52 BC Vercingetorix surrenders to the Gauls under Julius Caesar
Day of German Unity:
Humans have lived in Germany for at least 600,000 years. The world’s oldest complete hunting weapons were found there, 380,000 years old. The first Neanderthal fossil was found in Neander Thal (Neander valley), 40,000 years old. The world’s oldest music instruments ever found, flutes made of bird bone and mammoth ivory, 42,000 years old, were also found there. The Lion man of the Hohlenstein Stadel, 40,000 years old, and the Venus of Hohle Fels, 35,000 years old, are the oldest pieces of figurative art in the world. Phew!
Germanic tribes emerged in the Iron Age and by 100 A.D. they had pretty much filled Germany. Austria and Bavaria were part of the Roman Empire.
From 800 A.D. it was part of the Carolingian Empire, started under the Frankish kind Charlemagne/Charles the Great. This split in 843 into the earliest ideas of France and Germany. The ‘Germany’ bit became the Holy Roman Empire. North Germany got pretty rich thanks to the Hanseatic League, a guild of seafaring merchants, that basically ruled trade in northern Europe, but the Great Famine then the Black Death in the 1300s knocked them back again.
In 1517 Martin Luther founded the Protestant Reformation. The Holy Roman Empire fragmented and led to the Thirty Years’ War, Catholics against Protestants, involving most of central Europe. By the 18th century, the empire was broken into about 1,800 territories.
39 German states came together as the Deutscher Bund in 1814. They even made an economic union called the Zollverein. But the French Revolution was going off and the Germans wanted one too – they invited the Prussian king, Frederick William IV, to be emperor-with-not-quite-as-much-power-as-usual. He said no.
In 1862 King William I of Prussia appointed Bismarck as his Minister President. He created the Norddeutscher Bund and excluded Austria, whom he’d just defeated in a war. Ner ner, you can’t come in. Austria were normally the biggest influence in German unions. Then he defeated France in the Franco-Prussian War, which he had engineered to bring the southern German states into his union. Still excluded Austria though, and called it Kleindeutschland, Little Germany. Emperor William I and Bismarck, Chancellor of Germany, went on to collect a load of African colonies.
Austria’s crown prince, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated, and Germany fought with the Central Powers against the Allies. They lost, 2 million German soldiers were killed, and in 1919 the German Revolution forced Kaiser Wilhelm II to abdicate. The June 1919 Treaty of Versailles forced Germany to accept total responsibility for WWI, to disarm its military, to give up its colonies, and pay reparations to the Allies (about £280 billion in modern money).
On 11 August 1919 the Weimar Republic was formed. There were difficulties: Germany faltered in reparation repayments and France and Belgium retaliated by invading the Ruhr; and in 1922 the country suffered hyperinflation and everyone had to take their Marks home in wheelbarrows. They introduced the Rentenmark to replace the Mark (by when the American dollar was worth 4,210,500,000,000 German marks).
In 1930 Germany introduced a policy of austerity, which only increased unemployment but did reduce inflation. In 1932 the Nazis won 32% of the vote and Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany. A fire in the Reichstag (parliament building) was enough for Hitler to remove everyone’s civil rights and get rid of all the other political parties and open concentration camps (boy that escalated quickly).
Hitler started rearming the military and created lots of employment and industry. However, in 1935 he introduced laws persecuting Jews. This gradually became the Holocaust, killing 6 million Jews, and hundreds of thousands of Romani people, disabled people, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals and anyone who disagreed with the Nazis in general.
Then he took back the Saar and the Rhineland, and invaded Austria and then Poland after pretending Poland attacked them first (Operation Himmler). Russia joined in the fun. The UK and France declared war on Germany and so WWII began.
In 1940 France surrendered, but Britain managed to win the Battle of Britain (aerial attacks on our cities). In 1941 Germany turned on Russia and invaded them, but were defeated in the Battle of Stalingrad.
Italy surrendered to the Allies in 1943 and gradually a Western Front opened. We got into Germany in 1945; Hitler committed suicide and Germany surrendered.
Germany split into the Federal Republic of Germany (West/BRD) under the UK, France and US, and the German Democratic Republic (East/DDR) under Russia.
West Germany had a lot of support from America and became an economic miracle, and a founding member of the EEC in 1957. Poor East Germany was spied on by the Stasi and didn’t get as rich, so the Berlin Wall was built to stop East Germans fleeing to the West. Everyone ended up just fleeing via Hungary instead, so in 1989 the wall fell. In 1990 the four occupying powers renounced their rule and Germany was reunified.
Eat a German breakfast:
World Space Week (2016)
- Iraqi Independence Day (from UK, 1932) – see 14th July
- S. Korea National Foundation Day – see 17th July