500 B.C. Settlement of Germanic Peoples
Germanic peoples began to settle in and around the area of Northern Germany. Early members of the Germanic tribes began to settle outside of Scandinavia. Germanic Peoples is a term that refers to speakers of Germanic languages including, English, German, Dutch, Flemish, Swedish, etc.
113 B.C. – 596 A.D. Era of Conflict
Of these Germanic peoples many tribes arose. Throughout this era there was much conflict not only between these tribes, but also with the Roman Empire.
804 – 1740 Reign of the Holy Roman Empire
Throughout this era the area in and around modern day Germany and Austria was made up of around 300 states that comprised the Holy Roman Empire. The Holy Roman Empire ended with the War of Austrian Succession in 1740.
1740 – 1748 The War of Austrian Succession
The War of Austrian Succession spanned 8 years and involved many smaller conflicts. The war began with the death of Charles IV and ended with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748 upon which Maria Theresa, heir of Charles IV would begin her rule.
1806 The dissolution of The Holy Roman Empire
Napoleon ultimately ended the reign of The Holy Roman Empire between the years of 1800-1806 through a series of wars and reorganization of the empire’s territories as a result of Treaty of Lunéville in addition to a number of smaller battles and conflicts.
1812 The Brothers Grimm Publish Their Original Collection of Fairytales
The year of 1812 saw the publication of the Brother’s Grimm’s first collection. This included iconic tales such as Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, and The Frog Prince.
1818 The Birth of Karl Marx
The influential social theorist was born in Trier on May 5, 1818.
1844 Friedrich Nietzche is Born
Philosopher Friedrich Nietzche is born in Röcken Germany.
1848 The Revolutions of 1848 and the Modern German Flag
During this time there were many revolutions against monarchies of the day all throughout Europe. During these conflicts the German flag in its current form was first flown. The black red and gold stood as a symbol of German unity as it took elements from Germany’s current flag at the time as well as Austria’s flag at the time. The flag would fall out of favor and not return for around another hundred years or so however.
1856 The Discovery of Neanderthal Remains Near Modern Day Düsseldorf.
Remains are found of early humans in what is close to modern day Düsseldorf. The remains were originally thought to be that of a deformed human but were later discovered to have come from early humans.
1875 The Formation of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD)
1875 saw the officially beginning of the Social Democratic Party of Germany with its merger with the General German Workers’ Union. The SPD is one of modern day Germany’s longest standing political organization and is one of the two major political parties of the country today.
1878 The Congress of Berlin
The Congress of Berlin led to the signing of the Treaty of Berlin which would ultimately replace the previous Treaty of San Stefano. The new Treaty of Berlin would severely limit the gains made by Russia under the previous Treaty.
This era was defined by the “Culture Struggle” between the Catholic Church and Chancellor Otto von Bismark. Otto von Bismark sought to curb the influence of the Catholic Church but ultimately failed in doing so. The conflict was declared to be over in 1887 by Pope Leo XIII.
1905 The First Moroccan Crisis
Kaiser Wilhelm declares his support for the sultan of Morocco angering France and Great Britain. This sentiment likely contributed to the greater conflict between these nations in the first world war.
1914 – 1918 World War I
World War I started with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. This destabilized much of Europe which was then cast into conflict which invoked many of the previously formed alliances of the existing nations creating a much larger conflict. World War I ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1918.
1921 – 1923 German Inflation
During the period shortly following the war the German economy utterly collapses. This was due in part to the kaiser and parliament’s decision to fund the war entirely by borrowing rather than taxation.
1933 Advent of the Third Reich and Nazi Germany
Hitler was appointed chancellor Germany.
1939-1945 World War II
World War II begins with Hitler’s Germany invading Poland in 1939 beginning 6 year war that would ultimately lead to the deaths of 70 million people worldwide.
1945 Formation of the Christian Democratic Union
The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) was founded out of a will to prevent any rebirth of fascism in post-war Germany. The CDU is the second of the two major political parties in Germany today.
1961 Construction of the Berlin Wall
A wall was built that separated the Soviet controlled East portion of the city from the British and American supported West portion of the city.
1989 Fall of the Berlin Wall
Under the leadership of Egon Krenz the East German Communist Party announced that citizens of the GDR could cross the border freely thus ending the era of the wall. Many people simply crossed into the other territory while many others brought with them tools and began destroying the wall.
Karl Marx was born May 5, 1818 in Prussia, the area that is now modern day Trier, Germany, to a line of rabbis the side of both his mother and his fater. His father however would convert to Protestantism due to the social and religious climate of the area at the time creating difficulty for a Jew to hold certain jobs or positions of status. Despite his family’s religious background however Marx would eventually grow to resent religion and is responsible for the infamous (and possibly over quoted) statement, “religion is the opium for the masses.” Among his most influential works are The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital.
