December 20, 1552
Death of Katharina von Bora (1499-1552), wife of Martin Luther. “Die Lutherin”, as she was referred to, was sent at the age of 5 to the Benedictine cloister in Brehna in 1504 for education. At the age of 9 she moved to the Cistercian monastery Marienthron (Mary’s Throne) in Nimbschen. After several years of religious life, Katharina became interested in the growing reform movement and grew dissatisfied with her life in the monastery. Conspiring with several other nuns to flee in secrecy, she contacted Luther and begged for his assistance. Luther eventually married Katharina on June 13, 1525.
Katharina immediately took on the task of administering and managing the vast holdings of the monastery, breeding and selling cattle, and running a brewery in order to provide for their family and the steady stream of students who boarded with them and visitors seeking audiences with Luther. In times of widespread illness, Katharina operated a hospital on site, ministering to the sick alongside other nurses. Luther called her the “boss of Zulsdorf,” after the name of the farm they owned, and the “morning star of Wittenberg” for her habit of rising at 4 a.m. to take care of her various responsibilities.
In addition to her busy life tending to the lands and grounds of the monastery, Katharina bore six children.
December 20, 1858
Birth of Kuno Meyer in Hamburg, Germany. Meyer began his academic career as a lecturer in German at University College and continued at the University of Liverpool. He developed an interest in Irish studies and began publishing English translations of ancient Irish literature. He established the School of Irish Learning in Dublin in 1903. In 1911 he became the professor of Celtic studies at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität (later the Humboldt Universität) in Berlin.
December 20, 1937
Death of Erich Ludendorff in Munich, Germany. Ludendorff entered the military and by 1908 was serving on the army general staff under General Helmuth von Moltke. Ludendorff was a key figure in revising the Schlieffen Plan (a contingency plan for war with France). When World War I started in 1914, he became the quartermaster of the 2nd Army in the west. When the 8th Army in East Prussia was threatened with defeat by Russia, Ludendorff was appointed chief of staff of that army under General Paul von Hindenburg. The Russians were decisively defeated at the battle of Tannenberg in August of 1914. In 1916 Hindenburg and Ludendorff were given supreme military control of all forces. It was on Ludendorff’s authority that in 1917 Germany undertook unrestricted submarine warfare against the British. (This was one of the factors which brought the United States into the war.) In the fall of 1918 in the face of imminent defeat Ludendorff resigned. Convinced that he could have won the war had he not been undermined and betrayed, Ludendorff fed the sense of an undeserved loss in the war, a suspicion which the Nazi Party perpetuated. In 1923 Ludendorff participated in Hitler’s attempted Putsch in Munich. From 1924 to 1928 he was a Nazi member of the Reichstag. In 1935 he published a book, Der totale Krieg.
December 20, 1947
The Soviet authorities depose the leaders of the CDU in the Soviet Occupation Zone, Jakob Kaiser and Ernst Lemmer.
December 20, 1962
Death of Emil Artin in Hamburg, Germany. Artin, a mathematician, made his most significant contribution to mathematics in the area of class field theory with his general law of reciprocity. He also solved the Hilbert problem of definite functions, worked with hypercomplex numbers and developed a theory of braids. He taught at the Universities of Gottingen and Hamburg, and then immigrated in 1937 to the United States where he taught at Notre Dame, Indiana University and Princeton University. In 1958 he returned to Europe to teach at the University of Hamburg.
December 20, 1972
Death of Gunter Eich in Salzburg, Austria. Gunter Eich was born in Lebus, Germany on February 1, 1907. His university studies were in oriental languages at the universities of Leipzig, Paris and Berlin. He began publishing poetry in 1930. His literary career was interrupted by World War II in which he fought as a German soldier. The war ended for Eich as a prisoner of war held by the American army. He resumed his literary career after the war. He continued to publish poetry and then also short stories and radio plays. He was one of the founders of “Gruppe 47”, a post-war group of young authors. During his career he won numerous literary prizes, including the prestigious Buchner Prize. In 1953 he married the author Ilse Aichinger.
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