Berlin is the capital city as well as a state of present day Germany. Berlin is also the largest city in Germany, as well its political and cultural center. Because of its division into West Berlin and East Berlin from 1949-1989, it is one of the most diverse cities in the European Union. Berlin is an important crossroad for the expanding European Union, as well as home for some of the national economic, cultural and educational institutions of Germany. The city hosts some of the most prominent universities, research facilities, theatres and museums in Europe. Berlin has also gain an international reputation for it festivals, nightlife, and contemporary architecture. The city is presently the six largest city in the European Union, with a population, as of September 2005, of 3,393,933 inhabitants. In the Hogan's Heroes series, as well as in actual history, Berlin was the capital of Nazi Germany.
Up to the end of the 12th century, the area around modern Berlin was made up mainly of small farming and fishing villages. In the 13th century, the twin towns of Berlin and Cölln were founded on the river Spree. Berlin used the name of the existing Slavic village (br'l which means "swamp"). Cölln may have been a new foundation, since its name (like Köln) represents Latin colonia = "colony".
Cölln was first mentioned in documents on October 28, 1237, Berlin in 1244. City rights were first mentioned being received by Berlin in 1251, and Cölln in 1261, each town probably receiving these rights then or earlier. In 1307, the two towns formed a trading union on political and security matters, and participated in the Hanse. The towns urban growth occured at about the same time. By 1400, Berlin and Cölln had 8,000 inhabitants total.
In 1417, Friedrich I of Brandenburg became Kurfürst of Brandenburg. Until 1918, the Hohenzollern family would rule Berlin, successively as Margraves of Brandenburg, Kings of Prussia, and Emperors of Germany. Berlin's people were unenthusiastic about the change, and revolted unsuccessfully against the monarchy in 1447. The result was the lost of many of their political and economic liberties. With Berlin now the capital of the Hohenzollerns, the city gave up its Hanseatic League free city status, while it main economic activity went from trade to the production of luxury goods for the court.
The city's population grew very quickly, leading to poverty. Jews were the usual suspects, with 100 Jews being accussed of stealing and descerating hosts in 1510. 38 of them were then burn to death and the rest expelled from Berlin, although they were later allowed back in by other Margraves. In 1540, the Protestant Reformation arrived in Berlin when Joachim II converted Brandenburg to Lutheranism and confiscated church possessions: the process is called secularization. Joachim used the money from these confiscated properties for building projects. In 1576, the town was hit by the bubonic plague which killed about 4,000 people. But the area continued to grow, having a population of around 12,000 inhabitants by 1600.
The city was hit hard by the Thirty Years' War: a third of the homes were damaged by the war, while the population shrank to 6,000. But starting in 1640, under the policies of immigration and religious tolerance of the Great Elector, Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg (1640-1688), the city grew to 20,000 inhabitants and became a significant city in Central Europe for the first time. Among those who moved into Berlin during this time were 50 Jewish families from Austria, 6,000 from a total of 15,000 French Calvinist Huguenots after Frederick William had passed the Edict of Potsdam (1685), and people from Bohemia, Poland and Salzburg. By 1700, 20 percent of Berlin's inhabitants were French and their cultural influence was important to the city.
In 1701, Friedrich III (1688-1701) had himself proclaimed Friedrich I (1701-1713), King in Prussia. (Not of Prussia, as he didn't possess all of Prussia.) He made Berlin the Kingdom's capital. His successor, Friedrich Wilhelm I, (1713-1740) turned Prussia into a military power during his reign, through his reorganization of his army. In 1709, 55,000 people lived in Berlin, of whom 5,000 served in the army. That same year, Berlin, Cölln and several other towns were incorporated under the name of Berlin, with a total population of 60,000 inhabitants.
In 1740, Friedrich II (1740-1786), better known to history as Frederick the Great, came to power. Under his role as a philosopher on the throne, Berlin became a center of the Enlightenment, the city of Immanuel Kant and Moses Mendelssohn. During the Seven Years' War, in 1760, the city was briefly occupied by the Russian army. Under his successor, Friedich Wilhelm II, the city stagnated, since Friedrich was an opponent of the Enlightenment. But during his reign the Brandenburg Gate, a modern symbol of the city, was rebuilt.
In 1806, after the destruction of the Prussian army, French armies under Napoleon Bonaparte entered the city. The Prussians, who knew that they had been defeated by not only the French, but also by their own backwardness, began to reform. Among these was that Berlin was made a self-governing entity. In 1809, the first election for the Berlin parliament were held, although only the well-to-do were allowed to vote. In the following year, Berlin University (modern Humboldt University) was founded. In 1812, Jews were allowed to participate in all occupations. In 1814, the defeat of the French lead to the end of reforms. But economically, the city was sound. With a population of about 400,000 people, Berlin was now the 4th largest city in Europe.
