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History of Germania

in this section:
This is a brief overview of German history. It is included to give context to the study of the Imperial German Army and the Great War era. There is no pretense to an exhaustive, scholarly study of this topic, and thus there will be some resultant gaps in the time-line. It should also be remembered that while Germany has had a militaristic history, the land has also given us the likes of Goethe, Schiller, Kant, Beethoven and countless Nobel Prize winners...not to mention Otto Waalkes.



500,000 - 150,000 BC: Steinheim scull = oldest human remains on German soil (Middle Pleistocene Period).

3,000 BC: Unteruhldingen dwellings built on Lake Constance.

1,800 - 750 BC: European Bronze Age; Germanic tribesmen already have reputation as fearsome fighters.

800 BC: European Iron Age (high point circa 400 BC); first central European culture developed by Celts (aka - La Tene). Germanic tribes thrust into Celtic territory from Schleswig-Holstein on towards the Rhine, the Oder and beyond the Danube. Romans call the land Germania and the tribesmen Germani (included the Cimbri, Goths, Franks, Saxons and Vandals).


58 BC: Romans establish the Rhine as northeastern frontier of Roman Empire; Germans considered to be Barbarians.

40 BC: Forts built at Cologne, Trier, Coblenz and Mainz to secure Rhine Frontier.

9 AD: Battle of Teutoburger Wald - Germans (Cherusci) led by Arminius (Hermann) defeat 3 legions of the Roman Army led by General Varus. Romans retreat south to the Rhine/Danube border.

90: Construction of the Limes - a 550 km line of defense from the Rhine to the Danube; forts at Augsburg, Regensburg, Passau and Wiesbaden.

200: West Germanic tribes begin to emerge - Saxons, Franks, Frisians, Alemanni, Bajuvars, Langobardi, Thuringians and Chatti.

260: Franks and Alemanni break through Limes frontier.

375: Huns advance on Europe and drive Germanic tribes to settle west of the Elbe.

400: Roman Empire begins to collapse, and the Kingdom of the Franks becomes largest and most important kingdom.

476: Romulus Augustulus overthrown by Germanic chief Odoacer, ending the Roman Empire.

FRANKISH PERIOD (early Middle Ages)

431-751: Merovingian Dynasty - Chlodwig (Clovis 482-511) unifies the Franks, conquers Gaul, and colonizes Franconia. Frankish tribes settle in Gaul, Lombards settle Italy and Anglo-Saxons settle Britain. Germanic peoples become Christianized.

700: Abrogans - Latin/German dictionary; oldest record of German language.

751-911: Carolingian Dynasty (First Reich) - Pepin, Karl, Ludwig I, Ludwig II, Karl III, Arnulf, Ludwig IV.

768-814: First Reich - Charlemagne (Karl der Grosse) inherits Kingdom of the Franks (central Germany to Pyrenees) and is crowned by the Pope in 800 as the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

843: Treaty of Verdun - divides Empire among Charlemagne's three grandsons: Karl (west), Lothair (central) and Ludwig II (east). Germany develops out of eastern Frankish kingdom: Bavaria, Carinthia, Franconia, Saxony, Swabia and Thuringia.

911-918: Konrad I of Franconia elected king due to the extinction of eastern Carolingians and is thus considered to be the first German king.


919-1024: Saxon Dynasty - Heinrich I, Heinrich II, Otto I, Otto II, Otto III. This the first distinctly German dynasty; revived idea of an empire and established the principle of hereditary succession.

955: Otto I defeats Hungarians at the Battle of Lechfeld.


1024-1125: Salian Dynasty (Franconian) - Konrad II, Heinrich III, Heinrich IV, Heinrich V. Monarchy becomes a major power. The King of Germany was Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire; squandered political, economic and military resources in struggles with Catholic Church and thus emerged at the end of the Middle Ages as fragmented principalities (unlike Spain, France and England) until united by Bismarck in 1871.

1077-1122: Civil war throughout Germania due to the Investiture Dispute with the Pope (disputed Catholic Church's preeminence and ended by the Concordat of Worms).

1096-1291: Crusades - establishment of knightly religious orders.


1138-1250: Hohenstaufen Dynasty - Konrad III, Friedrich I, Heinrich VI, Friedrich II; restore imperial authority.

1100-1400: Drang nach Osten - eastward drive which doubles Germanic inhabited areas of Europe.

1138-1152: King Konrad III leads 2nd Crusade with Louis VII of France and is defeated at Jerusalem.

1152-1190: Friedrich I (Barbarossa) leads 3rd Crusade until he drowns.

1158-1669: Hanseatic League - medieval confederation linking more than 200 towns and headquartered at Luebeck; organized to protect northern German merchant's trading interests throughout Europe. "Hanse" = guild.

