The Full Wiki

More info on History of Germany

History of Germany: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

History of Germany
Coat of arms featuring a large black eagle with wings spread and beak open. The eagle is black, with red talons and beak, and is over a gold background.
This article is part of a series
Early History
Germanic peoples
Migration Period
Frankish Empire
Medieval Germany
East Francia
Kingdom of Germany
Holy Roman Empire
Eastward settlement
Building a Nation
Confederation of the Rhine
German Confederation & Zollverein
German Revolutions of 1848
North German Confederation
Unification of Germany
The German Reich
German Empire
World War I
Weimar Republic
Saar, Danzig, Memel, Austria, Sudeten
Nazi Germany
World War II
Flensburg government
Post-war Germany since 1945
Occupation + Ostgebiete
Expulsion of Germans
FRG, Saar & GDR
German reunification
Present Day
Federal Republic of Germany
Military history of Germany
Territorial changes of Germany
Timeline of German history

Germany Portal
 v • d • e 

The concept of Germany as a distinct region can be traced to Roman commander Julius Caesar, who referred to the unconquered area east of the Rhine as Germania, thus distinguishing it from Gaul (France), which he had conquered. This was a geographic expression, as the area included both Germanic tribes and Celts. The victory of the Germanic tribes in the Battle of the Teutoberg Forest (AD 9) prevented annexation by the Roman Empire. Following the fall of the Roman Empire, the Franks subdued the other West Germanic tribes. When the Frankish Empire was divided among Charlemagne's heirs in 843, the eastern part (now Western Germany) became East Francia, ruled by Louis the German. Henry the Fowler became the first king of Germany in 919. In 962, Henry's son Otto I became the first emperor of what historians refer to as the Holy Roman Empire, the medieval German state.

In the High Middle Ages, the dukes and princes of the empire gained power at the expense of the emperors, who were elected by the princes and crowned by the pope. The northern states became Protestant in the early 16th century, while the southern states remained Catholic. Protestants and Catholics clashed in the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), which left vast areas depopulated. The peace of Westphalia, which ended the war, is considered the effective end of the Holy Roman Empire and the beginning of the modern nation-state system. Although the Habsburg family continued to use the title "emperor", from this point on their authority was limited to Austria.

After the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), Germany was reorganized and the number of states reduced to 39. These states were enrolled in an Austrian-led German Confederation. Nationalist sentiment led to the unsuccessful 1848 March Revolution. A German Empire was created in 1871 under the leadership of Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. The Reichstag, or elected parliament, had only a limited role in the imperial government. Unification was followed by an industrial revolution. By 1900, Germany's economy was by far the largest in Europe (and second only to the U.S. in the world). Defeated in the First World War (1914-1918), Germany faced territorial losses and war reparations. Emperor Wilhelm II abdicated and democracy was introduced under the Weimar Republic.

The Great Depression, which began in 1929, led to a polarization of German politics and to an upsurge in support for the Communist and Nazi parties. In 1933, the Nazis under Adolf Hitler gained power. The Nazis imposed a totalitarian regime and followed an expansionist foreign policy that led to World War II. After Nazi Germany's defeat, the country was divided into democratic West Germany and communist East Germany. In 1990, East Germany was reunited with West Germany. In recent years, Germany has become increasingly integrated into the European Union, notably with the "Europe 1992" effort to create a unified market and adoption of the euro, a Europe-wide currency, in 2002.



The earliest hominid fossils found in what is now Germany are Homo heidelbergensis (500,000 years old) and the Steinheim Skull (300,000 years old). The Neanderthals, named for Neander Valley, flourished around 100,000 years ago. The region was glaciated from 30,000 years ago to about 10,000 years ago. The Nebra sky disk, dated 1600 BC, is the oldest known astronomical instrument found anywhere. Northern Germany experienced the Nordic Bronze Age from 1700BC to 450BC and thereafter the Pre-Roman Iron Age. Differences between artifacts from northern Germany and those from southern Germany suggest the beginning of differentiation between the Germanic and Celtic peoples. In the first century BC, the Germanic tribes began expanding south, east, and west.[1]

Early history (56 BC to 260 AD)

Germanic tribes in 50 AD (not including most of Scandinavia)
Early Old High German runic inscription on the Pforzen buckle

Germany entered recorded history in June 56 BC, when Roman commander Julius Caesar crossed the Rhine. His army built a huge wooden bridge in only ten days. He retreated back to Gaul upon learning that the Suevi tribe was gathering to oppose him. The English word "Germany" is derived from the Latin Germania, a word first recorded in Caesar's writings.[2]

Under Augustus, the Roman General Publius Quinctilius Varus began to invade Germania (a term used by the Romans running roughly from the Rhine to the Ural Mountains), and it was in this period that the Germanic tribes became familiar with Roman tactics of warfare while maintaining their tribal identity. In AD 9, three Roman legions led by Varus were defeated by the Cheruscan leader Arminius in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. Arminius later suffered a defeat at the hands of the Roman general Germanicus at the Battle of the Weser River or Idistaviso in AD 16, but the Roman victory was not followed up after the Roman Emperor Tiberius recalled Germanicus to Rome in AD 17. Tiberius wished that the Roman frontier with Germania be maintained along the Rhine. Modern Germany, as far as the Rhine and the Danube, thus remained outside the Roman Empire. By AD 100, the time of Tacitus' Germania, Germanic tribes settled along the Rhine and the Danube (the Limes Germanicus), occupying most of the area of modern Germany. The third century saw the emergence of a number of large West Germanic tribes: Alamanni, Franks, Chatti, Saxons, Frisians, Sicambri, and Thuringii. Around 260, the Germanic peoples broke through the Limes and the Danube frontier into Roman-controlled lands.[3]

The Franks

The Merovingian kings of the Germanic Franks conquered northern Gaul in 486 AD. In the fifth and sixth century the Merovingian kings conquered several other Germanic tribes and kingdoms and placed them under the control of autonomous dukes of mixed Frankish and native blood. Frankish Colonists were encouraged to move to the newly conquered territories. While the local Germanic tribes were allowed to preserve their laws, they were pressured into changing their religion.

Frankish Empire

Frankish Empire: Realm of Pippin III in 758 (blue), expansion under Charlemagne until 814 (red), marches and dependencies (yellow)

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire the Franks created an empire under the Merovingian kings and subjugated the other Germanic tribes. Swabia became a duchy under the Frankish Empire in 496, following the Battle of Tolbiac. Already king Chlothar I ruled the greater part of what is now Germany and made expeditions into Saxony while the Southeast of modern Germany was still under influence of the Ostrogoths. In 531 Saxons and Franks destroyed the Kingdom of Thuringia. Saxons inhabit the area down to the Unstrut river. During the partition of the Frankish empire their German territories were a part of Austrasia. In 718 the Franconian Mayor of the Palace Charles Martel made war against Saxony, because of its help for the Neustrians. The Franconian Carloman started in 743 a new war against Saxony, because the Saxons gave aid to Duke Odilo of Bavaria. In 751 Pippin III, mayor of the palace under the Merovingian king, himself assumed the title of king and was anointed by the Church. The Frankish kings now set up as protectors of the Pope, Charlemagne launched a decades-long military campaign against their heathen rivals, the Saxons and the Avars. The Saxons (by the Saxon Wars (772-804)) and Avars were eventually overwhelmed and forcibly converted, and their lands were annexed by the Carolingian Empire.

Middle Ages

The prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire. (left to right: Archbishop of Cologne, Archbishop of Mainz, Archbishop of Trier, Count Palatine, Duke of Saxony, Margrave of Brandenburg and King of Bohemia)
Holy Roman Empire, 10th century
Holy Roman Empire, 14th century

In 768 C.E. (Common Era) the Frankish king died, leaving his kingdom to his two sons--Charles and Carloman.[4] When Carloman suddenly died in 771 C.E., Charles seized his brother's lands and made them part of his own kingdom.[5] During the next two years, Charles consolidated his control over his kingdom and became more commonly known as "Charles the Great" or "Charlemagne".[6] From 771 C.E. until his death in 814 C.E., Charlemagne extended the Carolingian empire into northern Italy and the territories of all west Germanic peoples, including the Saxons and the Bajuwari (Bavarians).[7] In 800 C.E., Charlemagne's authority in Western Europe was confirmed by his coronation as emperor in Rome.[8] The Frankish empire was divided into counties, and its frontiers were protected by border Marches. Imperial strongholds (Kaiserpfalzen) became economic and cultural centres (Aachen being the most famous[9]).

Between 843 and 880, after fighting between Charlemagne's grandchildren, the Carolingian empire was partitioned into several parts in the Treaty of Verdun (843 C.E.), the Treaty of Meerssen (870 C.E.) and the Treaty of Ribemont[10] The German empire developed out of the East Frankish kingdom, East Francia. From 919 C.E. to 936 C.E. the Germanic peoples (Franks, Saxons, Swabians and Bavarians) were united under Duke Henry of Saxony, who took the title of king. For the first time, the term Kingdom (Empire) of the Germans ("Regnum Teutonicorum") was applied to a Frankish kingdom, even though Teutonicorum at its founding originally meant something closer to "Realm of the Germanic peoples" or "Germanic Realm" than realm of the Germans. (In recent times this has been referred to as the "First Reich" with Bismarck's Prussian-built empire called the "Second Reich" and Hitler's rule called the "Third Reich.")

In 936 C.E., Otto I the Great was crowned at Aachen. He strengthened the royal authority by re-asserting the old Carolingian rights over ecclesiastical appointments.[11] Otto wrested the powers of appointment of bishops and abbots from the dukes and other nobles within his empire.[12] Additionally, Otto revived the old Carolingian program of appointing missionaries in the border lands. Otto continued to support the celibacy rule for the higher clergy.[13] Thus, the ecclesiastical appointments never became hereditary.[14] By granting land to the abbotts and bishops he appointed, Otto actually made these bishops into "princes of the Empire" (Reichsfürsten).[15] In this way, Otto was able to establish a national church. In 951 Otto the Great married the widowed Queen Adelheid, thereby winning the Lombard crown. [16] Outside threats to the kingdom were contained with the decisive defeat of the Magyars of Hungary near Augsburg at the Battle of Lechfeld in 955.[17] The Slavs between the Elbe and the Oder rivers were also subjugated.

The papacy in Rome had fallen in decline in the years before Otto the Great became Holy Roman Emperor. During the years coincident with the reign of Otto the Great, the secularization of the papacy became complete as the pope became nothing more than a puppet to the local tyrant, Alberic II, son of Alberic I and Marozia, who controlled Rome from 932 C.E. until 954 C.E.[18] A crisis was reached when Alberic's son and successor as tyrant of Rome, had himself elected pope as John XII.[19] Otto marched on Rome and drove John XII from the papal throne and presided over a synod which deposed John XII.[20] Otto then insisted on the election of his own candidate for pope, who was then seated on the papal throne as Leo VIII (963 C.E. through 965 C.E.). The people of Rome elected Benedict V (964 C.E. through 966 C.E.). However, Benedict V was prevented by Otto from taking the papal throne. Upon the death of Leo VIII in 965 C.E., Otto and the church agreed on a compromise choice for pope--John XIII. When John XIII died on September 6, 972 C.E., Otto insisted on his own candidate for the papacy who became Benedict VI. This series of interventions in papal affairs by Otto set a firm precedent for imperial control of the papacy for years to come.[21] In 962, Otto I was crowned emperor in Rome, taking the succession of Charlemagne, and this also helped establish a strong Frankish influence over the Papacy.

