1st row: Martin Luther • Otto von Bismarck • Beethoven • Immanuel Kant • Goethe
|Regions with significant populations|
|Germany 66.42 million - 75 million |
|Related ethnic groups|
The German people (German: Deutsche) are an ethnic group, in the sense of sharing a common German culture, descent, and speaking the German language as a mother tongue. Within Germany, Germans are defined by citizenship (Federal Germans, Bundesdeutsche), distinguished from people of German ancestry (Deutschstämmige). Historically, in the context of the German Empire (1871–1918), German citizens (Imperial Germans, Reichsdeutsche) were distinguished from ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche).
Of approximately 100 million native speakers of German in the world, about 66–75 million consider themselves Germans. There are an additional 80 million people of German ancestry (mainly in Austria (official) , Switzerland (official), Liechtenstein (official) , Luxembourg (official), as well as populations in the USA, France, Russia, Romania, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Poland, Australia and Canada) who most likely are not native speakers of German.
Thus, the total number of Germans worldwide lies between 66 and 160 million, depending on the criteria applied (native speakers, single-ancestry ethnic Germans, partial German ancestry, etc.). In the U.S., 43 million, or 15.2% of the population, identified as German American in the census of 2000. Although the percentage has declined in relation to the whole, it is still decidedly more than any other ethnic group. According to the U.S. Census Bureau – 2006 American Community Survey, approximately 51 million citizens identify themselves as having German ancestry.
The term Ethnic Germans may be used in several ways. It may serve to distinguish Germans from those who have citizenship in the German state but are not Germans; or it may indicate Germans living as minorities in other nations. In English usage, but less often in German, Ethnic Germans may be used for assimilated descendants of German emigrants.
Ethnic Germans form an important minority group in several countries in central and eastern Europe—(Poland, Hungary, Romania, Russia) as well as in Namibia (German Namibian), Brazil (German-Brazilian) (approx. 3% of the population), Argentina (German-Argentine) (approx. 7,5% of the population) and Chile (German-Chilean) (approx. 4% of the population).
Some groups may be classified as Ethnic Germans despite no longer having German as their mother tongue or belonging to a distinct German culture. Until the 1990s, two million Ethnic Germans lived throughout the former Soviet Union, particularly in Russia and Kazakhstan.
In the United States 1990 census, 57 million people were fully or partly of German ancestry, forming the largest single ethnic group in the country. States with the highest percentage of Americans of German descent are in the northern Midwest (especially Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas), and the Mid-Atlantic state, Pennsylvania. But Germanic immigrant enclaves existed in many other states (e.g., the German Texans and the Denver, Colorado area) and to a lesser extent, the Pacific Northwest (i.e. Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington state).
Notable Ethnic German minorities also exist in other Anglosphere countries such as Canada (approx. 9% of the population) and Australia (approx. 4% of the population). As in the United States, most people of German descent in Canada and Australia have almost completely assimilated, culturally and linguistically, into the English-speaking mainstream.
The Germans are a Germanic people, which as an ethnicity emerged during the Middle Ages. From the multi-ethnic Holy Roman Empire, the Peace of Westphalia (1648) left a core territory that was to become Germany.
The area of modern-day Germany in the European Iron Age was divided into the (Celtic) La Tène horizon in Southern Germany and the (Germanic) Jastorf culture in Northern Germany. The predominant Y-chromosome haplogroup in Germans is R1b, followed by I and R1a; the predominant mitochondrial haplogroup is H, followed by U and T.
The Germanic peoples during the Migrations Period came into contact with other peoples; in the case of the populations settling in the territory of modern Germany, they encountered Celts to the south, and Balts and Slavs towards the east.
The migration-period peoples who would coalesce into a "German" ethnicity were the Saxones, Frisii, Franci, Thuringii, Alamanni and Bavarii. By the 800s, the territory of modern Germany had been united under the rule of Charlemagne. Much of what is now Eastern Germany remained Slavonic-speaking (Sorbs and Veleti).
