American/German Club

Frank Nechvatal

The club celebrated Weihnachten (Christmas) on December 22 with a dinner in the Horizon Room. The meal was ausgezeichnet (outstanding), once again a tip of the Hut to the Julie and her Horizon Room Staff. For the January meeting on Tuesday, January 26 we will celebrate Fasching, Fastnacht, Karnaval, the celebration that comes before the season of Lent. Lent commemorates the 40 days Jesus fasted in the desert before he went into Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Of course, this led to his arrest and sentence of death on the cross by the Romans. His death and resurrection three days later is now the Christian Celebration of Easter. Fasching is notably celebrated with people wearing costumes/masks and partying before the start of Lent. During Lent Christians typically fast or give up something in remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice in the desert and his impending death. Many celebrate by not eating meat on the Fridays during Lent as a form of fasting. Remember to come to the January meeting in costume. We will meet at 6:00 p.m. in the Lakeview Room.

As we continue our history of Germany we turn to the period at the end of the Renaissance. Here we see the coming together of the various German States under the leadership of the Prussian State. The notable leader was Frederick II “the Great” Frederick challenged the Austrian/Hungarian leader, Maria Theresa. She had established her power in the War of Austrian Succession; however, in the Silesian Wars and the Seven Years’ War, she ceded 95 percent of Silesia to Frederick. After the Peace of Hubertsburg, Austria, Prussia and Saxony, Prussia established itself as a great power and challenge Austria for a century long rivalry for leadership of the German people.

From 1807 to 1871 the smaller German States were swallowed up by Prussia; in turn, Prussia established the German Empire. In the heavily agrarian society of the various German States, land ownership became very important. The German nobles of these states controlled the localities, but also the Prussian Court. They were referred to as Junkers. By the time the German Empire was founded in 1871 the Junkers dominated the army, the navy, the bureaucracy and the royal court and generally set governmental policies. The peasants in the German States with the abolition of feudal obligations enjoyed some autonomy afforded them by the Junkers. Led by the Enlightenment they established a more efficient market-oriented rural economy. The great authors/philosophers of the Enlightenment, Johann Gottfried von Herder, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Friedrich Schiller promoted the German language and culture which in turn fostered the development of German nationalism.

Germany was united by Otto von Bismarck into the German Reich by 1871. Bismarck influenced German politics until 1890. In 1888 Wilhelm II became Kaiser (Emperor) and Germany was off and running into the 20th century.

Next month we will continue with The Age of Bismarck and the beginning of World War I.

Auf wiedersehen