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The Passion of Max von Oppenheim

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Lionel Gossman

I. Family Background, Diplomatic Career, Role in World War I

3. Attaché in Cairo: “The Kaiser’s Spy”

Texte intégral

  • 1 Quoted by Gabriele Teichmann, “Grenzgänger zwischen Orient und Okzident. Maxvon Oppenheim 1860-194 (...)

1Oppenheim had been thinking of a career in the German diplomatic service at least since the mid-1880s. In 1887 he submitted a formal application only to have it rejected by Herbert von Bismarck, the son of the great statesman and the current State Secretary for Foreign Affairs. The reasons given to Oppenheim were suitably vague. In a private internal communication, however, von Bismarck was more forthcoming: “I am against it, in the first place because Jews, even when they are gifted, always become tactless and pushy as soon as they get into positions of privilege. Then there is the name. It is far too widely known as Semitic and provokes laughter and mockery. In addition, the other members of our diplomatic corps, the quite exceptional character of which I am constantly working to maintain, would not be happy to have a Jewboy added to their ranks just because his father had been crafty enough to make a lot of money.”1

  • 2 Letter from Holstein to Hatzfeld, 18 August 1891, in Botschafter Paul Graf von Hatzfeld: Nachgelas (...)
  • 3 Letter from Hatzfeld to Holstein 1 July 1892, in Botschafter Paul Graf von Hatzfeld: Nachgelassene (...)
  • 4 Ibid.
  • 5 “I have known Baron Oppenheim for a number of years now and have always followed with interest his (...)

2A second attempt to enter the diplomatic service in 1891 met with a similar rebuff. Despite strong support from Count Paul von Hatzfeld, then German Ambassador to England and the father of a close friend of Oppenheim’s, Hermann von Hatzfeld (who started on his own diplomatic career in 1893), the application was rejected on the grounds that, in the view of Friedrich von Holstein, the powerful head of the political department at the Auswärtiges Amt, admitting Oppenheim to the diplomatic service, would open the floodgates to other applicants of similar background. Oppenheim, Holstein wrote to Hatzfeld “has two distinguishing features that up until now have been taken to be disqualifying [‘disqualifying’ in English in the text]. He is a full Jew (we have plenty of half-Jews) and he is a member of a banker’s family. We get many applications from people in this category; they can be rejected only if the decision is made on principle. If an exception is allowed, there is trouble.”2 The following year Hatzfeld—who, as a Catholic, may have been more inclined than the Protestants Bismarck and Holstein to see the young Oppenheim as a fellow-Catholic rather than a “Semit” or a “full Jew,” who in any case considered the prevailing anti-Semitism “einen verderblichen Wahnsinn” [“a pernicious insanity”],3 and who very much wanted to give a positive response to his son—came back with a more modest proposal. His “protégé” was planning a “wissenschaftliche Forschungsexpedition” [“a scholarly research trip”] for which his father had provided the funds, and wanted to be able to run it from Cairo. He would be content to be attached in some way to the Consulate-General in Cairo. Surely the most “rabid anti-Semite” [“couragiertester Antisemit”] could not object to that and he, Hatzfeld, would take it as a great “personal favour” if something of the kind could be arranged.4 Apparently it could not, for in 1895 Hatzfeld again tried to help his son’s friend. In a letter to the newly appointed Chancellor, Prince von Hohenlohe, he emphasized Oppenheim’s years of study and impressive knowledge of the Islamic world. In view of the objections that had arisen in some quarters to the Jewish family background of his “protégé,” however, he suggested that he be given an appointment “not in the diplomatic service itself but as an attaché assigned on a temporary basis to one of our missions in the Near East.” As ambassador in London at the time, Hatzfeld was particularly aware of Anglo-French rivalry in the Muslim Middle East and North Africa, especially in Egypt, and may well have been genuinely persuaded that Oppenheim, with his knowledge of Arabic and of Middle Eastern cultures and his many Muslim contacts, could render the Auswärtiges Amt valuable service by keeping it well informed and so increasing its leverage in thestruggle for power in the region.5

  • 6 See Lamar Cecil, The German Diplomatic Service, 1871-1914 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, (...)
  • 7 His appointment was never seen as anything more than provisional. An Auswärtiges Amt note in 1898 (...)
  • 8 Oberhaus, “Zum wilden Aufstand entflammen,p. 56, no. 39. Martin Kröger puts some flesh on these (...)
  • 9 Kröger, Faszination Orient, p. 119. Though apparently not universally shared at the Auswärtiges Am (...)
  • 10 Enclosure containing announcement and summary description of the lecture, in a letter to Myron Bem (...)

