I am trying to identify a reference for a quote attributed to Otto von Bismarck.

From tagesspiegel.de: "Politik braucht mehr Prosa und weniger Poesie": "Wie enorm der Druck der Widerstände auf ihm [Otto von Bismarck] lastete, zeigte jenes morgendliche Geständnis, er habe die ganze Nacht wach gelegen und „nur gehasst“."

English Google translation: "How much the pressure of the resistance weighed on him [Otto von Bismarck] showed that morning confession that he had lain awake the whole night and "just hated"."

I am interested in knowing where OvB made that "just hated" statement.

Update 1

Thanks to @IndianaJenna's interesting answer, a further Google Books search for the phrase "Ich habe die ganze Nacht gehaßt" reveals the following sources

Update 2

Below is the email I received from Prof. Ulrich Lappenküper, managing director of the Otto-von-Bismarck-Stiftung, in response to an email I had sent (following the advice given by @MarkJohnson in his post, and @LangLangC in one of his comments). Prof. Lappenküper was very kind in responding within a few hours.

[D]as fragliche Bismarck-Zitat wird in elektronischen und sonstigen Medien immer wieder und in unterschiedlichen Fassungen kolportiert, aber stets ohne Quellenangabe. Im Gegensatz zu manch anderen Bismarckiana gibt es aber eine seriöse Quelle: Christoph von Tiedemann, Persönliche Erinnerungen an den Fürsten Bismarck, Leipzig 1898, S.42. Tiedemann zitiert dort aus einem undatierten Gespräch mit Bismarck folgenden Satz: „Ich habe nicht schlafen können, ich habe die ganze Nacht gehaßt“.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen (and best greetings to Australia)
U. Lappenküper

So it appears that the conjecture of Tiedemann being the source of this quote which has been articulated by various respondents to this post, is a correct one. Also note Prof. Lappenküper's comment that the quote is part of an undated conversation between Tiedemann and Bismarck.

  • Seems as if the English translation is loosing the ambiguity: the object of hate might have been the night itself? Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 17:42
  • Btw: That fn: Stern rests on A.J.P. Taylor, and Taylor repeats just another instance of "once" hearsay without any date or reference… Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 18:18
  • The Atzler book is really from 1908, so it should be online somewhere else then rip-off sites. As that src/book might need the exact page not on Goggle for proper context of what's apparently 'quoted' there. Anyone able to reveal that? Commented Sep 17, 2019 at 14:17
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    I might have placed the answer in an answer, rather than in an update to the question. Both options are defensible.
    – MCW
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 13:34
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    @MarkC.Wallace It's actually OK for OP to keep it as is, indeed. The effect for impatient readers is really all that remains in the negative, as they might think "a well, already answered in Q, so what the heck?" But then even in this form the answers confirm and still add details and perspective for those who "want to know" and are comfortable with a little digging.. 15 minutes reading time for way more info on that than any other site with quotes are offering on the topic. That is quite satisfying after all. Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 13:52

3 Answers 3


1) 1897

The earliest reference I could find is Christoph von Tiedemann on p. 42 of Persönliche Erinnerungen an den Fürsten Bismarck (S. Hirze, 1898, link) based on a 1897 talk:

"ich habe nicht schlafen können, ich habe die ganze Nacht gehaßt", sagte er mir eines Morgens

Von Tiedemann knew von Bismarck personally and spent a lot of time with him. The information when von Bismarck said that is missing.

This source was also mentioned in the article Bismarck Posthumus on p. 161 of Theodor Barth's Die Nation (volume 16, 1899) in which the above book (published 6 months before von Bismarck's death) is talked about. It contains the following

Tiedemann selbst erzählt uns die hübsche Anekdote, wie Bismarck ihm eines Morgens sagt, er habe die ganze Nacht gehaßt, und wie er daran eine Apotheose des Hasses als fruchtbaren Elements, wenigstens der Liebe gleiches, knüpft.

Hatred being as fruitful as love. But they may have conflated two different conversations. Von Tiedemann mentions von Bismarck's opinion on love and hate on p. 5.

2) Some later sources

Otto Pflanze on p. 566 of Bismarck: Der Reichsgründer (II. Bismarcks Charakter, 5. Buch: Das Reich aus Eisen und Blut), google books (German translation, 2008):

"Ich habe nicht schlafen können, ich habe die ganze Nacht gehaßt", sagte er eines Morgens zu Tiedemann.

Bismarck suffered from insomnia, providing the context for the quote. Von Tiedemann seems to be the source, e. g. Pflanze refers to von Tiedemann's 1909 book Sechs Jahre Chef der Reichskanzlei unter dem Fürsten Bismarck several times.

