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Famous German Photos (70 Pics)

A young Hitler cheers the start of World War One, 1914

The photo was taken by Munich photographer Heinrich Hoffmann at a rally in support of war against the allies in Munich’s Odeonplatz on August 2, 1914. But it was not until March 12, 1932 that it was published in the Nazi party newspaper The Illustrierte Beobachter, or “Illustrated Observer,” the day before the presidential election, after Hitler’s opponents had attacked Hitler over his flight from military service in Austria-Hungary and questioned his patriotism.

German soldier dives for cover as shell explodes behind him at an artillery position, 1917

German soldiers in a dug out waiting for an enemy artillery barrage to lift, 1917

Portrait of Corporal Adolf Hitler during his stay in a military hospital, 1918

German troops trying to rescue a French soldier from sinking in a mud hole, 1918

Nazis singing to encourage a boycott of Jewish shops , 1933

Jesse Owens wins gold in Nazi Germany, 1936

In 1936 Jesse Owens arrived in Berlin to compete for the United States in the Summer Olympics. Adolf Hitler was using the games to show the world a resurgent Nazi Germany. Nazi propaganda promoted concepts of “Aryan racial superiority” and depicted ethnic Africans as inferior. Owens countered this by winning four gold medals. Nevertheless, Hitler personally penned a letter to Owens to congratulate him on his spectacular victories. This is more than what he got from the USA presidents. On the first day of competition, Hitler shook hands only with the German victors and then left the stadium. Olympic committee officials insisted Hitler greet every medalist or none at all. Hitler opted for the latter and skipped all further medal presentations. On reports that Hitler had deliberately avoided acknowledging his victories, and had refused to shake his hand, Owens said at the time: “Hitler had a certain time to come to the stadium and a certain time to leave. It happened he had to leave before the victory ceremony after the 100 meters. But before he left I was on my way to a broadcast and passed near his box. He waved at me and I waved back. I think it was bad taste to criticize the ‘man of the hour’ in another country.”

Funeral services for the 28 Germans who lost their lives in the Hindenburg disaster, New York, 1937

In New York City, funeral services for the 28 Germans who lost their lives in the Hindenburg disaster are held on the Hamburg-American pier, on May 11, 1937. About 10,000 members of German organizations lined the pier. Seems to be a mixture of Nazi Germany, American, and German-American Bund flags.

Children playing with stacks of hyperinflated currency during the Weimar Republic, 1922

Post First World War Germany was hit by one of the worst cases of hyperinflation in recent history. The German mark fell from 4.2 marks to the dollar to 8.91 marks per dollar during the First World War but paying war reparations caused an economic collapse with the exchange rate rising to 4,200,000,000,000 marks per dollar by the end of 1923. The rate of inflation was 3250000% per month. Prices for daily commodities doubled very two days. Currency became worthless with kids using it like Lego bricks. During hyperinflation period people would say: it’s cheaper to burn money than to buy firewood.
Nazi Party was not just a political organization, it was a psychological propaganda machine. The Nazis had an incredible sense of aesthetics and fully understood the power of iconography and branding. Enter inside the Nazi world through these amazing color photos and be thrilled. The symbols and colors of Nazism were all carefully orchestrated to have maximum psychological effect. There was nothing accidental about the structure of the crooked cross or the usage of dramatic colors such as red, white and black. Long, draping banners and standards with Roman eagles and gilded leaves all were designed to evoke images of strength, power, and a connection to history. Nazi symbols are alluring. They look good. They are sharp, carefully tailored to catch the eye and made to inspire passions. The armbands worn on black uniforms are a striking statement of virility and supreme confidence. On the SS uniforms, the addition of the skull and crossed bones, the totenkopf, was a deliberate move to instill fear and terror in the hearts of anyone who faced the uniform. The men wearing it felt empowered by the menacing appearance of the uniform.