3Though anti-Semitism was ingrained in the German Diplomatic Service at the time,6 the anti-Semites were unable in the end to prevent Oppenheim from being assigned, in 1896, to a position in the Middle East. They did succeed, however, in preventing him from ever becoming a career diplomat. He was never more than a temporary agent or employee of the Auswärtiges Amt and he never held a position with full diplomatic rank.7 His salary, at 8,000 marks, moreover, was insufficient to maintain adequate diplomatic standing and in fact Oppenheim financed not only his luxurious life-style in Cairo but much of his work for the Auswärtiges Amt out of the 30,000 marks he received annually from his father.8 A later attempt to obtain an appointment to a position at the German Embassy in the United States, which he visited twice, in 1902 and 1904, and where he seems to have had a very good time, met with a similar rebuff. The ambassador would have none of him, referring to his “pushiness,” “talkativeness,” servility, lavish expenditures, and general reputation for deviousness.9 These repeated humiliations assuredly did not pass unnoticed in a society as rank-conscious as the Second Reich and Oppenheim could not have been insensitive to them. His vanity or his concern for his image was such, however, that he never alluded to them at any point in his life, not even in the manuscript memoir he left after his death (preserved in the Hausarchiv des Bankhauses Sal. Oppenheim jr. & Cie in Cologne). On the contrary, he tended to transform wish into reality in his own mind by repeatedly referring to “diplomatic” missions in which he was engaged and exaggerating his influence on the Kaiser and in official circles in Berlin. Max von Oppenheim was evidently determined not to acknowledge any crack in the upper-class German identity he claimed for himself. Thus when he undertook a lecture tour of the United States in 1931, in order to present the results of his archaeological digs to American audiences, he asked that he be described in the printed announcement of his lecture as “Dr. Baron Max von Oppenheim, former German Minister Plenipotentiary”10—a rather inflated title for a man who had never obtained a permanent position in the Auswärtiges Amt or a rank higher than temporary Legationsrat.

  • 11 This was not always viewed favorably by traditional diplomats. Thus Holstein in a letter to Eulenb (...)
  • 12 Cit. Kröger, Faszination Orient, p. 121.
  • 13 Cit. Oberhaus, “Zum wilden Aufstand entflammen,” p. 58.

4Though his appointment as an attaché directly answerable to the Auswärtiges Amt, rather than as an official member of the German Consulate-General in Cairo, was always temporary (it was humiliatingly subject to renewal each year and carried no specific responsibilities), it did in fact allow Oppenheim greater leeway in cultivating certain contacts—with Egyptian nationalists and nationalists from other Muslim countries, for instance—than would have been possible for a ranking diplomat without seriously straining German relations with Great Britain, the power effectively in control of Egypt at the time.11 Thus in the first decade of the twentieth century, Foreign Secretary Baron von Schoen could respond to British and French complaints about Oppenheim’s consorting with Arab nationalists that “Oppenheim is not a member of the diplomatic service and he is only very loosely associated with our Foreign Office.”12 Oppenheim was thus able to report to Berlin on aspects of the situation in the Near East of which the official German delegation could not easily have obtained direct knowledge. As he himself noted in his manuscript memoir of his life, “my reports to the Auswärtiges Amt […] were extraordinarily wide-ranging. My assignment was to keep an eye on movements throughout the entire Islamic world from my base in Cairo. First and foremost, I had to pay close attention to the situation among the natives in Egypt itself and then make the most strenuous efforts to obtain news of all the trends and of all events concerning Muslims in every part of the world.”13

  • 14 Cit. Oberhaus, “Zum wilden Aufstand entflammen,” p. 59. On Oppenheim’s contacts in Egypt, see Tilm (...)
  • 15 After the United States resumed exports of cotton at the end of the Civil War, the price of cotton (...)
  • 16 Cit. Oberhaus, “Zum wilden Aufstand entflammen,”, p. 62. Subsequently, as German ambassador in Lon (...)

5Oppenheim’s house in Cairo was frequented by figures from all areas of Egyptian and Muslim culture and politics. He also travelled a great deal throughout the Middle East and managed to maintain good relations with leaders whose interests were often at variance or even opposed: Sultan Abdul Hamid II in Constantinople, the young Austrian-educated Egyptian Khedive Abbas Hilmi II, the Ottoman High Commissioner in Egypt Ahmed Mukhtar Pasha, the sharif of Mecca Hussein ibn Ali (the father of Faisal), various anti-British Egyptian nationalists such as Shaykh Ali Yusuf (editor of an important Cairo newspaper) and Mustafa Kamil (the founder of the nationalist party), and a circle of Arabs, Syrians, and Turks who had been enemies of Abdul Hamid and had fled from Turkey to Cairo, not to mention the restless Bedouin chieftains with whom he had established bonds of friendship on earlier journeys to the Middle East. As Oppenheim put it himself in his memoir—picking up on the theme, emphasized in much late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century official German writing on German-Muslim relations, of Germany’s distinction as the only European great power that had not attacked or sought to dominate Muslims or occupied Muslim lands—he never regarded his Middle Eastern contacts with the condescension characteristic, according to him, of the British and other Europeans. His Muslim friends, he wrote, in a tone of all too characteristic vanity, “saw in me a man who, despite his elevated position in European society and the respect in which he was held by European diplomats, enjoyed being among them, who did not look down on them as the English and most other Europeans did, who dealt directly with them, as the others could not, and who instead took pleasure in the life they then still lived and was happy to share in it with them. The natural consequence of this was that they opened their hearts to me more and more, as the waves of Cromer’s policies toward native Egyptians rose higher and higher, and as ever harsher measures, justified by this or that event, were introduced by the occupying power, but also whenever conversation turned to the attitude of the native-born toward the Khedive, the Turks or any other factor. They knew that I would never betray them.”14 Not without humour, Count Paul von Metternich claimed in 1900 that “with the exception of Lord Cromer [Evelyn Baring, Lord Cromer, British Consul-General in Egypt and effective ruler of the country from 1883 until 190715], because of Oppenheim’s special knowledge, I was by far the best informed of my colleagues in Cairo about what was going on in native Egyptian circles.”16

