The Battle of Leuthen was in 1757 - during the Seven Years War - and it saw King Frederick the Great of Prussia rout a much superior Austrian force, thereby driving the Austrians from the province of Silesia and securing it for Prussia.
The battle is significant in a number of ways. For one thing, Silesia is a highly fertile province - in contrast to Prussia's sandy Brandenburg heartland - possession of which certainly aided Prussia. Securing Silesia - as Frederick did at Leuthen - was an essential step in Prussia's rise to political prominence.
|The Prussians advance at Leuthen|
According to legend, it was after the battle of Leuthen that Frederick's troops spontaneously started signing the hymn "Nun danket alle Gott" - 'Now Thank We All Our God' - and, it was said, the tune was taken up by the entire Prussian army, some 25,000 men. For that time on, the hymn has been known as the Leuthen Chorale.
Lastly, Leuthen is significant simply because it was one of the most famous victories of one of the most successful military tacticians in history - Frederick the Great. We all like to think of Napoleon as the supreme military thinker of the modern age, but it is worth remembering that when the diminutive Corsican visited Frederick's tomb (he died in 1786) in Potsdam, he is reported to have said to his aides - "Gentlemen, if this man were still alive, I would not be here."
|'Look upon my works ye mighty, and despair'|
Given the significance of Leuthen - would it not be appropriate to erect a new memorial at the site? I appreciate, of course, that the Prussian/German history of Silesia can still be a controversial subject for its modern Polish inhabitants - but it is now 2014, the Cold War has long ended and Poland is a fellow member of the European Union. Surely it is now time to put these old hatreds out of their misery and embrace the common history that sites such as this represent.
On this matter, indeed, it should be added that the city of Wroclaw has been in the vanguard of seeking to constructively confront these issues, actively working on reconciliation and a localised Vergangenheitsbewaeltigung... The best example of this admirable approach has been the old Hala Stulecia in Wroclaw - once the German Jahrhunderthalle - which, though it embodied a far more sensitive history than Leuthen, was nonetheless lovingly restored recently in a multi-million pound project. If the Hala Stulecia can be embraced by modern Wroclawians - why not Leuthen...?
Time will tell, of course, but it is nice to imagine that a new memorial, and an information board, might adorn this site in years to come. Perhaps it could even be in place by the time of the 260th anniversary of the battle in 2017? Here's hoping.