Adolf Hitler speaking at the Lustgarten, Berlin, 1938

Reichserntedankfest, 1934

League of German Girls dancing during the 1938 Reich Party Congress, Nuremberg, Germany

Himmler with his daughter, 1938

Heinrich Himmler adored his daughter and had her regularly flown to his offices in Berlin from Munich where she lived with her mother. When she was at home he telephoned her most days and wrote to her every week. He continued to call her by her childhood nickname “Püppi” throughout his life. She accompanied her father on some official duties. In 1941 he took her with him when he visited Dachau Concentration Camp.

Himmler and a prisoner locked in a staring contest: The Defiance

The February 2010 Telegraph Obituary published a photograph captioned “Greasley confronting Heinrich Himmler (wearing the spectacles) in the PoW camp”. The photograph and its description has subsequently been republished by other news sources. The photograph comes from Himmler’s visit to a Shirokaya Street POW camp in Minsk, USSR taken in August 1941. Additional photographs from the visit as well as film footage of Himmler’s visit shows more of the camp as well as the events before and after the famous picture was taken. The shirtless man in the photograph is not Horace Greasley but an unnamed Soviet POW wearing a standard-issue Red Army “pilotka” side-cap. When interviewed by the Leicester Mercury, the historian Guy Walters said that he “had no doubt whatsoever” that the man in the photograph was not Greasley. Heinrich Himmler was one of the chief architects of the holocaust, Hitler’s right-hand man, chief of the Gestapo and oversaw all concentration camps, probably the most evil Nazi. You had to be a hard man to look Himmler in the face like that. This is standing for what’s right, this is a single man who, after losing so much, stands up and stares Himmler himself. This image is defiance.

German soldier lighting his cigarette with a flamethrower, 1940s

Hitler’s triumphant tour of Paris, 1940

One day after France signed the armistice with Germany in June 1940, Adolf Hitler celebrated the German victory over France with a triumphant tour of Paris. Hitler surveying his conquest with his various cronies and became one of the most iconic photos of the 1940s and World War 2. This the first and the only time he visited Paris.

German soldiers, 1941

Looks like a handover of some sort, based on the satchels, the two officers saluting each other, etc., so it’s possible this would be a unit being shipped out of where ever it has been garrisoned. Judging by the flowers in one of the soldiers uniforms, the kids and the architecture, it’s probably in Germany. One soldier have flowers on his uniform. Here’s the reason why “humanizing” the Nazis is important. If you make them out to be inhuman monsters in a way that you can’t relate to, you lose the lesson of history that any people can become them. Before the Nazi party took over Germany, they were just Germans who offered a solution to their political and economic problems to most people. They sold it well, they offered answers that were palatable to a people fed up with the ineptitude and bureaucracy of the Wiemar Republic. They fed into nationalism fervor and the “us versus them” mentality in a way that has been repeated since in small doses. If you paint them as monsters, as the boogie man we beat back into the closet and not real people, you fail to teach the lessons of how they came to power and turned the world upside down. If you fail to teach that lesson, then history will repeat itself and that monster will come back and eat you. Hitler was a man, a terrible man, but he was a man who tried to get the people around him to stop smoking, loved his dog, had a family background that mirrors many people today, loved the arts, and tried to lead his country out of the shadow of a terrible war and a poor economic situation. He was seduced by power, racism, and glory and became like a monster the world had never seen. But it is important to understand that he was still a man, and anyone can become like him if they follow his path. The only way to make sure that no one does is to understand why he did what he did, who he was, and where he came from.

Three German soldiers returning from a recent fight, 1941

The Heavy Gustav, Hitler and generals inspecting the largest caliber rifled weapon ever used in combat, 1941

Named after the head of the Krupp family, the Gustav Gun weighed in at a massive 1344 tons, so heavy that even though it was attached to a rail car, it still had to be disassembled before moving so as to not destroy the twin set of tracks as it passed over. This 4-story (12 meters) behemoth stood 20 feet wide (7 meters) and 140 feet long (47 meters). Its 500 man crew, commanded by a Major-General, needed nearly three full days (54 hours, to be exact) to set it up and prep for firing. With a maximum elevation of 48 degrees, the Gustav shell could fire shells weighing seven tons to a range of 47 kilometers (29 miles). The caliber was 80 cm, and Gustav could fire 1 round every 30 to 45 minutes.

