Frederick the Great (Friedrich der Große), King of Prussia from the Hohenzollern dynasty is the icon and key to unlocking the soul of Berlin. To understand Frederick the Great is to understand Berlin itself. “Frederick the Great remains one of the most famous German rulers of all time for his military successes and his domestic reforms that made Prussia one of the leading European nations” (McVety, 1998).
Frederick II (the Great) ruled from 1740 until 1786 when Germany became a unified nation. “He was an absolute ruler, but he lived under the principle that he was the ‘first servant of the state’ ” (McVety, 1998) of which was drilled into him as a young child through his fathers Frederick William I (the solder-king) military ways, even though as a child he was primarily interested in music and philosophy. Frederick II went on to become a gifted musician who played the transverse flute; he also became the patron of the Arts. Frederick II believed in the spirit of the Enlightenment and for years, he corresponded with the philosopher Voltaire. However, ultimately due to his heavily lead military childhood Frederick II had war running through his veins and when he saw a chance “to unify his kingdom geographically by taking over the Austrian province of Silesia, he quickly planned an invasion” (McVety, 1998). Due to Frederick II military genius (warrior philosopher), he brought Prussia out of the Seven Years War much stronger than it had been before.
Frederick II issued several domestic reforms that modernised Prussia of which included establishing universal religious toleration and granting the press freedom. “He established individual protections against the law by speeding up the legal process, abolishing torture, and making sentences of death legal only with his personal sanction. Prussian judges were educated and the courts gained a reputation as the most honest in Europe” (McVety, 1998). Frederick enforced education rules within Prussia. He also financed the building of thousands of miles of roads and the rebuilding of towns. “Frederick built Prussia into one of the strongest nations in Europe and left a legacy of absolute devotion to the fatherland that continued to shape German history into the 20th century” (McVety, 1998).
Ultimately though it is however a clash of ideas that define Berlin just as they did with king Frederick the Great. Berlin is the symbol of both militism and idealism, of oppression and liberation. Frederick II militism ideas yearned for war and oppression, but his romantic idealism yearned for the hopes and dreams of revolution. Ultimately this Dilemma tears at every German sole.
By Rebecca Holland
McVety, A. 1998 Frederick II (The great): 1740- 1786