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Portal:Military history of Germany

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Introduction

While German-speaking people have a long history, Germany as a nation state dates only from 1871. Earlier periods are subject to definition debates. The Franks, for instance, were a union of Germanic tribes; nevertheless, some of the Franks later identified themselves as Dutch, Flemish, French and again others as Germans. The capital of medieval ruler Charlemagne's empire was the city of Aachen, now part of Germany, yet he was a Frank. France was named after the Franks and the Dutch and Flemish people are the only ones to speak a language that descends from Frankish (the language of the Franks). Hence nearly all continental Western European historians can claim his victories as their heritage. The Holy Roman Empire he founded was largely but far from entirely German speaking. The Kingdom of Prussia, which unified Germany in the 19th century, had significant territory in what is now Poland. In the early 19th century, the philosopher Schlegel referred to Germany as a Kulturnation, a nation of shared culture and political disunity, analogous to ancient Greece. Until the unification of 1871, Austria was considered a part of Germany even though much of its empire was not in the Holy Roman Empire and was non-German.

Selected article

KSK unit badge

KSK Kommando Spezialkräfte (Special Forces Command, KSK) is an elite special forces military unit composed of special operations soldiers handpicked from the ranks of Germany's Bundeswehr and organized under the Rapid Forces Division. KSK has received many decorations and awards from NATO, the United States and its affiliates and KSK operatives are frequently requested for joint anti-terror operations, notably in the Balkans and Middle East.

From 1973, until the KSK’s formation in 1996, the West German (and later German) government assigned all counter-terrorist and special operations activities to the GSG 9, a highly trained police force created shortly after the hostage-taking that transpired during the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Prior to 1973, the army’s Fernspäher (Long-Distance Reconnaissance), the navy’s Kampfschwimmer (Combat Swimmers/"Frogmen"), and (until 1989) the Special Weapons Escort Companies—Sonderwaffenbegleitkompanien were the only military units comparable to anything that other nations may have seen as dedicated special forces units. Following the KSK’s activation on April 1, 1997, all but one of the Fernspähkompanie have been either disbanded or merged into the newly constituted unit.

Like those of all German military units, KSK deployments require authorization from the German Bundestag (Federal Assembly). The unit has engaged in numerous anti-terror campaigns both in Europe and abroad; known engagements include operations inside Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and most recently in Afghanistan. As is to be expected with such units, specific operational details such as success and casualty rates are considered to be top secret and withheld even from the highest-ranking members of the Bundestag. This practice has elicited some serious concerns, resulting in agreement to increase both transparency and accountability, by disclosing mission details to selected members of the Bundestag, in relation to the future deployments of KSK forces. (Read more)

Selected biography

Gottlob Berger wearing Waffen-SS dress uniform

Gottlob Christian Berger (16 July 1896 – 5 January 1975) was a senior German Nazi official who held the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS (lieutenant general), and was the chief of the SS Main Office responsible for Schutzstaffel (SS) recruiting during World War II. Following the war, he was convicted as a war criminal, spending a total of six-and-a-half years in prison. Serving in the German Army during World War I, he was wounded four times and awarded the Iron Cross First Class. Immediately after the war, he was a leader of the Einwohnerwehr militia in his native North Württemberg. He joined the Nazi Party in 1922, but lost interest in right-wing politics during the 1920s, training and working as a physical education teacher.

In the late 1920s, he rejoined the Nazi Party and became a member of the paramilitary Sturmabteilung (SA) in 1931. He clashed with other leaders of the SA, and joined the Allgemeine-SS in 1936. To a significant extent, Berger was the "father" of the Waffen-SS, as he not only implemented recruiting structures and policies that assisted the Waffen-SS to circumvent Wehrmacht controls over conscription, but also extended Waffen-SS recruiting first to "Germanic" volunteers from Scandinavia and western Europe, then Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans) outside the Reich, and finally to peoples who in no way reflected Himmler's ideas of "racial purity". Berger often clashed with senior officers of the Wehrmacht and even with senior Waffen-SS officers over his recruiting methods, but he took advantage of opportunities as they presented themselves in order to grow the Waffen-SS to a total of 38 divisions by war's end.

