Category Archives: Today in History

6 February – Today in German History


  • Birth of Eva Braun, 1912-1945,  in Munich, Germany. Braun was the companion, and in the end, the wife of Adolf Hitler. She met Hitler originally on business, in that she worked in the studio of Hitler’s photographer. Braun and Hitler were married on April 29, 1945, and committed suicide the next day.


  • Just three days after U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s speech of February 3, 1917, in which he broke diplomatic relations with Germany and warned that war would follow if American interests at sea were again assaulted. A German u-boat torpedoes and sinks the Anchor Line passenger steamer California off the Irish coast.


  • Adolf Hitler opened the Fourth Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.


  • Erich Honecker becomes a member of the Politburo in East Germany (DDR).

3 February – Today in German History


  • Birth of Friedrich Freiherr von Seydlitz (1721-1773) in Kalkar, Germany. Von Seydlitz was the commander who built the Prussian cavalry of Friedrich II into the best in Europe.


  • Birth of Hugo Junkers (1859-1935) in Rheydt, Germany. Junkers founded an aircraft factory in Dessau in 1910. His J-1 Blechesel of 1915 was the world’s first functional all-metal airplane. The Junkers company supplied Germany in World War II with the Ju 52 troop transport and the Ju 87 Stuka which is a shortened form of Sturzkampfflugzeug. Junkers died on his birthday in 1935.


  • The United States breaks off diplomatic relations with Germany in reaction to the German resumption of unlimited submarine warfare. President Wilson had just been reelected with the campaign slogan, “He kept us out of war!”.


  • In Vichy, France, German authorities used force to restore Pierre Laval to office.

2 Feb 1945 – End of the Soviet Vistula–Oder Offensive

Delegation of German officers walking for negotiations before the capitulation of Festung Breslau.

After reaching the Vistula River Aug 1944, Soviet troops had slowed its advance, building up men and supplies in eastern Poland before launching the next offensive. On 12 Jan 1945, a large invasion force of 163 divisions with a total of 2,203,000 men, 4,529 tanks, 2,513 self-propelled guns, and 13,763 artillery pieces, supported by about 5,000 aircraft, was launched for the Vistula-Oder Offensive. The attacking force consisted of Marshal Georgi Zhukov’s 1st Byelorussian Front and Marshal Ivan Konev’s 1st Ukrainian Front. Facing the attack was Colonel-General Josef Harpe’s German Army Group A, consisted of three armies being the 4th Panzer Army, 9th Army, and 17th Army totaling 400,000 men, 1,150 tanks, and 4,100 artillery pieces.

The first attack in the offensive took place at 0435 hours on 12 Jan with Soviet 1st Ukrainian Front forces attacking out of the bridgehead at Baranów, Poland against positions held by troops of XLVIII Panzer Corps of German 4th Panzer Army; after a heavy artillery barrage, infantry followed up with probing attacks. At 0830 hours, the Soviet 1st Byelorussian Front launched its attack from the Magnuszew Bridgehead by the Soviet 5th Shock Army and 8th Guards Army and Pulawy Bridgehead by the Soviet 33rd Army and 69th Army following a heavy artillery barrage; as they opened gaps in German 9th Army’s defenses, tanks of Soviet 1st Guards Tank Army and 2nd Guards Tank Army were sent in to penetrate into the German rear, moving toward Lódz and Sochaczew, respectively. At 1000 hours, the second round of artillery barrage began at Baranów, and four hours later the Soviet 1st Ukrainian Front launched a second attack, this time overwhelming the German lines and creating several gaps. On the same day, the Soviet 1st Army, 61st Polish Army, and 47th Army encircled Warsaw, Poland.

Over the course of the following few days, many German defensive positions in Eastern Poland became cut off, but by the time Soviet forces reached Kielce they had suffered serious casualties and needed time to regroup. On 14 Jan, Soviet 1st Ukrainian Front crossed the Nida River and moved toward Radomsko and the Warta River in Central Poland.

On 15 Jan, Adolf Hitler intervened with tactical decisions and ordered the Panzerkorps Grossdeutschland to counterattack from East Prussia, Germany toward the positions held by the German 4th Panzer Army. This counterattack was launched against the advice of German General Heinz Guderian. The counterattack was repulsed by troops of the 1st Byelorussian Front forcing the attackers to withdraw to the southwest.

On the evening of 16 January, German troops evacuated from Kielce. On the following day, 17 January, Warsaw was captured by Soviet troops. Hitler was furious at the abandonment of Warsaw after he had given the order to fight until the last man. He issued the order for the arrest of Colonel Bogislaw von Bonin, head of the Operations Branch of the German Army High Command and for the sacking of both General Smilo von Lüttwitz of German 9th Army to be replaced by General Theodor Busse and General Walter Fries of XXXXVI Panzer Corps.

On 17 Jan, Konev received orders for his Soviet 1st Ukrainian Front to march toward Breslau, Germany (now called Wroclaw, Poland) and capture the industrial region of Upper Silesia. En route, his troops captured Kraków unopposed on 19 January.

