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Blitzkrieg is a term used to describe a method of offensive warfare designed to strike a swift, focused blow at an enemy using mobile, maneuverable forces, including armored tanks and air support. Such an attack ideally leads to a quick victory, limiting the loss of soldiers and more

Germany invades Yugoslavia and Greece

The German air force launches Operation Castigo, the bombing of Belgrade, on April 6, 1941, as 24 divisions and 1,200 tanks drive into Greece. The attack on Yugoslavia was swift and brutal, an act of terror resulting in the death of 17,000 civilians—the largest number of civilian more

Germany declares war on the United States

Adolf Hitler declares war on the United States, bringing America, which had been neutral, into the European conflict. The bombing of Pearl Harbor surprised even Germany. Although Hitler had made an oral agreement with his Axis partner Japan that Germany would join a war against more

Goths and Visigoths

The Goths were a nomadic Germanic people who fought against Roman rule in the late 300s and early 400s A.D., helping to bring about the downfall of the Roman Empire, which had controlled much of Europe for centuries. The ascendancy of the Goths is said to have marked the more

When German Immigrants Were America’s Undesirables

In a recent interview, White House chief of staff John Kelly told NPR that undocumented immigrants are “not people that would easily assimilate into the United States, into our modern society.” And he listed a few reasons why: “They’re overwhelmingly rural people,” he said. “In more

Was Germany Doomed in World War I by the Schlieffen Plan?

The Schlieffen Plan, devised a decade before the start of World War I, outlined a strategy for Germany to avoid fighting at its eastern and western fronts simultaneously. But what had been meticulously designed to deal a swift “right hook” attack on France and then advance on more

Why Was the Battle of the Somme So Deadly?

The Battle of the Somme was one of the largest battles of World War I, and among the bloodiest in all of human history. A combination of a compact battlefield, destructive modern weaponry and several failures by British military leaders led to the unprecedented slaughter of wave more

How the Sinking of Lusitania Changed World War I

On May 7, 1915, a German U-boat torpedoed the British-owned luxury steamship Lusitania, killing 1,195 people including 128 Americans, according to the Library of Congress. The disaster immediately strained relations between Germany and the neutral United States, fueled more

Reichstag Fire

The Reichstag Fire was a dramatic arson attack occurring on February 27, 1933, which burned the building that housed the Reichstag (German parliament) in Berlin. Claiming the fire was part of a Communist attempt to overthrow the government, the newly named Reich Chancellor Adolf more

Why Poland Wants Germany to Pay Billions for World War II

If you’d visited Warsaw in 1945, you might not have recognized it as a city at all. Destroyed by the Nazis in retribution for a 1944 uprising, the city was pocked by craters and reduced to miles and miles of rubble. It wasn’t just the capital: Much of Poland was rubble by the end more


Anti-Semitism, sometimes called history’s oldest hatred, is hostility or prejudice against Jewish people. The Nazi Holocaust is history’s most extreme example of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism did not begin with Adolf Hitler: Anti-Semitic attitudes date back to ancient times. In more

How Trump’s Grandparents Became Reluctant Americans

The Past in Colorfeatures the work of colorist Marina Amaral, bringing to life black and white photos with color applied digitally. The German barber, restaurant-owner and property speculator Friedrich Trump and his young wife Elisabeth did not intend to spend their married life more

Weimar Republic

The Weimar Republic was Germany’s government from 1919 to 1933, the period after World War I until the rise of Nazi Germany. It was named after the town of Weimar where Germany’s new government was formed by a national assembly after Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated. From its more

Why German Soldiers Don’t Have to Obey Orders

Consider, if you will, a fraught military standoff. A soldier from the German army receives an order from a superior to fire his gun, but he puts it down and walks away. In the United States, he would have just committed the unforgivable and illegal act of insubordination, even more

Meet the Youngest Person Executed for Defying the Nazis

Sixteen-year-old Helmuth Hübener couldn’t believe his ears. As he crouched in a closet in Hamburg, secretly listening to his brother’s forbidden short-wave radio, the voice of the BBC announcer painted a picture of Nazi Germany that was dramatically different from the one he had more


Bauhaus was an influential art and design movement that began in 1919 in Weimar, Germany. The movement encouraged teachers and students to pursue their crafts together in design studios and workshops. The school moved to Dessau in 1925 and then to Berlin in 1932, after which more

8 National Anthem Backstories

1. The Star-Spangled Banner The story behind America’s anthem dates back to the War of 1812’s Battle of Baltimore. In September 1814, American attorney Francis Scott Key sailed out to the British fleet in the Chesapeake Bay to negotiate the release of an imprisoned friend. more

Munich Pact signed

British and French prime ministers Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier sign the Munich Pact with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. The agreement averted the outbreak of war but gave Czechoslovakia away to German conquest. In the spring of 1938, Hitler began openly to support the more

Norway surrenders to Germany

After two months of desperate resistance, the last surviving Norwegian and British defenders of Norway are overwhelmed by the Germans, and the country is forced to capitulate to the Nazis. Two months earlier, on April 9, Nazi Germany launched its invasion of Norway, capturing more

Germany annexes Austria

On March 12, 1938, German troops march into Austria to annex the German-speaking nation for the Third Reich. In early 1938, Austrian Nazis conspired for the second time in four years to seize the Austrian government by force and unite their nation with Nazi Germany. Austrian more

Early History of Germany

The Germanic tribes, which probably originated from a mixture of peoples along the Baltic Sea coast, inhabited the northern part of the European continent by about 500 B.C. By 100 B.C., they had advanced into the central and southern areas of present-day Germany. At that time, there were three major tribal groups: the eastern Germanic peoples lived along the Oder and Vistula rivers the northern Germanic peoples inhabited the southern part of present-day Scandinavia and the western Germanic peoples inhabited the extreme south of Jutland and the area between the North Sea and the Elbe, Rhine, and Main rivers. The Rhine provided a temporary boundary between Germanic and Roman territory after the defeat of the Suevian tribe by Julius Caesar about 70 B.C.

The threatening presence of warlike tribes beyond the Rhine prompted the Romans to pursue a campaign of expansion into Germanic territory. However, the defeat of the provincial governor Varus by Arminius at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in A.D. 9 halted Roman expansion Arminius had learned the enemy’s strategies during his military training in the Roman armies. This battle brought about the liberation of the greater part of Germany from Roman domination. The Rhine River was once again the boundary line until the Romans reoccupied territory on its eastern bank and built the Limes, a fortification 300 kilometers long, in the first century A.D.

The second through the sixth centuries was a period of change and destruction in which eastern and western Germanic tribes left their native lands and settled in newly acquired territories. This period of Germanic history, which later supplied material for heroic epics, included the downfall of the Roman Empire and resulted in a considerable expansion of habitable area for the Germanic peoples. However, with the exception of those kingdoms established by Franks and Anglo-Saxons, Germanic kingdoms founded in such other parts of Europe as Italy and Spain were of relatively short duration because they were assimilated by the native populations. The conquest of Roman Gaul by Frankish tribes in the late fifth century became a milestone of European history it was the Franks who were to become the founders of a civilized German state.

A Brief History of Germany

About 55 BC Julius Caesar conquered the Roman province of Gaul. He made the Rhine the frontier of the new province. It was a natural defensive barrier. Later the Romans also chose the Danube as a frontier. They also created a ditch and earth bank with a wooden palisade on top from the Rhine to the Danube.

In 9 AD the people who lived beyond the Rhine inflicted a crushing defeat on the Roman army in a battle at the Teutoburg Forest. The Romans lost about 20,000 men and their leader committed suicide. The battle ensured that the Romans never conquered Germany beyond the Rhine.

However, the Romans occupied southern and western Germany. They founded a number of towns that still survive (Augsburg, Cologne, Mainz, Regensburg, and Trier).

In the late 5th century a Germanic people called the Franks carved out an empire in what is now France. (They gave the country its name). In 496 Clovis, the leader of the Franks became a Christian and his people followed. In 771 Charlemagne became king of the Franks. In 772 he attacked the Saxons. After a battle in 782 more than 4,000 Saxon captives were beheaded. Charlemagne also annexed Bavaria. In 800 he was crowned emperor.

However, Charlemagne’s empire did not long survive his death. In 843 it was divided into three kingdoms, west, middle, and east. In time the eastern kingdom, East Francia, was divided further into 5 duchies. In the early 10th century fierce Magyars from Eastern Europe attacked them.


Then in 911 Conrad, Duke of Franconia was elected king of Germany. He died in 918 and was replaced by Duke Henry of Saxony. In 933 Henry defeated the Magyars at the Battle of Riade. Henry also fought the Slavs. When he died in 936 his son Otto became king of Germany. He is known as Otto the Great. In 955 Otto utterly defeated the Magyars at the Battle of Lechfeld, ending the threat to Germany forever. In 962 the Pope crowned Otto emperor. He died in 973.

The theologian Augustine claimed that God created the Roman Empire to bring law and order to mankind. The idea was that there should be one Church with the pope at its head and one secular empire. Otto and the following emperors claimed they were the successors of the ancient Roman Empire. So their Germanic empire was called the Roman Empire. In 1157 it was called the Holy Roman Empire.

Not surprisingly other European nations were not enthusiastic about the idea and in any case, the Holy Roman Empire was never a single united unit. In reality, the power of the emperors over the different areas of the empire was limited.

During the Middle Ages the original five duchies broke up and by 1500 the Holy Roman Empire was like a patchwork quilt of different units. It was made up of princely states, which were ruled by princes subordinate to the emperor. There were also bishoprics ruled by bishops and archbishops. They were called ecclesiastical princes. Imperial Knights who answered directly to the emperor ruled some areas. There were also some independent cities like Augsburg.

In Medieval Germany lords granted land to their vassals and in return the vassals swore to serve the Lord. Most of the population were peasants. Some were free but many were serfs, halfway between freemen and slaves. The serfs had to work on their lord’s land for certain days of the week.

Germany grew richer in the early middle ages and the population rose sharply (until the 14th century). Trade and commerce boomed and towns grew larger and more numerous. Yet life was still hard and rough for most people. They continued to live in small villages scattered across the forests.

Moreover, in the 11th century there was a conflict between the Pope and the emperor over who had the right to appoint bishops. It was important for the emperor to be able to appoint suitable bishops. In those days church and state were closely linked. Furthermore, the church was rich and powerful and the emperor was keen to have the bishops on his side. The pope, naturally, resented this interference in church affairs. The argument was only settled by the Concordat of Worms in 1122. From 1220 to 1250 Frederick II was emperor. He was known as stupor Mundi (wonder of the world) because of his brilliant mind.

However, in 1254 central authority broke down completely. From 1254 to 1273 there was no emperor. This period was called the Great Interregnum. It ended when Rudolph of Habsburg was elected emperor. In 1356 Karl IV issued a document called the ‘golden bull’, which lay down the rules for electing emperors.

In the early 14th century conditions in Germany deteriorated. The climate grew colder and there were several famines. Worse, the black death struck Germany in 1349 and it killed about one-third of the population. Jews were treated as scapegoats and many were massacred at that time. In the late 14th and 15th centuries, there was a series of peasant uprisings in Germany. Furthermore, impoverished noblemen called robber barons roamed the countryside.

However, a number of universities were founded in Germany at that time. Heidelberg was founded in 1386. It was followed by Leipzig in 1409, Tubingen in 1477, and Wittenberg in 1502.


In the Middle Ages divisions between nations were vague. In the 16th century, they became more clearly defined. One sign of this came in 1512 when the empire’s title changed to the ‘Holy Roman Empire of the German nation’. Then in 1517 the great Christian scholar Martin Luther started the Reformation when he wrote his theses in Wittenberg. In 1521 the heads of the various German states met in an Imperial Diet at Worms. Martin Luther was called to account and he stood by his views.

The Reformation split Germany, with some states accepting his teachings and others rejecting them. In 1531 the Protestant princes formed the alliance of Schmalkalden to defend the Reformation by force if necessary. The emperor fought a war with them in 1546-47. Although he was victorious he could not turn the clock back and Protestantism could not be eradicated. Then in 1555, the Diet of Augsburg met. The peace of Augsburg declared that princes could decide the religion of their state. Anyone who disagreed with their ruler could emigrate.

Meanwhile, Martin Luther translated the New Testament into German in 1522 and the Old Testament in 1534.

Furthermore, in the early 16th century, there were a series of peasant uprisings across Germany, as the peasants, dissatisfied with their lot, demanded economic and social change. The unrest culminated in the Peasants War of 1525. However, the princes easily crushed the rebellion and tens of thousands of peasants were killed. However, the late 16th century was a time of relative peace and stability in Germany.


In the early 17th century the uneasy peace between Protestants and Catholics broke down. The Protestants formed a military alliance in 1608. In response, the Catholics formed the Catholic League in 1609. At that time Bohemia (the modern Czech Republic) was part of the Holy Roman Empire. Protestant nobles in Bohemia had gained certain privileges. When Ferdinand II became King of Bohemia in 1617 he tried to undo them. In protest on 23 May 1618 Protestants threw royal officials out of a window in Prague. This event became known as the defenestration of Prague.

The Bohemians rebelled and appealed to German Protestants to help them. However, the emperor led a force of Catholics and defeated the Protestants at the Battle of White Mountain in 1620. Nevertheless, a long series of wars between Catholic and Protestant states began. Other European powers became involved. The Swedes joined the Protestants in 1630 under their king Gustavus Adolphus (although he was killed at the battle of Lutzen in 1632). France joined the Protestant side in 1635. The wars dragged on until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

The Thirty Years War was a disaster for Germany. The population fell significantly and much of the country was devastated. Germany took decades to recover from the destruction. The war had another effect. It weakened the power of the emperor and increased the power of the princes and kings.


The main development in Germany during the 18th century was the rise of Prussia. In the 17th century, the Hohenzollern family ruled both Brandenburg and East Prussia. In 1701 the ruler of both was Elector Frederick III. In that year he crowned himself King of Prussia. Soon the whole realm was called Prussia.

However, at first, Prussia was an economically backward area. It only rose to greatness under Frederick II ‘The Great’, who became king in 1740. Frederick had a very large army and he was a capable general, which allowed him to fight successful wars. In 1740 Prussia invaded Silesia (an Austrian possession).

On 10 April 1741, the Prussians defeated the Austrians at the battle of Mollwitz. At first, the battle went well for the Austrians. Their cavalry defeated the Prussian cavalry and Frederick fled from the battle. However, the Prussian infantry stood and fought. They overcame both the Austrian cavalry and the Austrian infantry. As a result, Prussia won the battle. Austria made peace in 1742 but the peace did not last long.

War began again in 1745. The Prussians won a series of battles at Hohenfriedberg on 4 June, at Soor on 30 September, and at Hennersdorf on 23 November. Frederick II ended the war in December 1745 with his territory enlarged.

In 1756 Prussia went to war again when Frederick invaded Saxony. However this time Frederick II was faced with a powerful coalition of enemies. Nevertheless, the Prussians won two victories at Rossbach in November 1757 and at Leuthen in December 1757. The Prussians also defeated the Russians at the Battle of Zorndorf in 1758.

