German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg Resigns

Jul 10, 1917:

German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg Resigns

On July 10, 1917, Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, chancellor of Germany, resigns his position after failing to control the divided German Reichstag (government) as World War I threatened to stretch into its fourth agonizing year.

A former Prussian minister of the interior and state secretary in the Imperial German Office, Bethmann Hollweg was appointed German chancellor by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1909. Though of a relatively liberal bent, Bethmann Hollweg from the beginning strove to satisfy both the right and left extremes within the Reichstag, with varying results. His efforts to pursue diplomacy within Europe were often undermined by the strength of the German military establishment, supported by the kaiser. One outstanding example of this dynamic was Bethmann Hollweg’s unsuccessful efforts to scale back Germany’s aggressive naval build-up in the first decade of the 20th century, in accordance with negotiations he entered into with Britain. In the end, the kaiser weighed in on the side of Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, and the naval arms race continued.

Though Bethmann Hollweg personally expressed hopes of avoiding Germany’s going to war in the summer of 1914, he nonetheless played a central role in the machinations between Austria-Hungary and Germany that occurred in the wake of the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo in late June. Once the war was underway, Bethmann Hollweg struggled to make his influence felt with the kaiser and the military leaders of Germany, who effectively dictated policy from the first year of war and whose power was formally consolidated with the creation of the Third Supreme Command—effectively a military dictatorship—in August 1916. The chancellor, echoing more liberal elements within the Reichstag, including the socialists, spoke out for peace more than once and argued for limitation of Germany’s policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, actions that earned him the contempt of the military and naval command, including Von Tirpitz and Generals Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff.

The chancellor owed his final downfall, however, to his failure to manage the civil unrest within Germany, reflected in the feuding Reichstag. During the summer of 1917, as parliamentary debate raged over a proposed peace resolution, Bethmann Hollweg found himself unable to continue to balance the feuding elements of the German government, especially the majority Socialist Party—which was itself alienating its most radical leftist elements by aligning with a center-left coalition—and the conservative right, which predictably enjoyed the support of Hindenburg and Ludendorff. Having previously committed—reluctantly—to an unrestricted naval policy that had led the United States to declare war on Germany the previous April, Bethmann Hollweg was seen by the center-left, the authors of the Reichstag peace resolution, as a warmonger and by the right as a weakling for supporting the efforts to broker a peace.

Exhausted, Bethmann Hollweg rose in the Reichstag on July 9 to respond to his critics: “My position does not matter…I myself am convinced of my own limitations…I am considered weak because I seek to end the war. A leading statesman can receive support neither from the Left nor the Right in Germany.” The following day, he resigned as chancellor. He was replaced by Georg Michaelis, a relatively obscure undersecretary of state in the Finance Ministry who served for less than four months, only to be replaced by the equally unobtrusive Count Georg von Hertling, who served until the last month of the war and was, like Michaelis, basically a puppet premier subject to the authority of the kaiser and the military.

0Shares

Enigma Key Broken


Jul 9, 1941:

Enigma Key Broken

On this day in 1941, crackerjack British cryptologists break the secret code used by the German army to direct ground-to-air operations on the Eastern front.

British experts had already broken many of the Enigma codes for the Western front. Enigma was the Germans’ most sophisticated coding machine, necessary to secretly transmitting information. The Enigma machine, invented in 1919 by Hugo Koch, a Dutchman, looked like a typewriter and was originally employed for business purposes. The Germany army adapted the machine for wartime use and considered its encoding system unbreakable. They were wrong. The Brits had broken their first Enigma code as early as the German invasion of Poland and had intercepted virtually every message sent through the occupation of Holland and France. Britain nicknamed the intercepted messages Ultra.

Now, with the German invasion of Russia, the Allies needed to be able to intercept coded messages transmitted on this second, Eastern, front. The first breakthrough occurred on July 9, regarding German ground-air operations, but various keys would continue to be broken by the Brits over the next year, each conveying information of higher secrecy and priority than the next. (For example, a series of decoded messages nicknamed “Weasel” proved extremely important in anticipating German anti-aircraft and antitank strategies against the Allies.) These decoded messages were regularly passed to the Soviet High Command regarding German troop movements and planned offensives, and back to London regarding the mass murder of Russian prisoners and Jewish concentration camp victims.

