German Historical Museum

The Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum) is a really awesome place!  It covers the time period from 100 BC to 1994 AD.  The layout of the museum breaks up German history into 9 different time periods:

100 BC – 1500 AD: Early Cultures and the Middle Ages
1500 – 1650: Reformation and the Thirty Years’ War
1650 – 1789: Dynastic Power and Alliances in Europe
1789 – 1871: From the French Revolution to the second German Empire
1871 – 1918: The German Empire and the First World War
1918 – 1933: Weimar Republic
1933 – 1945: NS Regime and the Second World War
1945 – 1949: Germany under Allied Occupation
1949- 1994: Divided Germany and Reunification

I will attempt to give a short overview of each of these time periods (taken straight from the brochure), complete with my own pictures!

100 BC – 1500 AD: Early Cultures and the Middle Ages
The advance of the Romans up to the Rhine and the Donau (Rivers) in the century before Christ put an end to the political and cultural self-sufficiency of the Celts and Germanic peoples in mid-Europe. Archeological finds show us that the coexistence of Romans and Germanic tribes was shaped not only by military conflicts such as the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 CE, but also increasingly by vigorous trade contacts. The Roman civilization, language and alphabet remained following the downfall of the Roman state after the 5th century and bound together later Europe. With the coronation of Charlemagne as emperor in the year 800, the empire of the Romans was transferred to the Franks. Charlemagne expanded his Frankish kingdom to the most powerful in all of Europe, unified law and administration, and set educational reforms in motion. Under the emperors emerged the “Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation”, a feudal association of numerous lands and regional authorities lasting into the 15th century. Material records of everyday life and the works of medieval art give us insight into the significance of religion and of the imperial church as well as into the hierarchically classbased society of the Middle Ages.

The Heliand, written in 6,000 alliterative verses in the Old Saxon language, depicts the life of Christ in a way familiar to the Germanic people: Christ as a hero who moves not to Jerusalem but to a castle.

 

 

Milestones noted the traveling distance in miles or, as here, in Gallic leagues (2.2 km) to the next major provincial town.  Their inscription includes the name and full title of the reigning emperor.

 

 

 

 

This thing was huge!

The first German nan natural history combines the moral and theological views of the author, taken from an allegoric reading of objects, which the compilation of the knowledge of natural history

at the time.

This collection of laws, collected in 1140, constitutes the first part of the later compiled Corpus Iuris Canonici canon law, which formed the legal basis for the secular activities of the church.

MORE PICTURES TO COME!

1500 – 1650: Reformation and the Thirty Years’ War
In the 16th century the teachings of Luther, whose distribution was aided by mechanical book-printing, were the impulse for a reform of the church that resulted in profound religious and political changes in the Empire. The three distinct confessions emerged. Political power was split into followers and opponents of the Reformation. The Religious Peace of Augsburg in 1555 brought decades of peace and encouraged the growth of urban culture in many places. Around 1600 confessional differences and political conflicts were aggravated and led to the Thirty Years’ War from 1618-1648. The Empire was the theater of this war, to whose dreadful events we have testimony not only in drawings and reports of the time but in the armor and weapons from the historical armory collection. Other European powers entered into the battles, in which the religious occasion became a background concern to the interests of power politics. Not until 1648 could the Peace of Westphalia create a new European order, which, however, was to guarantee peace for the next half-century.

 

 

1650 – 1789: Dynastic Power and Alliances in Europe

Following the end of the Thirty Years’ War, several dynasties vied for predominance in Europe, with the French kings and the Austrian Habsburgs in the lead. Louis XIV of France became the epitome of the absolute monarch and his court set the standard for courtly ceremony and for the aristocratic culture preserved in numerous buildings and luxury goods. Among the German lords a limited sovereignty emerged, marked by an adulterated form of absolutism. When the Emperor Charles VI died without an heir in 1740, the political struggle between Austria and Prussia escalated. Besides Prussia, Bavaria and France also objected to the Habsburg Maria Theresa succeeding to the imperial throne. This unleashed the War of the Austrian Succession, from which five great European powers emerged and now struggled for their various interests to prevail: England and France fought over their overseas territories, Austria and Prussia fought a war from 1756-1763 over Silesia. Following this Seven Years’ War the expansionist drive of Austria, Prussia and Russia was directed against Poland.

