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GERMAN HISTORY - A SUMMARY
It’s wonderful that this chapter can begin with a beautiful sentence: Our knowledge about the Germanic history starts with cultural creativity. This means that archaeological finds of peaces of art and music-instruments are giving the earliest insight. Harps and other string instruments did already exist, just like our people seems to have already always had a strong relationship to wind instruments and thereby “brass bands” ... - Also the oldest real beer was proved in a Germanic receptacle in Germany, which has been found a few years ago, during the construction of a Swabian underground car park.
Apart from that, archaeology shows farmers, who were warriors at the same time. Their arms were symbols of freedom. The houses had fenced-round courts and were built of wood and clay, not of stone. It’s remarkable that we can prove for a still long time that some parts of medieval churches were not built of stone, because people regarded this as a “dead“ and wood as a “living“ material. This allows the theory that reasons of faith could have kept the Germanic tribes from building their houses of stone. At least the reason can’t have been a lack of capacity, considering their skills in other technical affairs. Even after the conquest of Roman cities in Germany they avoided to move into these. Of course building in wood (by the decomposition of the material) causes disadvantages for science, just like archaeologists have the problem that graves with burial objects (which are often the most important source about cultures) do not exist for the Germans, because our ancestors committed the bodies of their loved-ones to the fire.
Every farm was connected to fields, which belonged to the community. Apart from that however personal property was very clearly a part of the Germanic rights.
Despite there were letters, (the “runes“), always only short runic scriptures were found, which have probably been written down for „religious“ purposes. Reports about our Germanic ancestors exist only from the Romans and later from the Northern-Germanic “Vikings”.
Accordingly to the Romans, the free Germans discussed their plans for hours in assemblies named “Thing“. Here also the “Herzog (Heerführer) = Duke (Army Leader) was elected. The women were companions of the men, who were not submitted to them and who accompanied them into fights. Mostly this probably meant that they cheered up the men and cared for the wounded fighters. It’s however also for sure that they performed remarkably well in defending themselves. Already always there have also been reports about Germanic female warriors. The mysticism with “Schildmaiden = shield maidens ~ battle maidens” and “Walküren = Valkyries” or the medieval heroic sagas (which are having very old Germanic backgrounds just like our fairy tales) are indicating this as well, despite archaeological evidence for bigger numbers of definite Schildmaiden are missing. One should however also assume that only few “girls“ would have prevailed long in times, when swords and shields required either big physical strength or a very superior skill. - The English word „girl“ (Germanic „gör“ = small) fits very well into this context, especially if we consider that the German “Gör(e)“ means the same like the English “brat“ ... - Okay, well, there must have been Schildmaiden! ...
The Landscape of Germania (Germany) was marked by huge forests. Still far into the Middle-Ages people were sure that those were inhabited by elves, fairies and gnomes. Even in our days „Gartenzwerge = garden gnomes“ give many people the creeps in Germany ... - This sentence should however not be misunderstood, as the German courage, just like a special German fidelity already belonged to the earliest permanently reported German characteristics.
Germerika’s “Mama” Germania with her shield on an old Roman coin (from the years 134-138). She symbolized all Germans (a.k.a. “Teutons”), all Germanic tribes and their common culture area “Germany”. The names “Deutschland” and “Deutsche” have never changed “Germania”.
Now the Germanic bilingualism of our site makes us simply write down a couple of English words and their German translations. Long explanations are not necessary, they would only make things sound complex.
Germanic = Germanisch (this means all Germanic nations/ tribes, including the Anglo-Saxons, who had once conquered England, coming from Germany)
German = Deutsch
Theudisk (theudish) = old Germanic for German = of the kind of the people; in contrast to the Romanized parts of the Germanic population of the Frankish Kingdom.
Teutsch = Deutsch = Dutch. “Modern” for Theudisk. Today the word is however often being abused to suggest that it would describe a new people, which wouldn’t have existed before, despite it’s based on much older tribes and despite the meaning of the word makes obvious, that it refers to the fact that the meant people had maintained the cultural factor of their identity.
Dutch = Holländisch/ Holländer (The Netherlands/ Holland was a part of the Reich, until a few centuries ago. The languages are still closely related.
Teutons (the Germanic tribes) = Germanen (The Teutons were actually only one of many Germanic tribes. Together with the tribe of the “Kimbern = Cimbri” they conquered northern Italy (already in 103 before our time). - We use the word ”Germans”, not “Teutons”!
Teutonic = Teutonisch (the name was later mixed up with the adjective “theudisk” = Deutsch
Germany = Deutschland (the name replaced the older description “Deutsches Land = German Land” since the 15th century. Accordingly it describes the land, that is German, which is marked by the German culture.
Present is the base of our culture still today, whenever we ask ourself during the progress of history „what a day is it actually today“:
Sunday is the day of the sun. Monday is the day of the moon (German: Mond). Tuesday is the day of Tius. Wednesday is the day of Wodan. Thursday is the day of Thor/ Donar (German: Donnerstag) - and Friday is the day of Freya (German: Freitag).
There would be many more examples for such references, but the most simple ones are the languages that this text here is written in ...
The Roman reports about us begin in a time when Rome tried to expand to the north (Cesar’s “De bello Gallico“). So the word “Propaganda“ always needs to be considered, despite the historian Tacitus wrote very respectful in his work “Germania“(!!!), the most important and most extensive report. - However he did already write about Germanic “winners“ ... - In every case: forget the lies about dirty, primitive “Barbarians”! The Romans called almost everyone else barbaric … - More information can be found in our chapter ”Identity“.
(1) Hermann Monument in the Forest of Teutoburg, Westphalia; built 1838-75; the sculpture alone is about 85 feet tall.
(2) Hermann Monument in New Ulm, Minnesota; not that big, but still very big - and more beautiful!
In the year 9 the Germanic Cherusci and their neighbours under Hermann (Arminius) had achieved the famous victory over the Roman legions of Varus in the Forest of Teutoburg. Like mentioned above, this wasn’t the first victory of Germanic troops against Roman ones (for example Cimbri and Teutons), but it was the victory with the biggest consequences. About 10% of the entire Roman army were lost and Hermann’s fighters hadn’t just won a battle here, but caused this hard defeat to the Romans as an alliance of several tribes and in striding strategic operations, when Rome had been at the peak of it’s power. Rome took this as a warning.
The attempt to conquer Germany was given up!
A few decades later the Romans began to build the “Limes“, an about 340 miles long border-wall with about 1000 towers and 100 forts behind it. The conquered Germanic territories were separated from the Free Germany as Roman Provinces named “Germania Superior“ and ”Germania Magna“. Inside them Roman cities were supposed to promote the great Roman culture. The free Germans however preferred to stay free!
Since 233 the Limes lost more and more of it’s importance. Rome got weaker inside and the Germans stronger.
At about 375 the big “Migration of the peoples“ began. The reasons are still not yet really cleared up. Germanic tribes conquered the area of the Mosel river and the Netherlands. The Swabians broke through the Limes and conquered territories from Bohemia as far as over the central Rhine into the Alsace. Apart from the most eastern parts, these territories are Swabian/ Alemannic until today.
In 395 the Roman Empire was divided into the West- and the East-Roman (later Byzantine) Empire.
The Central Asian nomadic people of the Huns conquered the land of the Goths in today’s Ukraine. The East-Roman Empire suffered heavy defeats against the fleeing Goths. “Invested” on the Balkans between the Huns and the Byzantines, their leader Alarich decided to march towards Italy however, where the Germanic Imperial Administrator Stilicho had been murdered. Alarich conquered Rome. Later he moved on to Spain and into today’s southern France. There the Reich of the West-Goths arose.
In 450 the Germanic Angles, Saxons and Jutes started to conquer land on the British Isles. (Tacitus counted the Angles to the Suevi (Swabians)! - Geographically this appears “questionable“ however).
In 451 the West-Romans and the West-Germanic tribes crushed the huns and their (forced) East-Germanic „allies“ in the Battle on the Catalaunian Fields.
Until 480 further Roman territories were conquered south of the Danube river and in the area of the river Seine (in today’s France). Gallia had been Rome’s province with the biggest population, but when the mercenary leader Odowakar had toppled the last (West-)Roman Emperor, all Roman troops were withdrawn from Gallia and all territories north of the alps (Odowakar belonged to the Germanic tribe of the “Rugier = Rugii”, who had once lived at the German Sea/ North Sea.
486/87 the Franks conquered the Gallo provinces completely. An attack of the Alemans (a part of the Swabians) was repelled. Than the Franks subjugated the Swabian-Alemanic territories from the Alsace as far as behind the Swabian Mountains. Henceforth the land of the Franks „Francia“ and the Frankish Reich/ „Regnum Francorum“ were not the same anymore.
