Caesar conquered Gaul (1st century BC), but was assassinated before he could expand Rome east across the Rhine in force. Augustus' attempt was stopped by the Germanic tribes in the Turtonberg Forest (9 AD). Thus Germany east and west of the Rhine developed differently. This cultural divided lasted until World War II. The Germanic Tribes overwhelmed the Western Empire (5th century). Only in Britain, however, did they displace the local population. Germany during the Dark Ages dominated Europe. They became the ruling class throughout the West. Ironically Germany did not overwhelm Europe culturally. It might have been thought that given the size ad power of Germany that German would become the dominant European language. Ironically it was English that would emerge as the lengua-franca of Europe ad much of the word. This was because a conflict between the pope and emperor made it impossible to a centralized German state to develop, unlike other European states. In addition, Germany was in the center of Europe and thus surrounded by hostile neighbors, restricting its expansion. Germany's medieval history is complicated. German nationalism was a factor in the Reformation. But it was not until the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars that Germans nationalism grew. The Revolution also inspired a demand for unification. After Napoleon's defeat, the fight for the soul of Germany began. The 1848 Revolutions had the prospect of a liberal, democratic German state. But the Russian Army helped put down the liberals. The question then became whether Prussia or Austria would unite Germany. This question was answered by Prussian military force. And the Prussian militaristic, authoritative model became Germany's united future. State involvement in industrial development helped make Germany in the early 20th century the dominant European power. Germany's cultural and scientific achievements were impressive. German leaders embarked on two disastrous attempts to dominate Europe militarily. They played a major role in launching World war I and were stopped in large measure by a failure to appreciate the rise of the United States as a major power. Germany was not solely responsible for launching World War II. It was a joint effort with NAZI ally, Soviet Russia. The NAZI and Soviet desire to dominate Europe was fueled by a toxic mixture of nationalism, racial hatred, and socialist ideology. . They were stooped by a grand coalition of Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union which had to switch sides. The Anglo-American alliance later in the 20th century would ironically save Germany from Soviet domination. America not only saved Germany from totalitarian communist dictatorship, but promoted the development of Germany into a democratic country, fully integrated as a peaceful member of European society.
The origins of the Germanic peoples are obscure. Both the ethnic and geographic origins of the people speaking Teutonic languages are not known to history with any precision. The origins of these Germanic people is still shrouded in pre-history. The Germans certainly entered Europe well before the Roman era, but the Germanic people left no written language and because they were semi-nomadic, the archeological remains are sparse. The Germanic people were probably formed from a mixture of races in the coastal region of northern Europe, perhaps especially around the Baltic Sea. They appear to have settled in the north-central plains of Europe sometime around the end of the 6th century B.C. All that is known with any precision is that the Germanic tribes first appear in southern Scandinavia and along the North Sea and Baltic coasts south into modern Poland. These Germanic tribes then moved southward and east. The Germanic tribes pushing south encountered the Romans at a period in their history that they were expanding north of the alps, setting in motion one of the titanic confrontations in history and one which was not completely resolved until World War II. The Germanic Tribes moved into the central and southern area of modern Germany (100 BC). This brought them into contact with the Roman Empire moving north and east. At the time the Germans came in contact with the Romans they were still tribal, divided into three major groups. The western Germanic tribes are the ones who first contacted the Romans and their territory in the west and south became a province of the Roman Empire. The western Germans had settled in area from the North Sea east to the Elbe, Rhine, and Main rivers. The Rhine became an boundary between the Germanic tribes and Roman territory when Julius Caesar defeated the Suevian tribe (about 70 BC) and took possession of Gaul for Rome. Caesar conquered Gaul (1st century BC), but was assassinated before he could expand Rome east across the Rhine in force. Rome under Augustus continued its expansionary policy moving east and had begun to establish a substantial presence east of the Rhine. Then a force of almost three entire Legions under the provincial governor Varus was destroyed by Germany's first great national leader, Arminius in the Teutoburg Forest (9 AD). This staggering defeat of epic proportions stooped the Roman drive east. It also helped make the Rhine River a landmark of almost mystic proportions to the Germans. The Romans used Germanic tribesmen in their army. Arminius had grown up in Rome and served in the Roman army. He was very familiar with Roman tactics and capabilities. As result of the battle, the Romans were driven west of the Rhine. The Romans built a 300-mile defensive line roughly along the Rhine during the 1st century AD. Thus Germany east and west of the Rhine developed differently. This cultural divided lasted until World War II. The Germanic Tribes overwhelmed the Western Empire (5th century). Only in Britain, however, did they displace the local population.
