The Antecedents of Frederick the Great by Levi Bookin: Brandenburg, a minor state in Germany, became Prussia. What was different about Prussia that, in turn, it became the German Empire, and, for example Bavaria did not? The answer lies with their branch of the Hohenzollern family, and eventually, their chancellor, Bismarck.
To put the history of the Hohenzollerns in perspective, however, it is necessary to understand who they were, and that they did not simply sprout in the sandy soil of Prussia. Prussia was for centuries an obscure state, often divided between Poland and Lithuania, and at one time ruled by the Teutonic Knights. The Hohenzollerns, however, are first noted as counts of Zollern, near Nuremberg, in Southern Germany. By a judicious marriage, they became Burgraves of Nuremberg, and for the services of Frederick 6th of Nuremberg to the Holy Roman Emperor, he was awarded the Margraviate of Brandenburg and its Electorate, up in the North. Berlin is the principal city of Brandenburg.
During the Reformation, the Master of the Teutonic Knights, the Duke of Prussia, cast aside his habit and adopted the reformed religion. By another judicious marriage, Prussia fell into the hands of the Hohenzollerns of Brandenburg, and the combination became Brandenburg-Prussia, later known simply as Prussia.
Frederick-William, the Great Elector, inherited a territory devastated by the Thirty Years War. During his reign, he had to contend with the most powerful ruler of his time, Louis XIV of France. In the words of Frederick the Great, "They both ended as great men, as they had lived."
Frederick the Great does not hold his grandfather, Frederick 1st however, in high regard. It seems that he was impelled to imitate the glory of Louis XIV, without the power to back it. His important achievement was to persuade the Emperor to allow him to use the title "King in Prussia." The second king of the Hohenzollern line, Frederick William 1st was known as the "Soldier King." He improved the army he had inherited, and which he passed on to Frederick the Great. In spite of his father's misgivings about him, Frederick put his army to use, in particular against the Holy Roman Empire.
Further Reading: Memoirs of the House of Brandenburg by Frederick the Great, A New Translation by Levi Bookin.
From Of Arms and Men, by Robert O'Connell: For Frederick William was a sick man, tortured by a metabolic derangement which manifested itself in a variety of bodily ills and a terrifying temper. And more and more it was vented at his son and heir, the lad who came to be known as Frederick the Great. Young Frederick had been a frail, polite little boy whose first toys were lead soldiers and whose first lessons were the evolutions of Prussian drill. Yet as he moved into adolescence, Frederick developed a passion for France, music, literature, and a clique of effete carousers—all to the disapproval of his thoroughly Germanic father, who took to throwing fits at the very sight of his son. Finally, after Frederick attempted to flee the country, Frederick William decided to break the boy. He accused him of treason, imprisoned him, and then, before his very eyes, had his presumed lover, Katte, beheaded. Yet nothing seemed to hurt Frederick as much as kicking him out of the army and removing him from command of his boy regiment. The Prince repented, masking his aesthetic tendencies and subjecting himself to his father's Spartan regimen aimed at making him a capable ruler, Prussian style. Frederick was an apt student.September 2, 1730: Frederick and Katte are arrested and imprisoned in Kuestrin. (Reiners)
Levi Bookin: Frederick himself was also court-martialed, but the court declared that it was not competent to try the case. It is not clear whether, as claimed by Voltaire, Frederick William intended to have his son executed. However, fortunately for Frederick, the Emperor Charles 6th claimed that a prince had to be tried by the Imperial Diet. Frederick was then imprisoned in a fortress during 1731 and banned from court until early 1732.November 19, 1730: Frederick is granted a royal pardon and released. (Crompton, Mitford)
From The Outline of History, by H. G. Wells: Among the chief practitioners of Grand Monarchy outside France we may note first the Prussian kings, Frederick William I (1713-40) and his son and successor, Frederick II, Frederick the Great (1740-86). The story of the slow rise of the Hohenzollern family, which ruled the kingdom of Prussia, from inconspicuous beginnings...is a story of luck and violence, of bold claims and sudden betrayals. ....
