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May 23 in German History

May 23, 1125

Death of Heinrich V, King of the Germans and Holy Roman Emperor. He was the son of Heinrich IV and like his father led the investiture battle with the popes. He came to power by arresting his father and forcing him to abdicate. He won in the investiture battle too by arresting the Pope and demanding the right of investiture of bishops.

May 23, 1552

Death of Sebastian Münster in Basel, Switzerland. Münster was professor of Hebrew at the University of Basel after 1527. His major contribution to scholarship was his Cosmography published in 1544. That book proceeding from the geography of Ptolemy represented a revival of the science of geography in Germany.

May 23, 1734

Birth of Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) in Iznang, Germany. A physician, Mesmer developed the therapeutic system known as mesmerism and later hypnotism. He earned his medical degree at the University of Vienna in 1766. In addition he was much enchanted with the concept of “animal magnetism” (the flow of invisible fluids in the body), a theory which found wide-spread interest in those times. Mesmerism is considered to be a form of vitalism and shares features with other vitalist theories that also emphasize the movement of life “energy” through distinct channels in the body. In 1843 James Braid, a Scottish physician proposed the term hypnosis for a technique derived from magnetism but more limited in its claimed effects, and also different in its conception. Mesmer’s name is the root of the English verb “mesmerize”.

May 23, 1848

Birth of Otto Lilienthal (1848-1896) in Anklam, Germany. Lilienthal was an aeronautical pioneer who became known as the Glider King. He experimented with flying machines with flapping wings and wings as gliders. He made over 2,000 experimental flights with gliders. His book Der Vogelflug als Grundlage der Fliegekuns (1889) and aeronautical articles he published based on his experiments were used by the Wright brothers in their experiments. Lilienthal was killed in one of his experimental flights.

May 23, 1863

Birth of Friedrich Hermann Gunkel in Hannover, Germany. Gunkel was an Old Testament scholar who developed “form criticism” in biblical studies. He taught at the universities of Göttingen, Halle, Berlin and Giessen.

May 23, 1863

Founding of one of the early workers’ associations in Germany. The Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein was founded in Leipzig. The first president was Ferdinand Lassalle.

May 23, 1886

Death of Leopold von Ranke in Berlin, Germany. Von Ranke was a professor of history at the University of Berlin. He was the leading historian of the 19th Century. His scholarly care and objectivity in the writing of history set standards for historians far beyond his own lifetime. Von Ranke was a very religious man and his original attraction to history was to understand God’s plan in the complexity of historical events.

May 23, 1915

In WWI Italy declares war on Austria.

May 23, 1945

Death of Heinrich Himmler in Lüneburg, Germany. Himmler was one of the inner circle of the Nazi party. He was involved with Hitler at the Munich Putsch of 1923. He was involved in the building of the SS and the Gestapo. He took poison after he was captured in 1945.

May 23, 1945

One of the most vocal anti-Semitic Nazis, Julius Streicher is captured in Bavaria by U. S. troops.

May 23, 1949

Announcement of the Basic Law for West Germany.

May 23, 1979

Carl Carstens is elected president of West Germany.

May 23, 1984

Richard von Weizäcker is elected president of West Germany.

May 23, 1989

Richard von Weizäcker is reelected president of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany).

May 23, 1994

Roman Herzog elected Bundespräsident.

May 23, 1999

Johannes Rau elected Bundespräsident.

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