At the same time the Langobards (originally also a part of the Swabians) conquered territories south of the Danube river. Europe was now ruled by Germans. In most parts of the continent they were however only a rather small ruling “upper-class“, which lived in Romanic culture-areas. In the territories of the old Germany this was different - including those territories that had temporarily been Roman provinces. The absolute majority in the population made it possible for the Germans here to further develop their culture, instead of loosing their identity.
In 531 the Franks defeated the Reich of the Thuringians and in 537 once more the Alemans. Now they ruled over all their territories.
556 the Avars invaded Europe from Central Asia, just like the Huns had once done it. This caused a loss of old Germanic culture-areas east of the rivers Elbe and Saale or the Bohemian Forest in the south. Because of the emigration of big parts of the original population of Goths, Vandals and other Germanic tribes, these territories had at last been less populated. There was still a Germanic population, but under the rule of the Avars now also Slavs started to settle in these territories. The Slavs had originally come from the area north of the Carpathian mountains between the rivers Vistula and Dnieper.
There was a moratorium between the Franks and the Avars.
In 568 the Germanic territory became bigger again in the south, because the Langobards conquered North- and Central-Italy. The Reich of the East-Goths had collapsed there in 552. It had tried to reach a peaceful juxtaposition of the nations. Therefore the Langobards first acted very brutally.
Their tries to keep their Germanic culture, failed however with time passing by, because the nations did nevertheless mix up too much. The name ”Langobards“ later actually stood for an ethnically and culturally different people.
687 Inner-Frankish Battle of Tertry (see below at 774).
Since about the year 700 we know Germanic-Christian poetry. It was established by Anglo-Saxons. For their christianisation Pope Gregor I had planned a “sparing” of their heathen ideas. - In reality this meant an “adoption“ in both directions ...
The battle of Poitiers, painted by Carl von Steuben between 1834 and 1837
In 732 the Franks under Karl Martell (Martell = the hammer) defeated the Arabs/ Muslims in the battle of Poitiers (see below - and above …).
In 774 the Langobards tried to get Rome and it’s church under their own rule. Rome turned itself to the Franks, who attacked the Reich of the Langobards and conquered it. Already since the above mentioned conquest of Gallia and the victory over the Alemans, the Franks had come into a position of predominance. They had pushed the West-Goths south and defeated Burgundy, when the Reich of the East-Goths had collapsed. In Bavaria they had influenced the structure of the leading class.
The Franks were lead by the Merowinger line at this time, who were seated in the Gallo/ Romanic part of the Frankish territory. Already in Roman times Saxon, Friesian and other Germanic Farmers had settled there. This had made it easier for the Franks to integrate the old Roman elites, to be able to rule this important territory. The Franks had not been numerously very strong on their own, but their neighbours called them greedy, martial and sly. Accordingly the Merowinger line had created a “clerk-aristocracy“ and almost wiped out the old Germanic Frankish tribal-nobility.
The process of cultural mixing and the bureaucracy lead us back to the word “theudisk = deutsch“ for the unmixed, Germanic ones (at first for the language “Deutsch = German”). We find it in documents since about the year 700.
Apart from that, the Frankish rulers (Romanised Merowinger line) had developed from impeachable “retinue-kings” (Germanic King Election) to unimpeachable rulers of a Roman pattern. Their efforts to govern the different nations and tribes in one empire of the Roman kind, lead to the resistance of those parts of the Frankish tribe that had stayed unmixed-Frankish, Germanic. Here the Karolinger line was most powerful, which was seated in the old heartland of the Franks at the Central Rhine (river).
The military victory of the Karolinger line at Tertry in 687 over the Merowinger line (see above) and the victory of the Karolinger Karl Martell in 732 over the so far permanently victorious Arabs/ Muslims, had strengthened their position. The Muslims had been victorious from Arabia, over North-Africa and Spain, as far as into today’s Southern France. In Poitiers Karl Martell avoided the Islamisation of Europe.
At first the kings still belonged to the Merowinger line, but now the Karolinger line had the extremely powerful office of the “Hausmeier = major domo“. This means that they controlled the administration of the king and the education of his retinue. Thereby they had put through a re-Germanization.
Later the Frankish King “Karl der Große = Charles the Grand“ (Karolinger line) was even outraged, when the Pope declared him to be the new “Roman Emperor” in the year 800. He didn’t see himself as a Roman, but as a Frankish ruler. Additionally his role-models weren’t the Roman Emperors, but the biblical Kings David and Salomon. He named himself “King by the Grace of God” (Dei Gratia) and he wanted a “theocracy“ ...
Time and again his rule led to resistance. In 772 he started the war against the Saxons, who didn’t want to give up their old (Germanic) faith and their rights.
In 782 “Karl = Charles“ ordered the murder of 4.500 unarmed Saxons at Verden at the Aller (river). Their most important shrine, the tree Irminsul was felled. The resistance of the Saxons was however not breakable with this religious violence. The war lasted over 30 years (with short interruptions).
787 the first attack of Danish “Vikings” hit the Anglosaxon England.
In 804 the land of the Saxons was annexed by the Frankish Kingdom.
In 805 the city of Magdeburg (in the territory of the Saxons) was mentioned as a trading-place with the Slavs. - 1025 years before General Steuben was supposed to be born there ...
814 After the death of Charles the Grand the Frankish Kingdom started to fall apart - the result was the Galloromanic Kingdom of France in the west and the Germanic Deutsches Reich in the east with a Frankish tribal dukedom (the precise different names that political structures received in the next centuries, are irrelevant here). This process took decades, shall however not be picked out as a central theme here. Not because there would be something to conceal, but because this is the classical point, where a patriotic, normal German-American tiredly stops reading and might never start again. - Eternal medieval family-feuds between power-hungry monarchs, which develop into a complicated hence and forth that almost nobody can remember ... - Awful for democratic, republican people with pride on their VOLK (people/nation) and the philosophy of enlightenment! ... - Or is such stuff even on television as entertaining fantasy-stories? ... - In every case it would be a very big mistake to loose interest here, as those aspects that have concern with the German people, that are connected to “Einigkeit, Recht und Freiheit = Unity, Justice and Freedom“ are now getting very interesting. But a “question” first:
If the word “Theudisk = deutsch = of the kind of the people“ always referred to cultural Germanic characteristics, doesn’t this mean that one could call Danes, Norwegians, Swedish and Anglo-Saxons “theudisk“ as well? – The answer: Actually YES(!), but ...
In the 9th century the English King of Wessex “Alfred the Grand“ translated several antique and Christian books into Old-English, while the epos about the Southern Swedish King Beowulf was still written down in old-Germanic language (also in England). Accordingly there had already been changes in the languages after centuries of different developments. Changes that are still obvious today: The English language is still a Germanic language, but it is much stronger Romanised than others. With regard to the Germanic Scandinavians (who also settled Iceland since 874) the development is even clearer. In their case no cultural changes by Christianity had taken place yet. For example the much bigger rights of women among the Vikings show an enormous cultural difference from childhood on! For historians the first Allthing on Island (960) is the beginning of the oldest existing democracy on earth!
Accordingly one could use the word ”theudisk“ for them, actually even more. – But one didn’t do it ... - At least not as a “name“, because in this sense it was used for the Central-European community of the “Deutschen = Germans“ and the name ”Vikings“ is based on the “viking = sea journey” by the way. So the Vikings were named for a more specific typical behaviour that others experienced. Yearly attacks occurred since 832. Most “Vikings” never went on a “viking” or only for the purpose of peaceful trade!
The Danish King Harald Blauzahn however showed a stop-sign to the above mentioned freedoms of the beautiful Gender already in 960 with his profession of Christianity - but the brutal raids did not end with that ... - Nonetheless: The world in the Germanic north was different. In parts of Scandinavia there was never a system of feudalism, never the serfdom of peasants. But how was it possible that the “mass-enslavement” of feudalism could spread at all, among “theudisk“ people, who had been famous for their love for freedom so long?
Unfortunately we have to take the aspect into account, we associate most with the Middle-Ages and values that are highly esteemed until today. The increasingly better protection of armoured riders (“Rittern = knights“) reduced the power of the normal people. Since the victory of the Karolinger Karl Martell over the Arabs at Poitiers the first “knights“ had developed to the centre of the Karolingian troups and a new kind of warfare. Armed free farmers had hardly any means against that. Now they needed professional protection. In Scandinavia this problem didn’t exist yet. But also in “Deutschland/ Germany” the system of Feudalism spread only slowly, from the 8th to the 10th century. There was resistance and at the same time the base of this system changed from a rule over people to a property of the soil.
Additionally the Christian religion was often adopted by rulers very purposefully, to be able to justify their rule better. - Summarizing one can say, that there was a willingness now to give up rights, in order to gain protection, and a religious doctrine and a church, which both justified such a rule.