By the eighteenth century the Prussian kingdom was important enough to threaten the Empire; it had a strong, well-drilled army, and its king was an attentive and worthy student of Machiavelli. Frederick the Great perfected his Versailles at Potsdam. There the park of Sans Souci, with its fountains, avenues, statuary, aped its model; there, also, was the New Palace, a vast brick building erected at enormous expense, the Orangery in the Italian style, with a collection of pictures, a Marble Palace, and so on. Frederick carried culture to the pitch of authorship, and corresponded with and entertained Voltaire, to their mutual exasperation.
From The Columbia History of the World, edited by J. A. Garraty and Peter Gay: Frederick I and Frederick the Great dominated the Prussian nobility, built large, well-trained armies, the best in Europe, and reduced the proud aristocrats to the status of bureaucrats in the service of their war machine. Prussia in 1750 resembled France in 1675, the heyday of the great Sun King. Territorial expansion, governmental efficiency, and a mercantilist economy were common to both. Frederick the Great, however, was a different man from Louis XIV. He stifled initiative among his ministers and generals and developed among the Prussian hierarchy a blind, total obedience that persisted long after his death. In seventeenth-century France, courtiers were obsequious but independent-minded; in eighteenth-century Germany they were equally obsequious, and if they incurred the royal disfavor they could be dismissed or even imprisoned by royal fiat. The almost military discipline of the Prussian bureaucracy made for efficiency; thus monarchal absolutism weighed more heavily by far on Prussian society than Louis XIV's absolutism had ever weighed on French society.
Hundreds of inspectors checked up on royal officials and submitted confidential reports to Berlin; junior bureaucrats were encouraged to report on the failings of their superiors to the king himself. Overlapping jurisdictions and wasteful rivalries, so common to the French bureaucracy, were virtually nonexistent. The price of such efficiency, of course, was the stifling of initiative and the imposition upon society of a militaristic, almost Spartan type of government. Frenchmen had surmounted absolutism by finding ways around it, especially where taxes and the judicial process were concerned. Prussians merely submitted. The rapidity of unification and the emasculation of the nobility left Prussian society without any group strong enough to resist the Crown. Frederick was his own foreign minister, treasurer, tax expert, chief justice, minister of the interior, and commander in chief. No earlier sovereign anywhere in Europe so thoroughly dominated the machinery of government. He was Europe's closest approximation to an Oriental despot.
From History of Frederick II of Prussia, by Thomas Carlyle: Frederick was not buried at Sans-Souci, in the Tomb which he had built for himself; why not, nobody clearly says. By his own express will, there was no embalming. Two Regiment-surgeons washed the Corpse, decently prepared it for interment: At 8 that same evening, Frederick’s Body, dressed in the uniform of the First Battalion of Guards, and laid in its coffin, was borne to Potsdam, in a hearse of eight horses, twelve Non-commissioned Officers of the Guard escorting. All Potsdam was in the streets; the Soldiers, of their own accord, formed rank, and followed the hearse; many a rugged face unable to restrain tears: for the rest, universal silence as of midnight, nothing audible among the people but here and there a sob, and the murmur, 'ACH, DER GUTE KOENIG!' All next day, the Body lay in state in the Palace; thousands crowding, from Berlin and the other environs, to see that face for the last time. Wasted, worn; but beautiful in death, with the thin gray hair parted into locks, and slightly powdered. And at 8 in the evening [Friday, 18th], he was borne to the Garnison-Kirche of Potsdam; and laid beside his father, in the vault behind the Pulpit there.December 2, 1804: Napoleon crowns himself Emperor of the French Empire in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.