  • 17 Kröger, Faszination Orient, p. 117. On Oppenheim’s reports to the German Foreign Office, see Jacob (...)
  • 18 Kröger, Faszination Orient, pp. 116, 118; see also Landau, The Politics of Pan-Islam, p. 98, and S (...)

6In a period of growing Anglo-German tension, as Germany sought more and more insistently to secure its “place in the sun,” the British were well aware of Oppenheim’s activities and contacts, distrusted him, had his movements watched, and soon dubbed him “the Kaiser’s spy.” Though most of his wide-ranging, unsolicited reports to the Auswärtiges Amt—no fewer than 467 between 1896 and 1909, a few running to 100 pages or more—seem to have been simply filed away, some were copied or abstracted and transmitted to the German embassies in Constantinople, London, and Paris, as well as to smaller delegations in places with significant Muslim populations, such as Baghdad, Teheran, Bombay, and Calcutta.17 Several of them emphasized the allegedly growing influence of Pan-Islamism—a movement intended to unite all Muslims under a single banner in order to defend Islam against the encroachments of the West. These reports, it has been claimed, were seen and much appreciated by Kaiser Wilhelm II.18

  • 19 Wolfgang G. Schwanitz, “Euro-Islam by ‘Jihad Made in Germany’,” in Nathalie Clayer and Eric Germai (...)
  • 20 Fritz Fischer, Griff nach der Weltmacht. Die Kriegzielpolitik des kaiserlichen Deutschland 1914/18 (...)
  • 21 Kröger, Faszination Orient, p. 120. In a letter to the editor of the New York Times, dated 23 May (...)
  • 22 Cit. in Kröger, Faszination Orient, p. 121.

7One, in particular, dated 5 July 1898, is said to have attracted the Kaiser’s special attention. Entitled “Die panislamische Bewegung,” it pointed to growing Islamic solidarity in the face of ever expanding encroachments by Western Christian powers on traditionally Muslim lands. In addition, Oppenheim reported, anti-European Sufi brotherhoods were at work in North Africa and Arabia, and messianic movements, such as that of the Mahdi in the Sudan, were inflaming many tribes with “a fanaticism bordering on madness.” If Muslims could actually be prepared for holy war, jihad would be a mighty weapon with unforeseeable consequences and its proclamation would draw volunteers and money from all over the Muslim world, as had happened in the Sultan’s war against Russia in 1877–1878. More than ever, Oppenheim claimed, the Sultan was seen by Muslims the world over as the greatest Islamic ruler. As an ally, he would be invaluable inasmuch as, in the event of a European war, his influence could be used against powers with large numbers of Muslim colonial subjects— such as Britain, France, and Russia. In the words of one modern scholar, “[the] message to the Kaiser was clear: prepare the field and use the Sultan for jihad in the colonial territories of potential enemies. Berlin might very well need pan-Islamic fanaticism and the anti-European brotherhoods.”19 It haseven been claimed, though most scholars dispute it, that Oppenheim’s memorandum inspired Wilhelm II’s visits to Istanbul, Damascus, and Jerusalem in the autumn and winter of 1898 and, in particular, the Kaiser’s famous speech at the tomb of Saladin in Damascus on 8 December, in which he declared himself the eternal friend of the 300 million Muslims in the world20—a pronouncement that, understandably, did not go down well with the British, given the substantial, often restive Muslim population in India, the jewel in the British Imperial Crown, or with the French and the Russians, given the overwhelmingly Muslim populations in the Russian Caucasus and in French North Africa. Other reports stem from the many side-trips Oppenheim undertook during his twelve-year stint as attaché in Cairo—to Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Algeria. In 1906, for instance, at a time of acute tension among the European powers over Morocco, he reported on the border area between Algeria and Morocco and on the disposition of French troops in it.21 The report was mostly devoted to providing basic information, Oppenheim’s defenders at the Auswärtiges Amt insisted, and was in no way designed to influence German foreign policy. “A certain animosity toward him developed in France and England,” Baron von Schoen, the German Foreign Secretary at the time, acknowledged later, “when, at a time of sharp German opposition to France over Morocco, he did what he could to provide German policy-makers with information on Morocco gathered by him on his travels or by other professional means. That cannot be held against him. Understandably, it did not please the French and the English.”22

  • 23 “German Intrigue in Egypt. Attempts to Weaken British Power. The Activities of Baron von Oppenheim (...)
  • 24 Kröger, Faszination Orient, pp. 121-23.

