The Kitchen In The Wilhelmstrasse

Tucholsky, Deutschland, Deutschland über Alles, Berlin 1929
The German Foreign Office, Wilhelmstrasse, Berlin in the 1920's.

I in this building, dear taxpayer, is where the foreign policy of your country is cooked up. The way they sit there so innocently, these old facades — you'd never believe some of the stuff that's come out of them.

There's not much to see from the outside. Inside, there are neatly furnished offices, long halls, and ushers who differ from the higher officials only in that they take themselves a shade more seriously. The whole Foreign Ministry is filled with an almost impenetrable atmosphere. Anyone who has never heard the way a breakfast appointment is arranged here, hasn't heard anything. They've got so much time and they get so much pleasure out of intrigue that it's no exaggeration to say that they spend about three fourths of their time in the war against the guy in the adjacent office.

The "Issue" — Oh, my God —

The Issue is you. The one who has to dig himself out of the fix they got you into is you. Who are they?

The country? Get serious. Frugal Prussian, simple and clean, that's what these "kitchens of politics" look like. But they cook with rotten ingredients in there, and the cook isn't even allowed to do his own cooking. A lot of people are looking over his shoulder. Because this country, which behaves so high-handedly, is in fact subordinate to the armaments industry, the chemical concerns, and agricultural interests. And it doesn't even do a good job of balancing these competing interests. Between workers and employers it is a completely one-sided enterprise. It is a class state, and one that treats its believers badly. In debt up to its ears, wholly dependent on the favors of large industry, which lays off workers when they don't knuckle under — "Here, you take care of them." Protective tariffs, tax abatements, and subsidies…

The officials in these few buildings couldn't care less about the people, about whom they know very little. They just need them when it's time to die in the trenches while the cannons that Krupp and the other manufacturers delivered to the enemy thunder over their heads. Business is business, you know.

"This is where the threads come together," say the reporters. Don't you believe a word of it.

It's the garment of Penelope that gets woven here: What others so painstakingly weave together, is just as painstakingly unravelled by these aristocratic intriguers. The tangled skein of colored threads that remains is German foreign policy.

From Deutschland, Deutschland über Alles," p. 194-195 by Kurt Tucholsky, Berlin, 1929.
Translated by Otto Hinckelmann March 26, 2005.