The city, like the rest of Europe, was affected by the Revolutions of 1848, although Friedrich Wilhelm IV was able to suppress the revolution in Prussia. Friedrich had the income requirement in Berlin raised so that only 5% of the city's population would be able to vote. This voting system would stay in place until 1918.
In 1861, Wilhelm I (1861-1888) came to the throne. There was hopes for liberalization at the start of his reign, since he appointed several liberal ministers. His appointment of Otto von Bismarck ended those hopes.
German Empire Edit
Prussia became the dominant state when Germany was unified after three major wars: the Danish-Prussian War of 1864, the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. When the German Empire was established in 1871, Wilhelm became emperor, Bismarck chancellor and Berlin the capital.
In the meantime, Berlin had become an industrial city of 800,000 inhabitants. Necessary improvements to the infrastructure were made: in 1896 the construction of the subway (U-Bahn) began and was completed in 1902. The neighborhoods around the city's center were filled with tenement blocks.
In 1914, Germany became involved in World War I. The war soon led to hunger, thanks to the Allied naval blockade. In the winter of 1916/1917 150,000 people were dependent on food aid, and strikes broke out. In 1918, as the war was coming to an end, Wilhelm II abdicated. The socialist Philipp Scheidemann at the Reichstag and communist Karl Liebknecht at the palace both proclaimed a republic. In the next several months Berlin became a battleground between the two political systems.
Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany and World War II Edit
Weimar Republic Edit
In December, 1918, the German Communist Party (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands, KPD) was founded in Berlin. In January, 1919, it tried to seize power (the Spartacist revolt). The coup failed and at the end of the month right-wing forces killed Communist leaders Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. In March, 1920, Wolfgang Kapp, founder of the right-wing German Fatherland Party (Deutsche Vaterlands-Partei), tried to bring down the government, with support from the local garrison, via a putsch. A number of government buildings were occupied (since the government had already left the city), but the putsch soon failed because of a general strike.
On October 1, 1920, "Greater Berlin" (Groß-Berlin) was created by the incorporation of several nearby towns and villages into the present city. Berlin's overall population increased from about 2 to about 4 millions inhabitants as a result.
The economic situation during the early years of the Weimar Republic was bad. Because of the large sum of reparation money that the government had to pay because of the Treaty of Versailles, and the government's printing of large amount of paper money to help pay for it, inflation was enormous. This hurt especially workers and pensioners. Things improved in 1924 thanks to new agreements made with the allies, American help and a sounder fiscal policy. The city's hayday thus began: Berlin soon became the cultural center of Europe, thanks to such people as architect Walter Gropius, physicist Albert Einstein, painter George Grosz and writers Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Tucholsky. Night life bloomed in 1920s Berlin.
In 1922, the city's railway system was electrified and tranformed into the S-Bahn, and a year later Tempelhof airport was opened. This infrastructure was needed to help feed and move the over 4 million Berliners now living in the city.
But not all was well in Berlin. Even before the 1929 crash, 450,000 people were unemployed. In that same year, Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party won its first seat in the city parliament. On July 20, 1932, the Prussian government of Otto Braun was ousted by a military coup. The Weimar Republic was nearing collapse, finally falling to pressure from the forces of both the extreme left and right. On January 30, 1933, Hitler became German Chancellor, after doing away with the Social Democrats.
Nazi Germany Edit
Berlin, although never a center of the National Socialist (Nazi) movement, became the capital of the Third Reich when Hitler became Chancellor. On February 27, 1933, the Reichstag building was set on fire. The fire gave Hitler the opportunity to set aside the constitution. The following year, Paul von Hindenburg, the German President, died in office. Hitler combined the two offices together and declared himself Führer.
Around 1933, some 160,000 Jews were living in Berlin, which was about one third of all Jews then living in Germany. A third of them were poor immigrants from Eastern Europe. Jews were persecuted from the beginning of the Third Reich. During the first week of April, 1933, Nazi officials ordered the German population to not buy at Jewish shops. During the 1936 Summer Olympic Games, the "forbidden for Jews" signs inside the city were removed so as not to alienate foreign visitors to the Games. After the brutal pogrom of Kristallnacht in 1938, thousands of the city's Jews were imprisoned in the concentration camp at nearby Sachsenhausen. By September 1, 1939, 75,000 were still living in Berlin. 50,000 were eventually sent to the concentration camps, where most were murdered. The last Jews (except for a few who were married to non-Jews) were marched to the Grunewald railway station in early 1943 and shipped in cattle cars to the death camps. Only 1200 Berlin Jews survived, mostly through hiding.
