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
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
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 “degenerate“.
December 31, 1908
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, 1919
Birth of Artur Fischer, a German inventor, in Tumlingen, Germany. He registered his first patent in 1949 for a Photo Flash Light, with synchronised trigger. From 1957 he concentrated more on fixing elements. He invented flash light photography as he saw an issue with the previously used magnesium flash. Stories say that he wanted to have pictures taken and the photographer refused as the magnesium could have burned the wooden roof.
Fischer’s most famous invention is the grey “S Plug” (Split-)Wallplug made from plastic materials (Polyamide) and is available in various shapes and sizes since 1958. He held over 1100 patents and overtook Thomas Alva Edison, who held 1093 patents. Fischer also held 5867 trade rights and invented Fischertechnik.
Further inventions are (bone-)plugs for fixing bone fractures and – his latest idea – biodegradable and edible children’s toys from potato starch/corn starch.
December 31, 1935
Death of Bernhard Voldemar Schmidt (1879-1935) in Hamburg, Germany. Schmidt was an optical instrument maker who invented the Schmidt 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 telescope.
One misadventure proved tragic and marked Schmidt for the rest of his life. When he was 15 years old, he experimented with gunpowder. He packed an iron pipe with a charge, but through a mistake with the fuse the pipe exploded, and he lost the thumb and index finger of his right hand. Despite his mother’s attempts to clean and bandage the wounds, surgeons in Tallinn later amputated the whole hand. This event appears to have deepened his reserve and introspection, qualities well noted by his contemporaries in later life.
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.
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