November 29 in German History

November 29, 1378

Death of Karl IV (King Wenceslas) in Prague, Bohemia. Karl raised Bohemia to a central power and after his rise to the rank of German King, Bohemia controlled that position for centuries. Karl was the son of the powerful John of Luxemburg. In 1343 Karl’s father gave him the regency of Bohemia. In 1343 through Karl’s efforts Bohemia was raised to an archbishopric and Bohemia thus gained autonomy in the Church. At this same time efforts were underway to depose the German King, Ludwig IV, as the Pope had excommunicated him in 1324. By 1346 an election was arranged and Karl was elected German King. However, Ludwig did not recognize the election and continued to reign. Thus there were two German kings until Ludwig’s death in 1347. In 1355 Karl also became the Holy Roman emperor. In 1348 he established the University of Prague, the first central European university. In 1356 he promulgated (with the consent of the German Diet) the Golden Bull which established firm guidelines for the election of the German king by seven electors (the archbishops of Mainz, Cologne and Trier and the electors of Bohemia, Brandenburg and Saxony.)

November 29, 1780

Death of Maria Theresa. Maria was the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor, Karl VI. Since Karl had no sons he sought to bring his daughter to the rule of the Habsburg empire through a new regulation, Die Pragmatische Sanktion, which changed the custom of excluding women from the succession. Thus Maria became in 1740 the Archduchess (Erzherzogin) of Austria and the Queen of Hungary and Bohemia. However since there were forces who did not accept the succession, she was forced to fight for her heritage in the War of Austrian Succession (Erbfolgekrieg) (1740-48). She further had to contend with Prussia’s claims on Silesia, the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) and the War of Bavarian Succession (1778-1779). She was married to Franz Stephan von Lothringen and the mother of 16 children, of whom Josef II succeeded her. She was a deeply committed Catholic both in her moral views and in her devotion to the Church.

November 29, 1939

Death of Philipp Scheidemann in Copenhagen, Denmark (born in Kassel.) Without party or government authorization he created the Weimar Republic de facto by announcing it from the Reichstag. He went on to become chancellor of the Weimar Republic.



November 28 in German History

November 28, 1794

Death of Friedrich von Steuben in Remsen, New York (born in Magdeburg, Germany). Steuben was a Prussian officer who was induced by Benjamin Franklin to come to America on the side of the rebelling colonies. Arriving in 1777 he was placed in charge of the troops at Valley Forge. He retrained the forces and wrote a manual, Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States. The city of Steubenville, Ohio is named for him.

November 28, 1887

Birth of Ernst Röhm in Munich, Germany. Röhm was a member of the National Socialist Party (Nazi) before Hitler. He organized the SA (Sturmabteilung, storm troops; also called the Brownshirts). By 1934 Hitler began to see Röhm as a rival and began to be concerned about the power of the SA. He had Röhm shot.

November 28, 1989

Chancellor Helmut Kohl presents a 10-point plan for German reunification to the Bundestag:

First: Right away, immediate measures arising out of the events of the last few weeks, particularly the refugee movements and the new dimensions of travel, are necessary.

The Federal Government is prepared to give immediate practical assistance where that assistance is needed now. In the humanitarian sphere and in medical provision we shall help wherever it is wanted…

Second: The Federal Government will as hitherto continue cooperation with the GDR in all spheres of direct benefit to the people on both sides . . .

Third: I have offered to extend our assistance and our cooperation comprehensively when a radical change in the political and economic system in the GDR is bindingly decided and irreversibly set in motion. “Irreversibly” means for us that the GDR national leadership should come to agreement with opposition groups on constitutional change and on a new electoral law.

We support the demand for free, equal and secret elections in the GDR with the involvement of independent parties, including non-socialist ones. The SED’s power monopoly must be removed…

Fourth: Prime Minister Modrow spoke in his government statement of a community based on treaty. We are prepared to take up this idea.

Fifth But we are also prepared to take one further decisive step, namely to develop confederative structures between the two States in Germany, with the objective of then creating a federation, that is, a national federal system in Germany. This necessarily presupposes a democratically legitimated government in the GDR. . . How a reunited Germany will finally look is something no one today knows. But that unification will come if the people in Germany want it, of that I am certain.

Sixth: The development of German internal relationships remains embedded in the overall European process and in East-West relationships. The future architecture of Germany must be fitted into the future architecture of Europe as a whole. For this the West, with its concept of a lasting and just European system of peace, has rendered yeoman service.