On p. 64 of Georg Schwarz's 1941 book Ernst Schweninger, Bismarcks Leibarzt (link) contains the following:

„Ich habe die ganze Nacht gehaßt“, antwortete Bismarck einmal, als er gefragt wurde, weshalb er nicht geschlafen habe.

It's not always clear which sources the author used (they even just index the "most important sources" (Verzeichnis der wichtigsten gedruckten Quellen, pp. 243-244)), but they mention von Tiedemann in the paragraph before, so he seems to be the source again. Interestingly, one of the more important sources was Erinnerungen an Bismarck. Aufzeichnungen von Mitarbeitern und Freunden des Fürsten, which may shed more light on the issue (see below).

According to another text (p. 99, footnote 22), Ernst Schweninger, von Bismarck's physician, reported that claim:

Das entsprechende Zitat wird u.a. in der Form „Er habe ,die ganze Nacht gehaßt‘“ von Bismarcks Arzt Ernst Schweninger überliefert (E. Schweninger: Blätter aus meiner Erinnerung. In: Erinnerun-gen an Bismarck. Aufzeichnungen von Mitarbeitern und Freunden des Fürsten [...]. [Hrsg. v.] Erich Marcks u. Karl Alexander v. Müller. 6. Aufl. Berlin/Leipzig 1924, S. 176–222; das betr. Zitat: S. 216).

I have my doubts about it. The snippet from p. 216 of the 1915 edition again mentions Tiedemann first and then introduces the quote the following way:

Als Bismarck einmal gefragt wurde, warum er nicht geschlafen habe, hat er das selbst bekanntlich kurz und bündig mit den Worten eingeräumt: Er habe "die ganze Nacht gehaßt".

This is kept very general and there is no indication that Schweninger is the actual source. It just happens to be in the Schweninger chapter of that book (the other mention of that quote on p. 218 is not clearer).

According to Oswald Bumke (Gedanken über die Seele, Heidelberg 1948, p. 83, footnote 1, link) the family reported:

Der Vater hat die ganze Nacht gehaßt.

The source is Graf Lerchenberg, Erinnerungen und Denkwürdigkeiten, Berlin 1935, p. 225.

Thanks to LangLangC, I got access to the full book, not just a snippet. A bit more context from the above mentioned p. 225 of Graf Hugo Lerchenfeld-Koefering's Erinnerungen und Denkwürdigkeiten: 1843 bis 1925 (E. S. Mittler & Sohn, Berlin 1935):

Durch Zorn gestörte Nächte hat der Fürst manche erlebt. Es genügte, daß ihm beim Zubettegehen etwas seinen Ärger Erregendes einfiel, selbst zeitlich weit zurückliegende Dinge. Die Familie sagte dann: "Der Vater hat die ganze Nacht gehaßt."

From the context around it, the quote this time seems to be used to illustrate von Bismarck's anger (Zorn), not insomnia. No source is given (if 15) Lerchenfeld refers to endnote 15 on p. 437, it's not about that.). I want to add what von Lerchenfeld-Koefering writes on p. 217, the beginning of the Bismarck chapter:

Es ist nicht meine Absicht, in Konkurrenz mit Historikern vom Fach ein abgerundetes Lebensbild Bismarcks zu zeichnen. Das würde umfassende Vorstudien voraussetzen, zu denen mir an meinem Lebensabend keine sichere Zeit bleibt. Ich will nur versuchen, ganz einfach den Mann nach seiner äußeren Erscheinung, seinem Charakter, seinen Methoden und Lebensgewohnheiten zu schildern, genau so wie er in meiner Erinnerung steht.

The book was written 27 years after von Bismarck's death. It's possible that the family said something like that, it's also possible that he misremembered it.

3) Inspired by the quote

Gustav Stresemann was also fond of quoting Bismarck's statement, like on May 30, 1924 in Berlin as reported by Edgar Vincent, 1st Viscount D'Abernon in Chapter II, p. 68 of An Ambassador of Peace (pdf download):

He went on: "In other countries the successful conduct of foreign affairs brings about confidence in the Minister. Here it only produces envy. Of the members of the old Government, the only ones who are willingly accepted by the Nationals are those who are the least important. One of my old colleagues never understood what was going on either in the Cabinet or in his Department - he is the one they acclaim. Events like this which are now going on make one realise what Bismarck meant when he said,'Ich habe die ganze Nacht gehasst.'"

