Friday, 26 November 2010
CASE 196 - The history of Germany
Germany entered recorded history in June 56 BC, when Roman commander Julius Caesar crossed the Rhine. His army built a huge wooden bridge in only ten days. He retreated back to Gaul upon learning that the Suevi tribe was gathering to oppose him. The English word "Germany" is derived from the Latin Germania, a word first recorded in Caesar's writings.
Under Augustus, the Roman General Publius Quinctilius Varus began to invade Germania (to the Romans, an area running roughly from the Rhine to the Ural Mountains), and it was in this period that the Germanic tribes became familiar with Roman tactics of warfare while maintaining their tribal identity. In AD 9, three Roman legions led by Varus were defeated by the Cheruscan leader Arminius in the clades Variana ("Battle of the Teutoburg Forest"). Arminius later suffered a defeat at the hands of the Roman general Germanicus at the Battle of the Weser River or Idistaviso in AD 16, but the Roman victory was not followed up after the Roman Emperor Tiberius recalled Germanicus to Rome in AD 17. Tiberius wished that the Roman frontier with Germania be maintained along the Rhine. Modern Germany, as far as the Rhine and the Danube, thus remained outside the Roman Empire. By AD 100, the time of Tacitus' Germania, Germanic tribes settled along the Rhine and the Danube (the Limes Germanicus), occupying most of the area of modern Germany. The 3rd century saw the emergence of a number of large West Germanic tribes: Alamanni, Franks, Chatti, Saxons, Frisians, Sicambri, and Thuringii. Around 260, the Germanic peoples broke through the Limes and the Danube frontier into Roman-controlled lands.
The kingdom of Germany was formed when the Frankish empire of Charlemagne was divided among his grandsons in 843 A.D. The western portion, which became Germany, consisted of a group of tribal states over which the king had very limited power. In 911 the rulers of the various states assumed the privilege of electing their king. Although many of the elected monarchs were strong sovereigns who managed to hold the country in a state of unity, the independent-minded princes sought constantly to throw off all central authority.
From 962 until the mid-17th century the German monarch was also the Holy Roman emperor and under S.M.O.M controlled orders from then on. By the time of the Thirty Years' War (1618-48), the title of emperor had become hereditary in the family of Hapsburg who ruled Austria, one of the larger German states. The emperor had lost all control over Germany outside his family's domain. By the Peace of Westphalia (1648) sovereignty was granted to the princes of about 300 German states, and the country became known as the Germanies. It remained part of the Holy Roman Empire in name only.
A movement toward unity in the 19th century brought Austria and Prussia, the largest states, into competition for leadership. Austria had extended its domain to include Hungary and other territory east of Germany proper, while Prussia had been strengthening its control over the smaller German states. By 1867 Prussia was the dominant German power. The Austrian empire was separated from the rest of the Germanies, which in 1871 were united under Prussia in the German Empire. From then until after World War II Germany was a single, unified nation.
After Germany was united by Bismarck into the Second German Reich, Bismarck determined German politics until 1890. Bismarck tried to foster alliances in Europe, on one hand to contain France, and on the other hand to consolidate Germany's influence in Europe. On the domestic front Bismarck tried to stem the rise of socialism by anti-socialist laws, combined with an introduction of health care and social security. At the same time Bismarck tried to reduce the political influence of the emancipated Catholic minority in the Kulturkampf, literally "culture struggle". The Catholics only grew stronger, forming the Center (Zentrum) Party. Germany grew rapidly in industrial and economic power, matching Britain by 1900. Its highly professional army was the best in the world, but the navy could never catch up with Britain's Royal Navy.
