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December 31 in German History
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December 31, 1105

Heinrich V arrests his father Heinrich IV, forces him to abdicate and himself becomes the Holy Roman Emperor (crowned in Rome in 1111).

December 31, 1747

Gottfried August Bürger

Birth of Gottfried August Bürger in Molmerswende bei Halberstadt, Germany. The poet, Bürger was one of the leaders toward the Romantic movement in German literature. In 1787 he was appointed Außerordentlicher Professor at the University of Göttingen, a position which allowed him to teach but unfortunately did not involve a salary. Thus, as a professor, he continued to live in the same poverty in which he had spent his earlier life.


December 31, 1851

The chancellor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Felix Fürst zu Schwarzenberg induces the Emperor, Franz Joseph I, to abolish the constitution of 1851 and replace it with one of his own design, strengthening the absolutist authority of the emperor.

December 31, 1881

Max Pechstein

Birth of Max Pechstein in Zwickau, Germany. Pechstein was a painter who was a member of the Expressionist group, Die Brücke. After 1910 he was a member of the Berlin group, Neue Sezession. The Nazis denounced his work as "decadent".

December 31, 1908

Simon Wiesenthal

Birth of Simon Wiesenthal (1908-2005) in Buczacz, Austria-Hungary (now in Ukraine). During WWII Wiesenthal suffered forced labor and was in a series of concentration camps. After the war he assisted the U. S. army in gathering evidence to try war criminals. In 1947 he opened the Documentation Center on the Fate of Jews and Their Persecutors in Linz, Austria. That center was moved to Israel in 1954. In 1960 he opened the Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna. He has been involved in the location and prosecution of nearly 1,000 war criminals.

December 31, 1918

Founding of the German Communist Party (KPD).

December 31, 1935

Bernhard Voldemar Schmidt

Death of Bernhard Voldemar Schmidt (1879-1935) in Hamburg, Germany. Schmidt was an optical instrument maker who invented the Naissar telescope, a telescope used for photographing large sections of the sky. He was educated at the engineering school at Mittweida, Germany, and worked in the Hamburg Observatory. It was in Hamburg that he developed a refined mirror system for telescopes which led to his Naissar telescope.

December 31, 1950

Death of Karl Renner in Doebling, Austria. Renner was the first chancellor of the Austrian Republic after WWI. On September 10, 1919 he signed the Treaty of Saint Germain which specifically prohibited a union with Germany. In 1938 he was a leading supporter of Germany's annexation of Austria. In 1945 he worked closely with Soviet officials to reestablish an Austrian government and became the first post war chancellor in April, 1945. On December 20, 1945 he was elected president by the Austrian Reichsrat.

December 31, 1961

During 1961 about 200,000 people had fled from East to West Germany.

December 31, 1985

Death of Sam Spiegel in Saint-Martin, Lesser Antilles (born in Austria). Spiegel, after his studies at the University of Vienna, immigrated to the U.S.A. where he became a movie producer. Films by Spiegel include, On the Waterfront, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Suddenly Last Summer, Lawrence of Arabia, and the African Queen. Spiegel had been sent to Universal Pictures to head their studio in Berlin in 1930, but left in 1933 when the Nazis came to power.

December 31, 1994

The work of the Treuhand Organization is finished and the organization is terminated. (The Treuhand oversaw the privatization of property in East Germany.) The organization had privatized 14,500 businesses.

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