History of Germany

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German History covers the history of the Germanic peoples from ancient times to modern times, and the history of Germany and its predecessor states.

The emergence of Germany as a nation in its own right came later than for most European powers. The German-speaking areas of Europe had historically been parts of diverse other nations, among them Prussia, Austria, and the Holy Roman Empire, along with numerous smaller principalities.

Early Germanic Tribes

The first distinct Germanic tribes emerged around 100 BC in northern Germany, and are usually thought to have migrated south from Scandinavia. From there, the tribes continued to expand, coming in contact with the Celts of Gaul in the west, and Slavic tribes to the east. However, not much is known about the early Germanic people due to the lack of a written language. Most of what is known is due to contact with the Roman Empire and archaeological digs. To the rest of the world, the Germanic tribes inhabited a region known as Germania, Latin for "Land of the Germans".[1] The Roman Empire had plans to expand its borders into the wild lands of Germania, but with their defeat at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, a decision was made by the Roman Emperor Augustus to consolidate the boundaries along the Rhine River, leaving most of Germania free, wild, and untamed. Migrating pressures over the following centuries saw frequent efforts of Germanic tribes trying to enter the Roman Empire. While sometimes these efforts gained temporary success, Rome would invariably defeat these efforts. Some tribes were allowed to settle in the Empire, especially during times of depopulation during plague. During the time of the later Empire, the Germans were both buffers against outside invasions and oftentimes allies, enemies, or both - with some tribes aiding Rome and some tribes invading. In 410 AD, some Germanic tribes assisted the Visigoths under Alaric I in sacking the city of Rome.[2] It was a blow to the Western Empire, but didn't have the importance that it once would have as the capital had moved to Ravenna in 402 AD. But in 476 AD, dissatisfied German mercenaries led by Odoacer captured Ravenna and deposed Emperor Romulus Augustulus. By that time Rome was being attacked or saved almost exclusively by barbarian armies. Since Odoacer refused to assume the title of Emperor, this date is generally considered to be the official end of the Western Roman Empire.[3]

The Holy Roman Empire (843–1806)

The medieval German empire originated from the division of the Carolingian Empire in 843, and was known as the Holy Roman Empire.

It was neither holy, nor Roman, nor a real empire, for the emperor had much prestige but little actual power over the kings, electors, princes, dukes and bishops who actually ruled.

It gradually expanded through the addition of Lorraine, Saxony, Franconia, Thuringia, and Bavaria. The German king was crowned Holy Roman Emperor of these regions in 962. Under the reign of the Salian emperors (1024–1125), the Holy Roman Empire expanded to northern Italy and Burgundy. The edict of the Golden Bull in 1356 provided the constitution of the empire; it established the election of the emperor by seven Prince-Electors, each of whom ruled one of the more powerful principalities or archbishoprics.

Early Modern period

Martyrdom of 10,000 Christians by Albrecht Dürer

In 1517, Martin Luther wrote his 95 Theses questioning the Roman Catholic Church, an act which began the Protestant Reformation. A separate Lutheran church was acknowledged as the new sanctioned religion in many states of Germany in 1530.

Religious conflicts known as the Thirty Years' War pitted Protestant German states against Catholic ones, and devastated the German-speaking lands. Hundreds of thousands of civilians died. The Peace of Westphalia (1648) ended religious warfare in Germany, but the empire was further diminished in importance as numerous independent principalities conttrolled their own affairs.

From 1740 onwards, the dualism between the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy and the Kingdom of Prussia dominated German history. In 1806, the Empire was dissolved by Napoleon.

1806 - 1871

With the fall of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in 1814 the German Confederation, a loosely-organized league of 39 states, began to lay the ground for nationhood. Numerous conflicts between these states marked the first half of the nineteenth century, and it was not until Otto von Bismarck's ascension as chancellor (prime minister) of Prussia that most of the German states were united under Prussian rule as the modern Germany. After the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, the German Empire was formally proclaimed, under Kaiser Wilhelm I, with its capital in Berlin. Austria remained independent.


Political disunity (Germany did not become unified until 1870) and deep conservatism made it difficult to build railways in the 1830s. However, by the 1840s, trunk lines did link the major cities, although each German state was responsible for the lines within its own borders. Economist Frederick List summed up the advantages to be derived from the development of the railway system in 1841:

First, as a means of national defense, it facilitates the concentration, distribution and direction of the army. 2. It is a means to the improvement of the culture of the nation…. It brings talent, knowledge and skill of every kind readily to market. 3. It secures the community against dearth and famine, and against excessive fluctuation in the prices of the necessaries of life. 4. It promotes the spirit of the nation, as it has a tendency to destroy the Philistine spirit arising from isolation and provincial prejudice and vanity. It binds nations by ligaments, and promotes an interchange of food and of commodities, thus making it feel to be a unit. The iron rails become a nerve system, which, on the one hand, strengthens public opinion, and, on the other hand, strengthens the power of the state for police and governmental purposes.[4]

