12 June – Today in German History


  • Birth of Lothar von Faber, 1817-1896, in Stein, Germany. He and his brother Eberhard built a family pencil business into a global manufacturing company. His brother Ebehart Faber came to America and founded the Faber American pencil company here. Next time you pick up a pencil, look at the brand. It may well be a Faber. The Faber pencil company is still active and the largest in America. It is still owned by the Faber family, although the German company was sold many years ago.


  • Birth of the writer, Johanna Spyri. in Hirzel, Switzerland. She is known most widely for her story, Heidi.


  • The Austro-Hungarian Empire is formed. It lasted until the end of World War I.


  • Birth of Fritz Albert Lipmann in Königsberg, Prussia. He immigrated to the United States after an academic career in Germany. In 1953 he won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of coenzyme A.


  • Anne Frank was born in Germany. She wrote in her diary about growing up in occupied Amsterdam during World War II. She died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945.


  • The German boxer Max Schmeling becomes World champion by defeating Jack Sharkey. He remained champion for 2 years until he was defeated by Sharkey on June 21, 1932.


  • Death of Karl Kraus in Vienna, Austria (born in Gitschin, Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic)). Kraus was a dramatist and poet. He settled in Vienna as a young man. He founded the literary/political journal Die Fackel in 1899. In that journal he criticized Austrian society with masterful satire. He is noted especially for Sprüche und Wiedersprüche (1909), Nachts (1919), Sittlichkeit und Kriminalität (1908) and Literatur und Lüge (1929)


  • 54,000 British and French troops surrendered to German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel at St. Valery-en-Caux, on the northern Channel border.


  • Anne Frank made the first entry in her diary. The diary documented her experiences hiding during the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War II.
  • Birth of Bert Sakmann in Stuttgart, Germany. Bert Sakmann is a German cell physiologist. He shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Erwin Neher in 1991 for their work on “the function of single ion channels in cells,” and the invention of the patch-clamp.


  • Death of Michael von Faulhaber in Munich, Germany. Faulhaber, the Roman Catholic Cardinal of Munich and Freising, was one of those who resisted Hitler and the Nazis. His opposition to the Nazis started already at the time of Hitler’s attempted take over of Munich in 1923. When Hitler came to power and through the War Faulhaber visibly opposed the Nazis. There were two attempts at assassination, but he survived. His sermons were critical of the Nazis and opposed their antisemitism, executions, and medical experiments. After the war, Faulhaber worked with the American occupation forces.


  • Helmut Kohl is elected for the first time to the post of Head of Party of the CDU.


  • Death of Karl von Frisch in Munich, Germany. Von Frisch won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1973 for his work on the communication among bees. He was a professor at the Universities of Graz and Munich. In addition to his work with bee communication, von Frisch made significant contributions to animal sensory capacities in several areas.


  • On June 12, 1987, in one of his most famous Cold War speeches, President Ronald Reagan challenges Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down” the Berlin Wall, a symbol of the repressive Communist era in a divided Germany.

In 1945, following Germany’s defeat in World War II, the nation’s capital, Berlin, was divided into four sections, with the Americans, British and French controlling the western region and the Soviets gaining power in the eastern region. In May 1949, the three western sections came together as the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), with the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) being established in October of that same year. In 1952, the border between the two countries was closed. By the following year, East Germans were prosecuted if they left their country without permission. In August 1961, the Berlin Wall was erected by the East German government to prevent its citizens from escaping to the West. Between 1949 and the wall’s inception, it’s estimated that over 2.5 million East Germans fled to the West in search of a less repressive life.

With the wall as a backdrop, President Reagan declared to a West Berlin crowd in 1987, “There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.” He then called upon his Soviet counterpart: “Secretary-General Gorbachev, if you seek peace–if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe–if you seek liberalization: come here, to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Reagan then went on to ask Gorbachev to undertake serious arms reduction talks with the United States.