From Napoleon and Hitler: A Comparative Biography, by Desmond Seward: Admittedly Hitler's hero, in so far as he ever had one, was Frederick the Great, as creator of the Preussensgeist—that terrifyingly dynamic compound of militarism and State service, of discipline and precision. In the Fuehrer’s eyes, Napoleon never achieved anything like such distinction. Yet while he sometimes looked to the old King for inspiration he must have been keenly aware how many of his problems had been those of the man whom he described to Himmler as 'that unique military genius, the Corsican Napoleon.' ...
(After occupying Berlin) Napoleon took the opportunity to visit the tomb of a soldier whom he genuinely admired—Frederick the Great. Indeed, to some extent he had modeled himself on the grim old King, whose example inspired his plain gray uniform and small unbraided hat. He sent back to Paris not only 340 Prussian standards to hang up in the Invalides but Frederick's sword which he took from the tomb at Potsdam.
(Der Alte Fritz was even more a hero of the Fuehrer. "Despite all Napoleon's genius, Frederick the Great was the most outstanding man of the eighteenth century," he declared. "When seeking to find a solution for essential problems concerning the conduct of affairs of State, he refrained from all illogicality"—presumably a reference to the King's notorious lack of scruple. In particular, Hitler considered him the Emperor's superior because of the latter's nepotism: "When Napoleon set the interests of his family clique above all, Frederick the Great looked around him for men, and, at need, trained them himself.")
From Prussian Reserve Infantry: 1813-15, by Robert Mantle: The whole campaign was epitomised by the surrender of Hohenlohe's army at Prenzla, where Murat was able to bluff a vastly superior force into laying down its arms. Twenty-nine thousand men under L'Estocq managed to link up with the Russian army in East Prussia, but by the end of November 1806, the majority of the Prussian Army had surrendered and Frederick the Great's sword and sash were on their way to Les Invalides as trophies. The basic material of the old army, the private soldier, was sound, but internal weaknesses had meant that the Prussian army was out-thought as well as outfought...March 11, 1812: Citizenship is granted to Prussian Jews.
From The Kaiser: Warlord of the Second Reich, by Alan Palmer: But in Berlin...the Prussian capital could not shake off the legacy of Frederick the Great. William I himself always behaved as though soldiering was the true vocation of the House of Hohenzollern and, though Frederick had died in 1786 disillusioned and far from popular, dynastic sentiment perpetrated his achievements and he was remembered as the victor of Rossbach and Leuthen. When Treitschke began his history of nineteenth-century Germany, he declared, "The twelve campaigns of the Frederician Era have left their mark forever on the martial spirit of the Prussian people and the Prussian army"; and William I insisted that the first presentation of colors after his ascension should take place at a ceremony beside Frederick's tomb in Potsdam. Nor was this romanticized past so very remote. "Those who knew him are still alive," the Crown Princess reminded her mother early in 1863; and added that she herself was acquainted with two of them.March 20, 1890: Bismarck resigns at Wilhelm II's insistence at age 75. He is succeeded as Chancellor of Germany and Minister-President of Prussia by Leo von Caprivi. (Taylor IV)
From The Kaiser and His Times, by Michael Balfour: All Bismarck’s resources were deployed (in retaining office); he even asked Empress Frederick to use her influence with her son on his behalf. But the wizard had lost his magic; his spells were powerless because they were exerted on people who did not respect them, and he who had so signally disregarded Kant’s command to use people as ends in themselves had too small a stock of loyalty to draw on. As Lord Salisbury told Queen Victoria: 'The very qualities which Bismarck fostered in the Emperor in order to strengthen himself when the Emperor Frederick should come to the throne have been the qualities by which he has been overthrown.' The Empress, with what must have been a mixture of pity and triumph, told him that her influence with her son could not save him for he himself had destroyed it.July 27, 1900: After the murder of the German ambassador in China, a regiment of German troops is sent off to China with a rousing speech by the Kaiser:
