So much to admire about this historical document, which came up yesterday on the excellent twitter feed of “Todo libro antiguo” (@Libroantiguo) with the following description: “Declaration of war from the German Empire 1914, starting WORLD WAR I. Signed by the German Kaiser Wilhelm II.”
Even without any German, we can read the contrast between “royal designs” and “modern realities,” filigree vs. typewriter. The locution “Wir Wilhelm” – “We Wilhelm” – immediately recalls the entire order of things largely eradicated, and consigned to the past, by the same war that is very officially being commenced. The full heading is: “We Wilhelm, by the Grace of God German Emperor, King of Prussia II.” The typed portion begins with “verordnen” – “order,” in the first person plural – then cites an article of the German Imperial constitution, re-affirms the document’s character as a statement in the name of the German Empire, and declares a state of war throughout the imperial territory including the Kingdom of Bavaria. The order, we are informed, takes force on the day of its announcement. Its import is confirmed by “our most personal and genuine” (“hoechsteigenhandigen”) signature and seal.
In lower left, beneath the imprint of the German imperial eagle, the document receives its title: “O R D E R , / concerning/ the declaration of state of war.” The word for “order,” “Verordnung,” appears in present-day German dictionaries as the word for a medical prescription. In this instance, it’s a prescription for the purpose of euthanizing the physician who wrote it along with the collective self he or royally they once represented.