Posts Tagged ‘Prussia’

Frederick William I – A Troubled Ruler

Monday, February 13th, 2017

 

King Frederick William I (Friedrich Wilhelm I) of Prussia (1713-1740) was a short-tempered and cantankerous ruler. But to his credit, he was also an astute monarch. His reforms transformed Prussia from a second-rate power into an efficient and thriving state. Because the army was his overriding passion he became known as the “Soldier King.” He also concerned himself with many other aspects of his relatively small country. When Frederick William died, he left his son and heir, Frederick II the Great an army of about 83,000, a centralized state, a surplus of more than 8,000,000 taler in the royal treasury, and a Prussia that had become the third military power on the European continent, right behind Russia and France.

King Frederick William I (Friedrich Wilhelm I) of Prussia, photo courtesy of britannica.com from a portrait by Antoine Pesne. www.walled-in-berlin.com

King Frederick William I (Friedrich Wilhelm I) of Prussia, photo courtesy of britannica.com – portrait by Antoine Pesne. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Frederick William – complete opposite of his father

Frederick Williams’s father, Frederick I of Prussia (1657-1713) had been the first King of Prussia. Modeling himself after Louis XIV, the “Sun King” of France, his father had embraced luxury to the point of bankrupting the state finances. Young Frederick William decided to take the opposite path. Once king, he dissolved his father’s extravagant court, cut expenses by about three quarters, lived simply and frugally and worked hard. He spent all the money he saved on his armies to make Prussia independent from its neighbors.

Frederick William’s Accomplishments

Frederick William tried to improve the welfare of his people. Convinced that a thriving state could not afford illiterate subjects, he introduced compulsory primary education. He encouraged farming, reclaimed marshes, stored grain in good times and sold it in bad times. He resettled Prussia’s eastern territories after it had been depopulated by the plague. He freed the serfs and abolished hereditary leases. He never started a war and made considerable reforms to the Prussian army’s training, tactics and conscription program. The lot of the peasantry improved significantly during his reign. He demanded discipline, efficiency and good work ethics from his soldiers, and Prussian discipline and Prussian virtues became accepted concepts. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/the-origin-of-prussian-virtues/

Frederick William’s shortcomings

Although an effective ruler, Frederick William possessed a violent temper. His inherited illnesses, which resulted in gout, migraines, obesity and severe stomach cramps, may have exacerbated his disposition. At times, his temper was uncontrollable. The most frequent victim of such outbursts was his son Fritz (later known as Frederick the Great). http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/frederick-the-great-shaped-modern-europe/ When father and son happened to meet in private or in public, Frederick William often seized Fritz by the throat, threw him to the ground and forced him to kiss his boots.

The reason was that Frederick William had wanted his eldest surviving son to become a fine soldier. To that end, he had Fritz exposed to no more than a minimal education, required him to live a simple lifestyle while focusing on the Army and statesmanship. But Fritz preferred the intellectual pleasures of music, philosophy and French culture. As Fritz’s defiance for his father’s rules increased, Frederick William would beat or humiliate him. When Fritz attempted to flee to England with his friend and tutor, Hans Hermann von Katte, the enraged king had Katte executed and forced Fritz to watch.

 

During his final years, Frederick William was His last years were dominated by his passion of recruiting tall men for his palace guard, the Potsdam Giants (Potsdamer Riesergarde) http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/bizarre-tale-of-the-potsdam-giants/

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

 

How Prussian Virtues Came About

Monday, January 16th, 2017

 

Prussian virtues (Preussische Tugenden) are behaviors of high moral standards that are said to once have been the hallmark of the inhabitants of Prussia. Some of these values are still attributed to the German people today. The list of Prussian virtues depends on the author but can be condensed to the core values of discipline, self-control, punctuality, thriftiness, service and hard work.

Brief History of Prussia

Between 1925 and 1947, Prussia was a state that centered in the area of today’s Germany, but with boundaries extending far beyond Germany’s current borders. The House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia and expanded its size with the help of an extremely well organized army. Initially, the Prussian capital was Koenigsberg. In 1701 Friedrich I (Frederick I) became the first King of Prussia and chose Berlin as the capital. In 1871, the German states united under the leadership of Otto von Bismarck. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/otto-von-bismarck-visionary-or-villain/ Unification created a German Empire under Prussian leadership. In the aftermath of World War I, in 1918, the monarchy was abolished, and the Kingdom of Prussia became a republic, known as the Weimar Republic.  In 1933, the Nazi regime seized control of the Prussian government. Following World War II, Germany was divided into Allied occupation zones, and Prussia ceased to exist. On 25 February 1947, the Allied Control Council http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-erte/allied-control-council-governs-germany/ formally proclaimed the dissolution of Prussia.

