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Thread: Bavaria unites Germany instead of Prussia

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    EmperorBatman999's Avatar I say, what, what?
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    Default Bavaria unites Germany instead of Prussia

    In our timeline, Prussia rose to prominence in the eighteenth-century and became one of the most powerful and influential states in Europe, putting it in its eventual position to unify the German states by military force and the ruthless diplomacy of Otto von Bismarck. By 1848, it appeared that the only German states capable of influencing the entirety of Germany was Prussia and Austria, even despite the general consolidation of the region after the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

    However, what if Bavaria emerged as a contender? It was the third-largest state in the German Confederation in size and population by the nineteenth-century, and although by the time of the ending of the Napoleonic Wars it may have lost the competition, it still maintained substantial influence within the Empire until the end of World War I. What could have Bavaria and the Wittelsbach dynasty done differently before and during the 30 Years War, the 18th Century, or even the Napoleonic Wars, that could set them on a trajectory to challenge and beat both Prussia and Austria, in pursuit of the German throne?

    I am also interested in seeing what a Bavarian-led Germany might look like culturally and politically, depending on when it might be formed. Might we see a more "benevolent" (or, dare I say, gemütlicher) Germany, born without the stain of Prussian militarism, that would eventually lead to a more stable and peaceful Europe? Would see a world without the World Wars, or perhaps one where these wars started in a different place? And what might German social and political culture overall look like with Munich instead of Berlin being the center of gravity for a German state?

    Prost!
    Last edited by EmperorBatman999; February 11, 2019 at 11:53 PM.

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    NorseThing's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: Bavaria unites Germany instead of Prussia

    The problem with these type of what if discussions is the family squabbles that prevented any monarch from being more effective had to be eliminated. It is less about what the rulers of Bavaria did or did not do, than what the competition to their power internally did. Dynasties that did not end well have many sources to blame. The question still remains if not Prussia and Austria, then who? And why not still Prussia and Austria as the drivers of the modern German State.

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    Default Re: Bavaria unites Germany instead of Prussia

    Leadership of Germany was divided between the Gross- and Kleine-Deutschland options, essentially the first is "Big Germany" led by the Emperor (usually the Hapsburgs) and only in the late 18th-early 19th century does the alternative Prussian position appear (hard for a protestant state to become HRE but I sup-pose not impossible).

    Bavaria can arrive at either end game at many points, either as themselves or as another power's cats paw (most obviously Spain, France or the Ottomans). To do it relatively alone is hard, Brandenburg enjoyed the reigns of several organisational and military geniuses (the great Elector and Frederick II especially) as well as fortutious inheritances (especially Prussia) to arrive at a dominant position.

    If Vienna falls in 1529/30 or in 1683 there's a chance for it to be Germany's Thermopylae, with Bavaria supplying a Plataea moment at Innsbruck or some other chokepoint and becoming the moral leaders and eventual emperors of a re-established Reich.

    Say Louis XIV becomes Emperor (he was within one vote of doing so in the mid 17th century) or smashes the Alliance in the 1690's or Spanish Succession wars, Bavaria could become their proxy, or alternately switch sides after Austria's demise (the price? the purple).

    Its not too remote. Saxony joined a personal Union under Augustus the Strong with the Commonwealth and looked rather scary for a decade. A chance marriage or union (imagine a Saxon/Bavarian Union, or a Bavarian insurgence into Italy via Savoy?) or a fortuitous lining up of electors, maybe a mad Emperor leading to a deposition and a search for a suitable replacement.

    The sudden intervention of powerful outside players rocked Germany from 1500 onwards. Spain, the ottomans, the Swedes and above all the French flipped the table on a regular basis. The Swedes and Ottomans have no way to claim the Imperial throne themselves and might have raised Bavaria as a spoiler to other states. Once in power the Wittelsbachs might have cemented their place on the throne and managed a centralising trend that evaded the Hapsburgs.

