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December 12 in German History


Birth of Marie-Louise von Habsburg-Lothringen in Vienna, Austria. The Austrian noblewoman became the second wife of the French emperor, Napoleon I. Napoleon had dissolved his marriage to Josephine due to the lack of children. When Napoleon abdicated Marie-Louise returned to Vienna. She refused to join Napoleon on Elba despite his requests (demands). During his return in 1815, she had nothing to do with him. After his death, she remarried.


Death of Karl Philipp Fürst von Wrede in Ellingen, Germany. Karl was a German general who, however, formed an alliance with Napoleon until 1813 (the year of the battle of Leipzig in which Napoleon was first defeated in battle). He then switched sides and joined the coalition of nations against France.


Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt was born.


Death of Luitpold, Prince Regent of Bavaria, in Munich, Germany. Luitpold was the third son of Ludwig I. During the reign of Ludwig II (“Mad King Ludwig” who built the wonderful castles) he served as regent. He introduced liberal democratic structures into Bavaria and did much to establish Munich’s position as a cultural center.


The world’s first all-metal airplane, the Junker J. 1 undergoes a test flight at Dessau, Germany.


Cruiser Köln returned from her first international voyage.


Heinrich Himmler founded the Lebensborn project to promote Nazi eugenics.


Cruiser Köln and other warships screened minelayers during a mining mission.

Adolf Hitler postponed the decision to invade France to 27 Dec 1939; if he was to launch the attack, the date of action was to be 1 Jan 1940. Since the decision was to be made after Christmas, he permitted the granting of Christmas leave.


German submarine U-96 attacked Allied convoy HX-92 12 miles south of St. Kilda, Outer Hebrides, Scotland, United Kingdom, sinking Swedish ship Stureholm at 0156 hours (killing entire crew of 32) and Belgian ship Macedonier at 0431 hours (4 killed, 37 survived).

Philippe Pétain received an invitation from Adolf Hitler to attend the ceremony in which Napoleon II’s remains were to be returned from Austria to the Les Invalides cemetery in Paris, France.

Vichy-France established diplomatic relations with the Japanese-sponsored puppet state of Manchukuo.

British monitoring stations detected X Verfahren radio beams being laid across northern England, United Kingdom, and suspected a German attack would take place on the city of Sheffield. In the evening, 13 He 111 bombers of Kampfgruppe 100 arrived over the Sheffield suburbs of Norton Lees and Gleadless at 1941 hours, dropping 16 SC50 high explosive bombs, 1,009 B1 E1 ZA incendiaries, and 10,080 B1 E1 incendiaries. Shortly after, three groups of German bombers, the main force, attacked. The first group consisted of 36 Ju 88 bombers and 29 He 111 bombers; the second group consisted of 23 Ju 88 bombers, 74 He 111 bombers, and 7 Do 17 bombers; the third group consisted of 63 Ju 88 bombers and 35 He 111 bombers. The 280 German aircraft heavily damaged the city center and residential districts through the night through 0400 hours on the next day.


In a meeting with Adolf Hitler, Erich Raeder noted to Hitler that the Americans would most likely divert warships to the Pacific Ocean which was advantageous for the German Navy.

Wilhelm Keitel clarified Adolf Hitler’s Nacht und Nebel decree to the leaders of the German military.


Feldmarschall Rommel was appointed the head of Armeegruppe B based in France.


German pilot Willi Kriessmann ferried an Ar 234 jet bomber from Hamburg, Germany to German Luftwaffe bomber group Kampfgeschwader 76.


NATO decides on a two-option policy in the face of the new middle range rockets installed in East Germany. NATO will begin installation of its own middle-range rockets in West Germany but will agree to remove them if the Soviet Union removes its rockets.



December 11 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 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.


December 10 in German History


Erwin Rommel was awarded the Pour le Mérite.


December 10 – 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, 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.


December 9 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 cruiser 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 (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, 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; 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.


Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann is found guilty by a court in Israel and sentenced to death.