In the final months of the war Berger commanded German forces in the Bavarian Alps, which included remnants of several of the Waffen-SS units he had helped recruit. He surrendered to U.S. troops near Berchtesgaden, and was promptly arrested. He was tried and convicted in the Ministries Trial of the U.S. Nuremberg Military Tribunals for war crimes, and was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment. His sentence was soon reduced to 10 years, and he was released after serving six-and-a-half years. After release he advocated for the rehabilitation of the Waffen-SS and worked in several manufacturing businesses. He died in his hometown in 1975.

Described as blustery, cynical, and "one of Himmler's most competent and trusted war-time lieutenants", Berger was also an ardent anti-Semite and a skilled and unscrupulous bureaucratic manipulator. Due to his organisational and recruiting skills, Berger was kept as the chief of the SS-HA throughout the war.

Selected picture

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Gedenkblatt für die Angehörigen unserer gefallenen Helden by Emil Doepler (1916)

Did you know?

German soldiers of the Weimar Republic's Reichswehr goosestepping in 1931.

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Military history of Germany(55 C, 66 P)
Wars involving Germany(26 C, 27 P)
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Battles in Hesse(14 P)
Battles in Saxony(20 P)
Battles in Thuringia(10 P)
Battles involving Germany(8 C, 15 P, 1 F)
Military of Bavaria(4 C, 13 P)
Military history of Berlin(1 C, 7 P)
Military of East Germany(8 C, 30 P)
Forts in Germany(2 C, 22 P)
Freikorps(3 C, 6 P)
German War Graves Commission(6 C, 27 P)
Military of Hamburg(2 P)
Invasions by Germany(2 C, 14 P)
King's German Legion(38 P)
Military of Württemberg(2 C, 5 P)
Naval history of Germany(8 C, 45 P)
Military of Nazi Germany(5 C, 19 P)
German military occupations(12 C, 28 P)
Peace treaties of Germany(1 C, 10 P)
Military history of Prussia(3 C, 20 P)
Military of Prussia(9 C, 13 P)
Military of Saxony(2 C, 5 P)
German war crimes(3 C, 3 P, 1 F)
German Empire in World War I(11 C, 65 P, 27 F)

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Action of 28 January 1945Arado E.381Design A-150 battleshipBattle of AachenBattle of Bita PakaBombardment of PapeeteCold WarDeutschland-class battleshipEgmont Prinz zur Lippe-WeißenfeldGerman battleship TirpitzHeinrich Prinz zu Sayn-WittgensteinHeuschrecke 10Juno BeachKaunas FortressLe Paradis massacreMax-Hellmuth OstermannMoro River CampaignOperation FreshmanOperation LüttichOperation PostmasterOperation TotalizeOperation WindsorOperation Winter StormOrder of Saint HubertOrganization of the Luftwaffe (1933-1945)SMS Deutschland (1904)SMS HannoverSMS Kaiser (1911)SMS KaiserinSMS Kurfürst Friedrich WilhelmSMS NassauSMS OstfrieslandSMS PosenSM U-68Sd.Kfz. 10Second Battle of KharkovWalter NowotnyWehrmacht forces for the Ardennes OffensiveWolfgang Lüth

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Armored cruisers of GermanyBattleships of Austria-HungaryBattleships of GermanyGerman Type IXA submarinesGerman Type U 66 submarinesGerman Type UB I submarinesPrinz Adalbert-class armored cruisersRoon-class armored cruisersScharnhorst-class armored cruisersU-1-class submarines (Austria-Hungary)U-3-class submarinesU-5-class submarinesU-20-class submarinesU-27-class submarines (Austria-Hungary)U-43-class submarines (Austria-Hungary)

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