Religious ideas played a more and more central role for people in the Middle-Ages. Indeed the Germanic ideas of sylvan, elves, fairies, holy trees and places melted with the religion of a church that used these places now, but in the general education the earthly life was more and more depicted as a stopping-off place to eternal life. This way spiritual salvation for people themselves and for their loved ones became a goal that required no freedom in the earthly life, but obedience. Gifts to churches and cloisters were the consequence. This strengthened the power of the church and the inequality of people additionally.
Since all of this happened in an époque with an especially mild climate, the population could grow. Also better agricultural methods and new technologies (for example: swivel-plough, new strains, watermills, the harrow, fertilizing or a new harness, which tripled the performance of the horses) contributed to this (horses had replaced the oxen that had been usual in the antiquity).
In the Reich the population doubled between the years 800 and 1000, also because these were times of inner peace. For the agricultural grounds became too small, the Germans cleared huge parts of the old primeval forests. - A hard work for “unfree“ people. Thereby a peasantry arose that was liable to taxation, but economically self-determined and which was “allowed“ to cultivate the soil that had been won on the order of the ruler. The farms joined together to village co-operatives.
Above we’ve already had the word „Hausmeier“. Now many lords of the manor had „Meiers“ - today one of the most wide-spread German names ...
Together with the lord of the manor and his „Meier“ the village co-operatives defined the rules for using forests, deer and waters. Also the “taxes“ were laid down in the most cases and couldn’t just be raised. The three-field system made additional rules necessary.
In daily life the village co-operative lead to a broad coming up of specialized hand workers like Schmied (or Schmidt = smith), Schuster(or Schuhmacher = shoe maker), Wagner (coach builder), Schneider (tailor) oder Zimmermann (carpenter). Every mill (Mühle) was operated by a specialized ”Müller“. - All today typical names. But also names like Petersen/ Peterson (son of Peter) remained.
The common way of life, with work and a rich fest-calendar, or the equal service-duty and taxation made the farmers/peasants a “class“ of it’s own. The judicial rules of the village thereby became more important in the daily life of most people than the old law of the tribes, even though these old Germanic tribal laws were getting written down and still considered in legal affairs for a long time.
Considering the better yields, one can say that this “kind of dictatorship“ (like many others) became possible by economical success. A very important lesson from history!
What an “injustice“ feudalism caused, shall be shown here with a little inside in one socage-order (of many):
If a bondsman died, the heirs had to give the lord their best annimal (as a compensation!). If a bondswoman died, they had to give him her best dress.
Every 18-20 years old man was obliged to marry. Girls had to marry at the age of 14! – The rest was a combination of a religious expectation to submit and of course extremely often cruel force.
Widows and widowers could also be forced to marry again.
After marriages between a free person and an unfree person, the free partner became unfree and the common children too.
Generally we can however summarize that the injustice of feudalism sneaked in among the Germans only slowly and from the Romanic West, while the East-Frankish Reich turned into a “Deutsches Reich = German Reich“:
In 919 the Frankish Duke Konrad I (the first „Non-Karolingian“ king, elected by the East-Franks, Saxons, Bavarians and Swabians) announced the Saxon Duke Heinrich I as his successor. His politics had failed and the Reich was not governed by a Frank anymore! - The Bavarian duke had refused Heinrich at first however and declared himself king in the “Regnum Theutonicum = Deutsches Reich = German Reich“.
In 933 Heinrich I defeated the Hungarians at the German river Unstrut. The knights decided the battle.
The decisive battle against the Hungarians in 955
In 955 Otto I. defeated the Hungarians on the Lechfeld near Augsburg. The knights decided this battle too.
In 973 the diocese of Prague was founded as a result of the conversion of the Slavs to Christianity. It belonged to the arch-diocese of Mainz.
In 983 there was a big Slavonic uprising against this development. The Slavs were also called “Wenden“.
(In 982 Germanic Vikings started to settle in Greenland. At about the year 1000 they reached America!)
In 1032 Burgundy became a part of the Reich.
In 1066 there was another big Slavonic uprising.
(At about 1100 the Inca culture began in the undiscovered South-America)
The three lions of the Swabians
In 1138 Konrad III of Swabia from the Staufer line became “Deutscher König = German King“. He withdrew the feoffs to “Heinrich the Proud” for Bavaria and Saxony. The background is a struggle for the crown, which was claimed by the Saxon Welfen line as well. The fights mostly took place in the south of Germany. The city of Weinsberg was beleaguered by the Swabians. After the victory Konrad III granted a safe conduct to the women there. They were allowed to take along what they could carry on their shoulders. They carried out their men ... - Or at least it’s reported this way as a famous legend.
In 1150 the border of the Reich was finally pushed forward to the east, since Holstein, the Mark Brandenburg, the “Mark Meissen = Margraviate of Meissen”, and the “Ostmark = East Margraviate = Margraviate of Austria” had arisen as well-fortified settling-areas.
In 1152 Friedrich I of Swabia, later called „Barbarossa“, became King. He returned the feoffs for Saxony and Bavaria to the Welfen line. In order to recompense the intermediate Duke, the east of Bavaria became independent: Austria arose, where only a small ”Ostmark“ and other Bajuvarian territories had existed before.
At this time the number of German cities started to grow from less than 40 (in the year 1100) to about 3.000 (in the year 1400). About 5% of the population lived in cities at first. To enable life in many cities, it needed the higher agricultural yields and the “Handwerk = manual working trade” had needed further development. The cities originally arose at places, where trading was possible easily, like at important trading routes, harbors or fords (for example: Frankfort). This character of cities as marketplaces had made some towns develop to cities in a natural way. Since the year 1100 many however also arose in a planned way. What they all have in common is the character of big fortresses. They were surrounded by walls and had big doors und towers. The centre of the city was (naturally) the marketplace, with the city hall and the church. In some cases (most of all in the old originally Roman cities at the Rhine) there was also a Jewish Synagogue in this city centre. Because of the expensive ground the houses were built bigger on the floors above than below. The narrowness of this life can appear disgusting at first sight, if one thinks about a medieval city with animals in the streets and stinky neighbors ... - the same narrowness does however make up the „Gemütlichkeit“ of old German cities and thereby also a characteristic of the German people that almost everyone in the world knows, even in the once aggressively “un-Germanized” America.
A tradition that started here in every case, is the tradition of the German „Handwerkszeichen = manual working trades’ signs“, which were fixed over the house entrances.
The city councils already created municipal schools.
The traders were organized in „Gilden = guilds“. These institutions had the purpose to give them influence on the politics of the ”Stadtherr = lord of the city“. The Stadtherr was either the King/ Kaiser or a regional ruler. The Stadtherr lay down the tolls and the market law. He controlled the judiciary. In the case of planned city foundings however the power soon went to the traders directly. They were called „Patrizier = patricians“. The Stadtherr was now the „Bürgermeister or Schultheiß = mayor“. He was the commander in the case of war and chaired the court.
„Reichsstädte = Reich cities = imperial cities“ were exclusively under an obligation to the King/ Kaiser. Their coats of arms showed the black-red eagle on golden ground.
The manual workers were organized in „Zünften“ (special name of their “guilds”). They guaranteed clear rules, social security in one’s old age and good education, as well as thereby also progress. Apart from that every “Zunft” was also a unit for the case of an attack. They had own “Zunftstuben = Zunft lounges“ for assemblies and appeared together (under a special “Zunftfahne = Zunft flag”) during celebrations. In some cities the “Zünfte“ were also called “Bruderschaften = brotherhoods“.
For Jews it was not possible to be member in such organizations, just like they weren’t allowed to cultivate land.
Generally there was a clear social hierarchy with different rights. Like in the peasant’s case, this was justified by the Christian religion, as an expression of divine will. To keep up this hierarchy, many cities created dress regulations, so that lower ranged, but rich people couldn’t dress like the higher class ...
The upper-class consisted of members of the nobility and the patricians.
The middle-class consisted of the manual workers and shop-owners.
The lower-class consisted of the journeymen, servants, maidens and day labourers. They were only “Einwohner = inhabitants“, not “Bürger = citizens“.
If somebody had lived in a city for one year and one day, this person was however free for all time. Until today every child in Germany knows the medieval saying “Stadtluft macht frei = city air makes free“.
The Swabian Kaisers of the Staufer line did much for peace inside Germany and tried to create better rules for the feuds of the nobility. The time of their rule was also the epoque of the knightly culture and (since about 1050) of building castles.
In German castles the living rooms were normally placed in a special building named ”Palas(t) = palace“. In French castles they were only in a tower. The famous Wartburg in Thuringia and the court in Vienna became meeting places of the “Minnesänger = minnesingers“, who were knights, but turned themselves more to music and poetry than to war.
