Old High German Edit

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

Middle High German Edit

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

Early New High German Edit

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

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

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

Old Saxon Edit

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

Middle Low German Edit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

History of Germany: Weimar Republic to Today

According to the U.S. Department of State, in 1919 the Weimar Republic was formed as a democratic state but Germany gradually began to experience economic and social problems. By 1929, the government had lost much of its stability as the world entered a depression and the presence of dozens of political parties in Germany's government hampered its ability to create a unified system. By 1932, the National Socialist Party (Nazi Party) led by Adolf Hitler was growing in power and in 1933 the Weimar Republic was mostly gone. In 1934 President Paul von Hindenburg died and Hitler, who had been named Reich Chancellor in 1933, became Germany's leader.

Once the Nazi Party took power in Germany, nearly all democratic institutions in the country were abolished. In addition, Germany's Jewish people were jailed, as were any members of opposing parties. Shortly thereafter, the Nazis began a policy of genocide against the country's Jewish population. This later became known as the Holocaust and around six million Jewish people in both Germany and other Nazi-occupied areas were killed. In addition to the Holocaust, Nazi governmental policies and expansionist practices eventually led to World War II. This later destroyed Germany's political structure, economy, and many of its cities.

On May 8, 1945, Germany surrendered and the United States, United Kingdom, USSR, and France took control under what was called Four Power Control. Initially, Germany was to be controlled as a single unit, but eastern Germany soon became dominated by Soviet policies. In 1948, the USSR blockaded Berlin and by 1949 East and West Germany were created. West Germany, or the Federal Republic of Germany, followed principles set forth by the U.S. and U.K., while East Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union and its communist policies. As a result, there was severe political and social unrest in Germany throughout most of the mid-1900s and in the 1950s millions of East Germans fled to the west. In 1961, the Berlin Wall was constructed, officially dividing the two.

By the 1980s, pressure for political reform and German unification was growing and in 1989 the Berlin Wall fell and in 1990 the Four Power Control ended. As a result, Germany began to unify itself and on December 2, 1990, it held the first all-German elections since 1933. Since the 1990s, Germany has continued to regain its political, economic, and social stability and today it is known for having a high standard of living and a strong economy.

A brief history of Germany

The history of Germany has been nothing if not eventful. After being at the center of a pair of world wars and an ideological battle between west and east, Germany has emerged as a high-tech, future-oriented democracy with a vibrant culture.

As Europe’s largest economy Germany is a key member of the continent’s economic, political, and defence organisations. European power struggles immersed Germany in two devastating World Wars in the first half of the 20th century and left the country occupied by the victorious Allied powers of France, the Soviet Union, the UK and the USA in 1945.

With the advent of the Cold War, two German states were formed in 1949 namely the western Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the eastern German Democratic Republic (GDR). The democratic FRG embedded itself in key Western economic and security organisations, i.e. the EU and NATO, while the Communist GDR was on the front line of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact countries and was a puppet of Moscow. The decline of the USSR and the end of the Cold War allowed for German unification in 1990. Since then Germany has spent considerable funds to bring productivity and wages in the former GDR up to FRG standards.

Germany was a founding member of the European Economic Community (EEC) (now the European Union (EU)) in 1957 and participated in the introduction of the Euro (EUR) in a two-phased approach in 1999 (accounting phase) and 2002 (monetary phase) to replace the Deutsche Mark (DEM). It was in 1955 that the FRG joined NATO and in 1990 NATO expanded to include the former GDR. Germany is also a member country of the Schengen Area in which border controls with other Schengen members have been eliminated while at the same those with non-Schengen countries have been strengthened. In January 2011, Germany assumed a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2011/12 term.

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

At the opening ceremonies of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games, on February 9, 2018, something spectacular happened: Athletes from North and South Korea, which have been bitterly divided for 73 years, marched beneath a unified flag. Though North and South appear no closer to . read more

Wall tumbles

1982 - Christian Democrat Helmut Kohl becomes chancellor.

1987 - East German leader Erich Honecker pays first official visit to West.

1989 - Mass exodus of East Germans as neighbouring Soviet bloc countries relax travel restrictions. Protests across East Germany lead to rapid collapse of Communist rule. Germans from East and West tear down Berlin Wall.

1990 - East Germans elect pro-unification parliament, state merged into Federal Republic.

1994 - Russian and Allied troops finally leave Berlin.


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

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

Germanic tribes and Frankish Empire

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

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

East Francia and Holy Roman Empire

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

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

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

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

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

German Confederation and Empire

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

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

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

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

Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany

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

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

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

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

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

East and West Germany

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

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

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

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

Reunified Germany and the European Union

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Constituent states

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

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

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

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

Foreign relations

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

Art and design

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

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

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

Literature and philosophy

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

German people and culture

Today almost one in every ten Germans comes from a foreign country – more than at any time in Germany’s history. The largest minority are Turkish, who started to come to Germany in the 1950s to work. About two-thirds of Germans are Christians.

Germany has been called the “Land of Poets and Thinkers.” Germans are famous in all forms of art, but particularly classical music. Germany’s famous composers include Bach, Brahms, Schumann, Wagner and Beethoven.

Germany and the Herero

The Herero and Nama genocide was a campaign of racial extermination and collective punishment that the German Empire undertook in German South-West Africa (modern-day Namibia) against the Herero and Nama people, considered one of the first genocides of the 20th century.

Learning Objectives

Assess the argument for classifying the persecution against the Herero as a genocide

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • During the Scramble for Africa, South-West Africa was claimed by Germany in August 1884.
  • German colonists arriving in the following years occupied large areas of land, ignoring claims by the Herero and other natives.
  • There was continual resistance by the natives, most notably in 1903 when some of the Herero tribes rose in revolt and about 60 German settlers were killed.
  • In October 1904, General Lothar von Trotha issued orders to kill every male Herero and drive the women and children into the desert when the order was lifted at the end of 1904, prisoners were herded into concentration camps and given as slave labor to German businesses many died of overwork and malnutrition.
  • It took until 1908 to re-establish German authority over the territory by that time tens of thousands of Africans (estimates range from 34,000 to 110,000) had been either killed or died of thirst while fleeing.
  • In 1985, the United Nations ‘ Whitaker Report classified the aftermath as an attempt to exterminate the Herero and Nama peoples of South-West Africa, and therefore one of the earliest attempts at genocide in the 20th century. In 2004, the German government recognized and apologized for the events

Key Terms

  • Herero: An ethnic group inhabiting parts of Southern Africa. The majority reside in Namibia, with the remainder found in Botswana and Angola. During the German colonial empire, the German colonists committed genocide against these people.
  • Eugen Fischer: A German professor of medicine, anthropology, and eugenics, and a member of the Nazi Party. He served as director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics, and as rector of the Frederick William University of Berlin. His ideas informed the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 and served to justify the Nazi Party’s attitudes of racial superiority. Adolf Hitler read his work while imprisoned in 1923 and used his eugenical notions to support the ideal of a pure Aryan society in his manifesto, Mein Kampf (My Struggle).
  • German South-West Africa: A colony of the German Empire from 1884 until 1915. It was 1.5 times the size of the mainland German Empire in Europe at the time. The colony had a population of around 2,600 Germans, numerous indigenous rebellions, and a widespread genocide of the indigenous peoples.

Colonization and Conflict

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Herero migrated to what is today Namibia from the east and established themselves as herdsmen. In the beginning of the 19th century, the Nama from South Africa, who already possessed some firearms, entered the land and were followed by white merchants and German missionaries. At first, the Nama began displacing the Herero, leading to bitter warfare between the two groups that lasted the greater part of the 19th century. Later, the Nama and Herero entered a period of cultural exchange.

During the late 19th century, the first Europeans arrived to permanently settle the land. Primarily in Damaraland, German settlers acquired land from the Herero to establish farms. In 1883, merchant Franz Adolf Eduard Lüderitz entered into a contract with the native elders. The exchange later became the basis of German colonial rule. The territory became a German colony under the name of German South-West Africa.

Soon after, conflicts between the German colonists and the Herero herdsmen began. These were frequently disputes about access to land and water, but also the legal discrimination against the native population by the white immigrants.

Between 1893 and 1903, the Herero and Nama people’s land and cattle were progressively making their way into the hands of the German colonists. The Herero and Nama resisted expropriation over the years, but were disorganized and the Germans defeated them with ease. In 1903, the Herero people learned that they were to be placed in reservations, leaving more room for colonists to own land and prosper. In 1904, the Herero and Nama began a large rebellion that lasted until 1907, ending with the near destruction of the Herero people.

Genocide Against the Herero and Nama People

According to some historians, “The war against the Herero and Nama was the first in which German imperialism resorted to methods of genocide.” Roughly 80,000 Herero lived in German South-West Africa at the beginning of Germany’s colonial rule over the area, while after their revolt was defeated, they numbered approximately 15,000. In a period of four years, 1904-1907, approximately 65,000 Herero and 10,000 Nama people perished.

The first phase of the genocide was characterized by widespread death from starvation and dehydration due to the prevention of the retreating Herero from leaving the Namib Desert by German forces. Once defeated, thousands of Herero and Nama were imprisoned in concentration camps, where the majority died of disease, abuse, and exhaustion.

During the Herero genocide Eugen Fischer, a German scientist, came to the concentration camps to conduct medical experiments on race, using children of Herero people and mulatto children of Herero women and German men as test subjects. Together with Theodor Mollison he also experimented upon Herero prisoners. Those experiments included sterilization and injection of smallpox, typhus, and tuberculosis. The numerous mixed offspring upset the German colonial administration, which was concerned with maintaining “racial purity.” Eugen Fischer studied 310 mixed-race children, calling them “bastards” of “lesser racial quality.” Fischer also subjected them to numerous racial tests such as head and body measurements and eye and hair examinations. In conclusion of his studies he advocated genocide of alleged “inferior races” stating that “whoever thinks thoroughly the notion of race, can not arrive at a different conclusion.” Fischer’s torment of the children was part of a wider history of abusing Africans for experiments, and echoed earlier actions by German anthropologists who stole skeletons and bodies from African graveyards and took them to Europe for research or sale.