Seventh: The European Community’s power of attraction and influence is and remains a constant factor in overall European development. We wish to strengthen it further. The European Community is now being called on to approach the reform-oriented States of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe with openness and flexibility.

We see the process of regaining German unity as a European matter. It must therefore also be seen in combination with European integration. In this sense, the European Community must keep itself open for a democratic GDR and for other democratic States of Central and South-Fastern Europe. The Community must not end at the Elbe, but must maintain openness eastward too.

Eighth: The CSCE process is and remains the core of this architecture of Europe as a whole, and must be pushed energetically forward. For this the existing CSCE forums must be taken advantage of…

Ninth: The overcoming of the splitting of Europe and the division of Germany requires far-reaching, speedy steps in disarmament and arms control. Disarmament and arms control must keep pace with political developments…

Tenth: With this comprehensive policy, we are working towards a situation of peace in Europe in which the German people can regain its unity in free self-determination. Reunification, that is, the regaining of Germany’s national unity remains the Federal Government’s political objective.


Ukraine president asks Germany, NATO to send ships to Sea of Azov

by DW

NATO members including Germany have been asked to send naval vessels to the Sea of Azov to back Ukraine against Russia. “Germany is one of our closest allies,” President Petro Poroshenko said.

Ukraine’s president has sought to gain support from NATO states in his stand-off with Russia after the clash in the Sea of Azov off the Crimean coast.

“Germany is one of our closest allies, and we hope that states within NATO are now ready to relocate naval ships to the Sea of Azov in order to assist Ukraine and provide security,” President Petro Poroshenko told Germany’s Bild daily, suggesting Russia “wants nothing less than to occupy the sea.”

Naming German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a great friend of Ukraine, Poroshenko said that “in 2015, she already saved our country with her negotiations in Minsk, and we hope she will once again support us so strongly, together with our other allies.”

Poroshenko suggested that Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, had major plans.

“Putin wants to bring back the old Russian Empire. Crimea, Donbas, he wants the whole country,” Poroshenko suggested. “As a Russian emperor, as he sees himself, his empire cannot function without Ukraine, he sees us as a colony.”

Chancellor Merkel with President Poroshenko at the Mariinsky Palace in Kyiv.

Putin defiant

For his part, Putin accused Poroshenko on Wednesday of orchestrating a “provocation” to boost his flagging popularity ratings before an election next year. The latest opinion polls in Ukraine show only 9 or 10 percent support for the Ukrainian president.

Putin defended his forces’ actions in seizing three Ukrainian ships last weekend in the Sea of Azov. “They were fulfilling their military duty,” he said. “They were fulfilling their lawful functions in protecting Russia’s borders.”

Poroshenko has imposed martial law in parts of Ukraine for 30 days.

Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov.


The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, on Wednesday night issued a statement expressing “utmost concern about the dangerous increase of tensions” and dismay at the “unacceptable” use of force by Russia. It called on Russia to release the Ukrainian vessels and sailors it seized and ensure unrestricted sea access.

There was no mention of sanctions in the statement. The bloc is divided on imposing further measures against Moscow. Countries such as Italy, Greece, Belgium and Cyprus have been calling for a softer approach to Russia, as Germany and France have focused on measures to ease tensions. Only the three former Soviet states on the Baltic Sea — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — backed by Poland and the UK called for tougher language against Moscow.

US President Donald Trump told the New York Post on Wednesday that he “didn’t like” what was happening. He called on European leaders, especially Merkel, to “get involved.”

“Angela, let’s get involved Angela,” Trump said.


Hindenburg celebrates Warsaw Campaign

On November 27, 1914, German commander Paul von Hindenburg issues a triumphant proclamation from the battlefields of the Eastern Front, celebrating his army’s campaign against Russian forces in the Polish city of Warsaw.

On November 1, Hindenburg had been appointed the commander in chief of all German troops on the Eastern Front; his chief of staff was Erich Ludendorff, who had aided him in commanding several earlier victories against Russian forces in East Prussia. The new command, dubbed OberOst, had two objectives: First, they were to mount a counterattack in Poland while their colleague, Erich von Falkenhayn, managed German forces fighting in the Ypres region on the Western Front. Second, they were to balance the faltering Austrian command headed by Conrad von Hotzendorff. Earlier, Conrad had audaciously blamed his army’s failure against Russia on a lack of sufficient German support and demanded that 30 new German divisions be sent east, a notion that Falkenhayn steadfastly opposed.