Marx was a socialist revolutionary in a time of political unrest in Europe and an outspoken critic of not only religious practices and culture but capitalism and its culture as well. His ideologies have been adopted in areas of Europe, most notably, Russia during the era of the Soviet Union, nations in Asia, and parts of South America. These ideals led Marx to be elected to the general council of the International Working Man’s Association. From this position Marx continued his fight against capitalism and class based oppression. In his early life he was a student at both the University of Bonn and the University of Berlin. There he studied social political theories, an area of study that would define his life’s work and the questions that would motivate his political ideals.
Not only did his experience at university fan the flames of his academic interests but at the University of Bonn is where he met and became engaged to his wife Jenny von Westphalen. His wife Jenny was a member of the Prussian aristocracy by relation of her father Baron von Westphalen. The Baron would be responsible for Marx’s interest in Romantic Literature and Saint-Simonian politics. Karl and Jenny Marx would go on to have 6 children of which only 3 would survive into adulthood. In the time of Marx’s life, his works were not all too well received and much of the publication of his writings was intentionally delayed.
Marx eventually immigrated to Paris where he officially became a communist and wrote his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts in which he laid out his more specific viewpoints. This work was not published until the 1930’s, more than 40 years after his death. Throughout his life Marx’s communist ideals would get him exiled or thrown out of several countries or cities including his native born Prussia and the French city of Paris. Due to Marx delaying the publications of his works, income was scarce to say the least. He lived the first half of the 1850’s in poverty in a three room flat in London. Marx would spend the last ten years of his life in declining health in which he would find difficulty in putting in the prolonged effort that had so greatly contributed to his earlier works being as profound as they were. He would however manage to still comment on the political ongoings of both Russia and Germany at the time. The last years of his life were wrought with despair following the deaths of both his eldest daughter and his wife. Marx was buried at Highgate Cemetery in North London following his death on March 14, 1883.
Friedrich Nietzsche was a German born philosopher who focused on most notably on the notions of good and evil. Nietzsche was born in Röcken bei Lützen, Germany on October 15, 1844. Among his numerous major works of philosophy one will find Twilight of the Idols and Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Nietzsche’s father was a Lutheran preacher but died when Nietzsche was only four years old and as such he and his sister were raised by only his mother. Nietzsche attended a prepatory school in Naumburg before attending the Schulpforta School. There he was following a track to become a member of the clergy, studying and excelling in religious studies, German literature, and classical studies. Following his graduation in 1864 he studied at the University of Bonn for two semesters before transferring to the University of Leipzig.
While attending the University of Leipzig Nietzsche studied Philology, which is a study language as written in historical sources often including literary criticism, history, and linguistics. While he was studying in Leipzig Nietzsche befriended the renowned composer Richard Wagner of whose music he was a notable fan. Nietzsche would eventually rise to the status of a celebrity and secure a position lecturing in Basel. Together with his friend Wagner he would convince the government to construct Bayreuth Theatre that would ultimately feature Wagner’s work. Upon the theatre’s completion in 1876 Nietzsche was surprised to find that he in fact hated Wagner’s latest work. This led Nietzsche to question not only Wagner’s work, but Prussian culture in general. In addition to this Nietzsche took issue to Wagner’s following and their propagation of anti-Semitism in 19th century Prussia.
This cultural and relational dissolution had such a profound impact on Nietzsche that he ended up essentially giving up both Prussian citizenship and his own name. He would prefer to remain an anonymous tourist-scholar for the remainder of his life. He would go on to spend this period of his life in boarding houses in Switzerland and Italy writing books between the years of 1872 and 1888 while he prepared his other works to be published. Nietzsche found this to be arguably the most productive period of his life. In this period he published Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil, The Genealogy of Morals, and Twilight of the Idols. It is within these writings that he said much of what defines his work in academia today. He developed his concept of the Übermensch (or “super-man”) and made his statement that “God is dead” and made clear his rejection of Christianity as a relevant force in contemporary life. His works would influence not only future philosophers but also Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, two of the forerunners of Psychology and Psychiatry. Nietzsche would ultimately spend the last year of his life in insanity however. The cause of his mental breakdown is still unknown. Following a stay in a mental asylum he died under the care of his mother and sister in Weimar, Germany on August 25, 1900.