In 1985, the United Nations’ Whitaker Report classified the aftermath as an attempt to exterminate the Herero and Nama peoples of South-West Africa, and therefore one of the earliest attempts at genocide in the 20th century. In 2004, the German government recognized and apologized for the events, but ruled out financial compensation for the victims’ descendants. In July 2015, the German government and the speaker of the Bundestag officially called the events a “genocide” and “part of a race war.” However it has refused to consider reparations.

In recent years scholars have debated the “continuity thesis” that links German colonialist brutalities to the treatment of Jews, Poles, and Russians during World War II. Some historians argue that Germany’s role in Africa gave rise to an emphasis on racial superiority at home, which in turn was used by the Nazis. Other scholars, however, are skeptical and challenge the continuity thesis.

Surviving Herero: Photograph of emaciated survivors of the German genocide against Herero after an escape through the arid desert of Omaheke


Four military occupied zones Edit

At the Potsdam Conference (17 July to 2 August 1945), after Germany's unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945, [8] the Allies officially divided Germany into the four military occupation zones — France in the Southwest, the United Kingdom in the Northwest, the United States in the South, and the Soviet Union in the East, bounded Eastwards by the Oder-Neisse line. At Potsdam, these four zones in total were denoted as 'Germany as a whole', and the four Allied Powers exercised the sovereign authority they now claimed within Germany in agreeing 'in principle' the future transfer of lands of the former German Reich east of 'Germany as a whole' to Poland and the Soviet Union. [9] These eastern areas were notionally placed under Polish and Soviet administration pending a final peace treaty (which was not formalized until 1990, 45 years later) but in actuality were promptly reorganized as organic parts of their respective sovereign states. [ citation needed ]

In addition, under the Allies' Berlin Declaration (1945), the territory of the extinguished German Reich was to be treated as the land area within its borders as of 31 December 1937. All land expansion from 1938 to 1945 was hence treated as automatically invalid. Such expansion included the League of Nations administered City-State of Danzig (occupied by Germany immediately following Germany's 1 September 1939 invasion of Poland), Austria, the occupied territory of Czechoslovakia, Suwalki, Alsace-Lorraine, Luxembourg, post 27 September 1939 "West Prussia", post 27 September 1939 "Posen Province", northern Slovenia, Eupen, Malmedy, the part of Southern Silesia ultimately detached from 1918 Germany by action of the Versailles Treaty, likewise, the Hultschiner Laendchen.

Flight and expulsion of ethnic Germans Edit

The northern half of East Prussia in the region of Königsberg was administratively assigned by the Potsdam Agreement to the Soviet Union, pending a final Peace Conference (with the commitment of Britain and the United States to support its incorporation into Russia) and was then annexed by the Soviet Union. The Free City of Danzig and the southern half of East Prussia were incorporated into and annexed by Poland the Allies having assured the Polish government-in-exile of their support for this after the Tehran Conference in 1943. It was also agreed at Potsdam that Poland would receive all German lands East of the Oder-Neisse line, although the exact delimitation of the boundary was left to be resolved at an eventual Peace Conference. Under the wartime alliances of the United Kingdom with the Czechoslovak and Polish governments-in-exile, the British had agreed in July 1942 to support ". the General Principle of the transfer to Germany of German minorities in Central and South Eastern Europe after the war in cases where this seems necessary and desirable". In 1944 roughly 12.4 million ethnic Germans were living in territory that became part of post-war Poland and Soviet Union. Approximately 6 million fled or were evacuated before the Red Army occupied the area. Of the remainder, around 2 million died during the war or in its aftermath (1.4 million as military casualties 600,000 as civilian deaths), [10] 3.6 million were expelled by the Poles, one million declared themselves to be Poles, and 300,000 remained in Poland as Germans. The Sudetenland territories, surrendered to Germany by the Munich Agreement, were returned to Czechoslovakia these territories containing a further 3 million ethnic Germans. 'Wild' expulsions from Czechoslovakia began immediately after the German surrender.

The Potsdam Conference subsequently sanctioned the "orderly and humane" transfer to Germany of individuals regarded as "ethnic Germans" by authorities in Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary. The Potsdam Agreement recognized that these expulsions were already underway and were putting a burden on authorities in the German Occupation Zones, including the re-defined Soviet Occupation Zone. Most of the Germans who were being expelled were from Czechoslovakia and Poland, which included most of the territory to the east of the Oder-Neisse Line. The Potsdam Declaration stated:

Since the influx of a large number of Germans into Germany would increase the burden already resting on the occupying authorities, they consider that the Allied Control Council in Germany should in the first instance examine the problem with special regard to the question of the equitable distribution of these Germans among the several zones of occupation. They are accordingly instructing their respective representatives on the control council to report to their Governments as soon as possible the extent to which such persons have already entered Germany from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, and to submit an estimate of the time and rate at which further transfers could be carried out, having regard to the present situation in Germany. The Czechoslovak Government, the Polish Provisional Government and the control council in Hungary are at the same time being informed of the above and are being requested meanwhile to suspend further expulsions pending the examination by the Governments concerned of the report from their representatives on the control council.

Many of the ethnic Germans, who were primarily women and children, and especially those under the control of Polish and Czechoslovakian authorities, were severely mistreated before they were ultimately deported to Germany. Thousands died in forced labor camps such as Lambinowice, Zgoda labour camp, Central Labour Camp Potulice, Central Labour Camp Jaworzno, Glaz, Milecin, Gronowo, and Sikawa. [11] Others starved, died of disease, or froze to death while being expelled in slow and ill-equipped trains or in transit camps.

Altogether, around 8 million ethnic German refugees and expellees from across Europe eventually settled in West Germany, with a further 3 million in East Germany. In West Germany these represented a major voting block maintaining a strong culture of grievance and victimhood against Soviet Power, pressing for a continued commitment to full German reunification, claiming compensation, pursuing the right of return to lost property in the East, and opposing any recognition of the postwar extension of Poland and the Soviet Union into former German lands. [12] Owing to the Cold War rhetoric and successful political machinations of Konrad Adenauer, this block eventually became substantially aligned with the Christian Democratic Union of Germany although in practice 'westward-looking' CDU policies favouring the Atlantic Alliance and the European Union worked against the possibility of achieving the objectives of the expellee population from the east through negotiation with the Soviet Union. But for Adenauer, fostering and encouraging unrealistic demands and uncompromising expectations amongst the expellees would serve his "Policy of Strength" by which West Germany contrived to inhibit consideration of unification or a final Peace Treaty until the West was strong enough to face the Soviets on equal terms. Consequently, the Federal Republic in the 1950s adopted much of the symbolism of expellee groups especially in appropriating and subverting the terminology and imagery of the Holocaust applying this to post-war German experience instead. [13] Eventually in 1990, following the Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany, the unified Germany indeed confirmed in treaties with Poland and the Soviet Union that the transfer of sovereignty over the former German eastern territories in 1945 had been permanent and irreversible Germany now undertaking never again to make territorial claims in respect of these lands.

The intended governing body of Germany was called the Allied Control Council, consisting of the commanders-in-chief in Germany of the United States, the United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union who exercised supreme authority in their respective zones, while supposedly acting in concert on questions affecting the whole country. In actuality however, the French consistently blocked any progress towards re-establishing all-German governing institutions substantially in pursuit of French aspirations for a dismembered Germany, but also as a response to the exclusion of France from the Yalta and Potsdam conferences. Berlin, which lay in the Soviet (eastern) sector, was also divided into four sectors with the Western sectors later becoming West Berlin and the Soviet sector becoming East Berlin, capital of East Germany.

Denazification Edit

A key item in the occupiers' agenda was denazification. The swastika and other outward symbols of the Nazi regime were banned, and a Provisional Civil Ensign was established as a temporary German flag. It remained the official flag of the country (necessary for reasons of international law) until East Germany and West Germany (see below) were independently established in 1949.

The United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union had agreed at Potsdam to a broad program of decentralization, treating Germany as a single economic unit with some central administrative departments. These plans never materialised, initially because France blocked any establishment of central administrative or political structures for Germany and also as both the Soviet Union and France were intent on extracting as much material benefit as possible from their occupation zones in order to make good in part the enormous destruction caused by the German Wehrmacht and the policy broke down completely in 1948 when the Russians blockaded West Berlin and the period known as the Cold War began. It was agreed at Potsdam that the leading members of the Nazi regime who had been captured should be put on trial accused of crimes against humanity, and this was one of the few points on which the four powers were able to agree. In order to secure the presence of the western allies in Berlin, the United States agreed to withdraw from Thuringia and Saxony in exchange for the division of Berlin into four sectors.

Future President and General Dwight D. Eisenhower and the US War Department initially implemented a strict non-fraternization policy between the US troops and German citizens. The State Department and individual US congressmen pressured to have this policy lifted. In June 1945 the prohibition against speaking with German children was loosened. In July troops were permitted to speak to German adults in certain circumstances. In September 1945 the entire policy was dropped. Only the ban on marriage between Americans and German or Austrian civilians remained in place until 11 December 1946 and 2 January 1946 respectively. [14]

Industrial disarmament in western Germany Edit

The initial proposal for the post-surrender policy of the Western powers, the so-called Morgenthau Plan proposed by Henry Morgenthau, Jr., was one of "pastoralization". [15] The Morgenthau Plan, though subsequently ostensibly shelved due to public opposition, influenced occupation policy most notably through the U.S. punitive occupation directive JCS 1067 [16] [17] and The industrial plans for Germany [18]

The "Level of Industry plans for Germany" were the plans to lower German industrial potential after World War II. At the Potsdam conference, with the U.S. operating under influence of the Morgenthau plan, [18] the victorious Allies decided to abolish the German armed forces as well as all munitions factories and civilian industries that could support them. This included the destruction of all ship and aircraft manufacturing capability. Further, it was decided that civilian industries which might have a military potential, which in the modern era of "total war" included virtually all, were to be severely restricted. The restriction of the latter was set to Germany's "approved peacetime needs", which were defined to be set on the average European standard. In order to achieve this, each type of industry was subsequently reviewed to see how many factories Germany required under these minimum level of industry requirements.