A dog being posed by a German soldier, 1940

Laughing at Auschwitz – SS auxiliaries poses at a resort for Auschwitz personnel, 1942

The photos were taken between May and December 1944, and they show the officers and guards of the Auschwitz relaxing and enjoying themselves — as countless people were being murdered and cremated at the nearby death camp. In some of the photos, SS officers can be seen singing. In others they are hunting and in another a man can be seen decorating a Christmas tree in what could only be described as a holiday in hell. The album also contains eight photos of Josef Mengele — some of the very few existing snapshots taken of the concentration camp’s notorious doctor during the time he spent there.

Erwin Rommel and his staff, Western Desert, 1942

A Luftwaffe pilot in Africa, 1941

Luftwaffe Oberleutnant exchanges gifts with a native black Arab in North Africa. Original inscription: On the other side of the Mediterranean. “Signal”, U/Nr. 12/41. Photo taken by Kriegsberichter Sturm from PK-W (Propaganda-Kompanie Wehrmacht).

German Panzer III in the Western desert, 1942

The last Jew in Vinnitsa, 1941

A picture from an Einsatzgruppen soldier’s personal album, labelled on the back as “Last Jew of Vinnitsa”. It shows a member of Einsatzgruppe D just about to shoot a Jewish man kneeling before a filled mass grave in Vinnitsa, Ukraine, in 1941. All 28,000 Jews from Vinnitsa and its surrounding areas were massacred at the time. There were two mass shootings in Vinnitsa, on the 16th September, and the other on 22nd September. A subsequent massacre of Jews appears to have been of Jews brought in from outside the district. This is the evidence for the date of this photograph. There was one eye witness to the procedure involved. Wehrmacht officer Lieutenant Erwin Bingel had been ordered to assist the Commandant of Uman district with men to guard the railway lines and around the airport. He was aware that ditches had been dug on the perimeter of the airfield and a number of specialist SS men had arrived by transport plane. The Jews of the area had been ordered to gather for a ‘census’. Hannah Arendt wrote about “the banality of evil”: “The neutral expressions on the shooter and his uniformed audience pretty well encapsulate that concept: they could be watching a barber cut hair, instead of the heartless extermination of innocents. Humans can adapt to endure almost anything, but in doing so, they sometimes perpetuate incredible evil. The death of human empathy is one of the earliest and most telling signs of a culture about to fall into barbarism.” Below you can read an excerpte from: “Erwin Bingel: Eyewitness to Mass Murder at Uman and Vinnitsa in the Ukraine”: On the 22 September 1941 Lieutenant Bingel and his men witnessed a second massacre in Vinnitsa. This was followed by a third, also in Vinnitsa, carried out by Ukrainian militia who had been trained by the SS, and were commanded by a small group of SS officers and NCO’s. In the first two massacres, Bingel calculated first twenty-four thousand and then twenty-eight thousand Jews were killed. In the third, Ukrainian militia killings, six thousand were murdered. Lieutenant Bingel recalled: “In the morning at 10.15, wild shooting and terrible human cries reached our ears. At first I failed to grasp what was taking place, but when I approached the window from which I had a broad view over the whole of the town park, the following spectacle unfolded before my eyes and those of my men, who, alerted by the tumult, had meanwhile gathered in my room.Ukrainian militia on horseback, armed with pistols, rifles and long straight cavalry swords, were riding wildly inside and around the town park. As far as we could make out, they were driving people along before their horses- men, women and children. A shower of bullets was then fired at this human mass. Those not hit outright were struck down with the swords. Like some ghostly apparition, this horde of Ukrainians, let loose and commanded by SS officers, trampled savagely over human bodies, ruthlessly killing innocent children, mothers and old people whose only crime was that they had escaped the great mass murder, so as eventually to be shot or beaten to death like wild animals.” The result of this proclamation was, of course, that all persons concerned appeared as ordered. This relatively harmless summons, it was thought, could be connected in some way or other with the preparations we were observing. It was because we took the matter so lightly that we were all the more horrified at what we witnessed during the next few hours. One row of Jews was ordered to move forward and was then allocated to the different tables where they had to undress completely and hand over everything they wore and carried. Some still carried jewelry which they had to put on the table. Then having taken off all their clothes, they were made to stand in line in front of the ditches, irrespective of their sex. The commandos then marched in behind the line and began to perform the inhuman acts, the horror of which is now known to the whole world. With automatic pistols and 0.8 pistols these men mowed down the line with such zealous intent that one could have supposed this activity to have been their life work. … The people in the first row thus having been killed in the most inhuman manner, those of the second row were now ordered to step forward. The men in this row were ordered to step out and were handed shovels with which to heap chloride of lime upon the still partly moving bodies in the ditch. Thereafter they returned to the tables and undressed. After that they had to set out on the same last walk as their murdered brethren…