Lacking a technological base at first, the Germans imported their engineering and hardware from Britain, but quickly learned the skills needed to operate and expand the railways. In many cities, the new railway shops were the centers of technological awareness and training, so that by 1850, Germany was self-sufficient in meeting the demands of railroad construction, and the railways were a major impetus for the growth of the new steel industry. Observers found that even as late as 1890, their engineering was inferior to Britain's. However, German unification in 1870 stimulated consolidation, nationalization into state-owned companies, and further rapid growth. Unlike the situation in France, the goal was support of industrialization, and so heavy lines crisscrossed the Ruhr and other industrial districts, and provided good connections to the major ports of Hamburg and Bremen. By 1880, Germany had 9,400 locomotives pulling 43,000 passengers and 30,000 tons of freight.

Imperial Germany

After Germany was united by Bismarck into the Second German Reich, Bismarck determined German politics until 1890. Bismarck tried to foster alliances in Europe, on one hand to contain France, and on on the other hand to consolidate Germany's influence in Europe. On the domestic front Bismarck tried to stem the rise of socialism by anti-socialist laws, combined with an introduction of health care and social security. At the same time Bismarck tried to reduce the political influence of the emancipated Catholic minority in the Kulturkampf, literally "culture struggle". The Catholics only grew stronger, forming the Center (Zentrum) Party.

Germany grew rapidly in industrial and economic power, matching Britain by 1900. Its highly professional army was the best in the world, but the navy could never catch up with Britain's Royal Navy.

In 1888, the young and ambitious Kaiser Wilhelm II became emperor. He could not abide advice, least of all from the most experiencesd politician and diplomat in Europe, so he fired Bismarck. The Kaiser opposed Bismarck's careful foreign policy and wanted Germany to pursue colonialist policies, as Britain and France had been doing for decades, as well as build a navy that could match the British. The Kaiser promoted active colonization of Africa and Asia for those areas that were not already colonies of other European powers; his record was notoriously brutal and set the stage for genocide. The Kaiser took a mostly unilateral approach in Europe with as main ally the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and an arms race with Britain, which eventually led to the situation in which the assassination of the Austrian-Hungarian crown price could spark off World War I.

World War I

Weimar Republic

Germany's involvement and eventual defeat in World War I led to a harsh turn in German fortunes. The government of the German Kaiser was replaced by the Weimar Republic, and the new social-democratic government had to accept the resulting "peace" established by the Treaty of Versailles; it forced Germany to take full blame for the war and to pay huge reparations to the allied victors. As reparations payments couldn't be paid in full through hard currency, compliance was forced through goods such as coal and ore and French occupation of German factories in the Ruhr. The German economy collapsed. Inflation, which had seen the value of the German mark fall from 8.9 Mark to the US Dollar shortly after the war[5] to 9,000 Mark to the US Dollar by the start of 1923, now careened out of control as hyper-inflation set in. By November 15, 1923, the exchange rate was 4.2 trillion Mark to the US dollar.[6] The combination of the Versailles Treaty, which the Germans considered to be harsh and unfair, combined with what was happening to the German nation left the German people bitter and disenchanted. An introduction of a new currency stabilized the German economy and from 1925 to 1928 German productivity grew from a value of 70 billion Reichsmark to 88 billion Reichsmark.[7] This change turned out to be short-lived with the onset of the Great Depression and renewed hardship.

Nazi period

Nazi crowd salute.

Germany entered a period of permanent political and constitutional crisis. It was during these difficult years starting with the end of World War I that new voices rose up in Germany, one of which was from a struggling artist turned revolutionist named Adolf Hitler.

The National Socialist (Nazi) Party, led by Hitler, stressed nationalist and racist themes while promising to put the unemployed back to work. The party blamed many of Germany's ills on the alleged influence of Jewish and non-German ethnic groups. The party also gained support in response to fears of growing communist strength. In the 1932 elections, the Nazis won a third of the vote. In a fragmented party structure, this gave the Nazis a powerful parliamentary caucus, and Hitler was asked to form a government. He quickly declined. The Republic eroded and Hitler had himself nominated as Reich Chancellor in January 1933. After President Paul von Hindenburg died in 1934, Hitler assumed that office as well.