The first plan, from 29 March 1946, stated that German heavy industry was to be lowered to 50% of its 1938 levels by the destruction of 1,500 listed manufacturing plants. [19] In January 1946 the Allied Control Council set the foundation of the future German economy by putting a cap on German steel production—the maximum allowed was set at about 5,800,000 tons of steel a year, equivalent to 25% of the prewar production level. [20] The UK, in whose occupation zone most of the steel production was located, had argued for a more limited capacity reduction by placing the production ceiling at 12 million tons of steel per year, but had to submit to the will of the U.S., France and the Soviet Union (which had argued for a 3 million ton limit). Germany was to be reduced to the standard of life it had known at the height of the Great Depression (1932). [21] Car production was set to 10% of pre-war levels, etc. [22]

By 1950, after the virtual completion of the by then much watered-down plans, equipment had been removed from 706 factories in the west and steel production capacity had been reduced by 6,700,000 tons. [18]

Timber exports from the U.S. occupation zone were particularly heavy. Sources in the U.S. government stated that the purpose of this was the "ultimate destruction of the war potential of German forests." [23]

With the beginning of the Cold War, the Western policies changed as it became evident that a return to operation of the West German industry was needed not only for the restoration of the whole European economy but also for the rearmament of West Germany as an ally against the Soviet Union. On 6 September 1946 United States Secretary of State, James F. Byrnes made the famous speech Restatement of Policy on Germany, also known as the Stuttgart speech, where he amongst other things repudiated the Morgenthau plan-influenced policies and gave the West Germans hope for the future. Reports such as The President's Economic Mission to Germany and Austria helped to show the U.S. public how bad the situation in Germany really was.

The next improvement came in July 1947, when after lobbying by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Generals Clay and Marshall, the Truman administration decided that economic recovery in Europe could not go forward without the reconstruction of the German industrial base on which it had previously been dependent. [24] In July 1947, President Harry S. Truman rescinded on "national security grounds" [24] the punitive occupation directive JCS 1067, which had directed the U.S. forces 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." [25]

The dismantling did however continue, and in 1949 West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer wrote to the Allies requesting that it end, citing the inherent contradiction between encouraging industrial growth and removing factories and also the unpopularity of the policy. [26] : 259 Support for dismantling was by this time coming predominantly from the French, and the Petersberg Agreement of November 1949 reduced the levels vastly, though dismantling of minor factories continued until 1951. The final limitations on German industrial levels were lifted after the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951, though arms manufacture remained prohibited. [26] : 260, 270–71

French designs Edit

Under the Monnet Plan, France—intent on ensuring that Germany would never again have the strength to threaten it—began in 1945 to attempt to gain economic control of the remaining German industrial areas with large coal and mineral deposits the Rhineland, the Ruhr and the Saar (Germany's second largest center of mining and industry, Upper Silesia, had been handed over by the Allies to Poland at the Potsdam conference and the German population was being forcibly expelled). [27] The Ruhr Agreement had been imposed on the Germans as a condition for permitting them to establish the Federal Republic of Germany. [28] (see also the International Authority for the Ruhr (IAR)). French attempts to gain political control of or permanently internationalize the Ruhr were abandoned in 1951 with the West German agreement to pool its coal and steel resources in return for full political control over the Ruhr (see European Coal and Steel Community). With French economic security guaranteed through access to Ruhr coal now permanently ensured France was satisfied. The French attempt to gain economic control over the Saar was temporarily even more successful.

In the speech Restatement of Policy on Germany, held in Stuttgart on 6 September 1946, the United States Secretary of State James F. Byrnes stated the U.S. motive in detaching the Saar from Germany as "The United States does not feel that it can deny to France, which has been invaded three times by Germany in 70 years, its claim to the Saar territory". The Saar came under French administration in 1947 as the Saar Protectorate, but did return to Germany in January 1957 (following a referendum), with economic reintegration with Germany occurring a few years later.

Although not a party to the Potsdam conference where the policy of industrial disarmament had been set, as a member of the Allied Control Council France came to champion this policy since it ensured a weak Germany.

In August 1954 the French parliament voted down the treaty that would have established the European Defense Community, a treaty they themselves had proposed in 1950 as a means to contain German revival. France instead focused on another treaty also under development. In May 1950 France had proposed the European Coal and Steel Community with the purpose of ensuring French economic security by perpetuating access to German Ruhr coal, but also to show to the U.S. and the UK that France could come up with constructive solutions, as well as to pacify Germany by making it part of an international project.

Germany was eventually allowed to rearm, but under the auspices of the Western European Union, and later NATO.

Dismantling in East Germany Edit

The Soviet Union engaged in a massive industrial dismantling campaign in its occupation zone, much more intensive than that carried out by the Western powers. While the Soviet powers soon realized that their actions alienated the German workforce from the Communist cause, they decided that the desperate economic situation within the Soviet Union took priority over alliance building. The allied leaders had agreed on paper to economic and political cooperation but the issue of reparations dealt an early blow to the prospect of a united Germany in 1945. The figure of $20 Billion had been floated by Stalin as an adequate recompense but as the United States refused to consider this a basis for negotiation The Soviet Union was left only with the opportunity of extracting its own reparations, at a heavy cost to the East Germans. This was the beginning of the formal split of Germany. [ citation needed ]

Marshall plan and currency reform Edit

With the Western Allies eventually becoming concerned about the deteriorating economic situation in their "Trizone", the American Marshall Plan of economic aid was extended to Western Germany in 1948 and a currency reform, which had been prohibited under the previous occupation directive JCS 1067, introduced the Deutsche Mark and halted rampant inflation. Though the Marshall Plan is regarded as playing a key psychological role in the West German recovery, other factors were also significant. [29]

The Soviets had not agreed to the currency reform in March 1948 they withdrew from the four-power governing bodies, and in June 1948 they initiated the Berlin blockade, blocking all ground transport routes between Western Germany and West Berlin. The Western Allies replied with a continuous airlift of supplies to the western half of the city. The Soviets ended the blockade after 11 months.

Reparations to the U.S. Edit

The Allies confiscated intellectual property of great value, all German patents, both in Germany and abroad, and used them to strengthen their own industrial competitiveness by licensing them to Allied companies. [30] Beginning immediately after the German surrender and continuing for the next two years, the U.S. pursued a vigorous program to harvest all technological and scientific know-how as well as all patents in Germany. John Gimbel comes to the conclusion, in his book "Science Technology and Reparations: Exploitation and Plunder in Postwar Germany", that the "intellectual reparations" taken by the U.S. and the UK amounted to close to $10 billion. [31] [32] During the more than two years that this policy was in place, no industrial research in Germany could take place, as any results would have been automatically available to overseas competitors who were encouraged by the occupation authorities to access all records and facilities. Meanwhile, thousands of the best German scientists were being put to work in the U.S. (see also Operation Paperclip)

Nutritional levels and deliberate famine Edit

During the war, Germans seized food supplies from occupied countries and forced millions of foreigners to work on German farms, in addition to food shipped from farms in eastern Germany. When this ended in 1945, the German rationing system (which stayed in place) had much lower supplies of food. [33] : 342–54 The U.S. Army sent in large shipments of food to feed some 7.7 million prisoners of war—far more than they had expected [33] : 200 —as well as the general population. [34] For several years following the surrender, German nutritional levels were low. The Germans were not high on the priority list for international aid, which went to the victims of the Nazis. [35] : 281 It was directed that all relief went to non-German displaced persons, liberated Allied POWs, and concentration camp inmates. [35] : 281–82 During 1945 it was estimated that the average German civilian in the U.S. and UK occupation zones received 1200 kilocalories a day in official rations, not counting food they grew themselves or purchased on the large-scale black market. [35] : 280 In early October 1945 the UK government privately acknowledged in a cabinet meeting that German civilian adult death rates had risen to 4 times the pre-war levels and death rates amongst the German children had risen by 10 times the pre-war levels. [35] : 280 The German Red Cross was dissolved, and the International Red Cross and the few other allowed international relief agencies were kept from helping Germans through strict controls on supplies and on travel. [35] : 281–82 The few agencies permitted to help Germans, such as the indigenous Caritasverband, were not allowed to use imported supplies. When the Vatican attempted to transmit food supplies from Chile to German infants, the U.S. State Department forbade it. [35] : 281 The German food situation became worse during the very cold winter of 1946–1947 when German calorie intake ranged from 1,000–1,500 kilocalories per day, a situation made worse by severe lack of fuel for heating. [35] : 244

Forced labour reparations Edit

As agreed by the Allies at the Yalta conference Germans were used as forced labor as part of the reparations to be extracted. German prisoners were for example forced to clear minefields in France and the Low Countries. By December 1945 it was estimated by French authorities that 2,000 German prisoners were being killed or injured each month in accidents. [36] In Norway the last available casualty record, from 29 August 1945, shows that by that time a total of 275 German soldiers died while clearing mines, while 392 had been injured. [37]

Mass rape Edit

Norman Naimark writes in The Russians in Germany: A History of the Soviet Zone of Occupation, 1945–1949 that although the exact number of women and girls who were raped by members of the Red Army in the months preceding and years following the capitulation will never be known, their numbers are likely in the hundreds of thousands, quite possibly as high as the 2,000,000 victims estimate made by Barbara Johr, in "Befreier und Befreite". Many of these victims were raped repeatedly. Naimark states that not only had each victim to carry the trauma with her for the rest of her days, it inflicted a massive collective trauma on the East German nation (the German Democratic Republic). Naimark concludes "The social psychology of women and men in the Soviet zone of occupation was marked by the crime of rape from the first days of occupation, through the founding of the GDR in the fall of 1949, until—one could argue—the present." [38] Some of the victims had been raped as many as 60 to 70 times [ dubious – discuss ] . [39] According to German historian Miriam Gebhardt, as many as 190,000 women were raped by U.S. soldiers in Germany. [40]

German states Edit

On 16 February 1946, the Saar Protectorate had been established under French control, in the area corresponding to the current German state of Saarland. It was not allowed to join its fellow German neighbors until a plebiscite in 1955 rejected the proposed autonomy. This paved the way for the accession of the Saarland to the Federal Republic of Germany as its 12th state, which went into effect on 1 January 1957.

