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Essay History Nonfiction

When Private Life Became Political: German Politicians, Sex Scandals, and Mass Media, 1880–1914

By Frank Bösch, 2015

In December 1908, German newspapers were once again discussing two affairs among the highest circles of society. For one, they reported on the love life of Ambassador Alfred von Kiderlen-Wächter, who at the time was replacing Prime Minister Wilhelm von Schoen in office. Almost all the newspapers informed their readers that Kiderlen-Wächter had long entertained an affair with his house keeper, a former circus artist. She had reportedly been seen by his side in official receptions.1 At the same time, the newspapers reported on the press relations officer in the Department for Foreign Affairs, Otto Hammann, who was also the right hand of Reichskanzler Bernhard von Bülow. Hammann had supposedly seduced his friend Professor Bruno Schmitz’s wife a few years earlier. In turn, Schmitz had rented the apartment beneath the two, drilled holes in the ceiling and kept exact records of when and how Hammann had sex with her. Now, he was publicly accusing Hammann of having committed perjury because Hammann had denied in court having sexual intercourse.2 Some newspapers added further information to these reports about how Hammann had been a rake ever since he was a university student.

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