1789 – 1871: From the French Revolution to the second German Empire
The repercussions of the French Revolution spread rapidly throughout Europe and led to wars in the course of which the Holy Roman Empire collapsed in 1806. Under Napoleon, France’s power extended far into mid-Europe by 1812. In Prussia and the new states of the Rhine Confederation political and social reforms were carried out. After the Napoleonic Wars against the French emperor, the political and territorial changes in Germany could no longer be undone. The Congress of Vienna of 1814/15 re-established the old monarchies and brought a stabile and peaceful order. In the states of the German Confederation the first industrial centers could arise and traffic and trade routes were built up. The massive repression of liberal-democratic and nationalist movements led to the revolutions of 1848/49, as a result of which the first German National Assembly was convened in Frankfurt and worked out a constitution. Yet in Germany the attempt to establish a democratic state of constitutional law was unsuccessful. In 1871, after three wars against Austria, Denmark and France under Prussian hegemony, the German Empire was founded as a nation-state.
1871 – 1918: The German Empire and the First World War
The German Empire arose in 1871 as a federation of states under a constitutional monarchy. The Prussian king Wilhelm I, as German emperor, became the head of the state. In his function as chancellor, Bismarck tried to secure the Empire’s position through a policy of European alliances. Domestically his aim was to stabilize the new empire with an authoritarian government and in securing societal equilibrium. In 1888 Wilhelm II became emperor. Initially he supported social and political reforms, but rejected the idea of democratizing the Empire. Around the turn of the century an economic upsurge enabled entrepreneurs and those of the educated middle class to rise to a new elite, but it also concealed great conflicts in domestic politics. Attempts to incorporate the working class and social democracy into the state failed due to the resistance of agrarian, industrial and middleclass interests. Nationalism, the economic drive for expansion and social unrest produced a climate in which the peace was increasingly felt to be a limitation. In 1914 the oppositions within power politics in Europe along with the arms race led to the First World War. Hopes for a rapid victory were demolished in the barrages of trench warfare. In 1918 Germany surrendered and Wilhelm II had to abdicate the throne. The war unleashed new republican forces in Germany and in other parts of Europe.
1918 – 1933: Weimar Republic
From out of the revolutionary shocks of the First World War, the German empire emerged in 1918 as a parliamentary democracy. The occupation of the Ruhr Valley, the inflation and the grievous economic crisis threatened the coherence of the young Weimar Republic. In the tattered landscape of the political parties, contrary visions of the political form of Germany stood opposed to one another. Left-wing and right-wing extremists fought the democratic order. During a brief phase of relative stability, the economy recovered and avant-garde forms of art and culture came into bloom. The frequently alternating government coalitions failed to find effective means to fight social destitution and unemployment. In the world depression, the situation worsened. The political radicalization of the population made possible the rise of the NSDAP to a party of the masses with the strongest faction in parliament.
1933 – 1945: NS Regime and the Second World War
After Hitler was named chancellor in 1933, the National Socialists rapidly established a dictatorship that was to prepare Germany for war through a radical reformation of state and society. The NS state brutally persecuted its political opponents. Jews and others that didn’t fit the racist ideals of National Socialism were ostracized from society. With the German attack on Poland in 1939 began the Second World War. By 1941 the German army occupied Denmark, Norway, the Benelux countries, France, Greece, Yugoslavia and parts of northern Africa. In the attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, special task forces followed in the wake of the army and murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews, Sinti and Romany as well as Soviet functionaries. As of 1942 the NS state deployed all means to organize the genocide of the European Jews in concentration camps and implement it by the millions. A war coalition led by the Soviet Union, Great Britain and the USA opposed itself to the German offensive war. After landing on Normandy in 1944, the Allied troops drove back the German army on all fronts and advanced towards Germany. The Red Army began the attack on Berlin in April, 1945. Germany’s unconditional surrender on the 8th of May, 1945 ended the NS reign and the Second World War in Europe, which had claimed over 50 million human lives.

1945 – 1949: Germany under Allied Occupation
After the capitulation the Allies divided the country, devastated in large areas, into four occupied zones. The regions east of the Oder and the Neisse were subject to Polish or Soviet administration. More than 12 million refugees and exiled streamed out of the East into the zones administrated by the victorious powers. The daily struggle for survival taxed the energy and pushed any coming to terms with the Nazi regime and its crimes into the background. Initially the Germans only had very limited possibilities of shaping their political future. A common policy towards Germany among the Allied powers collapsed with the emergence of the “Cold War“. The Soviet Union pressed ahead with the restructuring of their zone according to Soviet-Socialist notions, whereas the Western Allies tried to integrate their occupied zones into the confederation of Western democracies.

1949- 1994: Divided Germany and Reunification
As of 1949 there existed two German states. The German Democratic Republic established a Socialist one-party regime according to the Soviet model. West Germany arose under the influence of the Western Allies as a democratic, federalist state. The border between the two states consisted at first of barbed wire, and as of 1961 of the wall built by the GDR. The “Cold War” of the super-powers determined foreign policy. In the 1970s, however, a process of détente began, carried forward by the world powers. West Germany remained committed to democratic principles despite economic crises and domestic policy conflicts, whereas by the end of the 80s high state debts, an inflexible planned economy and rigid power structures accelerated the downfall of the GDR regime. The opening of the Berlin Wall sealed the end of the GDR state and paved the way for its accession to West Germany on October 3, 1990, with the consent of the Allies in the Two Plus Four Agreement. Berlin became the capital and seat of government.

 

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