6th Army soldiers marching to Stalingrad, 1942

These kids had no idea what kind of hell was about to be unleashed on them. Literally marching to hell. It’s kind of eerie looking at the men in this picture and realizing that statistically speaking, they most likely never saw 1944. Those sunglasses are privately own, probably pretty expensive. Sunglasses were only issued for Afrika Korps troops and for motorcycles, but not for infantry. Based on previous battlefield successes, they were expecting fierce fighting, but winning Stalingrad with reasonable losses. Up until that point, when it comes to ground war, the Germany had only experienced “setbacks”, such as the Battle of Moscow, following which, they continued to encircle and destroy the Soviets in the Spring of 1942. They still thought themselves to be unstoppable and were confident in their ultimate victory. The kind of brutal, unprecedented, close quarters street fighting and then utter devastation of an entire army in Stalingrad, was a completely new experience for them. Sure they knew there would be fierce fighting, but they weren’t expected to be involved on one of the most gruesome and horrible battles to ever be fought. Out of the nearly 110,000 German prisoners captured in Stalingrad, only about 6,000 ever returned. Already weakened by disease, starvation and lack of medical care during the encirclement, they were sent on death marches (75,000 survivors died within 3 months of capture) to prisoner camps and later to labour camps all over the Soviet Union. Some 35,000 were eventually sent on transports, of which 17,000 did not survive. Most died of wounds, disease (particularly typhus), cold, overwork, mistreatment, and malnutrition.

Preparing for an assault on a warehouse in Stalingrad, 1942

By September 1942, a brutal hand-to-hand battle was being waged inside Stalingrad. As they fought from house to house and street to street, the Germans found that all of the tactical advantages they had possessed in fighting across the steppes were lost in the close confines of the city. Tanks and the mechanized strategy of Blitzkrieg counted for nothing in an urban warfare. Because of the close proximity of the large city, the maneuverability of tank was impossible and not effective. Paradoxically, a sniper was more effective than a tank. Many times the soldiers used knives and bayonets to kill each other. The lack of supplies, harsh elements, and stubborn Soviet resistance eventually led to the defeat of the German Army. Bitter fighting raged for every ruin, street, factory, house, basement, and staircase. Even the sewers were the sites of firefights. The Germans, calling this unseen urban warfare Rattenkrieg (“Rat War”), bitterly joked about capturing the kitchen but still fighting for the living room and the bedroom. Buildings had to be cleared room by room through the bombed-out debris of residential neighborhoods, office blocks, basements and apartment high-rises. Some of the taller buildings, blasted into roofless shells by earlier German aerial bombardment, saw floor-by-floor, close quarters combat, with the Germans and Soviets on alternate levels, firing at each other through holes in the floors. German military doctrine was based on the principle of combined-arms teams and close cooperation between tanks, infantry, engineers, artillery and ground-attack aircraft. Vasily Chuikov, the Soviet commander of 62nd Army, developed the important tactic of “hugging the enemy,” by which under-armed Soviet soldiers kept the German army so close to them as to minimize the superior firepower enjoyed by the Wehrmacht. This slowed the German advance and reduced the effectiveness of the German advantage in supporting fire.

