19 January in German History


On the morning of January 19th, 1915 two German Zeppelin airships, the L3 and L4 took off from Fuhlsbüttel in Germany. Both airships carried 30 hours worth of fuel, 8 bombs, and 25 incendiary devices. They had been given permission by Kaiser Wilhelm II to attack military and industrial buildings. The Kaiser had forbidden an attack on London due to concern for the Royal family to whom he was related.

The air war against Britain began in WWI as Zeppelin dirigibles started a bombing campaign against Britain. There would be 18 additional attacks in 1915.


The first election of the Weimar Republic. For the first time, women have the vote. It is also considered the first truly free and fair all-German election, as it was the first to be held after the scrapping of the old constituencies that grossly over-represented rural areas. The voting age was lowered to 20 from 25 in the last Reichstag election of 1912. Social Democratic Party (SPD) won the election.


18 January in German History


Frederick I of Prussia crowns himself king at Königsberg, Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia).

Frederick maintained a large, splendid court and an army out of proportion to his territories and position to further his pretensions.

In European politics, he allied himself with Austria and the sea powers (England and Holland) against France. Prussian troops were sent to the Netherlands (1688) to protect William of Orange’s continental lands against expected French attacks when William crossed the Channel to accept the English crown. By this act, Frederick hoped to gain the Dutch stadholdership for himself or his descendants, but he was eventually frustrated. Although in the wars of the Grand Alliance against Louis XIV (1689–97), Prussia’s contingents in the imperial army distinguished themselves everywhere, Prussia emerged practically unrewarded at the Treaty of Rijswijk (1697).

On Nov. 16, 1700, however, Austria and Prussia signed a secret treaty that permitted Frederick to crown himself king in Prussia, thus finally realizing his long-cherished ambition. Austria agreed to this elevation primarily to gain Prussian aid in the threatening war against France over the succession to the Spanish throne. In return, Frederick promised to send 8,000 troops beyond the normal Prussian contingent to the imperial army, to give preference to Habsburg candidates in imperial elections, and to vote with Austria on all important matters in the German Diet as far as Prussian interests permitted. Thus, when Frederick crowned himself in Königsberg on Jan. 18, 1701, Prussia was saddled with weighty obligations. Only his son, Frederick William I, and his grandson, Frederick II the Great, were able to exploit Prussia’s enhanced position to the full and transform the new kingdom into a great European power.


Foundation of the German Empire (Reich) and proclamation of Wilhelm I as Emperor (Kaiser) in Versailles.

Lloyd George, Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, Georges Clemenceau, Woodrow Wilson.


The Paris Peace Conference at Versailles opens officially to conclude WWI. Germany and Russia are not represented. Wilson is committed to his 14 Points and a League of Nations. Clemenceau seeks revenge. Lloyd George had been elected partly by promising that German war leaders would be punished. Orlando of Italy sought the territorial gains which the Allies had used to lure Italy into the war in the first place.


16 January in German History


The German minister, Arthur Zimmermann, sends a telegram through the German ambassador in Washington to the German ambassador in Mexico offering Mexico an alliance against the United States. He proposes that Mexico will be assisted in retaking Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The telegram is intercepted and decoded by British intelligence and given to President Woodrow Wilson. The telegram becomes instrumental in forming American public opinion against Germany and for entering the war as Wilson gives it to the press in March. America will enter the war five weeks later.


Death of Gustav von Bohlen und Halbach near Salzburg, Austria. He married the heiress of the Krupp family (steel and arms), Bertha Krupp, and gained control of Krupp Industries. He then added the name Krupp to his name. So important was Krupp Industries to the economy that the Kaiser himself chose the Prussian diplomat, von Bolen und Halbach, as Bertha Krupp’s husband to manage the firm.


15 January in German History


Cruiser Köln was commissioned into service with Fregattenkapitän Ludwig von Schröder at the helm.


Heinrich Prinz zu Sayn-Wittgenstein became a group leader (Kameradschaftsführer) in the Hitler Youth organization.


Hermann Göring met Benito Mussolini; when Göring brought up the topic of the German wish to annex Austria, Mussolini showed disapproval.


  • Kapitän zur See Ernst Kretzenberg took command of cruiser Köln.
  • German submarine U-44 torpedoed and sank Norwegian steamer Fagerheim in the Bay of Biscay at the early hours of the day, killing 15. The 5 survivors were taken to Vigo, Spain. At 0700 hours, U-44 fired shots at Dutch merchant freighter Arendskerk; realizing his ship could not outrun the German submarine, captain of the Arendskerk gave the abandon ship order. Arendskerk was subsequently torpedoed and sank, but all 65 of her crew members survived, rescued by Italian steamer Fedora.