However, the tide of war then turned against the Prussians and they were defeated at the battle of Minden in 1759. Fortunately, in January 1762, one of Frederick’s most powerful enemies, Elizabeth of Russia, died and her son made peace with the Treaty of St Petersburg. The war ended in 1763. Then in 1772 Prussia, Austria and Russia agreed to carve up part of Poland between them.

In 1792 Prussia and Austria went to war with Revolutionary France. However, the French won victories and Prussia made peace in 1795. Meanwhile, the Prussians and Russians divided up the remaining part of Poland in 1793. Austria made peace with France in 1797 but the war began again in 1799.


However, Austria was defeated and was forced to make peace in 1801. France defeated Austria again in 1805. As a result, some German states allied themselves with Napoleon. In July 1806 Napoleon created the Confederation of the Rhine, which was made up of 16 German states. The Holy Roman Empire officially ceased to exist on 6 August 1806.

Then in September 1806, Prussia went to war with France. However, Napoleon crushed the Prussians at Jena on 14 October 1806. However, in 1812 the French were utterly defeated in Russia. In 1813 Prussia joined Russia in the war against the French. Austria also joined and in October 1813 the combined armies defeated the French at the Battle of Leipzig.

After Napoleon’s final defeat in 1815 the Congress of Vienna met to decide the fate of Europe. A German Confederation was formed to replace the old Holy Roman Empire. It consisted of 38 states. An assembly called the Bundestag made up of delegates from the states was formed.

Prussia was the biggest winner of the peace. It gained the Rhineland and Westphalia. The population of Prussia increased and it gained valuable mineral resources. Prussia became increasingly important in German affairs. In 1834 the Prussians and other German states formed a customs union called the Zollverein. Furthermore, in the 1830s Germany began to industrialize. One sign of this was the opening of the first German railway in 1835 from Nuremberg and Furth. As Prussia industrialized, it grew stronger and stronger while its rival, Austria remained an agricultural country and so grew relatively weaker.

Meanwhile an Austrian minister named Metternich tried to prevent the ideas of the French Revolution spreading in Germany. In 1819 there were student bodies in German universities called Burschenschaften. On 23 March 1819 a member of one killed a writer called August von Kotzebue. Metternich used this as an excuse to introduce press censorship and strict supervision of universities. His measures were called the Karlsbad decrees.

However, it proved impossible to put the genie back in the bottle. In 1818 Baden and Bavaria introduced liberal constitutions. So did Wurttemberg in 1819 and Hessen-Darmstadt in 1820. Furthermore, in 1830 a revolution in France triggered riots in parts of Germany and some German rulers were forced to make concessions. In 1831 Brunswick, Hesse and Saxony all introduced new constitutions. However, in Prussia and Austria, all liberal movements were repressed.

Then, after 1845 there were a series of bad harvests. There was also a recession and high unemployment. Discontent erupted in revolution in 1848. In February 1848 another revolution in France triggered demonstrations and unrest across Europe, including Germany. At first, the rulers were so alarmed they backed down and made concessions.

However, they soon regained their nerve. In Prussia on 18 March 1848, the king announced he was willing to make some reforms. However Prussian troops fired at some demonstrators in Berlin and in the ensuing fighting many people were killed. Afraid of further unrest the king decided to appease the demonstrators. On 19 March 1848, he ordered the troops to leave Berlin. On 21 March 1848, he rode through Berlin dressed in revolutionary colors, red, gold and black.

Then in May 1848, an elected assembly representing all Germany met in Frankfurt. The Frankfurt parliament discussed German unity. However, the rulers soon regained their confidence and they began to crack down on the revolutionaries. On 2 April 1849, the Frankfurt parliament offered the King of Prussia the crown of Germany. However, he rejected the offer. The Frankfurt parliament gradually dispersed and its members went home. Meanwhile, in 1849 European rulers began to use their armies to put down rebellions. Soon the old order returned.


Then, in 1863 the Danish king tried to annex the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. Both Prussia and Austria fought a short war against Denmark in 1864. As a result, Prussia and Austria were given joint administration of the two duchies. Disagreements with Austria over the duchies gave Prussia a pretext to start a war in 1866. It was over within a short period. On 3 July 1866 Prussia won a great victory over the Austrians at Koniggratz. Afterward, a peace treaty created the North German Federation dominated by Prussia. Austria was expelled from German affairs.

Bismarck, the German chancellor, then quarreled with France over the issue of who was to succeed to the Spanish throne. The French declared war on 19 July 1870. However, the French were utterly defeated at the battle of Sedan on 2 September 1870 and they made peace in February 1871.

Meanwhile the southern German states agreed to become part of a new German Empire with the Prussian king as emperor. William I was proclaimed emperor on 18 January 1871. In the late 19th century Germany industrialized rapidly. By the end of the century, it rivaled Britain as an industrial power. In 1879 Germany signed the Dual Alliance with Austria-Hungary. The two powers agreed to come to each other’s aid in the event of a war with Russia.

Bismarck, the German chancellor also campaigned against socialism. In the late 19th century it was a growing force in Germany. Bismarck tried to take the wind out of Socialism’s sails by introducing welfare measures. In 1883 he introduced sickness insurance. In 1884 he introduced accident insurance. Then in 1889, he introduced old-age pensions. However, socialism continued to grow in Germany and by 1914 the Social Democratic Party was the largest party in the Reichstag. Finally, Bismarck resigned in 1890.


Bismarck always pursued friendly relations with Britain but under his successors it was different. From 1898 under Admiral Tirpitz Germany began expanding its navy. Britain, the largest naval power, was alarmed. Furthermore, Europe became divided into two armed camps, with Germany and Austria-Hungary on one side and Britain, France, and Russia on the other.

The spark that ignited war came on 28 June 1914 when Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo. In August 1914 the German army overran Belgium and marched on Paris. However, they were defeated at the battle of the Marne in September. Both sides began a ‘race for the sea’. Both sides reached it at the same time. They then dug trenches and years of deadlock followed.

In the east the Germany was more successful. They crushed the Russians at the battle of Tannenberg. Russia gradually weakened and finally made peace by the treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918. Meanwhile, in 1917 Germany introduced unrestricted submarine warfare, which meant that ships from any nation trying to trade with the allies would be sunk. As a result, the USA declared war on Germany on 6 April 1917.

In March 1918 Germany launched a series of assaults on the British and French lines. However, they failed to break through, and on 8 August 1918, the British counter-attacked with tanks. Furthermore, in September, the Americans began an offensive against the Germans. Slowly the allies advanced and on 29 September 1918 General Hindenburg advised the government that the war could not be won. The Kaiser abdicated on 9 November and the Social Democrats formed a new government. On 11 November they were forced to sign an armistice with the allies.

However although the Kaiser went the ‘pillars’ of the old regime, the generals, civil servants and judges remained. A new constitution was drawn up but it had a fatal weakness. It used a system of complete proportional representation. So if a party won 2% of the vote it got 2% of the seats in the Reichstag. This meant there was a huge number of parties in the Reichstag, none of them ever had a majority of seats, and Germany was ruled by weak coalition governments. Worse, under Article 48 the President could ignore the Reichstag and pass laws of his own choosing. This was called rule by decree.

In 1919 the German government were forced to sign the Versailles Treaty. However, the vast majority of Germans bitterly resented the Versailles Treaty. Firstly the Germans were not consulted on the treaty and they resented being dictated to. They also resented the ‘war guilt’ clause, which blamed Germany and its allies for causing the war.

Worse under the treaty, Germany lost a significant part of its territory and its population. A section of land called the Polish corridor was given to Poland so East Prussia was cut off from the main part of Germany. Also, Memel was given to Lithuania. After a referendum, Eupen-Malmedy was given to Belgium. After another referendum, North Schleswig joined Denmark. Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France.

Furthermore, the Rhineland was demilitarized (no German soldiers were allowed there). In any case, Germany was not allowed more than 100,000 soldiers. The Germans were not allowed submarines or battleships. They were not allowed an air force either. Worse still Germany was made to pay ‘reparations’ (a form of compensation for damage done by the war). The amount was set in 1921. It was the colossal figure of 6,600 million marks and Germany was forced to start paying.

From the start there were attempts to overthrow the government. In January 1919 a group of Communists called Spartacists led a rebellion in Berlin. The government fled to Weimar. As a result, the new regime was called the Weimar Republic. (Even though it soon returned to Berlin). The Communist uprising in Berlin was crushed by the Freikorps (free corps). They were ex-soldiers bearing arms.

In April 1919 more communists seized power in Bavaria. Again the Freikorps crushed them. Then in March 1920 a group of Freikorps led by Dr. Kapp tried to take control of Berlin. The army refused to put down the rebellion but the trade unions in Berlin ordered a general strike. As a result, the Kapp putsch was defeated.

The early 1920s were years of hardship and near-starvation for many people in Germany. Worse a myth began that Germany had been ‘stabbed in the back’ in 1918. Some people said that Germany could have fought on and won the war. That was nonsense but it was a powerful myth. The people who agreed to the armistice in 1918 were called ‘November criminals’. Extreme right-wingers assassinated some of the so-called November criminals. Matthias Erzberger, who signed the armistice was shot in 1921. Walter Rathenau the foreign minister was shot in 1922.

Meanwhile in January 1919 Anton Drexler formed the German Workers Party in Munich. In September 1919 an Austrian named Adolf Hitler joined. (He did not become a German citizen until 1932). The party believed the myth that Germany was stabbed in the back in 1918. They also wanted all Germans to live together in one Greater Germany. The party was also unashamedly racist and anti-Semitic.

In 1920 the party’s name was changed to the National Socialist German Workers Party or NAZI party. In 1921 Adolf Hitler became the leader. In 1921 Hitler formed a paramilitary organization called the Sturmabteilung or SA. They were also called brown shirts because of their brown uniforms.

In 1923 Hitler and his tiny party tried to take control of Germany. On 8 November a politician named Gustav von Kahr was the speaker at a beer hall in Bavaria. With him was General von Lossow. At 8.30 pm the SA surrounded the beer hall and Hitler entered with armed men. Kahr and the general were told they were under arrest.

However, Kahr agreed to lead Hitler’s attempt to take over Germany, and the two men were allowed to go. As soon as they went they took steps to stop Hitler. When Hitler and his supporters marched through Munich they were met by state troopers in the Odeonsplatz. In the skirmish that followed 4 troopers and 16 Nazis were killed. The Munich putsch promptly collapsed and Hitler fled the scene. He was arrested two days later.

The year 1923 was a very bad one for Weimar Germany. By then Germany had fallen behind with her reparations payments. In response in January 1923, French and Belgian troops occupied the Ruhr, Germany’s industrial heartland. German workers in the Ruhr went on strike. They also held huge demonstrations. The striking workers became heroes in Germany and the government printed money to pay them, which led to rapidly increasing inflation.

Furthermore, the production of goods in Germany fell drastically. As a result, the price of goods rose very quickly. These two factors, the printed money and the shortage of food caused inflation in Germany to go through the roof. Inflation became hyperinflation. In January 1923 a loaf of bread cost 250 marks but by September it cost 1.5 million marks.

Prices rose so fast that workers had to be paid twice a day and they had to bring baskets or suitcases to take their money home in. As a result of hyperinflation, people lost their life savings. The money they had in the bank became virtually worthless. On the other hand, anyone in debt saw their debts virtually disappear.

Finally in August 1923 Gustav Stresemann became chancellor of Germany. He issued a new currency the Rentenmark to replace the mark, which had become almost worthless. Stresemann lost the post of Chancellor in November 1923 but he became foreign minister instead. Germany began paying reparations again and in 1924 Stresemann negotiated the Dawes plan. Germany’s annual repayments were reduced and the USA agreed to lend Germany a huge sum of money to rebuild its economy.

In 1925 the French and Belgian troops left the Ruhr and the years from 1925 to 1929 were ones of n prosperity for Germany. In 1929 Stresemann negotiated the Strong Plan. The number of reparations was reduced to 1,850 million. Unfortunately, the good times in Germany ended with the Wall Street Crash in the USA in 1929.

The depression of the early 1930s was a disaster for Germany. Unemployment was already high in Germany in the 1920s. Even in the peak year of 1928, it was 8.4%. However, it soared from the end of 1929. By 1933 unemployment in Germany had risen to 33%. One effect of the depression was that the democratic parties lost support. Instead, people turned to radical parties like the Communists or the Nazis.

In 1928 the Nazis only gained 2.6% of the vote. By September 1930 they gained 18.3% of the vote. By 1932 they were the largest party in the Reichstag. On 30 January 1933, President Hindenburg asked Hitler to become Chancellor of Germany.

On 27 February the Reichstag burned down. A Dutchman called Marinus van der Lubbe was arrested and confessed to the crime. Hitler claimed that van der Lubbe did not act alone and that it was a Communist plot. The next day President Hindenburg was persuaded to sign ‘Presidential Decree for the Protection of the People and the State’, which allowed arbitrary arrest. As a result, all the leading Communists were arrested. The last election in Weimar Germany was held on 5 March 1933. The Nazis still failed to gain a majority of the vote.

However, on 23 March 1933, Hitler persuaded the Reichstag to pass the enabling law. This would give Hitler the power to pass new laws without the consent of the Reichstag. The new law meant changing Germany’s constitution and that would require votes by two-thirds of the Reichstag members. Some 80% of the Reichstag voted in favor of the law, only the Social Democrats voted against it.

Hitler wasted no time in introducing a tyrannical regime in Germany. After 1871 Germany was a federal state. It was made up of units called Lander, which had once been independent countries. A governor ruled each. However in April 1933 Hitler replace them with Reich governors, all of who were loyal Nazis. This helped to bring the country even more under Hitler’s control.

In May Hitler banned trade unions. To replace them he created the Deutsche Arbeitsfront (German Labor Front) under Robert Ley. It set levels of pay and hours of work. The Social Democratic Party was banned in June 1933. Later that summer other parties dissolved themselves, under pressure from the Nazis. On 14 July 1933 Hitler banned all parties except the Nazi party.

Finally Hitler consolidated his grip on power with a purge called the Night of the Long Knives on 30 June 1934. In 1934 the SA or brown shirts wanted to take over the army. The army was appalled by this idea and Hitler needed the army’s support.

Moreover, the SA had other enemies. In 1925 Hitler created the Schutzstaffel (protection squad) or SS as his bodyguard. Heinrich Himmler the head of the SS resented the fact that the SS was officially part of the SA. He wanted the SS to be a separate organization. He also wanted more power for himself. Himmler told Hitler that the SA was planning to overthrow him. Hitler himself arrested Rohm the leader of the SA. The SS arrested other important figures in the SA and other prominent critics of the regime. All of them were shot.

Then on 2 August 1934, President Hindenburg died. Hitler, the Chancellor took over the President’s powers and called himself Fuhrer (leader). The army was made to swear an oath of loyalty to Hitler. (Previously they swore an oath of loyalty to Germany).

