Archive for the ‘This Day in History’ Category

Catholic League Formation

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

This day over 400 years ago gave us the Catholic League (Katholische Liga) formation. On July 10, 1609, a loose confederation of Roman Catholic German states within the Holy Roman Empire of German nations formed the Catholic League. It was created to counterbalance the slightly older Protestant Union in religious and political disputes.

Instead of balancing the powers, however, the formation of the Catholic League intensified the long-standing strain between Protestant reformers and the members of the Catholic Church. Intolerance increased. Repression and civil disobedience resulted and led to the longest lasting and most destructive conflict in modern European history: the Thirty Year War (1618-1648).

Although the Thirty Year War was a European conflict, it laid waste mainly to Germany whose regions became the principal theatre in the devastating clashes. Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria and his commanders Tilly and Albrecht von Wallenstein together with Duke Maximilian of Bavaria fought on the side of the Catholic League. Christian IV of Denmark and King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden were the main opponents on the side of the Protestant Union. Over the thirty-year period, the conflict destroyed large stretches of land and caused widespread famine and epidemics. It claimed the lives of 8,000,000 civilians.

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

 

 

The Zeppelin

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

The Zeppelin was a cigar-shaped rigid airship. In 1874 the German cavalry general, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, pioneered its rigid design. Its basic form was that of a long cylinder with tapered ends. It was on this day in history, on July 2, 1900, that the first Zeppelin, the LZ 1, made its maiden voyage. It flew across the Bodensee (Lake Constance) in Germany. The initial prototype was 420 feet long. Eventually, the term “zeppelin” came to refer to all rigid airships.

Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin

Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin

Count Ferdinand continued to improve the design of the LZ 1, and by 1910 his airships were flown commercially. By the middle of 1914, they had carried over 34,000 passengers on over 1,500 flights. The popularity of the Zeppelin peaked during the 1930s when they were flown on regular transatlantic flights between Germany and North America, and between Germany and Brazil. At one point, the count even toyed with the idea of connecting several independent airships to form a steerable airship train.

After Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin died in 1917, his successor, Hugo Eckener, took command of the business. He worked hard at reestablishing to company’s lead in rigid airship design in the wake of World War I, but political issues made it difficult. Then, in 1937, one of the Zepplins, the Hindenburg, landed in Lakehurst in New Jersey, after having completed another transatlantic flight, when its tail caught on fire. Within seconds, it burst into flames, killing many passengers and crewmembers. The event led to the demise of the Zeppelin.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

 

 

John F. Kennedy spoke in Berlin

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

On this day in history fifty years ago today, on June 26, 1963, John F. Kennedy spoke in Berlin. I stood in the crowd of 450,000 in front of Schoeneberger Rathaus to hear him speak. It was an experience I will never forget. Below is his speech (www.historyplace.com)

“I am proud to come to this city as the guest of your distinguished Mayor, who has symbolized throughout the world the fighting spirit of West Berlin. And I am proud to visit the Federal Republic with your distinguished Chancellor who for so many years has committed Germany to democracy and freedom and progress, and to come here in the company of my fellow American, General Clay, who has been in this city during its great moments of crisis and will come again if ever needed.

Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was “civis Romanus sum.” Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

I appreciate my interpreter translating my German!

There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass’ sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin.

the cheering crowd in front of Schoeneberger Rathaus

the cheering crowd in front of Schoeneberger Rathaus

Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us. I want to say, on behalf of my countrymen, who live many miles away on the other side of the Atlantic, who are far distant from you, that they take the greatest pride that they have been able to share with you, even from a distance, the story of the last 18 years. I know of no town, no city, that has been besieged for 18 years that still lives with the vitality and the force, and the hope and the determination of the city of West Berlin. While the wall is the most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist system, for all the world to see, we take no satisfaction in it, for it is, as your Mayor has said, an offense not only against history but an offense against humanity, separating families, dividing husbands and wives and brothers and sisters, and dividing a people who wish to be joined together.

What is true of this city is true of Germany–real, lasting peace in Europe can never be assured as long as one German out of four is denied the elementary right of free men, and that is to make a free choice. In 18 years of peace and good faith, this generation of Germans has earned the right to be free, including the right to unite their families and their nation in lasting peace, with good will to all people. You live in a defended island of freedom, but your life is part of the main. So let me ask you as I close, to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of Berlin, or your country of Germany, to the advance of freedom everywhere, beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.

Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. When all are free, then we can look forward to that day when this city will be joined as one and this country and this great Continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe. When that day finally comes, as it will, the people of West Berlin can take sober satisfaction in the fact that they were in the front lines for almost two decades.
All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner‘.”

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

 

 

Deutsche Mark

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

On this day in history in 1948 – on June 20, a Sunday – Germans were issued a new currency: the Deutsche Mark. Their previous Reichsmark had become worthless. It no longer bought anything. In the absence of a viable hard currency, cigarettes had taken the place of money.

A few days preceding June 20, American, British, and French troops had quietly dispersed 23,000 wooden crates throughout the country. They were labeled, “Doorknobs.” In reality, these boxes contained Germany’s new bank notes, printed in the United States. To be exact, the crates contained 10,701,720,000 Deutsche Mark.

That Sunday, the places that had previously handed out ration stamps now issued 40 Deutsche Mark to every citizen. Another 20 Deutsche Mark were handed out one month later. Miraculously, the next morning, the previously empty shop-shelves were filling. Merchandise was becoming available for sale again at fixed prices. The cigarette economy was dying. It became apparent that factories and farmers had held back their finished goods and produce until they could be sold for hard currency.

Währungsreform

June 20, 1948,
currency reform in Germany
www.Kalendarblatt.de

Following the currency reform of 1948, Germany’s economy took off. Over the next decades it produced the “Wirtschaftswunder” (economic wonder). But it wasn’t only the three western Allies who were responsible for this economic wonder. A man by the name of Ludwig Erhard also deserves much of the credit. He convinced the Allies to declare all rationing systems invalid after the new Deutsche Mark was introduced. Erhard placed his trust in free market forces, and by the end of the 1960s the Deutsche Mark had become an anchor for the European economies.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

 

 

Mikhail Gorbachev

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev paid a State visit to the Federal Republic of Germany on this day in history–on June 13, 1989. Mr. Gorbachev, then First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, had come to sign a declaration along with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl www.cvce.eu. The joint statement affirmed the right of peoples and States to self-determination.

220px-RIAN_archive_850809_General_Secretary_of_the_CPSU_CC_M._Gorbachev_(crop)

During his four-day stay in West Germany, Mikhail Gorbachev visited and spoke in several cities. Each time, the crowds cheered affectionately, “Gorby, Gorby, Gorby.” When the First Secretary and his wife, Raissa, appeared on the main plaza of Bonn, the former German capital, thousands of well-wishers applauded. A young boy presented him with him flowers. The people tied their hopes to the man who had introduced Glasnost and Perestroika in the Soviet Union. He had instilled new hope for change and peace.

Despite the general enthusiasm, no one realized though that Glasnost and Perestroika had opened a crack that would continue to widen. Five months later it would allow the Berlin Wall to come down. On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell after twenty-eight years. Mikhail Gorbachev refrained from giving orders to intervene militarily. On October 3, 1990, the unification of East and West Germany was complete. It is doubtful that any of that could have happened without the restraint shown by the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

 

 

CARE Packages to Berlin

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

On this day in history, on June 6, 1945, US General Lucius D. Clay signed the CARE treaty for distribution of CARE Packages in the four occupation sectors of Berlin. Until the start of the Berlin Airlift in 1948, CARE Packages made up 60 percent of all private relief delivered to Berlin. During the course of the Berlin Blockade, another 500,000 CARE Packages were airlifted into the city.

Many World War II survivors were starving. In response, the world’s largest private humanitarian relief organization was formed. CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere) was to provide relief to the needy. The United States was the first nation to sign the CARE treaty. On June 21 Great Britain followed suit, and in December of that year, France joined the effort. Initially, distribution of CARE Packages to occupied Germany was prohibited, but on June 5 that ban was lifted.

CARE Package

CARE Package

At first, CARE distributed U.S. Army surplus parcels in Europe. These packages had been prepared for a potential invasion of Japan. Soon, Americans could purchase a CARE Package for 10 dollars and send it to family and friends in Europe. At first, a specific recipient had to be specified. When the recipient’s address was unknown, CARE would attempt to find the person. Later, packages were also sent to general target areas.

The standardized food packages consisted of meat, fats, sugar, egg powder, milk, coffee, and some sweets. Each parcel contained 40,000 calories and was to feed one person for 10 days. Later CARE Packages also included non-food items such as medicine. For additional information, go to www.care.org.