1180-1918: Bavaria ruled by Wittelsbach Dynasty

1190-1197: Heinrich VI (son of Friedrich I) gets Sicily by marriage; encouraged later Hohenstaufens to ignore Germany and focus on Italy.

1198-1214: Civil War between Hohenstaufens (Duke Philip of Swabia) and the House of Welf (Otto IV, son of Henry the Lion). First clash between German and French armies at the Battle of Bouvines (1214); Anglo-Welf alliance defeated by the French.

1200: East Prussia germanized by the Teutonic Knights and later becomes the Duchy of Prussia.

1212-1250: Emperor Friedrich II raised in Sicily and absorbed in Italian affairs. He only spends a few months in Germany; leads 5th Crusade.

1215: Inquisition - "heretics" put to death

1232: Imperial statute establishes princes' authority within their own principalities.

1250-1273: The Great Interregnum - period of anarchy and civil war where princes vie for control and the Middle Kingdom is lost.


1273-1291: King Rudolf of Habsburg never crowned Emperor. "Habsburg" was a Swiss family whose real wealth and power came from family possession in Austria and Bohemia.

1308-1313: Emperor Heinrich VII of Luxembourg - serious rival of Habsburgs but settled through nuptial diplomacy.

1314-1347: Emperor Ludwig IV (the Bavarian) of the House of Wittelsbach.

1350: Black Death ravages Europe.

1356: Karl IV issues Golden Bull - basic constitution granting princes the power to elect the Emperor. Keeps the German Empire fragmented.

1410: Teutonic Knights defeated by Lithuanians and Poles at Tannenberg (Stebark, Poland)

1415: "Friedrich" begins 500 year rule of Hohenzollern Dynasty in northern Germany.

1438: Albert II begins 300 year uninterrupted Habsburg rule.

1519-1556: Emperor Karl V also controls Spain, Burgundy and the Netherlands. He wages four wars against France, and his abdication causes the division of the Habsburg Empire.

1517: Reformation - Martin Luther's 95 Theses at Wittenberg protests abuses of indulgences, low moral standards in Rome and challenges papal authority. He is banned by the Empire with the Diet of Worms (1521) and by the Church (Papal Bull), but his ideas spread in Germany. His bible translation is the basis for modern German language.

1522-1566: Suleyman the Magnificent rules Ottoman Empire; Turks invade Vienna in 1529.

1524: Peasant Wars in Swabia and Franconia; German feudal knight Goetz von Berlichingen is one of the main leaders.

1618: Prussia comes under the rule of the Hohenzollerns (electors from nearby Brandenburg).

1618-1648: Thirty Years War - Habsburgs and allies fight foreign forces on German soil. Four phases: Bohemian, Danish, Swedish, and Swedish-French. Causes: Catholic-Protestant conflict with the Protestant nobility rebelling against Habsburg Emperor Matthias. States try to increase their power while the Emperor attempts to achieve political and religious unity. Germany is laid waste, losing circa 30 percent its population and the Holy Roman Empire is disintegrated. Germany consists of about 300 principalities at this time.



1640-1918: Friedrich-Wilhelm of Hohenzollern the Great Elector rules Prussia after allying with the Junkers, the landed aristocracy who also formed the Prussian Army officer corps of 30,000 men (83,000 by 1740).

1740-1786: Friedrich II the Great - an enlightened despot who wins Silesia from Austria and attacks Saxony, thus beginning the Seven Year War with Austria. He doubles the country's area and leaves it a world power, wealthy and humanely governed.

1792-1835: Holy Roman Emperor Franz II of Habsburg becomes the first emperor of Austria (1804). Franz II is defeated by Napoleon in 1796 and 1805 (Austerlitz); he abdicates the title of Holy Roman Emperor in 1806 and the Empire dissolves.

1806: Napoleon's onslaught breaks up German princeling states and brings on final dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire; he seizes all German territory west of the Elbe and creates a French-dominated Confederation of the Rhine, with brother Jerome as King of Westphalia. Friesia, Hamburg and Luebeck become part of the French Empire.

1813-1815: Wars of Liberation - Germany liberated after the Battle of Nations at Leipzig (1815) led by General Bluecher who drives Napoleon back to Paris and defeats him at Waterloo.

1815: Congress of Vienna - Metternich heads "German Confederation" of 39 monarchial states (1815-1848).

1834: Zollverein - customs union established by Prussia and the German states (Austria excluded); first step in the political unification of Germany.

1848: Revolution in Germany leads to "German National Assembly" in Frankfurt; crown reluctantly offered to Prussian King Friedrich-Wilhelm IV, but he refuses.

1848-1916: Emperor Franz Joseph I becomes King of Hungary after the formation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867-1918); allied with Germany (1879) and Italy (1882) to create the Triple Alliance. Franz Joseph's harsh policy towards Serbia is among one of the causes triggering World War One.