    Bavaria lacked a dominant military establishment after the 30 years War, like Saxony their achievements were more cultural. Maybe they need to retain a strong military after 1648 as your first departure from RL?
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    EmperorBatman999's Avatar I say, what, what?
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    Default Re: Bavaria unites Germany instead of Prussia

    Quote Originally Posted by NorseThing View Post
    The problem with these type of what if discussions is the family squabbles that prevented any monarch from being more effective had to be eliminated. It is less about what the rulers of Bavaria did or did not do, than what the competition to their power internally did. Dynasties that did not end well have many sources to blame. The question still remains if not Prussia and Austria, then who? And why not still Prussia and Austria as the drivers of the modern German State.
    Would you propose then that a more-powerful Bavaria would only be there to maintain balance, preventing either Prussia or Austria from taking it all?

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    Default Re: Bavaria unites Germany instead of Prussia

    Quote Originally Posted by EmperorBatman999 View Post
    I am also interested in seeing what a Bavarian-led Germany might look like culturally
    Better food, probably...

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    Default Re: Bavaria unites Germany instead of Prussia

    Quote Originally Posted by NorseThing View Post
    The problem with these type of what if discussions is the family squabbles that prevented any monarch from being more effective had to be eliminated. It is less about what the rulers of Bavaria did or did not do, than what the competition to their power internally did.
    It's a fair point that well organised states with stable succession could project sufficient power to dominate Germany. Bavaria was transformed prior to the Thirty years war from a typical piddling German state into the head of the Catholic League, able to buly even the Emperor to a degree.

    Quote Originally Posted by NorseThing View Post
    Dynasties that did not end well have many sources to blame. The question still remains if not Prussia and Austria, then who? And why not still Prussia and Austria as the drivers of the modern German State.
    Flip that, why Austria? Well it wasn't Austria., it was the Hapsburg dynasty based in a number of seats. They did acquire a sheen of Imperial authority through repeated election but they did not have an exclusive lock on the top seat at Frankfurt (whish was the Imperial capital).

    And why Prussia? an extraordinary zigzagging career, a frontier Electorate, devastated in the Thirty Years war, cynical exploiter of the opportunities the reformation to acquire Prussia, faithful lapdog of the Emperor during the Spanish Succession, a poor ramshackle state that became a third rate power with a first rate army, miraculously (seriously) surviving to pinch Silesia, utterly smashed by Napoleon and a literal joke, a second radical military reform and again a lapdog (to the tsar) and finally the ascendant star against Austrian leadership.

    There are so many points o that wild ride where Brandenburg or Prussia could simply cease to exist, or be reduced to a non entity. A worse result in the thirty Years War, or the Spanish War, Frederick II dies at Mollwitz, Elizabeth of Russia survives a year or two longer, Napoleon decides to evaporated Prussia, or Prussia does worse at Vienna and never receives the industrial regions on the Rhine and so has no interest in creating the Zollverein.

    Prussia only came to establish the Second Reich after the Hapsburgs voluntarily dissolved the First Reich in 1806, and it took them sicty + years to do so, despite Austria-Hungary's backward political and economic structure.

    The vagaries of inheritance, diplomacy, the battlefield (all involving huge amounts of sheer luck) determined so many of the outcomes here. My own guess is it was always likely Germany should unite in some form. It took many Herculean efforts to prevent the Emperors from more closely uniting Germany, so I would guess the most likely historical outcome (itf we start a replay of history in say 1500) would be an Imperial renovation, probably under the Hapsburgs. Instead we got a "minor branch" outcome of a lesser German state modernising and sweeping away the old Imperial structure using industrialisation to only partly unify Germany (they still lack Austria the Swiss German cantons, Alsace, and other German majority enclaves, as well as numerous communities ethnically cleansed in 1945).

    In my view it could have been any of a number of minor German states that created this less likely "Kleindeutschland" option. Saxony could have renovated Poland in the early 18th century and ridden that union to power in North Germany ("Augustus the Strong, King of Saxony-Poland, and his son Mauritz, the Bastard Emperor"). Bavaria might have found another Maximilian I, this one able to seize the Imperial throne after a highly contentious election on the sudden death of the Hapsburg Emperor (say at Vienna in 1683 or in some strategic over-reach in the invasion of the Balkans in the 1690's) (Maximillian II of Bavaria, and III of the HRE, victor of Budapest, Saviour of Christendom and Knight of Christ").