The Kingdoms of Provence and Trans-Jurane Burgundy remained separate and independent kingdoms until during the reign of Otto the Great, the two kingdoms were merged into the single kingdom of Burgundy.[22] Otto made the united kingdom of Burgundy a protectorate of the Holy Roman Empire.[23] In 1033 the Kingdom of Burgundy was formally incorporated into the Holy Roman Empire during the reign of Conrad II, the first emperor of the Salian dynasty.

As noted above, the Roman Church had been in decline for some time. The Church had been secularized and had fallen under the control of a series of tyrants of Rome. The recent interference of the Holy Roman Empire in the affairs of the Church had not improved the condition of the Church, but merely changed it master. There was a strong impulse for sincere reform of the Church. However, this impulse for reform of the papacy and of the ecclesiastical hierarchy did not arise from the hierarchy itself. Instead this impulse arose from the monasteries. However, first the monasteries had to be liberated from secular control. The monastery at Cluny became the focal point of this impulse to reform the monasteries and later the Church hierarchy itself.[24]

During the reign of Conrad II's son, Henry III (1039 C.E. to 1056 C.E.), the Holy Roman Empire supported the Cluniac reform of the Church - the Peace of God, the prohibition of simony (the purchase of clerical offices) and the celibacy of priests.[25] Imperial authority over the Pope reached its peak. An imperial stronghold (Pfalz) was built at Goslar, as the Empire continued its expansion to the East.

In the Investiture Controversy which began between Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII over appointments to ecclesiastical offices, the emperor was compelled to submit to the Pope at Canossa in 1077, after having been excommunicated. In 1122 a temporary reconciliation was reached between Henry V and the Pope with the Concordat of Worms.[26] The consequences of the investiture dispute were a weakening of the Ottonian National Church Reichskirche, and a strengthening of the Imperial secular princes.

The time between 1096 and 1291 was the age of the crusades. Knightly religious orders were established, including the Templars, the Knights of St John and the Teutonic Order.[27]

From 1100, new towns were founded around imperial strongholds, castles, bishops' palaces and monasteries. The towns began to establish municipal rights and liberties (see German town law), while the rural population remained in a state of serfdom. In particular, several cities became Imperial Free Cities, which did not depend on princes or bishops, but were immediately subject to the Emperor. The towns were ruled by patricians (merchants carrying on long-distance trade). The craftsmen formed guilds, governed by strict rules, which sought to obtain control of the towns. Trade with the East and North intensified, as the major trading towns came together in the Hanseatic League, under the leadership of Lübeck.[28]

The German colonization and the chartering of new towns and villages began into largely Slav-inhabited territories east of the Elbe, such as Bohemia, Silesia, Pomerania, and Livonia (see also Ostsiedlung).[29]

Henry V, great-grandson of Conrad II became Holy Roman Emporer in 1106 upon the death of his father, Henry IV. Henry V's reign was born into a civil war which had continued from his fathers' reign.[30] Hoping to gain complete control over the church inside the Empire, Henry V appointed Adalbert of Saarbruken as archbishop of Mainz in 1111 C.E.[31] However, like Becket in England some fifty years later, once appointed as archbishop, Adalbert began to take his position seriously and began to assert the powers of the Church against secular authorities, i.e. the Emperor.[32] This precipitated the Crisis of 1111 C.E. which was really a continuation of the struggle between the Church and the Emperor known as the Investiture Controversy (noted above). The Church was re-asserting its right to appoint or "invest" persons to ecclesiastical offices within the Church. Although the immediate crisis was settled by the Concordat of Worms of September 23, 1122, the struggle between the Church and the Emperor continued in Germany in years that followed. Upon the death of Henry V in 1125, some magnates of the Empire supported the elevation of Henry's nephew, Frederick of Hohenstaufen, Duke of Swabia, to the Emperor's throne. However, opposition to Frederick was strong. Eventually, led by Adalbert and the Archbishop Frederick of Cologne, the magnates elected the popular Lothair Duke of Saxony as Emperor.[33] Lothair was a capable leader in a difficult situation.[34] To strengthen his position, Lothair married his only child, a daughter to Henry, Duke of Bavaria (also known as Henry the Proud).[35] By this marriage, Henry the Proud also became heir to the duchy of Saxony.[36] This made Henry the Proud the most powerful lord in the kingdom, as well as the logical successor of Lothair as the Holy Roman Emperor.[37] However, upon the death of Lothair on December 4, 1137 C.E., the magnates refused to elect Henry the Proud, who many of the magnates feared. Instead, the magnates turned back to the Hohenstaufen family for a candidate. Frederick of Hohenstaufen was already dead. He had been succeeded as Duke of Swabia by his son, Frederick (the future Emperor Frederick Barbarossa). Accordingly, the magnates chose late Frederick's brother Conrad to become the Holy Roman Emperor as Conrad III. One of Conrad III first acts was to deprive Henry the proud of his two duchies. This brought a civil war to southern Germany as the Empire divided into two factions. The first faction called themselves the "Welfs" after Henry the Proud's family name which was the ruling dynasty in Bavaria. The other faction was known as the "Waiblings" after the favorite residence of the Hohenstaufens in the town of Waiblingen.[38] In this early period, the Welfs generally represented ecclesiastical independence under the papacy plus "particularism" (a strengthening of the local duchies against the central imperial authority).[39] The Waiblings on the other hand stood for control of the Church by a strong central Imperial government.[40] Because Church interests were involved in the struggle between these factions, this struggle in Germany had a counterpart that was carried on south of the Alps in Italy. There the Welfs faction was called the "Guelphs" and the Waiblings were called the Ghibellines." The struggle between these two factions would continue for some time and, over time, the issues between the factions would bear no relations to the original principles of the factions.[41]

Between 1152 and 1190, during the reign of Frederick I (Barbarossa), of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, an accommodation was reached with the rival Guelph party by the grant of the duchy of Bavaria to Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony.[42] Austria became a separate duchy by virtue of the Privilegium Minus in 1156.[43] Barbarossa tried to reassert his control over Italy.[44] In 1177 a final reconciliation was reached between the emperor and the Pope in Venice.

Henry the In 1180 Henry the Lion was outlawed and Bavaria was given to Otto of Wittelsbach (founder of the Wittelsbach dynasty which was to rule Bavaria until 1918), while Saxony was divided.

From 1184 to 1186 the Hohenstaufen empire under Barbarossa reached its peak in the Reichsfest (imperial celebrations) held at Mainz and the marriage of his son Henry in Milan to the Norman princess Constance of Sicily. The power of the feudal lords was undermined by the appointment of "ministerials" (unfree servants of the Emperor) as officials. Chivalry and the court life flowered, leading to a development of German culture and literature (see Wolfram von Eschenbach).

Between 1212 and 1250 Frederick II established a modern, professionally administered state in Sicily. He resumed the conquest of Italy, leading to further conflict with the Papacy. In the Empire, extensive sovereign powers were granted to ecclesiastical and secular princes, leading to the rise of independent territorial states. The struggle with the Pope sapped the Empire's strength, as Frederick II was excommunicated three times. After his death, the Hohenstaufen dynasty fell, followed by an interregnum during which there was no Emperor.

Beginning in 1226 under the auspices of Emperor Frederick II, the Teutonic Knights began their conquest of Prussia after being invited to Chełmno Land by the Polish Duke Konrad I of Masovia. The native Baltic Prussians were conquered and Christianized by the Knights with much warfare, and numerous German towns were established along the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea. From 1300, however, the Empire started to lose territory on all its frontiers.

The failure of negotiations between Emperor Louis IV with the papacy led in 1338 to the declaration at Rhense by six electors to the effect that election by all or the majority of the electors automatically conferred the royal title and rule over the empire, without papal confirmation.

Between 1346 and 1378 Emperor Charles IV of Luxembourg, king of Bohemia, sought to restore the imperial authority.

Around the middle of the 14th century, the Black Death ravaged Germany and Europe. From the Dance of Death by Hans Holbein (1491)

Around 1350 Germany and almost the whole of Europe were ravaged by the Black Death. Jews were persecuted on religious and economic grounds; many fled to Poland.

The Golden Bull of 1356 stipulated that in future the emperor was to be chosen by four secular electors (the King of Bohemia, the Count Palatine of the Rhine, the Duke of Saxony, and the Margrave of Brandenburg) and three spiritual electors (the Archbishops of Mainz, Trier, and Cologne).

After the disasters of the 14th century, early-modern European society gradually came into being as a result of economic, religious and political changes. A money economy arose which provoked social discontent among knights and peasants. Gradually, a proto-capitalistic system evolved out of feudalism. The Fugger family gained prominence through commercial and financial activities and became financiers to both ecclesiastical and secular rulers.

The knightly classes found their monopoly on arms and military skill undermined by the introduction of mercenary armies and foot soldiers. Predatory activity by "robber knights" became common. From 1438 the Habsburgs, who controlled most of the southeast of the Empire (more or less modern-day Austria and Slovenia, and Bohemia and Moravia after the death of King Louis II in 1526), maintained a constant grip on the position of the Holy Roman Emperor until 1806 (with the exception of the years between 1742 and 1745). This situation, however, gave rise to increased disunity among the Holy Roman Empires territorial rulers and prevented sections of the country from coming together and forming nations in the manner of France and England.

During his reign from 1493 to 1519, Maximilian I tried to reform the Empire: an Imperial Supreme Court (Reichskammergericht) was established, imperial taxes were levied, the power of the Imperial Diet (Reichstag) was increased. The reforms were, however, frustrated by the continued territorial fragmentation of the Empire.

Early modern Germany

Luther's Seal
 Lutheranism portal
see List of states in the Holy Roman Empire for subdivisions and the political structure

Reformation and Thirty Years War

Around the beginning of the 16th century there was much discontent in the Holy Roman Empire caused by abuses such as indulgences in the Catholic Church and a general desire for reform.

In 1515 the Frisian peasants rebellion took place. Led by Pier Gerlofs Donia and Wijard Jelckama, thousands of Frisians (a Germanic race) fought against the suppression of their lands by Charles V. The hostilities ended in 1523 when the remaining leaders were captured and decapitated.

In 1517 the Reformation began with the publication of Martin Luther's 95 Theses; he had posted them in the town square, and gave copies of them to German nobles, but never nailed them to the church door in Wittenberg as is commonly said. Rather, an unknown person decided to take the 95 Theses from their obscure posting and nail them to the Church's door. The list detailed 95 assertions Luther believed to show corruption and misguidance within the Catholic Church. One often cited example, though perhaps not Luther's chief concern, is a condemnation of the selling of indulgences; another prominent point within the 95 Theses is Luther's disagreement both with the way in which the higher clergy, especially the pope, used and abused power, and with the very idea of the pope.

Statue of Pier Gerlofs Donia, self acclaimed "King of all Frisians". Famous rebel and freedom fighter of legendary strength and size.

In 1521 Luther was outlawed at the Diet of Worms. But the Reformation spread rapidly, helped by the Emperor Charles V's wars with France and the Turks. Hiding in the Wartburg Castle, Luther translated the Bible from Latin to German, establishing the basis of the German language.

"The Holy Roman Empire, 1512.

In 1524 the Peasants' War broke out in Swabia, Franconia and Thuringia against ruling princes and lords, following the preachings of Reformist priests. But the revolts, which were assisted by war-experienced noblemen like Götz von Berlichingen and Florian Geyer (in Franconia), and by the theologian Thomas Münzer (in Thuringia), were soon repressed by the territorial princes. It is estimated that as many as 100,000 German peasants were massacred during the revolt,[45] usually after the battles had ended.[46] With the protestation of the Lutheran princes at the Reichstag of Speyer (1529) and rejection of the Lutheran "Augsburg Confession" at Augsburg (1530), a separate Lutheran church emerged.