Origin of Prussian Virtues

When Prussia became a kingdom under Friedrich I over 300 years ago, it was a poor state with fragmented territories. In 1713, his son, Friedrich Wilhelm I (Frederick William I) became King of Prussia. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/frederick-william-i-a-troubled-ruler/ Friedrich Wilhelm was known as the “Soldier King” because he made considerable reforms to the Prussian army’s training, tactics and conscription. He demanded discipline, efficiency and good work ethics from his soldiers. During the “Soldier King’s” reign, Prussian discipline and Prussian virtues became accepted concepts. Today’s interpretation of Prussian discipline tends to be one in which the soldier blindly follows orders. But under Friedrich Wilhelm’s reign, discipline was a two-way street. Soldiers and their superiors were subject to the same rigorous rules.

In civilian society, Prussian virtues were initially frowned upon. With time, however, they began to seep in, particularly in light of the fact that Prussia had risen from nothing to greatness based on its Prussian discipline and Prussian virtues.

Prussian Virtues today

Even though the state of Prussia doesn’t exist anymore, Prussian virtues have not totally disappeared. In 2001, the German government proclaimed a “Prussian year” with celebrations of its Prussian heritage. Tolerance, reform, selflessness and modesty were highlighted to point out that during Prussian rule Jewish citizens were emancipated, feudalism and serfdom were eliminated, immigration was encouraged, the arts and sciences were celebrated and education of the young was made available and mandatory. In my own family, Prussian orderliness, sense of duty, honesty, punctuality, thriftiness, hard work, restraint and dependability were always stressed and expected.

 

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

 

 

Schloss Charlottenburg – Urban Gem

Monday, December 5th, 2016

 

Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace) is one of the few remaining examples of the grand Hohenzollern palaces in the city of Berlin. The Hohenzollern ruled Prussia for nearly four centuries. During a British air raid in 1943, a bomb caused a fire, and the baroque and rococo palace burned to the ground. Demolition of Schloss Charlottenburg was planned, but after the East German government demolished the Berliner Stadtschloss, the city palace of the Hohenzollern in 1950, http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berliner-stadtschloss-to-humboldt-forum/ West German authorities decided to rebuild Charlottenburg Palace. The project took more than sixty years to complete.

 

Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace) in Berlin, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2014. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace) in Berlin, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2014. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Brief History of Schloss Charlottenburg

Construction of Schloss Charlottenburg started in 1695. At that time it was known as Lietzenburg. The palace was built as a summer residence for Sophie Charlotte, wife of the Elector of Brandenburg, Friedrich III. In 1701, after crowning himself Friedrich I, King of Prussia, the palace saw a significant expansion. After Sophie Charlotte’s death, the palace was renamed Schloss Charlottenburg. Architecture did not interest Friedrich’s son, Friedrich Wilhelm I, so that all construction stopped when he ascended the throne in 1713. In 1740 Friedrich II, also known as Friedrich the Great, commissioned an expansion of the New Wing (east wing) to complement the larger west wing.

Don’t miss when visiting Schloss Charlottenburg

At the entrance to the palace, a large equestrian statue of the Friedrich Wilhelm III, the Great Elector of Brandenburg, greets the visitor. The bronze was originally located on the Kurfuerstenbruecke, a bridge near the city palace. But during World War II, the statue was submerged in Tegeler See, a large lake in Berlin. Upon recovery in 1952, it was moved to the entrance of Schloss Charlottenburg. The four chained warriors at the base of the statue symbolize the four temperaments.

 

Statue of the Great Elector of Brandenburg, Friedrich Wilhelm III, at the entrance to Schloss Charlottenburg, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2014. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Statue of the Great Elector of Brandenburg, Friedrich Wilhelm III, at the entrance to Schloss Charlottenburg, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2014. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Altes Schloss

The central and oldest part of the palace is the domed Altes Schloss (Old Palace). It is topped with a statue of the goddess Fortuna. Among the treasures inside are the apartments of Friedrich I and Queen Sophie Charlotte, the Oak Gallery with family portraits of members of the House of Hohenzollern and the Porcelain Chamber with over two thousand pieces of Chinese porcelain.

 Neuer Fluegel (New Wing)

The Neuer Fluegel contains the private living quarters of Friedrich the Great and the apartments of Friedrich Wilhelm II. The two most striking rooms in the New Wing are the Weisser Saal (White Hall), a magnificent dining room, and the Goldene Galerie (Golden Gallery). The latter is a 138 foot-long ballroom decorated with mirrors and gilded rococo ornaments.

Schlossgarten

The extensive park behind Schloss Charlottenburg was created between 1697 and 1701 and designed by Simeon Godeau who also created the gardens of Versailles.

Belvedere

Towards the northern end of the Schlossgarten, near the river Spree, is Belvedere, originally a teahouse. It was built between 1788 and 1790, destroyed during World War II, reconstructed in the late 1950s and now houses a collection of eighteenth-century porcelain produced by Berlin manufacturers.

Belvedere in the gardens of Schloss Charlottenburg, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Belvedere in the gardens of Schloss Charlottenburg, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Mausoleum

The Mausoleum is on the western side of the Schlossgarten. It is a Doric temple that was built in 1810 as the burial place for Queen Luise. The mausoleum was later expanded to include the sarcophagi of other members of the royal family, including Frederick William II, Emperor William I and Queen Augusta.