In 1936 the Summer Olympic Games were held in Berlin (though the Games were given to Germany before 1933) and used by the Nazis as a showcase for Nazi Germany. The Nazis also had plans made to rebuild Berlin as "Germania, Capital of the World", which would be done under the leadership of Albert Speer. The main reasons for these ideas was because Hitler believed that Berlin was an ugly city, as well as that it was a bastion for left-wing politics in Germany, which it still is today. These plans were shelved because of World War II.
World War II Edit
On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, starting World War II. Two days later, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany. After the conquest of Poland, with Russian help, Germany, like her opponents, spent the winter months in a period of relative inactivity, except for the buildup of the Siegfried Line defenses, now called the Phony War. That all changed in the spring, starting on April 10, 1940 with the invasions of Denmark and Norway, followed a month later by the invasions of Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and France. The invasions culminated in the removal of the BEF from Europe and the Fall of France in June.
On the night of August 25-26, during the Battle of Britain, British bombers attacked Berlin in response to an accidental German bombing of London. The bombing angered Hitler, while it embarassed Göring, as he had earlier boasted that English bombs would never reach Berlin. Hitler ordered that the Luftwaffe start bombing London in reprisal. The Luftwaffe did as ordered, giving the RAF the opportunity to recoup its losses and then counterattack the Luftwaffe, eventually ending the aerial battle in a British victory, as the German's plan for invasion, Operation Sealion, was postponed. On September 27, Germany, Italy and Japan signed the Tripartite Treaty, where each declared that they would come to the aid of the other signatories if they were attacked by a party that was not involved in either the European War or the Sino-Japanese Conflict. This was directly aimed at the United States.
The following year saw the war grew into a world-wide conflict. On February 19, 1941, German units, which would eventually form the Afrika Korps, under the command of General Erwin Rommel, were sent to Libya to help bolster the Italians after their armies in the Western Desert had been defeated by smaller British forces. Under Rommel's leadership, the Afrika Korps and Italians forces attacked the newly formed British XIII Corps in late March, forcing it all the way back to the Egyptian border, except for units that were trapped inside Tobruk. In April, German forces invaded Yugoslavia and Greece; the former in retaliation for a military supported coup that had earlier removed the government of Prince Paul, after it had signed the Tripartite Treaty with Germany, and the later because of British intervention in the Greco-Italian War, after British Commonwealth troops were sent into Greece. This was followed up, after the conquest of both countries, by an airborne assault on the island of Crete.
During the summer, before June 22, British troops defeated the forces of a pro-Axis Iraq, and with Free French troops invaded and then occupied Vichy French-controlled Syria and Lebanon. On June 22, German-led forces began Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, the largest invasion in history. The invasion began the war on the Eastern Front. After two failed British offensives, and Rommel's own failure to capture Tobruk, the newly created Eighth Army attacked the Afrika Korps during Operation Crusader, eventually forcing the Afrika Korps to start withdrawing towards Gazala on December 7. This was two days after the Russian counterattack in front of Moscow, and was on the same date as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. On December 11, Hitler declared war on the United States, putting Germany in conflict with Britain and her Empire and Commonwealth, the Soviet Union and now with the U.S.
At the beginning of 1942, the Nazi Empire was near its zenith. It controlled most of Europe and was poised for an invasion into southern Russia and the Caucasus, while Rommel's forces had performed a new counterattack, which soon forced Eighth Army back to the Gazala Line, where the two armies would spend the next several months reorganizing their forces for the next battle. At this point, Berlin was the home to the German government, the Nazi party, the German military, the Gestapo, the SA, the SS, the Todt Organisation, and the Hitler Youth, as well as being the main base for Goebbels' propaganda machine. On January 20, in the Wannsee conference, the final solution was decided upon. In the spring, after defeating a Russian counterattack near Kharkov, the German armies in Russia, with support from troops from Romania, Hungary, and Italy, began a campaign that would see the capture of Sevastopol, and fighting in Stalingrad and the Caucasus.