From 1545 the Counter-Reformation began in Germany. The main force was provided by the Jesuit order, founded by the Spaniard Ignatius of Loyola. Central and northeastern Germany were by this time almost wholly Protestant, whereas western and southern Germany remained predominantly Catholic. In 1547, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V defeated the Schmalkaldic League, an alliance of Protestant rulers.

The Peace of Augsburg in 1555 brought recognition of the Lutheran faith. But the treaty also stipulated that the religion of a state was to be that of its ruler (Cuius regio, eius religio).

In 1556 Charles V abdicated. The Habsburg Empire was divided, as Spain was separated from the Imperial possessions.

In 1608/1609 the Protestant Union and the Catholic League were formed.

From 1618 to 1648 the Thirty Years' War ravaged in the Holy Roman Empire. The causes were the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants, the efforts by the various states within the Empire to increase their power and the Emperor's attempt to achieve the religious and political unity of the Empire. The immediate occasion for the war was the uprising of the Protestant nobility of Bohemia against the emperor (Defenestration of Prague), but the conflict was widened into a European War by the intervention of King Christian IV of Denmark (1625-29), Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden (1630-48) and France under Cardinal Richelieu, the regent of the young Louis XIV (1635-48). Germany became the main theatre of war and the scene of the final conflict between France and the Habsburgs for predominance in Europe. The war resulted in large areas of Germany being laid waste, a loss of approximately a third of its population, and in a general impoverishment.

The war ended in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia, signed in Münster and Osnabrück: Imperial territory was lost to France and Sweden and the Netherlands left the Holy Roman Empire after being de facto seceded for 80 years already. The imperial power declined further as the states' rights were increased.

End of the Holy Roman Empire

The German Empire in 1705, map "L’Empire d’Allemagne" from Nicolas de Fer
After the Peace of Hubertsburg in 1763, Prussia became a European great power. The rivalry between Prussia and Austria for the leadership of Germany began

From 1640, Brandenburg-Prussia had started to rise under the Great Elector, Frederick William. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 strengthened it even further, through the acquisition of East Pomerania. A system of rule based on absolutism was established.

In 1701 Elector Frederick of Brandenburg was crowned "King in Prussia". From 1713 to 1740, King Frederick William I, also known as the "Soldier King", established a highly centralized state.

Meanwhile Louis XIV of France had conquered parts of Alsace and Lorraine (1678-1681), and had invaded and devastated the Palatinate (1688-1697) in the War of Palatinian Succession. Louis XIV benefited from the Empire's problems with the Turks, which were menacing Austria. Louis XIV ultimately had to relinquish the Palatinate.

In 1683 the Ottoman Turks were defeated outside Vienna by a Polish relief army led by King Jan Sobieski of Poland while the city itself was defended by Imperial and Austrian troops under the command of Charles IV, Duke of Lorraine, accompanied by Prince Eugene of Savoy and elector Maximilian Emanuel of Bavaria, the "liberator of Belgrade". Hungary was reconquered, and later became a new destination for German settlers. Austria, under the Habsburgs, developed into a great power.

In the War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748) Maria Theresa fought successfully for recognition of her succession to the throne. But in the Silesian Wars and in the Seven Years' War she had to cede Silesia to Frederick II, the Great, of Prussia. After the Peace of Hubertsburg in 1763 between Austria, Prussia and Saxony, Prussia became a European great power. This gave the start to the rivalry between Prussia and Austria for the leadership of Germany.

From 1763, against resistance from the nobility and citizenry, an "enlightened absolutism" was established in Prussia and Austria, according to which the ruler was to be "the first servant of the state". The economy developed and legal reforms were undertaken, including the abolition of torture and the improvement in the status of Jews; the emancipation of the peasants slowly began. Education began to be enforced under threat of compulsion.

In 1772-1795 Prussia took part in the partitions of Poland, occupying western territories of Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth, which led to centuries of Polish resistance against German rule and persecution.

The French Revolution began in 1789. In 1792, Prussia and Austria were the first countries to declare war on France. By 1795, the French had overrun the Austrian Netherlands and the left bank of the Rhine and Prussia had dropped out of the war. Austria continued to fight until 1797 when it was defeated by Napoleon Bonaparte in Italy and signed the Treaty of Campo Formio, whereby it gave up Milan and recognized the loss of the Austrian Netherlands and the left bank of the Rhine, but gained Venice.

In 1799, hostilities with France resumed in the War of the Second Coalition. The conflict terminated with the Peace of Luneville in 1801. In 1803, under the "Reichsdeputationshauptschluss" (a resolution of a committee of the Imperial Diet meeting in Regensburg), Napoleon abolished almost all the ecclesiastical and the smaller secular states and most of the imperial free cities. New medium-sized states were established in southwestern Germany. In turn, Prussia gained territory in northwestern Germany.

In 1805, the War of the Third Coalition began. The main Austrian army under general Karl Mack was trapped at Ulm by Napoleon and forced to capitulate. The French then occupied Vienna, and routed a combined Austrian and Russian army at Austerlitz in December 1805. Afterwards, Austria ceded Venice and the Tirol to France and recognized the independence of Bavaria.

French provinces, kingdoms and dependencies in Germany during the Napoleonic Wars

The Holy Roman Empire was formally dissolved on 6 August 1806 when the last Holy Roman Emperor Francis II (from 1804, Emperor Francis I of Austria) resigned. Francis II's family continued to be called Austrian emperors until 1918. In 1806, the Confederation of the Rhine was established under Napoleon's protection, which comprised all the minor states of Germany.

Prussia now felt threatened by the large concentration of French troops in Germany and demanded their withdrawal. When France refused, Prussia declared war. The result was a disaster. The Prussian armies were routed at Auerstedt and Jena. The French occupied Berlin and crossed east into Poland. When the Treaty of Tilsit terminated the war, Prussia had lost 40% of its territory, including its recently acquired section of Poland, and had to reduce its army to 45,000 men. There was no popular uprising against the French invasion, and the Prussian populace in fact showed complete apathy.

From 1808 to 1812 Prussia was reconstructed, and a series of reforms were enacted by Freiherr vom Stein and Freiherr von Hardenberg, including the regulation of municipal government, the liberation of the peasants and the emancipation of the Jews. These reforms were designed to encourage the spirit of nationalism in the people and give them something worth fighting for. A reform of the army was undertaken by the Prussian generals Gerhard von Scharnhorst and August von Gneisenau. The army was brought out of the 18th century. Mercenary troops were discarded, and discipline made more humane. Soldiers were encouraged to fight for their country and not merely because a commanding officer told them to.

In 1813 the Wars of Liberation began, following the destruction of Napoleon's army in Russia (1812). After the Battle of the Nations at Leipzig, Germany was liberated from French rule. The Confederation of the Rhine was dissolved.

In 1815 Napoleon was finally defeated at Waterloo by the Britain's Duke of Wellington and by Prussia's Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. Prussia was considerably expanded after the war, gaining a large part of western Germany, including much of the Rhineland. In the east, it absorbed most of Saxony and also got back some of the Polish territory that had been lost in 1806, although the central part of Poland was left under Russian control.

German Confederation

Restoration and Revolution

Frankfurt 1848
Liberal and nationalist pressure led to the Revolution of 1848 in the German states

After the fall of Napoleon, European monarchs and statesmen convened in Vienna in 1814 for the reorganization of European affairs, under the leadership of the Austrian Prince Metternich. The political principles agreed upon at this Congress of Vienna included the restoration, legitimacy and solidarity of rulers for the repression of revolutionary and nationalist ideas.

On the territory of the former "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation", the German Confederation (Deutscher Bund) was founded, a loose union of 39 states (35 ruling princes and 4 free cities) under Austrian leadership, with a Federal Diet (Bundestag) meeting in Frankfurt am Main. While this was a great improvement over the 300+ political entities that comprised the old Holy Roman Empire, it was still not satisfactory to many nationalists, and within a few decades, the advent of industrialization made the German Confederation unworkable. Moreover, not everyone was satisfied with Austria's leading role in the Confederation. Some argued that it made sense as Austria had been the most powerful German state for more than 400 years, but others said that it was too much of a polyglot nation to be acceptable for such a role, and that Prussia was the natural leader of Germany.

In 1817, inspired by liberal and patriotic ideas of a united Germany, student organisations gathered for the "Wartburg festival" at Wartburg Castle, at Eisenach in Thuringia, on the occasion of which reactionary books were burnt.

In 1819 the student Karl Ludwig Sand murdered the writer August von Kotzebue, who had scoffed at liberal student organizations. Prince Metternich used the killing as an occasion to call a conference in Karlsbad, which Prussia, Austria and eight other states attended, and which issued the Karlsbad Decrees: censorship was introduced, and universities were put under supervision. The decrees also gave the start to the so-called "persecution of the demagogues", which was directed against individuals who were accused of spreading revolutionary and nationalist ideas. Among the persecuted were the poet Ernst Moritz Arndt, the publisher Johann Joseph Görres and the "Father of Gymnastics" Ludwig Jahn.

In 1834 the Zollverein was established, a customs union between Prussia and most other German states, but excluding Austria. As industrialization developed, the need for a unified German state with a uniform currency, legal system, and government became more and more obvious.

Growing discontent with the political and social order imposed by the Congress of Vienna led to the outbreak, in 1848, of the March Revolution in the German states. In May the German National Assembly (the Frankfurt Parliament) met in St. Paul's Church in Frankfurt am Main to draw up a national German constitution.

But the 1848 revolution turned out to be unsuccessful: King Frederick William IV of Prussia refused the imperial crown, the Frankfurt parliament was dissolved, the ruling princes repressed the risings by military force and the German Confederation was re-established by 1850.

The 1850s were a period of extreme political reaction. Dissent was vigorously suppressed, and many Germans emigrated to America following the collapse of the 1848 uprisings. Frederick William IV became extremely depressed and melancholy during this period, and was surrounded by men who advocated clericalism and absolute divine monarchy. The Prussian people once again lost interest in politics. In 1857, the king had a stroke and remained incapacitated until his death in 1861. His brother William succeeded him. Although conservative, he was far more pragmatic and rejected the superstitions and mysticism of Frederick.

William I's most significant accomplishment as king was the nomination of Otto von Bismarck as chancellor in 1862. The combination of Bismarck, Defense Minister Albrecht von Roon, and Field Marshal Helmut von Moltke set the stage for the unification of Germany.

In 1863-64, disputes between Prussia and Denmark grew over Schleswig, which - unlike Holstein - was not part of the German Confederation, and which Danish nationalists wanted to incorporate into the Danish kingdom. The dispute led to the Second War of Schleswig, which lasted from February-October 1864. Prussia, joined by Austria, defeated Denmark easily and occupied Jutland. The Danes were forced to cede both the duchy of Schleswig and the duchy of Holstein to Austria and Prussia. In the aftermath, the management of the two duchies caused growing tensions between Austria and Prussia. The former wanted the duchies to become an independent entity within the German Confederation, while the latter wanted to annex them. The Seven Weeks War broke out in June 1866. There was widespread opposition to the war in Prussia, as few believed that Austria could be defeated. On July 3, the two armies clashed at Sadowa-Koniggratz in Bohemia in an enormous battle involving half a million men. The Prussian breech-loading needle guns carried the day over the Austrians with their slow muzzle-loading rifles, who lost a quarter of their army in the battle. Austria ceded Venice to Italy, but did not lose any other territory and had to only pay a modest war indemnity. The defeat came as a great shock to the rest of Europe, especially France, who's leader Napoleon III had hoped the two countries would exhaust themselves in a long war, after which France would step in and help itself to pieces of German territory. Now the French faced an increasingly strong Prussia.

North German Federation

In 1866, the German Confederation was dissolved. In its place the North German Federation (German Norddeutscher Bund) was established, under the leadership of Prussia. Austria was excluded from it. The Austrian hegemony in Germany that had begun in the 15th century finally came to an end.

