3 October – Today in German History


  • Adolf Hitler stated in a speech that Russia was “broken” and they “would never rise again.”


  • On October 3, 1942, German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun’s brainchild, the V-2 missile, is fired successfully from Peenemunde, an island off Germany’s Baltic coast. It traveled 118 miles. It proved extraordinarily deadly in the war and was the precursor to the Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) of the postwar era.

German scientists, led by von Braun, had been working on the development of these long-range missiles since the 1930s. Three trial launches had already failed; the fourth in the series, known as A-4, finally saw the V-2, a 12-ton rocket capable of carrying a one-ton warhead, successfully launched.

The V-2 was unique in several ways. First, it was virtually impossible to intercept. Upon launching, the missile rises six miles vertically. Then proceeds on an arced course, cutting off its own fuel according to the range desired. The missile then tips over and falls on its target at a speed of almost 4,000 mph. It hits with such force that the missile burrows itself into the ground several feet before exploding. It had the potential of flying a distance of 200 miles, and the launch pads were portable, making them impossible to detect before firing.

The first launches as part of an offensive did not occur until September 6, 1944, when two missiles were fired at Paris. On September 8, two more were fired at England, which would be followed by more than 1,100 more during the next six months. More than 2,700 Brits died because of the rocket attacks.

After the war, both the United States and the Soviet Union captured samples of the rockets for reproduction, the scientists responsible for their creation.


  • During World War II, U.S. troops broke through the Siegfried Line.


East and West Germany reunite after 45 years
  • Less than one year after the destruction of the Berlin Wall, East, and West Germany come together on what is known as Unity Day.

Since 1945, when Soviet forces occupied eastern Germany, and the United States and other Allied forces occupied the western half of the nation at the close of World War II, divided Germany had come to serve as one of the most enduring symbols of the Cold War.

Some of the most dramatic episodes of the Cold War took place there. The Berlin Blockade from June 1948 to May 1949, during which the Soviet Union blocked all ground travel into West Berlin, and the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 were perhaps the most famous. With the gradual waning of Soviet power in the late 1980s, the Communist Party in East Germany began to lose its grip on power. Tens of thousands of East Germans began to flee the nation, and by late 1989 the Berlin Wall started to come down.

Shortly thereafter, talks between East and West German officials, joined by officials from the United States, Great Britain, France, and the USSR, began to explore the possibility of reunification. Two months following reunification, all-German elections took place and Helmut Kohl became the first chancellor of the reunified Germany. Although this action came more than a year before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, for many observers the reunification of Germany effectively marked the end of the Cold War.


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28 September – Today in German WWI & WWII History


  • On September 28, 1918, in an incident that would go down in the lore of World War I history although the details of the event are still unclear. Private Henry Tandey, a British soldier serving near the French village of Marcoing, reportedly encounters a wounded German soldier and declines to shoot him ad sparing the life of 29-year-old Lance Corporal Adolf Hitler.

As Tandey later told sources, during the final moments of battle, as the German troops were in retreat, a wounded German soldier entered Tandey’s line of fire. “I took aim but couldn’t shoot a wounded man,” Tandey remembered, “so I let him go.” The German soldier nodded in thanks and disappeared.

Hitler during WWI.

Though sources do not exist to prove the exact whereabouts of Adolf Hitler on that day in 1918, an intriguing link emerged to suggest that he was in fact the soldier Tandey spared. A photograph that appeared in London newspapers of Tandey carrying a wounded soldier at Ypres in 1914 was later portrayed on canvas in a painting by the Italian artist Fortunino Matania glorifying the Allied war effort. As the story goes, when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain traveled to Germany in 1938 to engage Hitler in a last-ditch effort to avoid another war in Europe, he was taken by the Führer to his new country retreat in Bavaria. There, Hitler showed Chamberlain his copy of the Matania painting, commenting, “That’s the man who nearly shot me.”

The authenticity of the Tandey-Hitler encounter remains in dispute, though evidence does suggest that Hitler had a reproduction of the Matania painting as early as 1937 which is a strange acquisition for a man who had been furious and devastated by the German defeat at Allied hands in the Great War. Twice decorated as a soldier, Hitler was temporarily blinded by a mustard gas attack in Belgium in October 1918 and was in a military hospital in Pacewalk, Germany, when he received news of the German surrender. The experiences of battle from glory and ultimately disillusion and despondency would color the rest of Hitler’s life and career. He admitted in 1941, after leading his country into another devastating conflict: “When I returned from the War, I brought back home with me my experiences at the front; out of them I built my National Socialist community.”


  • During World War II, Germany and the Soviet Union agreed upon a plan on the division of Poland.

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