Judd, Alan. “The Kaiser’s Last Kiss: A Novel”, Touchstone, 2017.
The Kaiser, the Maid and the Reality of War
In 1940, the exiled monarch Kaiser Wilhelm is living in his Dutch chateau, Huis Doorn. He spends his days chopping logs and thinking about what might his staff is replaced by SS guards, under recently commissioned SS officer Martin Krebbs, and an unlikely relationship develops between the king and his keeper. While they agree on the rightfulness of German expansion and on holding the nation’s Jewish population accountable for all ills, they disagree on the solutions. Krebbs becomes attracted to Akki, a Jewish maid in the house and begins to question his belief in Nazism. Soon The Kaiser, Krebbs, and the mysterious Akki find themselves increasingly conflicted and gravely at risk.
In 1918, after the German loss in WW1, Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated, losing both his crown by and his home in Germany. He, his wife, Dona, and his household staff moved to Holland where he in exile for the last twenty-three years of his life. He died at Huis Doorn, in June, 1941, at the age of 82.
British author Alan Judd takes some liberties with facts as he writes a story of the old Kaiser’s last days. It is the story of young Nazi Waffen-SS officer, Martin Krebbs, who has been ordered by the German government to take over the running of Huis Doorn after the Germans took over the Netherlands. Once there, Krebbs meets Akki the maid who has become close to the Kaiser since her employment. – She also becomes close to Krebbs once he arrives. The novel is about how the three characters interact with each other or as a group of three. Other characters come and go – some more important than others but the plot of is about these characters.
Krebbs is tested early when he makes reference to a real act of German atrocity at La Paradis in Normandy and we are left to try to understand whether he was involved in the massacre and if he would or would turn a suspected spy in or let him escape. We also begin to wonder if Kaiser Wilhelm is an anti-Semite and how he feels about the killing of Jewish children. Akki’s story is the most difficult to figure out. She is both the ghost and the connecting figure between the two men.
This is a story of personal power, ambitions and conflicts that even the most tyrannical regimes are made of real people who deal with real issues. Based upon fact, Judd is able to bring forward the different kinds of responses that exist both between and within his characters. Kaiser Wilhelm is one of the most forgotten people in history and he comes alive again here. The novel has already been made into a movie starring Christopher Plummer, Lily James, and Jai Courtney and will be released later this year.