From The Arms of Krupp, by William Manchester: The Krupp Centenary opened in the early summer of 1912 with the distribution of 14 million marks among the firms workmen, and then it started to become lavish. It was the Reich's equivalent of Victoria's Diamond Jubilee of 1897—an orgy of spending, chauvinism, self-congratulation, and misty nostalgia. The anniversary, wrote the Nation, was being celebrated in Germany "much as if (Krupp) were a branch of the government, as in a sense it is." Newspapers devoted thousands of columns to the parallels between the family and the Volk. Magazines explained how the rise of Krupp's industrial empire was inextricably bound up with that of the Reich. Editorial writers reminded their readers that a hundred years earlier, when Alfred Krupp wriggled free of his mother's womb, Germany was just beginning to throw off the Napoleonic yoke and feel the stirrings which were to flower at Versailles in 1871, and in every little town square the local Buergermeister took his stance beneath the Franco-Prussian victory statue to salute the enterprise which, in the words of one of them, "is today, as it has been for decades past, the greatest maker of war materials the world over." In Essen, the celebrations were scheduled to cover three days. Wilhelm arrived from Berlin wearing the uniform of the All-Highest Warlord—des allerhoechsten Kreigsherrn, as he liked to style himself these days.September 9, 1912: Kaiser Wilhelm speaks at the Krupp Centenary celebration in Essen:
From Europe: 1914-1939, by F. Lee. Burns and Mary Elisabeth Seldon: These ententes, alliances, and counter-alliances, though defensive in their original character, eventually created an atmosphere favorable to war. Naturally, the number of "danger spots" which might embroil all Europe in a serious international conflict was increased as states became more and more entangled in the plans and aspirations of their allies. At the same time, believing that if attacked they would have the active assistance of their allies, states became less willing to make concessions in times of diplomatic clashes. Finally, as the international situation became more tense, members of each alliance became reluctant to concede anything to members of the other lest their action be interpreted as weakness and their group suffer a loss of prestige.
Accompanying the rise of entangling alliances, and undoubtedly accelerated by the fear engendered by these alliances, was the growth of huge national armaments. After the Austro-Prussian and Franco-German wars, the system of conscription which seemed to have enabled Prussia to gain an easy victory in each case was rapidly adopted by the other states on the Continent. One after another the national armies were reorganized on the Prussian model. Year by year the number of young men called to serve in the various national armies was increased until Europe came to be a veritable armed camp. All this was done in the name of peace, for it was argued that the best insurance against war was national preparedness. Many taxpayers complained, however, of the ever-increasing tax burden laid upon them for armaments which some pacifists maintained would not assure peace but might rather provoke war.
From Mein Kampf, Volume 1, Chapter 10: It is clear that the worth and significance of the monarchical principle cannot rest in the person of the monarch alone, unless Heaven decrees that the crown should be set on the head of a brilliant hero like Frederick the Great, or a sagacious person like William I. This may happen once in several centuries, but hardly oftener than that. The ideal of the monarchy takes precedence of the person of the monarch, inasmuch as the meaning of the institution must lie in the institution itself. Thus the monarchy may be reckoned in the category of those whose duty it is to serve. He, too, is but a wheel in this machine and as such he is obliged to do his duty towards it. He has to adapt himself for the fulfillment of high aims. If, therefore, there were no significance attached to the idea itself and everything merely centered around the ‘sacred’ person, then it would never be possible to depose a ruler who has shown himself to be an imbecile.March 10, 1927: Prussia lifts its public speaking ban on Hitler.
From Zweites Buch, (1928) by Adolf Hitler: No, the German Folk is today attacked by a pack of booty hungry enemies from within and without. The continuation of this state of affairs is our death. We must seize every possibility of breaking it, even if its result may a thousand times likewise have its weaknesses or objectionable sides as such. And every such possibility must therefore be fought out with the utmost energy. The success of the battle of Leuthen was uncertain, but it was necessary to fight it. Frederick the Great did not win because he went toward the enemy with only half his strength, but because he compensated for the uncertainty of success by the abundance of his genius, the boldness and determination of his troop dispositions, and the derring do of his regiments in battle. I'm afraid, indeed, that I will never be understood by my bourgeois critics, at least as long as success does not prove to them the soundness of our action. Here the man of the Folk has a better counselor. He sets the assurance of his instinct and the faith of his heart in place of the sophistry of our intellectuals. ....