In June, Rommel's army defeated the Eighth Army around the Gazala Line, forcing it to retreat until it finally stopped and turn around to stop his troops at El Alamein. This would be the highpoint of German fortunes. A second attempt to break through to the Suez Canal was defeated during the Battle of Alam Halfa in late August-September. Rommel's forces then went on the defensive, and were attacked in October by the Eighth Army, now under the leadership of General Montgomery. After several days of hard fighting, Rommel's forces were in full retreat, followed by the Eight Army. Meanwhile, the German Sixth Army were fighting a house-to-house struggle with the Red Army in Stalingrad, while other German units were stalled in the Caucasus mountains. On November 8, Anglo-American forces invaded French North Africa in Operation Torch, bringing American ground troops into the European war. By the end of the year, German forces were fighting for their lives in Stalingrad, after being trapped by a Russian counteroffensive, while other units were retreating out of the Caucasus; the Afrika Corps was in full retreat across Libya, followed cautiously by the Eighth Army, and Anglo-American Army forces under General Eisenhower were battling German and Italian units in Tunisia, troops which had been sent there by Hitler not too long after the Western Allies invasion, while he also ordered the occupation of Vichy France.
In January 1943, the German Sixth Army surrendered inside Stalingrad, while Rommel's Afrika Korps reached Tunisia. Later that same month, the Eighth Army entered Tripoli, while the Soviet's Operation Saturn, a full-scale counterattack against German forces not trapped inside Stalingrad, was begun. Also that month other Russian troops conducted a short offensive which partially broke the land siege of Leningrad. The next month, the now united German and Italians troops hit the Anglo-American forces in Tunisia, hoping to defeat them before the arrival of Eighth Army. After blooding U.S. forces at Kasserine Pass, the Axis troops were finally checked and then retreated, as news arrived that Eighth Army has finally reached the Tunisian border. Rommel then attacked the Eighth Army, but was swiftly repulsed. Rommel went home the following month and was ordered by Hitler not to go back to North Africa. That same month, the Germans troops in Russia had their last major victory over the Red Army by destroying Red Army troops near Kharkov, thus stablizing the front, while at the same time creating a large salient in the German lines that was centered around Kursk.
Between March and May, the Eighth Army and the First Army alternated their attacks against the German and Italians forces still in Tunisia before the later finally surrendered on May 7. During that same period, the Allies Naval Forces won the Battle of the Atlantic as Admiral Dönitz ordered his U-boats to withdraw they had suffered heavy losses fighting against the convoy escorts in the mid-Atlantic. This defeat of the U-boats would eventually allow American troops, equipment and food stuff to reach Britain with fewer losses.
On July 4, German forces began an attack to seal off the salient around Kursk. The attacked ended in failure, especially as units were pulled out of the battle to help defend the island of Sicily after the Allies landings on July 10. Allies troops secured the island after a campaign which lasted about 36 days. The result of the invasion was the removal of Benito Mussolini as the head of the Italian government, and the beginning of peace talks between the Allies and Italy. In August, the Red Army launched their first successful Summer offensive against the German Army. This was followed by other offensives in the autumn that would start the liberation of Russian territory from German control.
In September, Italy surrender to the Allies, as the Eighth Army landed on the Italian boot. Upon hearing the new of the surrender, German forces in Italy and in Greece and Yugoslavia quickly disarmed Italian troops, while they were unable to stop Italian naval units from surrendering to the Allies. On September 9, Allied units of the U.S. Fifth Army landed at Salerno, while additional British units landed at Taranto. Fifth Army was attacked by German units in the vicinity and it was almost a month before they reached Naples. The Allies spent the next two months forcing the German back to the Gustav Line. Beginning November 18 and lasting until March, 1944 was fought the air battle of Berlin, between the RAF Bomber Command and the Luftwaffe air defenses over the cities of Germany, especially Berlin. The battle, as far as Berlin was concerned, had lead to the destruction of 6,000 acres of the city, and 450 German aircraft, while 1,047 RAF bombers were lost, with another 1,682 damaged. Berlin was also attacked during this period by bombers of the USAAF Eighth Air Force during the day, while the RAF attacked at night.
Early in 1944, the German armies in Italy turned back the American-led attacks around Monte Cassino as well as contained the landing at Anzio, while in Russia, the Red Army, during its third winter offensive, ended the siege of Leningrad. In February, in the skies over Germany, the Anglo-American strategic bombing campaign culminated in 'Big Week' and resulted in the Western Allies air forces gaining control of the skies over Europe. In France, Rommel attempts to build up German defenses along the Western French coast to prevent an Anglo-American landing, while German troops in Italy stopped two more Allied attempts to break through the Gustav Line. Russia's troops liberated the Crimea, while almost destroying a German army in a pocket. In May, Fifth and Eighth Armies were finally able to break through the Gustav Line, forcing the German armies to retreat. They were soon joined by the Anglo-American units that have broken out of Anzio. On June 4, units of the Fifth army entered Rome.
