In my history class at school, we recently covered the topic of the unification of Germany, and I think I need to draw attention to this subject. There are two main points which are demonstrated by this series of events: Firstly, Otto von Bismarck was a genius, and second, history can be comedy gold. The level of deceit and trickery at play is astonishing, and somewhat reminds me of Town of Salem, in that Bismarck kept enough secret that nobody really knew what he was up to.
After discussing Germany’s unification in class, we were assigned to draw up a graphic representation of how they unified the nation. This is mine. Apologies for the penmanship.
I’ll explain more or less what’s going down, beginning in the top left and following the purple arrows. First off, Prussia invited Austria to attack Denmark and take back some land that apparently was traditionally property of the German peoples. Bismarck reassured the Austrians that if Denmark wanted to retaliate, they would have to come through Prussia first, so the Austrians were entirely safe. This also meant that the Austrian military would have to march through Prussia, and the Prussians would have every opportunity to identify their generals and observe their strategy.
When the Austrians reached the border of Denmark, the Prussians said, “Go get ’em!” and the Austrians did just that. Meanwhile, the Prussians sat back and watched. After Austria took the agreed area from Denmark, it was divided between Prussia and Austria. Note that Prussia took the northern half, leaving Austria’s territory sandwiched between Prussia and a Prussian exclave.
The Prussians sent small guerrilla units to harass the new Austrian enclave, in order to provoke Austria into a larger retaliation. Naturally, Bismarck covered it up so that Austria looked like the aggressor. Austria declared war on Prussia, and, because Prussia had been gathering military intelligence this whole time, surrendered seven weeks later. Prussia took Venetia from Austria, and gave it to Italy. (That was a deal that had been worked out in secret beforehand between Prussia and Italy.)
Prussia now had won some of its closest neighbours’ support in unity, but the southern German states remained unimpressed. To remedy this issue, Bismarck saw fit to create a problem for the southern states, then remove said problem to look like he’s helping. This problem was, of course, the French. Prussia forged a telegram from the French government talking shit about the southern German states, and published it. This got the German states riled up, and got the French riled up. Prussia decided to step in as the hero, and beat up the French.
The Prussians wiped the floor with France’s military and took a whole bunch of stuff. The southern German states were impressed, and convinced to join the union. They then changed their flag around and called it Germany, and everything was great for the next few decades.