On 23 May 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, Bundesrepublik Deutschland) was established on the territory of the Western occupied zones, with Bonn as its "provisional" capital. It comprised the area of 11 newly formed states (replacing the pre-war states), with present-day Baden-Württemberg being split into three states until 1952). The Federal Republic was declared to have "the full authority of a sovereign state" on 5 May 1955. On 7 October 1949 the German Democratic Republic (GDR, Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR)), with East Berlin as its capital, was established in the Soviet Zone.

The 1952 Stalin Note proposed German reunification and superpower disengagement from Central Europe but Britain, France, and the United States rejected the offer as insincere. Also, West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer preferred "Westintegration", rejecting "experiments".

In English, the two larger states were known informally as "West Germany" and "East Germany" respectively. In both cases, the former occupying troops remained permanently stationed there. The former German capital, Berlin, was a special case, being divided into East Berlin and West Berlin, with West Berlin completely surrounded by East German territory. Though the German inhabitants of West Berlin were citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany, West Berlin was not legally incorporated into West Germany it remained under the formal occupation of the western allies until 1990, although most day-to-day administration was conducted by an elected West Berlin government.

West Germany was allied with the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. A western democratic country with a "social market economy", the country would from the 1950s onwards come to enjoy prolonged economic growth (Wirtschaftswunder) following the Marshall Plan help from the Allies, the currency reform of June 1948 and helped by the fact that the Korean War (1950–53) led to a worldwide increased demand for goods, where the resulting shortage helped overcome lingering resistance to the purchase of German products.

East Germany was at first occupied by and later (May 1955) allied with the Soviet Union.

East Germany
German Democratic Republic ( Deutsche Demokratische Republik )
West Germany
Federal Republic of Germany ( Bundesrepublik Deutschland )
Flag & Coat of arms
Population in 1990 16,111,000 63,254,000
Area 108,333 km 2 (41,828 sq mi) 248,577 km 2 (95,976 sq mi)
Government Unitary Marxist-Leninist one-party totalitarian socialist republic Federal parliamentary constitutional republic
Capital East Berlin – 1,279,212 Bonn – 276,653

The Western Allies turned over increasing authority to West German officials and moved to establish a nucleus for a future German government by creating a central Economic Council for their zones. The program later provided for a West German constituent assembly, an occupation statute governing relations between the Allies and the German authorities, and the political and economic merger of the French with the British and American zones. On 23 May 1949, the Grundgesetz (Basic Law), the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany, was promulgated. Following elections in August, the first federal government was formed on 20 September 1949, by Konrad Adenauer (CDU). Adenauer's government was a coalition of the CDU, the CSU and the Free Democrats. The next day, the occupation statute came into force, granting powers of self-government with certain exceptions.

In 1949 the new provisional capital of the Federal Republic of Germany was established in Bonn, after Chancellor Konrad Adenauer intervened emphatically for Bonn (which was only fifteen kilometers away from his hometown). Most of the members of the German constitutional assembly (as well as the U.S. Supreme Command) had favored Frankfurt am Main where the Hessian administration had already started the construction of an assembly hall. The Parlamentarischer Rat (interim parliament) proposed a new location for the capital, as Berlin was then a special administrative region controlled directly by the allies and surrounded by the Soviet zone of occupation. The former Reichstag building in Berlin was occasionally used as a venue for sittings of the Bundestag and its committees and the Bundesversammlung, the body which elects the German Federal President. However, the Soviets disrupted the use of the Reichstag building by flying very noisy supersonic jets near the building. A number of cities were proposed to host the federal government, and Kassel (among others) was eliminated in the first round. Other politicians opposed the choice of Frankfurt out of concern that, as one of the largest German cities and a former centre of the Holy Roman Empire, it would be accepted as a "permanent" capital of Germany, thereby weakening the West German population's support for reunification and the eventual return of the Government to Berlin.

After the Petersberg agreement West Germany quickly progressed toward fuller sovereignty and association with its European neighbors and the Atlantic community. The London and Paris agreements of 1954 restored most of the state's sovereignty (with some exceptions) in May 1955 and opened the way for German membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In April 1951, West Germany joined with France, Italy and the Benelux countries in the European Coal and Steel Community (forerunner of the European Union). [41]

The outbreak of the Korean War (June 1950) led to Washington calling for the rearmament of West Germany in order to defend western Europe from the Soviet threat. But the memory of German aggression led other European states to seek tight control over the West German military. Germany's partners in the Coal and Steel Community decided to establish a European Defence Community (EDC), with an integrated army, navy and air force, composed of the armed forces of its member states. The West German military would be subject to complete EDC control, but the other EDC member states (Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) would cooperate in the EDC while maintaining independent control of their own armed forces.

Though the EDC treaty was signed (May 1952), it never entered into force. France's Gaullists rejected it on the grounds that it threatened national sovereignty, and when the French National Assembly refused to ratify it (August 1954), the treaty died. The French had killed their own proposal. Other means had to be found to allow West German rearmament. In response, the Brussels Treaty was modified to include West Germany, and to form the Western European Union (WEU). West Germany was to be permitted to rearm, and have full sovereign control of its military the WEU would, however, regulate the size of the armed forces permitted to each of its member states. Fears of a return to Nazism, however, soon receded, and as a consequence, these provisions of the WEU treaty have little effect today.

Between 1949 and 1960, the West German economy grew at an unparalleled rate. [42] Low rates of inflation, modest wage increases and a quickly rising export quota made it possible to restore the economy and brought a modest prosperity. According to the official statistics the German gross national product grew in average by about 7% annually between 1950 and 1960.

GNP growth 1950–1960
1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960
+ 10.5 + 8.3 + 7.5 + 7.4 +11.5 + 6.9 + 5.4 +3.3 + 6.7 +8.8

The initial demand for housing, the growing demand for machine tools, chemicals, and automobiles and a rapidly increasing agricultural production were the initial triggers to this 'Wirtschaftswunder' (economic miracle) as it was known, although there was nothing miraculous about it. The era became closely linked with the name of Ludwig Erhard, who led the Ministry of Economics during the decade. Unemployment at the start of the decade stood at 10.3%, but by 1960 it had dropped to 1.2%, practically speaking full employment. In fact, there was a growing demand for labor in many industries as the workforce grew by 3% per annum, the reserves of labor were virtually used up. [43] : 36 The millions of displaced persons and the refugees from the eastern provinces had all been integrated into the workforce. At the end of the decade, thousands of younger East Germans were packing their bags and migrating westwards, posing an ever-growing problem for the GDR nomenclature. With the construction of the Berlin wall in August 1961 they hoped to end the loss of labor and in doing so they posed the West German government with a new problem—how to satisfy the apparently insatiable demand for labor. The answer was to recruit unskilled workers from Southern European countries the era of the Gastarbeiter (foreign laborers) began.

In October 1961 an initial agreement was signed with the Turkish government and the first Gastarbeiter began to arrive. By 1966, some 1,300,000 foreign workers had been recruited mainly from Italy, Turkey, Spain, and Greece. By 1971, the number had reached 2.6 million workers. The initial plan was that single workers would come to Germany, would work for a limited number of years and then return home. The significant differences between wages in their home countries and in Germany led many workers to bring their families and to settle—at least until retirement—in Germany. That the German authorities took little notice of the radical changes that these shifts of population structure meant was the cause of considerable debate in later years. [ citation needed ]

In the 1950s Federal Republic, restitution laws for compensation for those who had suffered under the Nazis was limited to only those who had suffered from "racial, religious or political reasons", which were defined in such a way as to sharply limit the number of people entitled to collect compensation. [44] : 564 According to the 1953 law on compensation for suffering during the National Socialist era, only those with a territorial connection with Germany could receive compensation for their suffering, which had the effect of excluding the millions of people, mostly from Central and Eastern Europe, who had been taken to Germany to work as slave labor during World War II. [44] : 565 In the same vein, to be eligible for compensation they would have to prove that they were part of the "realm of German language and culture", a requirement that excluded most of the surviving slave laborers who did not know German or at least enough German to be considered part of the "realm of German language and culture". [44] : 567 Likewise, the law excluded homosexuals, Gypsies, Communists, Asoziale ("Asocials" - people considered by the National Socialist state to be anti-social, a broad category comprising anyone from petty criminals to people who were merely eccentric and non-conformist), and homeless people for their suffering in the concentration camps under the grounds that all these people were "criminals" whom the state was protecting German society from by sending them to concentration camps, and in essence these victims of the National Socialist state got what they deserved, making them unworthy of compensation. [44] : 564, 565 In this regard it is significant [ according to whom? ] that the 1935 version of Paragraph 175 was not repealed until 1969. [45] As a result, German homosexuals - in many cases survivors of the concentration camps - between 1949 and 1969 continued to be convicted under the same law that had been used to convict them between 1935 and 1945, though in the period 1949–69 they were sent to prison rather than to a concentration camp. [45]