The German campaign against Warsaw, launched in early November 1914, aimed to draw Russian manpower and other resources away from their ferocious assault on the struggling army of Germany’s ally, Austria-Hungary. In this it proved successful. The Germans scored several significant victories, most notably at the neighboring city of Lodz. Though the broader German assault ultimately failed, leaving Warsaw still in Russian hands, the Kaiser rewarded Hindenburg by promoting him to field marshal, the highest rank in the German army.

In his statement of November 27, Hindenburg expressed his satisfaction with the results of the campaign and, of course, with his promotion. “I am proud at having reached the highest military rank at the head of such troops. Your fighting spirit and perseverance have in a marvelous manner inflicted the greatest losses on the enemy. Over 60,000 prisoners, 150 guns and about 200 machine guns have fallen into our hands, but the enemy is not yet annihilated. Therefore, forward with God, for King and Fatherland, till the last Russian lies beaten at our feet. Hurrah!”


November 26 in German History

The Heinkel 177. The German long-range bomber was under development for most of the war because of a demanding technical specification, including the capacity to dive bomb. By the time the issues had been resolved Germany was unable to build them in numbers.

Eastern Front Truce Signed

The new Russian revolutionary government abandons all war efforts in WWI. A truce will be signed on December 15.

Troopship Rohna sunk – over 1000 US troops lost

The worst troopship disaster to befall the U.S. happened on the 26th November 1943 when German planes made a concerted attack on a military convoy in the Mediterranean. A force of 30 He-177 planes, the much delayed German long-range bomber, released 60 glider bomb at the ships but only succeeded in making one strike [see comments below about the attack].

The single missile caused fatal damage to the Rohna but most of the casualties probably happened subsequently. Over 2,000 US troops were on board and 1,015 would be lost together with 123 crew from the Rohna. There was difficulty launching the lifeboats, and there were issues with the lifebelt in use at the time which did not include an automatic


German Commander in East Africa Surrenders

Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck.

On this day in 1918, a full two weeks after an armistice ended World War I in Europe, Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck of Germany finally surrenders his forces in German East Africa.

A master of guerrilla warfare known for his brave and honorable conduct, Lettow-Vorbeck emerged from the First World War as the only undefeated military commander on either side of the conflict. From the beginning, the colonel knew the British navy’s dominance of the seas meant that few reinforcements would be sent from his homeland and, as a result, that the German war effort in its African colonies would have to be carried out on his own initiative.

In classic Prussian fashion, Lettow-Vorbeck organized his African soldiers—called askaris—into independent field companies and trained them in the skills of bush fighting. With successful raids against the British colonies of Kenya and Rhodesia, the confidence of Lettow-Vorbeck’s troops only continued to rise. Meanwhile, on the British side, consistently confused command and lack of cooperation between army and navy forces—as well as a decision not to divert any resources from the Western Front for the campaign in Africa—contributed to a string of failed amphibious expeditions along the coast of East Africa, from Uganda to the Zambezi River.

With a force that never exceeded 14,000–including 3,000 German and 11,000 askari troops–Lettow-Vorbeck managed to consistently defeat Allied forces (mostly British and South African) of 10 times that number. In November 1918, when World War I ended, Lettow-Vorbeck was alive and well, with 3,000 soldiers at his command. He chose to surrender at Mbaala, Zambia, on November 25, 1918, returning to Germany, where he was greeted as a national hero.

Immediately following the war, Lettow-Vorbeck joined the Freikorps, the military police force, helping to squelch the radical socialist Spartacist uprising in early 1919. The following year, however, he was forced to resign from the army after supporting the failed right-wing Kapp Putsch against the Weimar government. After publishing his memoirs, called My Reminiscences of East Africa, he returned to public life, serving as a deputy in the German Reichstag from May 1929 until July 1930. During the subsequent years, Lettow-Vorbeck unsuccessfully attempted to establish a conservative opposition to Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party. By the end of World War II, the former hero was living in poverty. In a testament to his greatness, a group of former South African and British officers led by his former nemesis, the South African leader Jan Smuts, arranged for a small pension to be paid him until his death, on March 9, 1964.


Goebbels Alarmed as Berlin Struggles to Recover

Joseph Goebbels addressing a Nazi rally.