Their topics were however the fame of the fighters and the “Gunst = goodwill/ favor” of the ladies. The beauty of the lovely female body was regarded as the reflection of the beauty of their loving soul (loving in German means “liebevoll” = “full of love”).
Famous until today are Walther von der Vogelweide (below 1) and his concurrent Tannhäuser (below 2; in the cloak of the Teutonic Order), who was very successful, because he didn’t only praise the ladies, but also managed it to touch their feelings with the open eroticism of his vocals. - Obviously people liked that ...
At about 1160 the artistic style of the “minne” reached it’s peak - a tradition that can easily remember us of how the “Gunst” of pretty cheerleaders in modern America means motivation and certainly also pleasure for the athletes of our time. This comparison to modern sports is not exaggerated(!), as the knights were indeed athletes too, who faced each other in tournaments with clear rules. - For example it appears just as modern as likeable, that sword-fighting on the back of horses was detested as a “cruelty to animals”.
In 1175 the first German cloister was founded in Silesia. The Silesian coat of arms is the eagle on the picture above (5). Silesia was the old homeland of the Silingae, a tribal group of the Germanic Vandals, which are proved to have lived in this area since about the year 300 before our time. The majority of the Vandals had moved away during the migration of the peoples and had gained a place in history - this and an image that is just as bad as wrong.
More information about this can be found in the chapter “The tribes“ at “Silesians”. After the invasion of the Asian Avars into Europe (see above 556) Silesia had been slightly settled by Slavs. For centuries it had been divided in several, changing, little territories without any real importance. Since the 10th century it had been ruled by the Polish Piast line. Conflicts about the Polish throne had made Friedrich I (Barbarossa) intervene. After that only two Polish dukedoms had remained.
The following history would cause a boring “Chaos“ here. Silesia remained in the sphere of interests of German, Polish and (Slavonic) Bohemian rulers and a process of declination after 1138 led to up to 17 dukedoms in Silesia, which had close relations to Poland and the Reich. - In parts the land was a feoff of the Reich/ Kaiser.
Because of family-relationships to German dukedoms, one knew about the progressiveness of the Germans. Therefore more and more German settlers were invited.Since about the year 1200 a strong influx of German settlers followed. They came into a land with huge primeval forests, where the Slavonic peasants lived of very simple farming. These were strongly depending on the ruling nobility and one may even consider here, that the word “Slav” is indeed related to the word “slave”.
Marriages of members of the Piast line with German princesses were typical for this time of the German migration to the east, while the German settlers cleared forests and settled in the won areas. About 1200 German villages and about 120 German cities (with German law!) where founded in Silesia at this time. These cities were built on the base of geometrical plans: they had a chequered pattern with one free block in the middle for the marketplace, on which only the city hall was built. The churches were placed at the walls as part of the defence. Around the cities German villages were founded in equally planned ways. The German farmers paid an “Erbzins = hereditary lease“ for their land, so that they did not directly have it as their property, but bought a right of inheritance for their families. By the influx of German workmen and traders the economy changed completely. Frankish and Saxon miners established the modern gallery mining. The mountain-regions were settled and German stone-buildings changed the image of the landscape, which had been marked by simple Slavonic wooden houses before. Reports from Slavs are rare. They do however indicate astonishment about German technologies and envy for the German rights as well as some German tensions to not respect them to an equal extend. With time passing by, the German culture however also brought the Slavs huge improvement of living conditions and law. Between the Cities of Halle and the city of Neumarkt in Silesia arose the ”Salzstraße = salt-street. “Halle-Neumarkter Law“ became the standard for many city foundations (for example Posen) as far as into Poland.
The “Backsteingotik = Gothic architecture built in brick” became the architectural style of the German east.
In 1176 Heinrich (“the Lion”) of Saxony and Bavaria refused to support King Friedrich I. (Barbarossa) in the battle of Legnano (Italy). Following that Barbarossa withdrew Heinrich’s feoffs for Saxony and Bavaria. Heinrich fled to his relatives in England. The Dukedom of Saxony fell apart.
In 1184 the big “Reich fest at Mainz” took place. Here (on Whitsun) Barbarossa wanted to celebrate peace and the dubbing of his two sons (20 and 18 years old) as well as of hundreds of others. About 70.000 knights took part in the celebrations!
In 1190 Barbarossa died on the 3rd crusade, far away from any enemy. Most German knights turned around. Barbarossa became a symbol for a just ruler. Later arose the „Saga of the Kyffhäuser“, a mountain (once with a huge castle) under which he allegedly sleeps until he returns one day, in order to lead his people into a fortunate time again.
In 1198 the “Deutscher Orden = Teutonic Order“ was founded (Order of the knights of the St. Mary’s Hospital of the Germans in Jerusalem). It is highly remarkable that the Germans did already found an order with such a national character in the Middle Ages!
At about 1211 the Teutonic Order had obligations in Hungary and strived for independence in parts of it’s territory.
In 1225 the Hungarian King wanted to get rid of the powerful knights of the Teutonic Order and Konrad of Masovia requested their help for the fight against the “heathen” Pruszen. People in the Baltic area resisted Christianity stubbornly. The “Hochmeister = Highmaster/ Grand master“ Hermann von Saltza gained the Polish Duke’s and the Kaiser’s promise that the Order would win the independent rule over all territories it could conquer during the planned crusade in Eastern Europe.
Accordingly the German “Ordensstaat = Order’s State“ (in Prussia) didn’t get integrated into the Reich and avoided all the inner struggles for power that would have been usual there. A state with a well-organized, modern administration could arise out of the military structure of the order. Soon this German state contained almost the entire Baltic region. Castles and about 100 German cities were built.
In 1272 one began building the above shown Marienburg = Maryburg (burg = castle) as the Centre of the Order’s State. So far we don’t yet want to give up the “hope” for a prove, that a famous U.S. military elite unite could be named for the “Marineburg” … - At least there is probably no scientific study that would have ever proved this “theory” to be wrong …
But back to the serious facts:
In 1283 all of Prussia was conquered by the Order. Since 1300 the brought settlement of German peasants started in about 1000 German villages, and in the year 1309 the Hochmeister moved his seat from Venice to the Marienburg. It was a masterpiece of architecture, with a high-tech floor heating system and very hygienic sanitation facilities. Also the other castles were built of bricks in accordance to similarly brilliant plans.
The Pruszen continued to live in small villages. Most German settlements arose in cleared areas of former forests between them. With time passing by, the Pruszen assimilated to the Germans. The German settlers had mostly moved to Prussia from northern Germany along the coast. Therefore a New-Tribe of “Niederdeutschem = Lower-German“ background arose. One part of the land is even called Prussian-Holland (Holland = the Netherlands).
Kaiser Friedrich II. allowed the Hochmeister to have the “Reichsadler = Reich Eagle” on his shield. The eagle later always remained the symbol of Prussia too.
Since about the year 1200 windmills spread in Germany.
The “Kreuzbanner = Cross Banner“ of the Reich (1) - it became the origin of the Swiss flag (2)
In 1231 and 1240 Kaiser Friedrich II (Staufer line) declared the Alemannic valleys Schwyz and Uri (in the Dukedom of Swabia) to be “reichsunmittelbar = immediate = subject only to the Reich/Kaiser“. The background was that they had become strategically and economically important after the opening of the Gotthard Pass. The regional rulers from the Habsburg line, denied this immediacy however. They had also gained more importance in the region, just like the Counts of Savoyen.
In 1232 Kaiser Friedrich II enacted the “Gesetz zu Gunsten der Fürsten = law to the benefit of the princes“, who are documented here as “Landesherren = (sovereign) landlords“ for the first time. Friedrich II most of all governed in Sicily (Italy) and neglected the German royal power in the Reich.
In 1241 an army of the Mongols reached Silesia. The Russian cities of Moscow and Kiev (today capital of the Ukraine) had already been conquered by them. In the Battle of Liegnitz the Silesian “Reichsherzog = Reichsduke“, Heinrich II., faced these Mongolic troops with a joined Polish and German army. His mother was German and his father a member of the Polish Piasten line. The invasion of the Mongols burned itself into the common European memory, just like those of the Huns and Avars had before, because of an equal cruelty. Kaiser Friedrich II. and the Teutonic Order (north of Silesia) did not intervene. Heinrich II. fought against the Mongols with his troops alone . Because of very progressive Mongolic arrows and bows, there were huge losses among his knights. The precise developments of the battle are not clear, but the often-heard claim that the Mongols would have withdrawn eastwards after the battle and never returned to Europe again only because of an inner struggle for power is not correct. They had already demanded the surrender of the Hungarian king in 1238 and indeed turned their mission to Hungary now after the battle of Liegnitz. The heroic legends, people started to tell about the Polish and German knights in Silesia, do accordingly not have to be wrong! Rather the Mongolic actions were used by clerics to scare the Europeans with claims about the end of the world being close … - Once more … - Give all your money to the church, and God will protect you again … - The Mongols withdrew from Europe in 1242. The big German powers have never intervened.
