conventional & traditionalGerman historyHistory

Timeline: German history conventional & traditional

IN 742-814

Charlemagne (Charlemagne) “Roman and Roman-German Emperor” brings the “Franconian Empire” to its greatest extent; In 800 he was crowned “Roman Emperor” in Rome.

IN 843

Division of the Frankish Empire along the Rhine, into East Franconia and West Franconia. West Franconia becomes France; West Franconia becomes France; East Franconia becomes the “Holy empire of the German Nation”.

(962-1806) “Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation”. Otto I becomes the first Holy Roman Emperor in 962; Franz II gives up the title in 1806, which has become completely meaningless.

(1096-1270) The Crusades, in which the Holy Roman Empire played a major role.

IN 1122

Worms Concordat: a compromise between the German Emperor and the Pope on how bishops are appointed.

(1152-1190) Friedrich I Barbarossa: German emperor, many conflicts with the popes; drowned in Asia Minor during the Third Crusade in 1190.

(1212-1250) Frederick II: grandson of Frederick Barbarossa. After his death, the German emperors finally lost the power struggle with the popes, and the empire increasingly fell apart/split into fragments into smaller kingdoms and secular and spiritual principalities.

(1226-1283) The Teutonic Order (a religious order of knights) conquers Prussia. The Teutonic Order continued to expand the German Empire eastward until its defeat by Poland-Lithuania in 1410.

(1500-1558) Charles V: the last powerful Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire; fought against Luther and the Reformation. For him, Germany was just a side country of his Burgundian/Spanish empire.

IN 1517

Martin Luther’s (1483-1546) ninety 5 theses against indulgences “indulgences sold (often corruptly) by the church to shorten sinners’ time in Purgatory”.

IN 1534

Luther completes his translation of the Bible into German.

IN 1555

The Augsburg religious peace: Charles V loses the fight against Protestantism and has to allow the German princes to decide between Protestantism and Catholicism for their areas. Most Germans choose Protestantism, partly in response to the Roman Church’s exploitation of Germans.

(1618-1648)The Thirty Years’ War. The war began as a religious war and ended as a power struggle between the Catholic Habsburg emperors (who controlled Spain, Austria, Bohemia, large parts of Italy and the southern Netherlands, and fought for their traditional power in Germany with the help of the Catholic German princes) and the Protestant ones French and Swedes (with the help of the Protestant German princes). Results of the war:

  • freedom of religion
  • Destruction and impoverishment of the German lands
  • France becomes the foremost powerful country in Europe
  • The Holy Roman Empire becomes a meaningless formality


In the wars against the Turks and in the War of the Spanish Succession, Austria becomes a major European power.


The Seven Years’ War. Prussia under Frederick the Great (1712-1786) becomes a major European power and from now on increasingly wins the fight against Austria for power and influence in Germany.


The three partitions of Poland. Prussia, Republic of Austria and Russia divide state among themselves.

IN 1789

The French Revolution, against which Prussia and Austria vigorously fight.

IN 1815

2nd Peace of Paris after Napoleon’s defeat. With the fight against the French Revolution and then against Napoleon, the Holy Roman Empire officially ends, and at the same time the end of the small German states begins. There is now a loose “German Confederation” with a Bundestag in Frankfurt (whose President was chosen by Austria) but with little power. Prussia and Austria successfully suppress the emerging democratic aspirations.

IN 1848

March Revolution. In Austria the Conservative Minister Graf Metternich is dismissed and in the German Bund a liberal national assembly is democratically elected, but Austria and Prussia prevent the reforms

IN 1861

Wilhelm I becomes King of Prussia, and in 1862 appoints Otto von Bismarck Prime Minister.


Bismarck declares the German Confederation extinguished, and Prussia wins the resulting war with Austria at the Battle of Königgrätz, effectively gaining control of the German lands in the new “North German Confederation”.
(1870-1) Franco-Prussian War. The following happens:
12/10/1870: the North German Confederation becomes the “German Empire”
January 18, 1871: Wilhelm I is proclaimed Emperor of Germany
In the Peace of Frankfurt, Alsace-Lorraine goes to the German Reich
The German Empire is officially a constitutional monarchy with a democratically elected parliament, but power rests with the Kaiser and the Chancellor he appoints

IN 1875

Foundation of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) from the merger of the Social Democratic Workers’ Party and the General German Workers’ Association.