Germany during the Dark Ages dominated Europe. They became the ruling class throughout the West. Ironically Germany did not overwhelm Europe culturally. It might have been thought that given the size ad power of Germany that German would become the dominant European language. Ironically it was English that would emerge as the lengua-franca of Europe ad much of the word. This was because a conflict between the pope and emperor made it impossible to a centralized German state to develop, unlike other European states. In addition, Germany was in the center of Europe and thus surrounded by hostile neighbors, restricting its expansion. Germany's medieval history is complicated.
The Holy Roman Empire originated with the coronation of German King Otto as emperor (962). It survived until Francis II under pressure from Napoleon renounced the imperial title (1806). It was the medieval German state it was ruled by several dynasties before the Emperor becoming dominated by the Hapsburg. The Holy Roman Empire of the German nation became the effective organization of Germany after the Investiture Controversy. It was not, however, an exclusively German political unit. The Empire included over time the Burgundian inheritance (the Carolingian "middle kingdom") and parts of Italy and the Netherlands, which were not German in any ethnic or linguistic sense. Nor were national loyalties and sensibilities nearly as important in Medieval Europe as would be the case in the 19th century after the French Revolution. Certainly Germany was the nucleus of the Empire. The emperors were Germans and might have built a powerful empire in central Europe that could have dominated Europe. This did not occur although the Hapsburgs came close to it. Instead the possession of non-German possessions served to involve the Empire in foreign quarrels which drained its resources and exacerbated domestic differences. These problems would come to fruition in the Reformation.
The reformation began in Germany. This was no accident. The Reformation was only partially a religious movement. It was also a German nationalist movement, alienated from a foreign-dominated church. The Reformation would have had difficulty arising in other countries with more centralized regimes. Some German princes, desiring to establish their independence and sovereignty, used the Reformation to weaken the authority of the emperor. The Holy Roman Empire was not a centralized state before the Reformation. After the Reformation it was weakened even further. The irony is that it was the Papacy that played a major role in weakening the imperial regime and preventing the Holy Roman Empire from coalescing into a powerful, centralized state. It was the relatively weak emperor that was unable to prevent the Reformation and the split in Western Christendom.
It was not until the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars that Germans nationalism grew. The Revolution also inspired a demand for unification. After Napoleon's defeat, the fight for the soul of Germany began.
Germany was not a unified state in 1848. As a result, there were a series of discrete revolutions in the various German states.n The 1848 Revolutions had the prospect of a liberal, democratic German state. But the Russian Army helped put down the liberals. The question then became whether Prussia or Austria would unite Germany. The February revolution in France inspired others in Europe to demand liberal reforms or seek to change recalcitrant monarchical governments by force. In Germany the issue of German unification was strongly associated with demands for liberal reform. Both the Prussian and Austrian monarchies were threatened. Germany was divided into two major states (Austria and Prussia), several small states (Bavaria and Hanover), and a large number of small principalities. These states were loosely associated in the German Confederation. Many Germans were inspired by the French Revolution with both liberal and national ideals. The unwillingness of monarchical regimes to implement liberal reforms led in 1848 in riots and disturbances throughout Germany. Many German rulers were forced to agree to liberal reforms. Even in Prussia, King Frederick Wilhelm IV was forced to accept a democratic constitution. The Frankfurt Parliament was organized to draft a constitution for a new united Germany and met in May. Considerable dissension developed in the Parliament. The Parliament offered Prussian King Frederick Wilhelm IV the crown, but he refused because the constitution of the new state would have diluted his power. He dismissed the offer with the comment, "I do not accept a crown from the gutter!" By this time Frederick Wilhelm was in firm control of the Prussian army. The disturbances continued in 1849, including revolts in Baden and Dresden.
t was Britain that led the way in the Industrial Revolution. One historian writes, "Great Britain was the pioneer and a portent for the world's future economic organization." [Ashworth, p. 7.] America in its own industrialization benefited greatly by its linguistic and cultural ties even after separating politically as a result of the Revolutionary War (1776-83). It is no accident that the Industrial Revolution was first centered in Britain a variety of factors coalesced that brought this about. Belgium was the first Continental country to experience the Industrial Revolution. Gradually similar developments spread to the Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Austria, and the German states as well as America. The Industrial Revolution in German followed a different pattern than that of Britain and America.