Furthermore, any opponents of the regime (mostly communists and socialists) could be arrested and sent to a concentration camp without trial. (At first, although prisoners were beaten and tortured concentration camps were designed as prisons rather than extermination camps).

The Nazis managed to eliminate unemployment in Germany. Partly they did this by rearming (even though this meant breaking the Versailles Treaty). In 1935 Hitler announced that Germany had an air force. He also introduced conscription. In 1936 German troops entered the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland. Britain and France did nothing. Hitler also built roads called autobahns across Germany and he built great public buildings such as the Olympic Stadium for the 1936 Berlin Olympics. All this helped to reduce unemployment.

Although there was full employment workers were paid low wages (to keep the German industrialists happy). They also worked long hours. In the 1930s they worked an average of 49 hours a week. During the Second World War, this was increased to 60 hours a week or more. To try and keep the workers happy an organization was formed called (Strength Through Joy). Some workers went on cheap holidays to places like Norway and Italy. However, more often they organized cheap concerts and trips to the theater.

Hitler’s attitude to women was simple. They were to be mothers and housewives. Their role was summed up in the phrase kinder, kuche and kirche (children, kitchen, and church). In Nazi Germany, married women were encouraged to give up their jobs and they were encouraged to have children. Women who had four children were given a bronze medal. Women who had six were given a silver medal and women who had eight were given a gold medal. During the Second World War other nations conscripted women to work in industry but Hitler refused to do that.

Hitler hated Jews. In April 1933 he ordered a boycott of Jewish shops. Also in 1933 a law called ‘The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service’ banned Jews from working in government jobs. Then in 1935 Hitler passed the Nuremberg Laws. The Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor made it illegal for Jews to marry ‘Aryans’ (people of Germanic descent). The Reich Citizenship Law stated that Jews could not be German citizens.

Worse was to come. On 7 November 1938, a Polish Jew called Herschel Grynszpan shot a German official called Ernst vom Rath at the German embassy in Paris. In response, the Germans attacked Jews and Jewish property on 9 November 1938. Jewish homes and shops were attacked and so many windows were broken it was called Kristallnacht (crystal night). Thousands of Jews were sent to concentration camps. The Nazis also decided that the rest of the Jews must pay a fine of 1,000 million marks and they were not eligible for insurance payments.

The Nazis also detested Gypsies. In 1935 they were forbidden to marry ‘Aryans’. From 1939 onward German Gypsies were deported to Poland. Later, like the Jews, they were murdered in concentration camps.

In 1933 Josef Goebbels was made head of the ‘Reich Ministry of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda’. Afterward, newspapers and books were strictly controlled. Nothing critical of the Nazis could be published. The Nazis also arranged for cheap radios to be made so as many people as possible could afford one. The Nazis realized that radio was an effective medium for propaganda. The Nazis also used the cinema. Many Nazi propaganda films were made.

The Nazis attacked modern art, which they called degenerate. They also banned music by Jewish composers. The Nazis also disliked jazz music, which they regarded as decadent. In 1933 the Nazis organized a book burning. They seized books in libraries they disapproved of and burned them on bonfires. Furthermore many writers, artists, film directors, and musicians fled from Nazi Germany.

The Nazis also controlled education. Children were indoctrinated with Nazi ideas at school. The Nazi version of history was taught and children were taught Nazi racial theories. To further influence young people the Nazis created the Hitler-Jugend (Hitler Youth), which was an organization boys could join at the age of 14. They went camping and hiking but also learned Nazi ideas. In 1936 membership was effectively made compulsory. For girls, the Nazis created the Bund Deutscher Madel (League of German Girls).

However, not all German youth conformed to Nazi ideas. By the late 1930s, groups called Edelweiss Pirates emerged in western Germany (so-called because they wore an edelweiss flower). They often beat up members of the Hitler Youth. There was also the Swing-Jugend (Swing Youth). They liked jazz music (which the Nazis disapproved of).


On 1 September 1939, the German Army invaded Poland. On 3 September Britain and France declared war on Germany. However, Poland was soon overrun. On 17 September the Russians invaded Poland from the east and by early October Polish resistance was crushed.

Then in April 1940, the Germans occupied Denmark and invaded Norway. They captured Norway in early June. Meanwhile, in May 1940 Germany invaded the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. The German army was astonishingly successful and France capitulated in late June. However, Britain fought on. In 1941 German troops were sent to fight the British in North Africa. Meanwhile, the German army conquered Yugoslavia, Greece, and Crete. However in June 1941 Hitler in 1941 Hitler invaded Russia, a very stupid move. Worse on 11 December 1941, he declared war on the USA.

Then at the end of 1942 the British won the battle of El Alamein in Egypt. In November 1942 the Russian army surrounded the Germans at Stalingrad. Part of the German army there surrendered on 31 January 1943. The remaining part surrendered on 2 February. After this disaster, Germany was losing the war. Also, British and American bombing began to destroy German cities and industry. The German troops in North Africa surrendered in May 1943. In July 1943 the allies invaded Sicily and in September they invaded Italy. On 6 June 1944, the allies invaded Normandy and opened a second front.

That spelled Germany’s doom. By the autumn of 1944, they had liberated France and Belgium. The Germans counterattacked in December 1944 but failed. By January 1945 the Russians were poised to invade Germany. They had suffered terribly at the hands of the Germans and they wanted revenge. Civilians from East Prussia fled in terror. Then as the Russians entered Germany they committed terrible atrocities. Finally, on 2 May 1945, the Russians captured Berlin.

Meanwhile in late March the British and Americans crossed the Rhine. Hitler committed suicide on 30 April 1945. His tyranny did not long outlast him Germany surrendered unconditionally at 11.01 pm on 8 May 1945. The Nazis brought Germany to ruins, its cities reduced to rubble, its industry mostly destroyed. Furthermore, Hitler’s cost millions of German lives. This was the legacy of Nazism.

The Nazis were, of course, responsible for murdering millions of innocent people. From 1940 Polish Jews were confined in ghettos. When the Germans invaded Russia in 1941 the mass murder of Jews in the east began. At first, they were shot. Then at the Wannsee Conference in January 1942 Nazi leaders decided to exterminate all Jews. So they were rounded up and deported to death camps. When they arrived some were selected for work (and worked to death), while others were gassed. Afterward, the bodies were burned. By the end of World War II, some 6 million Jews had been murdered.


Following the surrender Germany was divided into four zones, American, British, French and Russian. Berlin, although it was within the Russian area, was also divided into zones. Nazi war criminals were brought to trial at Nuremberg in November 1945.

Soon the Russians and the western powers drifted apart and it became clear that Germany was not going to be reunited. The Russians stripped East Germany of its resources but the Americans gave aid to West Germany and the rest of Western Europe. This aid was called the Marshall plan and it was paid from 1948 to 1952.

Meanwhile, in 1948 the three western powers introduced a new currency into their zones. The Russians responded by blocking all land routes to West Berlin (which was occupied by the western powers). The western allies flew in supplies for the next 11 months until the Russians relented.

In the west a new state called the Federal Republic of Germany was formed on 23 May 1949. At first, the new state had to cope with high unemployment. However, in the 1950s and 1960s, West Germany went through an ‘economic miracle’. The devastation caused by World War II was repaired and the economy boomed. However, by the mid-1970s the miracle had ended and Germany was mired in recession. Meanwhile, in 1955, West Germany was allowed to join NATO and rearm. Then, in 1957, West Germany was one of the founder members of the EEC (forerunner of the EU).

However, in East Germany things were very different. It was called the German Democratic Republic. Of course, it was anything but democratic and soon a full communist regime was imposed. In 1953 there was a wave of strikes in East Germany. The Russians responded by sending in tanks and killing many civilians.

Not surprisingly many people in East Germany fled to a better life in the west. In 1961, alarmed at the number of skilled workers leaving East Germany, the government built the Berlin Wall. Afterward, anyone who tried to leave was shot.

However, the communist tyranny collapsed in 1989. On 9 November 1989, the Berlin Wall was opened. Following the collapse of communism, Germany was reunited on 3 October 1990. Germany then faced the task of raising living standards in the east to the same level as those in the west.

Germany joined the euro in 1999.


Today Germany is a wealthy country with a high standard of living. In 2005 Angela Merkel became the first woman Chancellor of Germany. In 2020 the population of Germany was 83 million. Last revised 2021


The origin of the name "Württemberg" remains obscure. Scholars have universally rejected the once-popular derivation from "Wirth am Berg". Some authorities derive it from a proper name: "Wiruto" or "Wirtino," others from a Celtic place-name, "Virolunum" or "Verdunum". In any event, from serving as the name of a castle near the Stuttgart city district of Rotenberg, the name extended over the surrounding country and, as the lords of this district increased their possessions, so the name covered an ever-widening area, until it reached its present extent. Early forms included Wirtenberg, Wirtembenc and Wirtenberc. Wirtemberg was long accepted, and in the latter part of the 16th century Würtemberg and Wurttemberg appeared. In 1806, Württemberg became the official spelling, though Wurtemberg also appears frequently and occurs sometimes in official documents, and even on coins issued after that date. [2]

Württemberg's first known inhabitants, the Celts, preceded the arrival of the Suebi. In the first century AD, the Romans conquered the land and defended their position there by constructing a rampart (limes). Early in the third century, the Alemanni drove the Romans beyond the Rhine and the Danube, but they in turn succumbed to the Franks under Clovis, the decisive battle taking place in 496. For about 400 years, the district was part of the Frankish empire and was administered by counts until it was subsumed in the ninth century by the German Duchy of Swabia. [2]

The Duchy of Swabia is to a large degree comparable to the territory of the Alemanni. The Suevi (Sueben or Swabians) belonged to the tribe of the Alemanni, reshaped in the 3rd century. The name of Swabia is also derived from them. From the 9th century on, in place of the area designation "Alemania," came the name "Schwaben" (Swabia). [3] Swabia was one of the five stem duchies of the medieval Kingdom of the East Franks, and its dukes were thus among the most powerful magnates of Germany. The most notable family to hold Swabia were the Hohenstaufen, who held it, with a brief interruption, from 1079 until 1268. For much of this period, the Hohenstaufen were also Holy Roman Emperors. With the death of Conradin, the last Hohenstaufen duke, the duchy itself disintegrated although King Rudolf I attempted to revive it for his Habsburg family in the late 13th century.

With the decline of East Francia power, the House of Zähringen appeared to be ready as the local successor of the power in southwestern Germany and in the northwest in the Kingdom of Burgundy-Arles. Duke Berthold V of Zähringen founded the city of Bern in 1191, which became one of the House of Zähringen power centers. East of the Jura Mountains and west of the Reuss was described as Upper Burgundy, and Bern was part of the Landgraviate of Burgundy, which was situated on both sides of the Aar, between Thun and Solothurn. However Berthold died without an heir in 1218 and Bern was declared a Free imperial city by Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor. Berthold's death without heirs meant the complete disintegration of southwest Germany and led to the development of the Old Swiss Confederacy and the Duchy of Burgundy. Bern joined Switzerland in the year 1353.

Swabia takes its name from the tribe of the Suebi, and the name was often used interchangeably with Alemannia during the existence of the stem-duchy in the High Middle Ages. Even Alsace belonged to it. Swabia was otherwise of great importance in securing the pass route to Italy. After the fall of the Staufers there was never again a Duchy of Swabia. The Habsburgs and the Württembergers endeavored in vain to resurrect it. [3]

Three of the noble families of the southwest attained a special importance: the Hohenstaufen, the Welf and the Zähringen. The most successful appear from the view of that time to be the Hohenstaufen, who, as dukes of Swabia from 1079 and as Frankish kings and emperors from 1138 to 1268, attained the greatest influence in Swabia. [4] During the Middle Ages, various counts ruled the territory that now forms Baden, among whom the counts and duchy of Zähringen figure prominently. In 1112, Hermann, son of Hermann, Margrave of Verona (died 1074) and grandson of Duke Berthold II of Carinthia and the Count of Zähringen, having inherited some of the German estates of his family, called himself Margrave of Baden. The separate history of Baden dates from this time. Hermann appears to have called himself "margrave" rather than "count," because of the family connection to the margrave of Verona.

His son and grandson, both called Hermann, added to their territories, which were then divided, and the lines of Baden-Baden and Baden-Hochberg were founded, the latter of which divided about a century later into Baden-Hochberg and Baden-Sausenberg. The family of Baden-Baden was very successful in increasing the area of its holdings.

The Hohenstaufen family controlled the duchy of Swabia until the death of Conradin in 1268, when a considerable part of its lands fell to the representative of a family first mentioned in about 1080, the count of Württemberg, Conrad von Beutelsbach, who took the name from his ancestral castle of Württemberg. [2]

The earliest historical details of a Count of Württemberg relate to one Ulrich I, Count of Württemberg, who ruled from 1241 to 1265. He served as marshal of Swabia and advocate of the town of Ulm, had large possessions in the valleys of the Neckar and the Rems, and acquired Urach in 1260. Under his sons, Ulrich II and Eberhard I, and their successors, the power of the family grew steadily. [2] The charcoal-burner gave him some of his treasure, and was elevated to Duke of Zähringen. [ citation needed ] To the Zähringer sphere of influence originally belonged Freiburg and Offenburg, Rottweil and Villingen, and, in modern Switzerland, Zürich and Bern. The three prominent noble families were in vigorous competition with one another, even though they were linked by kinship. The mother of the Stauffer King Friedrich Barbarossa (Red beard) was Judith Welfen. The Staufers, as well as the Zähringers, based their claims of rule on ties with the family of the Frankish kings from the House of Salier. [4]

Other than the Margraviate of Baden and the Duchy of Württemberg, Further Austria and the Palatinate lay on the edge of the southwestern area. [5] Further Austria (in German: Vorderösterreich or die Vorlande) was the collective name for the old possessions of the Habsburgs in south-western Germany (Swabia), the Alsace, and in Vorarlberg after the focus of the Habsburgs had moved to Austria.

Further Austria comprised the Sundgau (southern Alsace) and the Breisgau east of the Rhine (including Freiburg im Breisgau after 1386) and included some scattered territories throughout Swabia, the largest being the margravate Burgau in the area of Augsburg and Ulm. Some territories in Vorarlberg that belonged to the Habsburgs were also considered part of Further Austria. The original homelands of the Habsburgs, the Aargau and much of the other original Habsburg possessions south of the Rhine and Lake Constance were lost in the 14th century to the expanding Old Swiss Confederacy after the battles of Morgarten (1315) and Sempach (1386) and were never considered part of Further Austria, except the Fricktal, which remained a Habsburg property until 1805.

Further Austria was ruled by the Duke of Austria until 1379. After that, the regent of Further Austria was the Count of Tyrol.

