The Rise of Bismarck and the Birth of the Second German Reich
Prussia was developing into a state of considerable strength. Frederick the Great (1740–1786) reorganized the Prussian
army and defeated Maria Theresa of Austria in a struggle over Silesia. After the defeat of Napol�on at Waterloo (1815), the
struggle between Austria and Prussia for supremacy in Germany continued, reaching its climax in the defeat of Austria in the
Seven Weeks' War (1866) and the formation of the Prussian-dominated North German Confederation (1867). The architect of this
new German unity was Otto von Bismarck, a conservative, monarchist, and militaristic Prussian prime minister. He unified all
of Germany in a series of three wars against Denmark (1864), Austria (1866), and France (1870–1871). On Jan. 18, 1871,
King Wilhelm I of Prussia was proclaimed German emperor in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. The North German Confederation
was abolished, and the Second German Reich, consisting of the North and South German states, was born. With a powerful army,
an efficient bureaucracy, and a loyal bourgeoisie, Chancellor Bismarck consolidated a powerful centralized state.
Wilhelm II dismissed Bismarck in 1890 and embarked upon a “New Course,” stressing an intensified colonialism
and a powerful navy. His chaotic foreign policy culminated in the diplomatic isolation of Germany and the disastrous defeat
in World War I (1914–1918). The Second German Empire collapsed following the defeat of the German armies in 1918, the
naval mutiny at Kiel, and the flight of the kaiser to the Netherlands. The Social Democrats, led by Friedrich Ebert and Philipp
Scheidemann, crushed the Communists and established a moderate state, known as the Weimar Republic, with Ebert as president.
President Ebert died on Feb. 28, 1925, and on April 26, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg was elected president. The majority
of Germans regarded the Weimar Republic as a child of defeat, imposed on a Germany whose legitimate aspirations to world leadership
had been thwarted by a worldwide conspiracy. Added to this were a crippling currency debacle, a tremendous burden of reparations,
and acute economic distress.
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Adolf Hitler and WWII
Adolf Hitler, an Austrian war veteran and a fanatical nationalist, fanned discontent by promising a Greater Germany, abrogation
of the Treaty of Versailles, restoration of Germany's lost colonies, and the destruction of the Jews, whom he scapegoated
as the reason for Germany's downfall and depressed economy. When the Social Democrats and the Communists refused to combine
against the Nazi threat, President von Hindenburg made Hitler the chancellor on Jan. 30, 1933. With the death of von Hindenburg
on Aug. 2, 1934, Hitler repudiated the Treaty of Versailles and began full-scale rearmament. In 1935, he withdrew Germany
from the League of Nations, and the next year he reoccupied the Rhineland and signed the Anti-Comintern pact with Japan, at
the same time strengthening relations with Italy. Austria was annexed in March 1938. By the Munich agreement in Sept. 1938,
he gained the Czech Sudetenland, and in violation of this agreement he completed the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in March
1939. His invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, precipitated World War II.
Hitler established death camps to carry out “the final solution to the Jewish question.” By the end of the
war, Hitler's Holocaust had killed 6 million Jews, as well as Gypsies, homosexuals, Communists, the handicapped, and others
not fitting the Aryan ideal. After some dazzling initial successes in 1939–1942, Germany surrendered unconditionally
to Allied and Soviet military commanders on May 8, 1945. On June 5 the four-nation Allied Control Council became the de facto
government of Germany.
More About WW2
March 15, 1939 ; German troops invaded Czechoslovakia occupied Prague. two days later Chamberlain,
in a public speech at Birmingham accused Hitler breaking his word.
March 22,1939 ; German troops occupied the old German City Memel in Lithunia, forcing that state
to sign a treaty conceding Memel's to Germany . Recogning a parallel between Memel and the old German port of Danzig in Poland.
March 28,1939 ; Poles announce that any German attempt to alter Danzig's status without
Polish consent would lead to war.
March 31,1939 ; Britain extended to Poland a unilateral guarantee against German aggession.
Diplmatic talks began between the west and the soviet Union.
THE LAST SIX MONTHS OF PEACE
April 7, 1939 ; Italy invades the Balkan state of Albania.
April 17,1939 ; Dipomatic talks begin between Germany and the Soviet Union.
April 28,1939 ; Hitler cancels the Anglo-German navel agreement of 1935 and the German-Polish
non-aggression agreement of 1934.
May 4, 1939 ; Molotov replaces Litvinov as Soviet Foreign Minister.
May 22,1939 ; Ribbentrop and Ciano sign the' 'Pact of Steel' to weld together Europe's strongest
Fascist dictatorships; Japan is asked to join the allianace.
June 3, 1939 ; Nazi-controlled Danzig complains of too many Polish
customs officials. Poland's causic reply meet with a new barrage of Nazi propaganda an rumours of an impending Nazi coup sweep the country.
July 24, 1939 ; Britain,France,and Russia agree to offer mutual assistance should any
of the three be attacked. But the pact is not to come into operation until corresponding
military agreement are reached.
August 23,1939 ; Ribbentrop and Molotov sign a non-aggression pact between Berlin and Moscow.
The pact includes a secret annex that divides eastern eastern Europe between Germany and the
August 25,1939 ; Hitler schedules the attack on Poland for the next day, but revokes the orders
when Mussolini informs him that Italy is not prepared for war.
August 31,1939 ; Hitler again orders the attack on Poland.
September 1,1939 ; At 0445 hours, without declaring war, Germany launches its attack on Poland.
September 2,1939 ; Chamberland does not withdraw the troops immediately he must consider
himself at war with Britain.
September 3,1939 ; Hitler receives the ultimatum and ignores it. Britain is at war with Germany.