Notes on German Culture

The German Empire had 4 armies: those of Prussia, Bavaria, Württemberg, and Saxony…and each had their own uniforms, insignias and mottos.

“Stiefelappell” (Boot Inspection Rollcall).. by Carl Röchling .

A nostalgic image that encapsulates the calm peace time era that was brought about by Bismarck after 1871. The painter Carl Röchling accomplished this by depicting a beautiful sunny day in 1890, showing us the quaint old German half timber barracks used by the soldiers and casually showing us the precision and discipline of the Prussian Army. Röchling named this painting “Stiefelappell” (Boot Inspection Rollcall).

You may be confused when I say Prussian Army and 1890 in the same sentence. Even though Germany was united in 1871, it was still made up of Kingdoms and Duchies that were member states of the German Empire. Member Kingdoms had privileges, one which allowed them to retain their own army. That is why the German Empire had 4 armies: those of Prussia, Bavaria, Württemberg, and Saxony…and each had their own uniforms, insignias and mottos. 

This painting strikes a nostalgic chord in me because the scene is so familiar.
It reminds me of going to German movie theaters in the 50’s and watching the pre WWI era depictions of the antics of common soldiers involved in army maneuvers…usually comedic situations involving overly efficient officers and bumbling privates and some love story thrown in for good measure. The Hauptmann von Köpenick is one title that I still remember. Post war movies in Germany had uncontroversial subject matter like this, so they often recalled the military in the era of 1890… or else they were upbeat jovial romantic movies set in scenic 1950’s Bavaria, with the stars like Peter Alexander driving great cars like the Mercedes S class cabriolet and each girlfriend was cheerful and beautiful.

As I recall all of this, it seems only natural that Germans who survived the first half of the 20th century would seek refuge in the nostalgic peacetime era of 1871 to 1914…and also that they were intent on living life to the fullest.

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