After the victorious war of 1870-1871, the German Folk achieved a position of infinite esteem in Europe. Thanks to the success of Bismarckian statesmanship and Prussian German military accomplishments, a great number of German States, which heretofore had been only loosely linked, and which, indeed, had not seldom in history faced each other as enemies, were brought together in one Reich. A province of the old German Reich, lost 170 years before, permanently annexed at that time by France after a brief predatory war, came back to the mother country. Numerically thereby the greatest part of the German nation, at least in Europe, was amalgamated in a unitary State structure. It was cause for concern that ultimately this State structure included ...million(s of) Poles and... Alsatians and Lorrainers become Frenchmen. This did not correspond either with the idea of a National or of a Volkish State. ....
In Europe, Germany should have had to counter the two power standard on land to the two power standard on the seas. And just as England with an iron determination saw a reason for going to war at every violation of this standard, so did Germany have to prevent every attempt in Europe to outflank her army through France and Russia by a military decision, even one which had to be precipitated, and for which more than one favorable opportunity had presented itself. Even here this bourgeoisie misused one of Bismarck's utterances in a most senseless way. Bismarck's assertion that he did not intend to wage preventive war was joyfully seized upon by all weak, lazy and also irresponsible armchair politicians as a cover for the disastrous consequences of their anything goes policy. Only thereby they completely forgot that all three wars which Bismarck had conducted were wars which, at least according to the conceptions of these anti preventive war peace philosophers, could have been avoided.
Consider, for example, what insults by Napoleon III in 1870 would have to be heaped on the German Republic of today for it to decide to request M. Benedetti to moderate his tone somewhat. Neither Napoleon nor the whole French Folk would ever have been able to incite the German Republic of today to a Sedan: or does one believe that if Bismarck had not wanted a decision, the war of 1866 could not have been prevented? Now here it can be objected that this was a question of wars with clearly set aims, and not of a kind whose only ground lies in the fear of an attack by the enemy. But in reality this is only word splitting. Because Bismarck was convinced that the struggle with Austria was inevitable, he prepared himself for it and carried it through when the occasion suited Prussia.
The reform of the French army by Marshal Niel made clearly perceptible the intention to give French policy and French chauvinism a forceful weapon for an attack against Germany. As a matter of fact, it would doubtless have been possible for Bismarck to bring the conflict to some kind of a peaceful solution in 1870. But it was more expedient for him to fight it out to the finish at a time when the French army organization had not yet arrived at its full efficiency. Moreover, all these interpretations of Bismarckian utterances suffer from one thing, namely, they confuse Bismarck the diplomat with a republican parliamentarian. How Bismarck himself judged such utterances is best shown in his reply to a questioner before the outbreak of the Prussian Austrian War, who would have very much liked to know whether Bismarck really intended to attack Austria, whereupon the latter, with an impervious expression, replied: No, I have no intention of attacking Austria, but neither would I have the intention of telling them, in case I wanted to attack her.
Moreover, the hardest war that had ever been fought by Prussia was a preventive war. When Frederick the Great had received final knowledge of the intention of his old enemies, through a scribbler soul, he did not wait until the others attacked, on the grounds of a fundamental rejection of a preventive war, but went immediately over to the attack himself.