Bismarck for most of his life was not an ardent proponent of German unification. His love was for Prussia. Interestingly, the movement for German unification came primarily from democratically minded liberals within Germany and not the Prussian junker class. Perhaps in part because unification was so promoted by the liberals, Bismarck in his early career had no enthusiasm for it. One of the tragedies of German history is that it was not the liberals that united Germany. It could have been very different. Crown Prince Frederick and his English wife Victoria were liberally minded. King Wilhelm's rule, however, was very long and Frederick ruled only a few before dieing of cancer and being replaced by his son Wilhelm II. Germany was, however, united by Bismarck pushing and cajoling the King Wilhelm. Bismarck eventually devoted himself to the task of unifying the German states. This was accomplished through both diplomatic persuasion backed by a series of successful wars, earning him the title of "The Iron Chancellor" and stamping the character of the new German Empire with Prussian anti-democratic military traditions.
The question of German unification was answered by Prussian military force. And the Prussian militaristic, authoritative model became Germany's united future. State involvement in industrial development helped make Germany in the early 20th century the dominant European power. Germany's cultural and scientific achievements were impressive. German leaders embarked on two disastrous attempts to dominate Europe militarily.
Imperial Germany played a major role in launching World war I. Germany had the most powerful Army in Europe and by launching an offensive through Belgium came very close to winning the War in the first month. Russian offensives in the East, British intervention, and the French offensive on the Marne denied Germany victory. The War bogged down into a war of attrition, a war that Germany was not well suited to wage. The Royal Navy implemented a debilitating naval blockade. Although the Germans finally defeated the Russians in the East, in the West they faced a much expanded British Army and because of a failure to appreciate the rise of the United States as a major power, a huge new American Army. The German public which had thought the War was essentially won, saw their Army defeated in a 100-day Allied offensive in the West.
A new German Weimar Republic replaced the Imperial German Government at the end of World War I. The Allies refused to negotiate with the German military. Thus the Armistice (1918) and resulting Versailles Treaty (1919) were signed by republican officials. This allowed right-wing politicians after the War to claim that the German Army was not defeated, but stabbed in the back. The Republic from the beginning had major problem. It inherited a civil service from Imperial Germany that was strongly monarchist in loyalty and suspicious of parliamentary democracy. The officer corps of the Army took a oath of loyalty to the Republic, but in fact was deeply suspicious of the Weimar regime and from the onset set out to evade the restrictions of the Versailles Treaty--in part explaining how the NAZIs were able to so quickly rearm after seizing power. Popular support for the Weimar Republic was impaired by first the public shock at the Versailles Treaty and then the ruinous inflation. In fact the Republic was headquarters in Weimar rather than Berlin because the Army renamed the Reichwehr could not guarantee security in Berlin. Gradually the Republic began to gain some credibility. Competent fiscal management, the Dawes Plan, and the Locarno Agreements had by 1925 considerably improved the economic situation in Germany.
The rise of the NAZIs is a frightening enough event, but perhaps even more frightening is how Hitler and the NAZIs so easily bent the German nation to their evil purposes. Every country has evil people, but how could a small group of evil thugs so easily cow a great nation into participating or at least acquiesce in what were some of the most evil actions of the 20th century. Thus the NAZI years are a case study in modern totalitarianism. A key factor here was the considerable political skills of Adolf Hitler. Another factor was the political ferment in Germany and the tenuous acceptance of democracy. Hitler gave the Germans what many wanted (jobs, order, and prestige) while laying the foundation for what he wanted (war, conquest, and genocide). Hitler had convinced conservative elements and the middle-class that he and the NAZIs were a force for stability and conservative social values. In fact, the NAZI Government in the years before the War would launch a revolution transforming German society. And here a major effort was made to win over youth. The NAZI revolution was well underway, but not fully implemented at the time Hitler launched World war II. Germany in 1933 was not a NAZI nation bent on conquest. But in 6 years Hitler and the NAZIs transformed Germany. The German people still did not want war, but their leadership had prepared them and their children for the most terrible war in world history. Perhaps the greatest irony of the Third Reich was that Hitler while a political mastermind, heated politicians and politics. What he wanted (as the Kaiser wanted) was to be a great war leader. Fortunately for the world, Germany did not have the resources for a world war and Hitler was not a military genius.