8French and English suspicions did run high. The Journal des Débats accused Oppenheim of using Pan-Islamist propaganda against France and England and of encouraging the Senussi, one of the most fervently anti-Western Muslim brotherhoods, to spread it. He himself, another paper alleged, had collaborated with an Algerian agitator in the distribution of a Pan-Islamist pamphlet. Reuters reported that Oppenheim planned to take advantage of an upcoming archaeological expedition into Syria in order to stir up trouble for the British in the Sinai. An article on him in The Times of London a year into the First World War identified “the Jewish Baron Max von Oppenheim” as the chief intriguer on behalf of German interests in Egypt in the decade preceding the war.23 (The anti-Semitic note, as we shall see again later, was by no means exclusive to the Germans.) According to the British military attaché in Washington, government circles in the Egyptian protectorate viewed Oppenheim as an “intriguer and plotter”—a reputation that has stuck to him, not altogether undeservedly, in much British writing on the Middle East down to the present day. At one point the British demanded that he be removed or obliged to conduct himself in a manner appropriate to a diplomat. Thanks to the vague character of Oppenheim’s appointment, the Germans, as we saw, were able to respond that he was not a member of the diplomatic service. Still, in November 1906, he was warned by the Auswärtiges Amt, more concerned with not provoking the British than the Kaiser and the rabidly nationalist Pan-German clique around him (with which Oppenheim himself had connections), that he should “exercise restraint in his contacts with Panislamic and Turkophile elements”—i.e. with groups, whether nationalist or pro-Ottoman, that were working to get the British out of Egypt. He was reminded that his role was that of an observer and intelligence gatherer only: his duties extended no further.24

  • 25 The Memoirs of Sir Ronald Storrs (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1937), p. 133. See also, McKale, C (...)

9Though, as was to be expected, Oppenheim himself denied that he had ever incited anybody and protested that in his relations with the Egyptians and the Arabs he had always been “receptive,” not “aggressive,” an observer and listener, not a provocateur, his considerable vanity was probably flattered by the role the British attributed to him. As was to happen often in his career, however, his practical influence and effectiveness were much disputed (especially no doubt by those among his compatriots who opposed his having any place in the German foreign service at all) and not everyone, it seems, took him seriously. Sir Ronald Storrs, the sophisticated British Oriental Secretary in the decade leading up to the outbreak of the First World War, while acknowledging that “no power was represented [in Egypt] with more charm and distinction than Germany,” insisted that this façade concealed a great deal of anti-British intrigue. “As early as 1905,” Storrs wrote in his Memoirs, “Ghazi [Ahmed] Mukhtar Pasha, the gallant old Turkish High Commissioner”—with whom, as noted, Oppenheim entertained good relations—“had declared that ‘with twelve Army Corps in Syria and the Germans at our back, it should not be difficult to turn the English out of Egypt.’” The semi-official activities of the German engineer Heinrich August Meissner (Meissner Pasha [1862–1940]) and his assistants in the survey and construction of the Hejaz railway line linking Damascus with Medina, a pet project of Abdul Hamid II, were also viewed with suspicion by the British authorities in Egypt, according to Storrs. “In 1909,” Storrs continued, “Baron Oppenheim, known to us all as ‘the Kaiser’s spy’, organized a large reception for the Nationalist leader Mustafa Pasha Kämel [Kamil] in Berlin. He was also in close touch with Mukhtar Pasha, and was known to lose no opportunity of reminding the Extremist Press of the syllogism that Islam was threatened with extinction by Europe, that England and France were at the head of the anti-Islamic movement, that the Sultan was the last hope of the Faithful and that Germany was the friend of the Sultan and therefore the only Muslim-minded European Power.”25 Nevertheless, Storrs discounted the significance of Oppenheim’s anti-British propaganda activities. “It is true,” he added,

  • 26 The Memoirs of Sir Ronald Storrs, p. 134.

that ‘the Kaiser’s spy’, who was attached as Oriental Secretary to the German Agency but described as ‘unofficial’ though enjoying diplomatic privileges, was not, save as a genial host and an enterprising rather than a profound archaeologist, taken very seriously by the British, or indeed by the Germans either. When Gorst [Sir Eldon Gorst] succeeded Cromer, a German diplomat in Berlin stated that Baron Oppenheim was not at all happy, as he seemed no longer to be given by the British the importance which he had previously enjoyed. In former days, whenever he had an interview with Mustafa Pasha Kämel, Lord Cromer used to get ‘much excited,’ post men to watch his house, etc.; whereas now Sir Eldon Gorst simply laughed at him.26

  • 27 See Donald M. McKale, “‘The Kaiser’s Spy’: Max von Oppenheim and the Anglo-German Rivalry Before a (...)

10Perhaps Gorst could afford to take a different view of Oppenheim, in part because he had had some success in detaching the Khedive, Abbas Hilmi, from both the Egyptian nationalists and the Ottoman “High Commissioner,” Mukhtar Pasha, and because, with the death of Mustafa Kamil in 1908, Oppenheim had lost his most important link to the nationalist movement.27

Notes

1 Quoted by Gabriele Teichmann, “Grenzgänger zwischen Orient und Okzident. Maxvon Oppenheim 1860-1946,” in Faszination Orient, p. 28; also quoted by Martin Kröger, “Mit Eifer ein Fremder—Im Auswärtigen Dienst,” ibid., p. 111.