In 1254 assaults on traders and the initiative of the patrician Arnold Walpot lead to the foundation of the “Rheinischer Städtebund = Rhenish City Union”. It soon had many supporters, as it also strived to strengthen the inner power of the Reich. Wilhelm von Holland (anti-king to two kings of the Staufer line) even recognized it as an organ of the Reich. In 1257 King Wilhelm was however struck dead by the Friesians, and the election of the new king showed the power of the princes again, as only they were entitled to elect. After that the Union soon dissolved itself, because the cities had too opposing interests in almost all other matters ...
Art shows the mental backgrounds of this time:
The basic values of the minne made their way to the citizens and ideas from the people made the vocals more natural. Burkhart von Hohenfels described the peasants with affection, instead of showing a usual arrogance. At the same time wandering minstrels, like the famous “Freidank“ ( = Freidenker = free thinker), openly described the negative sides of people. They also made jokes about “Pfaffen = parsons (respectless)“, and Bourgeois demands that the wrong “blood nobility“ should be replaced by the true nobility of morals round off this picture, just like the respect that was evinced for the educated Jews in parts of the Middle-Ages.
The German people was mentally much further developed than later clichés about the Middle-Ages ever reached!
1265/68 Fighting for the heir of the Staufer line in Sicily, Konradin Duke of Swabia got into custody of the French King’s brother. After a show trial in Naples he was executed. He had been the last heir of the Staufer line.
This caused the end of the Dukedom of Swabia!
It fell apart into small “Landesherrschaften” (the territory, ruled by a Landesherr). For the German people followed a long time of uncertainty, with kings and anti-kings. Knighthood lost more and more of it’s importance, and the problems caused by “Raubrittern = robber barons” began to spread. From the West France started aggressive politics against the Reich. At first it was about the conquest of “Burgund = Burgundy” and “Niederlothringen = Lower-Lorraine”.
1291 In the beginning of August Schwyz, Uri and Unterwalden founded a so called “Ewiger Bund = Eternal Union“. Because of this oath the Swiss citizens are also called “Eidgenossen = oath mates“. The famous saga of Wilhelm Tell, who gets forced to shoot at an apple on his son’s head, describes these events around the “Rütli-Schwur = Rütli oath”. The figure of the hunter, who has to shoot in the direction of his own son already existed as Egill in older Germanic Sagas.
In the following time the Eidgenossen always sticked by the opponents of the Habsburg line. They had received the right to bear the “Kreuzbanner = cross banner“ of the Reich - it became the origin of the Swiss flag (see above). In 1315 they defeated an Austrian army of knights.
In 1314 Ludwig IV of Bavaria became German King. He defeated his anti-king Friedrich “der Schöne = the beautiful“ of Austria and Styria, captured him and reconciled with him. For one year they governed together. Than Friedrich died. In 1328 Ludwig got himself crowned Kaiser in Rome by a cardinal, after he had declared the pope impeached for heresy! Ludwig made the Reich-cities (and thereby citizens!) entitled to vote in the Reichstag. The “Reichstag“ was the assembly of the “Landesherren“. Generally he tried to strengthen the power of the Reich against the princes again. These made Karl IV of Bohemia anti-king. Ludwig died, before it could come to a new martial fight for power.
Karl IV brought stability back into the Reich. He belonged to the Luxemburg line.
Ludwig the Bavarian against Friedrich the beautiful
(1325 Founding of Tenochtitlan in the undiscovered Central America; today Mexico-City)
In 1332 Luzern joined the Eternal Union.
In 1336 the Swabian city and castle of Grüningen (today Markgröningen) became a part of Württemberg.
It was the place, where the Reichsturmfahne was kept. The office of the “Reichssturmfähnrich = Reichssturmfahne bearer” became “Erblehen = hereditary feoff”.
Accordingly the Reichssturmfahne was now steadily entrusted to the Württemberg line. This has never been changed again.
Already since Charles the Grand it had always been the Swabians, who had protected and bore the banner.
1342 On July 22nd the maybe biggest flooding of all times began at the rivers Rhine, Main and Danube. All bridges at the Rhine were torn away. Despite the rivers were not straightened yet, cities got completely flooded. Reports say that boats could have driven over the city walls.
In 1349 giant swarms of migratory locusts moved over parts of Germany and soon the plague was supposed to come into the country. In Mainz and Cologne more than 100 people died every day. 1/3 of the population of the Reich fell victim to the disease in a short time! In some cities it came to numerous murders against Jews, who were made responsible for the plague. After the previous catastrophes it appeared to people like a biblical plague. Kaiser Karl IV resided in Prague, where he’s let the famous “Karlsbrücke = Charles Bridge” be built. The city escaped the plague. The epidemic stopped as suddenly as it had come. The society was shocked!
In 1351 the Reich-city of Zurich joined the “Eternal Union“. In 1352 the places of Glarus and Zug followed, just like the Reich-city of Bern in 1353. The “Eidgenossenschaft = Oath Cooperative“ of the “Eight Old Places“ had arisen. The name of Schwyz became a name for the entire land.
In 1356 Karl IV lay down the “Golden Bull“ (a kind of Constitution, named for it’s golden seal = “Bull “). It regulated the election of the king by 7 ”Kurfürsten = electoral princes” by majority vote. The “Kurfürstentümer = electorates“ (states) were now not dividable anymore, if they were bequeathed. Both changes secured the stability, Karl IV had restored.
1358 Under the leadership of Lübeck a union of cities arose from voyaging-cooperatives: The “Deutsche Hanse”. The Hanse developed into a trading empire. It’s typical type of ship was named “Kogge“. Traders of the Hanse had huge influence on Norway and the linguistic development there. The Norwegian city of Bergen had about 2.000 German inhabitants. An enormous number for a city in the Middle-Ages. At first the Danish King Waldemar tried to disturb the Hanseatic trading to make money himself, later pirates did that. The most well-known one was Klaus Störtebeker. After the “Peace of Stralsund“ the Hanse (and thereby German citizens!) even won influence on refilling the Danish throne. On the other side, Pirates even conquered the Island of Gotland for a short time. The Teutonic Order freed the island. It had very good relations to the Hanse. Those pirates, who escaped, found shelter for some time in Friesland, where the chiefs were on very bad terms with each other. Infront of the island of Helgoland the pirates’ successes finally ended. Störtebeker was beheaded in Hamburg. The city is until today officially named “Freie Hansestadt Hamburg = Free Hanse-City of Hamburg“. Bremen, Lübeck and other cities also do still set great store by this heritage. The Hanse has never officially dissolved itself. However it lost more and more of it’s importance, while the centuries passed by.
In 1376 the “Schwäbische Städtebund = Swabian Cities Union“ arose under the leadership of Ulm. Karl IV had pawned cities to Württemberg, which was spreading out inside Swabia. In 1377 the Swabian Cities Union defeated the Count of Württemberg on the battlefield. But in the long term the Landesherren always continued to win more power.
Inside the cities the Zünfte strived for participation now. In Ulm the patricians were even expelled completely. In many other cities two councils were formed, which were both filled by representatives of both classes. One of the councils made decisions, the other one was only allowed to give advices. In the area of Lake Constance (Swabian/ Alemanic) the big “Ravensburger Handelsgesellschaft = Trading Cooperation of Ravensburg) was founded.
At about 1400: Mecklenburg, Pomerania, Brandenburg and Silesia were now settled almost exclusively by Germans. Additionally single German settling-areas already existed in the East and Southwest of Europe. For example: Herrmannstadt in Siebenbürgen, Lemberg, Dorpat.
In 1410 the Teutonic Order incured it’s worst defeat at Tannenberg against Poland-Lithuania. After the Lithuanians had become Christian, the King of Poland had turned himself against the Order’s knights with them. Their common cruel invasion made the Order’s knights face them as quickly as possible. 25.000 Germans stood against 40.000 Polish and Lithuanians. On a very hot day, after the long and hard march, they defeated the Lithuanians but were successfully attacked by the polish in the meantime. Later the Polish and Lithuanians besieged the Marienburg. Their try to conquer the castle failed however. Within a few weeks the Order conquered all the land back, that it had lost. Nonetheless it was now of course extremely weakened.
In 1411 the 1st Peace of Thorn followed – financial charges henceforth determined life in the Order’s State and it’s extremely progressive administration changed nothing about the problem that the Order itself was a concurrence for the traders. Therefore cities and the rural nobility founded the ”Preussischen Bund = Prussian Union” against the Order. The order prohibited the Union and this one asked Poland for help.
1453-66 there was war again and than the 2nd Peace of Thorn followed. Important territories went to the Polish King. The Order had to accept military and political ties of Prussia to Poland.