By 1960, when operations in West Germany ended, CARE had distributed 83,000 tons of aid in West Germany. In West Berlin, operations continued until 1962. Since my family did not have friends or relatives in the United States, we never received a CARE Package.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

 

 

Nuclear Power Phase-Out

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

On this day in history, on May 30, 2011, the German government voted for a nuclear power phase-out by 2022 and for the pursuit of renewable energy alternatives.

The vote for a nuclear power phase-out in Germany came in the wake of Japan’s post-tsunami nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Eight of the seventeen operating reactors in Germany were permanently shut down following the 2011 disaster. The remaining nine were scheduled for phased-out by 2022. In the meantime, Germany wants to double its share of energy stemming from water, wind, sun and/or biomass. Other European countries have also begun to reduce their dependency on nuclear power. Currently, less than one-fifth of the global energy consumption comes from renewable resources.

The abandoned city of Pripyat with the Chernobyl power plant in the distance

The abandoned city of Pripyat with the Chernobyl power plant in the distance

The accident at Three Mile Island in 1979 and the disaster at Chernobyl in1986 played key roles in halting additional new nuclear plant construction in many countries. However, not all countries favor renewable alternative energy over nuclear power. China, South Korea, India, and Russia still have a number of new reactors under construction.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

 

 

Germany’s Basic Law

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

On this day in 1949–on May 23–the Federal Republic of Germany (the former West Germany) adopted Germany’s Basic Law. Referred to as the Grundgesetz fuer die Bundesrepublik Deutschland, it is the highest law of the country and, therefore, akin to our constitution. But because Germany was occupied by four World War II Allies at the time the Basic Law was adopted, these four occupation forces–the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union–had to approve the action. In May of 1949 only the three Western occupation forces approved the Basic Law. And they approved it only for their occupation zones. The Soviet Union did not endorse it for East Germany.

For that reason the term constitution was never used. The Basic Law was meant to serve merely on a temporary basis. The intent was to enact a permanent constitution once East and West Germany would be reunited. Instead, the two halves of the country remained split for twenty-eight years. Five months after the Basic Law was adopted in the Western zones of Germany, the Russian zone had adopted its own constitution.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the German reunification in October 1990, the Parliament of West Germany, the Bundestag, voted to incorporate East German territories under West Germany’s Basic Law. Its key components are the principles of democracy, social responsibility, and republicanism; human rights and human dignity are at its core. The once provisional Basic Law became, except for minor changes, the constitution of the reunited Germany, although the term “constitution” is still not used.

If you enjoyed reading this post, please like me.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

 

 

 

 

Helmut Schmidt succeeds Willy Brandt

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

On this day in 1974–on May 16–Helmut Schmidt succeeded Willy Brandt as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). Only days earlier, Guenter Guillaume, one of Willy Brandt’s personal assistants, had been exposed as an agent of the Stasi, the East German secret service. A disgraced Brandt had resigned in the wake of the espionage expose. Since that time, it is widely believed however, that the Guillaume affair was only the trigger, not the cause, for Brandt’s resignation. Willy Brandt’s leadership had also been plagued by scandals about serial adultery. And he had reportedly struggled with alcohol and depression.

From 1957 to 1966, Willy Brandt was the Mayor of West Berlin, a time when East-West tension peaked and ultimately led to the construction of the Berlin Wall. Brandt spoke out openly against Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s 1958 proposal that Berlin become a “free city.” His relationship with President John F. Kennedy was such that in early 1961, a year before elections in the Federal Republic of Germany, the United States were hoping that Brandt would replace Konrad Adenauer as Chancellor of West Germany. However, following the construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961, Brandt was so disappointed in Kennedy that he criticized him publicly by stating, “Berlin expects more than words.”

A fellow Social Democrat, Helmut Schmidt, succeeded Brandt as the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. He successfully led his country through a worldwide economic recession and the oil crisis of the 1970s.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Schuman Plan

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

On this day in history in 1950–on May 9–the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, made a proposal at a press conference that later became known as The Schuman Plan. He proposed a single authority to control the production of steel and coal. His plan led to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community. The need for such an authority had grown out of the Second World War, which had ended only five years earlier. The conflict had nearly destroyed the European continent. By 1950, there was a great deal of momentum towards greater European co-operation in order to avoid future conflicts and destruction.

By placing the coal and steel industries of France and West Germany under a common authority and by opening membership to other European countries, the Schuman Plan laid the foundation for the establishment of the European Economic Community. In essence, The Schuman Plan marked the birth of Europe. It was the forerunner of the European Union,  and Robert Schuman is considered one of the Founding Fathers of the EU.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.