Napoleon may be the one most responsible for the unification of Germany and the two world wars. Of course, Hitler looms large and many lay blame with the German people.
But in many cases, it was the elite, led by Bismarck and then the Kaiser, who directed the affairs of the German state. The German people, particularly the peasants, have suffered greatly throughout history.
And after losing two key battles in the Napoleonic Wars, Prussia instituted two critical reforms which reshaped society and the military.
“After the lost battles of Jena and Auerstedt in 1806, Prussia was the first European state to introduce compulsory military service as well as compulsory education.”¹
So I have many, many ancestors who likely served in the Prussian Army. And most, if not all, were learned men.
1. This quote is from the book The Seduction of Culture in German History by Wolf Lepenies.