takes Wilhelm’s statements at face value. The usual conclusion is that the Kaiser really changed his mind about going to war, or that he was just Ludendorff’s puppet, when Willy is on record exhibiting grossly manipulative behavior intended to achieve his personal goals: he lost his war, but he won the game, because he ensured that nobody would make him pay for playing it.

The book’s greatest value lies in its inclusion of quotations from unit diaries and soldier memoirs, and its profuse and unique photos and maps, from German sources. It also contains some helpful appendices. The book is available in a variety of covers, and with different subtitles.

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