The Palatinate arose as the County Palatine of the Rhine, a large feudal state lying on both banks of the Rhine, which seems to have come into existence in the 10th century. The territory fell to the Wittelsbach Dukes of Bavaria in the early 13th century, and during a later division of territory among the heirs of Duke Louis II of Upper Bavaria in 1294, the elder branch of the Wittelsbachs came into possession not only of the Rhenish Palatinate, but also of that part of Upper Bavaria itself which was north of the Danube, and which came to be called the Upper Palatinate (Oberpfalz), in contrast to the Lower Palatinate along the Rhine. In the Golden Bull of 1356, the Palatinate was made one of the secular electorates, and given the hereditary offices of Archsteward of the Empire and Imperial Vicar of the western half of Germany. From this time forth, the Count Palatine of the Rhine was usually known as the Elector Palatine.

Due to the practice of division of territories among different branches of the family, by the early 16th century junior lines of the Palatine Wittelsbachs came to rule in Simmern, Kaiserslautern, and Zweibrücken in the Lower Palatinate, and in Neuburg and Sulzbach in the Upper Palatinate. The Elector Palatine, now based in Heidelberg, converted to Lutheranism in the 1530s.

When the senior branch of the family died out in 1559, the Electorate passed to Frederick III of Simmern, a staunch Calvinist, and the Palatinate became one of the major centers of Calvinism in Europe, supporting Calvinist rebellions in both the Netherlands and France. Frederick III's grandson, Frederick IV, and his adviser, Christian of Anhalt, founded the Evangelical Union of Protestant states in 1608, and in 1619 Elector Frederick V (the son-in-law of King James I of England) accepted the throne of Bohemia from rebellious Protestant noblemen. He was soon defeated by the forces of Emperor Ferdinand II at the Battle of White Mountain in 1620, and Spanish and Bavarian troops soon occupied the Palatinate itself. In 1623, Frederick was put under the ban of the Empire, and his territories and Electoral dignity granted to the Duke (now Elector) of Bavaria, Maximilian I.

At the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, the Sundgau became part of France, and in the 18th century, the Habsburgs acquired a few minor new territories in southern Germany such as Tettnang. In the Peace of Pressburg of 1805, Further Austria was dissolved and the formerly Habsburg territories were assigned to Bavaria, Baden, and Württemberg, and the Fricktal to Switzerland.

By the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, Frederick V's son, Charles Louis, was restored to the Lower Palatinate, and given a new electoral title, but the Upper Palatinate and the senior electoral title remained with the Bavarian line. In 1685, the Simmern line died out, and the Palatinate was inherited by the Count Palatine of Neuburg (who was also Duke of Jülich and Berg), a Catholic. The Neuburg line, which moved the capital to Mannheim, lasted until 1742, when it, too, became extinct, and the Palatinate was inherited by the Duke Karl Theodor of Sulzbach. The childless Karl Theodor also inherited Bavaria when its electoral line became extinct in 1777, and all the Wittelsbach lands save Zweibrücken on the French border (whose Duke was, in fact, Karl Theodor's presumptive heir) were now under a single ruler. The Palatinate was destroyed in the Wars of the French Revolution—first its left bank territories were occupied, and then annexed, by France starting in 1795, and then, in 1803, its right bank territories were taken by the Margrave of Baden. The provincial government in Alsace was alternately administered by the Palatinate (1408–1504, 1530–1558) and by the Habsburgs (13th and 14th centuries, 1504–1530). Only the margraves of Baden and the counts and dukes of Württemberg included both homelands within their territories. With the political reordering of the southwest after 1800, Further Austria and the Electorate Palatine disappeared from history. [5]

The lords of Württemberg were first named in 1092. Supposedly a Lord of Virdeberg by Luxembourg had married an heiress of the lords of Beutelsbach. The new Wirtemberg Castle (castle chapel dedicated in 1083) was the central point of a rule that extended from the Neckar and Rems valleys in all directions over the centuries. [6] The family of Baden-Baden was very successful in increasing the area of its holdings, which after several divisions were united by the margrave Bernard I in 1391. Bernard, a soldier of some renown, continued the work of his predecessors and obtained other districts, including Baden-Hochberg, the ruling family of which died out in 1418.

During the 15th century, a war with the Count Palatine of the Rhine deprived the Margrave Charles I (died 1475) of a part of his territories, but these losses were more than recovered by his son and successor, Christoph I of Baden (illustration, right). In 1503, the family Baden-Sausenberg became extinct, and the whole of Baden was united by Christophe.

His younger son Eberhard I (died 1325) opposed, sometimes successfully, three Holy Roman emperors. He doubled the area of his county and transferred his residence from Württemberg Castle to the "Old Castle" in today's city centre of Stuttgart. [2]

His successors were not as prominent, but all added something to the land area of Württemberg. In 1381, the Duchy of Teck was bought, and marriage to an heiress added Montbéliard in 1397. The family divided its lands among collateral branches several times but, in 1482, the Treaty of Münsingen reunited the territory, declared it indivisible, and united it under Count Eberhard V, called im Bart (The Bearded). This arrangement received the sanction of the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I, and of the Imperial Diet, in 1495. [2]

Unusually for Germany, from 1457 Württemberg had a bicameral parliament, the Landtag, known otherwise as the "diet" or "Estates" of Württemberg, that had to approve new taxation.

In 1477, Count Eberhard founded the University of Tübingen and expelled the Jews. At Eberhard's death in 1496, his cousin, Duke Eberhard II, succeeded for a short reign of two years, terminated by a deposition.

Eberhard V proved one of the most energetic rulers that Württemberg ever had, and, in 1495, his county became a duchy. Eberhard was now Duke Eberhard I of Württemberg. [2] [a] Württemberg, after the partition from 1442 to 1482, had no further land partitions to endure and remained a relatively closed country. In Baden, however, a partitioning occurred that lasted from 1515 to 1771. Moreover, the various parts of Baden were always physically separated one from the other. [6]

Martin Luther's theses and his writings left no one in Germany untouched after 1517. [7] In 1503, the family Baden-Sausenberg became extinct, and the whole of Baden was united by Christoph, who, before his death in 1527, divided it among his three sons. Religious differences increased the family's rivalry. During the period of the Reformation some of the rulers of Baden remained Catholic and some became Protestants. One of Christoph's sons died childless in 1533. In 1535, his remaining sons Bernard and Ernest, having shared their brother's territories, made a fresh division and founded the lines of Baden-Baden and Baden-Pforzheim, called Baden-Durlach after 1565. Further divisions followed, and the weakness caused by these partitions was accentuated by a rivalry between the two main branches of the family, culminating in open warfare.

The long reign (1498–1550) of Duke Ulrich, who succeeded to the duchy while still a child, proved a most eventful period for the country, and many traditions cluster round the name of this gifted, unscrupulous and ambitious man. [2] Duke Ulrich of Württemberg had been living in his County of Mömpelgard since 1519. He had been exiled from his duchy by his own fault and controversial encroachments into non-Württembergish possessions. In Basel, Duke Ulrich came into contact with the Reformation.

Aided by Philip, landgrave of Hesse, and other Protestant princes, he fought a victorious battle against Ferdinand's troops at Lauffen in May 1534. Then, by the treaty of Cadan, he again became duke, but perforce duke of the duchy as an Austrian fief. He subsequently introduced the reformed religious doctrines, endowed Protestant churches and schools throughout his land, and founded the Tübinger Stift seminary in 1536. Ulrich's connection with the Schmalkaldic League led to another expulsion but, in 1547, Charles V reinstated him, albeit on somewhat onerous terms. [8]

The total population during the 16th century was between 300,000 and 400,000. Ulrich's son and successor, Christoph (1515–1568), completed the work of converting his subjects to the reformed faith. He introduced a system of church government, the Grosse Kirchenordnung, which endured in part into the 20th century. In this reign, a standing commission started to superintend the finances, and the members of this body, all of whom belonged to the upper classes, gained considerable power in the state, mainly at the expense of the towns, [8] by means of the Oberamture and later, in addition, the Landkreis.

Christopher's son Louis, the founder of the Collegium illustre in Tübingen, died childless in 1593. A kinsman, Frederick I (1557–1608) succeeded to the duchy. This energetic prince disregarded the limits placed on his authority by the rudimentary constitution. By paying a large sum of money, he induced the emperor Rudolph II in 1599 to free the duchy from the suzerainty of Austria. Austria still controlled large areas around the duchy, known as "Further Austria". Thus, once again, Württemberg became a direct fief of the empire, securing its independence. [8] Even the Margraviate of Baden-Baden went over to Lutheranism that same year, but indeed only for a short time. Likewise, after the Peace of Augsburg the Reformation was carried out in the County of Hohenlohe. At the same time, however, the Counter-Reformation began. It was persistently supported by the Emperor and the clerical princes. [7]

The living conditions of the peasants in the German southwest at the beginning of the 16th century were quite modest, but an increase in taxes and several bad harvests, with no improvement in sight, led to crisis. Under the sign of the sandal (Bundschuh), that is, the farmer's shoe that tied up with laces, rebellions broke out on the Upper Rhine, in the Bishopric of Speyer, in the Black Forest and in the upper Neckar valley at the end of the 15th century. [9] The extortions by which he sought to raise money for his extravagant pleasures excited an uprising known as the arme Konrad (Poor Conrad), not unlike the rebellion in England led by Wat Tyler. The authorities soon restored order, and, in 1514, by the Treaty of Tübingen, the people undertook to pay the duke's debts in return for various political privileges, which in effect laid the foundation of the constitutional liberties of the country. A few years later, Ulrich quarrelled with the Swabian League, and its forces (helped by Duke William IV of Bavaria, angered by the treatment meted out by Ulrich to his wife Sabina, a Bavarian princess), invaded Württemberg, expelled the duke and sold his duchy to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, for 220,000 gulden. [10]

Charles handed Württemberg over to his brother, the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I, who served as nominal ruler for a few years. Soon, however, the discontent caused by the oppressive Austrian rule, the disturbances in Germany leading to the German Peasants' War and the commotions aroused by the Reformation gave Ulrich an opportunity to recover his duchy. [8] Thus Marx Sittich of Hohenems went against the Hegenau and Klettgau rebels. On 4 November 1525 he struck down a last attempt by the peasants in that same countryside where the peasants' unrest had begun a year before. Emperor Karl V and even Pope Clement VII thanked the Swabian Union for its restraint in the Peasants' War. [9]

The longest war in German history became, with the intervention of major powers, a global war. The cause was mainly the conflict of religious denominations as a result of the Reformation. Thus, in the southwest of the empire, Catholic and Protestant princes faced one another as enemies—the Catholics (Emperor, Bavaria) united in the League, and the Protestants (Electorate Palatine, Baden-Durlach, Württemberg) in the Union. [11] Unlike his predecessor, the next duke, Johann Frederick (1582–1628), failed to become an absolute ruler, and perforce recognised the checks on his power. During his reign, which ended in July 1628, Württemberg suffered severely from the Thirty Years' War although the duke himself took no part in it. His son and successor Eberhard III (1628–1674), however, plunged into it as an ally of France and Sweden as soon as he came of age in 1633, but after the battle of Nordlingen in 1634, Imperial troops occupied the duchy and the duke himself went into exile for some years. The Peace of Westphalia restored him, but to a depopulated and impoverished country, and he spent his remaining years in efforts to repair the disasters of the lengthy war. [8] Württemberg was a central battlefield of the war. Its population fell by 57% between 1634 and 1655, primarily because of death and disease, declining birthrates, and the mass migration of terrified peasants. [12]

From 1584 to 1622, Baden-Baden was in the possession of one of the princes of Baden-Durlach. The house was similarly divided during the Thirty Years' War. Baden suffered severely during this struggle, and both branches of the family were exiled in turn. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 restored the status quo, and the family rivalry gradually died out. For one part of the southwest, a peace of 150 years began. On the Middle Neckar, in the whole Upper Rhine area and especially in the Electorate Palatine, the wars waged by the French King Louis XIV from 1674 to 1714 caused further terrible destruction. The Kingdom of France penetrated through acquired possessions in Alsace to the Rhine border. Switzerland separated from the Holy Roman Empire. [11]

The duchy survived mainly because it was larger than its immediate neighbours. However, it was often under pressure during the Reformation from the Catholic Holy Roman Empire, and from repeated French invasions in the 17th and 18th centuries. Württemberg happened to be in the path of French and Austrian armies engaged in the long rivalry between the Bourbon and Habsburg dynasties.

During the wars of the reign of Louis XIV of France, the margravate was ravaged by French troops and the towns of Pforzheim, Durlach, and Baden were destroyed. Louis William, Margrave of Baden-Baden (died 1707), figured prominently among the soldiers who resisted the aggressions of France.

It was the life's work of Charles Frederick of Baden-Durlach to give territorial unity to his country. Beginning his reign in 1738, and coming of age in 1746, this prince is the most notable of the rulers of Baden. He was interested in the development of agriculture and commerce, sought to improve education and the administration of justice, and proved in general to be a wise and liberal ruler in the Age of Enlightenment.

In 1771, Augustus George of Baden-Baden died without sons, and his territories passed to Charles Frederick, who thus finally became ruler of the whole of Baden. Although Baden was united under a single ruler, the territory was not united in its customs and tolls, tax structure, laws or government. Baden did not form a compact territory. Rather, a number of separate districts lay on both banks of the upper Rhine. [13] His opportunity for territorial aggrandisement came during the Napoleonic wars.

During the reign of Eberhard Louis (1676–1733), who succeeded as a one-year-old when his father Duke William Louis died in 1677, Württemberg had to face another destructive enemy, Louis XIV of France. In 1688, 1703 and 1707, the French entered the duchy and inflicted brutalities and suffering upon the inhabitants. The sparsely populated country afforded a welcome to fugitive Waldenses, who did something to restore it to prosperity, but the extravagance of the duke, anxious to provide for the expensive tastes of his mistress, Christiana Wilhelmina von Grävenitz, undermined this benefit. [8]

In 1704, Eberhard Ludwig started to build Ludwigsburg Palace to the north of Stuttgart, in imitation of Versailles.

Charles Alexander, who became duke in 1733, had become a Roman Catholic while an officer in the Austrian service. His favourite adviser was the Jew Joseph Süß Oppenheimer, and suspicions arose that master and servant were aiming at the suppression of the diet (the local parliament) and the introduction of Roman Catholicism. However, the sudden death of Charles Alexander in March 1737 put an abrupt end to any such plans, and the regent, Duke Carl Rudolf of Württemberg-Neuenstadt, had Oppenheimer hanged. [8]

Charles Eugene (1728–1793), who came of age in 1744, appeared gifted, but proved to be vicious and extravagant, and he soon fell into the hands of unworthy favourites. He spent a great deal of money in building the "New Castle" in Stuttgart and elsewhere, and sided against Prussia during the Seven Years' War of 1756–1763, which was unpopular with his Protestant subjects. His whole reign featured dissension between ruler and ruled, the duke's irregular and arbitrary methods of raising money arousing great discontent. The intervention of the emperor and even of foreign powers ensued and, in 1770, a formal arrangement removed some of the grievances of the people. Charles Eugene did not keep his promises, but later, in his old age, he made a few further concessions. [8]

Charles Eugene left no legitimate heirs, and was succeeded by his brother, Louis Eugene (died 1795), who was childless, and then by another brother, Frederick Eugene (died 1797). This latter prince, who had served in the army of Frederick the Great, to whom he was related by marriage, and then managed his family's estates around Montbéliard, educated his children in the Protestant faith as francophones. All of the subsequent Württemberg royal family were descended from him. Thus, when his son Frederick II became duke in 1797, Protestantism returned to the ducal household, and the royal house adhered to this faith thereafter. [8] Nevertheless, the district legislatures as well as the imperial diets offered a possibility of regulating matters in dispute. Much was left over from the trials before the imperial courts, which often lasted decades. [14]

In the wars after the French Revolution in 1789, Napoleon, the emperor of the French, rose to be the ruler of the European continent. An enduring result of his policy was a new order of the southwestern German political world. [15] When the French Revolution threatened to be exported throughout Europe in 1792, Baden joined forces against France. Its countryside was devastated in the ensuing battles. In 1796, the margrave was compelled to pay an indemnity and to cede his territories on the left bank of the Rhine to France. Fortune, however, soon returned to his side.

