Civilizations: Germany

Present day Germany is the result of the early Carolingian empire, AD 843. Early Germany consisted of numerous states, which were held together loosely by the feudal association. However, as French aggressors marched on the German land during the 19th century, Germany came together as one, and formed a confederacy that lasted until 1817. This acted as a stepping-stone for Prince Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck, in the years to come. Otto von Bismarck helped to transform and unify the German states, forging the mighty German Empire though a combination of wars and politics.

During Bismarck’s reign of power, Germany experienced increased industrialization, booming economy, and inspired citizens with a strong sense of German nationalism. Bismarck had upset the balance of European power, and with this new, powerful, and united Germany, tensions between nations escalated. Furthering this, the Germans had formed a “Triple Alliance” between themselves, Italy, and Austria-Hungry. Troubled by this Triple Alliance, France, Britain, and Russia, formed the “Triple Entente.” Europe was divided, and with this, came World War I. The initial German invasion of France was pushed back, and for years, Germany fought an uphill battle… The war officially ended with Germany’s surrender in 1918.

With the end of World War I, Germany was forced to pay war reparations under the Versailles Treaty, and the German economy was in shambles. In the mid 1930s, a great depression hit Versailles Treaty… With this, came a need for a leader who would make Germany powerful once more. Adolph Hitler and his Nazi regime rose to the occasion, purging Germany of political opposition, denouncing the disarmament clauses of the Treaty of Versailles, and creating the Axis consisting of Germany, Japan, and Italy. The German aggressors took Austria in March 1938 unopposed. This set the Axis war machine in motion, and Czechoslovakia, 6 months later. Germany continued on their path of conquest during the morning of September 1, 1939. The German Blitzkrieg on Poland had begun, and with this, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany. With Poland’s defeat, the key French strategy was to hold their heavily fortified Maginot line. However, with the German Blitzkrieg, overwhelmed and confused French forces retreated. German forces marched on France on June 14, and within days, an armistice was signed which gave Germany control of northern France and the Atlantic coast.

With the fall of France and the threat of German invasion growing, Prime Minister Winston Churchill issued the following statement: "We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills. We shall never surrender and even if, which I do not for the moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, will carry on the struggle until in God's good time the New World with all its power and might, sets forth to the liberation and rescue of the Old."

The Germans attempted to starve the British, by using their mighty U-Boats to sink all convoys en route to Great Britain. While the naval warfare ensued, the Battle of Britain took place over the skies of Britain and the waters of the English Channel. However, with the overwhelmingly effective newly device: RADAR, and the dauntless RAF, the British prevailed; leaving Nazi Germany defeated in the Battle of Britain. Discouraged and outraged at this loss, the German High Command launched a campaign into the Balkans and North Africa, with lieutenant general Erwin Rommel at the head of the Afrika Korps in northern Africa. He proved himself as a brilliant strategist in desert warfare, driving the British from Libya to El ‘Alamein. Hitler had also made plans for invasion of the USSR. The assault was initially successful, but the Germans loss at Stalingrad forced the Germans to halt their advance into the Soviet Union.

On June 6, 1944, D-Day, Allied troops landed on the beachheads of Normandy, and without Rommel’s requested reinforcements, allied troops could not be repelled. This was the first of the successful allied advances in Europe, and led to the suicide of Hitler on April 30, 1945. Germany surrendered on May 7, ending the war in Europe.

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