In 1445 Johannes Gutenberg invented the letterpress (with movable letters). In our time American scientists elected this the most important invention of all times!
1452 the “Kaisertum = emperorship“ of the Habsburg line began in the Reich. Henceforth they provided the Kaisers for Centuries. Vienna became the “Kaiserstadt = Kaiser City“, Austria the most important state in German history.
The Coat of Arms of Vienna with Reich-eagle and Kaiser-crown; valid until 1925
(1452 Birth of Leonardo da Vinci)
(In 1453 the Turks conquered Byzantium/ Constantinople. This disturbed the European trade with the Orient. The Turks demanded gold, as middlemen/intermediate traders, so that the Europeans needed more gold or at best a sea route to India)
1484 At the end of the year Pope Innozenz VIII lay down his “Summis desiderantes affectibus = a law against witches“. Ideas, which had been ridiculed as superstition for centuries, were now declared reality.
In 1488 Swabian cities, knights and princes founded the “Schwäbischen Bund = Swabian League“ to secure the “Landfriede = public peace” in the south-west of Germany.
1490 In Nuremberg, Franconia, Martin Behaim constructed the first Globe.
(1492 With the conquest of Granada the „Reconquista“ by the Christian Europeans against the Muslims ended in Spain)
(In 1492 the Italian Christopher Columbus (from Genoa) discovered the “West Indies“ (America). Further voyages followed. For example by Amerigo Vespucci)
(1492-99 the Portuguese Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route to the real India)
In 1495 Kaiser Maximilian I abolishes the right on feuds with a Reich-law named “Ewiger Landfriede = Eternal King’s Peace“.
In 1495 the cities became an “estate“ of it’s own, aside from the secular princes and prince bishops. A proof for the importance of the Bourgeoisie.
In 1499 plans of Kaiser Maximilians I to reform the Reich led to the so called “Schwabenkrieg = Swabian War”. In the following “Peace of Basel“ Switzerland became (de facto) independent. Officially it did however still stay a part of the Reich.
At about 1500 the traders of the Fugger family reached new economic dimensions. They did not only become important as creditors of Kaiser Karl V, they also built the first social housing scheme in Augsburg (Swabia). The so called “Fuggerei“ is still inhabited today.
In 1507 the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller named the new continent for Amerigo Vespucci “America“!!! Yey!!!
In 1510 Peter Henlein invented the portable clock/ watch in Nuremberg. – Another German invention that made our modern world possible.
1512-1516 the further grown Swiss Confederacy (as an enemy of France) autonomously intervened in a fight for the Dukedom of Milan (Italy). A defeat at Marignano in 1515 led to the still today typical neutrality of the Swiss. They had however won the Italian Tessin region and their land officially still stayed a part of the Reich.
In 1515 the peasants rose up in Württemberg (Swabia).
In 1515 the Vatican renewed the trade with tickets of indulgence, to finance the St. Peter’s Dome in Rome. The poor, who suffered under fear of hell, lost their last money this way.
In 1517 Martin Luther (Thuringian) published his 95 theses. He condemned the selling of indulgences and criticized the church. In 1518 a trial for heresy was initiated against him by the Vatican. In 1521 Luther was outlawed at the Reichstag in Worms by Kaiser Karl V. - Hidden in the Wartburg (Thuringia), he now translated the Bible into German. - Soon it was translated from German into more and more languages.
(1519-21 the Spanish Fernando Cortez conquered the Aztec Empire in Central-America. The culture of the Aztecs got brutally wiped out.)
1522-23 there was a “Ritteraufstand = knights uprising“. Franz von Sickingen had become well-known in numerous feuds as a protector of the weak and poor. This fact shall however not glorify his brutal, martial actions. He stepped on the side of the Reformation and his life was severely influenced by the loss of importance, knights had to deal with at this time. The power of the Landesherren had permanently grown, while the importance of knights had been reduced hereby just as much as by the mercenary armies of the Landesherren and the changes in warfare, caused by firearms. In 1522 Franz von Sickingen became head of a “Bund der Schwäbischen und Rheinischen Reichsritter = Union of the Swabian and Rhenish Reich-knights“. They hoped to win the Reich-cities as allies in order to break the power of the princes with martial means. The besiege of the city of Trier (seat of the Archbishop of Trier; an electoral prince) had to be given up however, because the political alliance wasn’t reached. In April 1523 the castle of Franz von Sickingen (close to Landstuhl) was besieged. He was injured by artillery, had to surrender and died in the beginning of May. The uprising had failed.
Fryheit = Freiheit = Freedom - A word that we know since the beginning of this chapter. - The word “Revolution“ is only missing at this time, because it wasn’t used as a political term until the 18th century.
In 1524 there were further uprisings of peasants in Germany and in 1525 the big German Peasants War began in the southern Black Forest region. Accordingly it was once again the Swabian/ Alemannic Southwest, in which Germans rose up courageously against completely superior powers for the abolition of Serfdom and free elections (already centuries before the philosophy of enlightenment or the American and French revolutions). Thomas Münzer demanded general equality. He was however also a religious extremist. 100.000 peasants gave their lives!
In 1525 Kaiser Karl V. won against France at Pavia (Italy). The French king got into custody.
In 1529 the Turks unsuccessfully besieged the Kaiser City of Vienna after they had moved forward through the Balkans with bestial cruelty.
Apart from that several princes resisted the decision to stick to the outlawing of Luther and his followers at the Reichstag in Speyer this year. Since this protest the members of their confession are called „Protestants“.
In 1530 protestant princes founded the “Schmalkaldic League“ in Schmalkalden (Hessia) against Kaiser Karl V. - In Augsburg they had layed their religious confession before him, which the Kaiser hadn’t accepted however.
(1532-33 Franzisko Pizarro brutally conquered the Inka Empire in South-America.)
1542 the German Kaiser Karl V (who also ruled Spain) forbid the enslavement of “Indians” in America. A priest named Las Casas, who was very active for the “Indians”, made the proposal to bring blacks from Africa to South-America. He was to deeply regret this for the rest of his life. The blacks got brutally enslaved by his Spanish fellow countrymen. Only in this 6th century 900.000 of them were “sold” in America.
Since 1543 the theory of the Prussian Nicholaus Copernicus (actually Nikolaus Kopernigk) started to spread: the earth spins around the sun.
You can also find the name Copernicus in the center of maps of Hecker’s beloved moon!
In 1546 the religious conflicts lead to the “Schmalkaldic War“. One year later this war ended with a victory of Karl V at Mühlberg (Saxony) against the Protestants.
1555 „Augsburger Religionsfriede = Religious peace of Augsburg (Swabia)“. The Kaiser now recognized the protestants. However this did not lead to better political conditions. The most important institutions of the Reich, the "Reichstag“ and the “Reichskammergericht = Reichs Chamber Court = supreme court“, got to a huge extend unable to act. Two alliances arose: the protestant “Union“ and the catholic “Liga“. Both also formed alliances with foreign powers. Apart from religion, primitive striving for power was responsible for this development.
In 1611 the Swabian Johann Keppler invented the astronomic telescope. Keppler also discovered the laws of planetary movement, which are named for him. His mother had been executed as a witch ... - His brother Friedrich served in the bodyguard of the Kaiser, whose court mathematician Johann Keppler was. Centuries later NASA named an important space telescope after Keppler.
In 1618 Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, a nephew of the Kaiser, became king of the mostly protestant Bohemia. He forbid a “Protestantentag = protestants conference“, that was planned in Prague. Afterwards two imperial governors were pushed through a window into the moat of Prague’s “Hradschin“ palace. This event is called “Prager Fenstersturz“. It was the beginning of a rebellion, during which an anti-king was soon elected in Bohemia - the young electoral-prince of the palatinate (Frankish), who was also the leader of the protestant Union.
The Thirty Years’ War began and electoral-prince Friedrich quickly lost, as he did not get the support of the entire Union.
Further actions of war followed. Soon the imperial power and thereby also the counterreformation reached as far as into the high north of Germany. A Danish intervention could not stop the imperial troops. The Kaiser appeared to massively win power. Now the princes, who wanted to protect their own power, forced the dismissal of the army commander Wallenstein however. At the same time the protestant Sweden intervened under it’s king Gustav Adolf. He defeated the new leader of the Catholics, Tilly, several times. Tilly died in action in April 1632. Wallenstein returned and now he defeated Gustav Adolf several times. In the battle of Lützen Gustav Adolf died in action in November 1632. - Wallenstein however made his own politics. In 1634 he was outlawed for that and killed.
In 1635 a compromise was found, which led to the “peace of Prague”. Henceforth the Kaiser should have the command over an army of the entire Reich. France however wanted to keep the Reich weak and formed an alliance with Sweden. This phase of the war is also called the „Swedish-French War”. Actually a grotesque name, as such names are normally based on the opponents. Here it is about a war that these powers forced on the suffering German people!
