Would Germans Have Unified Without Bismarck?

Political map of central Europe showing the 26 areas that became part of the united German Empire in 1891. Germany based in the northeast, dominates in size, occupying about 40% of the new empire.
By Deutsches_Reich1.png: kgberger
derivative work: Wiggy! (talk) – Deutsches_Reich1.png, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

 

“The German Empire of 1871–1918. Because the German-speaking part of the multinational Austrian Empire was excluded, this geographic construction represented a lesser Germany (Kleindeutsch) solution.”

Otto Von Bismarck, a Prussian leader who dominated European affairs from the 1860s until 1890, is largely credited with unifying the German nation in 1871. He was the first chancellor of the German Empire. Would German unification have occurred without Count von Bismarck?

Discussion on Facebook.

The answer is “probably not.” Bismarck was a central figure in the unification of Germany, as this discussion on Quora.com details. He was viewed at the time as a conservative because he opposed the Marxists and socialists, indeed he banned the Social Democratic Party until he resigned from the government in 1890.

He believed in a strong central government. He believed that the chancellor should have strong, even authoritarian powers, but because of his long-standing Prussian belief in public service or advocating for the citizenry, he did not abuse his authority. Yet the very powers granted to him were later greatly abused by Adolph Hitler.

To co-opt the burgeoning socialist German labor movement, supported by the Protestant church, he proposed a cradle-to-grave social safety net — including national health insurance, old age pension, unemployment and disability insurance plan. “My thought was to win the working classes, or should I say to bribe them, to regard the state as a social institution, which consists because of them and to care for their welfare,” he said.

“He did a great job unifying Germany, but he was even better at establishing a diplomatic system that kept the European powers in balance. Had he been around in 1914, there might have been no WWI,” wrote Philip Koloczek on Quora.com, in answer to the question of why Bismarck isn’t idolized as a German national hero, Modern Germans “generally acknowledge his political and diplomatic talent and his steps towards the modern welfare state,” he wrote. “They will generally not like his aristocratic and militaristic attitude and his oppression of worker’s rights movements.”

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