A German soldier with a badge on his chest in Stalingrad, 1942

A German prisoner of war escorted by a Soviet soldier, Stalingrad, 1943

In this photograph, a Red Army solider is seen marching a German solider into captivity after the Battle of Stalingrad. The Germans were being rounded up prior to marched to death. The Battle of Stalingrad was amongst the bloodiest battles ever fought in the history of warfare with more than 2 million casualties. On January 20, 1943, the 65th Soviet Army broke through the German defensive lines around Stalingrad and by January 22 had reached Gumrak, the last German airfield equipped to land transport planes carrying supplies into the cauldron and evacuating the wounded. The fate of the 6th Army was sealed. Once the Sixth Army is cut off, it is also difficult to remain callous to the starvation and suffering experienced by the German soldiers. When the soldiers of the 6th Army went into captivity at the end of January/beginning of February 1943, they were closer to death than to life. The supply situation of the 6th Army had already been difficult since the summer of 1942 due to the reduced transportation possibilities during the advance. Already in September 1942 the daily bread ration was 300 grams, that is, about three thin slices. When the 6th Army then had to be supplied from the air, the daily bread ration sank until Christmas 1942 to 100 grams, only soldiers able to fight still receiving 200 grams. In the course of January 1943 the situation worsened again – in the end only the fighting men received rations food rations at all, which lay below 100 grams of bread. The wounded and sick were not entitled to rations anymore. After about a month of the 110,000 Germans who had been taken captive only 35,000 were still alive, and only about 5,000 came back home after the war. My own great grandfather died in the battle of Stalingrad. He was a member of the 6th Army and even got out of the "Kessel von Stalingrad" but died on his way back home. My grandmother searched all his life for his corpse but died never knowing what happened to him.

German soldiers in the flooded trenches, Soviet Union, 1943

Two RAF airmen are buried with full military honors by occupying German soldiers, Channel Islands, 1943

Full military honors were granted by the Luftwaffe at the funerals of R.A.F Sergeants Butlin and Holden who were shot down over Jersey, Channel Islands. It is thought this was to try and pacify the local population. The Luftwaffe behaved much differently than the SS or Wehrmacht. Much more chivalry.

Georges Blind, a member of the French resistance, smiling at a German firing squad, 1944

Erwin Rommel inspecting the defenses in Normandy, 1944

A young German soldier, 1944

It’s probably from the end of the war when really young and old citizens were enlisted in a panic for soldiers. Most likely a member of the 12th SS Panzer Division “Hitlerjugend” which sustained 43% casualties during the Normandy campaign. SS recruiters for the division accepted boys as young as 14 into the ranks. Also by judging from the helmet cover he has on it looks to be the “pea” pattern cameo type which did not show up until late ’44/early ’45. So it’s probably in France.

German soldiers take boots and other equipment from dead American soldiers at a crossroads in Belgium, 1944

Goebbels congratulates a young recruit after receiving the Iron Cross II, 1945

Joseph Goebbels awards 16-year old Hitler Youth member Willi Hübner the Iron Cross for the defense of Lauban (March 1945). Despite the extremely limited nature of the victory, the recapture of Lauban was presented as a great success by German propaganda, with Joseph Goebbels visiting the town on 9 March to give a speech on the battle. The counter-attack operation at Lauban has generally been considered the last German victory of World War II. As Germany suffered more casualties, more teenagers volunteered and were accepted, initially as reserve troops but then as regulars. Their Soviet foes, who had marched over the corpses of 27 million Russians from Stalingrad to reach Germany, had little mercy for their opponents – and even less if they were dressed in SS uniforms. The children were slaughtered in their thousands. Lewis D. Eigen, in his article on the history of the normality of use of child soldiers observed: The Germans equipped an entire SS Panzer Tank Division and manned it with 16 and 17-year-old boys from the Hitler Youth brigades. As Germany suffered more casualties, more teenagers volunteered and were accepted, initially as reserve troops but then as regulars. The German ethic of the boy soldier not only encouraged such service but towards the end of the war, the Germans even drafted boys as young as 12 into military service. These children saw extensive action and were among the fiercest and effective German defenders in the Battle of Berlin.

