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Bundesarchiv Bild 119-2600, Heinrich Brüning

Chancellor Bruning

Karl Bruning was Chancellor of the Germanic Confederation during the 1930s and during the first half of the 1940s.

In 1934 Bruning signed an accord with Mexican President Alvin Silva creating a military alliance between the two nations. The German air arm was already larger than the combined warmobile fleets of the Confederation of North America and Great Britain, and Bruning continued to expand it and Germany's other military forces thoughout the 1930s. Both Bruning and Silva watched keenly as the Governor-General of the C.N.A., Douglas Watson, sought to convince his nation of the need to expand their own military forces and ally themselves with the British. Watson was opposed by Bruce Hogg, the Minority Leader of the Grand Council. Watson's policies suffered a serious blow on 1 July 1934 when Owen Galloway of North American Motors, the most popular man in the C.N.A., came out against Watson's defense policy.

On 24 February 1936 Bruning was cruising the Mediterranean on a private yacht while surreptitiously consulting with the leaders of Germany's Mediterranean fleet when news came that Kramer Associates, the largest corporation in the world, was planning to move its headquarters from Mexico to the Philippines. The news caused turmoil in world financial markets and set off the Panic of 1936, a serious global recession. As banks and businesses failed across the Germanic Confederation, Bruning was forced to put his war plans on hold while he dealt with the economic crisis.

Bruning's response to the Panic was sufficiently forceful and successful that in the national elections of 5 November 1937 Bruning's Deutschland Party was able to increase its hold on the national government, winning control of the legislatures of the states of Baden and Bavaria and increasing its majority in the Prussian Diet. Bruning's main opponent, Gustaf von Holtz of the Democratic Party had opposed the military buildup, and Bruning's victory was seen as a mandate for war.

War finally came in 1939, when the Arab Revolt of August against the rule of the Ottoman Empire spread to the nations of Europe as the leader of the revolt, Abdul el Sallah, appealed to Germany for aid against the Turks. On 16 September Bruning called a meeting of his cabinet, where it was agreed to send elements of the air arm to Arabia to "buttress the Arab position." By 21 September 6,000 elite German troops had joined el Sallah's army outside of Damascus. British Prime Minister George Bolingbroke responded by sending 3,500 British marines to Arabia and another 20,000 to Constantinople. British and German troops clashed near Damascus on 30 September and Bruning declared war on the British the next day. This marked the start of the Global War.

German troops invaded the Netherlands, Belgium, and France and by 17 November had taken Paris. By 27 November the French government had surrendered. The German troops in Arabia defeated the British and the Turks in a series of battles in late November, and by 25 December the Germans had occupied the Victoria Canal and Alexandria, Egypt.

Late in 1940 three German armies invaded India from occupied Ottoman territory, and by the end of 1941 all of India had fallen to them. The Germans went on to invade Indo-China and the Dutch East Indies, while Silva in Mexico launched a surprise attack on the Japanese on 1 January 1942. The only German failures at this time were a series of unsuccessful attempts to invade Great Britain.

Hogg, who had narrowly defeated Watson in the 1938 Grand Council elections, announced the C.N.A.'s neutrality in a speech on 3 October. Bruning sought to entice Hogg into an alliance with Germany by offering the C.N.A. "a share in a new world order, a partnership of equals after the aggressors are destroyed." Hogg, who expected the war in Europe and the Near East to end in a stalemate, turned down the offer. Hogg was unpleasantly surprised by the string of German victories, and he responded by establishing a North American military base in Iceland from which he covertly shipped military supplies and munitions to the British. Bruning protested to Hogg, who replied that "there have been serious thefts at North American installations in Iceland," but assured the Chancellor that "we are taking all precautions to assure the safety of our base." However, the "thefts" of supplies continued, and for diplomatic and military as well as legal reasons, the Germans were forced to ignore it. By 1943, British pilots were ferrying North American warmobiles from Iceland to Britain, and North American arms became instrumental in helping the British stave off defeat, and providing material for anti-German guerrillas in occupied Europe.

German victories continued in 1942 and 1943 in East Africa and the Dutch East Indies, but at a steadily slower pace, until by late in 1942 German forces were being driven from the island of Borneo in the Dutch East Indies, and a German invasion of Australia launched from New Guinea was defeated. German military defeats, combined with a steady flow of North American munitions, led to a series of uprisings in occupied Europe, first in Paris in November 1944, and early the following year in Amsterdam, Brussels, and Warsaw. Acts of sabotage became increasingly common, as German installations were blown up and troop trains were derailed. Bruning recognized that Germany's difficulties were the result of interference by both the C.N.A. in the Atlantic and Kramer Associates in the Pacific. In 1945 he stated, "The road to Australia passes through Luzon."

As the war soured for the Germans, Bruning's popularity waned at home. He sought to raise morale and popular support in July 1945 by remaking the Germanic Confederation into an empire, but the effect was lost when he barely escaped assassination at the Berlin Opera House the following month. Enraged, Bruning ordered hostages taken in cities across occupied Europe, and launched a terror campaign that cost the lives of over a million civilians over the next year. However, the need for troops to carry out the terror campaign complelled Bruning to abandon Indo-China and pull back to positions in India.

Opposition to Bruning's policies continued to grow, and in the August 1947 elections the Deutschland Party lost its majority in the Imperial Diet. When Bruning attempted to suspend the Diet on 18 August he was arrested by units of the Berlin guard and imprisoned. Heinrich von Richter the leader of the Opposition, was eventually able to form a coalition government with members of the Deutschland Party. It is not known what Bruning's ultimate fate was, but it is likely he was tried for treason and executed.

Sobel's sources for Karl Bruning's career as Chancellor of Germany are Manfred Ohrens' Origins of the Global War (New York, 1941); Field Marshall Sir Alexander Hunter's A Military History of the World Conflect (London, 1957); Hans Schuster's The War of the World (New York, 1958); James Radamaker's Secret Files of the Global War: Correspondences With North America, 1939-1941 (Melbourne, 1959); and Miguel Alavarces' The Global War: A Diplomatic History (Mexico City, 1960).

This was the Featured Article for the month of December 2021.