The North German Federation was a transitional organization that existed from 1867 to 1871, between the dissolution of the German Confederation and the founding of the German Empire. The unification of the German states into a single economic, political and administrative unit excluded the Austrian territories and the Habsburgs.

German Empire

Age of Bismarck

On 18 January 1871, the German Empire is proclaimed in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles. Bismarck appears in white.
The German Empire of 1871. By excluding Austria, Bismarck chose a "little German" solution.

Disputes between France and Prussia increased. In 1868, the Spanish queen Isabella II was expelled by a revolution, leaving that country's throne vacant. When Prussia tried to put a Hohenzollern candidate, Prince Leopold, on the Spanish throne, the French angrily protested. In July 1870, France declared war on Prussia (the Franco-Prussian War). The debacle was swift. A succession of German victories in northeastern France followed, and one French army was besieged at Metz. After a few weeks, the main army was finally forced to capitulate in the fortress of Sedan. French Emperor Napoleon III was taken prisoner and a republic hastily proclaimed in Paris. The new government, realizing that a victorious Germany would demand territorial acquisitions, resolved to fight on. They began to muster new armies, and the Germans settled down to a grim siege of Paris. The starving city surrendered in January 1871, and the Prussian army staged a victory parade in it. France was forced to pay indemnities of 5 billion francs and cede Alsace-Lorraine. It was a bitter peace that would leave the French thirsting for revenge.

During the Siege of Paris, the German princes assembled in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles and proclaimed the Prussian King Wilhelm I as the "German Emperor" on 18 January 1871. The German Empire was thus founded, with 25 states, three of which were Hanseatic free cities, and Bismarck, again, served as Chancellor. It was dubbed the "Little German" solution, since Austria was not included. The new empire was characterized by a great enthusiasm and vigor. There was a rash of heroic artwork in imitation of Greek and Roman styles, and the nation possessed a vigorous, growing industrial economy, while it had always been rather poor in the past. The change from the slower, more tranquil order of the old Germany was very sudden, and many, especially the nobility, resented being displaced by the new rich. And yet, the nobles clung stubbornly to power, and they, not the bourgeois, continued to be the model that everyone wanted to imitate. In imperial Germany, possessing a collection of medals or wearing a uniform was valued more than the size of one's bank account, and Berlin never became a great cultural center as London, Paris, or Vienna were. The empire was distinctly authoritarian in tone, as the 1871 constitution gave the emperor exclusive power to appoint or dismiss the chancellor. He also was supreme commander-in-chief of the armed forces and final arbiter of foreign policy. But freedom of speech, association, and religion were nonetheless guaranteed by the constitution.

Otto von Bismarck

Bismarck's domestic policies as Chancellor of Germany were characterized by his fight against perceived enemies of the Protestant Prussian state. In the so-called Kulturkampf (1872–1878), he tried to limit the influence of the Roman Catholic Church and of its political arm, the Catholic Centre Party, through various measures — like the introduction of civil marriage — but without much success. The Kulturkampf antagonized many Protestants as well as Catholics, and was eventually abandoned. Millions of non-Germans subjects in the German Empire, like the Polish, Danish and French minorities, were discriminated against [1][2] and a policy of Germanization was implemented.

The other perceived threat was the rise of the Socialist Workers' Party (later known as the Social Democratic Party of Germany), whose declared aim was the establishment of a new socialist order through the transformation of existing political and social conditions. From 1878, Bismarck tried to repress the social democratic movement by outlawing the party's organization, its assemblies and most of its newspapers. Through the introduction of a social insurance system, on the other hand, he hoped to win the support of the working classes for the Empire.

Bismarck's post-1871 foreign policy was conservative and basically aimed at security and preventing the dreaded scenario of a Franco-Russian alliance, which would trap Germany between the two in a war.

The Three Emperor's League (Dreikaisersbund) was signed in 1872 by Russia, Austria and Germany. It stated that republicanism and socialism were common enemies and that the three powers would discuss any matters concerning foreign policy. Bismarck needed good relations with Russia in order to keep France isolated. In 1877-1878, Russia fought a victorious war with the Ottoman Empire and attempted to impose the Treaty of San Stefano on it. This upset the British in particular, as they were long concerned with preserving the Ottoman Empire and preventing a Russian takeover of the Bosporous Straits. Germany hosted the Congress of Berlin, whereby a more moderate peace settlement was agreed to. Afterwards, Russia turned its attention eastward to Asia and remained largely inactive in European politics for the next 25 years. Germany had no direct interest in the Balkans however, which was largely an Austrian and Russian sphere of influence, although King Carol of Romania was a German prince.

In 1879, Bismarck formed a Dual Alliance of Germany and Austria-Hungary, with the aim of mutual military assistance in the case of an attack from Russia, which was not satisfied with the agreement reached at the Congress of Berlin.

The establishment of the Dual Alliance led Russia to take a more conciliatory stance, and in 1887, the so-called Reinsurance Treaty was signed between Germany and Russia: in it, the two powers agreed on mutual military support in the case that France attacked Germany, or in case of an Austrian attack on Russia.

In 1882, Italy joined the Dual Alliance to form a Triple Alliance. Italy wanted to defend its interests in North Africa against France's colonial policy. In return for German and Austrian support, Italy committed itself to assisting Germany in the case of a French military attack.

For a long time, Bismarck had refused to give in to Crown Prince Wilhelm II's aspirations of making Germany a world power through the acquisition of German colonies ("a place in the sun", originally a statement of Bernhard von Bülow). Bismarck wanted to avoid tensions between the European great powers that would threaten the security of Germany at all cost. But when, between 1880 and 1885, the foreign situation proved auspicious, Bismarck gave way, and a number of colonies were established overseas: in Africa, these were Togo, the Cameroons, German South-West Africa and German East Africa; in Oceania, they were German New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago and the Marshall Islands. In fact, it was Bismarck himself who helped initiate the Berlin Conference of 1885. He did it "establish international guidelines for the acquisition of African territory," (see Colonisation of Africa). This conference was an impetus for the "Scramble for Africa" and "New Imperialism".

In 1888, the old emperor William I died at the age of 90. His son Frederick III, the hope of German liberals, succeeded him, but was already stricken with throat cancer and died three months later. Frederick's son William II then became emperor at the age of 29. He was the antithesis of old, conservative Germans like Bismarck, addicted to the new imperialism that was taking place in Asia and Africa. He sought to make Germany a great world power with a navy to rival Britain's. Bismarck hoped to marginalize him just as he had marginalized his grandfather, but William II was on to Bismarck's tricks, and desired to be his own master. Having a left arm withered by childhood polio, he was painfully insecure and desired above all to be loved by the people. Bismarck's schemes to dominate the emperor and hold onto his own power failed, and he was forced to resign in March 1890. He died in 1898, spending his last years writing his memoirs and attacking William II (despite the latter's attempts at reconciliation).

Wilhelminian Era

Alliances and colonies

A postage stamp from the Carolines, dating back to the time when the islands were ruled by the German Empire. The new Weltpolitik of Kaiser Wilhelm II led to frictions with other imperialist powers.

When Bismarck resigned, Wilhelm II had declared that he would continue the foreign policy of the old chancellor. But soon, a new course was taken, with the aim of increasing Germany's influence in the world (Weltpolitik). The Reinsurance Treaty with Russia was not renewed. Instead, France formed an alliance with Russia, against the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. The Triple Alliance itself was undermined by differences between Austria and Italy.

From 1898, German colonial expansion in East Asia (Jiaozhou Bay, the Marianas, the Caroline Islands, Samoa) led to frictions with the United Kingdom, Russia, Japan and the United States. The construction of the Baghdad Railway, financed by German banks and heavy industry, and aimed at connecting the North Sea with the Persian Gulf via the Bosporus, also collided with British and Russian geopolitical and economic interests.

To protect Germany's overseas trade and colonies, Admiral von Tirpitz started a programme of warship construction in 1898. In 1890, Germany had purchased the island of Heligoland in the North Sea from Britain in exchange for the African island of Zanzibar and proceeded to construct a great naval base there. This posed a direct threat to British hegemony on the seas, with the result that negotiations for an alliance between Germany and Britain broke down. Germany was increasingly isolated. Otto von Bismarck's son Herbert, a member of the Reichstag since 1893, was one of the loudest anti-British voices in Germany until his death in 1904.

In 1905, Germany nearly came to blows with Britain and France when the latter attempted to establish a protectorate over Morocco. The Germans were upset at having not been informed about French intentions, and declared their support for Moroccan independence. William II made a highly provocative speech regarding this. The following year, a conference was held in which all of the European powers except Austria-Hungary (by now little more than a German satellite) sided with France. A compromise was agreed to where the French relinquished some, but not all, control over Morocco.

1911 saw another dispute over Morocco erupt when France tried to suppress a revolt there. Germany, still smarting from the previous quarrel, agreed to a settlement whereby the French ceded some territory in central Africa in exchange for Germany renouncing any right to intervene in Moroccan affairs. This confirmed French control over Morocco, which became a full protectorate of that country in 1912.

World War I and revolution

Imperialist power politics and the determined pursuit of national interests ultimately led to the outbreak in 1914 of the First World War, sparked by the assassination, on June 28, 1914, of the Austrian heir-apparent Franz Ferdinand and his wife at Sarajevo, in the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina by a Serbian nationalist. The theorized underlying causes have included the opposing policies of the European states, the armaments race, German-British rivalry, the difficulties of the Austro-Hungarian multinational state, Russia's Balkan policy and overhasty mobilisations and ultimatums (the underlying belief being that the war would be short). Germany fought on the side of Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire against Russia, France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan and several other smaller states. Fighting also spread to the Near East and the German colonies.

In the west, Germany fought a war of attrition with bloody battles. After a quick march through Belgium, German troops were halted on the Marne, north of Paris. The frontlines in France changed little until the end of the war. In the east there were decisive victories against the Russian army, the trapping and defeat of large parts of the Russian contingent at the Battle of Tannenberg, followed by huge Austrian and German successes led to a breakdown of Russian forces and an imposed peace on the newly created USSR under Lenin. Churchill ordered a naval blockade in the North Sea which lasted until 1919, crippling Germany's supplies of raw materials and foodstuffs. The entry of the United States into the war in 1917 following Germany's declaration of unrestricted submarine warfare marked a decisive turning-point against Germany.

The end of October 1918, in Kiel, in northern Germany, saw the beginning of the German Revolution of 1918–19. Units of the German Navy refused to set sail for a last, large-scale operation in a war which they saw as good as lost, initiating the uprising. On November 3, the revolt spread to other cities and states of the country, in many of which so-called workers' and soldiers' councils were established.

Kaiser Wilhelm II and all German ruling princes abdicated. On November 9, 1918, the Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed a Republic. On November 11, an armistice ending the war was signed at Compiègne. In accordance with the Social Democratic government by early 1919 the revolution was violently put down with the aid of the nascent Reichswehr and the Freikorps.

Weimar Republic

States of Germany at the time of the Weimar Republic, with Prussia in blue

On 28 June 1919 the Treaty of Versailles was signed. Germany was to cede Alsace-Lorraine, Eupen-Malmédy, North Schleswig, and the Memel area. All German colonies were to be handed over to the British and French. Poland was restored and most of the provinces of Posen and West Prussia, and some areas of Upper Silesia were reincorporated into the reformed country after plebiscites and independence uprisings. The left and right banks of the Rhine were to be permanently demilitarised. The industrially important Saarland was to be governed by the League of Nations for 15 years and its coalfields administered by France. At the end of that time a plebiscite was to determine the Saar's future status. To ensure execution of the treaty's terms, Allied troops would occupy the left (German) bank of the Rhine for a period of 5–15 years. The German army was to be limited to 100,000 officers and men; the general staff was to be dissolved; vast quantities of war material were to be handed over and the manufacture of munitions rigidly curtailed. The navy was to be similarly reduced, and no military aircraft were allowed. Germany and its allies were to accept the sole responsibility of the war, in accordance with the War Guilt Clause, and were to pay financial reparations for all loss and damage suffered by the Allies.