    Quote Originally Posted by EmperorBatman999 View Post
    I am also interested in seeing what a Bavarian-led Germany might look like culturally?
    Aside form better food, I guess it would be more Catholic. Not only is Bavaria Catholic but religious identity has played a stronger part in its military history (especially as head of the Catholic League in the Thirty Year's War). Bavaria enjoyed a stronger artistic reputation for most of its history as compared to Prussia (Prussia has Frederick II as an Enlightenment Prince and employed Bach on occasion, otherwise it was a dour place focused on getting men and guns onto the field)).

    Quote Originally Posted by EmperorBatman999 View Post
    Would you propose then that a more-powerful Bavaria would only be there to maintain balance, preventing either Prussia or Austria from taking it all?
    Prussia and Austria were not in balance for the majority of German history. For the majority of German history from 1500-1871 it was the Hapsburg dynasty being restrained from remaking Germany to their liking by shifting alliances of minor German states usually abetted by foreign powers determined to keep Germany broken. Often Prussia was a loyal subordinate in these struggles.

    Even Frederick the Great was an opportunist sneaking in under Austria's guard to steal provinces whole Vienna faced major foes in Paris or London.

    Its really only in the 1840's that Berlin emerges as a real rival for Vienna as head of Germany. Its a long long journey for Brandenburg to develop from a fringe Margarvate to a Kingdom capable of toppling the Kaiser und Koenig as Top German, and even then it was only done with superb skill and great risk.
    Last edited by Cyclops; February 12, 2019 at 04:34 PM.
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    Mayer's Avatar Domesticus
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    Default Re: Bavaria unites Germany instead of Prussia

    Prussia was the only serious rival to the old Habsburg monarchy in Germany. After the reformation and secularization of the former Teutonic Order, it soon became one of the most modern states of Europe with liberal laws, public education and a professional army, instead of wasting tons of money on a extravagant lifestyle at court and fantasy castles like the bavarian kings. Frederick the II. the Great saw his rule as being "the first servant of the state", not "I am the state" like classic absolutism. Then came the Napoleonic Wars and Prussia was riding the wave of nationalism and the king directly addressing the people for support("An mein Volk"). And Bismarck was a shrewd politician and diplomat who understood combining the old and the new, otherwise another revolution like 1848 and the proclamation of a german republic would have been unavoidable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclops View Post
    Aside form better food, I guess it would be more Catholic. Not only is Bavaria Catholic but religious identity has played a stronger part in its military history (especially as head of the Catholic League in the Thirty Year's War). Bavaria enjoyed a stronger artistic reputation for most of its history as compared to Prussia (Prussia has Frederick II as an Enlightenment Prince and employed Bach on occasion, otherwise it was a dour place focused on getting men and guns onto the field)).
    A catholic Germany would have been hard to establish after the Reformation(princes became protestant to get more autonomy), especially after the cruelties of the Catholic League (The rape of Magdeburg). I could imagine a imperial victory under the leadership of the bohemian Wallenstein, who not only understood how to win but when to make peace and that the protestants would only bow to the emperor if the unreasonable demands for recatholicization were dropped. However the bavarian king Maximilian I. was a dumb fanatic who wanted his religious war and lobbied with the clergy to remove the capable Wallenstein as military leader. Honestly, the Imperials would have been better of if Bavaria did not exist.
    The austerity of Prussia on the other hand was a reason for its success.
    Last edited by Mayer; February 12, 2019 at 06:24 PM.
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    Default Re: Bavaria unites Germany instead of Prussia

    Quote Originally Posted by Mayer View Post
    Prussia was the only serious rival to the old Habsburg monarchy in Germany. ...
    The austerity of Prussia on the other hand was a reason for its success.
    Prussia was not a serious rival to form an alternate form of Germany until the 1840's at the earliest. Frederick II was not a rival to Maria Teresa for Imperial honours or rule from Frankfurt, he was jackal snatching some carrion from a lion while it was fighting other lions.

    Prussian austerity is not noticeable during the reigns of Frederick I when he was commissioning Bach concertos or hiring a company of Giant Grenadiers. Prussian efficiency was part of the reason they fielded an above average force in the 18th century, and was the work of two reformers: an alternate history can posit two reformers for Bavaria or Saxony (or an independent Bohemia for that matter) to create an opportunity for them to challenge the Hapsburgs.