A German ethnicity emerged in the course of the Middle Ages, under the influence of the unity of Eastern Francia (later Kingdom of Germany) from the 9th century. The process was gradual and lacked any clear definition.
After Christianization, the Roman Catholic Church and local rulers led German expansion and settlement in areas inhabited by Slavs and Balts (Ostsiedlung). Massive German settlement led to their assimilation of Baltic (Old Prussians) and Slavic (Wends) populations, who were exhausted by previous warfare.
At the same time, naval innovations led to a German domination of trade in the Baltic Sea and parts of Eastern Europe through the Hanseatic League. Along the trade routes, Hanseatic trade stations became centers of German culture. German town law (Stadtrecht) was promoted by the presence of large, relatively wealthy German populations and their influence on political power.
Thus people who would be considered "Germans", with a common culture, language, and worldview different from that of the surrounding rural peoples, colonized trading towns as far north of present-day Germany as Bergen (in Norway), Stockholm (in Sweden), and Vyborg (now in Russia). The Hanseatic League was not exclusively German in any ethnic sense: many towns who joined the league were outside the Holy Roman Empire and a number of them may only loosely be characterized as German. The Empire was not entirely German either.
It was only in the late fifteenth century that the Holy Roman Empire came to be called the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation. It was not exclusively German, and notably included a sizeable Slavic minority. The Thirty Years' War, a series of conflicts fought mainly in the territory of modern Germany, confirmed the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. The Napoleonic Wars gave it its coup de grâce.
Since the Peace of Westphalia, Germany had been "one nation split in many countries" (Kleinstaaterei). The Austrian–Prussian split, confirmed in 1871 when Austria remained outside of the Imperial Germany, was only the most prominent example.
In the nineteenth century, after the Napoleonic Wars and the fall of the Holy Roman Empire (of the German nation), Austria and Prussia emerged as two competitors. Austria, trying to remain the dominant power in Central Europe, led the way in the terms of the Congress of Vienna. The Congress of Vienna was essentially conservative, assuring that little would change in Europe and preventing Germany from uniting. The terms of the Congress of Vienna came to a sudden halt following the Crimean War in 1856. This paved the way for German unification in the 1860s. In 1870, Prussia attracted even Bavaria (the old ally of France) in the Franco-Prussian War. It created the German Empire as a German nation-state, effectively excluding the multi-ethnic Austrian Habsburg monarchy.
During the 19th century in the German territories, rapid population growth due to lower death rates, combined with poverty, spurred millions of Germans to emigrate, chiefly to the United States. Today, roughly 17% of the United States' population (23% of the white population) is of mainly German ancestry.
The dissolution of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire after World War I led to a strong desire of the population of the new Republic of German Austria to be integrated into Germany or Switzerland. This was, however, prevented by the Treaty of Versailles.
The Nazis, led by Adolf Hitler, attempted to unite all Germans (Volksdeutsche) into one realm, including ethnic Germans in eastern Europe, many of whom had emigrated more than one hundred fifty years before and developed separate cultures in their new lands. This idea was initially welcomed by many ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia, Austria, Poland, Danzig and western Lithuania. The Swiss resisted the idea. They had viewed themselves as a distinctly separate nation since the Peace of Westphalia of 1648.
After World War II, because of the ostensible reasons for war and in retaliation for Nazi excesses, eastern European nations, including areas annexed by the Soviet Union and Poland, expelled ethnic Germans from their territories, including Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia. Most of the 12 million ethnic German refugees fled to western Germany and Europe, the United States, and South America.
After WWII, Austrians increasingly saw themselves as a nation distinct from other German-speaking areas of Europe. Recent polls show that no more than 6% of the German-speaking Austrians consider themselves as "Germans". Austrian identity was emphasized along with the "first-victim of Nazism" theory. Today over 80 percent of the Austrians see themselves as an independent nation.