IN 1878

Bismarck’s “Socialist Law” bans (after two attempted assassination attempts [=attempted assassinations] against Kaiser Wilhelm) all socialist and communist associations, but not the SPD. The law was extended until 1890 without preventing the SPD from becoming ever more powerful.

(1883/1889) Bismarck establishes social insurance. But that does little to ease the tension between his conservative government and the working class.

IN 1888

Year of the Three Emperors: Wilhelm I and his successor Friedrich III die in the same year. The 29-year-old Wilhelm II becomes Kaiser.

IN 1890

Wilhelm II dismisses Bismarck and begins his imperialist policy

(1904, 1907) England, France and Russia form an “Entente” against the “Triple Alliance” of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy.

(1914-1918) World War I, triggered by the assassination of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. In the Treaty of Versailles, Germany loses its colonies, as well as Alsace-Lorraine to France and Posen and the “Polish Corridor” to Poland; Germany must pay substantial reparations and demilitarize the Rhineland. (Still a more generous peace treaty than the Peace of Brest-Litovsk that Germany had signed with Russia in March 1918. Russia was to cede much land to Germany, recognize the independence of Poland, Georgia and Ukraine, and make substantial reparations pay to Germany.)

(11/9/1918) The November Revolution deposes Kaiser Wilhelm without any significant resistance from the military, which had realized that the war was lost and knew that the Entente only wanted to negotiate [=negotiate] with a democratic government. The war ended on November 11, 1918. The power struggle between moderate [=moderate] and radical left forces is relatively easy for the moderate forces to win, thanks to the support of the military.

(1/15/1919) Soldiers of the Freikorps (Berlin troops consisting of ex-frontline soldiers) kidnap and brutally murder the leaders of the KPD (Communist Party of Germany), founded in late 1918, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. They are later acquitted in court. These murders and the events of the November Revolution establish the disastrous distrust of the radical and moderate left in one another in the Weimar Republic.

(1919-1933) The Weimar Republic: Germany’s first democratic constitution.

(1919-1923) “The years of crisis”: inflation, attempted coups [=attempted coups]. Hitler also attempted a putsch in 1923, but stayed only eight months in prison, where he wrote Mein Kampf.

(1922-1929) “The Golden Twenties”: the Weimar Republic is doing relatively well.

(1930-1933) Great Depression. Unemployment and political chaos in Germany.

(1/30/1933) Adolf Hitler becomes Reich Chancellor in a democratic way. His party, the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers’ Party ==> the name “Nazi”) is the largest party in parliament, but has only 33% of the seats. The constitution is suspended and the Nazis establish their totalitarian power.

IN 1933

Establishment of the first concentration camps, for example in Dachau: first for political opponents (communists, socialists), and from 1935 more and more for Jews, gypsies [=gypsies] and homosexuals. 1937 Buchenwald, after 1939 Bergen-Belsen, Auschwitz, Maidanek, Theresienstadt. In March 1944 there were 20 concentration camps.

(9/15/1935) With the “Nuremberg Laws” the Nazis officially begin their anti-Semitic program. The Jews lose civil equality; “Mixed marriages” of Jews and non-Jews are forbidden. Every year these laws become more extreme.

IN 1936

Olympic Games in Berlin. Jesse Owens wins 4 gold medals against Hitler’s racist theories.

March 1938 “Annexation” of Austria to Hitler’s Germany.

9./10.11.1938 Reichskristallnacht: organized pogroms against Jewish synagogues, businesses and families throughout Germany. 

(1939-1945) Second world war. Begins September 1, 1939 with Hitler’s attack on Poland.

from 1941

The “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”: 6 million Jews are systematically killed in concentration camps and extermination camps. It’s officially kept secret, but all Germans can imagine what’s going to happen.

(1942-3) The “White Rose”: resistance movement of students at the University of Munich.

IN 1944

Unsuccessful assassination attempt on Hitler by Graf Stauffenberg. About 4000 conspirators are killed.

(4/30/1945) Hitler (and Eva Braun) committed suicide.

(5/8/1945) Unconditional surrender of Germany; end of the Third Reich. Division of Germany and Austria (and Berlin and Vienna) into four occupation zones.