    Prussian poverty, the rason for their need for effeciency, as they had less fertile agricultural land or developed manufacturing than Bavaria or Saxony until the 19th century is one of the many reasons they were not a rival to Hapsburg authority for most of the modern period.
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    Mayer's Avatar Domesticus
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    Default Re: Bavaria unites Germany instead of Prussia

    Habsburg for much of its reign had no rivals in Germany, but failed for centuries to create a unified country with centralized rule like France. Failing to prevent France from sneakily snatching Elsaß-Lothringen in 1648 and Napoleon's conquering of the Rhineland. It took the upstart Prussia to create such a thing in the 1870s, after the liberal revolution of 1848 tried to force a unified Germany against the princes and landlords.
    The change in the balance of power in European politics due to the creation of a strong Germany was a cause for WW1, not prussian militarism.
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    Default Re: Bavaria unites Germany instead of Prussia

    Quote Originally Posted by Mayer View Post
    Habsburg for much of its reign had no rivals in Germany, but failed for centuries to create a unified country with centralized rule like France. Failing to prevent France from sneakily snatching Elsaß-Lothringen in 1648 and Napoleon's conquering of the Rhineland. It took the upstart Prussia to create such a thing in the 1870s, after the liberal revolution of 1848 tried to force a unified Germany against the princes and landlords.
    Yews the Ottonian Reich suited most German rulers, and they were prepared to resist Hapsburg, Bourbon and Bonapartes to preserve the ramshackle devolved structure of Kreise (is the plural Kreisen?), the Electorate, the Diet at Frankfurt and the various courts and councils.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mayer View Post
    The change in the balance of power in European politics due to the creation of a strong Germany was a cause for WW1, not prussian militarism.
    Yes that and the blundering diplomacy of the awkward Anglophile Wilhelm II. He wanted to be so British, so he built a British style navy, adopted a British style hostility to his Russian allies, and ended up driving Britain, Russia and France into full alliance. Idiot.

    If Germany had kept its Russian alliance it would have been handcuffed to a tottering giant, but would have been unassailable on land and immune to two-front war. France would have no friends and Britain would have to watch its arse in Asia. Bismarck had Germany and Russia play good cop/bad cop to amazing effect from 1864-1890, they smacked the Ottomans about, smacked Austria and France down, and Britain stfu for most of the period.

    Tallyrand's precept applies here: the German Russian alliance was ugly and cynical but it worked for world peace. Too much zeal led to too much war. Cynical wars tend to be shorter and more sensible.

    Prussia's eveolution into the Second Reich is plausible for Bavaria, as plausible as it was for Prussia. Noether was particularly likely, but it happened for one.
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    Harley_Quinn's Avatar Senator
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    Default Re: Bavaria unites Germany instead of Prussia

    A little alternative history:

    At the Wiener Congress of 1814/1815 Prussia would be given - as initially wished by Prussia - whole Saxony, not only three fifths of it. Bavaria would be given the Rhenish Palatinate and - because of the catholic Wittelsbacher dynasty were 180 years long catholic Archbishop-Electors of Cologne and as counterweight to Prussia - the Rhineland and Westfalia.

    Then Bavaria would have been in control of the developing "Ruhrgebiet" in Westfalia and the famous canons of Krupp would have been used by the Bavarian army.

    Bavaria would had have the industrial, financial and population resources to compete with Prussia.

    It would have then be able to beat Prussia in the war of 1866 with the help of the Kingdom of Hanover, the Electorate of Hesse-Kassel, the Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt and the Duchy of Hesse-Nassau.

    It could have forced Prussia to restore the Kingdom of Saxony and change the side in the parallel war between France, Sardinia-Piemont and Austria-Hungary on the french-sardinian side.

    Then Bavaria could have created with war and diplomacy a second German Empire as its competitors Austria and Prussia were beaten.
    Last edited by Harley_Quinn; February 14, 2019 at 08:50 PM.

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    Default Re: Bavaria unites Germany instead of Prussia

    Wilhelm II. may have had a self-destructive admiration of Britain, no sense of diplomacy and a crippled arm, but he was still a german-emperor first, prussian second (unlike Wilhelm I).