Overnight, Wellington bombers of No. 57 Squadron RAF attacked Emden, Germany while 76 RAF bombers attacked Wilhelmshaven, Germany.

Erich Topp (r) on U-552 in St. Nazaire in October 1941.


  • The German Armeegruppe Mitte began to fall back from the Kaluga area, forming new defensive lines 20 miles to the west.
  • German submarine U-552 sank the ship Dayrose at 0138 hours; 38 were killed, 4 survived. To the south, German submarine U-123 sank British tanker Coimbra off Sandy Hook, New Jersey, United States at 0941 hours; 36 were killed, 10 survived. At 1134 hours, again off Newfound, U-203 sank Portuguese trawler, Catalina, killing all aboard. Near the end of the day at 2317 hours, U-553 blew the bow off of the tanker Diala; 57 were killed, 8 survived; the wreckage of Diala remained afloat.
  • British destroyer HMS Hesperus rammed German submarine U-93 while the submarine attempted to attack Allied convoy HG78 580 miles west of Gibraltar, followed by gunfire and depth charge attacks, leading to the submarine being abandoned; 6 were killed, 40 survived. HMS Hesperus would reverse course for Gibraltar to receive repairs.
  • A British Swordfish aircraft sank German submarine U-577 with depth charges 60 miles north of Sollum, Egypt, killing all 43 aboard.


German aircraft raided Telepte Airfield in Tunisia three times and Youks-les-Bains Airfield in Algeria once. A total of 15 German aircraft were shot down during these attacks.


  • Soviet forces launched a new offensive near Leningrad, Russia.
  • German XIV Panzer Corps abandoned Monte Trocchio, Italy and fell back across the Rapido River; US II Corps would capture Monte Trocchio later on the same day. Meanwhile, General Juin’s French troops captured Monte Santa Croce.


  • Adolf Hitler ordered Panzerkorps Grossdeutschland to move from East Prussia, Germany to Poland to counter the Soviet Vistula-Oder Offensive. This counterattack would be repulsed by the Soviet 1st Byelorussian Front.
  • Adolf Hitler departed the Adlerhorst headquarters in Wetterau, Germany, returning to Berlin.
  • German V-2 rocket hit Rainham, London, England, United Kingdom at about 2345, killing 14 and seriously injuring 4.


Hellmuth Felmy was released from imprisonment.



15 January 1919 – Marxist-Communist Rebel Leaders are executed in Failed Coup in Berlin

Armed Freikorps paramilitaries in Weimar Germany in 1919.

A coup launched in Berlin by a group of radical Marxist-Communist revolutionaries is brutally suppressed by right-wing paramilitary units from January 10 to January 15, 1919; the group’s leaders, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, are executed.

Germany’s long, ultimately losing struggle on the battlefield—culminating in the signing of the armistice in November 1918—and dismal conditions on the home front, including severe food shortages, caused many German socialists to turn away from the Social Democratic Party, which had supported the war effort in 1914 in the hopes that reform would follow a German victory. Although still the largest party in the Reichstag government, the Social Democrats saw their membership fall from over a million in 1914 to a quarter of that number in 1917.

By that time, a minority had broken off from the party and formed their own, the Independent Socialist Party. Luxemburg and Liebknecht led the Spartacists, the Marxist, revolutionary core group of the new party, which held firmly to the belief that German participation in the war was only justified in the case of a purely defensive conflict. In 1916, Luxemburg—under the nom de guerre Junius—had published a treatise in which she denied that the Great War was defensive for Germany, claiming instead that it was driven by imperialist, capitalist interests. Social democracy had failed the German working class, Luxemburg claimed, and the only solution was the international class revolution, such as that envisioned by Vladimir Lenin and begun by the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917.

On January 6, 1919, just weeks before the peace conference that would determine Germany’s future opened in Paris, the Spartacists gathered in Berlin to begin a revolution. Luxemburg urged her followers not to attempt a coup before they mustered sufficient popular support, but she was unable to restrain them. The rebels launched their attacks on January 10. In the conflict that ensued, both Luxemburg and Liebknecht were captured and killed. Her body, thrown into a canal, was not retrieved until five months later.


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