The humiliating peace terms provoked bitter indignation throughout Germany, and seriously weakened the new democratic regime.

On 11 August 1919 the Weimar constitution came into effect, with Friedrich Ebert as first President.

The two biggest enemies of the new democratic order, however, had already been constituted. In December 1918, the German Communist Party (KPD) was founded, followed in January 1919 by the establishment of the German Workers' Party, later known as the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP). Both parties would make reckless use of the freedoms guaranteed by the new constitution in their fight against the Weimar Republic.

In the first months of 1920, the Reichswehr was to be reduced to 100,000 men, in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles. This included the dissolution of many Freikorps - units made up of volunteers. Some of them made difficulties. The discontent was exploited by the extreme right-wing politician Wolfgang Kapp. He let the rebelling Freikorps march on Berlin and proclaimed himself Reich Chancellor (Kapp Putsch). After only four days the coup d'état collapsed, due to lack of support by the civil servants and the officers. Other cities were shaken by strikes and rebellions, which were bloodily suppressed.

Faced with animosity from Britain and France and the retreat of American power from Europe, in 1922 Germany was the first state to establish diplomatic relations with the new Soviet Union. Under the Treaty of Rapallo, Germany accorded the Soviet Union de jure recognition, and the two signatories mutually cancelled all pre-war debts and renounced war claims.

When Germany defaulted on its reparation payments, French and Belgian troops occupied the heavily industrialised Ruhr district (January 1923). The German government encouraged the population of the Ruhr to passive resistance: shops would not sell goods to the foreign soldiers, coal-mines would not dig for the foreign troops, trams in which members of the occupation army had taken seat would be left abandoned in the middle of the street. The passive resistance proved effective, insofar as the occupation became a loss-making deal for the French government. But the Ruhr fight also led to hyperinflation, and many who lost all their fortune would become bitter enemies of the Weimar Republic, and voters of the anti-democratic right. See 1920s German inflation.

In September 1923, the deteriorating economic conditions led Chancellor Gustav Stresemann to call an end to the passive resistance in the Ruhr. In November, his government introduced a new currency, the Rentenmark (later: Reichsmark), together with other measures to stop the hyperinflation. In the following six years the economic situation improved. In 1928, Germany's industrial production even regained the pre-war levels of 1913.

On the evening of November 8, 1923, six hundred armed SA men surrounded a beer hall in Munich, where the heads of the Bavarian state and the local Reichswehr had gathered for a rally. The storm troopers were led by Adolf Hitler. Born in 1889 in Austria, a former volunteer in the German army during WWI, now a member of a new party called NSDAP, he was largely unknown until then. Hitler tried to force those present to join him and to march on to Berlin to seize power (Beer Hall Putsch). Hitler was later arrested and condemned to five years in prison, but was released at the end of 1924 after less than one year of detention.

The national elections of 1924 led to a swing to the right (Ruck nach rechts). Field Marshal Hindenburg, a supporter of the monarchy, was elected President in 1925.

In October 1925 the Treaty of Locarno was signed between Germany, France, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Italy, which recognized Germany's borders with France and Belgium. Moreover, Britain, Italy and Belgium undertook to assist France in the case that German troops marched into the demilitarised Rheinland. The Treaty of Locarno paved the way for Germany's admission to the League of Nations in 1926.

The stock market crash of 1929 on Wall Street marked the beginning of the Great Depression. The effects of the ensuing world economic crisis were also felt in Germany, where the economic situation rapidly deteriorated. In July 1931, the Darmstätter und Nationalbank - one of the biggest German banks - failed, and, in early 1932, the number of unemployed rose to more than 6,000,000.

In addition to the flagging economy came political problems, due to the inability by the political parties represented in the Reichstag to build a governing majority. In March 1930, President Hindenburg appointed Heinrich Brüning Chancellor. To push through his package of austerity measures against a majority of Social Democrats, Communists and the NSDAP, Brüning made use of emergency decrees, and even dissolved Parliament. In March and April 1932, Hindenburg was re-elected in the German presidential election of 1932.

Of the many splinter parties the NSDAP was the largest in the national elections of 1932. The Prussian government had been ousted by a coup (Preussenschlag) in 1932. On July 31, 1932 the NSDAP had received 37.3% of the votes, and in the election on 6 November 1932 it received less, but still the largest share, 33.1, making it the biggest party in the Reichstag. The Communist KPD came third, with 15%. Together, the anti-democratic parties of right and left were now able to hold the majority of seats in Parliament. The NSDAP was particularly successful among young voters, who were unable to find a place in vocational training, with little hope for a future job; among the petite bourgeoisie (lower middle class) which had lost its assets in the hyperinflation of 1923; among the rural population; and among the army of unemployed.

On January 30, 1933, pressured by former Chancellor Franz von Papen and other conservatives, President Hindenburg finally appointed Hitler Chancellor.

Weimar Republic Results of Elections 1919-1933, Electiontions 1932, 1933

Third Reich

Nazi revolution or "Seizure of Power"

In order to secure a majority for his NSDAP in the Reichstag, Hitler called for new elections. On the evening of 27 February 1933, a fire was set in the Reichstag building. Hitler swiftly blamed an alleged Communist uprising, and convinced President Hindenburg to sign the Reichstag Fire Decree. This decree, which would remain in force until 1945, repealed important political and human rights of the Weimar constitution. Communist agitation was banned, but at this time not the Communist Party itself.

Eleven thousand Communists and Socialists were arrested and brought into concentration camps, where they were at the mercy of the Gestapo, the newly established secret police force (9,000 were found guilty and very many executed). Communist Reichstag deputies were taken into protective custody (despite their constitutional privileges).

Despite the terror and unprecedented propaganda, the last free General Elections of March 5, 1933, while resulting in 43.9% failed to bring the majority for the NSDAP that Hitler had hoped for. Together with the German National People's Party (DNVP), however, he was able to form a slim majority government. With accommodations to the Catholic Centre Party Germany, Hitler succeeded in convincing a required two-thirds of a rigged Parliament to pass the Enabling act of 1933 which gave his government full legislative power. Only the Social Democrats voted against the Act. The Enabling Act formed the basis for the Dictatorship, dissolution of the Länder; the trade unions and all political parties other than the National Socialist (Nazi) Party were suppressed. A centralised totalitarian state was established, no longer based on the liberal Weimar constitution. Germany left the League of Nations. The coalition Parliament was rigged on this fateful 23 March 1933 by defining the absence of arrested and murdered deputies as voluntary and therefore cause for their exclusion as wilful absentees. Subsequently in July the Centre Party was voluntarily dissolved in a quid pro quo with the Holy See under the anti-communist Pope Pius XI for the Reichskonkordat; and by these maneuvers Hitler achieved movement of these Catholic voters into the Nazi party, and a long-awaited international diplomatic acceptance of his regime. It is interesting to note however that according to Professor Dick Geary the Nazis gained a larger share of their vote in Protestant than in Catholic areas of Germany in elections held between 1928 to November 1932[47] The Communist Party was proscribed in April 1933 .

However, many leaders of the Nazi SA were disappointed. The Chief of Staff of the SA, Ernst Röhm, was pressing for the SA to be incorporated into the Wehrmacht under his supreme command. Hitler felt threatened by these plans. On the weekend of June 30, 1934, he gave order to the SS to seize Röhm and his lieutenants, and to execute them without trial (known as the Night of the Long Knives).

The SS became an independent organisation under the command of the Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler. He would become the supervisor of the Gestapo and of the concentration camps, soon also of the ordinary police. Hitler also established the Waffen-SS as a separate troop.

The regime showed particular hostility towards the Jews. In September 1935, the Reichstag passed the so-called Nuremberg race laws directed against Jewish citizens. Jews lost their German citizenship, and were banned from marrying non-Jewish Germans. About 500,000 individuals were affected by the new rules.

Hitler re-established the German air force and reintroduced universal military service. The open rearmament was in flagrant breach of the Treaty of Versailles, but neither the United Kingdom, France or Italy went beyond issuing notes of protest.

In 1936 German troops marched into the demilitarised Rhineland. In this case, the Treaty of Locarno would have obliged the United Kingdom to intervene in favour of France. But despite protests by the French government, Britain chose to do nothing about it. The coup strengthened Hitler's standing in Germany. His reputation was going to increase further with the 1936 Summer Olympics, which were held in the same year in Berlin and in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and which proved another great propaganda success for the regime.

Expansion and defeat

After establishing the "Rome-Berlin axis" with Mussolini, and signing the Anti-Comintern Pact with Japan - which was joined by Italy a year later in 1937 - Hitler felt able to take the offensive in foreign policy. On 12 March 1938, German troops marched into Austria, where an attempted Nazi coup had been unsuccessful in 1934. When Hitler entered Vienna, he was greeted by loud cheers. Four weeks later, 99% of Austrians voted in favour of the annexation (Anschluss) of their country to the German Reich. Hitler thereby fulfilled the old idea of an all encompassing German Reich with the inclusion of Austria - the "greater Germany" solution that Bismarck had shunned when, in 1871, he united the German-speaking lands under Prussian leadership. Although the annexation denounced the Treaty of Saint-Germain, which expressedly forbade the unification of Austria with Germany, the western powers once again merely protested.

After Austria, Hitler turned to Czechoslovakia, where the 3.5 million-strong Sudeten German minority was demanding equal rights and self-government. At the Munich Conference of September 1938, Hitler, the Italian leader Benito Mussolini, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier agreed upon the cession of Sudeten territory to the German Reich by Czechoslovakia. Hitler thereupon declared that all of German Reich's territorial claims had been fulfilled. However, hardly six months after the Munich Agreement, in March 1939, Hitler used the smoldering quarrel between Slovaks and Czechs as a pretext for taking over the rest of Czechoslovakia as the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. In the same month, he secured the return of Memel from Lithuania to Germany. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was forced to acknowledge that his policy of appeasement towards Hitler had failed.

In six years, the Nazi regime prepared the country for World War II. The Nazi leadership attempted to remove or subjugate the Jewish population of Nazi Germany and later in the occupied countries through forced deportation and, ultimately, genocide now known as the Holocaust. A similar policy applied to the various ethnic and national groups considered subhuman such as Poles , Roma or Russians. These groups were seen as threats to the purity of Germany's Aryan race. There were also many groups, such as homosexuals, the mentally handicapped and those who were physically challenged from birth, which were singled out as being detrimental to Aryan purity. After annexing the Sudetenland border country of Czechoslovakia (October 1938), and taking over the rest of the Czech lands as a protectorate (March 1939), the German Reich and the Soviet Union invaded Poland on first September 1939 predominantly as part of the Wehrmacht operation codenamed Fall Weiss. The invasion of Poland began World War II.

Territorial losses of modern Germany 1919-1945.

By 1941, the Germans had the upper hand, but the tide turned in December 1941 when the invasion of the Soviet Union stalled in front of Moscow and the United States joined the war. Because of the invasion (see Operation Barbarossa), the Soviets joined the Allies. The tide turned further after the Battle of Stalingrad. By late 1944, the United States and Great Britain were closing in on Germany in the West, while the Soviets were closing from the East. In May 1945, Nazi Germany collapsed when Berlin was taken by Soviet and Polish forces. Hitler committed suicide when it seemed inevitable that the Allies would win.

