Journey of Kaiser Wilhelm II to the Holy Land – Large Collection of Postcards – 1898

Opening: $15,000
Estimate: $20,000 - $30,000
Sold for: $18,750
Including buyer's premium

Collection of 265 postcards commemorating the official visit of the German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, to the Holy Land. Various publishers, Germany, Palestine, Paris, Constantinople, and elsewhere, ca. 1898.
The official visit of the German Kaiser in the months of October-November 1898, to the Holy Land and to cities in other parts of the Ottoman Empire was regarded as one of the most salient and pivotal events in relations between the two powers. Because of the great import attributed to the event, it was commemorated in a number of different ways, most notably by means of illustrated postcards, a relatively new mode of correspondence at the time, having first appeared in the second half of the 19th century.
The present collection is particularly large and distinguished. Many of the postcards in it were printed during the lead-up to the visit and in the course of it, although a number were produced in its wake. Various publishers were involved, including Hermann Vogel (Berlin), Alfred Silbermann (Berlin), Knackstedt & Näther (Hamburg), Jos. Karmy (Jerusalem), Verlag des Syrischen Waisenhaues (Jerusalem), and many others. Most of the postcards have undivided backs. By means of illustrations – in both color and black-and-white – and photographs, they document important landmarks in the course of the journey, in particular the various sites visited by the Kaiser. Many of the postcards are devoted to sites in the Holy Land, and in particular Jerusalem.
Some of the postcards were mailed, and consequently bear postage stamps and postmarks (most dated 1898). A number of them specifically bear postmarks dated October 31, 1898, the day Kaiser Wilhelm II personally dedicated the Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem. Ten of the postcards in the collection are marked on the back with the rare inked stamp "Camp Imperial Jerusalem" (in both Latin and Arabic letters).
Four of the postcards are in large format (approx. 22X15 cm). Some appear in duplicate copies (mostly with slight variations). A handful of them were not printed specially in honor of the Kaiser's journey, but nevertheless either feature sites visited by the Kaiser at the time, or depict German passenger ships, including the imperial yacht Hohenzollern and the two accompanying ships, the SMS "Hertha" and SMS "Hela, " that serviced the Kaiser's entourage.
More than 30 of the postcards are undocumented by Ralph Perry and David Pearlman.


Kaiser Wilhelm II's Journey to the Levant
Through the months of October-November 1898, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and his wife, the Empress Augusta Victoria, toured some of the major cities of the Ottoman Empire, with Jerusalem being the most important of the destinations. The journey took place at a time when the impending and anticipated disintegration of the Ottoman Empire was hovering in the background, and a struggle between the European powers over the "spoils" – the assets of the so-called "Sick Man of Europe" – appeared likely to ensue in the near future. The journey went on for more than a month. Chief among its goals were the strengthening of ties between the German and Ottoman empires and the encouragement of Christian settlement in the Holy Land. Among the places visited by the Kaiser and his entourage were, in addition to Jerusalem, Athens, Constantinople, Haifa, Jaffa, Ramle, and Cairo.
Preparations for the Kaiser's visit to Jerusalem had already begun in the summer of 1898. These included a massive municipal clean-up, the improvement and overhaul of infrastructure, the laying of a telegraph line, and other operations. In time for the Kaiser's arrival in Jerusalem, a number of municipal roads were widened. The authorities went as far as breaching a gap in Jerusalem's Old City Wall, adjacent to Jaffa Gate, to enable the smooth passage of the Kaiser's opulent carriage. In addition, the city streets – most notably HaNevi'im Street, where a special tent camp for the Kaiser and his entourage, the so-called "Camp Imperial, " was to be temporarily constructed – were adorned with the flags of Germany and the Ottoman Empire, and with makeshift gates of honor.
One of the main highlights of the Kaiser's visit to Jerusalem – well-documented in many of the postcards in this collection – was the opening ceremony of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Christian Quarter of the Old City. But the Kaiser also visited the German Colony, the Mt. of Olives, City Hall, and other sites. From a Jewish standpoint, undoubtedly the most historically important event in the Kaiser's itinerary was his meeting with Theodor Herzl.
Throughout their visit, Wilhelm and the empress were accompanied by a small entourage. The Kaiser rode either on horseback or in the imperial carriage. Following in the footsteps of his immediate entourage in Jerusalem was a parade of lesser-ranked officials, accompanied by cavalry regiments and "kawas" officials – ceremonial Ottoman-Empire bodyguards.
The Kaiser's mission was documented in its time in hundreds of books and articles, and commemorated on playing cards, board games, and souvenir cards – collector's items – featuring Holy Land landscapes. But beyond a doubt, the quintessential commemorative souvenirs of the visit were the numerous different postcards, many of excellent quality, printed specially for the occasion; an astounding number of publishers – some 350 of them, from Germany and other countries – began publishing postcards commemorating the journey on a historically unprecedented scale. Major publishers such as Vogel, Silbermann, and Knackstedt-Näther went as far as presenting stamp and postcard collectors with a special offer; in exchange for a fixed fee, subscribers would be rewarded with postcards from cities the Kaiser visited, postmarked and mailed on the very day the Kaiser actually made his presence in the city in question.


Enclosed: Seven color collector's cards, six of them advertising Vitello margarine, produced by the margarine manufacturer Van den Bergh; and the remaining one produced by the food manufacturer Fritz Homann. These colorful cards feature pictures of sites and other things associated with the Kaiser's visit to the Holy Land.


265 postcards, approx. 14X9 cm (four of them in large format, approx. 22X15 cm). Condition varies; overall good condition.
A list of the postcards will be mailed upon request.


Reference: Ralph Perry and David Pearlman, "Postcards commemorating the 1898 journey of the German imperial couple to the Orient, " Stuttgart, 2019.

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Eretz Israel