A study done in 1953 showed that of the 42,000 people who had survived the Buchenwald concentration camp, only 700 were entitled to compensation under the 1953 law. [44] : 564 The German historian Alf Lüdtke wrote that the decision to deny that the Roma and the Sinti had been victims of National Socialist racism and to exclude the Roma and Sinti from compensation under the grounds that they were all "criminals" reflected the same anti-Gypsy racism that made them the target of persecution and genocide during the National Socialist era. [44] : 565, 568–69 The cause of the Roma and Sinti excited so little public interest that it was not until 1979 that a group was founded to lobby for compensation for the Roma and the Sinti survivors. [44] : 568–569 Communist concentration camp survivors were excluded from compensation under the grounds that in 1933 the KPD had been seeking "violent domination" by working for a Communist revolution, and thus the banning of the KPD and the subsequent repression of the Communists were justified. [44] : 564 In 1956, the law was amended to allow Communist concentration camp survivors to collect compensation provided that they had not been associated with Communist causes after 1945, but as almost all the surviving Communists belonged to the Union of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime, which had been banned in 1951 by the Hamburg government as a Communist front organisation, the new law did not help many of the KPD survivors. [44] : 565–566 Compensation started to be paid to most Communist survivors regardless if they had belonged to the VVN or not following a 1967 court ruling, through the same court ruling had excluded those Communists who had "actively" fought the constitutional order after the banning of the KPD again in 1956. [44] : 565–566 Only in the 1980s were demands made mostly from members of the SPD, FDP and above all the Green parties that the Federal Republic pay compensation to the Roma, Sinti, gay, homeless and Asoziale survivors of the concentration camps. [44] : 568

In regards to the memory of the Nazi period in the 1950s Federal Republic, there was a marked tendency to argue that everyone regardless of what side they had been on in World War II were all equally victims of the war. [44] : 561 In the same way, the Nazi regime tended to be portrayed in the 1950s as a small clique of criminals entirely unrepresentative of German society who were sharply demarcated from the rest of German society or as the German historian Alf Ludtke argued in popular memory that it was a case of "us" (i.e ordinary people) ruled over by "them" (i.e. the Nazis). [44] : 561–62 Though the Nazi regime itself was rarely glorified in popular memory, in the 1950s World War II and the Wehrmacht were intensely gloried and celebrated by the public. [46] : 235 In countless memoirs, novels, histories, newspaper articles, films, magazines, and Landserheft (a type of comic book in Germany glorifying war), the Wehrmacht was celebrated as an awesome, heroic fighting force that had fought a "clean war" unlike the SS and which would have won the war as the Wehrmacht was always portrayed as superior to the Allied forces had not been for mistakes on the part of Hitler or workings of "fate". [46] : 235 The Second World War was usually portrayed in heavily romantic aura in various works that celebrated the comradeship and heroism of ordinary soldiers under danger with the war itself being shown as ". a great adventure for idealists and daredevils. " who for the most part had a thoroughly fun time. [46] : 235 The tendency in the 1950s to glorify war by depicting World War II as a fun-filled, grand adventure for the men who served in Hitler's war machine meant the horrors and hardship of the war were often downplayed. In his 2004 essay "Celluloid Soldiers" about post-war German films, the Israeli historian Omer Bartov wrote that German films of the 1950s always showed the average German soldier as a heroic victim: noble, tough, brave, honourable and patriotic, while fighting hard in a senseless war for a regime that he did not care for. [47] Commendations of the victims of the Nazis tended to center around honoring those involved in the July 20 putsch attempt of 1944, which meant annual ceremonies attended by all the leading politicians at the Bendlerblock and Plötzensee Prison to honor those executed for their involvement in the 20 July putsch. [44] : 554–555 By contrast, almost no ceremonies were held in the 1950s at the ruins of the concentration camps like Bergen-Belsen or Dachau, which were ignored and neglected by the Länder governments in charge of their care. [44] : 555 Not until 1966 did the Land of Lower Saxony opened Bergen-Belsen to the public by founding a small "house of documentation", and even then it was in response to criticism that the Lower Saxon government was intentionally neglecting the ruins of Bergen-Belsen. [44] : 555 Though it was usually claimed at the time that everybody in the Second World War was a victim, Ludtke commented that the disparity between the millions of Deutsche Marks spent in the 1950s in turning the Benderblock and Plötzensee prison into sites of remembrance honoring those conservatives executed after the 20 July putsch versus the neglect of the former concentration camps suggested that in both official and popular memory that some victims of the Nazis were considered more worthy of remembrance than others. [44] : 554–555 It was against this context where popular memory was focused on glorifying the heroic deeds of the Wehrmacht while treating the genocide by the National Socialist regime as almost a footnote that in the autumn of 1959 that the philosopher Theodor W. Adorno gave a much-publicized speech on TV that called for Vergangenheitsbewältigung ("coming to terms with the past"). [44] : 550 Adorno stated that most people were engaged in a process of "willful forgetting" about the Nazi period and used euphemistic language to avoid confronting the period such as the use of the term Kristallnacht (Crystal Night) for the pogrom of November 1938. [44] : 550 Adorno called for promoting a critical "consciousness" that would allow people to "come to terms with the past". [44] : 551

West German authorities made great efforts to end the denazification process that had been started by the occupying powers and to liberate war criminals from prison, including those that had been convicted at the Nuremberg trials, while demarcating the sphere of legitimate political activity against blatant attempts at a political rehabilitation of the Nazi regime. [48]

Until the end of occupation in 1990, the three Western Allies retained occupation powers in Berlin and certain responsibilities for Germany as a whole. Under the new arrangements, the Allies stationed troops within West Germany for NATO defense, pursuant to stationing and status-of-forces agreements. With the exception of 45,000 French troops, Allied forces were under NATO's joint defense command. (France withdrew from the collective military command structure of NATO in 1966.)

Political life in West Germany was remarkably stable and orderly. The Adenauer era (1949–63) was followed by a brief period under Ludwig Erhard (1963–66) who, in turn, was replaced by Kurt Georg Kiesinger (1966–69). All governments between 1949 and 1966 were formed by coalitions of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU), either alone or in coalition with the smaller Free Democratic Party (FDP).

The Sixties: a time for reform Edit

The grand old man of German postwar politics had to be dragged—almost literally—out of office in 1963. In 1959, it was time to elect a new President and Adenauer decided that he would place Erhard in this office. Erhard was not enthusiastic, and to everybody's surprise, Adenauer decided at the age of 83 that he would take on the position. His aim was apparently to remain in control of German politics for another ten years despite the growing mood for change, but when his advisers informed him just how limited the powers of the president were he quickly lost interest. [43] : 3 An alternative candidate was needed and eventually the Minister of Agriculture, Heinrich Lübke took on the task and was duly elected.

In October 1962, the weekly news magazine Der Spiegel published an analysis of the West German military defense. The conclusion was that there were several weaknesses in the system. Ten days after publication, the offices of Der Spiegel in Hamburg were raided by the police and quantities of documents were seized under the orders of the CSU Defense Minister Franz Josef Strauss. Chancellor Adenauer proclaimed in the Bundestag that the article was tantamount to high treason and that the authors would be prosecuted. The editor/owner of the magazine, Rudolf Augstein spent some time in jail before the public outcry over the breaking of laws on freedom of the press became too loud to be ignored. The FDP members of Adenauer's cabinet resigned from the government, demanding the resignation of Franz Josef Strauss, Defence Minister, who had decidedly overstepped his competence during the crisis by his heavy-handed attempt to silence Der Spiegel for essentially running a story that was unflattering to him (which incidentally was true). [49] The British historian Frederick Taylor argued that the Federal Republic under Adenauer retained many of the characteristics of the authoritarian "deep state" that existed under the Weimar Republic, and that the Der Spiegel affair marked an important turning point in German values as ordinary people rejected the old authoritarian values in favor of the more democratic values that are today seen as the bedrock of the Federal Republic. [49] Adenauer's own reputation was impaired by Spiegel affair and he announced that he would step down in the autumn of 1963. His successor was to be the Economics Minister Ludwig Erhard, who was the man widely credited as the father of the "economic miracle" of the 1950s and of whom great things were expected. [43] : 5

The proceedings of the War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg had been widely publicised in Germany but, a new generation of teachers, educated with the findings of historical studies, could begin to reveal the truth about the war and the crimes committed in the name of the German people. In 1963, a German court ruled that a KGB assassin named Bohdan Stashynsky who had committed several murders in the Federal Republic in the late 1950s was not legally guilty of murder, but was only an accomplice to murder as the responsibility for Stashynsky's murders rested only with his superiors in Moscow who had given him his orders. [46] : 245 The legal implications of the Stashynsky case, namely that in a totalitarian system only executive decision-makers can be held legally responsible for any murders committed and that anyone else who follows orders and commits murders were just accomplices to murder was to greatly hinder the prosecution of Nazi war criminals in the coming decades, and ensured that even when convicted, that Nazi criminals received the far lighter sentences reserved for accomplices to murders than the harsher sentences given to murderers. [46] : 245 The term executive decision-maker who could be found guilty of murder was reserved by the courts only for those at the highest levels of the Reich leadership during the Nazi period. [46] : 245 The only way that a Nazi criminal could be convicted of murder was to show that they were not following orders at the time and had acted on their initiative when killing someone. [50] One courageous attorney, Fritz Bauer patiently gathered evidence on the guards of the Auschwitz death camp and about twenty were put trial in Frankfurt between 1963-1965 in what came to be known as the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials. The men on trial in Frankfurt were tried only for murders and other crimes that they committed on their own initiative at Auschwitz and were not tried for anything that they did at Auschwitz when following orders, which was considered by the courts to be the lesser crime of accomplice to murder. [50] Because of this, Bauer could only indict for murder those who killed when not following orders, and those who had killed when following orders were indicted as accomplices to murder. Moreover because of the legal distinction between murderers and accomplices to murder, an SS man who killed thousands while operating the gas chambers at Auschwitz could only be found guilty of being accomplice to murder because he had been following orders, while an SS man who had beaten one inmate to death on his initiative could be convicted of murder because he had not been following orders. [50] Daily newspaper reports and visits by school classes to the proceedings revealed to the German public the nature of the concentration camp system and it became evident that the Shoah was of vastly greater dimensions than the German population had believed. (The term 'Holocaust' for the systematic mass-murder of Jews first came into use in 1943 in a New York Times piece that references "the hundreds and thousands of European Jews still surviving the Nazi holocaust". The term came into widespread use to describe the event following the TV film Holocaust in 1978) The processes set in motion by the Auschwitz trial reverberated decades later.