By September 1945, the German Reich (which lasted only 13 years) and its Axis partners (Italy and Japan) had been defeated, chiefly by the forces of the Soviet Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Much of Europe lay in ruins, over sixty million people had been killed (most of them civilians), including approximately six million Jews and five million non-Jews in what became known as the Holocaust. World War II resulted in the destruction of Germany's political and economic infrastructure and led directly to its partition, considerable loss of territory (especially in the east), and historical legacy of guilt and shame.

Germany since 1945

Post-war state

Germans frequently refer to 1945 as the Stunde Null (zero hour) to describe the near-total collapse of their country. At the Potsdam Conference, Germany was divided into four military occupation zones by the Allies. Also in Potsdam, the allies agreed that the provinces east of the Oder and Neisse rivers (the Oder-Neisse line) were transferred to Poland and Russia (Kaliningrad oblast). The agreement also set forth the abolition of Prussia and the expulsion of Germans living in those territories, and formalized the German exodus from Eastern Europe. In the process of the expulsions, millions died, and many suffered from exhaustion and dehydration.

Prisoners of war in the streets of Berlin.

In the immediate post-war years the German population lived on near starvation levels,[48] and the Allied economic policy was one of de-industrialisation[49] (Morgenthau Plan) in order to preclude any future German war-making capability. U.S. policy began to change at the end of 1946[50] (Restatement of Policy on Germany), and by mid 1947, after lobbying by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Generals Clay and Marshall, the Truman administration finally realized that economic recovery in Europe could not go forward without the reconstruction of the German industrial base on which it had previously been dependent.[51] In July, Truman rescinded on "national security grounds"[51] the punitive JCS 1067, which had directed the U.S. forces of occupation in Germany to "take no steps looking toward the economic rehabilitation of Germany." It was replaced by JCS 1779, which instead stressed that "[a]n orderly, prosperous Europe requires the economic contributions of a stable and productive Germany."[52]

Division into East and West Germany

The three western occupation zones (U.S., UK and French zone) would later form the Federal Republic of Germany (commonly known as West Germany), while the Soviet zone became the German Democratic Republic (commonly known as East Germany), both founded in 1949. West Germany was established as a federal democratic republic while East Germany became a Communist State under the influence of the Soviet Union.

West Germany eventually came to enjoy prolonged economic growth beginning in the early 1950s (Wirtschaftswunder). The recovery occurred largely because of the previously forbidden currency reform of June 1948 and to a minor degree by U.S. assistance through Marshall Plan loans.[53][54] West Germany joined NATO in 1955 and was a founding member of the European Economic Community in 1958 .

East Germany was an Eastern bloc state under political and military control of the USSR through her occupation forces and the Warsaw Treaty. While claiming to be a democracy, the political power was solely executed by leading members (Politburo) of the communist-controlled SED (Socialist Unity Party of Germany). Their power was ensured by the Stasi, a secret service of immense size, and a variety of SED-suborganizations controlling every aspect of society. In turn, the basic needs of the population were satisfied at low costs by the state. A Soviet-style command economy was set up, later the GDR became the most advanced Comecon state. While East German propaganda was based on the benefits of the GDR's social programs and the alleged constant threat of a West German invasion, many of her citizens looked to the West for political freedoms and economic prosperity.[55] The Berlin Wall, built in 1961 to stop East Germans from escaping to West Germany, became a symbol of the Cold War.


Demolition of Berlin Wall, January 1990

Relations between the two post-war German states remained icy until the West German Chancellor Willy Brandt launched a highly controversial rapprochement with the East European communist states (Ostpolitik) in the 1970s, culminating in the Warschauer Kniefall on 7 December 1970. Although anxious to relieve serious hardships for divided families and to reduce friction, West Germany under Brandt's Ostpolitik was intent on holding to its concept of "two German states in one German nation." Relations improved, however, and in September 1973, East Germany and West Germany were admitted to the United Nations.

During the summer of 1989, rapid changes known as peaceful revolution or Die Wende took place in East Germany, which ultimately led to German reunification. Growing numbers of East Germans emigrated to West Germany, many via Hungary after Hungary's reformist government opened its borders. Thousands of East Germans also tried to reach the West by staging sit-ins at West German diplomatic facilities in other East European capitals, most notably in Prague. The exodus generated demands within East Germany for political change, and mass demonstrations in several cities continued to grow.

Faced with civil unrest, East German leader Erich Honecker was forced to resign in October, and on 9 November, East German authorities unexpectedly allowed East German citizens to enter West Berlin and West Germany. Hundreds of thousands of people took advantage of the opportunity; new crossing points were opened in the Berlin Wall and along the border with West Germany. This led to the acceleration of the process of reforms in East Germany that ended with the German reunification that came into force on 3 October 1990.

Role in the European Union

German chancellor Angela Merkel (with José Barroso in front of the Brandenburg Gate in 2007) was pivotal in drafting and promoting the Treaty of Lisbon to reform the EU.

Together with France and other EU states, the new Germany has played the leading role in the European Union. Germany (especially under Chancellor Helmut Kohl) was one of the main supporters of the wish of many East European countries to join the EU. Germany is at the forefront of European states seeking to exploit the momentum of monetary union to advance the creation of a more unified and capable European political, defence and security apparatus. The German chancellor Schröder expressed an interest in a permanent seat for Germany in the UN Security Council, identifying France, Russia and Japan as countries that explicitly backed Germany's bid.

Sonderweg debate

A major historiographical debate about the German history concerns the Sonderweg, the alleged “special path” that separated German history from the normal course of historical development, and whether or not Nazi Germany was the inevitable result of the Sonderweg. Proponents of the Sonderweg theory such as Fritz Fischer point to such events of the Revolution of 1848, the authoritarian of the Second Empire and the continuation of the Imperial elite into the Weimar and Nazi periods. Opponents such as Gerhard Ritter of the Sonderweg theory argue that proponents of the theory are guilty of seeking selective examples, and there was much contingency and chance in German history. In addition, there was much debate within the supporters of the Sonderweg concept as for the reasons for the Sonderweg, and whether or not the Sonderweg ended in 1945.

Terminology related to Germany

Stamp in occupied Germany, 1946: the neutral expression Deutsche Post instead of Deutsche Reichspost, but still the old currency RM (Reichsmark).

The terminology for Germany, the German states and Germans is complicated due to the complicated history of Germany. This can cause confusions, in German, English as well in other languages. While the notion of Germans and Germany is older, only since 1871 there is a nation state called Germany. Later political quarrels and the partition of Germany (1945-1990) made it difficult to use the proper term.


Roman authors registered a number of tribes they called Germani; it is not certain what this word means or where it comes from. Originally it may not even have something to do with ethnics, and these Germanic tribes did not call themselves Germani. Later these tribes where identified by linguists as belonging to a group of languages, the Germanic languages which include modern languages like German, English and Dutch.

Germani (for the people) and Germania (for the area where they lived) became the common Latin words for Germans and Germany.

Germans call themselves Deutsche living in Deutschland. The root of this word may mean something like "(our) people" and resembles the tribe of Teutons, which has become Teutsch later on and than was transformed into Deutsch.

Germany until 1871

The Holy Roman Empire in 1789

A modern German nation state exists only since 1871 (see Unification of Germany), before that Germany referred to a geographical entity.

In the Middle Ages, the territory of modern Germany belonged to the realm of the Holy Roman Empire, the Roman Empire restored by the Christian king of Francony, Charlemagne. This feudal state became a union of relatively independent rulers who developed their own territories; modernization took place on the level of these territories like Austria, Prussia and Bremen, not on the level of the Empire.

This Empire was called in German Heiliges Römisches Reich, since the late Middle Ages with the addition Deutscher Nation (of German nation), showing that in the meanwhile the former idea of a universal realm has given place to a concentration on the German territories. The last Emperor lay off the crown in 1806 under pressure of Napoléon.

In the 19th and 20th century historiography, this Empire has been often referred to as Deutsches Reich, creating a link to the later nation state of 1871. Besides the official Heiliges Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation, common expressions are Altes Reich (the old Reich) and Römisch-Deutsches Kaiserreich (Roman-German Empire of the Emperor).

Reich and Bund

In German constitutional history, the expressions Reich (reign, realm, empire) and Bund (federation, confederation) are quite exchangeable. Sometimes they even existed in the same constitution, like when in the German Empire (1871-1919) the parliament had the name Reichstag, the council of the representatives of the German states Bundesrath. When in 1871 the North German Confederation was transformed into the German Empire, the preamble said that the participating monarchs are creating einen ewigen Bund (an eternal confederation).

Due to the history of Germany, the principle of federalism is strong. Only the state of Hitler (1933-1945) and the state of the communists (East Germany, 1949-1990) were centralist states. This makes the words Reich and Bund used more frequently than in other countries, because politicians and citizens had and have to differentiate between an imperial or federal level on the one hand and the subnational territorial level on the other. For example, a modern day German minister is called in German Bundesminister, in contrary to a Landesminister in e.g. Rhineland-Palatinate or Lower Saxony.

Because of the Hitler regime, partially also because of the Imperial Germany until 1919, many Germans - especially on the left - have negative feelings about the word Reich. However, it remains a common word such as in Römisches Reich (Roman Empire), Königreich (Kingdom) or Tierreich (animal kingdom).

Also Bund is a general word used for contexts other than politics. Many associations in Germany are federations or have a federalized structure and differentiate between a Bundesebene (federal / national level) and a Landesebene (level of the regional states), similar to the political bodies. An example is the German Football Association Deutscher Fußballbund. (Its Bundestrainer, the national coach, does not refer to the Federal Republic, but to the Fußballbund itself.)

In other German speaking countries, the words Reich (Austria before 1918) and Bund (Austria since 1918, Switzerland) are used too. An organ called Bundesrat exists in all three of them, in Switzerland it is the government and in Germany and Austria the house of regional representatives.

Name of the state National Diet House of regional representatives
Heiliges Deutsches Reich Deutscher Nation (-1806) (did not exist) (Immerwährender) Reichstag
Deutscher Bund (1815-1848/1866) (did not exist) Bundestag (officially Bundesversammlung)
Deutsches Reich (Paulskirchenverfassung, 1849) Reichstag (Volkshaus) Reichstag (Staatenhaus)
Norddeutscher Bund (1866/1867-1871) Reichstag Bundesrat
Deutsches Reich (1871-1919) Reichstag Bundesrat
Deutsches Reich (1919-1933/1945) Reichstag Reichsrat
Bundesrepublik Deutschland (1949-) Bundestag Bundesrat

19th century until 1871

German Confederation, 1815-1866

The French emperor Napoleon made the Emperor of Austria step down as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Some of the German countries were collected in the Confederation of the Rhine, which remained a military alliance under the "protection" of Napoleon rather than transforming into a confederation. In 1815, after the fall of Napoleon, the German states created a German Confederation with the Emperor of Austria as president. Some member states like Prussia and Austria had only a part of their territories inside the Confederation. Within the Confederation and in other territories belonging to member states lived some people who did not have German as their native tongue, for example Poles and Czechs. On the other hand, some German speaking populations lived outside the confederation.

When Hoffmann von Fallersleben in 1841 wrote the song Das Lied der Deutschen, he dreamt of a unified Germany (Deutschland über Alles) instead of the single states. Germany was still merely a geographical term.

In 1866/1867 Prussia and her allies left the confederation, made the confederation dissolute and created a state called North German Confederation. The remaining South German countries joined the new confederation in 1870, with the exception of Austria and Liechtenstein.[56] Since then exists a state that is called the German nation state or simply Germany, although huge German speaking populations remained outside Germany.