Between 1950 and 1987, about 1.4 million ethnic Germans and their dependants, mostly from Poland and Romania, arrived in Germany under special provisions of (right of return). With the collapse of the Iron Curtain, "Aussiedler"—ethnic Germans, mainly from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union—took advantage of Germany's liberal law of return to leave the harsh conditions of Eastern Europe. Approximately 2 million have resettled in Germany since the late 1980s. On the other hand, significant numbers of ethnic Germans have moved from Germany to other European countries, especially Switzerland, the Netherlands, Britain, and Spain.
The Germans are divided into sub-nationalities, some of which form dialectal unities with groups outside Germany that are not considered "Germans". The southern Upper German groups retain a pronounced identity. In the case of the Swabians, there was even a limited movement for Alemannic separatism. The Low German Platt speakers also retain a certain ethnic identity, while the Central German majority has largely abandoned individual nationalisms.
See also: Völkisch movement
As in other European countries, ethnic nationalism came to Germany during the 18th and especially in the course of the 19th century. German nationalism is traditionally based on language and culture, possibly due to lack of a centralized state. French suppression and Napoleonic wars are considered a main cause of nationalism in the German states. While the early national democratic movement, ca. 1830, had a strong internationalist face ("Young Germany" as a part of "Young Europe"), during the March Revolution of 1848/1849 the problem of ethnically mixed territories in central Europe became an important issue. Nonetheless, the (never realized) German liberal constitution of 1849 granted a free cultural development also to the "non German speaking parts of the people".
It was later alloyed at the end of the nineteenth century with the high standing and worldwide influence of German science and culture, to some degree enhanced by Bismarck's military successes (1864–1871). During the following years a substantial part of the Germans assumed a cultural and ethnic supremacy, particularly compared to their neighbors, the Slavs. But even in the imperial Germany nationalist forces were opposed by large internationalist movements, e.g. social democracy with more than 1 million members. Nationalists despised not only social democrats as Reichsfeinde (ennemies of the Reich), but also Catholics, left liberals and Jews.
Nationalism rose high during World War I. After the war and the disappointing peace terms, internationalism and moderate liberalism had it difficult in Germany and other countries. Realistic politicians, who tried to make Germany great again through consilliation with the Western powers, such as Gustav Stresemann, encountered strong opposition from conservative and ultranationalist forces on the political right. Among those a new sort of nationalism came up, one that emphasized on biologicist concepts of nation; it culminated in Adolf Hitler's national socialism.
The mass murder of the Hitler era was an important factor after World War II when nationalism in its radical appearance became outcast. Nonetheless, "old nazis" and neonazis always existed although they never had significant political influence. The National Democratic Party of Germany received 1.5% of the popular vote in the 2009 federal election; at time such parties are more successful at state (regional) elections.
Because of the shame of the national socialist crimes the expression of national sentiment is in Germany more problematic than in other countries. Possessing a German flag (and displaying it) is relatively uncommon in Germany, although that changed to a certain degree during the 2006 soccer world cup. It is still not too common that Germans, especially younger ones, would know the text of the German national anthem.
Politicians (of the right and the moderate left) emphasize the need to distinguish between patriotism as the love to own's country and nationalism as the hate against other countries, as then Federal President Johannes Rau put it in 2000. In a similar way, Black-red-gold is presented as the colours of German freedom and democracy, opposed to the Emperor's Black-white-red.
Today, Germans include both Protestants and Catholics, with each group about equally represented in Germany. Historically, Protestants formed the majority in the northern two-thirds of the country. With the loss of traditionally Protestant regions after World War II and many Protestants' turning to agnosticism and atheism, especially in the former East Germany, the two groups are about equally represented. Today, non-Christians constitute a majority in certain regions of Germany, both in urban as well as in rural (eastern) regions. Other large groups of immigrants were or are mostly Catholics (e.g., Poles, Italians and Croatians).