After the major raid on the 22nd/23rd, the RAF returned with a smaller force on the 23rd/24th. The target was successfully marked through cloud again but many of the bombers used the burning fires from the previous raid as their aiming point. The raid added substantially to the damage and probably killed around the same number of people – about 1,500. By the end of this raid around 175,000 Berliners had been bombed out of their home.

One notable feature of this raid was the interception of the German night fighter radio controller by substitute German-speaking transmissions from England. The real German controller became infuriated when false messages were sent to the Luftwaffe night fighters – sending them in the wrong direction or ordering them to land because of impending fog. The Germans attempted to get around this by bringing in a female controller – but a German-speaking woman was immediately used by the transmitter operating from England.

Twenty Lancasters were lost on this raid according to RAF records, which suggests that the German Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels was accurate in his summary of the raid, written in his private diary a day later:

November 25, 1943

The [second] heavy attack equalled the first in intensity. Though at first we thought it might be weaker, this hope was not realized. The damage was quite as extensive as the night before. In character, too, it resembled its predecessor. It was mainly the inner city that was hit and also the working-class suburbs. Unfortunately only about twenty planes were shot down. Our fighters took a hand but arrived too late and meanwhile the anti-aircraft was forbidden to shoot.

The English therefore got away pretty cheaply with this attack. Conditions in the city are pretty hopeless. The air is filled with smoke and the smell of fires. The Wilhelmplatz and the Wilhelmstrasse present a gruesome picture. There was nothing to be done except to press everybody available into service and wait for rain, which came later in the day.

Gradually we are learning to accustom ourselves again to a primitive standard of living. In the morning in Goering Strasse there is no heat, no light, no water. One can neither shave nor wash. One must get up in the shelter by the light of a burning candle.

I got up at an ungodly hour with my head throbbing worse than ever before. All day long headaches pursue me. What of it? I simply must go to work. I drive straight to the office to wash and shave. I am very much hampered in my work. All telephone lines are down; I can reach the outside world only with the help of messengers. Most of the Reich ministries have been bombed out. Ministers and departmental heads can be found only with difficulty. That makes my work more difcult in some respects, but easier in others.

I had the various Gau [German local] authorities report to me in a conference about the general situation. Critical conflagrations are still raging in some sections of the city, but surface res have stopped.

Fire-fighting units have been summoned in large numbers from other cities as far away as Hamburg and Breslau. These are naturally a great help to us. Petzke has tried to organise food supplies, but it is extremely difficult because the streets have not yet been cleared and supply lorries can’t get into the destroyed areas. I must therefore do everything to get communications started again. The streets must be cleared before repairing the worst damage. For this, however, the manpower available is not sufficient.

The Wehrmacht must therefore help, not only with troops stationed in this defence area, but from others as well. The Wehrmacht supported my plans willingly and promised to furnish me in twenty-four hours with two-and-a-half divisions, or 50,000 men. These 50,000 men are to do nothing except clear the main traffic arteries of the Reich capital so that motorized transport may be resumed, and the most necessary articles of food and necessities conveyed into the bombed-out sections.

I have received detailed reports from various sections. It appears that even more bombs were dropped on the workers’ quarters, especially on Wedding, than in the government section, although this looks like a heap of rubble.

We must now face the problem of evacuation to emergency quarters. About 400,000 people in Berlin are without shelter. Some are lodged in municipal emergency quarters, others must spend their nights in underground tunnels. But I hope in two or three days to solve this problem too.

The first trains of homeless people left the city. But the Berliners have so far refused to make much use of them. Everybody wants to stay here to save the things most needed, and to await further developments. This morning no papers came out. I am doing everything possible to see that at least a few newspapers make their appearance on the streets. The papers with a circulation outside Berlin, especially, must resume publication because of the effect on foreign countries. The Deutscher Verlag remained unhurt, thank God, so that we can have most of the Berlin dailies printed there. Papers appearing twice daily must be reorganized on a once-a-day basis.

What the enemy press is writing about the raids on Berlin simply can’t be beaten for impudence. Their triumphant tone is enough to make one go mad. Accompanying their reports is an ultimatum to the German people to the effect that the end of the Reich capital will have come unless it offers to capitulate. Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin allegedly are to meet soon to launch this ultimatum.

The enemy now places his hopes chiefly on breaking down our morale. In an appeal to the Berliners I am calling their attention to what is at stake and what these days must prove. Not only the German people but all foreign countries are looking to developments in Berlin with bated breath. Some foreign newspapers have expressed undisguised approval of the Berliners’ morale during these exceedingly heavy air raids.