German nation state 1871-1945

Germany (Deutsches Reich) 1871-1918.
Germany (Deutsches Reich) 1919-1937.

The official name of the German state became Deutsches Reich, linking itself to the former Reich before 1806. This expression was commonly used in official papers and also on maps, while in other contexts Deutschland was more frequently used.

The creation of a German nation state had as a consequence that some Germans lived inside of it and were called Reichsdeutsche, and others lived outside and were called Volksdeutsche (ethnical Germans). The latter expression referred mainly to the German speaking minorities in Eastern Europe. Germans living abroad (for example in America) were and are called Auslandsdeutsche.

After the forced abdication of the Emperor in 1918, Germany became the Weimar Republic, named after the city where the National Assembly gathered. The official name of the state remained the same. It became necessary to find a proper term for the Germany between 1871 and 1919: Kaiserliches Deutschland (Imperial Germany) or Deutsches Kaiserreich. English speaking people feel an unease to use the title German Empire for a republic, that made them call the republic German Reich.

Nazi Germany

German stamp of 1941

In 1933, when Adolf Hitler came to power, the name of the state was still the same. For a couple of years Hitler used the expression Drittes Reich (Third Reich), which was introduced by conservative antidemocratic writers in the last years of the republic. In fact this was only a propaganda term and did not constitute a new state. Another propaganda term was Tausendjähriges Reich (Reich of thousand years). Later Hitler renounced the term Drittes Reich (officially in June 1939), but it already had become popular among supporters and opponents and is still used in historiography (sometimes in quotation marks).[57] It led later to the name Zweites Reich (Second Empire) for Germany of 1871-1919.

The reign of Hitler is most commonly called in English Nazi Germany.

There are cases in which an uncertainty comes up whether to use German or Nazi. In the discussions a major role have arguments dealing with the question of the position of national socialism in Germany of the era 1933-1945. Talking about World War II, some find it unappropriate to say that the Germans decided to invade Yugoslavia or Germany murdered the Jews of Poland, as Germany was no democracy. The use of Nazi, such as in Nazi troops, can be confusing or incorrect considering that the German army itself was not national socialist, and that there were indeed troops of the party, especially the Waffen-SS. A wording considered by others as improper can cause the accusation of being apologetic.

Greater Germany and "Großdeutsches Reich"

Nazi Germany in 1943

In the 19th century the German politicians, for example in the Frankfurt Parliament of 1848/49, argued about the question what should become of Austria. In the Austrian Empire then lived not only German speaking people, but also Czechs (even on the territory considered part of the German Confederation), Hungarians and others. Including Austria (at least the German speaking parts) was called the Greater German Solution, a Germany without Austria the Smaller German Solution.

After 1871, the notion Germany did no longer include automatically Austria. In 1919 the Weimar Constitution postulated the inclusion of Deutsch-Österreich (the German speaking parts of Austria), but the Western Allies objected to this. This was granted only in 1938 to Hitler (Anschluss). The national socialist propaganda stated the realisation of Großdeutschland, and in 1943 the German Reich was renamed officially Großdeutsches Reich. However, these expressions never became common and popular.

In national socialist propaganda Austria has been called also Ostmark. After the Anschluss the previous parts of Germany were called Altreich (old Reich).

Germany divided 1945-1990

Occupied Germany in 1947, with western (green, blue and yellow) and eastern (red) occupation zones.

After the defeat in World War II, Germany was occupied by the troops of Britain, France, the United States and Soviet Union.

Berlin was a case of its own, as it was situated on the territory of the Soviet zone but divided into four sectors. The western sectors were later called West Berlin, the other one East Berlin. The communists tended to consider the Soviet sector of Berlin as a part of GDR; West Berlin was according to them an independent political unit.

The name Deutsches Reich was still in use for a couple of years; when in 1947 the Social Democrats gathered in Nuremberg, they called their rally Reichsparteitag. In many contexts people still called their country Germany, even after two German states were founded in 1949, for example when someone emigrated from Germany to Canada or a bicycle race went through Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia.

Federal Republic of Germany

The Federal Republic of Germany, Bundesrepublik Deutschland, established in 1949, saw itself as the same state founded in 1867/1871, only under a new name and with a new constitution. The expression Reich gave place to Bund, for example the Reichskanzler became the Bundeskanzler, reichsdeutsch became bundesdeutsch, Reichsbürger (citizen of the Reich) became Bundesbürger.

Germany as a whole was called Gesamtdeutschland, referring to Germany in the international borders of 1937 (before Hitler started to annex other countries). This could cause confusions internationally (all German, pan germanique, a chauvinist concept), and in 1969 the Federal Ministry for All German Affairs was renamed into Federal Ministry for Intra-German Relations.

Initially, there were several abbreviations for Bundesrepublik Deutschland, such as BRD and DBR (Deutsche Bundesrepublik). BRD was during the 1950s used without problems even in official papers. Later it was identified as a GDR propaganda term and consequently banned.[58]

The Federal Republic in blue, GDR in red and West Berlin in yellow, 1949-1990

Until for about 1970, the other German state - communist German Democratic Republic - was called Sowjetische Besatzungszone (SBZ, Soviet Zone of Occupation), Sowjetzone, Ostzone, Mitteldeutschland or Pankow (the GDR government was in Berlin-Pankow).

The term Westdeutschland was relatively unusual, because it could mean not only the Federal Republic, but also specific regions in the West of Germany, above all North Rhine Westphalia.

German Democratic Republic

The communists, protected by Soviet Union, established in 1949 a Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR, German Democratic Republic, GDR). This state was not considered to be a successor of the Reich, but, nevertheless, to represent all good Germans. Rulers and inhabitants of GDR called their state simply DDR or unsere Republik (our republic).

Until for about 1970, the rulers of GDR still supported the idea a German nation and the need of reunification. The Federal Republic was called in official papers and on maps usually Westdeutschland (WD) or BRD. After 1970 GDR called itself a socialist state of German nation and denied the concept of a common German nation. The other German state was called only BRD.

Reunified Germany since 1990

In 1990 the re-established regional states of GDR joined the Federal Republic, and Germany was reunified. Keeping the official name of the Federal Republic of Germany, i.e. "Bundesrepublik Deutschland", the country was now being referred to more often simply as "Germany". "Westdeutschland" and "Ostdeutschland" are used more frequently to denote the western and the eastern part of the German territory:

  • Westdeutschland is also called "alte Bundesrepublik", or "alte Bundesländer" (old regional states)
  • Ostdeutschland is also called "neue Bundesländer" (new regional states) or "ehemalige DDR" (former GDR)

See also


  1. ^ Jill N. Claster: Medieval Experience: 300–1400. NYU Press 1982, p. 35. ISBN 0814713815.
  2. ^ Schulze, Hagen. Germany: A New History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 4. 
    "German", The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. Ed. T. F. Hoad. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Accessed March 4, 2008.
  3. ^ The Cambridge Ancient History, vol. 12, p. 442. ISBN 0521301998.
  4. ^ Robert S. Hoyt & Stanley Chodorow, Europe in the Middle Ages (Harcourt, Brace & Jananovich Pub.: New York, 1976) p. 151.
  5. ^ Ibid., p. 152.
  6. ^ Ibid.
  7. ^ Ibid.
  8. ^ Ibid., p. 160.
  9. ^ Nelson, J.L. (1998). Charlemagne's church at Aachen. History Today. 48(1), 62-64.
  10. ^ Robert S. Hoyt & Stanley Chodorow, Europe in the Middle Ages, p. 186.
  11. ^ Ibid., p. 197
  12. ^ Ibid.
  13. ^ Ibid.
  14. ^ Ibid.
  15. ^ James K. Pollack & Homer Thomas, Germany in Power and Eclipse (D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., New York, 1952) p. 64.
  16. ^ Robert S. Hoyt & Stanley Chodorow, Europe in the Middle Ages, p. 198.
  17. ^ Ibid., pp. 198-199.
  18. ^ Ibid., p. 282.
  19. ^ Ibid.
  20. ^ Ibid., p. 200.
  21. ^ Ibid.
  22. ^ Ibid., p. 206.
  23. ^ Ibid.
  24. ^ Ibid., p. 284.
  25. ^ Ibid., p. 286.
  26. ^ Ibid., p. 356.
  27. ^ Ibid., p. 324.
  28. ^ Ibid., pp. 628-629.
  29. ^ Marshall Dill, Jr., Germany: A Modern History ( University of Michigan Press: Ann Arbor, 1970) p. 15.
  30. ^ IRobert S. Hoyt & Stanley Chodorow, Europe in the Middle Ages, p. 354.
  31. ^ Ibid.
  32. ^ Ibid.
  33. ^ Ibid.
  34. ^ Ibid., p. 355.
  35. ^ Ibid.
  36. ^ Ibid.
  37. ^ Ibid.
  38. ^ Ibid.
  39. ^ Ibid.
  40. ^ Ibid.
  41. ^ Ibid.
  42. ^ Robert S. Hoyt & Stanley Chodorow, Europe in the Middle Ages, p. 356.
  43. ^ Robert A. Kahn, A History of the Habsburg Empire 1526-1918 (Univeristy of California: Berkeley, 1974) p. 5.
  44. ^ Ibid.
  45. ^ Peasants' War
  46. ^ The Catholic and the Lutheran Church
  47. ^ Dick Geary, Who voted for the Nazis?(electoral history of the National Socialist German Workers Party), History Today, October 1998, Vol 48, Issue 10, pages 8-14
  48. ^ Steven Bela Vardy and T. Hunt Tooley, eds. Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe ISBN 0-8803-3995-0. subsection by Richard Dominic Wiggers,The United States and the Refusal to Feed German Civilians after World War I
  49. ^ Frederick H. Gareau Morgenthau's Plan for Industrial Disarmament in Germany The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 14, No. 2 (Jun., 1961), pp. 517-534
  50. ^ Curtis F. Morgan, Southern Partnership: James F. Byrnes, Lucius D. Clay and Germany, 1945 1947
  51. ^ a b Ray Salvatore Jennings “The Road Ahead: Lessons in Nation Building from Japan, Germany, and Afghanistan for Postwar Iraq May 2003, Peaceworks No. 49 pg.15
  52. ^ Pas de Pagaille! Time Magazine July 28, 1947.
  53. ^ Henderson, David. German Economic "Miracle" Retrieved 2006, 12-07
  54. ^ "Marshall Plan 1947-1997 A German View" by Susan Stern
  55. ^ Colchester, Nico. D-mark day dawns Financial Times. January 1, 2001. Retrieved 2006, 12-07
  56. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: Der lange Weg nach Westen. Deutsche Geschichte 1806-1933, Bonn 2002, p. 209.
  57. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: Der lange Weg nach Westen. Deutsche Geschichte 1933-19990, Bonn 2004, p. 6/7.
  58. ^ Werner König: dtv-Atlas zur deutschen Sprache. Tafeln und Texte, dtv: München 1994 (1978), p. 123.

Further reading

  • Lewkowicz, N., The German Question and the Origins of the Cold War (IPOC:Milan) (2008)

External links

Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity

Welcome to the History of Germany Course at Wikiversity. In this course we will study German History Since the age of Charlegmagne to the Modern Day with a major emphasis on the period since 1871.

Week One

Please answer the following questions.

  1. What impact does a unified Germany have on her people?
  2. What influence does America Have on Germany and what influence does Germany have on America?