In 1803, largely owing to the good offices of Alexander I, emperor of Russia, the margrave received the Bishopric of Konstanz, part of the Rhenish Palatinate, and other smaller districts, together with the dignity of a prince-elector. Changing sides in 1805, he fought for Napoleon, with the result that, by the peace of Pressburg in that year, he obtained the Breisgau and other territories at the expense of the Habsburgs (see Further Austria). In 1806, the Baden margrave joined the Confederation of the Rhine, declared himself a sovereign prince, became a grand duke, and received additional territory.

On 1 January 1806, Duke Frederick II assumed the title of King Frederick I, abrogated the constitution, and united old and new Württemberg. Subsequently, he placed church lands under the control of the state and received some formerly self-governing areas under the "mediatisation" process. In 1806, he joined the Confederation of the Rhine and received further additions of territory containing 160,000 inhabitants. A little later, by the peace of Vienna in October 1809, about 110,000 more persons came under his rule. [8]

In return for these favors, Frederick joined Napoleon Bonaparte in his campaigns against Prussia, Austria and Russia. Some 16,000 of his subjects marched as soldiers with the French invasion of Russia to take Moscow only a few hundred survived to return. After the Battle of Leipzig in October 1813, King Frederick deserted the waning fortunes of the French emperor. By a treaty made with Metternich at Fulda in November 1813, he secured the confirmation of his royal title and of his recent acquisitions of territory. He directed his forces to fight with allies in their attack on France. [8]

In 1815, the king joined the German Confederation, but the Congress of Vienna made no change in the extent of his lands. In the same year, he proposed a new constitution to the representatives of his people, but they rejected it. In the midst of this controversy, Frederick died on 30 October 1816. [8]

The new king, William I (reigned 1816–1864), at once took up the constitutional question and, after much discussion, granted a new constitution in September 1819. This constitution, with subsequent modifications, remained in force until 1918 (see Württemberg). A period of quiet was established. The condition of the kingdom, its education, agriculture trade and manufactures, began to receive earnest attention. King William I helped to repair the shattered finances of the country. But the people's desire for greater political freedom did not fade away under the 1819 constitution. After 1830, a certain amount of unrest occurred. This, however, soon died. The inclusion of Württemberg in the German Zollverein and the construction of railways fostered trade. [16]

The revolutionary movement of 1848 did not leave Württemberg untouched, although no associated violence took place within the kingdom. King William had to dismiss Johannes Schlayer (1792–1860) and his other ministers, calling to power men with more liberal ideas and the exponents of the idea of a united Germany. King William did proclaim a democratic constitution but, as soon as the movement had spent its force, he dismissed the liberal ministers. In October 1849, Schlayer and his associates returned to power. [17] In Baden, by contrast, there was a serious uprising that had to be put down by force.

By interfering with popular electoral rights, the king and his ministers succeeded in assembling a servile diet in 1851, which surrendered all the privileges gained since 1848. In this way, the authorities restored the constitution of 1819, and power passed into the hands of a bureaucracy. A concordat with the Papacy proved almost the last act of William's long reign. But the diet repudiated the agreement, preferring to regulate relations between church and state in its own way. [17]

In July 1864, Charles (1823–1891, reigned 1864–91) succeeded his father William I as king. Almost at once, he was faced with considerable difficulties. In the duel between Austria and Prussia for supremacy in Germany, William I had consistently taken the Austrian side. The new king and his advisers continued this policy. [17]

In 1866, Württemberg took up arms on behalf of Austria in the Austro-Prussian War, but three weeks after the Battle of Königgrätz on 3 July 1866, her troops suffered a comprehensive defeat at Tauberbischofsheim, and the country lay at the mercy of Prussia. The Prussians occupied the northern part of Württemberg and negotiated a peace in August 1866. By this, Württemberg paid an indemnity of 8,000,000 gulden, but she at once concluded a secret offensive and defensive treaty with her conqueror. [17] Württemberg was a party to the Saint Petersburg Declaration of 1868.

The end of the struggle against Prussia allowed a renewal of democratic agitation in Württemberg. This had not achieved any changes before the great war between France and Prussia broke out in 1870. Although the policy of Württemberg had continued to be antagonistic to Prussia, the kingdom shared in the national enthusiasm that swept over Germany, and its troops took a creditable part in the Battle of Wörth and in other operations of the war. [17]

In 1871, Württemberg became a member of the new German Empire, but retained control of her own post office, telegraphs and railways. She had also certain special privileges with regard to taxation and the army and, for the next 10 years, Württemberg's policy enthusiastically supported the new order. Many important reforms, especially in the area of finance, ensued, but a proposal for a union of the railway system with that of the rest of Germany failed. After reductions in taxation in 1889, the reform of the constitution became the question of the hour. King Charles and his ministers wished to strengthen the conservative element in the chambers, but the laws of 1874, 1876 and 1879 only effected slight reforms pending a more thorough settlement. On 6 October 1891, King Charles died suddenly. His cousin William II (1848–1921, reigned 1891–1918) succeeded and continued the policy of his predecessor. [17]

Discussions on the reform of the constitution continued, and the election of 1895 memorably returned a powerful party of democrats. King William had no sons, nor had his only Protestant kinsman, Duke Nicholas (1833–1903). Consequently, the succession would ultimately pass to a Roman Catholic branch of the family, and this prospect raised certain difficulties about the relations between church and state. The heir to the throne in 1910 was the Roman Catholic Duke Albert (born 1865). [17]

Between 1900 and 1910, the political history of Württemberg centred round the settlement of the constitutional and the educational questions. The constitution underwent revision in 1906, and a settlement of the education difficulty occurred in 1909. In 1904, the railway system integrated with that of the rest of Germany. [17]

The population in 1905 was 2,302,179, of whom 69% were Protestant, 30% Catholic and 0.5% Jewish. Protestants largely preponderated in the Neckar district, and Roman Catholics in that of the Danube. In 1910, an estimated 506,061 people worked in the agricultural sector, 432,114 in industrial occupations and 100,109 in trade and commerce. (see Demographics of Württemberg)

In the confusion at the end of World War I, Frederick abdicated on 22 November 1918. A republic had already been declared on 14 November. [18] Württemberg became a state (Land) in the new Weimar Republic. Baden named itself a "democratic republic," Württemberg a "free popular state." Instead of monarchs, state presidents were in charge. They were elected by the state legislatures, in Baden by an annual change, in Württemberg after each legislative election. [15]

Politics between 1918 and 1919 towards a merger of Württemberg and Baden remained largely unsuccessful. After the excitements of the 1918–1919 revolution, its five election results between 1919 and 1932 show a decreasing vote for left-wing parties. After the seizure of power by the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) in the year 1933, the state borders initially remained unchanged. The state of Baden, the state of Württemberg and the Hohenzollern states (the government district of Sigmaringen) continued to exist, albeit with much less autonomy with regard to the empire. From 1934, the Gau of Württemberg-Hohenzollern added the Province of Hohenzollern.

By 30 April 1945, all of Baden, Württemberg and Hohenzollern were completely occupied.

After World War II was over, the states of Baden and Württemberg were split between the American occupation zone in the north and the French occupation zone in the south, which also got Hohenzollern. The border between the occupation zones followed the district borders, but they were drawn purposely in such a way that the autobahn from Karlsruhe to Munich (today the Bundesautobahn 8) ended up inside the American occupation zone. In the American occupation zone, the state of Württemberg-Baden was founded in the French occupation zone, the southern part of former Baden became the new state of Baden while the southern part of Württemberg and Hohenzollern were fused into Württemberg-Hohenzollern.

Article 29 of the Basic Law of Germany provided for a way to change the German states via a community vote however, it could not enter into force due to a veto by the Allied forces. Instead, a separate article 118 mandated the fusion of the three states in the southwest via a trilateral agreement. If the three affected states failed to agree, federal law would have to regulate the future of the three states. This article was based on the results of a conference of the German states held in 1948, where the creation of a Southwest State was agreed upon. The alternative, generally favored in South Baden, was to recreate Baden and Württemberg (including Hohenzollern) in its old, pre-war borders.

The trilateral agreement failed because the states couldn't agree on the voting system. As such, federal law decided on 4 May 1951 that the area be split into four electoral districts: North Württemberg, South Württemberg, North Baden and South Baden. Because it was clear that both districts in Württemberg as well as North Baden would support the merger, the voting system favored the supporters of the new Southwest State. The state of Baden brought the law to the German Constitutional Court to have it declared as unconstitutional, but failed. [19]

The plebiscite took place on 9 December 1951. In both parts of Württemberg, 93% were in favor of the merger, in North Baden 57% were in favor, but in South Baden only 38% were. Because three of four electoral districts voted in favor of the new Southwest State, the merger was decided upon. Had Baden as a whole formed a single electoral district, the vote would have failed.

The members of the constitutional convention were elected on 9 March 1952, and on 25 April the Prime Minister was elected. With this, the new state of Baden-Württemberg was founded. [20] After the constitution of the new state entered force, the members of the constitutional convention formed the state parliament until the first election in 1956. The name Baden-Württemberg was only intended as a temporary name, but ended up the official name of the state because no other name could be agreed upon.

In May 1954, the Baden-Württemberg Landtag (legislature) decided on adoption of the following coat of arms: three black lions on a golden shield, framed by a deer and a griffin. This coat of arms once belonged to the Staufen family, emperors of the Holy Roman Empire and Dukes of Swabia. The golden deer stands for Württemberg, the griffin for Baden. Conversely the former Württemberg counties of Calw, Freudenstadt, Horb, Rottweil and Tuttlingen were incorporated into the Baden governmental districts of Karlsruhe and Freiburg. The last traces of Hohenzollern disappeared. Between county and district, regional associations were formed that are responsible for overlapping planning.

The opponents of the merger did not give up. After the General Treaty gave Germany full sovereignty, the opponents applied for a community vote to restore Baden to its old borders by virtue of paragraph 2 of Article 29 of the Basic Law, which allowed a community vote in states which had been changed after the war without a community vote. The Federal Ministry of the Interior refused the application on the grounds that a community vote had already taken place. The opponents sued in front of the German Constitutional Court and won in 1956, with the court deciding that the plebiscite of 1951 had not been a community vote as defined by the law because the more populous state of Württemberg had had an unfair advantage over the less populous state of Baden. [21] Because the court did not set a date for the community vote, the government simply did nothing. The opponents eventually sued again in 1969, which led to the decision that the vote had to take place before 30 June 1970. On 7 June, the majority voted against the proposal to restore the state of Baden.

Regional cuisines vary according to the geography (mountains, plains, and seas are all represented) and their proximity to waterways, where transportation and trade historically took place. Old World techniques of food preservation through salting, smoking, curing, or pickling is still a common way of preparing fish, meats, and vegetables. If you look at the popular dishes of matjes (pickled herring), sauerbraten (roast beef cured in vinegar and wine), or sauerkraut, you will find ancient cooking methods still in use today.

In prehistoric times, German fare was likely bland. Unlike the Mediterranean countries, the growing season limited the people to early forms of wheat, barley, and pasture land for livestock. Sheep, cows, and goats were used for milk, butter, and cheese and occasionally meat products, which were served most often during feasts. The earliest spices in German cuisine were parsley, celery, and dill, which are still used today. The Romans introduced fruit tree cultivation and grapevines. Oats and rye were also added as agricultural methods became more sophisticated. The areas around Cologne were especially rich in fragrant spices and food due to its location and status as a trading city.

Germany’s government and economy

After losing World War II, Germany was in ruins. In 1949 (four years after the war had ended) the country divided into the Federal Republic of Germany, in the west, and the Communist German Democratic Republic, in the east. Over time, West Germany recovered to become Europe’s richest country, but East Germany fell far behind. After the two sides reunified in 1989, Germany spent billions of pounds to modernise the East.

Berlin is the capital city of Germany

Geography of Germany

Jeffrey Coolidge/Getty Images

  • M.A., Geography, California State University - East Bay
  • B.A., English and Geography, California State University - Sacramento

Germany is a country located in Western and Central Europe. Its capital and largest city is Berlin, but other large cities include Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, and Frankfurt. Germany is one of the most populous countries of the European Union and has one of the largest economies in Europe. It is known for its history, high standard of living, and cultural heritage.