The ruins of Dresden, 1945

At the end of World War Two the city of Dresden was in ruins, all its buildings destroyed and thousands of civilians dead. The order by Allied commanders to heavily bomb Dresden towards the end of the war has become one of the most controversial decisions made in the European theater. Before World War II, Dresden was called “the Florence of the Elbe” and was regarded as one the world’s most beautiful cities for its architecture and museums, it had numerous beautiful baroque and rococo style buildings, palaces and cathedrals. Although no German city remained isolated from Hitler’s war machine, Dresden’s contribution to the war effort was minimal compared with other German cities. As Hitler had thrown much of his surviving forces into a defense of Berlin in the north, city defenses were minimal, and the Russians would have had little trouble capturing Dresden. It seemed an unlikely target for a major Allied air attack. If you want to know good literacy about the bombing of Dresden, read "Slaughterhouse 5". A fantastic book about a american pow in Dresden.

The last picture of Adolf Hitler, April 28, 1945

This last known picture of Hitler was taken approximately two days prior to his death as he stands outside his Berlin bunker entrance surveying the devastating bomb damage. With Germany lying in ruins after six years of war, and with defeat imminent, Hitler decided to take his own life. But before doing so, he married Eva Braun and then penned his last will and testament. The next day in the afternoon on April 30, 1945 Braun and Hitler entered his living room to end their lives. Later that afternoon the remaining members of the bunker community found Hitler slumped over, and blood spilled over the arm of the couch. Eva was sitting at the other end. Hitler had killed himself by biting down on a cyanide capsule while shooting him self in the head. Eva only used the cyanide capsule. Hitler committed suicide two days before the surrender of Berlin to the Soviets on 2 May, and just over a week before the end of World War II in Europe on 8 May.

German soldier returns home only to find his family no longer there, 1946

The photo of a German prisoner of war returning to his home town of Frankfurt to discover his house bombed and his family no longer there, shows the kind the depressing moments of dejected subjects we associate with images of war. No stranger to scenes of despair, the photographer Tony Vaccaro caught the defeated man in the throws of grief, as the bombed shells of former houses loom eerily behind him. It’s a unimaginable pain, to be pulled into a war that would scar a country for generations to come and then to return home, seeking relief after all the hell you went through, to find no one there. He having thought of them time and time again just driving himself to get home safe. Evoked here is a quiet grief, a silent inner turmoil raging within the man shattered by the overwhelming news of his loved ones.

German soldiers react to footage of concentration camps, 1945

A German child meets her father, a WW2 soldier, for the first time since she was 1 year old, 1956

The event this famous photo was taken on is part of what’s known as “Die Heimkehr der Zehntausend” (The Return of the 10,000), as they were the last German POWs in the Soviet Union to be released. On a visit to Moscow in the fall 1955, Konrad Adenauer secured the release of the last approximately 10,000 German POWs from Soviet prisons. In return, the Federal Republic agreed to establish diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. West German press reports emphasized how well the newly released men had survived their time in prison and how glad they were to reprise their roles as family breadwinners. The Soviets temporarily halted the release of prisoners when it became clear that the Federal Republic was seeking to delay the agreed-on exchange of ambassadors for as long as possible.

Conrad Schumann defects to West Berlin, 1961

In 15 August 1961, the 19-year-old Schumann was sent to the corner of Ruppiner Strasse and Bernauer Strasse to guard the Berlin Wall on its third day of construction. At that time, the wall was only a low barbed wire fence. At the same spot, on the West Berlin, was standing the 19 year old photographer Peter Leibing. For more than an hour, Leibing stood watching the nervous young non-commissioned officer as he paced back and forth, his PPSh-41 slung over his shoulder, smoking one cigarette after another. “Come on over, come on over!” (Komm’ rüber!) the West Berlin crowd on Bernauer Strasse chanted. “He’s going to jump!” one passerby remarked. And at four p.m. on August 15, 1961, Leibing got lucky. Schumann tossed aside his cigarette, then turned and ran for the coil of barbed wire that marked the boundary between East and West. He jumped, flinging away his gun as he flew, and Leibing clicked the shutter.