 

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

 

Otto von Bismarck – visionary or villain?

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) was a powerful Prussian statesman, credited with unifying 25 previously independent German states in 1871. As a result of the unification, Germany became one of the most powerful nations in Europe. During most of his nearly 30-year tenure, Bismarck held undisputed control over the government’s policies.

Bismarck’s rise

Born in 1815 to a Prussian nobleman, Bismarck spent his early years studying law and running the family estate. In 1847, he became a delegate to the new Prussian parliament in Berlin. From 1851 to 1862 he held various ambassadorships: he served as an ambassador at the German Confederation in Frankfurt, in St. Petersburg (Russia) and in Paris (France). These posts gave him valuable insight into weaknesses of the great powers of Europe, an understanding he later used to his advantage.

In 1862, Prussian King Wilhelm I appointed him as his Minister President and Foreign Minister. Although technically subservient to the king, it was Bismarck who actually pulled the government strings. In the mid-1860s he orchestrated and won three successive short wars against Denmark, Austria and France. He engineered the wars in order to unify the German states into a powerful German Empire under Prussian leadership. In 1871, Wilhelm I became Emperor and raised Otto von Bismarck’s rank to Fuerst (Prince). The Emperor then appointed him as the first Reichskanzler (Imperial Chancellor) of the German Empire.

For much of the 1870s Bismarck pursued a Kulturkampf (cultural struggle) against Catholicism by placing parochial schools under state control and expelling the Jesuits. But in 1878 Bismarck reversed his position and aligned himself with the Catholics against what he perceived to be a growing socialist threat. To gain the support of the working class and to stave-off calls for more radical socialist alternatives, Bismarck created the world’s first comprehensive government social safety net by establishing national healthcare (1883), accident insurance (1884) and old age pensions (1889). https://www.ssa.gov/history/ottob.html In 1890, following the death of King Wilhelm I, Bismarck resigned at Wilhelm II’s insistence.

 

Otto von Bismarck statue across from the victory column in Berlin, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016, www.walled-in-berlin.com

Otto von Bismarck statue across from the victory column in Berlin, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016, www.walled-in-berlin.com

Bismarck – the visionary

Many historians praise Bismarck as a visionary for uniting Germany while keeping the peace in Europe. He was able to do so through skilled diplomacy and powerful rule at home and by carefully manipulating the balance of international rivalries. Bismarck has been called a master strategist who possessed not only a long-term national and international vision but also the short-term ability to juggle multi-faceted developments.

 U.S. historian William L. Langer, sums up the statesman by saying, “Bismarck at least deserves full credit for having steered European politics through this dangerous transitional period without serious conflict between the great powers.” (Langer, European Alliances and Alignments: 1871–1890 pp 503–04)

Bismarck – the villain

Other historians condemn Bismarck as a villain who dominated his cabinet ministers and smeared their reputations as soon as he no longer needed them. The historian Jonathan Steinberg portrays him as a demonic genius who was deeply vengeful, even toward his closest friends and family members. Bismarck’s friend, German diplomat Kurd von Schloezer, describes him as a kind of evil genius who successfully concealed his contempt for his fellow men while being determined to control and ruin them. British historian Richard J. Evans states that Bismarck was “intimidating and unscrupulous, playing to others’ frailties, not their strengths.” (Evans ,February 23, 2012, “The Gambler in Blood and Iron,” New York Review of Books)

 

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

 

 

Temples of science closed to German women

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

The temples of science remained closed to German women until 1900-1909. The reasons were two-fold: (1) By the late 19th century, the university student bodies had turned increasingly middle class. Educators and demographers began to fear that entry of women into universities would further strengthen this “downward” trend. (2) Professors held the socially equivalent rank of a minister at the time and did not wish to see their rank diminished by bluestockings (intellectual woman). Prussia, in particular, was known for its opposition to women matriculating at university.

Pressure Grew

Initially, women’s groups called for demonstrations. Then an extensive survey of scientists, writers and artists came out in favor of the educational interests of women. In 1891, the German Reichstag placed the question of admitting women to universities on its agenda.

Hearing (auditing) students

By 1896, a number of German universities allowed women to hear (audit) university courses. But even at that, admittance remained difficult. A woman who wanted to enroll in a university course had to first obtain permission from the State, the university, and the professor. If permission was granted, then her choice of courses was limited to those that readily lend themselves to female attributes (nursing, teaching). Since auditing students were denied graduation, many women audited classes only for their personal benefit.

Matriculating students

Baden was the first German state to allow women to graduate. The year was 1900. Bavaria followed in 1904, Wuerttemberg in 1904, Saxony in 1906, Thuringia in 1907, Hesse and Prussia in 1908, and Mecklenburg in 1909. Still, the road to a higher education remained strewn with boulders for German women for years to come. Public, and often private sentiment, maintained that women did not have the necessary mental or social prerequisites for university entry and were generally better suited for family life.

 

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.