December 8 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 (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.


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. Flugzeugträger. Stapell.: 8.12.1938. Stapellauf
C 637 (R IX E 6058)


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.

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.



December 7 in German History

December 7, 983

Emperor Otto II of the (later so named) Holy Roman Empire dies.

December 7, 1800

Death of Wilhelm Freiherr von Knyphausen in Kassel, Germany. In 1776 as a general with over 40 years of service, Knyphausen was appointed second in command to General Leopold von Heister commanding the Hessian troops fighting with the British against the colonial rebels in America. In 1777 Knyphausen assumed the command. He returned to Germany in 1782.

December 7, 1835

The opening of Germany’s first railroad between Nürnberg and Fürth. Powered by steam, this locomotive was built by Stephenson and Co. in Newcastle upon Tyne and followed along the lines of a Patentee 2-2-2. The locomotive would stay in service until 1857.

December 7, 1932

Adolf Hitler and Gregor Strasser again argued over whether Nazi Party should work with the new German Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher. Reaching no agreement, Hitler would soon purge Strasser and his supporters from the party to consolidate Hitler’s position.

December 7, 1940

Battleship Bismarck entered the Kiel Canal.

Admiral Hipper departed Kiel, Germany for an anti-shipping sortie in the Atlantic.

Orion and Komet sank the ship Vinni off Nauru; shortly after, Komet sank the ship Komata.

December 7, 1941

Erwin Rommel ordered his forces to pull back by about 10 miles toward the Gazala Line, abandoning the Tobruk objective.

Hitler published his notorious Nacht und Nebel (Night and Fog) decree which allows the Gestapo to dispose of their prisoners without a trace.

Soviet forces captured Tikhvin, Russia east of Leningrad. Soviet 30th Army attacked the German 3rd Panzer Army at Klin while Soviet 50th Army attacked the German 2nd Panzer Division near Moscow, Russia.

December 7, 1942

The British liner-turned-troopship, SS Ceramic, on her way to Australia with 378 mainly military and nursing passengers, a crew of 278, and 12 children, was torpedoed by U-515 off the Azores. Survivors took to the lifeboats but in heavy seas and a gale force wind, these soon capsize. The U-boat captain, Werner Henke, fished one man from the water for interrogation purposes and left the rest, 655 men, women, and children, to die. U-515 was eventually sunk by American warships in Apr 1944 and the crew captured. Two months later Henke, who had been responsible for sinking 26 Allied ships was shot dead in an attempt to scale the fence of his POW camp in Virginia in the United States. Refusing an order to stop demanded by alerted guards, Henke appeared to deliberately commit suicide rather than face being tried as a war criminal over the Ceramic incident. The one passenger rescued, Royal Engineer Eric Monday, survived the war.

December 7, 1944

German V-2 rocket hit Canley Road in Hackney, London, England, United Kingdom.

December 7, 1970

The Federal Republic of Germany signs a treaty with Poland recognizing the Oder-Neisse Line as a legitimat


German army forms sixth tank battalion

by DW

The German army is growing for the first time since the end of the Cold War. Germany’s defense minister said the new tank battalion will help the country meet its NATO commitments.

The German army will be strengthened with a sixth tank battalion in response to rising security concerns in Europe, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced on Thursday.

“With this, the German army will grow for the first time in decades,” von der Leyen said at a military base near the western city of Münster.

The formation of the 363rd Tank Battalion will begin in October next year, with battalion staff and the first of four companies to be stationed at the Hardheim military base south of Frankfurt.

A second company will become active in October 2021, followed by the transfer of another two companies to Hardheim from bases in the states of Bavaria and Thuringia.

More than 100 Leopard 2 tanks are currently being upgraded, some of which will join the 363rd Panzer Battalion, von der Leyen said.

The formation of the 500 soldier-strong battalion comes as Germany increases its defense spending in response to security threats from Russia and pressure from the United States to meet NATO defense budget targets.