Residents of West Berlin show children to their grandparents who reside on the Eastern side, 1961

The fall of the wall and the end of the "DDR"

One of the most important things happened to us in the modern time. Even though I did not see it happen I have tears in the eyes everytime I watch movies, pictures etc about the fall of the wall and the reunification. You must imagine that familes, friends,... got reunited after so many years. The pure joy of everyone in germany was unimaginable. When my mother heard about the fall she ran to the wall and hugged, cried and partied with everyone(she lived in the West).

European Community Summit in Strasbourg (December 8, 1989)

The West German government was ill prepared for the collapse of the SED regime. In his Ten-Point Plan of November 28, 1989, Chancellor Helmut Kohl discussed how the two German states could become integrated, and he also held out the prospect of a reunified Germany. The plan caused concern among Germany’s EC and NATO allies, who worried about the future course of Germany’s foreign and European policies. Nevertheless, at the EC summit in Strasbourg in December 1989, Germany’s European partners endorsed reunification – at least verbally. The British government under Margaret Thatcher was opposed to reunification, however, and French president François Mitterrand felt that it needed to be coupled with greater European integration. There was also uncertainty about Germany’s eastern borders, since Kohl – in deference to German expellee associations [Vertriebenenverbände] – found it difficult to definitively accept the loss of Germany’s former eastern territories. The photo, taken at the start of the EC summit, shows French president François Mitterrand (2nd from right) and his foreign minister, Roland Dumas (right), welcoming German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher (left) and Chancellor Helmut Kohl (2nd from left) in the Palais de Congrès.

Protest against the Iraq War (January 26, 1991)

Iraq’s attack on Kuwait presented a dilemma for German foreign policy: Should the expanded Federal Republic cling to its traditional role as a “civil power” that abstained from military operations, or should it join the U.N.-sanctioned American campaign against Saddam Hussein? On January 26, 1991, more than 200,000 people gathered in Bonn’s Hofgarten to demonstrate for peace and against the Gulf War. Peace groups, the SPD, the Greens, and the Confederation of German Trade Unions [Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund] called for participation in the demonstration, while the Federal Government distanced itself from the protests. Public opinion was divided: According to a survey, 49 percent of Germans believed that a war against Iraq was justified, while 48 percent opposed military engagement. A sign printed by the Greens [Die Grünen] appears in foreground of the photograph; it reads: “Say No! No blood for oil.” Behind it is a sign by the Association of Christian Democratic Students [Ring Christlich-Demokratischer Studenten], a group allied with the CDU; this sign reads: “Yes to peace – yes to the United Nations.”

Bundeswehr Soldiers from the first IFOR Contingent return from Croatia (April 17, 1996)

The wars in the former Yugoslavia put Germany under greater pressure to add military intervention to its portfolio of international responsibilities. After the Dayton Peace Accords were signed, the Bundestag agreed on December 6, 1995, to deploy German troops to the former Yugoslavia as part of a multinational protection force (Implementation Force, IFOR) tasked with implementing the peace treaty. The Bundeswehr contributed 2,700 soldiers to the IFOR mission and provided particular support in the area of logistics and air reconnaissance. On April 17, 1996, the first IFOR cohort of Bundeswehr troops, a total of 162 soldiers, returned to Germany from their base in Croatia. They were greeted at the Cologne/Bonn airport by Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who delivered a speech emphasizing the German population’s support for the deployment.