The Protestant Reformation started in the German cultural sphere, when in 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses to the door of the Schlosskirche ("castle church") in Wittenberg. Among Protestant denominations, the Lutherans are well represented among Germans, while Calvinists are historically to be found primarily near the Dutch border and in a few cities like Worms and Speyer.
The late nineteenth century saw a strong movement among the Jews in Germany and Austria to assimilate and define themselves as Germans, i.e., as Jewish Germans (a similar movement occurred in Hungary). In conservative circles, their acculturation was not always embraced. Beginning in social tensions of the 1920s, the rise of Nazis in the 1930s meant an increase in anti-Semitism, as they used the Jewish population as scapegoats for national problems. The Nazis conceived and carried out extreme discrimination and an effort to exterminate the Jews, leading to the deaths or exile of almost all of the pre-World War II Jewish population.
Since the post-World War II decades and especially the later 20th century, the German-speaking countries of Europe have reflected striking demographic changes resulting from decades of immigration. These changes have led to renewed debates (especially in the Federal Republic of Germany) about who should be considered German. Non-ethnic Germans now make up more than 8% of the German population. They are mostly the descendants of "guest workers" who arrived in the 1960s and 1970s. The Poles, Turks, Moroccans, Italians, Greeks, Portuguese, Spanish, and people from the Balkans form the largest groups of non-ethnic Germans in the country.
As of December 2004, about seven million foreign citizens were registered in Germany, and 19% of the country's residents were of foreign or partially foreign descent. The young are more likely to be of foreign descent than the old. Thirty percent of Germans aged 15 years and younger have at least one parent born outside the country. In the big cities, 60% of children aged 5 years and younger have at least one parent born abroad. The largest group (2.7 million) are descended from ethnic Turks.
A significant number of German citizens (close to 5%), although traditionally considered ethnic Germans, are in fact foreign-born. They retain cultural identities and languages from their native countries. This sets them apart from native Germans. Foreign-born repatriates are not unique to Germany. The English and British equivalent legal term of lex sanguinis (law of blood) stipulates that citizenship is inherited by the child from his/her parents. It has nothing to do with ethnicity.
Ethnic German repatriates from the former Soviet Union constitute by far the largest such group and the second largest ethno-national minority group in Germany. The repatriation provisions made for ethnic Germans in Eastern Europe are unique and have a historical basis. These were areas where Germans traditionally lived, that is, where they had migrated and maintained some German language and culture. Nonetheless, the fact of their separation meant they developed differently from populations within German borders.
The Volga Germans, descendants of ethnic Germans who settled in Russia during the eighteenth century, have presented a controversial case of "repatriation". They have been permitted to claim German citizenship even though neither they nor their ancestors for several generations had been to Germany. In contrast, persons of German descent living in North America, South America, Africa, etc. do not have an automatic right of return. They must prove their eligibility for German citizenship according to applicable German nationality law. Other countries with post-Soviet Union repatriation programs include Greece, Israel and South Korea.
Unlike these ethnic German repatriates, some non-German ethnic minorities in the country, including some who were born and raised in the Federal Republic, choose to remain non-citizens. Although recently German citizenship laws have been relaxed to allow such individuals to become naturalized citizens, many choose not to give up allegiance to the countries of their ethnic roots. They live in Germany under the status of an alien resident. Although this status means that people lack certain political rights, they often can still get work and free public higher education, and travel freely abroad.
As a result, close to 10 million people permanently living in the Federal Republic today distinctly differ from the majority of the population in a variety of ways such as race, ethnicity, religion, language and culture. Official statistical sources often fail to account for them as minorities because such sources traditionally survey only German citizens classified under the so-called jus sanguinis (right of blood) system, limiting citizenship to those with German forebears, which has been in effect in Germany since the nineteenth century. It has only recently been partially replaced by the alternative jus soli (right of soil) system, allowing citizenship to all individuals born there. This situation contributes to the invisibility of Germany's minorities.