11 December – Today in German History


  • German submarine U-38 sank Greek freighter Garoufalia off Norway; 4 were killed, 25 survived.
  • Vidkun Quisling met with Erich Raeder in Germany.


  • German freighter Rhein, already being monitored by American destroyers Simpson and MacLeish, was intercepted by Dutch destroyer Van Kinsbergen near the Florida Straits; her crew scuttled the ship to avoid capture.
  • German submarine U-96 attacked Allied convoy HX-92 125 miles northwest of the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, United Kingdom, sinking British liner Rotorua at 1512 hours (21 were killed, including HX-92 commodore Rear Admiral Fitzgerald; 108 survived) and Norwegian ship Towa at 2242 hours (18 were killed, 19 survived).
  • German submarine U-94 sank British ship Empire Statesman 225 miles west of Ireland at 1912 hours, killing the entire crew of 31.
  • 278 German aircraft attacked Birmingham, England, United Kingdom, dropping 277 tons of high explosives and 685 incendiary bombs.


  • Germany and Italy declare war on the United States. – On this day, Adolf Hitler declares war on the United States, bringing America, which had been neutral, into the European conflict. The bombing of Pearl Harbor surprised even Germany. Although Hitler had made an oral agreement with his Axis partner Japan that Germany would join a war against the United States, he was uncertain as to how the war would be engaged. Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor answered that question. On December 8, Japanese Ambassador Oshima went to German Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop to nail the Germans down on a formal declaration of war against America. Von Ribbentrop stalled for time; he knew that Germany was under no obligation to do this under the terms of the Tripartite Pact, which promised help if Japan was attacked, but not if Japan was the aggressor. Von Ribbentrop feared that the addition of another antagonist, the United States, would overwhelm the German war effort. But Hitler thought otherwise. He was convinced that the United States would soon beat him to the punch and declare war on Germany. The U.S. Navy was already attacking German U-boats, and Hitler despised Roosevelt for his repeated verbal attacks against his Nazi ideology. He also believed that Japan was much stronger than it was, that once it had defeated the United States, it would turn and help Germany defeat Russia. So at 3:30 p.m. (Berlin time) on December 11, the German charge d’affaires in Washington handed American Secretary of State Cordell Hull a copy of the declaration of war. That very same day, Hitler addressed the Reichstag to defend the declaration. The failure of the New Deal, argued Hitler, was the real cause of the war, as President Roosevelt, supported by plutocrats and Jews, attempted to cover up for the collapse of his economic agenda. “First he incites war, then falsifies the causes, then odiously wraps himself in a cloak of Christian hypocrisy and slowly but surely leads mankind to war,” declared Hitler-and the Reichstag leaped to their feet in thunderous applause.
  • In North Africa, the Italians reformed the line running south from the coast at Gazala with their armor on the right flank. Rommel’s Afrika Korps, reduced to just forty operational tanks after the Operation Crusader battles, protecting the open southern flank.
  • North of Moscow, Russia, Soviet 16th Army captured Istra while Soviet 20th Army reached Solnechnogorsk. South of Moscow, Soviet troops captured Stalinogorsk.
  • German submarine U-374 sank British anti-submarine trawler HMS Lady Shirley in the Strait of Gibraltar at 0421 hours, killing all 33 aboard. 21 minutes later, U-374 sank British patrol yacht HMS Rosabelle, which attempted to locate U-374; 30 were killed, 12 survived and rescued by patrol yacht HMS Sayonara.
  • Adolf Hitler announced that since the start of the war against the Soviet Union, the German forces had captured 3,806,865 Soviet prisoners of war.
  • Hans-Joachim Marseille shot down the British P-40 fighter piloted by Canadian Flight Sergeant M. A. Canty southeast of El Adem, Libya. It was his 32nd kill.


  • The USAAF bombed Emden, Germany, while 18 RAF Mosquito aircraft attacked Duisburg, Germany.


  • Adolf Hitler held a meeting with top German military commanders at the Adlerhorst headquarters in Wetterau, Germany, stressing the importance of the upcoming Ardennes Offensive.
  • Kurt Fricke stepped down as the commanding officer of Naval Group Command South.


  • It was forbidden to leave East Germany without permission. Violations were prosecuted with prison for up to three years.
  • Heinrich Hoffmann passed away in München, Germany.


  • West German Chancellor Willy Brandt and Czech Prime Minister Lubomir Strougal formally nullified the 1938 Munich pact when they signed a treaty sanctioning Hitler’s seizure of Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland.



10 December – Today in German History


  • Erwin Rommel was awarded the Pour le Mérite.


  • Paul Wenneker was released from Dutch internment even though he had officially been released in Jan 1918.


  • Soviet 7th Army, while attacking Finnish defense fortifications, received flanking fire from coastal batteries on the island of Saarenpää; in response, Soviet battleship Oktjabrskaja Revolutsija bombarded the island but failed to hit the batteries due to heavy fog. In the Gulf of Finland and the Gulf of Bothnia, Soviet submarines sank three ships going in and out of Finnish ports; two of them actually flew German flags.