1861-1890: Otto von Bismarck (the Iron Chancellor) serves as Minister-President under

Wilhelm I and becomes Imperial Chancellor in 1871. Bismarck fights three wars for German unification under the military leadership of General von Moltke (the Elder).

* 1864: Prussia and Austria at war with Denmark over Schleswig-Holstein

* 1866: Austro-Prussian War - Austria defeated at the Battle of Koeniggraetz (Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic). German Confederation abolished and Prussia annexes Germany north of the Rhine.

* 1870: Franco-Prussian War - Napoleon III's defeat at Sedan leads to the fall of the French Empire and the establishment of the German Empire (Second Reich). Alsace-Lorraine ceded back to Germany due to its strategic importance.

1867: Prussia heads North German Confederation.

1871: Wilhelm I crowned German Kaiser in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, France. North German Confederation of 1867 abolished and the Second Reich, uniting northern and southern German states, is born; characterized by powerful army, efficient bureaucracy, loyal bourgeoisie, and powerful centralized state consolidated by Bismarck.

1879: Dual Alliance - Germany and Austro-Hungary

1882: Triple Alliance - Italy joins the Dual Alliance

1885: German colonization of Southwest Africa, East Africa, Cameroon and Togo.

1888-1918: Kaiser Wilhelm II stresses colonialism and powerful navy (pushed by Admiral Tirpitz). He forces Bismarck to resign in 1890. Kaiser Wilhelm II's chaotic foreign policy leads to the isolation of Germany and the disaster of First World War.

1914: International atmosphere is so tense that the assasination at Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip precipitates World War One.

1914-1918: First World War



Nov 1918 - Feb 1919: no head of state; Kaiser abdicates due to revolt by Spartacist League (nucleus of the Communist Party under Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg).

1919: Weimar Constitution adopted - submission to Treaty of Versailles. Germany loses Alsace-Lorraine, Eupen-Malmedy, North Schleswig, Posen, West Prussia, Upper Silesia and Memel area. The Rhineland and Saar are occupied, limits placed on military and Germany accepts sole responsibility for the war.

1920: Kapp Putsch fails - Wolfgang Kapp's right-wing coup, supported by the old army, is aborted by the communists; prestige is thus lent to the KPD (Communist Party) while the army splits from the republic and allies itself with the Stahlhelm and SA (Sturmabteilung).

1923: France occupies the Ruhr to keep Germany from defaulting on reparations payments. Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch in Munich fails, and he is imprisoned. Ruinous inflation makes the Mark plummet ($1 = DM 4.2 trillion).

1925: French troops leave the Ruhr in response to the Dawes Plan which coordinates reparations payments with a program of economic recovery. Nazi Party members number 17,000.

1933: One year after the Nazis emerge as Germany's strongest party (230 seats in the Reichstag), President Hindenburg appoints Hitler to replace von Schleicher as Chancellor, ending 15 years of the Weimar Republic.

THIRD REICH (1933-1945)

1933: Reichstag fire - Hitler demands presidential emergency decree; Enabling Act gives his cabinet full legislative power. Political parties and trade unions abolished; Jews persecuted and concentration camps established (total of 412).

1934: Hindenburg dies and Hitler takes full power. Ernst Roehm, SA leaders and other political opponents executed during "Night of Long Knives." Germany begins full rearmament program, and Nuremberg race laws ban marriage between Germans and Jews.

1936: Rhineland remiliterized; pacts made with Italy and Japan.

1938: Germany annexes Austria and the Sudetenland.

1939: Occupation of Bohemia and Moravia; invasion of Poland ignites Second World War.

1939-1945: Second World War

V. MODERN GERMANY (1945 - present)

1945: Potsdam Conference between Truman, Stalin and Atlee; Nuremberg Trials; 11 million Germans evacuated from Eastern Europe.

1948: Berlin Blockade and subsequent airlift; Marshall Aid.

1949: Federal Republic of Germany proclaimed.

1950: German Democratic Republic proclaimed.

1955: West Germany becomes fully independent and joins NATO.

1956: East Germany joins Warsaw Pact.

1957: European Economic Community (European Union) established.

1958: Berlin Crisis - Khrushchev threatens war if East Germany is not recognized and Berlin not demilitarized; incorporation of two Germanies abandoned and Soviets and East Germans erect the Berlin Wall (1961) to halt emigration and seal the political and economic stability of the GDR.

1972: The two Germanies normalize relations

1989: Thousands of East Germans take extended vacation from the GDR after Hungary opens border with Austria. GDR chief Erich Honecker resigns and replacement Egon Krenz, promising reform and receiving approval from Mikhail Gorbachev, officially opens up an already cracked Berlin Wall. West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl quickly offers up 10-point unification plan.

1990: GDR citizens elect de Maiziere in free elections. October 3 - German Unification.

2005: Gerhard Schröder is succeeded by the CDU's Angela Merkel as Germany's first female chancellor




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