Fast Facts: Germany

  • Official Name: Federal Republic of Germany
  • Capital: Berlin
  • Population: 80,457,737 (2018)
  • Official Language: German
  • Currency: Euro (EUR)
  • Form of Government: Federal parliamentary republic
  • Climate: Temperate and marine cool, cloudy, wet winters and summers occasional warm mountain wind
  • Total Area: 137,846 square miles (357,022 square kilometers)
  • Highest Point: Zugspitze at 9,722 feet (2,963 meters)
  • Lowest Point: Neuendorf bei Wilster at –11.5 feet (–3.5 meters)


The English word Germany derives from the Latin Germania, which came into use after Julius Caesar adopted it for the peoples east of the Rhine. [11] The German term Deutschland, originally diutisciu land ("the German lands") is derived from deutsch (cf. Dutch), descended from Old High German diutisc "of the people" (from diot or diota "people"), originally used to distinguish the language of the common people from Latin and its Romance descendants. This in turn descends from Proto-Germanic *þiudiskaz "of the people" (see also the Latinised form Theodiscus), derived from *þeudō, descended from Proto-Indo-European * tewtéh₂- "people", from which the word Teutons also originates. [12]

Ancient humans were present in Germany at least 600,000 years ago. [13] The first non-modern human fossil (the Neanderthal) was discovered in the Neander Valley. [14] Similarly dated evidence of modern humans has been found in the Swabian Jura, including 42,000-year-old flutes which are the oldest musical instruments ever found, [15] the 40,000-year-old Lion Man, [16] and the 35,000-year-old Venus of Hohle Fels. [17] The Nebra sky disk, created during the European Bronze Age, is attributed to a German site. [18]

Germanic tribes and Frankish Empire

The Germanic tribes are thought to date from the Nordic Bronze Age or the Pre-Roman Iron Age. [19] From southern Scandinavia and north Germany, they expanded south, east, and west, coming into contact with the Celtic, Iranian, Baltic, and Slavic tribes. [20]

Under Augustus, Rome began to invade Germania. In 9 AD, three Roman legions were defeated by Arminius. [21] By 100 AD, when Tacitus wrote Germania, Germanic tribes had settled along the Rhine and the Danube (the Limes Germanicus), occupying most of modern Germany. However, Baden Württemberg, southern Bavaria, southern Hesse and the western Rhineland had been incorporated into Roman provinces. [22] [23] [24] Around 260, Germanic peoples broke into Roman-controlled lands. [25] After the invasion of the Huns in 375, and with the decline of Rome from 395, Germanic tribes moved farther southwest: the Franks established the Frankish Kingdom and pushed east to subjugate Saxony and Bavaria, and areas of what is today eastern Germany were inhabited by Western Slavic tribes. [22]

East Francia and Holy Roman Empire

Charlemagne founded the Carolingian Empire in 800 it was divided in 843 [26] and the Holy Roman Empire emerged from the eastern portion. The territory initially known as East Francia stretched from the Rhine in the west to the Elbe River in the east and from the North Sea to the Alps. [26] The Ottonian rulers (919–1024) consolidated several major duchies. [27] In 996 Gregory V became the first German Pope, appointed by his cousin Otto III, whom he shortly after crowned Holy Roman Emperor. The Holy Roman Empire absorbed northern Italy and Burgundy under the Salian emperors (1024–1125), although the emperors lost power through the Investiture controversy. [28]

Under the Hohenstaufen emperors (1138–1254), German princes encouraged German settlement to the south and east (Ostsiedlung). Members of the Hanseatic League, mostly north German towns, prospered in the expansion of trade. [29] Population declined starting with the Great Famine in 1315, followed by the Black Death of 1348–50. [30] The Golden Bull issued in 1356 provided the constitutional structure of the Empire and codified the election of the emperor by seven prince-electors. [31]

Johannes Gutenberg introduced moveable-type printing to Europe, laying the basis for the democratization of knowledge. [32] In 1517, Martin Luther incited the Protestant Reformation the 1555 Peace of Augsburg tolerated the "Evangelical" faith (Lutheranism), but also decreed that the faith of the prince was to be the faith of his subjects (cuius regio, eius religio). [33] From the Cologne War through the Thirty Years' Wars (1618–1648), religious conflict devastated German lands and significantly reduced the population. [34] [35]

The Peace of Westphalia ended religious warfare among the Imperial Estates [34] their mostly German-speaking rulers were able to choose Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, or the Reformed faith as their official religion. [36] The legal system initiated by a series of Imperial Reforms (approximately 1495–1555) provided for considerable local autonomy and a stronger Imperial Diet. [37] The House of Habsburg held the imperial crown from 1438 until the death of Charles VI in 1740. Following the War of Austrian Succession and the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, Charles VI's daughter Maria Theresa ruled as Empress Consort when her husband, Francis I, became Emperor. [38] [39]

From 1740, dualism between the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy and the Kingdom of Prussia dominated German history. In 1772, 1793, and 1795, Prussia and Austria, along with the Russian Empire, agreed to the Partitions of Poland. [40] [41] During the period of the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic era and the subsequent final meeting of the Imperial Diet, most of the Free Imperial Cities were annexed by dynastic territories the ecclesiastical territories were secularised and annexed. In 1806 the Imperium was dissolved France, Russia, Prussia and the Habsburgs (Austria) competed for hegemony in the German states during the Napoleonic Wars. [42]

German Confederation and Empire

Following the fall of Napoleon, the Congress of Vienna founded the German Confederation, a loose league of 39 sovereign states. The appointment of the Emperor of Austria as the permanent president reflected the Congress's rejection of Prussia's rising influence. Disagreement within restoration politics partly led to the rise of liberal movements, followed by new measures of repression by Austrian statesman Klemens von Metternich. [43] [44] The Zollverein, a tariff union, furthered economic unity. [45] In light of revolutionary movements in Europe, intellectuals and commoners started the revolutions of 1848 in the German states, raising the German Question. King Frederick William IV of Prussia was offered the title of Emperor, but with a loss of power he rejected the crown and the proposed constitution, a temporary setback for the movement. [46]

King William I appointed Otto von Bismarck as the Minister President of Prussia in 1862. Bismarck successfully concluded the war with Denmark in 1864 the subsequent decisive Prussian victory in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 enabled him to create the North German Confederation which excluded Austria. After the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War, the German princes proclaimed the founding of the German Empire in 1871. Prussia was the dominant constituent state of the new empire the King of Prussia ruled as its Kaiser, and Berlin became its capital. [47] [48]

In the Gründerzeit period following the unification of Germany, Bismarck's foreign policy as Chancellor of Germany secured Germany's position as a great nation by forging alliances and avoiding war. [48] However, under Wilhelm II, Germany took an imperialistic course, leading to friction with neighbouring countries. [49] A dual alliance was created with the multinational realm of Austria-Hungary the Triple Alliance of 1882 included Italy. Britain, France and Russia also concluded alliances to protect against Habsburg interference with Russian interests in the Balkans or German interference against France. [50] At the Berlin Conference in 1884, Germany claimed several colonies including German East Africa, German South West Africa, Togoland, and Kamerun. [51] Later, Germany further expanded its colonial empire to include holdings in the Pacific and China. [52] The colonial government in South West Africa (present-day Namibia), from 1904 to 1907, carried out the annihilation of the local Herero and Namaqua peoples as punishment for an uprising [53] [54] this was the 20th century's first genocide. [54]

The assassination of Austria's crown prince on 28 June 1914 provided the pretext for Austria-Hungary to attack Serbia and trigger World War I. After four years of warfare, in which approximately two million German soldiers were killed, [55] a general armistice ended the fighting. In the German Revolution (November 1918), Emperor Wilhelm II and the ruling princes abdicated their positions, and Germany was declared a federal republic. Germany's new leadership signed the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, accepting defeat by the Allies. Germans perceived the treaty as humiliating, which was seen by historians as influential in the rise of Adolf Hitler. [56] Germany lost around 13% of its European territory and ceded all of its colonial possessions in Africa and the South Sea. [57]

Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany

On 11 August 1919, President Friedrich Ebert signed the democratic Weimar Constitution. [58] In the subsequent struggle for power, communists seized power in Bavaria, but conservative elements elsewhere attempted to overthrow the Republic in the Kapp Putsch. Street fighting in the major industrial centres, the occupation of the Ruhr by Belgian and French troops, and a period of hyperinflation followed. A debt restructuring plan and the creation of a new currency in 1924 ushered in the Golden Twenties, an era of artistic innovation and liberal cultural life. [59] [60] [61]

The worldwide Great Depression hit Germany in 1929. Chancellor Heinrich Brüning's government pursued a policy of fiscal austerity and deflation which caused unemployment of nearly 30% by 1932. [62] The Nazi Party led by Adolf Hitler won a special election in 1932 and Hindenburg appointed Hitler as Chancellor of Germany on 30 January 1933. [63] After the Reichstag fire, a decree abrogated basic civil rights and the first Nazi concentration camp opened. [64] [65] The Enabling Act gave Hitler unrestricted legislative power, overriding the constitution [66] his government established a centralised totalitarian state, withdrew from the League of Nations, and dramatically increased the country's rearmament. [67] A government-sponsored programme for economic renewal focused on public works, the most famous of which was the autobahn. [68]

In 1935, the regime withdrew from the Treaty of Versailles and introduced the Nuremberg Laws which targeted Jews and other minorities. [69] Germany also reacquired control of the Saarland in 1935, [70] remilitarised the Rhineland in 1936, annexed Austria in 1938, annexed the Sudetenland in 1938 with the Munich Agreement, and in violation of the agreement occupied Czechoslovakia in March 1939. [71] Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) saw the burning of synagogues, the destruction of Jewish businesses, and mass arrests of Jewish people. [72]

In August 1939, Hitler's government negotiated the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact that divided Eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence. [73] On 1 September 1939, Germany invaded Poland, beginning World War II in Europe [74] Britain and France declared war on Germany on 3 September. [75] In the spring of 1940, Germany conquered Denmark and Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France, forcing the French government to sign an armistice. The British repelled German air attacks in the Battle of Britain in the same year. In 1941, German troops invaded Yugoslavia, Greece and the Soviet Union. By 1942, Germany and her allies controlled most of continental Europe and North Africa, but following the Soviet victory at the Battle of Stalingrad, the allies' reconquest of North Africa and invasion of Italy in 1943, German forces suffered repeated military defeats. In 1944, the Soviets pushed into Eastern Europe the Western allies landed in France and entered Germany despite a final German counteroffensive. Following Hitler's suicide during the Battle of Berlin, Germany surrendered on 8 May 1945, ending World War II in Europe. [74] [76] Following the end of the war, surviving Nazi officials were tried for war crimes at the Nuremberg trials. [77] [78]

In what later became known as the Holocaust, the German government persecuted minorities, including interning them in concentration and death camps across Europe. In total 17 million people were systematically murdered, including 6 million Jews, at least 130,000 Romani, 275,000 persons with disabilities, thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses, thousands of homosexuals, and hundreds of thousands of political and religious opponents. [79] Nazi policies in German-occupied countries resulted in the deaths of an estimated 2.7 million Poles, [80] 1.3 million Ukrainians, 1 million Belarusians and 3.5 million Soviet prisoners of war. [81] [77] German military casualties have been estimated at 5.3 million, [82] and around 900,000 German civilians died. [83] Around 12 million ethnic Germans were expelled from across Eastern Europe, and Germany lost roughly one-quarter of its pre-war territory. [84]

East and West Germany

After Nazi Germany surrendered, the Allies partitioned Berlin and Germany's remaining territory into four occupation zones. The western sectors, controlled by France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, were merged on 23 May 1949 to form the Federal Republic of Germany (German: Bundesrepublik Deutschland) on 7 October 1949, the Soviet Zone became the German Democratic Republic (German: Deutsche Demokratische Republik DDR). They were informally known as West Germany and East Germany. [86] East Germany selected East Berlin as its capital, while West Germany chose Bonn as a provisional capital, to emphasise its stance that the two-state solution was temporary. [87]

West Germany was established as a federal parliamentary republic with a "social market economy". Starting in 1948 West Germany became a major recipient of reconstruction aid under the Marshall Plan. [88] Konrad Adenauer was elected the first Federal Chancellor of Germany in 1949. The country enjoyed prolonged economic growth (Wirtschaftswunder) beginning in the early 1950s. [89] West Germany joined NATO in 1955 and was a founding member of the European Economic Community. [90]

East Germany was an Eastern Bloc state under political and military control by the USSR via occupation forces and the Warsaw Pact. Although East Germany claimed to be a democracy, political power was exercised solely by leading members (Politbüro) of the communist-controlled Socialist Unity Party of Germany, supported by the Stasi, an immense secret service. [91] While East German propaganda was based on the benefits of the GDR's social programmes and the alleged threat of a West German invasion, many of its citizens looked to the West for freedom and prosperity. [92] The Berlin Wall, built in 1961, prevented East German citizens from escaping to West Germany, becoming a symbol of the Cold War. [93]

Tensions between East and West Germany were reduced in the late 1960s by Chancellor Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik. [94] In 1989, Hungary decided to dismantle the Iron Curtain and open its border with Austria, causing the emigration of thousands of East Germans to West Germany via Hungary and Austria. This had devastating effects on the GDR, where regular mass demonstrations received increasing support. In an effort to help retain East Germany as a state, the East German authorities eased border restrictions, but this actually led to an acceleration of the Wende reform process culminating in the Two Plus Four Treaty under which Germany regained full sovereignty. This permitted German reunification on 3 October 1990, with the accession of the five re-established states of the former GDR. [95] The fall of the Wall in 1989 became a symbol of the Fall of Communism, the Dissolution of the Soviet Union, German Reunification and Die Wende. [96]

Reunified Germany and the European Union

United Germany was considered the enlarged continuation of West Germany so it retained its memberships in international organisations. [97] Based on the Berlin/Bonn Act (1994), Berlin again became the capital of Germany, while Bonn obtained the unique status of a Bundesstadt (federal city) retaining some federal ministries. [98] The relocation of the government was completed in 1999, and modernisation of the east German economy was scheduled to last until 2019. [99] [100]

Since reunification, Germany has taken a more active role in the European Union, signing the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 and the Lisbon Treaty in 2007, [101] and co-founding the Eurozone. [102] Germany sent a peacekeeping force to secure stability in the Balkans and sent German troops to Afghanistan as part of a NATO effort to provide security in that country after the ousting of the Taliban. [103] [104]

In the 2005 elections, Angela Merkel became the first female chancellor. In 2009 the German government approved a €50 billion stimulus plan. [105] Among the major German political projects of the early 21st century are the advancement of European integration, the energy transition (Energiewende) for a sustainable energy supply, the "Debt Brake" for balanced budgets, measures to increase the fertility rate (pronatalism), and high-tech strategies for the transition of the German economy, summarised as Industry 4.0. [106] Germany was affected by the European migrant crisis in 2015: the country took in over a million migrants and developed a quota system which redistributed migrants around its states. [107]

Germany is the seventh-largest country in Europe [4] bordering Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria to the southeast, and Switzerland to the south-southwest. France, Luxembourg and Belgium are situated to the west, with the Netherlands to the northwest. Germany is also bordered by the North Sea and, at the north-northeast, by the Baltic Sea. German territory covers 357,022 km 2 (137,847 sq mi), consisting of 348,672 km 2 (134,623 sq mi) of land and 8,350 km 2 (3,224 sq mi) of water.

