Sunday, December 23, 2007

Otto Von Bismarck and the Unification of German States

When my discussion with Pascal turned into the unification of the German Nation and its emergence of the new European super power, how Otto von Bismarck played diplomacy and statesmanship surprised us.

Bismarck took advantage of his great skills in the field of diplomacy and led two wars which turned Prussia into the most powerful state among other states of the German Confederation and a major power in Europe. He ultimately made the German Nation an European super power by the unification of various states in to a single entity.

At the very early stage in his career, he opposed the unification of Germany, arguing that Prussia would lose its independence in the process. He accepted his appointment as one of Prussia's representatives at the Erfurt Parliament, an assembly of German states that met to discuss plans for union, but only in order to oppose that body's proposals more effectively. The Parliament, in any event, failed to bring about unification, for it lacked the support of the two most important German states, Prussia and Austria.

In 1852, Friedrich Wilhelm appointed Bismarck as Prussia's envoy to the Diet of the German Confederation in Frankfurt. His eight years in Frankfurt were marked by changes in his political opinions. No longer under the influence of his ultraconservative Prussian friends, Bismarck became less reactionary and more moderate. He became convinced that Prussia would have to ally itself with other German states in order to countervail Austria's growing influence. Thus, he grew more accepting of the notion of a united German nation.

Shortly after he served as the Prussian envoy in Frankfurt he had undertaken an ambassadorial position to Russia. While Bismarck was promoted, Helmuth von Moltke and Albrecht von Roon were appointed as the new Chief of Staff for the Prussian army and the Prussian Minister of War respectively and these three men over the next 12 years transformed the German Nation by unifying it into a powerful nation of Europe.

Before unification, the German Nation consisted of a multitude of principalities loosely bound together as members of the German Confederation. The Germanic Confederation of 39 states which was created from the previous 300 was under the heavy influence of Austria and its emperor as the president of the Confederation. Only portions of the territory of Austria and Prussia were included in the Confederation.

Holy Roman Empire Era War to Napoleonic Wars

In a while Pascal Sadune, the leader of the tsunami survey team joined me and my discussion with him digressed into many of the German historical events. As he did political science for his Masters degree, he had shown more interest in historical issues. His confession on the conflicts since the medieval times and major world wars showed how Germany had undergone many a destruction since historical times.

The reformation and Thirty Years War in German states from 1618 to 1648 totally ravaged the German Nation. The conflicts between Catholics and Protestants by their efforts in various states within the Holy Roman Empire to increase their power and the emperor's attempt to achieve religious and political unity of the empire caused the total devastation of the German Nation. The war resulted in a loss of something like a third of its population and large areas of the German Nation being laid waste.

Another major factor that threw the German Nation into a mess was the rivalry between Prussia and Austria for the leadership over other German states which began since 1640. After the Peace of Hubertsburg in 1763, Prussia too became equally powerful and exerted a powerful influence on German affairs.

Thereafter the Congress of Vienna, a conference between ambassadors from the major powers in Europe affected many of the German affairs.

The foundation of the Congress of Vienna was to reshape Europe's political map after the defeat of Napoleonic France in the previous spring. The Congress continued its discussions despite the ex-Emperor Napoleon I's return from exile and resumption of power in France in March 1815. The Congress's Final Act was signed nine days before his final defeat by Prussia's Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher with the help of the United Kingdom's Duke of Wellington at Waterloo on June 18, 1815.

The Congress finally reshaped entire Europe after the Napoleonic wars, with the exception of the terms of peace with France, which had already been decided a few months ago by the Treaty of Paris.

Most of the work at the Congress was performed by Great Britain, Russia, Prussia, Austria and France, the major powers of Europe at that time. The "Congress of Vienna" never actually occurred, as the Congress never met in plenary session, with most of the discussions occurring in informal sessions among the Great Powers. Most of the delegations, however, had nothing much to do at the Congress, and the host, Emperor Francis of Austria, held lavish entertainment to keep them occupied. This led to the Prince de Ligne's famous comment that "le Congres ne marche pas; il danse." (The Congress does not work; it dances.)

The Congress of Vienna was an integral part in what became known as the Conservative Order in which peace and stability were traded for liberties and civil rights. Though the Congress was frequently criticized for ignoring national and liberal impulses, and for imposing a stifling reaction on the continent, it had prevented another European general war for nearly a hundred years 1815 to1914.

Roman Expansion in Ancient France & Germania

Julius Caesar invoked the threat of Germanic attacks as one justification for his annexation of Gaul ( modern France ) to Rome.

As Rome expanded to the Rhine and Danube rivers, it incorporated many Celtic societies into the Empire.