In 1888, the young and ambitious Kaiser Wilhelm II became emperor. He could not abide advice, least of all from the most experienced politician and diplomat in Europe, so he fired Bismarck. The Kaiser opposed Bismarck's careful foreign policy and wanted Germany to pursue colonialist policies, as Britain and France had been doing for decades, as well as build a navy that could match the British. The Kaiser promoted active colonization of Africa and Asia for those areas that were not already colonies of other European powers; his record was notoriously brutal and set the stage for genocide. The Kaiser took a mostly unilateral approach in Europe with as main ally the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and an arms race with Britain, which eventually led to the situation in which the assassination of the Austrian-Hungarian crown price could spark off World War I.
Age of Bismarck
The German Empire of 1871. By excluding Austria, Bismarck chose a "little German" solution.
Disputes between France and Prussia increased. In 1868, the Spanish queen Isabella II was expelled by a revolution, leaving that country's throne vacant. When Prussia tried to put a Hohenzollern candidate, Prince Leopold, on the Spanish throne, the French angrily protested. In July 1870, France declared war on Prussia (the Franco-Prussian War). The debacle was swift. A succession of German victories in northeastern France followed, and one French army was besieged at Metz. After a few weeks, the main army was finally forced to capitulate in the fortress of Sedan. French Emperor Napoleon III was taken prisoner and a republic hastily proclaimed in Paris. The new government, realising that a victorious Germany would demand territorial acquisitions, resolved to fight on. They began to muster new armies, and the Germans settled down to a grim siege of Paris. The starving city surrendered in January 1871, and the Prussian army staged a victory parade in it. France was forced to pay indemnities of 5 billion francs and cede Alsace-Lorraine. It was a bitter peace that would leave the French thirsting for revenge.
Alliances and colonies
A postage stamp from the Carolines, dating back to the time when the islands were ruled by the German Empire. The new Weltpolitik of Kaiser Wilhelm II led to frictions with other imperialist powers.
When Bismarck resigned, Wilhelm II had declared that he would continue the foreign policy of the old chancellor. But soon, a new course was taken, with the aim of increasing Germany's influence in the world (Weltpolitik). The Reinsurance Treaty with Russia was not renewed. Instead, France formed an alliance with Russia, against the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. The Triple Alliance itself was undermined by differences between Austria and Italy.
From 1898, German colonial expansion in East Asia (Jiaozhou Bay, the Marianas, the Caroline Islands, Samoa) led to frictions with the United Kingdom, Russia, Japan and the United States. The construction of the Baghdad Railway, financed by German banks and heavy industry, and aimed at connecting the North Sea with the Persian Gulf via the Bosporus, also collided with British and Russian geopolitical and economic interests.
To protect Germany's overseas trade and colonies, Admiral von Tirpitz started a programme of warship construction in 1898. In 1890, Germany had purchased the island of Heligoland in the North Sea from Britain in exchange for the African island of Zanzibar and proceeded to construct a great naval base there. This posed a direct threat to British hegemony on the seas, with the result that negotiations for an alliance between Germany and Britain broke down. Germany was increasingly isolated. Otto von Bismarck's son Herbert, a member of the Reichstag since 1893, was one of the loudest anti-British voices in Germany until his death in 1904. In 1905, Germany nearly came to blows with Britain and France when the latter attempted to establish a protectorate over Morocco. The Germans were upset at having not been informed about French intentions, and declared their support for Moroccan independence. William II made a highly provocative speech regarding this. The following year, a conference was held in which all of the European powers except Austria-Hungary (by now little more than a German satellite) sided with France. A compromise was agreed to where the French relinquished some, but not all, control over Morocco.
1911 saw another dispute over Morocco erupt when France tried to suppress a revolt there. Germany, still smarting from the previous quarrel, agreed to a settlement whereby the French ceded some territory in central Africa in exchange for Germany renouncing any right to intervene in Moroccan affairs. This confirmed French control over Morocco, which became a full protectorate of that country in 1912.