Once in power, Hitler and his Nazi party first undermined and then abolished democratic institutions and opposition parties. The Nazi leadership immediately jailed many Jewish citizens and opposition figures and withdrew their political rights. Hitler's Nuremberg Laws subsequently deprived all of Germany's Jews of their political rights and also of their economic assets and professional licenses, foreshadowing the systematic plundering of Jewish assets throughout Nazi-occupied territory. The Nazis implemented a program of genocide, at first through incarceration and forced labor and then by establishing death camps. In a catastrophe generally known as the Holocaust or Shoah, roughly six million European Jews from Germany and Nazi-occupied countries were murdered in these death camps and in the killing fields set up behind military lines on the Eastern Front. Hitler's henchmen also carried out a campaign of ethnic extermination against Europe's Roma/Sinti and murdered thousands of homosexuals, mentally disabled people, and opposition figures.

World War II, 1939-1945

Nazi revanchism and expansionism led to World War II, which resulted in the destruction of Germany's political and economic infrastructures and led to its division.


After Germany's unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945, the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union and France occupied the country and assumed responsibility for its administration. The commanders in chief exercised supreme authority in their respective zones and acted in concert on questions affecting the whole country.

The United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union agreed at Potsdam in August 1945 to treat Germany as a single economic unit with some central administrative departments in a decentralized framework.

Soviet policy turned increasingly toward dominating the part of Europe where Soviet armies were present, including eastern Germany. From the Kremlin's point of view, it was the powerful United States rather than devastated Germany that posed the main long-term military threat to the Soviet Union. Stalin wanted U.S. troops withdrawn from Germany and, indeed, from all of Europe, and to prevent Germany's integratation into the western political, economic, and military system. This objective followed the basic line of Soviet foreign policy since the 1920s: to hinder a united western front against the Soviet Union. The policy failed: American troops remained and the western two-thirds of Germany became integrated into a free Europe.

In 1948, the Soviets, in an attempt to abrogate agreements for Four-Power control of the city, blockaded Berlin. Until May 1949, the Allied-occupied part of Berlin was kept supplied only by an Allied airlift. The "Berlin airlift" succeeded in forcing the Soviets to accept, for the time being, the Allied role and the continuation of freedom in a portion of the city, West Berlin.

West Germany

see Konrad Adenauer


The United States and Britain established a nucleus for a future German government by creating a central Economic Council for their two zones. The program later provided for a 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. The western portion of the country became the Federal Republic of Germany, and was usually called West Germany.

On May 23, 1949, the Basic Law, which came to be known as the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany, was promulgated. Konrad Adenauer, a Catholic politician from Cologne who had opposed the Nazis and founded the CDU became the first federal Chancellor on September 20, 1949. The next day, the occupation statute came into force, granting powers of self-government with certain exceptions. Berlin had been split in 1945, and West Berlin remained under control of the U.S., Britain and France, while the Soviets allowed East Germany to become an independent state and absorb East Berlin.

As part of an ongoing commitment to deal with its historic responsibility, the Federal Republic of Germany took upon itself a leading role in the field of Holocaust education and support for research into this dark period of history. It has also paid out nearly 63 billion Euros as a measure of compensation to Jewish survivors and heirs of the Holocaust and other victims of Nazism, such as forced laborers from many European countries.

The F.R.G. quickly progressed toward fuller sovereignty and association with its European neighbors and the Atlantic community. The London and Paris agreements of 1954 restored full sovereignty (with some exceptions) to the F.R.G. in May 1955 and opened the way for German membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Western European Union (WEU).

The three Western Allies retained occupation powers in Berlin and certain responsibilities for Germany as a whole, including responsibility for the determination of Germany's eastern borders. Under the new arrangements, the Allies stationed troops within the F.R.G. 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 NATO's military command structure in 1966.)

Political life in the F.R.G. was remarkably stable and orderly. After Adenauer's chancellorship (1949–63), Ludwig Erhard (1963-66) and Kurt Georg Kiesinger (1966–69) served as Chancellor. Between 1949 and 1966 the united caucus of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU), either alone or with the smaller Free Democratic Party (FDP), formed the government. Kiesinger's 1966-69 "Grand Coalition" included the F.R.G.'s two largest parties, CDU/CSU and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). After the 1969 election, the SPD, headed by Willy Brandt, formed a coalition government with the FDP. Brandt resigned in May 1974, after a senior member of his staff was uncovered as an East German spy.

Helmut Schmidt (SPD) succeeded Brandt, serving as Chancellor from 1974 to 1982. Hans-Dietrich Genscher, a leading FDP official, became Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister, a position he would hold until 1992.

In October 1982, the FDP joined forces with the CDU/CSU to make CDU Chairman Helmut Kohl the Chancellor. Following national elections in March 1983, Kohl emerged in firm control of both the government and the CDU. He served until the CDU's election defeat in 1998. In 1983, a new political party, the Greens, entered the Bundestag for the first time.