The Germanic tribal homelands to the north and east emerged collectively in the records as Germania. The peoples of the Germania were sometimes at war with Rome, but also engaged in complex and long-term Alps relations, military alliances, and cultural exchanges with Rome as well.

The initial purpose of the Roman campaigns was to protect Trans-Alpine Gaul by controlling the area between the Rhine and the Elbe.

In 58 B.C. Julius Caesar, governor of the Roman province of Southern Gaul, conquered the remainder of Gaul, which had been free until then: Thus, for the first time, the powerful Roman Empire moved into immediate vicinity to Germania, and further expansion and colonization on part of the Germanic tribes were blocked.

Caesar defeated Germanic warlord Ariovist, who had tried to conquer Gaul himself, and pushed back the Germanic Tencterians, who had crossed the Rhine from Upper Hesse. He had a 400-meter bridge built over the Rhine in 10 days, marched to the Germanic right bank of the Rhine, showed off the power of his army, won over the Germanic Ubians as allies and forced some other tribes into peace agreements.

In 38 B.C. Augustus' general Agrippa resettled the Germanic Ubians, allied with Rome, in a new town at the left bank of the Rhine in order to protect Roman Gaul from raids by uncontrolled Germania. This was the founding of Colonia Agrippinensis, today's City of Cologne.

The wealthy country of Gaul seemed firmly and safely in the hands of the Romans. Even before the Roman conquest, the Gauls had already lived in towns, and they started to get used to living under Roman rule. But in 16 B.C. Gaul was raided by the Germanic Sugambrians, Usipians, and Tencterians. They severely defeated Roman governor Lollius and freely looted the wealthy country and then returned to their homeland with heavy booty.

Emperor Augustus had led many wars, but this was the heaviest defeat his forces had suffered so far. Though Gaul was only looted, these attacks made Rome afraid that one day it could lose Gaul, a country that by then was yielding more taxes and crop than the fabulously wealthy Egypt.

In order to avoid this danger in the long run, Germania had to be conquered - though the country itself neither offered cities, nor treasures, nor a food surplus.

Augustus moved to the Rhine border and prepared the big offensive in person. First, all the territory between the Alps and the Danube was to be conquered, and then Germania was to be attacked simultaneously from the Rhine, the Danube, and from the North Sea coast with a fleet.

As a starting point, the Romans established 50 legion camps along the Rhine and connected them by army routes (these camps turned into modern cities Xanten, Bonn and Mainz).

Along the left bank of the Rhine, a considerable Roman fleet was being built. Emperor Augustus appointed his adoptive son Drusus governor of Gaul and made him commander-in-chief of the Rhine troops - probably 5 to 6 legions, or about 50,000 men, expected to conquer Germania.

While the Romans were preparing the war against Germania from their province of Gaul, the Gauls were embittered over the Roman tax collection: Apparently several Gaullic tribes were ready to risk an uprising against the Roman rule. But Drusus fell with his horse, broke his thigh, and died of wound-fever after one month, being only 29 years old.
He had been successful, and popular with Romans, and favoured by the Emperor: It is likely he would have become Augustus' successor - instead of his uncanny brother Tiberius.

After the death of the victorious general Drusus, 33 years-old Tiberius assumed continuation of the war. In the spring of 8 B.C., he once again crossed the Rhine with a large army.

The Germanic tribes were too weakened from the continuous warfare of the last years to put up any resistance: For four years, they had been attacked every year by superior Roman armies, their settlements had been regularly burnt down, and their fields devastated. In the countless bloody battles and skirmishes during these four years, probably all tribes had lost a significant proportion of their men.

Already in the previous year, the allied tribes had been unable to prevent Drusus' army from marching through their territories. This year promised to be equally unsuccessful. It seemed better to capitulate now - and not to wait until one would be totally defeated and defenseless. Probably out of these considerations, all Germanic tribes sent envoys to the Romans, asking for peace.

In an unpopular manner that was typical to Emperor Augustus, he simply arrested all the men, and had them brought to several Roman cities as hostages and they evaded this imprisonment by resorting to suicide. Now the Romans succeeded peace treaties with most of the Germanic tribes. They accepted Roman rule, and started to pay tribute and provide troops for the Romans.

Ethnic Germans' Sufferings After World War I in the United States and Europe

German-Americans were the most visible non-Anglophone group in the US during the 18th and 19th centuries. But the hostility against these groups took place during the nineteenth century, but were largely non-systematic. The Germans' stance of anti-slavery position in the Southern United States brought about violent clashes in slave states such as Texas during the American Civil War.