States of Germany at the time of the Weimar Republic, with Prussia in blue
On 28 June 1919 the Treaty of Versailles was signed. Germany was to cede Alsace-Lorraine, Eupen-Malmédy, North Schleswig, and the Memel area. All German colonies were to be handed over to the British and French. Poland was restored and most of the provinces of Posen and West Prussia, and some areas of Upper Silesia were reincorporated into the reformed country after plebiscites and independence uprisings. The left and right banks of the Rhine were to be permanently demilitarised. The industrially important Saarland was to be governed by the League of Nations for 15 years and its coalfields administered by France. At the end of that time a plebiscite was to determine the Saar's future status. To ensure execution of the treaty's terms, Allied troops would occupy the left (German) bank of the Rhine for a period of 5–15 years. The German army was to be limited to 100,000 officers and men; the general staff was to be dissolved; vast quantities of war material were to be handed over and the manufacture of munitions rigidly curtailed. The navy was to be similarly reduced, and no military aircraft were allowed. Germany and its allies were to accept the sole responsibility of the war, in accordance with the War Guilt Clause, and were to pay financial reparations for all loss and damage suffered by the Allies.
The humiliating peace terms provoked bitter indignation throughout Germany, and seriously weakened the new democratic regime.
On 11 August 1919 the Weimar constitution came into effect, with Friedrich Ebert as first President.
The two biggest enemies of the new democratic order, however, had already been constituted. In December 1918, the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) was founded, followed in January 1919 by the establishment of the German Workers' Party, later known as the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP). Both parties would make reckless use of the freedoms guaranteed by the new constitution in their fight against the Weimar Republic.
In the first months of 1920, the Reichswehr was to be reduced to 100,000 men, in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles. This included the dissolution of many Freikorps - units made up of volunteers. Some of them made difficulties.[clarification needed] The discontent was exploited by the extreme right-wing politician Wolfgang Kapp. He let the rebelling Freikorps march on Berlin and proclaimed himself Reich Chancellor (Kapp Putsch). After only four days the coup d'état collapsed, due to lack of support by the civil servants and the officers. Other cities were shaken by strikes and rebellions, which were bloodily suppressed. Faced with animosity from Britain and France and the retreat of American power from Europe, in 1922 Germany was the first state to establish diplomatic relations with the new Soviet Union. Under the Treaty of Rapallo, Germany accorded the Soviet Union de jure recognition, and the two signatories mutually cancelled all pre-war debts and renounced war claims.
When Germany defaulted on its reparation payments, French and Belgian troops occupied the heavily industrialised Ruhr district (January 1923). The German government encouraged the population of the Ruhr to passive resistance: shops would not sell goods to the foreign soldiers, coal-mines would not dig for the foreign troops, trams in which members of the occupation army had taken seat would be left abandoned in the middle of the street. The passive resistance proved effective, insofar as the occupation became a loss-making deal for the French government. But the Ruhr fight also led to hyperinflation, and many who lost all their fortune would become bitter enemies of the Weimar Republic, and voters of the anti-democratic right. See 1920s German inflation.
In September 1923, the deteriorating economic conditions led Chancellor Gustav Stresemann to call an end to the passive resistance in the Ruhr. In November, his government introduced a new currency, the Rentenmark (later: Reichsmark), together with other measures to stop the hyperinflation. In the following six years the economic situation improved. In 1928, Germany's industrial production even regained the pre-war levels of 1913.
On the evening of 8 November 1923, six hundred armed SA men surrounded a beer hall in Munich, where the heads of the Bavarian state and the local Reichswehr had gathered for a rally. The storm troopers were led by Adolf Hitler. Born in 1889 in Austria, a former volunteer in the German army during WWI, now a member of a new party called NSDAP, he was largely unknown until then. Hitler tried to force those present to join him and to march on to Berlin to seize power (Beer Hall Putsch). Hitler was later arrested and condemned to five years in prison, but was released at the end of 1924 after less than one year of detention.
The national elections of 1924 led to a swing to the right (Ruck nach rechts). Field Marshal Hindenburg, a supporter of the monarchy, was elected President in 1925.