In the early sixties, the rate of economic growth slowed down significantly. In 1962, the growth rate was 4.7% and the following year, 2.0%. After a brief recovery, the growth rate petered into a recession, with no growth in 1967. The economic showdown forced Erhard's resignation in 1966 and he was replaced with Kurt Georg Kiesinger of the CDU. Kiesinger was to attract much controversy because in 1933 he had joined the National Socialist Legal Guild and NSDAP (membership in the former was necessary in order to practice law, but membership in the latter was entirely voluntary).

In order to deal with the problem of the economic slowdown, a new coalition was formed. Kiesinger's 1966–69 grand coalition was between West Germany's two largest parties, the CDU/CSU and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). This was important for the introduction of new emergency acts—the grand coalition gave the ruling parties the two-thirds majority of votes required for their ratification. These controversial acts allowed basic constitutional rights such as freedom of movement to be limited in case of a state of emergency.

During the time leading up to the passing of the laws, there was fierce opposition to them, above all by the Free Democratic Party, the rising German student movement, a group calling itself Notstand der Demokratie (Democracy in Crisis), the Außerparlamentarische Opposition and members of the Campaign against Nuclear Armament. The late 1960s saw the rise of the student movement and university campuses in a constant state of uproar. A key event in the development of open democratic debate occurred in 1967 when the Shah of Iran visited West Berlin. Several thousand demonstrators gathered outside the Opera House where he was to attend a special performance. Supporters of the Shah (later known as 'Jubelperser'), armed with staves and bricks, attacked the protesters while the police stood by and watched. A demonstration in the center was being forcibly dispersed when a bystander named Benno Ohnesorg was shot in the head and killed by a plain-clothed policeman Karl-Heinz Kurras. (It has now been established that the policeman, Kurras, was a paid spy of the East German Stasi security forces.) [ citation needed ] Protest demonstrations continued, and calls for more active opposition by some groups of students were made, which was declared by the press, especially the tabloid Bild-Zeitung newspaper, to be acts of terrorism. The conservative Bild-Zeitung waged a massive campaign against the protesters who were declared to be just hooligans and thugs in the pay of East Germany. The press baron Axel Springer emerged as one of the principal hate figures for the student protesters because of Bild-Zeitung's often violent attacks on them. Protests against the US intervention in Vietnam, mingled with anger over the vigor with which demonstrations were repressed, led to mounting militancy among the students at the universities of Berlin. One of the most prominent campaigners was a young man from East Germany called Rudi Dutschke who also criticised the forms of capitalism that were to be seen in West Berlin. Just before Easter 1968, a young man tried to kill Dutschke as he bicycled to the student union, seriously injuring him. All over West Germany, thousands demonstrated against the Springer newspapers which were seen as the prime cause of the violence against students. Trucks carrying newspapers were set on fire and windows in office buildings broken. [51] In the wake of these demonstrations, in which the question of America's role in Vietnam began to play a bigger role, came a desire among the students to find out more about the role of their parents' generation in the Nazi era.

In 1968, the Bundestag passed a Misdemeanors Bill dealing with traffic misdemeanors, into which a high-ranking civil servant named Dr. Eduard Dreher who had been drafting the bill inserted a prefatory section to the bill under a very misleading heading that declared that henceforth there was a statute of limitations of 15 years from the time of the offense for the crime of being an accomplices to murder which was to apply retroactively, which made it impossible to prosecute war criminals even for being accomplices to murder since the statute of limitations as now defined for the last of the suspects had expired by 1960. [46] : 249 The Bundestag passed the Misdemeanors Bill without bothering to read the bill in its entirety so its members missed Dreher's amendment. [46] : 249 It was estimated in 1969 that thanks to Dreher's amendment to the Misdemeanors Bill that 90% of all Nazi war criminals now enjoyed total immunity from prosecution. [46] : 249–50 The prosecutor Adalbert Rückerl who headed the Central Bureau for the Prosecution of National Socialist Crimes told an interviewer in 1969 that this amendment had done immense harm to the ability of the Bureau to prosecute those suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity. [46] : 249

The calling in question of the actions and policies of the government led to a new climate of debate by the late 1960s. The issues of emancipation, colonialism, environmentalism and grass roots democracy were discussed at all levels of society. In 1979, the environmental party, the Greens, reached the 5% limit required to obtain parliamentary seats in the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen provincial election. Also of great significance was the steady growth of a feminist movement in which women demonstrated for equal rights. Until 1979, a married woman had to have the permission of her husband if she wanted to take on a job or open a bank account. Parallel to this, a gay movement began to grow in the larger cities, especially in West Berlin, where homosexuality had been widely accepted during the twenties in the Weimar Republic. In 1969, the Bundestag repealed the 1935 Nazi amendment to Paragraph 175, which not only made homosexual acts a felony, but had also made any expressions of homosexuality illegal (before 1935 only gay sex had been illegal). However, Paragraph 175 which made homosexual acts illegal remained on the statute books and was not repealed until 1994, although it had been softened in 1973 by making gay sex illegal only with those under the age of 18.

Anger over the treatment of demonstrators following the death of Benno Ohnesorg and the attack on Rudi Dutschke, coupled with growing frustration over the lack of success in achieving their aims, led to growing militancy among students and their supporters. In May 1968, three young people set fire to two department stores in Frankfurt they were brought to trial and made very clear to the court that they regarded their action as a legitimate act in what they described as the 'struggle against imperialism'. [51] The student movement began to split into different factions, ranging from the unattached liberals to the Maoists and supporters of direct action in every form—the anarchists. Several groups set as their objective the aim of radicalizing the industrial workers and, taking an example from activities in Italy of the Brigade Rosse, many students went to work in the factories, but with little or no success. The most notorious of the underground groups was the 'Baader-Meinhof Group', later known as the Red Army Faction, which began by making bank raids to finance their activities and eventually went underground having killed a number of policemen, several bystanders and eventually two prominent West Germans, whom they had taken captive in order to force the release of prisoners sympathetic to their ideas. The "Baader-Meinhof gang" was committed to the overthrow of the Federal Republic via terrorism in order to achieve the establishment of a Communist state. In the 1990s attacks were still being committed under the name "RAF". The last action took place in 1993 and the group announced it was giving up its activities in 1998. Evidence that the groups had been infiltrated by German Intelligence undercover agents has since emerged, partly through the insistence of the son of one of their prominent victims, the State Counsel Buback. [52]

Political developments 1969–1990 Edit

In the 1969 election, the SPD—headed by Willy Brandt—gained enough votes to form a coalition government with the FDP. Although Chancellor for only just over four years, Brandt was one of the most popular politicians in the whole period. Brandt was a gifted speaker and the growth of the Social Democrats from there on was in no small part due to his personality. [ citation needed ] Brandt began a policy of rapprochement with West Germany's eastern neighbors known as Ostpolitik, a policy opposed by the CDU. The issue of improving relations with Poland, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany made for an increasingly aggressive tone in public debates but it was a huge step forward when Willy Brandt and the Foreign Minister, Walther Scheel (FDP) negotiated agreements with all three countries (Moscow Agreement, August 1970, Warsaw Agreement, December 1970, Four-Power Agreement over the status of West Berlin in 1971 and an agreement on relations between West and East Germany, signed in December 1972). [43] : 32 These agreements were the basis for a rapid improvement in the relations between east and west and led, in the long term, to the dismantlement of the Warsaw Treaty and the Soviet Union's control over East-Central Europe. During a visit to Warsaw on 7 December 1970, Brandt made the Warschauer Kniefall by kneeling before a monument to those killed in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, a gesture of humility and penance that no German Chancellor had made until that time. Chancellor Brandt was forced to resign in May 1974, after Günter Guillaume, a senior member of his staff, was uncovered as a spy for the East German intelligence service, the Stasi. Brandt's contributions to world peace led to his winning the Nobel Peace Prize for 1971.

Finance Minister Helmut Schmidt (SPD) formed a coalition and he served as Chancellor from 1974 to 1982. Hans-Dietrich Genscher, a leading FDP official, became Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister. Schmidt, a strong supporter of the European Community (EC) and the Atlantic alliance, emphasized his commitment to "the political unification of Europe in partnership with the USA". [53] Throughout the 1970s, the Red Army Faction had continued its terrorist campaign, assassinating or kidnapping politicians, judges, businessmen, and policemen. The highpoint of the RAF violence came with the German Autumn in autumn 1977. The industrialist Hanns-Martin Schleyer was kidnapped on 5 September 1977 in order to force the government to free the imprisoned leaders of the Baader-Meinhof Gang. A group from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacked Lufthansa Flight 181 to seize further hostages to free the RAF leaders. On 18 October 1977, the Lufthansa jet was stormed in Mogadishu by the GSG 9 commando unit, who were able to free the hostages. The same day, the leaders of the Baader-Meinhof gang, who had been waging a hunger strike, were found dead in their prison cells with gunshot wounds, which led to Schleyer being executed by his captors. The deaths were controversially ruled suicides. [54] The Red Army Faction was to continue its terrorist campaign into the 1990s, but the German Autumn of 1977 was the highpoint of its campaign. That the Federal Republic had faced a crisis caused by a terrorist campaign from the radical left without succumbing to dictatorship as many feared that it would, was seen as vindication of the strength of German democracy. [ citation needed ]

In January 1979, the American mini-series Holocaust aired in West Germany. [44] : 543 The series, which was watched by 20 million people or 50% of West Germans, first brought the matter of the genocide in World War II to widespread public attention in a way that it had never been before. [44] : 545–6 After each part of Holocaust was aired, there was a companion show where a panel of historians could answer questions from people phoning in. [44] : 544–6 The historians' panels were literally overwhelmed with thousands of phone calls from shocked and outraged Germans, a great many of whom stated that they were born after 1945 and that was the first time that they learned that their country had practiced genocide in World War II. [44] : 545–6 By the late 1970s, an initially small number of young people had started to demand that the Länder governments stop neglecting the sites of the concentration camps, and start turning them into proper museums and sites of remembrance, turning them into "locations of learning" meant to jar visitors into thinking critically about the Nazi period. [44] : 556–7

