Category Archives: Today in History

4 February in German History


The first German Pope, Gregory V, died on this date. (There had been an earlier Gothic Pope, Boniface II, who had reigned from 530-532. Gregory V was the first Pope with West Germanic origins.) Gregory V’s name was Brun von Kärnten. We are not certain of the exact date and specific location of his birth. Like his East Germanic predecessor, Boniface II, Gregory too struggled with an anti-pope who was elected by an opposing faction. Gregory V’s benefactor and protector, Emperor Otto, had the anti-pope captured and deported. Gregory V in his role of Pope had crowned Otto Emperor on May 21, 996.


Birth of Ludwig Erhard (1897-1977) in Fürth, Germany. Erhard, the “Father of the Economic Miracle”, was active in German economic redevelopment beginning as early as 1945. In 1949 he became the minister of economics during the chancellorship of Konrad Adenauer. In that position, he developed his vision of the “social market economy”. Erhard became the chancellor of West Germany in 1963.


Death of Robert Koldewey in Berlin, Germany. Koldewey was an archeologist who found the remains of the city of Babylon in southern Iraq.







Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin begin their meeting in Yalta. At that conference, they agree to the division of Germany into four zones of occupation at the end of the War.


3 February 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 (a shortened form of Sturzkampfflugzeug). Junkers died on his birthday in 1935.


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


2 February 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.


Field Marshall Paulus and 300,000 German soldiers surrender at Stalingrad in World War II and are taken prisoner.


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.


1 February in German History


Death of Augustus II (August der Starke) in Dresden, Germany. Augustus held the titles, Elector of Saxony (after 1694) and King of Poland (after 1696).


Death of Martin Rudolph von Delbrück in Berlin, Germany. He forged the Prussian free-trade policy in cooperation with Otto von Bismarck and was instrumental in convincing the southern German states to join the empire in 1870-1871.


Death of Friedrich Paulus in Dresden, East Germany. General Paulus was the field marshal who led the German forces in the siege of Stalingrad and was ultimately surrounded there and captured in 1943. This was a turning point in the war. 300,000 German soldiers were suddenly out of the war. After the war, he lived in Dresden, East Germany until his death in 1957.


American president John F. Kennedy reaffirms the commitment of the United States to guarantee the freedom of West Berlin.


31 January 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.


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


30 January in German History


Birth of Balthasar Neumann (1687-1753) in Eger, Austrian Empire (now in the Czech Republic). Neumann was the leading architect of the Baroque period in Austria and Germany. In 1711 he moved to Würzburg, Germany, to work for the Bishop/Elector. In 1719 he began work on the palace of the Bishop, a work which would continue through most of the remainder of his life and be his masterpiece. In addition to the palace, however, he found the time to build numerous churches. The Würzburg Residence is considered one of the most beautiful and well-proportioned palaces in Europe and the Basilica of the Fourteen Holy Helpers is considered by some as the crowning work of the period.



Adolf Hitler is named Chancellor by the president of the Weimar Republic, Paul von Hindenburg.


Death of Ferdinand Porsche (1875-1951) in Stuttgart, Germany. Porsche worked for the Daimler Automobile Company in Stuttgart from 1923 to 1931 and then left to form his own company. He specialized in sports cars and racing cars. At the request of Hitler, he designed a people’s car, Volkswagen in 1934. The Porsche sports car was introduced in 1950.


Death of Ernst Heinrich Heinkel in Stuttgart, Germany. Heinkel was the chief designer for the Albatros Aircraft Company in Berlin prior to World War I. After the War, he founded the Ernst Heinkel Flugzeugwerke in Warnemünde. He produced the He 70, the He 176, the He 178, the first turbojet, the He 111 and the He 162. Heinkel was tried for war crimes but released. In 1950 he founded a new company which produced bicycles and motorbikes.


29 January 1944 – Rommel demands Stronger Defenses on at Normandy Beaches

Field Marshal Rommel’s responsibilities in France, as commander Army Group B, overlapped with those of Commander-in-Chief West, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt (left).

In late 1943 Erwin Rommel had been given a job inspecting the defenses of Hitler’s ‘Atlantic Wall’, strung all along the coast of Europe from Norway down to France. The greatest likelihood was that the expected Allied invasion would come on the coast of France closest to England across the English Channel. Yet the uncertainty was great. The Allies might not land in the most obvious place – even if it was the shortest route.

By early 1944, Rommel had been given an operational role in command of troops who would resist the invasion. The German lines of command in France were not clear and would cause tension right up to the day of the invasion and beyond. Nevertheless, Rommel was responsible for energetically improving the defense structures along the coast. The emphasis was less on massive concrete gun emplacements but the smaller Widerstandsnest – WN – strong points.

Rommel on one of his tours of inspection, January 1944.

On January 29 Rommel visited WN 62 and immediately spotted the parallels with the Allied landing beach at Salerno in Italy. Gazing along the beach between Colleville and Vierville he declared, “this bay must be fortified as quickly as possible against an attempted invasion by the Allies.”

He was testy about the two Czech 76.5mm field guns he saw standing in the open on concrete platforms beneath camouflage net poles. “You have been here for three years,” he asked the uncomfortable local company commander, Hauptmann Ottermeier, “and what have you achieved?”.

Gefreiter Franz Gockel remembered that sixty paid Morrocan laborers turned up with locally pressed labor and built two new emplacements, upper and lower concrete casemates for the two 76.5mm guns in six weeks.

Rommel was constantly on the move along the coast, inspecting troops and demanding improvements to the physical defenses.

Unteroffizier Henrik Naube at WN73 farther along remembered Rommel as “a very energetic and active man; he walked very briskly and spoke rapidly.” He fired off detailed questions at their officer “about the ammunition we had in the post; how old the weapons were,” and so on. Rommel exuded impatient energy, “he was quite a short man,” Naube recalled, “but with a powerful presence.”

It was not until later that “the beach between Colleville and Vierville” was to become identified by the Allies as “Omaha Beach”. Rommel was making fateful decisions that were to have terrible consequences for many young men when the invasion did come.

Nazi propaganda made much of some the impressive structures that had been built as part of the ‘Atlantic Wall’ but they only covered a limited part of the coast.