(1945-6) Nuremberg trials of 24 Nazi war criminals; there are some death sentences.1948-1949Berlin Airlift: The Soviet blockade of Berlin in protest against the Marshall Plan begins on June 18, 1948. The airlift was decided 4 days later and ended on September 30, 1949, after the end of the blockade on May 12, 1949.

IN 1949

Foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR): effective division of Germany.

(1949-1963) Konrad Adenauer (CDU) is the first German Chancellor, originally with only one vote majority in the Bundestag. Under his government, the “economic miracle” begins with the help of the Marshall Plan. 

IN 1951

Along with France, Italy and the Benelux countries, Germany is a founding member of the Montanunion (European Coal and Steel Community), the first institution on the way to becoming an EU member. In 1957 these six countries founded the European Economic Community (EEC) and EURATOM. In 1967 these three institutions were merged into the European Community, which became the European Union in 1993.

(6/17/1953) Popular uprising in the GDR against increased work standards with lower wages. Soviet troops crush the uprising. 

IN 1955

Germany joins NATO. 12-13.8.1961 The GDR begins building the Berlin Wall.

1/22/1963 Adenauer and de Gaulle sign the agreement on Franco-German cooperation in Paris.

6/26/1963 Kennedy’s famous speech in front of the Schoeneberg town hall in Berlin (“I am a Berliner”). 

IN 1970

The “Eastern Treaties”. In treaties with the USSR and Poland, Germany officially recognizes the new borders of 1945. Chancellor Willy Brandt received the Nobel Peace Prize for this in 1971, but the treaties are controversial in Germany. 

(1971-1989) Erich Honecker is head of state and party leader of the GDR and the SED (Socialist Unity Party of Germany)

(12/21/1972) The “Basic Treaty” regulates relations between the FRG and the GDR.

(1974-1982) Chancellor Helmut Schmidt

(1974-1992) Federal Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher

(1981-1989) “Prayers for peace” by opposition groups in the GDR, in which non-Christians also take part. The peace prayers begin in 1981, are revived in 1985, and from March 1988 begin to lead to occasional demonstrations against the SED government.

(1982-1998) Chancellor Helmut Kohl

(1985-1991) Mikhail Gorbachev head of state of the Soviet Union

9/4/1989 After a “peace prayer” in the Nikolaikirche in Leipzig, 1,000 people come together for the first “Monday Demo” in Leipzig, which takes place every Monday thereafter. Despite brutal police actions, on 25.9. already 8,000 people, on October 9th there are 70,000, under the motto “We are the people”, and the police do nothing more about it. After the fall of the wall, this motto became the motto of reunification: “We are one people”. On October 16, there are 120,000 demonstrators, on October 23, 300,000. Honecker resigns. On November 4, there are between 500,000 and 1,000,000 demonstrators.


 9/11/1989 Hungary opens its borders to Austria. Thousands of GDR citizens flee to the West this way.

9/30/1989 More than 3,000 GDR citizens who had fled to the FRG embassies in Warsaw and Prague are allowed to travel to the FRG. The journey of the closed train through the GDR becomes a big event.

10/18/1989 SED leader Erich Honecker resigns

11/9/1989 Opening of the Berlin Wall due to a misunderstanding in the GDR bureaucracy. New border crossings are created; Within four days, around 4 million GDR citizens visit West Berlin or the Federal Republic with just their ID cards. Everyone gets the DM 100 “welcome money” that is traditional when visiting the West, and many use it to go shopping. Only 20,000 of them want to move permanently to Germany.

2/8/1990 Official dissolution of the Stasi (Ministry for State Security, the “secret police” of the GDR)

3/18/1990 First free elections in the GDR. Lothar de Maizière (CDU) becomes prime minister.

7/1/1990 Monetary, economic and social union of FRG and GDR => The DM replaces the GDR mark.

10/3/1990 The GDR joins the European country. There ar currently sixteen federal states: five “new” and eleven “old”. The new capital is Berlin.

(1991-1993) Anti-foreigner violence is on the rise. Particularly brutal incidents occur in Hoyerswerda (1991), Rostock, Solingen and Moelln (1992). But there are also demonstrations against right-wing violence: up to 450,000 people form chains of lights in various cities.

IN 1998

Helmut Kohl loses the election to Gerhard Schröder. The main reason is the continuing record unemployment of over 4 million people–a rate of about 10% in the old federal states and about 20% in the new federal states.

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