Elevation ranges from the mountains of the Alps (highest point: the Zugspitze at 2,963 metres or 9,721 feet) in the south to the shores of the North Sea (Nordsee) in the northwest and the Baltic Sea (Ostsee) in the northeast. The forested uplands of central Germany and the lowlands of northern Germany (lowest point: in the municipality Neuendorf-Sachsenbande, Wilstermarsch at 3.54 metres or 11.6 feet below sea level [108] ) are traversed by such major rivers as the Rhine, Danube and Elbe. Significant natural resources include iron ore, coal, potash, timber, lignite, uranium, copper, natural gas, salt, and nickel. [4]


Most of Germany has a temperate climate, ranging from oceanic in the north to continental in the east and southeast. Winters range from the cold in the Southern Alps to mild and are generally overcast with limited precipitation, while summers can vary from hot and dry to cool and rainy. The northern regions have prevailing westerly winds that bring in moist air from the North Sea, moderating the temperature and increasing precipitation. Conversely, the southeast regions have more extreme temperatures. [109]

From February 2019 – 2020, average monthly temperatures in Germany ranged from a low of 3.3 °C (37.9 °F) in January 2020 to a high of 19.8 °C (67.6 °F) in June 2019. [110] Average monthly precipitation ranged from 30 litres per square metre in February and April 2019 to 125 litres per square metre in February 2020. [111] Average monthly hours of sunshine ranged from 45 in November 2019 to 300 in June 2019. [112] The highest temperature ever recorded in Germany was 42.6 °C on 25 July 2019 in Lingen and the lowest was −37.8 °C on 12 February 1929 in Wolnzach. [113] [114]


The territory of Germany can be divided into five terrestrial ecoregions: Atlantic mixed forests, Baltic mixed forests, Central European mixed forests, Western European broadleaf forests, and Alps conifer and mixed forests. [115] As of 2016 [update] 51% of Germany's land area is devoted to agriculture, while 30% is forested and 14% is covered by settlements or infrastructure. [116]

Plants and animals include those generally common to Central Europe. According to the National Forest Inventory, beeches, oaks, and other deciduous trees constitute just over 40% of the forests roughly 60% are conifers, particularly spruce and pine. [117] There are many species of ferns, flowers, fungi, and mosses. Wild animals include roe deer, wild boar, mouflon (a subspecies of wild sheep), fox, badger, hare, and small numbers of the Eurasian beaver. [118] The blue cornflower was once a German national symbol. [119]

Germany is a federal, parliamentary, representative democratic republic. Federal legislative power is vested in the parliament consisting of the Bundestag (Federal Diet) and Bundesrat (Federal Council), which together form the legislative body. The Bundestag is elected through direct elections using the mixed-member proportional representation system. The members of the Bundesrat represent and are appointed by the governments of the sixteen federated states. [4] The German political system operates under a framework laid out in the 1949 constitution known as the Grundgesetz (Basic Law). Amendments generally require a two-thirds majority of both the Bundestag and the Bundesrat the fundamental principles of the constitution, as expressed in the articles guaranteeing human dignity, the separation of powers, the federal structure, and the rule of law, are valid in perpetuity. [125]

The president, currently Frank-Walter Steinmeier, is the head of state and invested primarily with representative responsibilities and powers. He is elected by the Bundesversammlung (federal convention), an institution consisting of the members of the Bundestag and an equal number of state delegates. [4] The second-highest official in the German order of precedence is the Bundestagspräsident (president of the Bundestag), who is elected by the Bundestag and responsible for overseeing the daily sessions of the body. [126] The third-highest official and the head of government is the chancellor, who is appointed by the Bundespräsident after being elected by the party or coalition with the most seats in the Bundestag. [4] The chancellor, currently Angela Merkel, is the head of government and exercises executive power through their Cabinet. [4]

Since 1949, the party system has been dominated by the Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democratic Party of Germany. So far every chancellor has been a member of one of these parties. However, the smaller liberal Free Democratic Party and the Alliance '90/The Greens have also been junior partners in coalition governments. Since 2007, the left-wing populist party The Left has been a staple in the German Bundestag, though they have never been part of the federal government. In the 2017 German federal election, the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany gained enough votes to attain representation in the parliament for the first time. [127] [128]

Constituent states

Germany is a federal state and comprises sixteen constituent states which are collectively referred to as Länder. [129] Each state has its own constitution, [130] and is largely autonomous in regard to its internal organisation. [129] As of 2017 [update] Germany is divided into 401 districts (Kreise) at a municipal level these consist of 294 rural districts and 107 urban districts. [131]

Germany has a civil law system based on Roman law with some references to Germanic law. [135] The Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court) is the German Supreme Court responsible for constitutional matters, with power of judicial review. [136] Germany's supreme court system is specialised: for civil and criminal cases, the highest court of appeal is the inquisitorial Federal Court of Justice, and for other affairs the courts are the Federal Labour Court, the Federal Social Court, the Federal Finance Court and the Federal Administrative Court. [137]

Criminal and private laws are codified on the national level in the Strafgesetzbuch and the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch respectively. The German penal system seeks the rehabilitation of the criminal and the protection of the public. [138] Except for petty crimes, which are tried before a single professional judge, and serious political crimes, all charges are tried before mixed tribunals on which lay judges (Schöffen) sit side by side with professional judges. [139] [140]

Germany has a low murder rate with 1.18 murders per 100,000 as of 2016 [update] . [141] In 2018, the overall crime rate fell to its lowest since 1992. [142]

Foreign relations

Germany has a network of 227 diplomatic missions abroad [144] and maintains relations with more than 190 countries. [145] Germany is a member of NATO, the OECD, the G8, the G20, the World Bank and the IMF. It has played an influential role in the European Union since its inception and has maintained a strong alliance with France and all neighbouring countries since 1990. Germany promotes the creation of a more unified European political, economic and security apparatus. [146] [147] [148] The governments of Germany and the United States are close political allies. [149] Cultural ties and economic interests have crafted a bond between the two countries resulting in Atlanticism. [150]

The development policy of Germany is an independent area of foreign policy. It is formulated by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and carried out by the implementing organisations. The German government sees development policy as a joint responsibility of the international community. [151] It was the world's second-biggest aid donor in 2019 after the United States. [152]


Germany's military, the Bundeswehr, is organised into the Heer (Army and special forces KSK), Marine (Navy), Luftwaffe (Air Force), Zentraler Sanitätsdienst der Bundeswehr (Joint Medical Service) and Streitkräftebasis (Joint Support Service) branches. In absolute terms, German military expenditure is the 8th highest in the world. [153] In 2018, military spending was at $49.5 billion, about 1.2% of the country's GDP, well below the NATO target of 2%. [154] [155]

As of January 2020 [update] , the Bundeswehr has a strength of 184,001 active soldiers and 80,947 civilians. [156] Reservists are available to the armed forces and participate in defence exercises and deployments abroad. [157] Until 2011, military service was compulsory for men at age 18, but this has been officially suspended and replaced with a voluntary service. [158] [159] Since 2001 women may serve in all functions of service without restriction. [160] According to SIPRI, Germany was the fourth largest exporter of major arms in the world from 2014 to 2018. [161]

In peacetime, the Bundeswehr is commanded by the Minister of Defence. In state of defence, the Chancellor would become commander-in-chief of the Bundeswehr. [162] The role of the Bundeswehr is described in the Constitution of Germany as defensive only. But after a ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court in 1994 the term "defence" has been defined to not only include protection of the borders of Germany, but also crisis reaction and conflict prevention, or more broadly as guarding the security of Germany anywhere in the world. As of 2017 [update] , the German military has about 3,600 troops stationed in foreign countries as part of international peacekeeping forces, including about 1,200 supporting operations against Daesh, 980 in the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, and 800 in Kosovo. [163] [164]

Germany has a social market economy with a highly skilled labour force, a low level of corruption, and a high level of innovation. [4] [166] [167] It is the world's third largest exporter and third largest importer of goods, [4] and has the largest economy in Europe, which is also the world's fourth-largest economy by nominal GDP, [168] and the fifth-largest by PPP. [169] Its GDP per capita measured in purchasing power standards amounts to 121% of the EU27 average (100%). [170] The service sector contributes approximately 69% of the total GDP, industry 31%, and agriculture 1% as of 2017 [update] . [4] The unemployment rate published by Eurostat amounts to 3.2% as of January 2020 [update] , which is the fourth-lowest in the EU. [171]

Germany is part of the European single market which represents more than 450 million consumers. [172] In 2017, the country accounted for 28% of the Eurozone economy according to the International Monetary Fund. [173] Germany introduced the common European currency, the Euro, in 2002. [174] Its monetary policy is set by the European Central Bank, which is headquartered in Frankfurt. [175] [165]

Being home to the modern car, the automotive industry in Germany is regarded as one of the most competitive and innovative in the world, [176] and is the fourth largest by production. [177] The top 10 exports of Germany are vehicles, machinery, chemical goods, electronic products, electrical equipments, pharmaceuticals, transport equipments, basic metals, food products, and rubber and plastics. [178] Germany is one of the largest exporters globally. [179]

Of the world's 500 largest stock-market-listed companies measured by revenue in 2019, the Fortune Global 500, 29 are headquartered in Germany. [180] 30 major Germany-based companies are included in the DAX, the German stock market index which is operated by Frankfurt Stock Exchange. [181] Well-known international brands include Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volkswagen, Audi, Siemens, Allianz, Adidas, Porsche, Bosch and Deutsche Telekom. [182] Berlin is a hub for startup companies and has become the leading location for venture capital funded firms in the European Union. [183] Germany is recognised for its large portion of specialised small and medium enterprises, known as the Mittelstand model. [184] These companies represent 48% global market leaders in their segments, labelled Hidden Champions. [185]

Research and development efforts form an integral part of the German economy. [186] In 2018 Germany ranked fourth globally in terms of number of science and engineering research papers published. [187] Research institutions in Germany include the Max Planck Society, the Helmholtz Association, and the Fraunhofer Society and the Leibniz Association. [188] Germany is the largest contributor to the European Space Agency. [189]


With its central position in Europe, Germany is a transport hub for the continent. [190] Its road network is among the densest in Europe. [191] The motorway (Autobahn) is widely known for having no federally mandated speed limit for some classes of vehicles. [192] The InterCityExpress or ICE train network serves major German cities as well as destinations in neighbouring countries with speeds up to 300 km/h (190 mph). [193] The largest German airports are Frankfurt Airport and Munich Airport. [194] The Port of Hamburg is one of the top twenty largest container ports in the world. [195]

In 2015 [update] , Germany was the world's seventh-largest consumer of energy. [196] The government and the nuclear power industry agreed to phase out all nuclear power plants by 2021. [197] It meets the country's power demands using 40% renewable sources. [198] Germany is committed to the Paris Agreement and several other treaties promoting biodiversity, low emission standards, and water management. [199] [200] [201] The country's household recycling rate is among the highest in the world—at around 65%. [202] The country's greenhouse gas emissions per capita were the ninth highest in the EU in 2018 [update] . [203] The German energy transition (Energiewende) is the recognised move to a sustainable economy by means of energy efficiency and renewable energy. [204]


Germany is the ninth most visited country in the world as of 2017 [update] , with 37.4 million visits. [205] Berlin has become the third most visited city destination in Europe. [206] Domestic and international travel and tourism combined directly contribute over €105.3 billion to German GDP. Including indirect and induced impacts, the industry supports 4.2 million jobs. [207]

Germany's most visited and popular landmarks include Cologne Cathedral, the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Dresden Frauenkirche, Neuschwanstein Castle, Heidelberg Castle, the Wartburg, and Sanssouci Palace. [208] The Europa-Park near Freiburg is Europe's second most popular theme park resort. [209]

With a population of 80.2 million according to the 2011 census, [210] rising to 83.1 million as of 2019 [update] , [6] Germany is the most populous country in the European Union, the second-most populous country in Europe after Russia, and the nineteenth-most populous country in the world. Its population density stands at 227 inhabitants per square kilometre (588 per square mile). The overall life expectancy in Germany at birth is 80.19 years (77.93 years for males and 82.58 years for females). [4] The fertility rate of 1.41 children born per woman (2011 estimates) is below the replacement rate of 2.1 and is one of the lowest fertility rates in the world. [4] Since the 1970s, Germany's death rate has exceeded its birth rate. However, Germany is witnessing increased birth rates and migration rates since the beginning of the 2010s, particularly a rise in the number of well-educated migrants. Germany has the third oldest population in the world, with an average age of 47.4 years. [4]

Four sizeable groups of people are referred to as "national minorities" because their ancestors have lived in their respective regions for centuries: [211] There is a Danish minority in the northernmost state of Schleswig-Holstein [211] the Sorbs, a Slavic population, are in the Lusatia region of Saxony and Brandenburg the Roma and Sinti live throughout the country and the Frisians are concentrated in Schleswig-Holstein's western coast and in the north-western part of Lower Saxony. [211]

After the United States, Germany is the second most popular immigration destination in the world. The majority of migrants live in western Germany, in particular in urban areas. Of the country's residents, 18.6 million people (22.5%) were of immigrant or partially immigrant descent in 2016 (including persons descending or partially descending from ethnic German repatriates). [212] In 2015, the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs listed Germany as host to the second-highest number of international migrants worldwide, about 5% or 12 million of all 244 million migrants. [213] As of 2018 [update] , Germany ranks fifth amongst EU countries in terms of the percentage of migrants in the country's population, at 12.9%. [214]

Germany has a number of large cities. There are 11 officially recognised metropolitan regions. The country's largest city is Berlin, while its largest urban area is the Ruhr. [215]


The 2011 German Census showed Christianity as the largest religion in Germany, with 66.8% identified themselves as Christian, with 3.8% of those not being church members. [216] 31.7% declared themselves as Protestants, including members of the Evangelical Church in Germany (which encompasses Lutheran, Reformed and administrative or confessional unions of both traditions) and the free churches (German: Evangelische Freikirchen) 31.2% declared themselves as Roman Catholics, and Orthodox believers constituted 1.3%. According to data from 2016, the Catholic Church and the Evangelical Church claimed 28.5% and 27.5%, respectively, of the population. [217] [218] Islam is the second largest religion in the country. [219] In the 2011 census, 1.9% of the census population (1.52 million people) gave their religion as Islam, but this figure is deemed unreliable because a disproportionate number of adherents of this religion (and other religions, such as Judaism) are likely to have made use of their right not to answer the question. [220] Most of the Muslims are Sunnis and Alevites from Turkey, but there are a small number of Shi'ites, Ahmadiyyas and other denominations. Other religions comprise less than one percent of Germany's population. [219]

A study in 2018 estimated that 38% of the population are not members of any religious organization or denomination, [221] though up to a third may still consider themselves religious. Irreligion in Germany is strongest in the former East Germany, which used to be predominantly Protestant before the enforcement of state atheism, and in major metropolitan areas. [222] [223]


German is the official and predominant spoken language in Germany. [224] It is one of 24 official and working languages of the European Union, and one of the three procedural languages of the European Commission. [225] German is the most widely spoken first language in the European Union, with around 100 million native speakers. [226]

Recognised native minority languages in Germany are Danish, Low German, Low Rhenish, Sorbian, Romany, North Frisian and Saterland Frisian they are officially protected by the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The most used immigrant languages are Turkish, Arabic, Kurdish, Polish, the Balkan languages and Russian. Germans are typically multilingual: 67% of German citizens claim to be able to communicate in at least one foreign language and 27% in at least two. [224]


Responsibility for educational supervision in Germany is primarily organised within the individual states. Optional kindergarten education is provided for all children between three and six years old, after which school attendance is compulsory for at least nine years. Primary education usually lasts for four to six years. [227] Secondary schooling is divided into tracks based on whether students pursue academic or vocational education. [228] A system of apprenticeship called Duale Ausbildung leads to a skilled qualification which is almost comparable to an academic degree. It allows students in vocational training to learn in a company as well as in a state-run trade school. [227] This model is well regarded and reproduced all around the world. [229]

Most of the German universities are public institutions, and students traditionally study without fee payment. [230] The general requirement for university is the Abitur. According to an OECD report in 2014, Germany is the world's third leading destination for international study. [231] The established universities in Germany include some of the oldest in the world, with Heidelberg University (established in 1386) being the oldest. [232] The Humboldt University of Berlin, founded in 1810 by the liberal educational reformer Wilhelm von Humboldt, became the academic model for many Western universities. [233] [234] In the contemporary era Germany has developed eleven Universities of Excellence.