On 18 January, Soviet troops reached Lódz, Poland, capturing the city on the following day.

On 20 January, Colonel General Ferdinand Schörner replaced Colonel-General Josef Harpe as the head of German Army Group A. On 22 January, after four days of confusion and racing to prevent envelopment, the remnants of the German 4th Panzer Army successfully fled to the Oder River; by that time, Soviet forces had already reached the river at a few spots also, establishing several bridgeheads. On 25 Jan, Posen, Germany (now Poznan, Poland) became the target of a new Soviet 1st Guards Tank Army and 8th Guards Army attack, starting a long period of brutal street fighting in that city. Also on 25 Jan, General Friedrich Schulz of German 17th Army requested permission for his remaining 100,000 men to withdraw from Katowice, Poland, which was refused; he requested the same again on the following day, finally receiving authorization from Schörner. On 27 Jan, Soviet troops reached the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. German 17th Army completed its evacuation of Katowice in the night of 27 Jan, and troops of the Soviet 1st Ukrainian Front entered the city on 28 Jan. On 31 Jan, Soviet troops captured Kienitz, Germany on the west bank of the Oder River.

After the offensive had generally stalled since 31 Jan, on 2 Feb 1945 the Soviet Stavka declared the operation complete. Although Zhukov realized that Berlin, only 70 kilometers to the west, was only lightly defended at this point, he was a supporter of the Stavka’s decision to stop the offensive, for that the parallel offensives in East Prussia and Pomerania should be brought to a conclusion to secure the northern flank. General Vasily Chuikov was among the chief proponents of continuing the offensive, but this group would not get their wish. According to Soviet history, the offensive cost the Soviet forces 43,476 killed and 150,715 wounded, while killing 150,000 and capturing 70,000; these statistics should be taken in the consideration that Soviet reports at the time tended to under-estimate Soviet casualties and over-estimate that of the Germans.


2 February – Today in German History


  • Otto I was crowned as Augustus (Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire) in Rome by Pope John XII. The empire was founded by Karl der Große (Charlemagne) had been divided after his death. Otto now refounded the empire which would remain intact until 1806.


  • Birth of Wenzel Anton von Kaunitz in Vienna, Austria. Kaunitz was a minister of Austria and a powerful influence on the Empress, Maria Theresa. A long-time foe of Prussia, he was able to shift European alliances and, for a time, virtually isolate Prussia.


  • On January 31, Von Paulus surrendered German forces in the southern sector, and on February 2 the remaining German troops surrendered. Only 90,000 German soldiers were still alive, and of these only 5,000 troops would survive the Soviet prisoner-of-war camps and make it back to Germany.


  • Hanging of Karl Friedrich Goerdeler, 1884-1945, in Berlin, Germany. Goerdeler was a leader in the German resistance during WWII. He was deeply involved in the assassination attempt on Hitler. He would likely have taken control of the government had the attempt succeeded.

31 January – Today in German History


  • Birth of Friedrich Ludwig Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen in Ingelfingen, Germany. Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen was a general of the Prussian army in the battle against Napoleon at Jena in 1806 in which the Prussian army was crushed and Prussia became a dependency of France.


  • Germany, concerned about American public opinion, had taken a policy on May 10, 1916, limiting submarine warfare. On January 31, 1917, however, unrestricted submarine warfare was reinstated. The U.S. broke diplomatic relations on February 3.


  • Death of Ulrich Wille in Meilen, Switzerland (born in Hamburg, Germany). Wille was a Swiss army officer. After a study of Prussian army organization, he reformed the Swiss army along those lines. He published a new cavalry code in 1892. During World War I, he was commander in chief of the Swiss army.



  • German General von Paulus surrenders at Stalingrad in World War II.


June 6, 1944 is considered one of the most pivotal moments in modern history. Better known by its codename, D-Day, the Allied assault on five beaches in Nazi-occupied France was the result of over a year of planning and jockeying amongst various military and political leaders. On January 31, 1944, several key leaders agreed to postpone the invasion over concerns that there would not be enough ships available by May, finally setting the stage for the June invasion.


  • The U.S. under the leadership of Wernher von Braun and his team launches its first satellite, Explorer 1.

29 December – Today in German History


  • On January 29, 1915, in the Argonne region of France, German Lieutenant Erwin Rommel leads his company in the daring capture of four French block-houses, the structures used on the front to house artillery positions. Rommel crept through the French wire first and then called for the rest of his company to follow him. When they hung back after he had repeatedly shouted his orders, Rommel crawled back, threatening to shoot the commander of his lead platoon if the other men did not follow him. The company finally advanced, capturing the block-houses and successfully combating an initial French counter-attack before they were surrounded, subjected to heavy fire and forced to withdraw. Rommel was awarded the Iron Cross, First Class, for his bravery in the Argonne; he was the first officer of his regiment to be so honored. Where Rommel is, there is the front, became a popular slogan within his regiment. The bravery and ingenuity he displayed throughout the Great War, even in light of the eventual German defeat, led to Rommel’s promotion through the ranks of the army in the post-war years.