As a group, the Junkers constituted the land aristocracy of Prussia and Eastern Germany - more precisely Ostelbien i.e. the grounds located at the east of the Elba. The majority of these families, resulting from the Uradel, the old feudal German nobility, colonized and christianized the North-East of Europe with 11th, 12th and 13th centuries.
Etymology and originsDerived from high German “Juncherre” who gave the term Junger Herr , the Junker designates, at the origin, a young lord, i.e. the son of a land lord and, later, the lords land themselves. In a general way, Junker indicates noble not titrated, just like the term Jonkheer in Dutch applies to an aristocrat not titrated in the Netherlands and in Dutch-speaking Belgium.
As a member of the nobility, the patronym of many families of Junker is preceded by the particle “Von” (“of”) or “Zu” (“with”). With the Middle Ages, a Junker noble not was simply titrated, often not very rich and not influence. Good number of Junkers carried out a career of soldiers or mercenaries. During centuries, they rose the rank of captains of mercenaries to that of influential commanders and owners (19th century).
Modern influencesRampart of the Empire Hohenzollern, the Junkers controlled the army, exerted a dominating influence from the political and social point of view, and had immense properties, especially in the North-East of Germany (Brandenbourg, Mecklenburg, Poméranie, Eastern Prussia, Saxony and Silesia). Their political influence extended from the German Empire (1871-1918) until the Weimar Republic (1919-1933). It is said that the Prussia régentait the Germany, that the Junkers régentaient the Prussia and consequently all the Empire.
The Junkers occupied the majority of the highest civil and military stations. Supporting the military monarchy and traditions, they were often reactionaries, protectionists and anti-liberals; they were at the sides of the conservatives monarchists during the Révolution of 1848. Their political interests were protected by the German conservative party with the Reichstag like by the agrarian League. This political community held an immense capacity on the industrialists and the government. When the chancellor Caprivi reduced the protectionist taxation of the agricultural imports, these land great landowners required and obtained his resignation; in 1902, they restored taxation of the food products in order to maintain the high price of their own products.
The Putsch of Munich (or putsch of the Brewery) of 1923, carried out by Adolf Hitler and the general Erich Ludendorff, was thwarted by the commander Von Lossow (a Junker) and the knight Gustav von Kahr, Bavarian Prime Minister. This last was assassinated during the Nuit of the Long Knives the June 30th 1934. These events encouraged Hitler to be wary of the Junkers. Whereas the war turned in discredit of Germany and that the atrocities of the Nazis were revealed, several influential Junkers took part in the Complot of July 20th, 1944 against Hitler organized by the colonel Claus von Stauffenberg.
Land reformAfter the war, at the time of the land reform, all private properties exceeding a certain surface - in particular all those which had belonged to the Junkers were seized in German Democratic republic, and were given to co-operatives of farmers or were confiscated by the State. After the Reunification of Germany, the Junkers try to recover their old properties. Many other noble families are of return on their grounds of origin after having repurchased them in the State.
Some famous JunkersThe German statesman Otto von Bismarck was a Junker in sight, just like the president Paul von Hindenburg and the marshal Gerd von Rundstedt.
Richest of the Junkers also took part in the economy of the Weimar Republic while becoming important captains of industry, such Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach (Krupp Ag), Thyssen and Preussag (see Wehrwirtschaftsführer).
Foot-noteThe name of the aeronautical company Junkers & Co does not come from the Prussian Junkers but from the Rhenish inventor Hugo Junkers. It is thus fallacious to allot the aggressivity of humming the Stuka to the Prussian Militarisme.
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