From The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William L. Shirer: In the delirious days of the annual rallies of the Nazi Party at Nuremberg at the beginning of September, I used to be accosted by a swarm of hawkers selling a picture postcard on which were shown the portraits of Frederick the Great, Bismarck, Hindenberg and Hitler. The inscription read: 'What the King conquered, the Prince formed, the Field Marshal defended, the Soldier saved and unified.' Thus Hitler, the soldier, was portrayed not only as the savior and unifier of Germany but as the successor of these celebrated figures who had made the country great. The implication of the continuity of German history, culminating in Hitler's rule, was not lost upon the multitude. The very expression 'the Third Reich' also served to strengthen this concept. The First Reich had been the medieval Holy Roman Empire; the Second Reich had been that which was formed by Bismarck in 1871 after Prussia's defeat of France. Both had added glory to the German name. The Weimar Republic, as Nazi propaganda had it, had dragged that fair name in the mud. The Third Reich restored it, just as Hitler had promised. Hitler's Germany, then, was depicted as a logical development from all that had gone before - or at least all that had been glorious.July 20, 1932: Reich Chancellor Franz von Papen issues an emergency decree which dismisses the cabinet of the Free State of Prussia under Otto Braun. Papen appoints himself Reich Commissioner for Prussia and takes control of the government. (IMT)
From The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William L. Shirer: But Hitler wished, at this stage, to make a grandiose gesture to the aged Field Marshall and to the Army and the nationalist conservatives as well, and in doing so link his rowdy, revolutionary regime with Hindenberg's venerable name and with all the past military glories of Prussia. To accomplish this he and Goebbels, who on March 13 became Minister of Propaganda, conceived a master stroke. Hitler would open the new Reichstag, which he was about to destroy, in the Garrison Church at Potsdam, the great shrine of Prussianism, which aroused in so many Germans memories of imperial glories and grandeur, for here lay buried the bones of Frederick the Great, here the Hohenzollern kings had worshiped, here Hindenberg had first come in 1866 on a pilgrimage when he returned as a young Guards officer from the Austro-Prussian War, a war which had given Germany its first unification.
The date chosen for the ceremonial opening of the first Reichstag of the Third Reich, March 21, was significant too, for it fell on the anniversary of the day on which Bismarck had opened the first Reichstag of the Second Reich in 1871. As the old field marshals, generals and admirals from imperial times gathered in their resplendent uniforms in the Garrison Church, led by the former Crown Prince and Field Marshal von Mackensen in the imposing dress and headgear of the Death's Head Hussars, the shades of Frederick the Great and the Iron Chancellor hovered over the assembly.
From Germany Reborn, by Hermann Goering: I became commissioner of the Interior in Prussia and at the same time Minister of the Reich. I had taken on a heavy responsibility and a vast field of work lay before me. It was clear that I should be able to make a little use of the administrative system as it then was. I should have to make great changes. To begin with, it seemed to me of the first importance to get the weapon of the criminal and political police firmly into my own hands. Here it was that I made the first sweeping changes of personnel. Out of 32 police chiefs I removed 22. New men were brought in, and in every case these men came from the great reservoir of the Storm Troops.
I gave strict orders and demanded that the police should devote all their energies to the ruthless extermination of subversive elements. In one of my first big meetings in Dortmund I declared that for the future there would be only one man who would bear the responsibility in Prussia, and that one man was myself. Every bullet fired from the barrel of a police pistol was my bullet. If you call that murder, then I am the murderer.
Finally I alone created, on my own initiative, the State Secret Police Department. This is the instrument which is so much feared by the enemies of the State, and which is chiefly responsible for the fact that in Germany and Prussia today there is no question of a Marxist or Communist danger.