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    I'd be very interested to know when Busmarck said this.
    – C Monsour
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 12:30
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    This was found attributed to him, variously writing to his wife, into his own diary, "said to Tiedemann", and doubted as unproven anecdote. Could you prove at least some of these at the real src? Eg his letters and Tiedemann's memoirs are online Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 20:43
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    I just want to add that I found the quote in Tiedemann's Persönliche Erinnerungen an den Fürsten Bismarck independently from this answer, written around the same time I updated my post and that I was unaware of until now. I found it based on the article in Die Nation I quoted earlier. Commented Sep 17, 2019 at 12:23
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    @LangLangC See my edit: I don't see any indication that Schweninger is the source. They probably just thought he was because it's mentioned in the Schweninger chapter. I assume that Schwarz fell into the same trap. Von Tiedemann is probably always the source. I didn't find out more about the Graf Lerchenfeld book yet, though. Commented Sep 17, 2019 at 15:41
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    @Spencer There is no context to the quote. Tiedemann just uses it to illustrate that Bismarck went through the whole range of emotions, but didn't show them. It's just added in brackets (LangLangC's answer illustrates that). Without context, I can't say whether it was used transitively or intransitively. It's open to several interpretations and that's possibly why the quote became so well-known. Commented Sep 18, 2019 at 20:43

Note that this answer was written before "Update 2" in the question appeared.


It seems to be an anecdote, reported only one single time, as "he once said", by one source, undated. It is of a singular nature, not repeating. In that single source it has no relation to any specific occasion and is even phrased with ambiguity, possibly even with an intended humorous effect.

It seems to be reported first by Tiedemann in a speech in 1897 and after Bismarck's death this seems to have spiralled out of proportion. That some admired or despised Bismarck as 'a hater' made for a well fitting 'quote' in both cases. But Bismarcks own words – even if correctly recorded by Tiedemann – make for very slim evidence to diagnose his character as 'frequently insomniac and busy hating through the night'. But the single source Tiedemann is not of unlimited value anyway, so this quote has to be read with a certain pinch of salt at the ready.

Since the beginning of the 20th century this 'quote' makes the rounds.

This was found attributed to him,

Could we prove at least some of these at the real source? For example in his letters and/or Tiedemann's memoirs which are for a large part online at archive.org (example). Although mostly written in fraktur and catastrophically OCRed.

That he might have said this in various forms ("gehaßt"/"durchgehaßt)", might sill be true. But another possible explanation for that could be that he simply said it that often, varying it himself. And that then being recorded differently and even accurately in different sources. But that seems not to be the case.

If it's in his diaries in one form, in a letter to his wife in another, in memoirs of Tiedemann in yet a third, then we would have three primary sources, two of top quality.

One such source is indeed
enter image description here

That scanned image shows what Prof. M Lappenküper's, from the Otto-von-Bismarck-Stiftung, believes is the main source. It reads:

Bei aller Kraft und Erregbarkeit seines Temperaments blieb doch ein kühler Realismus der Grundzug seines Wesens. Er sah die Dinge wie sie wirklich sind, unbeeinflußt durch schwächliche Empfindsamkeit. Er mag die ganze Skala der Gemüthsbewegungen durchgemacht haben und zwar mit der vollen Wucht seiner Persönlichkeit ("ich habe nicht schlafen können, ich habe die ganze Nacht gehaßt", sagte er mir eines Morgens) – ich glaube aber nicht daß er jemals sentimental oder pathetisch geworden ist. Wie jede Phrase war ihm jede Pose verhaßt und Posiren würde er es genannt haben, hätte er eine weichliche oder künstlich forcirte Stimmung zur Schau getragen.

Jetzt liegen alle jene Erinnerungen in nebelgrauer Ferne hinter mir. Die Bilder, die sich einst farbenprächtig dem Gedächtnisse eingeprägt, beginnen allmählich zu verblassen[…](p52)
–– Christoph von Tiedemann: "Persönliche Erinnerungen an den Fürsten Bismarck. Vortrag gehalten in der historischen Gesellschaft für den Netze-Distrikt in Bromberg am 18. November 1897", S Hirzel: Leipzig. 1898. (p42)

Translation: Despite all the strength and excitability of his temperament, a cool realism remained the main feature of his nature. He saw things as they really are, uninfluenced by weak sensitivity. He may have gone through the whole range of emotions with the full force of his personality ("I couldn't sleep, I hated the whole night," he told me one morning) – but I don't think he ever became sentimental or pathetic. Like every phrase, he hated every pose and would have called it posing if he had displayed a soft or artificially forced mood.

That is a Tiedemann source, which Lappenküper thinks is reliable (seriös). But in this same pamphlet Tiedemann is freely admitting that it is a vague and fading memory from long ago. He kept a diary, but he doesn't get into specifics regarding the date or opportunity for this quote. Just "he once said it".
For comparison: In this same source Tiedemann goes into some vivd details regarding certain dates and affairs. The context of the 'quote' also makes it clear that Tiedemann is actively knitting towards a legend of his liking. Including hyperbole in anecdotes.

A note on the translation:

Ich habe nicht schlafen können, ich habe die ganze Nacht gehaßt.
I couldn't sleep, I hated all the night.