  • Georg von Bismarck was named the commanding officer of the 20th Rifle Brigade.
  • A shell fired randomly across the English Channel from one of Germany’s massive 280mm rail guns fell within a few feet of the British 13.5in Peacemaker rail gun at Martin Mill, England, the United Kingdom severely damaging one of its bogies and mortally wounding one of the Royal Marine gunners.


  • German spy Karel Richter was executed at Wandsworth Prison in Britain.
  • Soviet troops encircled three German divisions at Livny, south of Moscow, Russia.
  • German submarine U-130 attacked Allied convoy SC-57 200 miles southwest of Ireland just before midnight at the end of the day, sinking British transport Kurdistan, British transport Kirnwood, and Egyptian transport Star of Luxor.


  • Adolf Hitler arrived at the Adlerhorst headquarters in Wetterau, Germany.

9 December – Today in German History


  • Death of Sigismund, the Holy Roman Emperor from 1433-1437, in Znojmo, Bohemia (born near Nürnberg, Germany). He was the last emperor of the House of Luxembourg. In 1396, he assembled and led an army against the Turks, who had penetrated as far as Serbia, but he was badly defeated in the campaign. It was Sigismund who invited Jan Hus to the Church Council of Constance to defend his views. After his appearance, Hus was burned for heresy. In 1428, he led another crusade against the Turks but was defeated again.


  • German Pocket Battleship Admiral Graf Spee sailed toward the River Plate estuary on the border of Uruguay and Argentina to attack a reported convoy departing from Montevideo, Uruguay. Meanwhile, Royal Navy Force G consisting of light cruisers HMS Ajax and HMS Achilles, soon to be joined by the heavy cruiser HMS Exeter was already en route toward the area in search of Admiral Graf Spee.
  • German merchant freighter Kurmark, acquired by the German Navy in the fall of 1939, was commissioned into service as auxiliary cruiser Orion.


  • German submarine U-103 sank British ship Empire Jaguar 250 miles west of Ireland at 0132 hours, killing the entire crew of 37.
  • Battleship Bismarck arrived at Hamburg, Germany.


  • China declares war on Japan, Germany, and Italy in WWII.
  • Soviet troops recaptured Tikhivin in northern Russia.
  • German submarine U-652 sank French ship Saint-Denis 50 miles south of the Balearic Islands at 1400 hours, killing 3. The ship was sunk in a case of misidentification, as she flew the flag of Vichy France.
  • German submarine U-134 mistakenly sank German ship Steinbek 20 miles off of northern Norway at 2100 hours; 12 survived.
  • Adolf Hitler arrived in Berlin, Germany at 1100 hours. He decided to declare war on the United States on this date but decided to withhold the announcement until 11 Dec in order to have enough time to draft his speech.
  • Soviet 30th Army attacked north of Moscow, Russia, capturing many trucks and field guns abandoned by the German 3rd Panzer Army. South of Moscow, Soviet troops captured Venev and Yelets. Despite the victories, the Soviet logistic situation was extremely poor largely due to the destruction of many vehicles at the hands of the Germans in the past few months; for example, Viktor Abakumov reported on this day that on 25 Nov 1941 Soviet 18th Ski Battalion went without any food.


  • Germany agreed to cede to Italy the French warships captured at Bizerte, Tunisia in the previous month. They included sloop La Batailleuse, sloop Commandant Rivière, torpedo boat Bombarde, torpedo boat La Pomone, torpedo boat L’Iphigénie, submarine Phoque, submarine Saphir, submarine Requin, submarine Espadon, submarine Dauphin, submarine Turquoise, submarine Circé, submarine Calypso, and submarine Nautilus.


  • The Doctors’ Trial began in Nuremberg before a United States military court against 20 doctors and 3 Nazi officials who were accused of involvement in human experimentation. The trial ended on 20 Aug 1947 while 7 were acquitted, 7 were given death sentences, and 9 were given prison sentences.


  • A plebiscite approves the merger of 3 states to form the new state of Baden-Württemberg, Germany.Württemberg became a state (Land) in the new Weimar Republic. After the excitements of the 1918–1919 revolution, its five election results between 1919 and 1932 show a decreasing vote for left-wing parties. From 1934, the Gau of Württemberg-Hohenzollern added the Province of Hohenzollern. After World War II in 1945, Württemberg was split between Württemberg-Baden in Bizonia and Württemberg-Hohenzollern in the French zone. Both of these finally became part of the land of Baden-Württemberg in 1952. After World War II, Allied forces established three federal states: Württemberg-Hohenzollern, Baden (both occupied by France), and Württemberg-Baden (U.S.-occupied). In 1949, these three states became founding members of the Federal Republic of Germany. Article 118 of the new German constitution, however, had already prepared a procedure for those states to merge. After a referendum held in December 1951, Württemberg-Baden, Württemberg-Hohenzollern, and Baden voted in favor of a merger. Baden-Württemberg officially became a state on April 25, 1952.


  • Adolf Eichmann is found guilty by a court in Israel and sentenced to death.