World War I had convinced most Europeans that there must never be another war. There was no desire for another war, even in Germany. The War was the creation of two men -- German Führer Adolf Hitler and his seemingly unlikely Soviet ally Joseph Stalin. Hitler's World war I service had been the high point of his sad life. He thus viewed war differently than most people. In addition the achievement of his goals necessitated war. The question of Germany and the Germans has to feature prominently in any discussion of World War II. Why didn't the German people resist Hitler and the NAZIs? Just how did it transpire that one of the most civilized of European countries, the land of Goethe and Schiller, Beethoven and Brahms, could have started two world wars--the second almost single handedly. How could the Germans so passionately have followed the most evil of all historical monsters, Adolf Hitler and so eagerly embrace militarism and racism that would have returned Europe to a new Dark Age of unimagined barbarity? How could so many Germans gave participated in the killing of so many innocent civilians, most of whom were non-combatant women and children. Even more unsettling is how the Germans could have embraced and idolized Adolf Hitler, the mastermind of such unspeakable horror so fervently. Germany was not solely responsible for launching World War II. It was a joint effort with NAZI ally, the Soviet Union in desire to dominate Europe fueled by a toxic mixture of nationalism, racial hatred, and socialist ideology. They were stopped by a grand coalition of Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union forced to switch sides.
The World War II Anglo-American alliance later in the 20th century would ironically save Germany from Soviet domination. America not only saved Germany from totalitarian communist dictatorship, but promoted the development of Germany into a democratic country, fully integrated as a peaceful member of European society. The Cold War was to be won or lost in Germany. Although newspapers headlines followed dramatic events as they occurred around the world, it was in Germany that the outcome of the Cold War was determined. The country was even with diminished borders the powerhouse of Europe. The Red Army and Stalin's ruthlessness early owned settled the matter in the minds of most Germans. The question became more one of whether America had the determination to support the Germans in the face of the Soviet threat. The Western Allied in 1949 began to allow the Federal Republic of German to administer the Western occupation zones and formally ended occupation in 1955. The larger and more important economy allowed the FRG to dominate the East German Democratic Republic (DDR). The FRG worked to prevent other countries recognizing the DDR which was effective through the 1960s. It also meant that the West Germans lost opportunities to pursue potentially beneficial commercial opportunities in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. [Gray] This did not change until Arab countries began recognizing the DDR in the 1970s. By that time, Willy Brandt in the 1960s began his Ostpolitik, to build relations with Eastern Europe and the United States.
German cities and the country's industrial plant located in the cities were destroyed in World War II. Most of the damage was done by the Allied strategic bombing campaign, largely at the end of the War (1944-45). There was also considerable damage in cities like Berlin where the Germans decided to make a serious stand. This included several cities in the east that Hitler designated fortress cities. Many German cities were quite literally piles of rubble by the time the NAZIs capitulated and the War ended (May 1945). Many thought that it would take a generation for Germany to recover. The German Economic Miracle in the West began with the Marshall Plan (1948). Both American aid and the beginning steps in European integration were important factors. The major factor was, however, that while the physical plant of German industry had been destroyed, the technological capability and skills of German workers and technicians were still in tact. Thanks to an excellent Civil Defense program, the civilians killed were surprisingly small. (Unlike the situation in countries the Germans occupied, most of the Germans who died in the War were military personnel or German civilians targeted by the NAZIs.) The German Economic Miracle (Das deutsche Wirtschaftswunder) was fully underway by the 1950s. Conditions were tight, but improving rapidly in the early-50s. One outcome of the destruction of old plants was that by the end of the decade, Germany had the most modern industrial plant in Europe. And workers were receiving higher wages than ever before. Parents at last had some disposable income in the 1950s. Most spent frugally, but at last they were able to afford the basics. Mothers could once again begin to exercise their interest in fashion. hey began spending on other items such as fashionable clothes and treats for the children. There was a tremendous renewal of economic conditions during the 1950s. Germany by the late 50s had returned to prosperous economic conditions, at least in the west. Families were earning good incomes and expenditures for food and clothing increased substantially. Despite the fact that the German industrial plant was destroyed, the recovery in German took place faster than in Britain.
Following German politics from America. The Unites States continues to be a very provincial country. And there is little in depth reporting of foreign politics. Nor is there great interest in foreign politics. The German 2017 election is, however, of considerable importance more for what it portends for the future than immediately. Mrs Merckle is likely to continue to be be chancellor. But she is already the longest serving German chancellor in history and she is unlikely to serve another term. What is remarkable in this election is the continual decline of the two major political parties, the Social Democrats (SPD) and Mrs. Merkle's Christian Democrats (CDU). This is remarkable because German is ostensibly the most stable and successful country in Europe which and economy and level of affluence that most other countries can only envy. In such circumstances, the major established parties normally gain, not lose strength. And particularly notable is the right wing party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) which scored major gains, taking votes from both the SPD and CDU. As a result the right wing will have a presence in the Bundestag for the first time since World War II. We do not pretend to have an adequate knowledge of Germany to even pretend to understand what is happening in Germany. A German reader who has been very helpful in our German section has provided some insight into what is happening.
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