Please post your answers on the discussion page so that we can discuss the answers as a group.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

(There is currently no text in this page)


Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Familypedia


Germanic tribes (100 BC – AD 300)

The ethnogenesis of the Germanic tribes is assumed to have occurred during the Nordic Bronze Age, or at the latest, during the Pre-Roman Iron Age. From southern Scandinavia and northern Germany, the tribes began expanding south, east and west in the 1st century BC, coming into contact with the Celtic tribes of Gaul as well as Iranian, Baltic, and Slavic tribes in Eastern Europe. Little is known about early Germanic history, except through their recorded interactions with the Roman Empire, etymological research and archaeological finds.[1]

Under Augustus, the Roman General Publius Quinctilius Varus began to invade Germania (a term used by the Romans running roughly from the Rhine to the Urals), and it was in this period that the Germanic tribes became familiar with Roman tactics of warfare while maintaining their tribal identity. In AD 9, three Roman legions led by Varus were defeated by the Cheruscan leader Arminius in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. Modern Germany, as far as the Rhine and the Danube, thus remained outside the Roman Empire. By AD 100, the time of Tacitus' Germania, Germanic tribes settled along the Rhine and the Danube (the Limes Germanicus), occupying most of the area of modern Germany. The 3rd century saw the emergence of a number of large West Germanic tribes: Alamanni, Franks, Chatti, Saxons, Frisians, Sicambri, and Thuringii. Around 260, the Germanic peoples broke through the Limes and the Danube frontier into Roman-controlled lands.[2]

See also: List of meanings of countries' names

Holy Roman Empire (843–1806)

The medieval empire stemmed from a division of the Carolingian Empire in 843, which was founded by Charlemagne on 25 December 800, and existed in varying forms until 1806, its territory stretching from the Eider River in the north to the Mediterranean coast in the south. Often referred to as the Holy Roman Empire (or the Old Empire), it was officially called the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation ("Sacrum Romanum Imperium Nationis Germanicæ") starting in 1448, to adjust the title to its then reduced territory.

Under the reign of the Ottonian emperors (919–1024), the duchies of Lorraine, Saxony, Franconia, Swabia, Thuringia, and Bavaria were consolidated, and the German king was crowned Holy Roman Emperor of these regions in 962. Under the reign of the Salian emperors (1024–1125), the Holy Roman Empire absorbed northern Italy and Burgundy, although the emperors lost power through the Investiture Controversy. Under the Hohenstaufen emperors (1138–1254), the German princes increased their influence further south and east into territories inhabited by Slavs. Northern German towns grew prosperous as members of the Hanseatic League. The edict of the Golden Bull in 1356 provided the basic constitution of the empire that lasted until its dissolution. It codified the election of the emperor by seven prince-electors who ruled some of the most powerful principalities and archbishoprics. Beginning in the 15th century, the emperors were elected nearly exclusively from the Habsburg dynasty of Austria.

The monk Martin Luther wrote his 95 Theses questioning the Roman Catholic Church in 1517, thereby sparking the Protestant Reformation. A separate Lutheran church was acknowledged as the newly sanctioned religion in many German states after 1530. Religious conflict led to the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648), which devastated German lands. The Peace of Westphalia (1648) ended religious warfare among the German states, but the empire was de facto divided into numerous independent principalities. From 1740 onwards, the dualism between the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy and the Kingdom of Prussia dominated German history. In 1806, the Imperium was overrun and dissolved as a result of the Napoleonic Wars.[3]

See also: Medieval demography

Restoration and revolution (1814–71)

Following the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Congress of Vienna convened in 1814 and founded the German Confederation (Deutscher Bund), a loose league of 39 sovereign states. Disagreement with restoration politics partly led to the rise of liberal movements, demanding unity and freedom. These, however, were followed by new measures of repression on the part of the Austrian statesman Metternich. The Zollverein, a tariff union, profoundly furthered economic unity in the German states. During this era many Germans had been stirred by the ideals of the French Revolution, and nationalism became a more significant force, especially among young intellectuals. For the first time, the colours of black, red and gold were chosen to represent the movement, which later became the national colours.[4]

In light of a series of revolutionary movements in Europe, which successfully established a republic in France, intellectuals and commoners started the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states. The monarchs initially yielded to the revolutionaries' liberal demands. 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, leading to a temporary setback for the movement. Conflict between King William I of Prussia and the increasingly liberal parliament erupted over military reforms in 1862, and the king appointed Otto von Bismarck the new Prime Minister of Prussia. Bismarck successfully waged war on Denmark in 1864. Prussian victory in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 enabled him to create the North German Federation (Norddeutscher Bund) and to exclude Austria, formerly the leading German state, from the affairs of the remaining German states.

German Empire (1871–1918)

The state known as Germany was unified as a modern nation-state in 1871, when the German Empire was forged, with the Kingdom of Prussia as its largest constituent. After the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, the German Empire (Deutsches Kaiserreich) was proclaimed in Versailles on 18 January 1871. The Hohenzollern dynasty of Prussia ruled the new empire, whose capital was Berlin. The empire was a unification of all the scattered parts of Germany except Austria (Kleindeutschland, or "Lesser Germany"). Beginning in 1884, Germany began establishing several colonies outside of Europe.

In the Gründerzeit period following the unification of Germany, Emperor William I's foreign policy secured Germany's position as a great nation by forging alliances, isolating France by diplomatic means, and avoiding war. Under William II, however, Germany, like other European powers, took an imperialistic course leading to friction with neighbouring countries. Most alliances in which Germany had been previously involved were not renewed, and new alliances excluded the country. Specifically, France established new relationships by signing the Entente Cordiale with the United Kingdom and securing ties with the Russian Empire. Aside from its contacts with Austria-Hungary, Germany became increasingly isolated.


Germany's imperialism reached outside of its own country and joined many other powers in Europe to claim their share of Africa. The Berlin Conference divided Africa between the European powers. Germany "owned" several pieces of land on Africa including German East Africa, South-West Africa, Togo, and Cameroon. The Scramble for Africa caused tension between the great powers that may have contributed to the conditions that led to World War I.

The assassination of Austria's crown prince on 28 June 1914 triggered World War I. Germany, as part of the unsuccessful Central Powers, suffered defeat against the Allied Powers in one of the bloodiest conflicts of all time. The German Revolution broke out in November 1918, and Emperor William II and all German ruling princes abdicated. An armistice putting an end to the war was signed on 11 November and Germany was forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919. Its negotiation, contrary to traditional post-war diplomacy, excluded the defeated Central Powers. The treaty was perceived in Germany as a humiliating continuation of the war by other means and its harshness is often cited as having facilitated the later rise of Nazism in the country.[5]

Weimar Republic (1919–33)

After the success of the German Revolution in November 1918, a republic was proclaimed. The Weimar Constitution came into effect with its signing by President Friedrich Ebert on 11 August 1919. The German Communist Party was established by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in 1918, and the German Workers Party, later known as the National Socialist German Workers Party or Nazi Party, was founded in January 1919.

Suffering from the Great Depression, the harsh peace conditions dictated by the Treaty of Versailles, and a long succession of more or less unstable governments, the political masses in Germany increasingly lacked identification with their political system of parliamentary democracy. This was exacerbated by a wide-spread right-wing (monarchist, völkisch, and Nazi) Dolchstoßlegende, a political myth which claimed that Germany lost World War I because of the German Revolution, not because of military defeat. On the other hand, radical left-wing communists, such as the Spartacist League, had wanted to abolish what they perceived as "capitalist rule" in favour of a Räterepublik. Paramilitary troops were set up by several parties and there were thousands of politically motivated murders. The paramilitary intimidated voters and seeded violence and anger among the public, which suffered from high unemployment and poverty. After a succession of unsuccessful cabinets, President Paul von Hindenburg, seeing little alternative and pushed by right-wing advisors, appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany on 30 January 1933.

Third Reich (1933–45)

On 27 February 1933, the Reichstag was set on fire. Some basic democratic rights were quickly abrogated afterwards under an emergency decree. An Enabling Act gave Hitler's government full legislative power. Only the Social Democratic Party of Germany voted against it; the Communists were not able to present a viable opposition, as many of their deputies had already been murdered or imprisoned.[6][7] A centralised totalitarian state was established by a series of moves and decrees making Germany a single-party state. Industry was closely regulated with quotas and requirements, to shift the economy towards a war production base. In 1936 German troops entered the demilitarized Rhineland, and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's appeasement policies proved inadequate. Emboldened, Hitler followed from 1938 onwards a policy of expansionism to establish Greater Germany. To avoid a two-front war, Hitler concluded the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with the Soviet Union, a pact which was later broken by Germany.

In 1939, the growing tensions from nationalism, militarism, and territorial issues led to the Germans launching a blitzkrieg on September 1 against Poland, followed two days later by declarations of war by Britain and France, marking the beginning of World War II. Germany quickly gained direct or indirect control of most of Europe.

On 22 June 1941, Hitler broke the pact with the Soviet Union by opening the Eastern Front and invading the Soviet Union. Shortly after Japan attacked the American base at Pearl Harbor, Germany declared war on the United States. Although initially the German army rapidly advanced into the Soviet Union, the Battle of Stalingrad marked a major turning point in the war. Subsequently, the German army commenced retreating on the Eastern Front, followed by the eventual defeat of Germany. On 8 May 1945, Germany surrendered after the Red Army occupied Berlin.

In what later became known as The Holocaust, the Third Reich regime enacted governmental policies directly subjugating many parts of society: Jews, Slavs, Communists, Roma, homosexuals, freemasons, political dissidents, priests, preachers, religious opponents, and the disabled, amongst others. During the Nazi era, about eleven million people were murdered in the Holocaust, including six million Jews and three million Poles. World War II and the Nazi genocide were responsible for about 35 million dead in Europe.

Division and reunification (1945–90)

The war resulted in the death of nearly ten million German soldiers and civilians; large territorial losses; the expulsion of about 15 million Germans from its former eastern territories and other countries; and the destruction of multiple major cities. Germany and Berlin were partitioned by the Allies into four military occupation zones. The sectors controlled by France, the United Kingdom, and the United States were merged on 23 May 1949, to form the Federal Republic of Germany; on 7 October 1949, the Soviet Zone established the German Democratic Republic. In English, the two Germanies were known informally as "West Germany" and "East Germany" and the two Berlins as "East Berlin" and "West Berlin".

West Germany, established as a liberal parliamentary republic with a "social market economy", was allied with the United States, the UK and France. The country eventually came to enjoy prolonged economic growth beginning in the early 1950s (Wirtschaftswunder). West Germany joined NATO in 1955 and was a founding member of the European Economic Community in 1958. Across the border, East Germany was at first occupied by, and later (May 1955) allied with, the USSR. An authoritarian country with a Soviet-style command economy, East Germany soon became the richest, most advanced country in the Warsaw Pact, but many of its citizens looked to the West for political freedoms and economic prosperity.[8] The Berlin Wall, built in 1961 to stop East Germans from escaping to West Germany, became a symbol of the Cold War. However, tensions between East and West Germany were somewhat reduced in the early 1970s by Chancellor Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik, which included the de facto acceptance of Germany's territorial losses in World War II.

In the face of a growing migration of East Germans to West Germany via Hungary and mass demonstrations during the summer of 1989, East German authorities unexpectedly eased the border restrictions in November, allowing East German citizens to travel to the West. This led to the acceleration of the process of reforms in East Germany that concluded with the Two Plus Four Treaty on 12 September, 1990 and German reunification on 3 October 1990. Under the terms of the treaty, the four occupying powers renounced their rights under the Instrument of Surrender, and Germany was to regain full sovereignty.

Since reunification, Germany has taken a leading role in the European Union and NATO. Germany sent a peacekeeping force to secure stability in the Balkans and sent a force of German troops to Afghanistan as part of a NATO effort to provide security in that country after the ousting of the Taliban.[9]

External links

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors). Smallwikipedialogo.png

Cite error: <ref> tags exist, but no <references/> tag was found

This article uses material from the "History of Germany" article on the Genealogy wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address