The Brothers Grimm
The Brothers Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm collected and published their major works titled Grimm’s Fairy Tales in between the years of 1816 and 1818. Of the many stories that were published under their name one will find most notably: Cinderella, Rapunzel, The Frog Prince, Rumpelstiltskin, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Hansel and Gretel. The Brothers Grimm however did not write these stories. They were in fact simply folktales that had been floating around the culture at the time. Many of their published stories shared similarities to stories of distant lands and times.
The eldest brother Jakob was born January 4, 1785 in Hanau, Germany followed by Wilhelm, born a little over a year later on February 24, 1786 again in Hanau, Germany. The brothers were the oldest two of their family and would remain together for the majority of their lives. While studying law at the University of Marburg they were inspired by a professor named Friedrich von Savigny to study past cultures. The brothers would eventually work, for a time, in Kassel from about 1814 to 1830.
The interest of the Brothers Grimm in historical culture can be in part attributed to the Romantic Movement in Germany at the time in which many German people were becoming interested in the history and past practices of their own culture. Of those taking part in this cultural revival were poets Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim who worked on, among other things, a collection of German folk songs. For this reason they and the Brothers Grimm found themselves in contact. This relationship helped the Brothers Grimm to compile their collection of stories, many of which were told by villagers and peasants as somewhat of an oral tradition. These stories weren’t in the kid friendly nursery rhyme format that we know them today though. Many of the stories in their original form contained sex, violence, incest, and were aimed primarily at adults in more of an academic historical context as evidenced by their copious accompanying footnotes. Wilhelm, the warmer of the two brothers is credited as having aided in the transition of the stories into their more familiar child friendly format that we know them as today. They were still rather gruesome however. Many of the Brothers Grimm’s versions still contained violence and some rather grotesque elements in the endings in particular.
Not only did the Brothers Grimm publish their collection of fairy tales but they also published two volumes of Die Deutsche Sagen (The German Legends), Altdeutsche Wälder (Old German Forests), and Jakob would publish his Deutsche Grammatik (German Grammar). This was a natural progression as the Brothers, more notably Jakob, would become more interested in grammar and language in particular in addition to their cultural pursuits. In this pursuit the Brothers are credited with recognizing and noting several similarities between languages such as the English “apple” and the German “Apfel” (as German nouns are capitalized as a grammatical rule). These similarities would later be known as Grimm’s Law and reached beyond the English/German relationship to many of the Indo-European languages.
With this however the Brothers would still face the threat of bankruptcy and deportation as King Ernest Augustus in 1830 demanded that all Professors in the city of Göttingen where the Brothers taught Germanic Studies were exiled upon refusing to declare their alliegence to the king. The brothers were banished from the city along with 5 other scholars who would be known together as the Göttingen Seven. The Brothers still managed to finish their collection of fairy tales though as they were able to borrow money from friends and family.
After publishing one of the most famous collections of stories ever compiled, the Brothers would remain in Berlin until the time of their respective deaths. While teaching at the University of Berlin the brothers began work on a comprehensive dictionary of the German language that would not be completed until 1960, roughly 100 years after their deaths. Wilhelm would die first on December 16, 1859 leaving behind Jakob who would go on working another four years before dying on September 20, 1863.
The fall of the Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall was erected in the year 1961 by the Communist controlled East Germany. The wall remained a dividing part of the city and culture from 1961 until its eventual collapse in 1989. The wall served as not only a physical barrier dividing the city of Berlin and two clashing ideologies but also it served as a symbol of the Cold War as a whole which would define the era.
The wall was created as a result of the dividing up of Berlin into zones controlled between the major allied powers of the United States, Great Britain, France, and Russia. This initial division however would eventually dissolve essentially into a struggle between the Capitalist controlled West and the Communist controlled East. Following the war, the capitalist controlled West prospered in such a way that the period of time following the war in West Germany would come to be known as the “economic miracle.” Citizens of West Germany were free to travel as they wanted and with their economic prosperity were able to buy things like appliances and more leisure items than their eastern counterparts who simply could not afford them at the time. The quality of life in the communist controlled East was in stark contrast to the West’s new found hope. Citizens of East Berlin were not permitted to travel passed the wall into the capitalist controlled territories. This was a crime punishable by death. At least 171 people died trying to get passed the wall into West Berlin.
An estimated 49,000 fled the East through the city of Berlin however between the months of June and August of the year 1961. Following this exodus on the night of August 12 Khrushchev ordered the East government to begin construction on the wall. In the following two weeks the wall would begin to take its shape as not much more than barbed wire and concrete blockades. The once free flowing traffic between East and West Berlin was choked down to three main checkpoints making travel passed the wall incredibly difficult and impossible for most. The Berlin Wall became a cultural and ideological symbol of the times and with its destruction came the reunification of Germany in 1990. It is with this foundation that Germany finds itself in its modern state.