During the Thirty Years’ War there was also a remarkable event in America:
In 1626 settlers from the Netherlands founded the city of New Amsterdam (since 1664 New York). The flag of New York City still shows the old Dutch colors today. The orange refers to the German line of Nassau-Oranien. Until today the Dutch are singing in their national anthem: “„...Wilhelm of Nassau I am, of German blood“. This refers to a national hero, who led them against Spanish forces during a long fight for independence., The Dutch and their Germanic language are of Frankish, Friesian and Saxon descent (see our chapter “The Tribes/ Franks“). In 1626 their homeland was officially still a part of the Reich.
In 1648 the Thirty Years’ War finally ended. With the “Westphalian Peace“ Switzerland and the Netherlands became officially independent. France won German territories, just like it’s ally Sweden. The Reich was a loose association of principalities now. The Reichstag was steadily transposed to Regensburg (Bavaria) and the princes didn’t travel there anymore to take part, but dispatched permanent representatives. - Nobody had reached a military victory. But there were clear victims: the Germans - the people - the humans! Half of the population had died in the Thirty Years’ War. Also epidemics and famines had made it an hell on earth. In the worst hit areas (North-Eastern-, Central- and Southwestern Germany even two thirds of the population had died! - What remained was the deep yearning for Germany to never become the battlefield of foreign powers again ...
1655-66 the Swedish-Polish War raged. Brandenburg changed sides to the benefit of Poland. Prussia (which the electoral prince of Brandenburg had so far had as a polish feoff) got sovereign (see “The tribes/ Prussians“).
1674-1679 there was another war between Sweden and Brandenburg. In 1678 all of “Vorpommern = West-Pommerania“ was conquered by Brandenburg. However it had to withdraw under foreign pressure. Disappointedly Brandenburg now formed an alliance with France - for some time ...
Since the Thirty Years’ War France had become the strongest power in Europe. It was ruled by the “Sun King“ Louis XIV with absolute power. His craving for splendour was politically calculated, to overtax the emulating nobility financially and make it dependent this way. - But also the vain princes in Germany imitated this “glamour“, no matter how small their territories were ...
A successful new economic order named “Mercantilism“ financed all that - this and the continued exploitation of the poor peasants of course! ... - In Mercantilism the state supported exports, while it raised high tolls on imports. Apart from that, manufactories were founded, the precursors of fabrics. - For the German people this had very bad consequences: this toll-policy deepened the “division” of the country in the many little principalities. - On the other hand this was good for the German culture: there were theatres, universities and so on everywhere ...
For the military this was the time of origin of standing armies and geometrically planned fortresses, which changed city planning.
While the Germans still suffered under the consequences of the war for a long time, France used the weakening of the Reich for it’s aggressive politics of the so called “Reunions“ since 1679. It made claims on every territory that had once been connected to the little territories it had just received. - And this went on, and on, and on ...
One can describe this hardly enough as historically marking, because the pain that France’s wars caused, especially in the Palatinate, burned itself into the German national memory for centuries. It is also one of the reasons for the later mass-immigration from these territories to America.
In 1681 France occupied the Alsace with the old Reich-city of Strassburg. In the south-east the Turks stayed a permanent danger for the Reich too. France had stirred that up further. This way it had prevented an effective German front of defence in the West. The annexation of Strasburg was the deepest humiliation for the Germans.
The victory against the Turks at Vienna: In the middle on the left the breach in the city wall.
In 1683 the Turks beleaguered Vienna again (see 1529). Under the city commander Ernst Rüdiger Count Starhemberg the city resisted the deadly danger for two months. Literally “in the last minute“ a German and Polish army defeated the Turks in the battle at the Kahlenberg hill.
After that the “Großer Türkenkrieg = Big war against the Turks“ began. Henceforth German troops achieved victory after victory against the Turks. Austria became the most important power on the Balkans. The successes of the imperial army commander Prince Eugen of Savoy against the Turks and France, thereby also lead to a strengthened common German national pride.
Also in 1683 the first completely German Settlement on the American continent was founded in Pennsylvania: Germantown. The first (amusingly) 13 families (like later the first thirteen states and thereby the stripes on the Starspangled Banner!) came from the area of Krefeld at the lower Rhine and thereby from the centre of the old Francia, out of which also the unification of the German tribes in Central Europe had once begun! - The founding occurred on October 6th - today October 6th is the yearly “German-American Day“ in the USA.
In 1688 France invaded the Palatinate. The country got awfully devastated. In 1689 the capital of the Palatinate, Heidelberg, was partly destroyed by the French. In Germany now also Brandenburg took part in the creation of a common defense. In 1689 the “Reichskrieg = Common Imperial War“ against France began.
In 1693 the French finished their “work” under Mélac and destroyed Heidelberg completely. The city was turned into a deserted wasteland. The human pain, caused by this incident was even celebrated in France - coins were minted to praise it.
1697 Peace treaty of Riiswijk. It lead to the return of many “Reunions“, but not of the Alsace with the old Imperial city of Straßburg, which’s conquest had been the biggest injustice for the German people. The British will to have a balance of power on the continent is important here. France’s predominance in Europe was over.
In 1699 the “Großer Türkenkrieg = Big war against the Turks“ ended too. After victories against them in the Southeast and France in the West, Prince Eugen had become a historic heroic figure.
On January 18th 1701 the Electoral Prince of Brandenburg could adopt the title “King in Prussia”. Prussia still didn’t belong to the Reich. At the same time Brandenburg (which was a part of the Reich!) was now also a part of this state of the new king …
Many people laughed about the title “King in Prussia”, but soon this “fusion” of Brandenburg-Prussia lead to one of the most important states in the world.
Berlin became the capital of the Kingdom of Prussia, as it had become the residence of the “King in Prussia and electoral prince of Brandenburg“. Accordingly Brandenburg stayed the heartland of this state, even though the name of Prussia (the medieval heritage of the Teutonic Order) prevailed just as much as it’s colors black and white, which were identical with those of the Hohenzollern line.
In 1713 the “Pragmatic Sanction“ of Kaiser Karl VI made daughters entitled to inherit in the Habsburg line. His daughter “Maria Theresia = Maria Theresa” was born in 1717 and in 1740 she started to reign. The Electoral Princes of Bavaria and Saxony protested in vain.
In 1740 Prussia under it’s king “Friedrich der Große = Frederick the Great” began the first of the three so called “Silesian Wars”.
3) 1756-63 (Seven Years War) - For more, see German-American history and our chapter The tribes/ Silesians.
The backgrounds are complex and can be summarized as a mixture of royalist yearnings for power, a Christian will to keep women in neglect (Maria Theresia), the continuing hostility of France and the according old anti-French interests of the United Kingdom ... – France supported the attack against Maria Theresia. Apart from that the alliances are an awful chaos, probably no American is interested in …
In 1745 Maria Theresia’s husband Franz Stephan von Lothringen was elected Kaiser. This made her Kaiserin (Empress). What’s most important here however is the fact that most Silesians experienced this annex to Prussia as a huge relief, because Prussia was not only a mostly protestant country, but also the most liberal state (in mental affairs) of that time. While Protestants in the Austrian era had to secretly meet in forests or hidden valleys, because they hadn’t been allowed to built churches for worship, they were now free to believe what they wanted to believe, or like the Prussian Motto says it: “Suum cuique = Jedem das Seine = To each his own”
1764-67 the German Empress of Russia ”Catherine the Great“ invited many Germans to settle in Russia. The Settlers were mostly Swabians.
In 1772 Russia, Prussia and Austria shared out Poland between one another - 1st Polish Division
On July 4th 1776 13 American Colonies declared there independence of the British Empire. For more, see German-American history.
1777 Abolition of torture in Austria by Maria Theresia.
In 1780 Maria Theresia died. Friedrich der Große died in 1786.
1 Kaiser Franz Stephan and Kaiserin Maria Theresia. - Their love was almost legendary, the family extremely popular.
2 Their daughter Maria Antonia.
3 Friedrich der Große. - The picture shows him as “Philosopher on the Throne”, surrounded by philosophers. The shown persons were however never sitting together this way ... - especially important: the dog down on the left! …
In 1789 the French Revolution began. Prussia and Austria called for an intervention in France in 1791. In Valmy the troops met. The French won. The Prussian troops had not taken part in the battle yet. Weather and diseases made the withdrawal a disaster. In 1793, after a show trial, the German princess and Queen of France Maria Antonia (Fr: Marie Antoinette), daughter of Maria Theresia, was executed – beheaded!
The time of chaos and terror in France most of all caused worries and rejection among the German intellectuals. Even Friedrich Schiller, who is uniquely famous for his love for freedom rejected the pure leadership of the people (of uneducated, partly really primitive masses) in regard of the French acts of cruelty.