The pacifist Mennonite and Amish communities attracted considerable hatred, particularly during the American Revolution and the US Civil War, when many Mennonites and possibly Amish were imprisoned or forcibly conscripted. There was a popular view that Germans did not consider themselves part of America.

Upon the outbreak of World War I, anti-German sentiment quickly reached fever pitch. Many Germans supported their (former) homeland's side in the war, in which America long remained officially neutral. The situation came to a crisis with America's entry into the war in 1917. By the time the troops returned from Europe, the German community had ceased to be a major force in American culture, or was no more perceived as German.

When in France during World War I, members of the Yale University had learned about the German song Die Wacht am Rhein and were apparently shocked to discover the fact that Yale's traditional song "Bright College Years" had been written to the "splendid tune" of Carl Wilhelm. Suddenly hating this melody, Yale Alumni sang "Bright College Years" to the tune of the Marseillaise instead, and after the war the German melody was banned for some time until it was reinstated in 1920.

In Canada, thousands of German born Canadians were interned in detention camps during World War I and World War II and subjected to forced labour. Many Ukrainians and other Eastern Europeans were also detained during the First World War as were Japanese and Italian-Canadians during the Second World War.

In Britain, Germans were demonized in the press well before the First World War, when the Kaiserliche Marine started to challenge the Royal Navy, but particularly around 1912 and during the First World War. Anti-German sentiment was so intense that the British Royal Family (which was, in fact, of German origin) was advised by the government to change its name, resulting in the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha becoming the House of Windsor. The German Shepherd dog was renamed as Alsatian. The waters that had been known as the 'German Ocean' were also renamed; the North Sea (as in German Nordsee) despite being east of the British Isles.

Germans' Sufferings

Stephan, a Saxon-Anhalt in our discussion on various Second World War issues, posed vaguely the world should know how the Allied Forces destroyed buildings and killed thousands of people ruthlessly.

There was frustration always in Germany though they apologized to the world for the massacres of Jews, Gypsies and other atrocities committed by Adolph Hitler and his Nazi Forces, the world has not so far apologized properly for the atrocities against the Germans around the world.

Germany apologized in 2004 for the colonial-era genocide, which killed 65,000 Herero people in what is now Namibia. Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Germany's development aid minister, at a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the Hereros' 1904-1907 uprising against the German rulers said: "We Germans accept our historic and moral responsibility and the guilt incurred by Germans at that time".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel shared her grievances in front of Israel's national flag during a tree-planting ceremony near the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem on January 30, 2006 and laid a wreath for the six million Jews killed in the Nazi Holocaust.

But the Germans had a general opinion of the world's resentment over the German people's sufferings.

Ethnic Germans were systematically targeted based on their ethnicity in various parts of the world. Anti-German hostilities had been developed after the major World Wars of recent past, for which the German state had been held responsible. The German populations were identified with German nationalist regimes of Kaiser Wilhelm or Nazis.

This was the case in the World War I era; persecution of Germans in the United States and in Eastern and Central Europe following end of World War II. Many victims of these persecutions did not in fact have any connection to those regimes.

In other cases, German populations had been persecuted because they were perceived as lacking proper ties to the country in which they lived. This includes the persecution of ethnic German Mennonite, Amish and Hutterite communities in the United States and of Tyrolean Germans in South Tyrol.

In the case of South Tyrol, these hostilities hit the historically German population of an Austrian territory which had been annexed by Italy after World War I. Following the rise of the Fascist movement of Mussolini, the ethnic Germans of South Tyrol faced growing persecution. Their names, and the names of the towns and places in the area, were forcibly changed to Italian.

In addition, Mussolini engaged in a vigorous campaign to resettle ethnic Italians in the region. Many Tyroleans fled to Germany during this time, and the matter of South Tyrol became a source of friction between Hitler and Mussolini.

After the end of World War II, the organised persecution of Germans in the South Tyrol largely came to an end, although ethnic strife continued for decades.

A Discussion with Bavarian, Swabian, Franconian and Saxonian students

Wolfgang Schabert was from Stuttgart and proud of his Swabian sub-culture which is dominantly in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg and the western part of Bavaria. He told the Swabians still preserve their unique culture and speak the melodious Swabian dialect among them frequently.

Jasmine, Marco, Susanne and other students were discussing range of issues relating to current Germany and Asian history. Jasmine is a Frankfurter, a highly observant student and not given to much talk.

Susanne, a Franconian came out with an interesting point on the Alsace-Lorraine area, which is currently a French territory. She said Alsace-Lorraine changed hands between Germany and France. She told most of the people there of German origin spoke these days French and their way of life was also French because of their cultural assimilation.