2 Letter from Holstein to Hatzfeld, 18 August 1891, in Botschafter Paul Graf von Hatzfeld: Nachgelassene Papiere 1838-1891, ed. Gerhard Ebel, 2 vols. (Boppard am Rhein: Harald Boldt, 1976), letter 525, vol. 2, p. 854. The fear expressed by Holstein is, of course, the characteristic fear of anti-Semites: that the Jews will “take over.” Years later, Oppen heim’s appointment as attaché in Cairo led Holstein to make the same dire prediction: “I am firmly convinced that this case does not concern only one Semite and that more of his ilk will push their way through the breach he has made. At present their community is resigned to the way things are, since it is known that, in general Semites are not accepted—I mean no full Jews. The moment a single one gets in, they will scream bloody murder when others are rejected” (Letter to Eulenburg, 21 July 1898, in Philipp Eulenburgs Politische Korrespondenz, ed. John C.G. Röhl, letter 1382, vol. 3, p. 1917). It is interesting to note, in view of Oppenheim’s later career under National Socialism and his own sedulous avoidance of any recognition of his Jewish background, that Holstein considered him a “Vollblut-Semit”—a full Jew, not even a “half” or “quarter” one.

3 Letter from Hatzfeld to Holstein 1 July 1892, in Botschafter Paul Graf von Hatzfeld: Nachgelassene Papiere 1838-1891, letter 545, pp. 891-93. This letter and the accompanying footnotes clearly demonstrate the sincerity and persistence of Hatzfeld’s efforts on behalf of Oppenheim.

4 Ibid.

5 “I have known Baron Oppenheim for a number of years now and have always followed with interest his activity and success in the field of Islamic studies—for which he seems to have a special talent. Unfortunately, reservations appear to have been expressed now—so I have heard—concerning the nature of his position in the Foreign Service. […] As far as I can judge the state of affairs, these reservations have to do with Baron Oppenheim’s family background, against which certain prejudices are entertained in some of our circles, and for that reason it is deemed desirable to offer him a position not in the diplomatic service proper, but as an attaché assigned on a temporary basis to one of our missions in the Near East.” (Cit. Teichmann, Faszination Orient, p. 28) Salvador Oberhaus identifies the addressee of this letter, dated 30 December 1895, as Chancellor Hohenlohe, not Bismarck, as in Teichmann. (S. Oberhaus, “Zum wilden Aufstand entflammen.” Die deutsche Propagandastrategie für den Orient im Ersten Weltkrieg am Beispiel Ägypten [Saarbrücken: Verlag Dr. Müller, 2007], p. 53, no. 30)

6 See Lamar Cecil, The German Diplomatic Service, 1871-1914 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976), pp. 95-102; Hans-Jürgen Döscher, Das Auswärtige Amt im Dritten Reich (Berlin: Wolf Jobst Siedler, 1987). In Döscher’s words: “The majority of German diplomats came from aristocratic families, were Protestants, were well-to-do, held a law degree and had done some service in the military. Toward the end of the Wilhelminian era, representatives of the wealthy bourgeoisie—most with acquired titles of nobility—gained access to the diplomatic service, but the doors remained closed to Jewish or Social Democratic applicants until November 1918. The basic outlook of most diplomats was conservative, with strong strains of anti-liberalism, anti-parliamentarism, and anti-Semitism” (p. 306). It is only fair to note, however, that other European countries were probably not very different from Germany, as the following entry in the diaries (11 July 1930) of Harold Nicolson, in no way an ideological anti-Semite, suggests: “We go on afterwards to the Woolfs [Virginia and Leonard]. Hugh Dalton [a Labour M.P., who was Foreign Office Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the time] is there. I attack the nomination board at the Foreign Office, not on the grounds that it rejects good men, but on the grounds that its very existence prevents good men from coming up for fear they may be ploughed [i.e. failed] for social reasons. The awkward question of the Jews arises. I admit that is the snag. Jews are far more interested in international life than are Englishmen, and if we opened the service it might be flooded by clever Jews. It was a little difficult to argue this point frankly with Leonard there.” (Harold Nicolson, Diaries and Letters 1930-1939 [London: Collins, 1966], p. 53.) Nicolson was more frank in a diary entry fifteen years later (13 June 1945): “Though I loathe anti-Semitism, I do dislike Jews.” (Diaries and Letters: The War Years 1939-1945 [London: Collins, 1967], p.469) For an instructive comparison of anti-Semitism in England and Germany, see Geoffrey G. Field, “Anti-Semitism with the Boots Off,” in Herbert A. Strauss, ed., Hostages of Modernization: Studies of Modern Anti-Semitism 1870-1933/39. Germany, Great Britain, France (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1993), pp. 294-325. In Field’s view, the English elites reject public or political anti-Semitism while retaining considerable tolerance for private anti-Semitism.

