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“My Name Will Stand Forever” 1933 – 1938

adolf hitler

ABOVE THE German town of Berchtesgaden, in a large, imposing house in the mountains, a man stared out a window. It was a fine February day in the winter of 1938 and the snow-covered peaks of the Alps glistened in the clear air. The man at the window seemed not to see the peaceful mountains. Berchtesgaden was close to the border of Austria and he seemed to see beyond the mountains into the heart of Austria itself — an Austria filled with marching troops‚ cheering crowds and the swastika banners of the Nazis. Staring at this vision, he smiled — for he was Adolf Hitler and he had many reasons to be pleased with himself. He remembered how he had arrived in Austria after World War I. He had been a vagabond — unknown, shabby, dirty, penniless. Now he was dictator of Germany, the ruler of millions of people. He had come to power in 1933 and looking back on the five years that had passed since then, he smiled again. Things had gone well for him — very well indeed. From the beginning, Hitler had been determined to smash the Versailles Treaty, which Germany had been forced to accept after its defeat in World War I. The treaty compelled Germany to disarm and give up some of its territory. Quietly and secretly, Hitler had begun to re-arm and when word of this reached the Allies, the nations which had fought Germany, they did nothing. Among the territories that had been taken away from Germany was the Saar region. Small, but important because of its coal mines, the Saar had been governed by a commission of the League of Nations. In 1935, under the conditions of the Versailles Treaty, the League held a plebiscite, a vote of the people living …

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Parceling Out a Continent 1841-1910

africa

Africa, the second largest continent in the world, extends south from the Mediterranean Sea four thousand miles. Along its north coast is a strip of land known to Europeans since ancient times. South of this strip lie mountains and deserts. The Sahara, an empty “sea” of sand and rock, crosses the continent in a belt several hundreds of miles wide; it is hot and dry, vast and rugged. Europeans knew very little about the lands beyond it. Almost all they knew of Africa were the coasts, which they could reach by sea. As late as the time of the American Civil War and the unification of Italy and Germany, Africa was still largely unknown – the “Dark Continent.” The people of North Africa were white — descendants of the early inhabitants and of Arabs who had conquered them for Islam. South of the Sahara lay “Black Africa” a land of Negroes. The Negroes were divided into thousands of tribes, but had no organized states. They spoke hundreds of languages, but had no writing. They lived by hunting, raising cattle and simple farming and worshiped tribal gods. All of Black Africa was Negro except for a few places on the Indian Ocean where Arab traders had settled and the southernmost part of the continent, where some European families had settled. STANLEY AND LIVINGSTON In the sixteenth century, Portuguese and Spanish ships had begun to stop at points on the Atlantic shore of Africa to trade. Later, traders came from other European countries. The names they gave to stretches of shoreland — the Gold Coast, the Ivory Coast, the Slave Coast — show what they came for. The Europeans found that the sultry coastland was ridden with disease. So many of them died there that West Africa came to be known as …

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The Fall of the Bastille 1789

bastille

On Sunday, July 12, 1789, the people of Paris learned that Necker, the popular minister, had suddenly been dismissed by the king. They could only guess at the king’s reasons for wanting Necker out of the way. It seemed clear enough that Necker’s dismissal had something to do with the recent arrival of Swiss and German troops in the Paris area. It was said that more troops were arriving every day. Why? People were almost afraid to guess at the answer. The news of Necker spread quickly and angry crowds gathered in the streets. A young man named Desmoulins leaped to the top of the table and warned the people to arm themselves. He probably repeated many of the ugly rumours then circulating in Paris. The king was bringing in troops to destroy the Assembly at Versailles. The king had entered into a plot with the nobles to smash the revolution, massacre the patriots in Paris and become once again the absolute ruler of France. Desmoulins drew a pistol and waved it above his head. “There is not a moment to lose,” he shouted. “We have only one course of action to rush to arms. . .” A growing crowd followed him through the streets. “Aux armes!” they cried. “To arms!” A regiment of the king’s German cavalry tried to scatter them and some of the people were slightly wounded. They screamed that they were being massacred and the crowd became a maddened mob. People armed themselves with sticks and pipes. They broke into the shops of gunsmiths to snatch up weapons. French soldiers left their barracks and joined them. The German cavalry, forced to retreat, hurriedly withdrew from the city. The police had also disappeared, leaving Paris in the hands of the rioters. Under more normal conditions, the armed …

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The Counter Reformation 1521-1648

loyola

THE BLAST OF MUSKETS and the clang of swords against armour echoed across the plains of Italy, Spain and the Lowlands. Warriors of the king of France were clashing with the Spanish infantry and German knights of the Holy Roman Emperor. Control of the nations of Europe was the prize both nations sought. They schemed and plotted; their generals planned campaigns; their soldiers marched out to victory or defeat. Victories counted for little, for much of Europe’s future was decided by another, different kind of war – a war for the minds and souls of men. Village squares and royal council chambers, churches, university lecture halls and schoolrooms were the battlefields of this new war. Its troops were armies of preachers whose battle-songs were hymns and whose weapons were Bibles and textbooks. Reformers were on the march, Lutherans and Calvinists. Their thundering voices shook the domes of ancient cathedrals and wakened bishops dozing in their palaces. The Reformers won no easy victories‚ however. The forces of the pope were also on the march and the strongholds of the Church were well defended. Frightened by rebellions in Germany and Switzerland, the Catholic leaders in Rome took further measures to strengthen the Church. “There is but one way to silence the Protestants’ complaints‚” a learned churchman told the pope “and that is not to deserve them.” Lowly monks and the powerful cardinals alike began to talk of reform, of hard work, of honesty and godliness. Gradually there were deeds to match the talk — a great Church house-cleaning that one day would be called the Counter-Reformation. Meanwhile, in Europe’s towns and colleges‚ new soldiers of the Church appeared. Their uniforms were the simple black robes of monks, but their minds were as keen as dueling swords — much too sharp and smooth, …

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