Katrin, a Saxonian came out with various facts about the Saxonians and their own distinct culture. Christiane Glettler, a Bavarian spoke of Bavarian history.

Bavaria has a long historical background with the Bavarii tribes who were large and powerful and emerged late in Teutonic tribal times, in what is now the Czech Republic (Bohemia). They replaced, or perhaps are simply another phase of the previous inhabitants - the Rugians. They swiftly expanded their influence southward, and occupied the area which still bears their name: Bavaria.

There is some argument as to the origins of the Bavarii. Until recently, modern day Bavarians were thought to be descendants of the Bavarii, who themselves were direct descendants of the (most probably) Celtic Boii, who settled in what is now Bavaria perhaps as much as two centuries before the birth of Christ. The Boii may in turn have also lent their name to Bohemia, an area that has at times been part of Bavaria proper.

Over the last half of the 20th century, historical and archaeological research has increasingly supported the theory that the remnants of the Celtic Boii were absorbed into the Roman Empire and later intermingled with other Germanic peoples who chose to stay (or were stationed by the Romans) in the area.

By the 6th century AD, the evidence was found for the foundation of a Bavarian Stem-duchy whose leading men were related to the ruling Frankish (and possibly Alemannic/Swabian) houses. However, there is no longer real evidence that the rulers in Bavaria belonged to a people called the Bavarii. It is in fact likely that, after the name of the region became known by the name of the early inhabitants, later inhabitants became known by the accepted geographical name.

Latin American-Germans & Their Early Migration to Brazil

Birget, a student on city planning was telling her experiences in Cuba. Her experiences in the Caribbean Island were quiet strange. While she was narrating some of her observations, my discussion with walker came to mind.

Walker had a marvelous experience in Belize and other Latin American countries with German descendant Latin Americans.

There are German descendant minorities in almost every South American and Central American countries including Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

In the eighteenth century some isolated and small groups of German immigrants came to Latin America mainly from Germany, but also from Switzerland, Austria and Russia. Though the US was the main destination for immigration in the 19th century, the immigration to Latin America also was significant for various other political and economic reasons. Ninety percent of them came to Latin America mainly for Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile.

When the first group of Germans arrived in 1824 to Sao Leopoldo, in the State of Rio Grande do Sul in the southern Brazil, after 4 months of traveling, there were 39 people, being 33 Lutherans and 6 Catholics. They found a country with a climate, vegetation and culture very different from those of Germany. Southern Brazil was a land of gauchos, the cattle herders who used, and still live, in the Pampas region of Southern Cone.

In the next decades, however, waves of Germanic immigrants arrived to many areas of the Southern Brazil. They mostly settled in rural areas called colonies. These colonies had been created by the Brazilian government, and the lands were distributed between the immigrants. They had to construct their own houses and cultivate the land.

Germans came to Brazil to work as farmers because there were many lands and job opportunities. The Brazilian government had promised large lands to attract the immigrants, where they could settle with their families and colonize the region. In fact, these lands were in the middle of big forests and the first Germans had been abandoned by the Brazilian Government. The first years were not easy. Many Germans died of tropical diseases, others left the colony to find a better life elsewhere.

In fact, the German colony of Sao Leopoldo was a disaster. Nevertheless, in the next years another wave of 8, 000 Germans arrived to Sao Leopoldo, and then the colony started to develop, and the immigrants established the town of Novo Hamburgo (New Hamburg). From Sao Leopoldo and Novo Hamburgo the German immigrants spread into other areas of Rio Grande do Sul, mainly close to spring of rivers. All the region of Vale dos Sinos has been populated by Germans.

During the 1830's and part of 1840's German immigration was interrupted due to the "War of the Farrapos" in Brazil. The immigration restarted after 1845 with the creation of new colonies. The most important ones were Blumenau in 1850 and Joinville in 1851, both in Santa Catarina state and attracted thousands of German immigrants to the region. Some of the mass influx was due to Revolutions of 1848 in the German states.

In the last third of the nineteenth century immigration to Brazil became so difficult with the "Heydtschen Reskript" (1859) and they started to migrate towards Argentina. In the 1880's and 1890's German immigration to Latin America once again increased with the thirty percenatage of the total emigration from Germany towards Latin America.

Until the end of the 19th century 122 German colonies were created in Rio Grande do Sul, and many others in Santa Catarina, Parana, Sao Paulo, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro. Germans had established the first middle-class population of Brazil, in a country divided between slaves and their masters. Germans immigrants in Brazil were the fourth largest immigrant community to settle in the country, after Portuguese, Italians and Spaniards.
German university students donate a boat and engine to an affected fisherman.

Germans university students with Dietmar Doering (centre) at Marawila beach.