Wilhelm’s Great Fleet – II

Lead: Already wielding dominant military power in late 19th century continental Europe, German leaders, especially Kaiser Wilhelm II, began to plan for global power projected by a great battle fleet.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: In 1890 the President of the U.S. Naval War College, Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, published The Influence of Sea Power in History, 1660-1783. In this volume and its sequel he made two arguments. First, he implied that dominant seapower from the Romans to the British made for strategic economic, political and military supremacy. Secondly, he claimed such power only could be achieved with a heavily armed battle fleet. One of Mahan’s most enthusiastic students was the young emperor of Germany, Wilhelm II. His fascination with naval power, especially British naval power, was fired when he spent many youthful summers visiting his grandmother, Queen Victoria, at her summer home, Osborne, on the Solent near the great Portsmouth Naval Base in the south of England. Wilhelm’s began to dream of a German Navy to rival that of his British cousins.

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Wilhelm’s Great Fleet – I

Lead: Of the many complex causes of the Great War, none was more catalytic than the enigmatic, insecure, brilliant yet erratic Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: As the nineteenth century drew to a close the great powers of continental Europe were coming to grips with growing popular political aspirations. Mass democracy taking its inspiration from the French Revolution, from the writings of liberals and socialists and from the experience of the North American colossus was forcing the ruling dynasties and their attending aristocrats to surrender an ever-growing  portion of their power. Some leaders, such as German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, understood how to manipulate this new force. Others, such as the young Kaiser were soon captured by it.

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Martin Luther III

Lead: In 1517 Martin Luther’s personal and theological struggles finally broke into public debate over the issue of indulgences. This was the catalyst that sparked a revolution.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The power and authority of the Roman Catholic Pontiff is an ancient and venerable tradition. As it emerged over the centuries, the theory of papal dominion as the representative of God on earth, in Catholic thought, grew out of Jesus’ gift recorded in the Gospel of Matthew to the Apostle Peter of the so-called “keys of the Kingdom.” That was the power, beyond that of normal men and women, to loose and bind on earth matters involving heaven. One of the powers the church claimed for the pope was his ability to issue indulgences, the immediate removal of all the penalties for sin on earth and a swift journey through purgatory into heaven. By Luther’s time indulgences went for cash. 

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Martin Luther II

Lead: In 1517 when Martin Luther began to attack certain important church teachings, he received strong support from many important European thinkers. At least for a while.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Luther was not alone in his critique of the church. Many sensitive scholars, both in and out of the church hierarchy, particularly those known as humanists, were concerned over what they considered to gross abuses of power. Immoral clergymen, church officials who held multiple positions thus reaping the rich tithes of the faithful, the blatant sale of church offices, extravagant expenditures such as the magnificent Renaissance Cathedral of St. Peter’s at the Vatican in Rome. Luther shared with humanist scholars such as Erasmus of Rotterdam and Sir Thomas More great dissatisfaction with the church, but Luther went further. They attacked what they called corrupt practices of the church, he attacked the beliefs of the church.

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Martin Luther I

Lead: In late October 1517 at Wittenberg in Germany a college instructor posted 95 proposals or thesis on the University bulletin board. The comfortable unity of Christian Europe was at an end.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Martin Luther was a monk, a member of the Augustinian order of Roman Catholic Church. The son of a prosperous peasant turned miner, he had received a university education. Luther was brilliant, sensitive, deeply dedicated to his studies as well as his calling. Yet, what he later described as a series of spiritual crises, led him first into the regular priesthood, then to question the very heart of medieval Christianity and, ultimately, to challenge the authority of the Church of his fathers. His struggles, spiritual, intellectual, and political contributed significantly to history’s first ideological revolution, the so-called Protestant Reformation.

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The London Blitz II

Lead: In the nine months of the London Blitz, the capital of Great Britain absorbed 20,000 tons of bombs, endured thousands of civilian deaths, and saw one in six Londoners lose their homes. It only made the English tougher.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Their plan was to destroy the Royal Air Force to prepare for a cross-channel invasion, but Hitler and Goering largely failed and turned to bombing civilian and industrial targets in central and southern Great Britain. London was the main object of their fury and for nine months, Germany rained death and destruction on the precincts of the City, particularly the impoverished districts of East London where were located the docks and industrial installations of commercial activity. According to author Peter Stansky, “the Blitz marked an introduction of modern terror on a large scale.” There was no such thing as the Home Front anymore. Everyone was at risk. It was a new type of warfare.

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The London Blitz I

Lead: Frustrated because his bombers and fighters could not destroy the Royal Air Force and its support structure, Adolf Hitler, in Fall 1940, turned all of his fury on the City of London.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Like Napoleon before him, hubris and ambition drew Hitler into consideration of a cross-channel invasion of Britain. To do this he had to eliminate the Royal Air Force and challenge the British Navy. All during the summer of 1940 Luftwaffe squadrons hammered away at the airfields of southern England and the aircraft factories that supplied the RAF with its deadly Spitfire fighters. Yet it seemed that the more the Germans tried, the more heroic and desperate became the efforts of those Churchill praised with the words, “never in the field of conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

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Building of Berlin Wall II

Lead: Surrounded by East Germany and its citizens sometimes subjected to hostile restrictions on travel, West Berlin proved itself a shining example of the virtues of political and economic freedom. It had to be stopped.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts. 

Content: By 1960 East Germany was in trouble. Its population was restless under communist repression, its economy was dependent on Soviet aid, and suffered under the usual inefficiencies of a Marxist command structure. Its population was declining. Thousands were exercising the opportunity of free access to West Berlin to escape to the West. 200,000 in the first seven months of 1961 alone walked across the various allied checkpoints in West Berlin and never looked back. East Germany could not survive this continued exodus.

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