In October 1925 the Treaty of Locarno was signed between Germany, France, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Italy, which recognised Germany's borders with France and Belgium. Moreover, Britain, Italy and Belgium undertook to assist France in the case that German troops marched into the demilitarised Rheinland. The Treaty of Locarno paved the way for Germany's admission to the League of Nations in 1926.
The stock market crash of 1929 on Wall Street marked the beginning of the Great Depression. The effects of the ensuing world economic crisis were also felt in Germany, where the economic situation rapidly deteriorated. In July 1931, the Darmstätter und Nationalbank - one of the biggest German banks - failed, and, in early 1932, the number of unemployed rose to more than 6,000,000. In addition to the flagging economy came political problems, due to the inability by the political parties represented in the Reichstag to build a governing majority. In March 1930, President Hindenburg appointed Heinrich Brüning Chancellor. To push through his package of austerity measures against a majority of Social Democrats, Communists and the NSDAP, Brüning made use of emergency decrees, and even dissolved Parliament. In March and April 1932, Hindenburg was re-elected in the German presidential election of 1932. Of the many splinter parties the NSDAP was the largest in the national elections of 1932. The Prussian government had been ousted by a coup (Preussenschlag) in 1932. On 31 July 1932 the NSDAP had received 37.3% of the votes, and in the election on 6 November 1932 it received less, but still the largest share, 33.1, making it the biggest party in the Reichstag. The Communist KPD came third, with 15%. Together, the anti-democratic parties of right and left were now able to hold the majority of seats in Parliament. The NSDAP was particularly successful among young voters, who were unable to find a place in vocational training, with little hope for a future job; among the petite bourgeoisie (lower middle class) which had lost its assets in the hyperinflation of 1923; among the rural population; and among the army of unemployed.
On 30 January 1933, pressured by former Chancellor Franz von Papen and other conservatives, President Hindenburg finally appointed Hitler Chancellor.
Nazi revolution or "Seizure of Power"
ALSO read CASE 093 for a full history and info on the NAZI's
In order to secure a majority for his NSDAP in the Reichstag, Hitler called for new elections. On the evening of 27 February 1933, a fire was set in the Reichstag building. Hitler swiftly blamed an alleged Communist uprising, and convinced President Hindenburg to sign the Reichstag Fire Decree. This decree, which would remain in force until 1945, repealed important political and human rights of the Weimar constitution. Communist agitation was banned, but at this time not the Communist Party itself.
Eleven thousand Communists and Socialists were arrested and brought into concentration camps, where they were at the mercy of the Gestapo, the newly established secret police force (9,000 were found guilty and most executed). Communist Reichstag deputies were taken into protective custody (despite their constitutional privileges).
Despite the terror and unprecedented propaganda, the last free General Elections of 5 March 1933, while resulting in 43.9% failed to bring the majority for the NSDAP that Hitler had hoped for. Together with the German National People's Party (DNVP), however, he was able to form a slim majority government. With accommodations to the Catholic Centre Party, Hitler succeeded in convincing a required two-thirds of a rigged Parliament to pass the Enabling act of 1933 which gave his government full legislative power. Only the Social Democrats voted against the Act. The Enabling Act formed the basis for the dictatorship, dissolution of the Länder; the trade unions and all political parties other than the National Socialist (Nazi) Party were suppressed. A centralised totalitarian state was established, no longer based on the liberal Weimar constitution. Germany left the League of Nations. The coalition parliament was rigged on this fateful 23 March 1933 by defining the absence of arrested and murdered deputies as voluntary and therefore cause for their exclusion as wilful absentees. Subsequently in July the Centre Party was voluntarily dissolved in a quid pro quo with the Holy See under the anti-communist Pope Pius XI for the Reichskonkordat; and by these manoeuvres Hitler achieved movement of these Catholic voters into the Nazi party, and a long-awaited international diplomatic acceptance of his regime. It is interesting to note however that according to Professor Dick Geary the Nazis gained a larger share of their vote in Protestant than in Catholic areas of Germany in elections held between 1928 to November 1932 The Communist Party was proscribed in April 1933 . On the weekend of 30 June 1934, he gave order to the SS to seize Röhm and his lieutenants, and to execute them without trial (known as the Night of the Long Knives). Upon Hindenburg's death on 2 August 1934, Hitler's cabinet passed a law proclaiming the presidency vacant and transferred the role and powers of the head of state to Hitler as Führer und Reichskanzler (leader and chancellor).