0Shares

German general’s diary reveals Hitler’s plans for Russia

Jul 8, 1941:

German general’s diary reveals Hitler’s plans for Russia

On this day in 1943, upon the German army’s invasion of Pskov, 180 miles from Leningrad, Russia, the chief of the German army general staff, General Franz Halder, records in his diary Hitler’s plans for Moscow and Leningrad: “To dispose fully of their population, which otherwise we shall have to feed during the winter.”

On June 22, the Germans had launched a massive invasion of the Soviet Union, with over 3 million men. Enormous successes were enjoyed, thanks in large part to a disorganized and unsuspecting Russian army. By July 8, more than 280,000 Soviet prisoners had been taken and almost 2,600 tanks destroyed. The Axis power was already a couple of hundred miles inside Soviet territory. Stalin was in a panic, even executing generals who had failed to stave off the invaders.

Franz Halder, as chief of staff, had been keeping a diary of the day-to-day decision-making process. As Hitler became emboldened by his successes in Russia, Halder recorded that the “Fuhrer is firmly determined to level Moscow and Leningrad to the ground.” Halder also records Hitler’s underestimation of the Russian army’s numbers and the bitter infighting between factions within the military about strategy. Halder, among others, wanted to make straight for the capital, Moscow; Hitler wanted to meet up with Field Marshal Wilhelm Leeb’s army group, which was making its way toward Leningrad. The advantage Hitler had against the Soviets would not last. Winter was approaching and so was the advantage such conditions would give the Russians

0Shares

Germany gives Austria-Hungary blank check Assurance

Jul 5, 1914:

Germany gives Austria-Hungary blank check Assurance

On July 5, 1914, in Berlin, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany pledges his country’s unconditional support for whatever action Austria-Hungary chooses to take in its conflict with Serbia, a long-running rivalry thrown into crisis by the assassination, the previous June 28, of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife by a Serbian nationalist during an official visit to Sarajevo, Bosnia.

Barely a week after Franz Ferdinand’s murder, the Austrian Foreign Ministry sent an envoy, Alexander, Graf von Hoyos, to Berlin. Hoyos carried a memorandum from the office of the Austrian foreign secretary, Leopold Berchtold, expressing the need for action in the tumultuous Balkans region, as well as a personal letter to the same effect from Emperor Franz Josef to Kaiser Wilhelm. Both documents focused on the need for Austria-Hungary to establish an alliance with Bulgaria, in place of Romania—which Germany had previously favored as a possible Balkan ally—due to the latter nation’s increasing closeness with Serbia and its powerful supporter, Russia. Neither the memorandum nor the emperor’s letter specified that Austria-Hungary wanted war, but the memorandum—a new version of an earlier, less emphatic text written before Franz Ferdinand’s assassination—stressed the need for immediate action, pointed to increased Serbian and Russian aggression and stated as an objective the elimination of Serbia as “a factor of political power in the Balkans.”

Austria’s ambassador to Germany, Ladislaus Szogyeni-Marich, passed Hoyos’ two documents to the kaiser over lunch on July 5, in Potsdam. Wilhelm was outraged by Franz Ferdinand’s murder, and felt a sense of personal loss: the two had met at the archduke’s country estate just two weeks before the assassination to discuss the situation in the Balkans. Though he initially demurred and said he needed to consult the German chancellor, Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, he eventually—when pressed by the ambassador—responded with uncharacteristic decisiveness, promising Germany’s “faithful support” for Austria-Hungary in whatever action it chose to take towards Serbia, even if Russia intervened. Later that afternoon, Wilhelm assembled a crown council, attended by Bethmann Hollweg, Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann, and War Minister Erich von Falkenhayn, among others. From this meeting, a consensus emerged backing the kaiser’s decision, which Bethmann Hollweg subsequently relayed to the Austrian representatives and Hoyos triumphantly carried back to Vienna.

The kaiser’s pledge, which historians have referred to as the carte blanche or “blank check” assurance, marked a decisive moment in the chain of events leading up to the outbreak of the First World War in Europe during the summer of 1914. Without Germany’s backing, the conflict in the Balkans might have remained localized. With Germany promising to support Austria-Hungary’s punitive actions towards Serbia, even at the cost of war with Russia, whose own powerful allies included France and Great Britain, the possible Balkan War threatened to explode into a general European one.