The Founding of the Left Party (June 16, 2007)

In the lead-up to the 2005 Bundestag elections, former SPD chairman Oskar Lafontaine and PDS politician Gregor Gysi spearheaded a collaboration between the PDS and the Electoral Alternative for Labor and Social Justice [Wahlalternative für Arbeit und soziale Gerechtigkeit or WASG], the latter of which had been founded to protest Agenda 2010. On June 10, 2005, Lafontaine and Gysi were publicly presented as the top candidates of this new alliance. WASG members ran for Bundestag seats on the open ticket of the Left Party/PDS, which had renamed itself in July 2005. In the 2005 elections, the Left Party/PDS garnered a respectable 8.7 percent of the second vote. After members of the WASG and the Left Party/PDS voted in favor of an official merger, the new Left Party was founded on June 16, 2007. Despite the merger, the perennial conflict between pragmatists and ideologists remained unresolved. The pragmatists (who were mostly from regional chapters in East Germany and who often had experience governing at the state [Land] level) were prepared to compromise and form coalitions with the SPD in order to participate in the government, whereas the ideologists (who included members of the Communist platform, disenchanted former SPD members, and trade unionists) called for strict boundaries between the Left Party and the SPD. The Left Party won 11.9 percent of the second vote in the 2010 Bundestag elections. On January 23, 2010, however, Lafontaine announced his withdrawal from federal politics for health reasons.

Election Posters: Gerhard Schröder and Angela Merkel (August 23, 2005)

In the spring of 2005, the SPD suffered a disastrous defeat in the parliamentary [Landtag] elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, which had been an SPD stronghold for decades. In May, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder announced that he would seek early elections to the Bundestag. In the electoral campaign, Schröder and the SPD relied on his prestige as an incumbent. It seemed, however, that this wasn't enough – surveys predicted a governing coalition between the CDU/CSU and the FDP, with Angela Merkel as chancellor. On most key issues, Schröder advocated a moderate continuation of “Agenda 2010,” while Merkel called for quicker reforms to improve basic economic conditions. This photo shows SPD and CDU election posters in Grünhufe, a newly developed area in Stralsund in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. The SPD's slogan – “Those who want peace must remain steadfast” – was meant to remind voters of Schröder’s categorical rejection of the Iraq war, a stance that had played a decisive role in the Red-Green victory in 2002. By contrast, the CDU poster – "More Growth, More Jobs" – highlighted the CDU’s economic expertise and suggested the thrust of the additional reforms it sought. The SPD unexpectedly won 34.2 percent of the second votes in the Bundestag election, thanks largely to Schröder’s personal campaign efforts. The CDU received 35.2 percent, winning the most votes by a very narrow margin

German soldiers partol near Kunduz, Afghanistan

One Currency for Europe (October 10, 1996)

In the Treaty on European Union (TEU), the member states of the European Community agreed on a three-step plan for the realization of the European Economic and Monetary Union. The first step entailed the liberalization of capital flow and the coordination of the economic policies of the member states. The second step, due to start on January 1, 1994, called for the establishment of a European Monetary Institute (EMI) comprised of the presidents of the member states’ central banks. In order to guarantee the stability of the common currency, it also imposed convergence criteria on potential participant states (e.g. price stability and restrictions on new public debt). The third step foresaw the introduction of the common currency by January 1, 1999, at the latest. Additionally, a new European Central Bank was to be set up to assume the tasks previously performed by the EMI. The European Council explicitly defined the convergence criteria in the Stability and Growth Act of 1997. The German federal government and the German Central Bank had a strong influence on the determination of these steps, particularly on the definition of the convergence criteria. This promotional poster for the common currency, the Euro, is supposed to show that, over the course of time (hourglass), the different European currencies (coins) would merge to form a stable single currency.

Barack Obama Visits Berlin as a Presidential Candidate (July 24, 2008)

As the Democratic hopeful for the U.S. presidency, Barack Obama made a stop in Berlin during a 2008 foreign tour that was designed to bolster his foreign policy credentials. The Obama team’s desire to see him deliver a speech at the highly symbolic Brandenburg Gate prompted Germany’s political parties to engage in a discussion about the appropriate venue for his public address. While Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) – apparently out of consideration for incumbent Republican president George W. Bush – rejected a Brandenburg Gate appearance, Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit supported the idea. In the end, Obama gave a speech at the Victory Column [Siegessäule]. A crowd of around 200,000 gave him an enthusiastic reception that reflected his general popularity in Germany. According to surveys at the time, 75 percent of Germans considered Obama a better candidate than John McCain.

German soldiers accompany the coffin of a killed comrad

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