Germany's system of hospitals, called Krankenhäuser, dates from medieval times, and today, Germany has the world's oldest universal health care system, dating from Bismarck's social legislation of the 1880s. [236] Since the 1880s, reforms and provisions have ensured a balanced health care system. The population is covered by a health insurance plan provided by statute, with criteria allowing some groups to opt for a private health insurance contract. According to the World Health Organization, Germany's health care system was 77% government-funded and 23% privately funded as of 2013 [update] . [237] In 2014, Germany spent 11.3% of its GDP on health care. [238]

Germany ranked 20th in the world in 2013 in life expectancy with 77 years for men and 82 years for women, and it had a very low infant mortality rate (4 per 1,000 live births). In 2019 [update] , the principal cause of death was cardiovascular disease, at 37%. [239] Obesity in Germany has been increasingly cited as a major health issue. A 2014 study showed that 52 percent of the adult German population was overweight or obese. [240]

Culture in German states has been shaped by major intellectual and popular currents in Europe, both religious and secular. Historically, Germany has been called Das Land der Dichter und Denker ("the land of poets and thinkers"), [241] because of the major role its writers and philosophers have played in the development of Western thought. [242] A global opinion poll for the BBC revealed that Germany is recognised for having the most positive influence in the world in 2013 and 2014. [243] [244]

Germany is well known for such folk festival traditions as Oktoberfest and Christmas customs, which include Advent wreaths, Christmas pageants, Christmas trees, Stollen cakes, and other practices. [245] [246] As of 2016 [update] UNESCO inscribed 41 properties in Germany on the World Heritage List. [247] There are a number of public holidays in Germany determined by each state 3 October has been a national day of Germany since 1990, celebrated as the Tag der Deutschen Einheit (German Unity Day). [248]


German classical music includes works by some of the world's most well-known composers. Dieterich Buxtehude, Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Friedrich Händel were influential composers of the Baroque period. Ludwig van Beethoven was a crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras. Carl Maria von Weber, Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms were significant Romantic composers. Richard Wagner was known for his operas. Richard Strauss was a leading composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. Karlheinz Stockhausen and Wolfgang Rihm are important composers of the 20th and early 21st centuries. [249]

As of 2013, Germany was the second largest music market in Europe, and fourth largest in the world. [250] German popular music of the 20th and 21st centuries includes the movements of Neue Deutsche Welle, pop, Ostrock, heavy metal/rock, punk, pop rock, indie, Volksmusik (folk music), schlager pop and German hip hop. German electronic music gained global influence, with Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream pioneering in this genre. [251] DJs and artists of the techno and house music scenes of Germany have become well known (e.g. Paul van Dyk, Felix Jaehn, Paul Kalkbrenner, Robin Schulz and Scooter). [252]

Art and design

German painters have influenced western art. Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein the Younger, Matthias Grünewald and Lucas Cranach the Elder were important German artists of the Renaissance, Johann Baptist Zimmermann of the Baroque, Caspar David Friedrich and Carl Spitzweg of Romanticism, Max Liebermann of Impressionism and Max Ernst of Surrealism. Several German art groups formed in the 20th century Die Brücke (The Bridge) and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) influenced the development of expressionism in Munich and Berlin. The New Objectivity arose in response to expressionism during the Weimar Republic. After World War II, broad trends in German art include neo-expressionism and the New Leipzig School. [253]

Architectural contributions from Germany include the Carolingian and Ottonian styles, which were precursors of Romanesque. Brick Gothic is a distinctive medieval style that evolved in Germany. Also in Renaissance and Baroque art, regional and typically German elements evolved (e.g. Weser Renaissance). [253] Vernacular architecture in Germany is often identified by its timber framing (Fachwerk) traditions and varies across regions, and among carpentry styles. [254] When industrialisation spread across Europe, Classicism and a distinctive style of historism developed in Germany, sometimes referred to as Gründerzeit style. Expressionist architecture developed in the 1910s in Germany and influenced Art Deco and other modern styles. Germany was particularly important in the early modernist movement: it is the home of Werkbund initiated by Hermann Muthesius (New Objectivity), and of the Bauhaus movement founded by Walter Gropius. [253] Ludwig Mies van der Rohe became one of the world's most renowned architects in the second half of the 20th century he conceived of the glass façade skyscraper. [255] Renowned contemporary architects and offices include Pritzker Prize winners Gottfried Böhm and Frei Otto. [256]

German designers became early leaders of modern product design. [257] The Berlin Fashion Week and the fashion trade fair Bread & Butter are held twice a year. [258]

Literature and philosophy

German literature can be traced back to the Middle Ages and the works of writers such as Walther von der Vogelweide and Wolfram von Eschenbach. Well-known German authors include Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and Theodor Fontane. The collections of folk tales published by the Brothers Grimm popularised German folklore on an international level. [259] The Grimms also gathered and codified regional variants of the German language, grounding their work in historical principles their Deutsches Wörterbuch, or German Dictionary, sometimes called the Grimm dictionary, was begun in 1838 and the first volumes published in 1854. [260]

Influential authors of the 20th century include Gerhart Hauptmann, Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, Heinrich Böll and Günter Grass. [261] The German book market is the third largest in the world, after the United States and China. [262] The Frankfurt Book Fair is the most important in the world for international deals and trading, with a tradition spanning over 500 years. [263] The Leipzig Book Fair also retains a major position in Europe. [264]

German philosophy is historically significant: Gottfried Leibniz's contributions to rationalism the enlightenment philosophy by Immanuel Kant the establishment of classical German idealism by Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling Arthur Schopenhauer's composition of metaphysical pessimism the formulation of communist theory by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels Friedrich Nietzsche's development of perspectivism Gottlob Frege's contributions to the dawn of analytic philosophy Martin Heidegger's works on Being Oswald Spengler's historical philosophy the development of the Frankfurt School has been particularly influential. [265]


The largest internationally operating media companies in Germany are the Bertelsmann enterprise, Axel Springer SE and ProSiebenSat.1 Media. Germany's television market is the largest in Europe, with some 38 million TV households. [266] Around 90% of German households have cable or satellite TV, with a variety of free-to-view public and commercial channels. [267] There are more than 300 public and private radio stations in Germany Germany's national radio network is the Deutschlandradio and the public Deutsche Welle is the main German radio and television broadcaster in foreign languages. [267] Germany's print market of newspapers and magazines is the largest in Europe. [267] The papers with the highest circulation are Bild, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Die Welt. [267] The largest magazines include ADAC Motorwelt and Der Spiegel. [267] Germany has a large video gaming market, with over 34 million players nationwide. [268]

German cinema has made major technical and artistic contributions to film. The first works of the Skladanowsky Brothers were shown to an audience in 1895. The renowned Babelsberg Studio in Potsdam was established in 1912, thus being the first large-scale film studio in the world. Early German cinema was particularly influential with German expressionists such as Robert Wiene and Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau. Director Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) is referred to as the first major science-fiction film. After 1945, many of the films of the immediate post-war period can be characterised as Trümmerfilm (rubble film). East German film was dominated by state-owned film studio DEFA, while the dominant genre in West Germany was the Heimatfilm ("homeland film"). [269] During the 1970s and 1980s, New German Cinema directors such as Volker Schlöndorff, Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder brought West German auteur cinema to critical acclaim.

The Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film ("Oscar") went to the German production Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum) in 1979, to Nirgendwo in Afrika (Nowhere in Africa) in 2002, and to Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) in 2007. Various Germans won an Oscar for their performances in other films. The annual European Film Awards ceremony is held every other year in Berlin, home of the European Film Academy. The Berlin International Film Festival, known as "Berlinale", awarding the "Golden Bear" and held annually since 1951, is one of the world's leading film festivals. The "Lolas" are annually awarded in Berlin, at the German Film Awards. [270]


German cuisine varies from region to region and often neighbouring regions share some culinary similarities (e.g. the southern regions of Bavaria and Swabia share some traditions with Switzerland and Austria). International varieties such as pizza, sushi, Chinese food, Greek food, Indian cuisine and doner kebab are also popular.

Bread is a significant part of German cuisine and German bakeries produce about 600 main types of bread and 1,200 types of pastries and rolls (Brötchen). [271] German cheeses account for about 22% of all cheese produced in Europe. [272] In 2012 over 99% of all meat produced in Germany was either pork, chicken or beef. Germans produce their ubiquitous sausages in almost 1,500 varieties, including Bratwursts and Weisswursts. [273] The national alcoholic drink is beer. German beer consumption per person stands at 110 litres (24 imp gal 29 US gal) in 2013 and remains among the highest in the world. [274] German beer purity regulations date back to the 16th century. [275] Wine is becoming more popular in many parts of the country, especially close to German wine regions. [276] In 2019, Germany was the ninth largest wine producer in the world. [277]

The 2018 Michelin Guide awarded eleven restaurants in Germany three stars, giving the country a cumulative total of 300 stars. [278]


Football is the most popular sport in Germany. With more than 7 million official members, the German Football Association (Deutscher Fußball-Bund) is the largest single-sport organisation worldwide, [279] and the German top league, the Bundesliga, attracts the second highest average attendance of all professional sports leagues in the world. [280] The German men's national football team won the FIFA World Cup in 1954, 1974, 1990, and 2014, [281] the UEFA European Championship in 1972, 1980 and 1996, [282] and the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2017. [283]

Germany is one of the leading motor sports countries in the world. Constructors like BMW and Mercedes are prominent manufacturers in motor sport. Porsche has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans race 19 times, and Audi 13 times (as of 2017 [update] ). [284] The driver Michael Schumacher has set many motor sport records during his career, having won seven Formula One World Drivers' Championships. [285] Sebastian Vettel is also among the top five most successful Formula One drivers of all time. [286]

Historically, German athletes have been successful contenders in the Olympic Games, ranking third in an all-time Olympic Games medal count (when combining East and West German medals). Germany was the last country to host both the summer and winter games in the same year, in 1936: the Berlin Summer Games and the Winter Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. [287] Munich hosted the Summer Games of 1972. [288]

Old High German Edit

The earliest testimonies of Old High German are from scattered Elder Futhark inscriptions, especially in Alemannic, from the 6th century, the earliest glosses (Abrogans) date to the 8th and the oldest coherent texts (the Hildebrandslied, the Muspilli and the Merseburg Incantations) to the 9th century.

Middle High German Edit

Middle High German (MHG, German Mittelhochdeutsch) is the term used for the period in the history of the German language between 1050 and 1350. It is preceded by Old High German and followed by Early New High German. In some older scholarship, the term covers a longer period, going up to 1500.

Early New High German Edit

When Martin Luther translated the Bible (the New Testament in 1522 and the Old Testament, published in parts and completed in 1534) he based his translation mainly on this already developed language, which was the most widely understood language at this time. This language was based on Eastern Upper and Eastern Central German dialects and preserved much of the grammatical system of Middle High German (unlike the spoken German dialects in Central and Upper Germany that at that time had already begun to lose the genitive case and the preterite). In the beginning, copies of the Bible had a long list for each region, which translated words unknown in the region into the regional dialect. Roman Catholics rejected Luther's translation at first and tried to create their own Catholic standard (gemeines Deutsch)—which, however, differed from 'Protestant German' only in some minor details. It took until the middle of the 18th century to create a standard that was widely accepted, thus ending the period of Early New High German.

Low German, being at the crossroads between High German, Anglo-Frisian, Low Franconian and the South Jutlandic dialect of Danish, has a less clear-cut linguistic history, epitomizing that the West Germanic group is really a dialect continuum.

Low German was strongly influenced by Anglo-Frisian in Early Medieval times, and by High German during the duration of the Holy Roman Empire. After the end of the Hanseatic League in the 17th century, Low German was marginalized to the status of local dialects.

Old Saxon Edit

Old Saxon, also known as Old Low German, is a West Germanic language. It is documented from the 9th century until the 12th century, when it evolved into Middle Low German. It was spoken on the north-west coast of Germany and in Denmark by Saxon peoples. It is closely related to Old Anglo-Frisian (Old Frisian, Old English), partially participating in the Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law.

Middle Low German Edit

The Middle Low German language is an ancestor of the modern Low German. It was spoken from about 1100 to 1500, splitting into West Low German and East Low German. The neighbour languages within the dialect continuum of the West Germanic languages were Middle Dutch in the West and Middle High German in the South, later substituted by Early New High German. Middle Low German was the lingua franca of the Hanseatic League, spoken all around the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. Based on the language of Lübeck, a standardized written language was developing, though it was never codified.

German was the language of commerce and government in the Habsburg Empire, which encompassed a large area of Central and Eastern Europe. Until the mid-19th century it was essentially the language of townspeople throughout most of the Empire. It indicated that the speaker was a merchant, an urbanite, not his nationality. Some cities, such as Budapest (Buda, German: Ofen), were gradually Germanized in the years after their incorporation into the Habsburg domain. Others, such as Bratislava (German: Pressburg), were originally settled during the Habsburg period and were primarily German at that time. A few cities such as Milan (German: Mailand) remained primarily non-German. However, most cities were primarily German at least during the early part of the century, such as Prague, Budapest, Bratislava, Zagreb (German: Agram), and Ljubljana (German: Laibach), though they were surrounded by territory where other languages were spoken.

German was also used in the Baltic governates of the Russian Empire. For example, Riga employed German as its official language of administration until the installation of Russian in 1891. Similarly, Tallinn employed German until 1889.

Until about 1800, standard German was almost solely a written language. At this time, people in urban northern Germany, who spoke dialects very different from Standard German, learnt it almost as a foreign language and tried to pronounce it as close to the spelling as possible. Prescriptive pronunciation guides of that time considered northern German pronunciation to be the standard. However, the actual pronunciation of standard German varied from region to region.

Media and written works are almost all produced in standard German (often called Hochdeutsch in German), which is understood in all German-speaking areas (except by pre-school children in areas where only dialect is spoken, for example Switzerland — but in this age of television, even they now usually learn to understand Standard German before school age).

The first dictionary of the Brothers Grimm, which was issued in 16 parts between 1852 and 1860, remains the most comprehensive guide to the lexicon of the German language.

In 1880, grammatical and orthographic rules first appeared in the Duden Handbook. In 1901, this was declared the standard definition of the German language. Standard German orthography subsequently went essentially unrevised until 1998, when the German spelling reform of 1996 was officially promulgated by government representatives of Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland. After the reform, German spelling underwent an eight-year transitional period, during which the reformed spelling was taught in most schools, while traditional and reformed spelling co-existed in the media.

During the late 19th century, German displaced Latin as the lingua franca of Western science, and remained the primary language of science through the first half of the 20th century. Many of the greatest scientific papers of that era were first published in the German language, such as Albert Einstein's Annus Mirabilis papers of 1905.

Everything changed with the end of World War II. After 1945, one-third of all German researchers and teachers had to be laid off because they were tainted by their involvement with the Third Reich another third had already been expelled or killed by the Nazi regime and another third were simply too old. The result was that a new generation of relatively young and untrained academics were faced with the enormous task of rebuilding German science during the postwar reconstruction era. By then, "Germany, German science, and German as the language of science had all lost their leading position in the scientific community." [1]


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