From Hitler, by Ian Kershaw: He (Hitler) was incapable of systematic work and took no interest in it. He was as chaotic and dilettante as ever. He had found the role where he could fully indulge the unordered, undisciplined, and indolent lifestyle that had never altered since his pampered youth in Linz and dropout years in Vienna. He had a 'work-room' (Arbeitszimmer) in the new 'Brown House'—a building of tasteless grandiosity that he was singularly proud of. Pictures of Frederick the Great and a heroic scene of the List Regiment's first battle in Flanders in 1914 adorned the walls. A monumental bust of Mussolini stood beside the outsized furniture. Smoking was forbidden. To call it Hitler's 'work-room' was a nice euphemism. Hitler rarely did any work there. Hanfstaengl, who had his own room in the building, had few memories of Hitler's room since he had seen the party leader there so seldom. Even the big painting of Frederick the Great, noted the former press chief, could not motivate Hitler to follow the example of the Prussian king in diligent attention to duty.January 28, 1934: A new map of Germany, drafted by Dr. Hellmuth Nicolai and the cartographers of the Reich Ministry of the Interior, working under the direction of Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, is released. The 180,985 square miles of Reich territory is redistributed among thirteen provinces bearing the names of the original Teutonic tribes. There is no Prussia on this map.
From Inside the Third Reich, by Albert Speer: Detailing his activities as City Planner of Berlin, Speer writes: The land beyond the ring formed by the Autobahn was to be set aside for recreational purposes. The typical Brandenburg pine forest of the area had been given into the charge of a high official in the Forestry Bureau who took his orders from me. Instead of pines, a woodland of deciduous trees was to be established here. After the model of the Bois de Boulogne, Grunewald was to be provided with hiking paths, rest areas, restaurants, and athletic fields for the capital's millions. The work had already begun. I had tens of thousands of deciduous trees planted, in order to restore the mixed forest which Frederick the Great had cut for lumber to finance the Silesian War. Of the whole vast project for the reshaping of Berlin, these deciduous trees are all that have remained.January 30, 1935: The Law on Reich Governors (Reichsstatthaltergesetz) dissolves the individual German States governments. Hitler appoints himself formally Governor of Prussia.
From Panzer Leader, by Heinz Guderian: At Himmler's headquarters, the lack of organization soon began to make itself felt in that its signal service failed to function. I told Hitler of this unsatisfactory state of affairs. But he took no interest in what I had to say since he had just been informed by the chief of the Army Personnel Office of the measures taken by Kings Frederick William I and Frederick the Great when faced with insubordination. General Burgdorf had consulted historical sources and now produced some crude examples of legal sentences delivered two hundred years ago. When Hitler heard of them he replied with deep satisfaction: "And people are always imagining that I am brutal! It would be desirable if all the prominent men in Germany were to be informed of these sentences." This at least showed that he was aware of his own brutality by now and was trying to justify it by means of historical parallels. The appalling state in which we all found ourselves was, to him, unimportant in comparison.May 19, 1940: The Nazis invade France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands; Winston Churchill becomes British Prime Minister.
From Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, by Alan Bullock: The level to which the hopes of the German leaders were now reduced is well illustrated by their reception of the news of Roosevelt’s death on 12 April (1945). The story is recounted by Schwerin von Krosigk, Hitler's egregious Finance Minister, and confirmed by other eye-witnesses. A few days before the 12th (Goebbels told Schwerin von Krosigk), in order to comfort the Fuehrer, he had read him the passage in Carlyle's History of Frederick the Great in which the author describes the difficulties confronting the Prussian King in the winter of 1761-2:
How the great king himself did not see any way out and did not know what to do; how all his generals and ministers were convinced that he was finished; how the enemy already looked upon Prussia as vanquished; how the future appeared entirely dark, and how in his last letter to the Minister Graf Finckenstein (Note: Neither the quote nor the facts are correct; the minister to whom Frederick wrote was Count d' Argenson, not Finckenstein.) he set himself a time limit: if there was no change by 15 February he would give up and take poison.
"'Brave King!' Carlyle writes, 'wait but a little while, and the days of your suffering will be over. Behind the clouds the sun of your good fortune is already rising and soon will show itself to you.' On 12 February the Czarina died; the Miracle of the House of Brandenburg had come to pass." The Fuehrer, Goebbels said, had tears in his eyes.' ...