7 His appointment was never seen as anything more than provisional. An Auswärtiges Amt note in 1898 conceded that he might be permitted to remain one more year in Cairo, at the Consul-General’s specific request, but no longer—“länger aber nicht.” (Cit. Martin Kröger, “Mit Eifer ein Fremder. Im Auswärtigen Dienst,” in Faszination Orient, pp. 106-39 [p. 118]). One of his supporters, the Catholic Count von Metternich, who, as Consul-General in Cairo, considered Oppenheim’s services “unentbehrlich” [“indispensable”] tried to have his position in the Auswärtiges Amt made permanent, with the title of Legationsrat [embassy counsellor] in a memo to the Auswärtiges Amt in 1900. The title was conceded, but not the permanent appointment (Kröger, Faszination Orient, p. 117; Oberhaus, “Zum wilden Aufstand entflammen,p. 56, notes 40, 41), not even on the condition proposed by Metternich, that it would be “subject to his continuing to perform his duties satisfactorily.” (Oberhaus, p. 63) After a short-term posting to the Embassy in Washington, where he investigated how the American experience of using railway construction to open up the West might be applied to the Berlin-Baghdad railway project—this resulted in Die Entwicklung des Bagdadbahngebietes und insbesondere Syriens und Mesopotamiens unter Nutzanwendung amerikanischer Erfahrungen (Berlin, 1904)—and where he also informed himself on American scholarship and excavation in the Middle East, Oppenheim expressed interest in 1904 in a more extended two-year appointment as attaché in Washington. Though the Consul-General in Cairo supported this request, while regretting the concomitant loss of his services, it was rejected by the German ambassador in Washington on the grounds that Oppenheim was pushy, servile, sneaky, talked too much, spent too lavishly, and was in general not to be trusted (Kröger, Faszination Orient, p. 119). Ambassador Speck von Sternburg’s misgivings echo Secretary Herbert von Bismarck’s objections to the appointment of Jews of a few years earlier and anticipate later judgments (see note 9 below).

8 Oberhaus, “Zum wilden Aufstand entflammen,p. 56, no. 39. Martin Kröger puts some flesh on these bare bones figures when he contrasts them with the 700 marks a Hamburg dock worker at the time earned in a year (“Max von Oppenheim im Auswartigen Dienst,” Lecture. Historische Gesellschaft http://www.bankgeschichte.de/de/docs/Vortrag_Kroeger.pdfhttp://www.bankgeschichte.de/de/docs/Vortrag_Kroeger.pdf

9 Kröger, Faszination Orient, p. 119. Though apparently not universally shared at the Auswärtiges Amt— Oppenheim did have some loyal supporters and friends there—this was the general judgment of his enemies. Even the Young Turks, whose policies he was eagerly promoting, urged the German foreign office to prevent him from returning to Constantinople in 1916. The Turkish Foreign Minister complained that he had become “impossible.” Wilhelm von Radowitz, a career diplomat who was Embassy Counsellor in Constantinople in 1916, received complaints that he was impetuous and intrusive and trying to ingratiate himself with “awkward flatteries,” and in December 1916 Richard von Kühlmann, the new German ambassador to Turkey, told his chiefs in Berlin that “in view of the anti-Oppenheim mood in the ruling Turkish circles, I consider Oppenheim’s return to Istanbul inappropriate.” (Vahakn N. Dadrian, German Responsibility in the Armenian Genocide, p. 65)

10 Enclosure containing announcement and summary description of the lecture, in a letter to Myron Bement Smith, 20 November 1931, Myron Bement Smith papers, the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

11 This was not always viewed favorably by traditional diplomats. Thus Holstein in a letter to Eulenburg of 21 July 1898 saw Oppenheim’s activity as a way of getting around the obstacles his Jewish ancestry placed in the way of his diplomatic career: “Do you know anything about a Freiherr von Oppenheim, a member of the Union-Klub who, two years ago, was attached to the Consulate-General in Cairo as an ‘Oriental specialist’ without any more clearly defined official rank? He was to keep an eye on the supposedly powerful ferment in the Islamic world in order to warn Europe in good time of any imminent outbreak. To this end, he was to develop good relations with the native-born people and even join their caravans in order to get a sense, in the great markets of the interior, of the prevailing mood in the Islamic world. That at least was the plan. In fact, p. Oppenheim made about as many caravan trips as I have; in contrast he sent in reports, whenever he had an opportnity, of his conversations with the locals, devoted himself to serving disinguished German travellers as a guide, kept, in addition, an open house for guests, in short did everything needed to make his acceptance into the diplomatic service possible. Of half-Jews we have already had and still have a pretty large number. But so far we have not yet had any full-blooded Semites, such as Mendelssohn, Warschauer, Bleichröder, or Oppenheim.” Now, however, he has learned that Oppenheim “will be coming to Berlin, to work, first, at getting himself finally accepted into the diplomatic corps, and, second, at advertising the value of his local knowledge for the journey of his Majesty to Egypt; in short, Oppenheim wants to go along on the trip.” (Philipp Eulenburgs Politische Korrespondenz, letter 1382, vol. 3, p. 1916).