    The fallacy of this thread is the belief that the House of Wittelsbach had better contenders for the throne of Germany than the House of Hohenzollern.
    Maximilian II. was anti-nationalist and wanted to promote a independent bavarian culture.
    Ludwig II. bankrupted Bavaria and didn't want to marry, rumours of being homosexual.
    Otto I. was clinically insane and an embarrassment.
    Luitpold was a passive ruler who let the monachy lose power.
    Ludwig III. had no charisma and thought he could get fantastic annexations in WW1(New-Burgundy...)
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    Harley_Quinn's Avatar Senator
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    Default Re: Bavaria unites Germany instead of Prussia

    Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia was mad.

    Wilhelm I of Prussia, the Democrats Slaughterer of 1848 ("Case shot Prince"), had no own political ideas, without Bismarck he would have already resigned in the constitutional crisis of 1862 (prussian parliament denied the financial budget for a reform of the prussian army), he must be forced by Bismarck to become german emperor in Versailles 1871.

    His son Friedrich III was no leader, had a weak healthy, he had no authority in front of his military and the prussian nobility.

    Wilhelm II was a hopeless dreamer, who led the German Empire in a diplomatic zig zag course, he had also no authority in front of his generals, especially Ludendorff and Hindenburg.

    Prussian Kings don' t convince me too...

    Without Bismarck (and Krupp's canons) Prussia would have stayed a backward minor german state.
    Last edited by Harley_Quinn; February 14, 2019 at 09:55 PM.

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    EmperorBatman999's Avatar I say, what, what?
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    Default Re: Bavaria unites Germany instead of Prussia

    So then, the problem lies in a matter of personal talent? Whereas it seems that Prussia had talented generals (such as Moltke the Elder) and statesmen (Bismarck), Bavaria did not?

    I'm still convinced that if Bavaria had brought its energies together properly at the junctures of either early-eighteenth century or the Napoleonic Wars, they would have had a chance. Their soldiers were well-regarded in most of the wars and military engagements they fought it. Something just always seems to be preventing them from taking the lead, such as the power of Napoleon or Bismarck.

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    Harley_Quinn's Avatar Senator
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    Default Re: Bavaria unites Germany instead of Prussia

    As i said , if Bavaria would have got Germany's industrial heart Ruhrgebiet and a bavarian Bismarck, it would became the uniting power.

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    Default Re: Bavaria unites Germany instead of Prussia

    Bavaria had a modern army during the Napoleonic Wars, but was an ally of emperor Napoleon whose strategy for Germany was divide & conquer.
    Yes, Bavaria had some talended generals like Siegmund von Prankh, but Bavaria was not interested in german unification and its historic friendship with France did not stop with Bonaparte.
    In reality they became a joke, the nortorious spendthrift Ludwig II. sold Bavarian independence to Bismarck with a loan of 6 million gulden. So, Bavaria would have to be quite different in this alternate scenario.

    Quote Originally Posted by Harley_Quinn View Post
    Without Bismarck (and Krupp's canons) Prussia would have stayed a backward minor german state.
    Before Bismarck, Prussia already had 50% of german territory. Even without the Rhineland, they were outclassing Bavaria.
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    Harley_Quinn's Avatar Senator
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    Default Re: Bavaria unites Germany instead of Prussia

    Not true.

    Population of Prussia:


    1795: 8,7 million (Prussia has massive poluation and area gains because of the 3. polnish division)
    1806: 9, 7 million (Prussia gains electorate of Hanover)
    1807: 4,94 million (Prussia lose it polnish gains and Hanover)
    1816: 10,3 million (Prussia get polnish Posen back, additional Rhineland and Westfalia, 3/5 of Saxony)

    https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%B...h_Preu%C3%9Fen

    Bavaria with Rhenish Palatinate 1815: 3.560000 Population


    Its obviously, that with the gain of Rhineland and Westfalia Bavaria would have had a good chance to become the leading power in Germany, as Prussia was mostly a agricultural dominated, low populated state at this time.
    Last edited by Harley_Quinn; February 15, 2019 at 09:25 AM.