8 December – Today in German History


  • The Kaiser called a meeting of his military and naval leaders, telling them that if Russia came to the aid of Serbia then Germany must be prepared to fight. He assumed that Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, and Turkey would all side with the Triple Alliance leaving Austria-Hungary free to concentrate against the Russians. Tirpitz, the head of the German Naval Office, declared that the Navy was not yet ready for war. Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg, who was anxious to maintain détente with the British, was not invited to the meeting thus leaving the political viewpoint out of the discussions.
German Admiral Maximilian Graf von Spee.


  • In World War I, the German Admiral Maximilian Graf von Spee is defeated by a British naval group near the Falkland Islands. Spee’s flagship is sunk and Spee dies.


  • Unable to prevent the growing importance of Hitler within the National Revolution he had wanted for Germany, Gregor Strasser abruptly resigned and withdrew almost entirely from politics.
Graf Zeppelin.


  • Graf Zeppelin, Aircraft Carrier, was launched.


  • Battleship Bismarck exited the Kiel Canal.
  • German armed merchant cruiser Orion sank the ships Triadic (1 killed, 11 captured) and Triaster (64 captured) off Nauru.
  • German submarine U-103 sank British liner Calabria 295 miles west of Ireland at 2058 hours. 360 were killed, 230 of whom were Indian sailors who were being ferried to Britain to crew other ships; 21 survived.
  • German submarine U-140 sank Finnish sail ship Penang 75 west of Ireland at 1226 hours, killing the entire crew of 18. At 2025 hours, U-140 struck again, sinking British ship Ashcrest, killing the entire crew of 37.
  • German armed merchant cruiser Komet sank Komata off Nauru, killing 2 and capturing 33.


  • Soviet offensive broke through German Armeegruppe Mitte near Moscow, Russia, cutting the Klin-Kalinin road. German units began making hasty withdrawals to prevent encirclement, abandoning large numbers of immobilized equipment in the process. Adolf Hitler issued Führer Directive 39 which called for German troops to hold their ground.
  • Adolf Hitler ordered the German Navy to begin attacking American shipping.
  • Galeazzo Ciano called Joachim von Ribbentrop to discuss the American entry into the war. Ciano later noted that Ribbentrop was happy with this latest development.
  • German bombers sank British minesweeping trawlers HMT Milford Earl (5 killed) and HMT Phineas Beard off the east coast of Scotland, United Kingdom.
  • The Japanese ambassador in Germany Hiroshi Oshima sent a note to Joachim von Ribbentrop, requesting Germany to declare war on the United States.


  • U-869 departed Norway for the Atlantic Ocean for her first and only war patrol.

5 December – Today in German History


  • Birth of Wernher Heisenberg (1901-1976) in Würzburg, Germany. He was a theoretical physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1932 for the creation of quantum mechanics. His 1925 theory of quantum mechanics offered a matrix method to explain stationary discrete energy states and was soon superseded by Erwin Schrödinger’s more intuitive wave equation. Of more lasting impact was his 1927 uncertainty principle, which states that it is impossible to accurately measure both position and momentum (energy and time) concurrently and that the more precisely we know an object’s position, the less precisely we can know its momentum, and vice versa. During World War II he led Germany’s failed efforts to develop an atomic bomb, though his group never came close to achieving this goal and Heisenberg himself doubted it was possible. His other areas of research included cosmic rays, ferromagnetism, the hydrodynamics of turbulent flows, and subatomic particles.


  • During World War II, Allied troops took Ravenna, Italy.

4 December – Today in German History


  • Through a series of calculated political moves, Kurt von Schleicher forces the chancellor Franz von Papen to resign and is able to succeed him in the position. In an attempt at revenge, von Papen will make a deal with Hitler allowing the Nazi leader to take the position of Chancellor. Von Papen believes he will be able to control him.


  • U.S. bombers attack the Italian mainland for the first time during World War II.

30 November – Today in German History


  • USSR attacks Finland – On November 30, 1939, the Red Army crosses the Soviet-Finnish border with 465,000 men and 1,000 aircraft. Helsinki was bombed, and 61 Finns were killed in an air raid that steeled the Finns for resistance, not capitulation. The overwhelming forces arrayed against Finland convinced most Western nations, as well as the Soviets themselves, that the invasion of Finland would be a cakewalk. The Soviet soldiers even wore summer uniforms, despite the onset of the Scandinavian winter; it was simply assumed that no outdoor activity, such as fighting, would be taking place. But the Helsinki raid had produced many casualties-and many photographs, including those of mothers holding dead babies, and preteen girls crippled by the bombing. Those photos were hung up everywhere to spur on Finn resistance. Although that resistance consisted of only small numbers of trained soldiers-on skis and bicycles!–fighting it out in the forests, and partisans throwing Molotov cocktails into the turrets of Soviet tanks, the refusal to submit made headlines around the world. By March 1940, negotiations with the Soviets began, and Finland soon lost the Karelian Isthmus, the land bridge that gave access to Leningrad, which the Soviets wanted to control. This would push Finland to the German side once Operation Barbarossa took place.


  • At the Teheran Conference, an agreement was reached on Operation Overlord by U.S. President Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Churchill and Soviet leader Josef Stalin. The operation was the Anglo-American invasion across the English Channel.

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