However, many leaders of the Nazi SA were disappointed. The Chief of Staff of the SA, Ernst Röhm, was pressing for the SA to be incorporated into the Wehrmacht under his supreme command. Hitler felt threatened by these plans.
The SS became an independent organisation under the command of the Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler. He would become the supervisor of the Gestapo and of the concentration camps, soon also of the ordinary police. Hitler also established the Waffen-SS as a separate troop.
The regime showed particular hostility towards the Jews. In September 1935, the Reichstag passed the so-called Nuremberg race laws directed against Jewish citizens. Jews lost their German citizenship, and were banned from marrying non-Jewish Germans. About 500,000 individuals were affected by the new rules.
Hitler re-established the German air force and reintroduced universal military service. The open rearmament was in flagrant breach of the Treaty of Versailles, but neither the United Kingdom, France or Italy went beyond issuing notes of protest.
In 1936 German troops marched into the demilitarised Rhineland. In this case, the Treaty of Locarno would have obliged the United Kingdom to intervene in favour of France. But despite protests by the French government, Britain chose to do nothing about it. The coup strengthened Hitler's standing in Germany. His reputation was going to increase further with the 1936 Summer Olympics, which were held in the same year in Berlin and in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and which proved another great propaganda success for the regime.
Germany since 1945
Territory and border changes of Germany and Poland during the 20th century
Germans frequently refer to 1945 as the Stunde Null (zero hour) to describe the near-total collapse of their country. At the Potsdam Conference, Germany was divided into four military occupation zones by the Allies. Also in Potsdam, the allies agreed that the provinces east of the Oder and Neisse rivers (the Oder-Neisse line) were transferred to Poland and Russia (Kaliningrad oblast). The agreement also set forth the abolition of Prussia and the expulsion of Germans living in those territories, and formalised the German exodus from Eastern Europe. In the process of the expulsions, millions died, and many suffered from exhaustion and dehydration. In the immediate post-war years the German population lived on near starvation levels, and the Allied economic policy was one of de-industrialisation (Morgenthau Plan) in order to preclude any future German war-making capability. U.S. policy began to change at the end of 1946 (Restatement of Policy on Germany), and by mid 1947, after lobbying by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Generals Clay and Marshall, the Truman administration finally realised that economic recovery in Europe could not go forward without the reconstruction of the German industrial base on which it had previously been dependent.In July, Truman rescinded on "national security grounds" the punitive JCS 1067, which had directed the U.S. forces of occupation in Germany to "take no steps looking toward the economic rehabilitation of Germany." It was replaced by JCS 1779, which instead stressed that "[a]n orderly, prosperous Europe requires the economic contributions of a stable and productive Germany."
Division into East and West Germany
East Germany, History of East Germany, and West Germany
Further information: Inner German border and Berlin Wall
The three western occupation zones (U.S., UK and French zone) would later form the Federal Republic of Germany (commonly known as West Germany), while the Soviet zone became the German Democratic Republic (commonly known as East Germany), both founded in 1949. West Germany was established as a federal democratic republic while East Germany became a communist state under the influence of the Soviet Union.
West Germany eventually came to enjoy prolonged economic growth beginning in the early 1950s (Wirtschaftswunder). The recovery occurred largely because of the previously forbidden currency reform of June 1948 and to a minor degree by U.S. assistance through Marshall Plan loans. West Germany joined NATO in 1955 and was a founding member of the European Economic Community in 1958 .