12 Cit. Kröger, Faszination Orient, p. 121.

13 Cit. Oberhaus, “Zum wilden Aufstand entflammen,” p. 58.

14 Cit. Oberhaus, “Zum wilden Aufstand entflammen,” p. 59. On Oppenheim’s contacts in Egypt, see Tilman Lüdke, Jihad Made in Germany: Ottoman and German Propaganda and Intelligence Operations in the First World War (D.Phil. dissertation, University of Oxford, 2001; Münster: LIT, 2005), pp. 70-72.

15 After the United States resumed exports of cotton at the end of the Civil War, the price of cotton, Egypt’s staple export, collapsed, and the Khedive was forced to borrow heavily from the European powers. Various international committees set up to oversee the financial situation were replaced in 1879 by an Anglo-French commission that effectively controlled the country’s finances and its government. Cromer was British Controller-General from 1879 until Britain took over complete control in 1883. He was ruthless in suppressing every threat to British domination. According to the historian Sayyid-Marsot, “Baring believed that ‘subject races’ were totally incapable of self-government, that they did not really need or want self-government, and that what they really needed was a ‘full belly’ policy which kept [the country] quiescent and allowed the élite to make money and so cooperate with the occupying power.” (Afaf Lutfi Sayyid-Marsot, A Short History of Modern Egypt [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985], p. 76). Cromer was forced to resign in 1907 as a result of outrage provoked in both Egypt and England by his brutal punishment of those accused of having participated in the Denshawai incident (1906), when a number of British officers out pigeon-shooting accidentally killed an Egyptian woman and were set upon by a crowd. Sir Eldon Gorst was appointed to replace him by the new Liberal Government in London in 1907. He tried to soften the British administration, give more power and influence to the Egyptians, and repair relations with the Khedive Abbas Hilmi II.

16 Cit. Oberhaus, “Zum wilden Aufstand entflammen,”, p. 62. Subsequently, as German ambassador in London (1903-1912), Paul Graf Wolff-Metternich zur Gracht won the respect and affection of British policy-makers for his efforts to defuse tensions between London and Berlin. His views did not sit well with Wilhelm II and he was recalled in 1912. In 1915, however, he replaced Wangenheim as Ambassador to Turkey. A year later he was again recalled, largely because of his criticism of Turkish policy toward the Armenians.

17 Kröger, Faszination Orient, p. 117. On Oppenheim’s reports to the German Foreign Office, see Jacob M. Landau, The Politics of Pan-Islam: Ideology and Organisation (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), pp. 96-97 and Ch. 2, notes 136-37.

18 Kröger, Faszination Orient, pp. 116, 118; see also Landau, The Politics of Pan-Islam, p. 98, and Sean McMeekin, The Berlin-Baghdad Express: The Ottoman Empire and Germany’s Bid for World Power (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010), pp. 22-23. According to McMeekin, the Kaiser was so taken with Oppenheim that he regularly invited him to dinner whenever Oppenheim was back in Berlin, but this seems hardly likely and may reflect either an exaggerated account, in Oppenheim’s memoir, of his relations with the Kaiser or exaggerated British views of Oppenheim’s importance. In a report dated “Cairo, December 19” [1914] and entitled “German Intrigue in Egypt. Attempts to Weaken British Power. The Activities of Baron von Oppenheim,” the London Times special correspondent in Cairo claimed that “the Jewish Baron Max von Oppenheim […] from 1905 to 1908 […] corresponded with the Kaiser over the indignant heads of his official chiefs. From the Kaiser he certainly received signal marks of favour, culminating in an invitation to a ‘lunch intime’ at Potsdam, to which his chief, Count Bernstorff [the German Consul-General in Cairo 1906-1908], was not invited.” (The Times, 6 January 1915, p. 7).

19 Wolfgang G. Schwanitz, “Euro-Islam by ‘Jihad Made in Germany’,” in Nathalie Clayer and Eric Germain, eds., Islam in Interwar Europe, p. 277. See also R.L. Melka, “Max Freiherr von Oppenheim: Sixty Years of Scholarship and Political Intrigue in the Middle East,” Middle Eastern Studies, 9 (1973): 81-93 (p. 81); Jacob Landau, The Politics of Panislamism, pp. 96-98; Gottfried Hagen, “German Heralds of Holy War: Orientalists and applied oriental studies,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 24 (2002): 145-62 (p. 149). Landau (Politics of Pan-Islam, p. 97) quotes in similar vein from a memorandum of 26 May, 1908 sent by Oppenheim to Bernhard Heinrich von Bülow, the German State Secretary for Foreign Affairs: “In a great European War, especially if Turkey participates in it against England, one may certainly expect an overall revolt of the Muslims in the British colonies. […] In such a war, […] England would need a large part of its navy and almost its entire army [just] in order to keep its colonies.” This appears not to have been an unusual idea in German nationalist circles. Thus the left-leaning nationalist politician and journalist Friedrich Naumann observed in 1899: “It is possible that the world war will break out before the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. Then the Caliph of Constantinople will once more uplift the standard of the Holy War. The Sick Man [Turkey] will raise himself for the last time to shout to Egypt, the Sudan, East Africa, Persia, Afghanistan and India, ‘War against England.’ It is not unimportant to know who will support him on his bed when he utters this cry.” (Cit. Stephen Casewit, “Background to the Holy War of 1914. Toward an Understanding,” Islamic Quarterly, 29 [1985]: 220-33 [p. 220], and Gottfried Hagen, “German Heralds of Holy War: Orientalists and Applied Oriental Studies,” [p. 149]).