1806 Perish of the Old Reich after about a thousand years.
Napoleon conquered big parts of Germany and created the “Confederation of the Rhine“, an alliance of German principalities, that were allied with him. All German statehood was destroyed by the French. In the following time it never really came to peace in Europe. In the war with Prussia Queen Luise became the Symbolic figure of the resistance. Politically Prussia reacted with many civil and military reforms under the leadership of Karl vom und zum Stein and Karl August von Hardenberg. Commoners could now become officers in the army. The people gained rights and freedoms.
In France’s campaign against Russia the military genius of Napoleon and his “Grand Armee“ fell victim to the Russian winter. Countless Germans, who’ve had to fight on Napoleons side, died. In Germany more and more young men were drawn in for war service, many as alleged “French“. That’s how it happened that, the national sentiment became the strongest power behind the will to resist. All liberal reforms of Napoleon lost their importance in comparison to this spirit of community. At the end it was Germany again, that became the “battlefield”. At Leipzig it came to the “Battle of the Nations”. It became a National myth.
At Waterloo the Prussian field marshal Blücher caused the decisive turn for the allied British and Prussian troops in 1815.
1814/15 “Congress of Vienna“. It created a political order for Europe. For the German people the results were a historic disappointment. The Germans lost rights, which Napoleon had brought them, the Fatherland, they had fought for, stayed divided into small-states, and the powerful united against the Nations. The symbolic figure was Austria’s State Chancellor Metternich.
In 1816 a huge famine began in the southwest of Germany, which led many more Swabian/ Alemannic settlers to America or Russia. It was caused by the eruption of the volcano Tambora in Indonesia. The famine should last until 1819.
On the October 18th and 19th 1817 students assembled at the Wartburg (Castle) in Thuringia. The “Wartburgfest“ was officially supposed to remember the reformation of 1517 as well as the Battle of the Nations of 1813. The speeches however demanded freedom and the union of Germany. Most attendants carried Prussian flags, the student fraternity from Jena however showed the flag of the young Amalie Nitschke: Rot-Schwarz-Rot with golden oak leaves. Most of the students were Veterans of the Liberation Wars.
The flag from Jena developed into Black-Red-Gold, the Symbol of the German people. After the Wartburgfest the persecution of the national movement began, which was a movement for freedom too since the very beginning.
The following Epoque of the oppression and of course also continuing disappointment lead many artists into a kind of “Escape from the political reality“. The value of the Fatherland is shown in the beauty of this art. This German cultural époque is called the ROMANTIC.
The time, in which the German “Vaterlandsliebe = Love for the fatherland“ (instead of patriotism) becomes very political again, is called “Vormärz = pre-march“. This describes developments towards the revolution of 1848, which was supposed to begin on the 13th of March in Vienna (Austria).
1832 Hambacher Fest. The second big historic event for national Union, Freedom and friendship among nations. The “Hambacher Festlied = Song of the Hambach festival“ could have become national anthem as well. Every German and everyone, who’s interested in German culture and history, should read it.
(1840-42 the British Empire and France started the “Opium War” against the backward China, in order to keep the Chinese in dependence of this Drug and to stay able to keep on exploiting the country. The British Empire was the biggest drug dealer organization in history.)
1844 Uprising of the Weavers in Silesia. During the 19th century many people in the textile industry lost their income because of the industrialization - a part of history that hit the Silesians especially hard. In 1844 this led to a revolt, after the long begging for help of the Silesian weavers had been ignored. The Uprising was quelled by military force. The result was only more pain - a pain however that was not forgotten in the revolution of 1848! …
In 1848 Communist Manifest of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels was published. The revolution of 1848 was however not yet supposed to be marked by communism.
Black-Red-Gold on barricades in Vienna and Berlin
On March 13th 1848 the revolution began in Vienna. State Chancellor Metternich fled and the Austrian Kaiser (Ferdinand) promised a constitution. On March 18th shots were also fired in Prussia’s capital Berlin. 254 people died. They were called “Märzgefallene = those who died in action in March“. The King of Prussia (Friedrich Wilhelm IV) was forced to publicly pay respect to these heroes.
A “Vorparlament = pre parliament” with 574 members existed from March 31st until April 3rd in Frankfurt. Friedrich Hecker and the other “democrats/ republicans“ demanded, that the Vorparlament should take over the revolutionary power in order to create a democratic German Republic, because they didn’t trust in a cooperation with the old powers.
However the “Liberals“ prevailed. It came to an election of Representatives for a “Nationalversammlung = National assembly“, which should create a constitution. Big parts of the poor population, who had reached all this, did not obtain the right to vote. This way the rich strengthened their power. On the other hand this made them depend on reaching a cooperation with the monarchs.
Two congenial Heckers, who know what they want ...
Friedrich Hecker as leader of the “Heckerzug = Hecker Campaign“. He recognized much earlier than others that a cooperation with the old royalist powers would lead to failure. Apart from that many poor people, who had carried out the revolution, weren’t allowed to vote in the elections for the National Assembly. Therefore he decided to try to achieve a democratic republic with military measures. The great behavior of his troops made him a legend for the people.
In April it came to the first “Badischen Aufstand = Badish Uprising“ under Hecker, Struve and Herwegh (for “badish” see our chapter “The tribes”). The goal was to revitalize the revolution and enforce a republic. Despite the “Heckerzug = Hecker campaign“ failed, Friedrich Hecker, with his courage and the humanity of his planning, became the hero of the republicans. Despite he had been elected, he was not allowed to take part in the Nationalversammlung. His friend Robert Blum led the Democrats/ Republicans there.
Archduke Johann von Österreich was declared the intermediate Leader of the “Reich“. His office was called “Reichsverweser = Reich Administrator“.
With fatal consequences Kingdom of Denmark tried to annex Schleswig at this time. Most of all Prussia fought for the German side. The Nationalversammlung had no military. So the remaining of the old structures of power soon had the bad consequences, the republicans like Hecker had predicted. In August the other European powers “forced” the victorious Kingdom of Prussia to accept the ”Peace of Malmö“, which was not completely uncomfortable for the Prussian monarchy however. It made it possible for it to weaken the Nationalversammlung. The Nationalversammlung refused the “peace treaty“ at first, did however have to give in. It just had no means.
Republican forces marching through Lörrach to fight for democracy
In September Hecker’s friends around Gustav Struve in Baden started the next attempt of the revolution and proclaimed the “Deutsche Republik = German Republic” in the city of Loerrach. At the end the strength of the Prussian military stayed victorious. Baden had called for it’s help. The republicans were however victorious in Vienna. The city was ruled by the republicans throughout the entire October. In November the troops of the Austrian Kaiser (Czechs and Croatians) to quell the “Wiener Oktoberaufstand“ with the most brutal violence, by bombing and martially reconquering the city. Robert Blum, who had rushed to Vienna himself and fought on the barricades, got executed (despite of his immunity as a member of the Nationalversammlung). A few days later the Prussian military disarmed all militias in Berlin. The revolution had failed. Only the Nationalversammlung continued it’s questionable doing.
In 1849 A “Kaiserkrone = Kaiser crown“ was offered to the Prussian king, but he refused it. He saw himself as ruler “by the Grace of God”, not by the favor of a Parliament ...
Apart from that he was convinced that only the Habsburg line would have had the historic legitimation to wear a Kaiser crown again.
Independent of that there was a 3rd uprising in Baden. The Nationalversammlung withdrew from Frankfurt to the historically liberal Stuttgart (Capital of Wuerttemberg), but there it also only lasted for another two weeks. On 12/10/1849 Archduke Johann resigned from his office as Reichsverweser. - The “Deutsche Bund = German Confederation“ “survived“ the revolution - and it’s end ...
All of this shows that the revolution failed because of three factors:
1. Knowing what had happened in France, the Germans wanted to avoid human pain and so many hoped for successful compromises.
2. In the German Confederation the people did not only have to topple one government, like in France, but many, and two of them were great-powers – the Austrian Kaiser additionally ruled a multinational state.
3. The liberals underestimated the unwillingness of the other European powers to let a German nation-state arise. The German people was just too big and it’s state would have been too powerful for their interests.
The leaders of the revolution had to flee, but with a bit of exaggeration one could say: except of Robert Blum they came together again in the USA - and continued their doing - for the wealth of democracy and human rights and for the wealth of the German cultural nation, especially for the part that now proudly followed them in America …
In 1863 the German Confederation passed a general amnesty for all revolutionists of 1848. Gustav Struve left the USA and returned to Germany. In Vienna he wanted to fight for the republican and democratic idea in Germany again.
To be continued! ...
Until than we recommend our article German-American history, which already reaches as far as into our present time.