This is ambiguous in the original. It could as well mean that he could not sleep and (that because he) was busy hating during the night. But equally that he couldn't sleep that night and that (therefore) he hated the (sleepless) entire night itself. Meaning it was just a terrible night. Without more context, this seems undecidedable from the source. Even if the 'hating' reading should be the better fitting one, it cannot be excluded that this was meant as a joke.

More specifically, Tiedemann's own and much more detailed memoirs ("Aus sieben Jahrzehnten: Erinnerungen - Bd. 2: Sechs Jahre Chef der Reichskanzlei unter dem Fürsten Bismarck", S Hirzel: Leipzig, 1909) have 487 pages to pinpoint this sentence, yet fail to do that?

I didn't check Bismarck diaries. In Bismarck's memoirs he uses 'gehaßt' exactly one time, not related to his nights, but describing other people's attitudes.

As far as his letters to his wife are completely published in

A cursory reading does not reveal this quote to me, but quite some instances of him not complaining about sleeplessness. Instead we find examples describing how he sleeps "long" (Potsdam 14. Nov 1848) or "11 hours…" (when on holidays) or "not long but well" (Petersburg 3. May 1873). That he always (or at least frequently) 'hated through the night', and wrote that at least once to his wife, seems not true. As ups and downs come and go, he reports of occasional difficulties sleeping and also ample sleep over the years.

But if Tiedemann in this version just cited is the only source for this 'quote' than it can be called justly: 'maybe a true report of a personal witness' – and a legendary anecdote without further merit regarding Bismarck himself as well at the same time.

As a contemporary recension of this work remarks without all irony:

But how much more intimate is the connection in which Tiedemann stood with Bismarck, and how much finer and nobler he knows how to reproduce the changing images of Bismarck's day's work, how he complains and moans after sleepless nights, eats and drinks enormously, chats ravishingly, drives up like a lion, and then can probably be unapproachable and dangerous, and yet again and again into his 'real ruler's' mood of the balanced tension when willpower returns. Thus a truly heroic impression, because the effect of the good heroic epic is also based on the fact that we have a hero not only in his main and state actions, but also in all his humanities.
–– Historische Zeitschrift, 3 / 7 / 103, 1909 (my translation and emphasis)

One other source that might be reporting this independently from Tiedeman might be Ernst Schweninger: "Blätter aus meiner Erinnerung" in: Erich Marcks & Karl Alexander von Müller (Eds): "Erinnerungen an Bismarck : Aufzeichnungen von Mitarbeitern u. Freunden des Fürsten, mit e. Anh. von Dokumenten u. Briefen ; In Verbindung mit A. v. Brauer / gesammelt von Erich Marcks; Karl Alexander von Müller", Deutsche Verlags Anstalt: Stuttgart, Berlin, 1915. (p 177–222, esp 216, 218). But this late source is noticeably different from what Schweninger wrote himself in: Ernst Schweninger: "Dem Andenken Bismarcks : Zum 1. April 1899", S Hirzel: Leipzig, 1899. In the early pamphlet Schweniger makes no mention of the sought after quote. That would make it all the more likely that he or the editors updated that memory, possibly again based on Tiedemann.

Answering the title question "Where did Otto von Bismarck say “laying awake all night, hating'?" one can only say with certainty: in Tiedemann's memory. How reliable that witness might be in that regard remains debatable. How much this one source contaminated the recollections of other sources coming after him is uncertain. We do not get to know from Tiedemann on what occasion this might have happened.

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    You might want to add that the image shows what Prof. M Lappenküper's, from the Otto-von-Bismarck-Stiftung, believes is the main source. Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 8:56

Bismarck is very famous for his quotes, but even the Otto-von-Bismarck-Stiftung has no complete summary of them (at least online).

Asking them would be your best option for a reliable result, since his quotes are often used out of the original context.

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    Think this can be removed as it doesn't answer the question, and there is an answer that does.
    – Engineer
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 10:57
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    @Engineer: IMHO it should stay. However lucky OP got that someone knew or pinned down a source, more often than not this answer is the correct one when it comes to Bismarck quotes. Also, note C Monsour's comment to the accepted answer. I for one would also like to know the specific context (in a James Comey note taking kind of way), because unfortunately even biographies and history books misattribute quotes. Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 17:08
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    @Engineer when I looked, I found 3 different 'sources', none of which matched the ones in the answer (that came later). The Stiftung has the greatest amount of documentation about Bismarck, so the best source for a possible reliable answer. Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 17:16
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    @LangLangC: Yeyeye. And I'd note, not without some irony, that the counter-sources provided on that page are... mostly without sources (let alone precise ones). :D Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 18:40
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    I find value in this answer and therefore support it remaining. Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 20:09

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