20 Fritz Fischer, Griff nach der Weltmacht. Die Kriegzielpolitik des kaiserlichen Deutschland 1914/18 (Düsseldorf: Droste, 1967; 1st edn 1961), p. 111. Fischer’s claim seems to have been accepted by Jacob Landau in The Politics of Pan-Islam, p. 98, as well as by Donald McKale in his study of Oppenheim’s longtime associate Curt Prüfer, Curt Prüfer: German Diplomat from the Kaiser to Hitler (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1987), p. 14, and by Gottfried Hagen, Die Türkei im Ersten Weltkrieg (Frankfurt, Bern, New York and Paris: Peter Lang, 1990), p. 31. However, it was disputed by Wilhelm Treue (“Max Freiherr von Oppenheim. Der Archäologe und die Politik,“ Historische Zeitschrift, 209 [1969]: 37-74 [pp. 52-53]) and rejected by Herbert Landolin Müller in his Islam, ğihād (“Heileger Krieg”) und Deutsches Reich (Frankfurt, Bern, New York and Paris: Peter Lang, 1991) p. 196, note 17, as well as by Hagen in an article published twelve years after his 1990 book (see note 19 above). Similarly, it was noted but no longer endorsed by Donald McKale in work published after his book on Prüfer: “The Kaiser’s Spy: Max von Oppenheim and the Anglo-German Rivalry Before and During the First World War,” European History Quarterly, 27 (1997): 199-219 (p. 201), and War by Revolution: Germany and Great Britain in the Middle East at the End of World War I (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1998), p. 13. Oppenheim is not even mentioned in Jan Stefan Richter’s, Die Orientreise Kaiser Wilhelms II 1898 (Dissertation, Kiel University, 1996; Hamburg: Kovač, 1997). The disagreement on this particular issue reflects a wider disagreement among scholars about the extent of Oppenheim’s influence.

21 Kröger, Faszination Orient, p. 120. In a letter to the editor of the New York Times, dated 23 May 1917 (New York Times, 26 May 1917), soon after the U.S. entered World War I, the Columbia University Oriental scholar Richard Gottheil, acknowledging that he had been a friend of “the charming Freiherr von Oppenheim” whose “learned talk” he had much enjoyed in Cairo and again in the United States, claimed that Oppenheim’s “scientific work, however, has always been merely the cover for his work in the secret service of the Kaiser.” In Gottheil’s view, Oppenheim, was a “man of real scholarship” who had early on become “a common spy.” As early as 1886, for instance, “he was in Morocco making the attempt to detach the Moroccans from their connection with France, and at the same time he made his first attempt to gain for Germany the aid of the powerful Sanussi Fraternity”; in 1893 a “long journey from Beirut through the Syrian desert to Bagdad and the Persian Gulf” was “not unconnected with the Bagdad railroad scheme”; “in 1894 […] he made a journey down to the Tchad Sea in anti-English interests and for the purpose of gaining the assistance of Mohammedan tribes for his work in Egypt against the English occupation”; more recently, during his stint in Cairo, he went to considerable lengths, seducing the Khedive’s European mistress either personally himself or through a third party, in order to obtain and have photographs made of important papers in the Khedive’s possession. Gottheil closes the letter on a dark note: “There is much more that I could say about the learned Freiherr von Oppenheim.”

22 Cit. in Kröger, Faszination Orient, p. 121.

23 “German Intrigue in Egypt. Attempts to Weaken British Power. The Activities of Baron von Oppenheim,” The Times, 6 January 1915, p. 7, col. A, report from the newspaper’s special correspondent, dated Cairo, 19 December.

24 Kröger, Faszination Orient, pp. 121-23.

25 The Memoirs of Sir Ronald Storrs (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1937), p. 133. See also, McKale, Curt Prüfer, pp. 16-20.

26 The Memoirs of Sir Ronald Storrs, p. 134.

27 See Donald M. McKale, “‘The Kaiser’s Spy’: Max von Oppenheim and the Anglo-German Rivalry Before and During the First World War,” European History Quarterly, 27 (1997): 199-219 (p. 203). In addition, Cromer’s judgment of Disraeli might suggest that he was not particularly partial to Jews and other “Orientals”; see his 1912 Spectator essay on Disraeli, reprinted in his Political and Literary Essays (London: Macmillan, 1913), pp. 177-203. On his side, Gorst may have been less suspicious of German motives; his niece was married to André von Dumreicher, a Swabian in the Egyptian border patrol.

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