17Shares

Update 7-5 : New Pictures Added to the Website

New pictures have been added to the pages:

  • World War 2 Generals
  • Leading Figures of Nazi Germany
  • Annexation of the Sudentenland
  • Battle of Normandy
  • German Heer (Army) Photos
  • Historic Events of German History
  • Berlin
  • Self-propelled Artillery – Hummel, Wespe & Grille
  • Battle of Stalingrad
  • Panzer II
  • Specialized Vehicles or Odd Devices and Equipment
  • Panther
  • Re-Enacting and Events

 

Enjoy!

0Shares

American colonies declare Independence

Jul 4, 1776:

American colonies declare Independence

On this day in 1776, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims the independence of a new United States of America from Great Britain and its king. The declaration came 442 days after the first shots of the American Revolution were fired at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts and marked an ideological expansion of the conflict that would eventually involve France’s intervention on behalf of the Americans.

The first major American opposition to British policy came in 1765 after Parliament passed the Stamp Act, a taxation measure designed to raise revenues for a standing British army in America. Under the banner of “no taxation without representation,” colonists convened the Stamp Act Congress in October 1765 to vocalize their opposition to the tax. With its enactment in November, most colonists called for a boycott of British goods, and some organized attacks on customhouses and homes of tax collectors.

After months of protest in the colonies, Parliament finally voted to repeal the Stamp Act in March 1766. Most colonists continued to quietly accept British rule until Parliament’s enactment of the Tea Act in 1773, a bill designed to save the faltering British East India Company by greatly lowering its tea tax and granting it a monopoly on the American tea trade. The low tax allowed the company to undercut even tea smuggled into America by Dutch traders, and many colonists viewed the act as another example of taxation tyranny.

In response, militant colonists in Massachusetts organized the “Boston Tea Party,” which saw British tea valued at some £18,000 dumped into Boston Harbor. Parliament, outraged by the Boston Tea Party and other blatant acts of destruction of British property, enacted the Coercive Acts, called the Intolerable Acts by the colonists, in 1774. The Coercive Acts closed Boston to merchant shipping, established formal British military rule in Massachusetts, made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in America and required colonists to quarter British troops.

In response, the colonists called the first Continental Congress to consider united American resistance to the British. With the other colonies watching intently, Massachusetts led the resistance to the British, forming a shadow revolutionary government and establishing militias to resist the increasing British military presence across the colony. In April 1775, Thomas Gage, the British governor of Massachusetts, ordered British troops to march to Concord, Massachusetts, where a Patriot arsenal was known to be located. On April 19, 1775, the British regulars encountered a group of American militiamen at Lexington, and the first shots of the American Revolution were fired. Initially, both the Americans and the British saw the conflict as a kind of civil war within the British empire. To King George III, it was a colonial rebellion, and to the Americans, it was a struggle for their rights as British citizens. However, Parliament remained unwilling to negotiate with the American rebels and instead hired Hessians, German mercenaries, to help the British army crush the rebellion.

In response to Britain’s continued opposition to reform, the Continental Congress began to pass measures abolishing British authority in the colonies. In January 1776, Thomas Paine published Common Sense, an influential political pamphlet that convincingly argued for American independence and sold more than 500,000 copies in just a few months. In the spring of 1776, support for independence swept the colonies, the Continental Congress called for states to form their own governments and a five-man committee was assigned to draft a declaration. The Declaration of Independence was largely the work of Virginian Thomas Jefferson. In justifying American independence, Jefferson drew generously from the political philosophy of John Locke, an advocate of natural rights, and from the work of other English theorists. The declaration features the immortal lines, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It then goes on to present a long list of grievances that provided the rationale for rebellion. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted to approve a Virginia motion calling for separation from Britain. The dramatic words of this resolution were added to the closing of the Declaration of Independence.

Two days later, on July 4, the declaration was formally adopted by 12 colonies after minor revision. New York, the 13th colony, approved it on July 19. On August 2, the declaration was signed. The American War for Independence would last for five years. Yet to come were the Patriot triumphs at Saratoga, the bitter winter at Valley Forge, the intervention of the French and the final victory at Yorktown in 1781. In 1783, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris with Britain, the United States formally became a free and independent nation.

0Shares

HSOGMH – Largest Collection of Photos and Images of German History in the World with a focus on World War II.

error: Content is protected !!