Goebbels was so taken with this historical parallel that on 12 April, while paying a visit to the headquarters of the Ninth Army at Kuestrin, he tried to convince General Busse and his Staff that 'for reasons of Historical Necessity and Justice a change of fortune must occur now just as it did in the Seven Years War with the Miracle of the House of Brandenburg. One of the officers present asked somewhat skeptically which Czarina was to die this time. To this Goebbels replied that he did not know either, but that Fate held all sorts of possibilities in her hands. He then went back home and received the news of Roosevelt's death. Immediately he telephoned to Busse and said: 'The Czarina is dead.' Busse told him this made a great impression on his soldiers; now they saw another chance.' In his excitement Goebbels called for champagne and rang up Hitler: 'My Fuehrer, I congratulate you! Roosevelt is dead...It is the turning point.' Goebbels mood was fully shared by Hitler, but the sense of relief did not last long. When reports from the front showed that Roosevelt's death had not affected the enemy's operations, Goebbels remarked disconsolately: 'Perhaps Fate has again been cruel and made fools of us.'
From Meeting at Potsdam, by C. L. Mee Jr: Potsdam was a convenient spot, and that was doubtless Stalin's reason for choosing it. But the place had a meaning for him, too, that escaped the notice of Churchill and Truman. Potsdam is famous not for the Cecilienhof Palace, where the conference meetings took place, but for the place of Sans Souci, built by Frederick the Great of Prussia in 1745. It was in the small and elegantly proportioned rooms of Sans Souci, in the company of Voltaire, the latest second-rate French paintings, and a pack of sleek whippets, that Frederick doubled the size of the Prussian Army and instilled it with demanding ideals of discipline and sacrifice.
One of the officers in Frederick's army was the father of Karl von Clausewitz. Karl (below) joined the Prussian Army in 1792 at the age of twelve, rose to the rank of general, and, in 1813, fought with the Russian Army. He is best known, however, not as a general but as the author of On War, an unfinished three-volume study of the art and politics of warfare. He is most frequently sited for his dictum that war is a continuation of politics by other means. The essence of Clausewitz, in fact, is the belief that political and military weapons are interchangeable and that, just as war is a continuation of the struggles of peacetime, so too can peace be understood as a continuation of war. War, he said, 'is an act of social life.' And social life, he might have said, is an act of war.
It was an insight destined to find favor with any who admired Marx, and Lenin filled his notebooks with long excerpts from Clausewitz alongside passages from Marx and Engels. In 1933, Stalin had the Soviet government publish Lenin's notebook on Clausewitz. For Stalin, then, Potsdam was a memorial to the beginnings of Prussian militarism, the end of German military might, and the continuous struggle in peace and war for power. Potsdam was an appropriate setting for the aims of all three leaders who met to confer, though only Stalin knew it." Note: It is difficult to believe that Churchill, if not Truman also, was not aware of the symbolism.
From Stalin: A Political Biography, by Isaac Deutscher: At Yalta Churchill had dropped the remark that perhaps not they, the Allied war-time leaders, but their successors might confront one another in enmity. At Potsdam this was already coming true, at least in part. In the first half of the conference only two of the war-time triumvirate, Stalin and Churchill, participated. In the second Churchill and Eden were replaced by Attlee and Bevin as a consequence of the return of a Labour Government at the British General Election.
This not to say that the further course of the drama would have been very different if the cast had remained unchanged. It was Churchill, after all, who was soon to become Stalin's most outspoken antagonist; and if Roosevelt had been alive, he might not have been at all that patron saint of Russo-American friendship that some people saw in him. Nevertheless, the change of cast was probably not without immediate adverse effect upon the Potsdam performance. And although the causes of the appearance of new actors lay outside the sphere of inter-allied policy, there was a symbolic significance in the fact that in the residence of Frederick the Great, amid the ruins of Hitler's capital, Stalin alone of the war-time leaders remained to make the peace.
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