East Germany was an Eastern bloc state under political and military control of the USSR through her occupation forces and the Warsaw Treaty. While claiming to be a democracy, the political power was solely executed by leading members (Politburo) of the communist-controlled SED (Socialist Unity Party of Germany). Their power was ensured by the Stasi, a secret service of immense size, and a variety of SED-suborganizations controlling every aspect of society. In turn, the basic needs of the population were satisfied at low costs by the state. A Soviet-style command economy was set up, later the GDR became the most advanced Comecon state. While East German propaganda was based on the benefits of the GDR's social programs and the alleged constant threat of a West German invasion, many of her citizens looked to the West for political freedoms and economic prosperity. The Berlin Wall, built in 1961 to stop East Germans from escaping to West Germany, became a symbol of the Cold War.
Demolition of Berlin Wall, January 1990
Relations between the two post-war German states remained icy until the West German Chancellor Willy Brandt launched a highly controversial rapprochement with the East European communist states (Ostpolitik) in the 1970s, culminating in the Warschauer Kniefall on 7 December 1970. Although anxious to relieve serious hardships for divided families and to reduce friction, West Germany under Brandt's Ostpolitik was intent on holding to its concept of "two German states in one German nation." Relations improved, however, and in September 1973, East Germany and West Germany were admitted to the United Nations. During the summer of 1989, rapid changes known as peaceful revolution or Die Wende took place in East Germany, which ultimately led to German reunification. Growing numbers of East Germans emigrated to West Germany, many via Hungary after Hungary's reformist government opened its borders. Thousands of East Germans also tried to reach the West by staging sit-ins at West German diplomatic facilities in other East European capitals, most notably in Prague. The exodus generated demands within East Germany for political change, and mass demonstrations in several cities continued to grow.
Faced with civil unrest, East German leader Erich Honecker was forced to resign in October, and on 9 November, East German authorities unexpectedly allowed East German citizens to enter West Berlin and West Germany. Hundreds of thousands of people took advantage of the opportunity; new crossing points were opened in the Berlin Wall and along the border with West Germany. This led to the acceleration of the process of reforms in East Germany that ended with the German reunification that came into force on 3 October 1990.
Recent history (1990 to present)
Further information: politics of Germany and New states of Germany
German chancellor Angela Merkel (with José Barroso in front of the Brandenburg Gate in 2007) was pivotal in drafting and promoting the Treaty of Lisbon to reform the EU. After 16 years of the Christian liberal coalition of Helmut Kohl, the Social Democrats together with the Greens won the elections of 1998. SPD leader Gerhard Schröder positioned himself as a centrist "Third Way" candidate in the mold of Britain's Tony Blair and America's Bill Clinton. In 2003, Schröder announced massive labor market reforms, called Agenda 2010, that among other measures include a shakeup of the system of German job offices, commonly known by the name of the chairman of the commission which conceived them as Hartz. From 2005 to 2009, Germany was ruled by a grand coalition led by Angela Merkel as chancellor. Since the 2009 elections, Merkel has headed a centre-right government of the Christian Social Union and the Free Democratic Party. Together with France and other EU states, the new Germany has played the leading role in the European Union. Germany (especially under Chancellor Helmut Kohl) was one of the main supporters of the wish of many East European countries to join the EU. Germany is at the forefront of European states seeking to exploit the momentum of monetary union to advance the creation of a more unified and capable European political, defence and security apparatus. The German chancellor Schröder expressed an interest in a permanent seat for Germany in the UN Security Council, identifying France, Russia and Japan as countries that explicitly backed Germany's bid.
The German Bundeswehr since 1990 has participated in a number of peacekeeping and disaster relief operations abroad. Since 2002, German troops formed part of the International Security Assistance Force in the war in Afghanistan, resulting in the first German casualties in combat missions since World War II.