Two days later, on June 6, the Western Allies returned to North-Western Europe with the landing of airborne and land forces on the beaches of Normandy, France. The beaches were soon secured and linked together by mid-June. American forces under the command of General Bradley then moved west to cut off the Cotentin Peninsula while British and Canadians forces near Caen kept German Panzer forces occupied with several offensive operations. This ended on June 26, with the capture of the port city of Cherbourg. Meanwhile, in the East, the Red Army began its summer offensive on June 22, which led to the destruction of Army Group Centre, leaving a big gap in the German defenses on the Eastern Front, which the Red Army then exploited.
Americans troops headed south, although slowed down by the bocage, capturing the city of Saint-Lô on July 18, while Caen was finally secured by British and Canadians forces on July 7. On July 20 an attempt was made to assassinate Hitler, which failed. The purge that followed the failure lead to the execution of 5,000 people who were involved or were thought to have been involved in the plot. On July 24, American units south of Saint-Lô began Operation Cobra, which led to the breakout from Normandy. General Patton's Third Army was activated on August 1, and was soon exploiting the breakout, while other American troops stopped a German counterattack near the city of Mortain. As American and French forces landed in Southern France, Allied forces in Normandy trapped and then destroyed a large number of German troops in the Falaise pocket, leading to the Liberation of Paris on August 25.
The rest of August and early September saw the Western Allied armies sweep across most of France and Belguim, but finally being stopped by the failure of Operation Market Garden and outrunning their supply lines. In the East, the Red Army's summer campaign secured most of the Batlic States and stopped in front of Warsaw because of claimed supplies shortages. The Polish Home Army, in the meantime, had risen up against the Germans, hoping to liberate their homeland before the Red Army could take over Poland. The operartion was a failure as the Home Army leadership was either arrested by the Russians or, in the case of the Warsaw Uprising, was crushed by the Germans. In southeastern Europe, German troops exited from Greece, while Romania and Bulgaria switched sides by declaring war on Germany in August and on September 8 respectively after Russian troops had entered both countries. The Red Army also entered into Yugoslavia to help the Partisans of Marshal Tito drive out the German troops still in that country, as well as into Hungary. There was also an uprising in Slovakia which was crushed by the Germans.
In the fall, Western Allies troops slugged it out with German forces, although clearing out the Scheldt estuary of German troops to allow supplies to enter Antwerp, capturing the first piece of German territory, capturing Metz and Strasbourg and fighting a slugfest with the Germans in the Hurtgen Forest. On December 16, German forces began their Ardennes Offensive, the last major German offensive in the West. The campaign started successfully for the Germans, but ended as a disasterous defeat thanks mainly to stubborn fighting by American troops within the forest, American control of the crossroads towns of Bastogne and St. Vith, the weather clearing up around Christmastime and the 90 degree turn into the German's southern flank by the Third Army. About a month later, the Americans had pushed the Germans back almost to their original starting point, while, with the French, had also defeated the German's counteroffensive near Strasbourg.
On the Eastern Front, in January, the Soviets began their final Winter offensive. The offensive led to the capture of Warsaw and the liberation of almost the rest of the Baltic States and Yugoslavia. In the West, Allied troops went back on the offensive, first clearing out the Roer triangle, and then conducting a pincer movement that would lead British and American troops of the British 21st Army Group to the Rhine river. At the same time, American troops under Bradley chased other German troops to the Rhine, soon capturing a footholds across the river around Remagen and south of Mainz. A few days later, troops under Montgomery's command began their own crossing of the Rhine. Around the same time, after the Soviets had captured Budapest, the last German offensive of the war, Operation Frühlingserwachen, was defeated by the Red Army, followed a short time later by the withdrawl of German troops towards either Austria or Slovakia.
In April, Allied troops conducted an operation that led to the encirlement of German troops in the Ruhr Pocket, then began a campaign that would capture the rest of western Germany, up to the Elbe river, while the Russians began their campaign to capture Berlin. Inside Berlin itself, fighting took place in late April-early May, with the city defended by Army and Waffen-SS divisions, police units, youths from the Hitler Youth and Volkssturm units made up mainly of older men. After a hard battle, Berlin fell to the Russians on May 2, while Germans troops in Italy surrendered on the same day after collapsing under the weight of the Allies Spring offensive. Before either had occurred, Hitler had commited suicide on April 30, after making Admiral Dönitz his successor. The Third Reich quickly collapsed after that, surrendering to the Allies and the Russians on May 8, with the German surrender to the Russians being conducted in Berlin on May 9.
Berlin, after the war, laid in ruins, with about one fifth of all buildings destroyed, mainly because of the Western Allied air campaign, and the street fighting in April and May. The city, like Germany as a whole, was divided into four zones by the victorious Allies: United States, Soviet Union, United Kingdom and France. The city, like the country, would spend the next few years rebuilding.