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    Mayer's Avatar Domesticus
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    Default Re: Bavaria unites Germany instead of Prussia

    What you think a bavarian German Empire would look like:



    What it would actually look like:


    Antisemitism did not originate from Prussia which had religious freedom(it was a safe heaven for persecuted minorities like the Huguenots), it was an import from Southern Germany. Bavaria became the center for political radicalism after the war, it was the home of the Bavarian Soviet Republic, the anti-democratic reactionary forces and National Socialism(Munich was named the capital of the movement). Hitler tried a coup in Bavaria before trying to become Reich chancellor. Prussia on the other hand was an element of stability in Weimar.

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    EmperorBatman999's Avatar I say, what, what?
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    Default Re: Bavaria unites Germany instead of Prussia

    Quote Originally Posted by Mayer View Post
    What you think a bavarian German Empire would look like:



    What it would actually look like:


    Antisemitism did not originate from Prussia which had religious freedom(it was a safe heaven for persecuted minorities like the Huguenots), it was an import from Southern Germany. Bavaria became the center for political radicalism after the war, it was the home of the Bavarian Soviet Republic, the anti-democratic reactionary forces and National Socialism(Munich was named the capital of the movement). Hitler tried a coup in Bavaria before trying to become Reich chancellor. Prussia on the other hand was an element of stability in Weimar.
    Touché.

    However, that particular far-left and far-right radicalism you cite emerges mostly out of the radical exacerbation of desperate conditions in Germany and Austria after the end of World War I. We don't even know what a First World War might look like if Bavaria was at the helm of Germany after unification. The conditions of the war could be totally different without the erratic behavior of Wilhelm II. You do have a strong point that anti-Semitism in this circumstance has a very strong South German tinge - much of Nazi anti-Jewish rhetoric stems from attitudes formulated during turn-of-the-century Vienna, after all. However still, the Habsburgs also had a tolerant and protective attitudes towards Jews as well, and Vienna nonetheless was one of the centers of Jewish culture. I know I'm speaking of Austria here as I'm more familiar with their history, but regional and cultural proximity must count for something here at the very least.

    Also, the Prussian Junkers were no saints either, and neither were their tenant farmers and smallholders that lived under them east of the Elbe, all of whom were a hotbed of reactionary-conservative action. Prussians were hardly the upholders of Weimar, as the Kapp Putsch demonstrates, which saw significant collaboration and support by Prussian officers. And Prussian officers were again all the more happy to serve the Nazis, only turning against the regime in a cynical gambit meant to preserve the military Junkers' power and dignity in the face of a war that was clearly lost.

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    Harley_Quinn's Avatar Senator
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    Default Re: Bavaria unites Germany instead of Prussia

    I have problems to see the humanity of Prussia, especially of the prussian Lieutenant General Lothar von Trotha here:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herero...maqua_genocide

    And Mayer is plainly wrong about antisemitism in Prussia:

    Napoleon I emancipated the Jews across Europe, but with Napoleon's fall in 1815, growing nationalism resulted in increasing repression.
    ...
    After the Rhineland reverted to Prussian control, Jews lost the rights Napoleon had granted them, were banned from certain professions, and the few who had been appointed to public office before the Napoleonic Wars were dismissed.[32]

    ...
    [I]Jews experienced a period of legal equality after 1848. Baden and Württemberg passed the legislation that gave the Jews complete equality before the law in 1861–64. The newly formed German Empire did the same in 1871.
    ...
    World War I

    A higher percentage of German Jews fought in World War I than of any other ethnic, religious or political group in Germany; some 12,000 died for their country.[39][40]
    Prominent Jewish industrialists and bankers, such as Walter Rathenau and Max Warburg played major roles in supervising the German war economy.
    In October 1916, the German Military High Command administered the Judenzählung (census of Jews). Designed to confirm accusations of the lack of patriotism among German Jews, the census disproved the charges, but its results were not made public.[41] Denounced as a "statistical monstrosity",[42] the census was a catalyst to intensified antisemitism and social myths such as the "stab-in-the-back myth" (Dolchstoßlegende).[43][44]
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Histor...5%E2%80%931918

    Prussia was not the place of tolerance after Friedrich II the Great's death...

    And i don't need to talk about the crimes of prussian Freikorps among workers...

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freikorps#Freikorps_units

    Prussia was rightful dissolved after WW II.
    Last edited by Harley_Quinn; February 15, 2019 at 02:14 PM.

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