In 1980, the CDU/CSU ran Strauss as their joint candidate in the elections, and he was crushingly [ clarification needed ] defeated by Schmidt. In October 1982, the SPD-FDP coalition fell apart when the FDP joined forces with the CDU/CSU to elect CDU chairman Helmut Kohl as Chancellor in a Constructive Vote of No Confidence. Genscher continued as Foreign Minister in the new Kohl government. Following national elections in March 1983, Kohl emerged in firm control of both the government and the CDU. The CDU/CSU fell just short of an absolute majority, due to the entry into the Bundestag of the Greens, who received 5.6% of the vote. In 1983, despite major protests from peace groups, the Kohl government allowed Pershing II missiles to be stationed in the Federal Republic to counter the deployment of the SS-20 cruise missiles by the Soviet Union in East Germany. In 1985, Kohl, who had something of a tin ear when it came to dealing with the Nazi past, [ clarification needed ] caused much controversy when he invited President Ronald Reagan of the United States to visit the war cemetery at Bitburg to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of World War II. The Bitburg cemetery was soon revealed to contain the graves of SS men, which Kohl stated that he did not see as a problem and that to refuse to honor all of the dead of Bitburg including the SS men buried there was an insult to all Germans. Kohl stated that Reagan could come to the Federal Republic to hold a ceremony to honor the dead of Bitburg or not come at all, and that to change the venue of the service to another war cemetery that did not have SS men buried in it was not acceptable to him. Even more controversy was caused by Reagan's statement that all of the SS men killed fighting for Hitler in World War II were "just kids" who were just as much the victims of Hitler as those who been murdered by the SS in the Holocaust. [55] Despite the huge controversy caused by honoring the SS men buried at Bitburg, the visit to Bitburg went ahead, and Kohl and Reagan honored the dead of Bitburg. What was intended to promote German-American reconciliation turned out to be a public relations disaster that had the opposite effect. Public opinion polls showed that 72% of West Germans supported the service at Bitburg while American public opinion overwhelming disapproved of Reagan honoring the memory of the SS men who gave their lives for Hitler. [ citation needed ]

Despite or perhaps because of the Bitburg controversy, in 1985 a campaign had been started to build a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust in Berlin. [44] : 557 It was felt by at least some Germans that there was something wrong about the Chancellor and the President of the United States honoring the memory of the SS men buried at Bitburg while there was no memorial to any of the people killed in the Holocaust. The campaign to build a Holocaust memorial, which Germany until then lacked, was given a major boost in November 1989 by the call by television journalist Lea Rosh to build the memorial at the site for the former Gestapo headquarters. [44] : 557 In April 1992, the City of Berlin finally decided that a Holocaust memorial could be built. [44] : 557 Along the same lines, in August 1987, protests put a stop to plans by the City of Frankfurt to raze the last remains of the Frankfurt Jewish Ghetto in order to redevelop the land, arguing that the remnants of the Frankfurt ghetto needed to be preserved. [44] : 557

In January 1987, the Kohl-Genscher government was returned to office, but the FDP and the Greens gained at the expense of the larger parties. Kohl's CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, slipped from 48.8% of the vote in 1983 to 44.3%. The SPD fell to 37% long-time SPD chairman Brandt subsequently resigned in April 1987 and was succeeded by Hans-Jochen Vogel. The FDP's share rose from 7% to 9.1%, its best showing since 1980. The Greens' share rose to 8.3% from their 1983 share of 5.6%. Later in 1987, Kohl had a summit with the East German leader Erich Honecker. Unknown to Kohl, the meeting room had been bugged by the Stasi, and the Stasi tapes of the summit had Kohl saying to Honecker that he did not see any realistic chance of reunification in the foreseeable future.

In the Soviet occupation zone, the Social Democratic Party was forced to merge with the Communist Party in April 1946 to form a new party, the Socialist Unity Party (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands or SED). The October 1946 elections resulted in coalition governments in the five Land (state) parliaments with the SED as the undisputed leader.

A series of people's congresses were called in 1948 and early 1949 by the SED. Under Soviet direction, a constitution was drafted on 30 May 1949, and adopted on 7 October, the day when East Germany was formally proclaimed. The People's Chamber (Volkskammer)—the lower house of the East German parliament—and an upper house—the States Chamber (Länderkammer)—were created. (The Länderkammer was abolished again in 1958.) On 11 October 1949, the two houses elected Wilhelm Pieck as President, and an SED government was set up. The Soviet Union and its East European allies immediately recognized East Germany, although it remained largely unrecognized by noncommunist countries until 1972–73. East Germany established the structures of a single-party, centralized, totalitarian communist state. On 23 July 1952, the traditional Länder were abolished and, in their place, 14 Bezirke (districts) were established. Even though other parties formally existed, effectively, all government control was in the hands of the SED, and almost all important government positions were held by SED members.

The National Front was an umbrella organization nominally consisting of the SED, four other political parties controlled and directed by the SED, and the four principal mass organizations—youth, trade unions, women, and culture. However, control was clearly and solely in the hands of the SED. Balloting in East German elections was not secret. As in other Soviet bloc countries, electoral participation was consistently high, as the following results indicate. In October 1950, a year after the formation of the GDR, 98.53% of the electorate voted. 99.72% of the votes were valid and 99.72% were cast in favor of the 'National Front'—the title of the 'coalition' of the Unity Party plus their associates in other conformist groups. In election after election, the votes cast for the Socialist Unity Party were always over 99%, and in 1963, two years after the Berlin Wall was constructed, the support for the S.E.D. was 99.95%. Only 0.05% of the electorate opposed the party according to these results, the veracity of which is disputable. [56]

Industry and agriculture in East Germany Edit

With the formation of a separate East German communist state in October 1949, the Socialist Unity Party faced a huge range of problems. Not only were the cities in ruins, much of the productive machinery and equipment had been seized by the Soviet occupation force and transported to The Soviet Union in order to make some kind of reconstruction possible. While West Germany received loans and other financial assistance from the United States, the GDR was in the role of an exporter of goods to the USSR—a role that its people could ill afford but which they could not avoid.

The S.E.D.'s intention was to transform the GDR into a socialist and later into a communist state. These processes would occur step by step according to the laws of scientific 'Marxism-Leninism' and economic planning was the key to this process. In July 1952, at a conference of the S.E.D., Walter Ulbricht announced that "the democratic (sic) and economic development, and the consciousness (Bewusstsein) of the working class and the majority of the employed classes must be developed so that the construction of Socialism becomes their most important objective." [57] : 453 This meant that the administration, the armed forces, the planning of industry and agriculture would be under the sole authority of the S.E.D. and its planning committee. Industries would be nationalized and collectivization introduced in the farm industry. When the first Five-Year Plan was announced, the flow of refugees out of East Germany began to grow. As a consequence, production fell, food became short and protests occurred in a number of factories. On 14 May 1952, the S.E.D. ordered that the production quotas (the output per man per shift) were to be increased by 10%, but wages to be kept at the former level. This decision was not popular with the new leaders in the Kremlin. Stalin had died in March 1953 and the new leadership was still evolving. The imposition of new production quotas contradicted the new direction of Soviet policies for their satellites. [57] : 454

On 5 June 1953, the S.E.D. announced a 'new course' in which farmers, craftsmen, and factory owners would benefit from a relaxation of controls. The new production quotas remained the East German workers protested and up to sixty strikes occurred the following day. One of the window-dressing projects in the ruins of East Berlin was the construction of Stalin Allee, on which the most 'class-conscious' workers (in S.E.D. propaganda terms) were involved. At a meeting, strikers declared "You give the capitalists (the factory owners) presents, and we are exploited!" [57] : 455 A delegation of building workers marched to the headquarters of the S.E.D. demanding that the production quotas be rescinded. The crowd grew, demands were made for the removal of Ulbricht from office and a general strike called for the following day.

On 17 June 1953 strikes and demonstrations occurred in 250 towns and cities in the GDR. Between 300,000 and 400,000 workers took part in the strikes, which were specifically directed towards the rescinding of the production quotas and were not an attempt to overthrow the government. The strikers were for the most part convinced that the transformation of the GDR into a socialist state was the proper course to take but that the S.E.D. had taken a wrong turn. [57] : 457 The S.E.D. responded with all of the force at its command and also with the help of the Soviet Occupation force. Thousands were arrested, sentenced to jail and many hundreds were forced to leave for West Germany. The S.E.D. later moderated its course but the damage had been done. The real face of the East German regime was revealed. The S.E.D. claimed that the strikes had been instigated by West German agents, but there is no evidence for this. Over 250 strikers were killed, around 100 policemen and some 18 Soviet soldiers died in the uprising [57] : 459 17 June was declared a national day of remembrance in West Germany.

Shortly after World War II, Berlin became the seat of the Allied Control Council, which was to have governed Germany as a whole until the conclusion of a peace settlement. In 1948, however, the Soviet Union refused to participate any longer in the quadripartite administration of Germany. They also refused to continue the joint administration of Berlin and drove the government elected by the people of Berlin out of its seat in the Soviet sector and installed a communist regime in East Berlin. From then until unification, the Western Allies continued to exercise supreme authority—effective only in their sectors—through the Allied Kommandatura. To the degree compatible with the city's special status, however, they turned over control and management of city affairs to the West Berlin Senate and the House of Representatives, governing bodies established by constitutional process and chosen by free elections. The Allies and German authorities in West Germany and West Berlin never recognized the communist city regime in East Berlin or East German authority there.

During the years of West Berlin's isolation—176 kilometers (110 mi.) inside East Germany—the Western Allies encouraged a close relationship between the Government of West Berlin and that of West Germany. Representatives of the city participated as non-voting members in the West German Parliament appropriate West German agencies, such as the supreme administrative court, had their permanent seats in the city and the governing mayor of West Berlin took his turn as President of the Bundesrat. In addition, the Allies carefully consulted with the West German and West Berlin Governments on foreign policy questions involving unification and the status of Berlin.

Between 1948 and 1990, major events such as fairs and festivals were sponsored in West Berlin, and investment in commerce and industry was encouraged by special concessionary tax legislation. The results of such efforts, combined with effective city administration and the West Berliners' energy and spirit, were encouraging. West Berlin's morale was sustained, and its industrial production considerably surpassed the pre-war level.

The Final Settlement Treaty ended Berlin's special status as a separate area under Four Power control. Under the terms of the treaty between West and East Germany, Berlin became the capital of a unified Germany. The Bundestag voted in June 1991 to make Berlin the seat of government. The Government of Germany asked the Allies to maintain a military presence in Berlin until the complete withdrawal of the Western Group of Forces (ex-Soviet) from the territory of the former East Germany. The Russian withdrawal was completed 31 August 1994. Ceremonies were held on 8 September 1994, to mark the final departure of Western Allied troops from Berlin.

Government offices have been moving progressively to Berlin, and it became the formal seat of the federal government in 1999. Berlin also is one of the Federal Republic's 16 Länder.

Under Chancellor Adenauer, West Germany declared its right to speak for the entire German nation with an exclusive mandate. The Hallstein Doctrine involved non-recognition of East Germany and restricted (or often ceased) diplomatic relations with countries that gave East Germany the status of a sovereign state.

The constant stream of East Germans fleeing across the Inner German border to West Germany placed great strains on East German-West German relations in the 1950s. East Germany sealed the borders to West Germany in 1952, but people continued to flee from East Berlin to West Berlin. On 13 August 1961, East Germany began building the Berlin Wall around West Berlin to slow the flood of refugees to a trickle, effectively cutting the city in half and making West Berlin an enclave of the Western world in communist territory. The Wall became the symbol of the Cold War and the division of Europe. Shortly afterward, the main border between the two German states was fortified.

The Letter of Reconciliation of the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops of 1965 was controversial at the time, but is now seen as an important step toward improving relations between the German states and Poland.

In 1969, Chancellor Willy Brandt announced that West Germany would remain firmly rooted in the Atlantic alliance but would intensify efforts to improve relations with the Eastern Bloc, especially East Germany. West Germany commenced this Ostpolitik, initially under fierce opposition from the conservatives, by negotiating nonaggression treaties with the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Hungary.

West Germany's relations with East Germany posed particularly difficult questions. Though 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 gradually improved. In the early 1970s, the Ostpolitik led to a form of mutual recognition between East and West Germany. The Treaty of Moscow (August 1970), the Treaty of Warsaw (December 1970), the Four Power Agreement on Berlin (September 1971), the Transit Agreement (May 1972), and the Basic Treaty (December 1972) helped to normalise relations between East and West Germany and led to both states joining the United Nations in September 1973. The two German states exchanged permanent representatives in 1974, and, in 1987, East German head of state Erich Honecker paid an official visit to West Germany.

Background Edit

International plans for the unification of Germany were made during the early years following the establishment of the two states, but to no avail. In March 1952, the Soviet government proposed the Stalin Note to hold elections for a united German assembly while making the proposed united Germany a neutral state, i.e. a neutral state approved by the people, similar to the Austrians' approval of a neutral Austria. The Western Allied governments refused this initiative, while continuing West Germany's integration into the Western alliance system. The issue was raised again during the Foreign Ministers' Conference in Berlin in January–February 1954, but the western powers refused to make Germany neutral. Following Bonn's adherence to NATO on 9 May 1955, such initiatives were abandoned by both sides.

During the summer of 1989, rapid changes took place in East Germany, which ultimately led to German reunification. Widespread discontent boiled over, following accusations of large scale vote-rigging during the local elections of May 1989. The beginning of the end of Eastern Germany was the Pan-European Picnic in August 1989. The event, which goes back to an idea by Otto von Habsburg, caused the mass exodus of GDR citizens, the media-informed East German population felt the loss of power of their rulers, and the Iron Curtain started to break down completely. Erich Honecker explained to the Daily Mirror regarding the Paneuropean picnic and thus showed his people his own inaction: "Habsburg distributed leaflets far into Poland, on which the East German holidaymakers were invited to a picnic. When they came to the picnic, they were given gifts, food and Deutsche Mark, and then they were persuaded to come to the West." [58] [59] [60] Growing numbers of East Germans emigrated to West Germany via Hungary after the Hungarians decided not to use force to stop them. Thousands of East Germans also tried to reach the West by staging sit-ins at West German diplomatic facilities in other East European capitals. The exodus generated demands within East Germany for political change, and mass demonstrations (Monday demonstrations) with eventually hundreds of thousands of people in several cities—particularly in Leipzig—continued to grow. On 7 October, the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev visited Berlin to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of East Germany and urged the East German leadership to pursue reform, without success. The movement of civil resistance against the East German regime—both the emigration and the demonstrations—continued unabated. [61]

On 18 October, Erich Honecker was forced to resign as head of the SED and as head of state and was replaced by Egon Krenz. But the exodus continued unabated, and pressure for political reform mounted. On 4 November, a demonstration in East Berlin drew as many as 1 million East Germans. Finally, on 9 November 1989, the Berlin Wall was opened, and East Germans were allowed to travel freely. Thousands poured through the wall into the western sectors of Berlin, and on 12 November, East Germany began dismantling it.

On 28 November, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl outlined the 10-Point Plan for the peaceful unification of the two German states, based on free elections in East Germany and a unification of their two economies. In December, the East German Volkskammer eliminated the SED monopoly on power, and the entire Politbüro and Central Committee—including Krenz—resigned. The SED changed its name to the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) and the formation and growth of numerous political groups and parties marked the end of the communist system. Prime Minister Hans Modrow headed a caretaker government which shared power with the new, democratically oriented parties. On 7 December 1989, an agreement was reached to hold free elections in May 1990 and rewrite the East German constitution. On 28 January, all the parties agreed to advance the elections to 18 March, primarily because of an erosion of state authority and because the East German exodus was continuing apace more than 117,000 left in January and February 1990.

In early February 1990, the Modrow government's proposal for a unified, neutral German state was rejected by Chancellor Kohl, who affirmed that a unified Germany must be a member of NATO. Finally, on 18 March, the first free elections were held in East Germany, and a government led by Lothar de Maizière (CDU) was formed under a policy of expeditious unification with West Germany. The freely elected representatives of the Volkskammer held their first session on 5 April, and East Germany peacefully evolved from a communist to a democratically elected government. Free and secret communal (local) elections were held in the GDR on 6 May, and the CDU again won most of the available seats. On 1 July, the two German states entered into an economic and monetary union.

Treaty negotiations Edit

During 1990, in parallel with internal German developments, the Four Powers—the Allies of World War II, being the United States, United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union—together with the two German states negotiated to end Four Power reserved rights for Berlin and Germany as a whole. These "Two-plus-Four" negotiations were mandated at the Ottawa Open Skies conference on 13 February 1990. The six foreign ministers met four times in the ensuing months in Bonn (5 May), Berlin (22 June), Paris (17 July), and Moscow (12 September). The Polish Foreign Minister participated in the part of the Paris meeting that dealt with the Polish-German borders.

Overcoming Soviet objections to a united Germany's membership in NATO was of key importance. This was accomplished in July when the alliance, led by President George H.W. Bush, issued the London Declaration on a transformed NATO. On 16 July, President Gorbachev and Chancellor Kohl announced the agreement in principle on a united Germany in NATO. This cleared the way for the signing in Moscow, on 12 September, of the Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany—in effect the peace treaty that was anticipated at the end of World War II. In addition to terminating Four Power rights, the treaty mandated the withdrawal of all Soviet forces from Germany by the end of 1994, made clear that the current borders (especially the Oder-Neisse line) were viewed as final and definitive, and specified the right of a united Germany to belong to NATO. It also provided for the continued presence of British, French, and American troops in Berlin during the interim period of the Soviet withdrawal. In the treaty, the Germans renounced nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and stated their intention to reduce the (combined) German armed forces to 370,000 within 3 to 4 years after the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, signed in Paris on 19 November 1990, entered into force.

The conclusion of the final settlement cleared the way for the unification of East and West Germany. Formal political union occurred on 3 October 1990, preceded by the GDR declaring its accession to the Federal Republic through Article 23 of West Germany's Basic Law (meaning that constitutionally, East Germany was subsumed into West Germany) but affected in strict legality through the subsequent Unification Treaty of 30 August 1990, which was voted into their constitutions by both the West German Bundestag and the East German Volkskammer on 20 September 1990. [62] These votes simultaneously extinguished the GDR and affected fundamental amendments to the West German Basic Law (including the repeal of the very Article 23 under which the GDR had recently declared its post-dated accession). On 2 December 1990, all-German elections were held for the first time since 1933. The "new" country stayed the same as the West German legal system and institutions were extended to the east. The unified nation kept the name Bundesrepublik Deutschland (though the simple 'Deutschland' would become increasingly common) and retained the West German "Deutsche Mark" for currency as well. Berlin would formally become the capital of the united Germany, but the political institutions remained at Bonn for the time being. Only after a heated 1991 debate did the Bundestag conclude on moving itself and most of the government to Berlin as well, a process that took until 1999 to complete, when the Bundestag held its first session at the reconstructed Reichstag building. Many government departments still maintain sizable presences in Bonn as of 2008.

Aftermath Edit

To this day, there remain vast differences between the former East Germany and West Germany (for example, in lifestyle, wealth, political beliefs, and other matters) and thus it is still common to speak of eastern and western Germany distinctly. The eastern German economy has struggled since unification, and large subsidies are still transferred from west to east.

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