East Germany

In the Soviet zone, the Communist Party forced the Social Democratic Party to merge in 1946 to form the Socialist Unity Party (SED). Under Soviet direction, a constitution was drafted on May 30, 1949, and adopted on October 7 when the German Democratic Republic was proclaimed. On October 11, 1949, a SED government under Wilhelm Pieck was established. The Soviet Union and its East European allies immediately recognized the G.D.R. The United States and most other countries did not recognize the G.D.R. until a series of agreements in 1972–73.

The G.D.R. established the structures of a single-party, centralized, communist state. On July 23, 1952, the G.D.R. abolished the traditional Laender and established 14 Bezirke (districts). Formally, there existed a "National Front"—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 G.D.R. elections was not secret. On June 17, 1953, East Germans revolted against totalitarian rule. The F.R.G. marked the bloody revolt by making the date the West German National Day, which remained until reunification.


During the 1950s, East Germans fled to the West by the millions. The Soviets made the inner German border increasingly tight, but Berlin's Four-Power status countered such restrictions. Berlin thus became an escape point for even greater numbers of East Germans. On August 13, 1961, the G.D.R. began building a wall through the center of Berlin, slowing down the flood of refugees and dividing the city. The Berlin Wall became the symbol of the East's political debility and the division of Europe.

In 1969, Chancellor Willy Brandt announced that the F.R.G. would remain firmly rooted in the Atlantic Alliance but would intensify efforts to improve relations with Eastern Europe and the G.D.R. The F.R.G. commenced this "Ostpolitik" by negotiating nonaggression treaties with the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Hungary. Based upon Brandt's policies, in 1971 the Four Powers concluded a Quadripartite Agreement on Berlin to address practical questions the division posed, without prejudice to each party's view of the city's Four Power status.

The F.R.G.'s relations with the G.D.R. posed particularly difficult questions. Though anxious to relieve serious hardships for divided families and to reduce friction, the F.R.G. under Brandt was intent on holding to its concept of "two German states in one German nation." Relations improved, however, and in September 1973, the F.R.G. and the G.D.R. were admitted to the United Nations. The two Germanys exchanged permanent representatives in 1974, and, in 1987, G.D.R. head of state Erich Honecker paid an official visit to the F.R.G.


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 Soviets 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 its place. 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 Berlin Senat (executive) and House of Representatives, governing bodies established by constitutional process and chosen by free elections. The Allies and German authorities in the F.R.G. and West Berlin never recognized the communist city regime in East Berlin or G.D.R. authority there.

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

Between 1948 and 1990, major events such as fairs and festivals took place in West Berlin, and the F.R.G. encouraged investment in commerce by special concessionary tax legislation. The results of such efforts, combined with effective city administration and the Berliners' energy and spirit, were encouraging. Berlin's morale remained high, and its industrial production considerably surpassed its prewar level.

German Unification, 1989-1991

During the summer of 1989, rapid changes took place in the G.D.R. Pressures for political opening throughout Eastern Europe had not seemed to affect the G.D.R. regime. However, Hungary ended its border restrictions with Austria, and a growing flood of East Germans began to take advantage of this route to West Germany. Thousands of East Germans also tried to reach the West by staging sit-ins at F.R.G. diplomatic facilities in other East European capitals. The exodus generated demands within the G.D.R. for political change, and mass demonstrations in several cities—particularly in Leipzig—continued to grow. On October 7, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev visited Berlin to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the G.D.R. and urged the East German leadership to pursue reform.

On October 18, Erich Honecker resigned and was replaced by Egon Krenz. The exodus continued unabated, and pressure for political reform mounted. Finally, on November 9, the G.D.R. allowed East Germans to travel freely. Thousands poured through the Berlin Wall into the western sectors of Berlin. The Wall was opened.

On November 28, F.R.G .Chancellor Kohl outlined a 10-point plan for the peaceful unification of the two Germanys. In December, the G.D.R. Volkskammer eliminated the SED's monopoly on power. The SED changed its name to the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), and numerous political groups and parties formed. The communist system had been eliminated. A new Prime Minister, Hans Modrow, headed a caretaker government that shared power with the new, democratically oriented parties.

In early February 1990, Chancellor Kohl rejected the Modrow government's proposal for a unified, neutral Germany. Kohl affirmed that a unified Germany must be a member of NATO. Finally, on March 18, the first free elections were held in the G.D.R., and Lothar de Maiziere (CDU) formed a government under a policy of expeditious unification with the F.R.G. The freely elected representatives of the Volkskammer held their first session on April 5, and the G.D.R. peacefully evolved from a communist to a democratically elected government.

Four Power Control Ends

In 1990, as a necessary step for German unification and in parallel with internal German developments, the two German states and the Four Powers—the United States, U.K., France, and the Soviet Union—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 February 13, 1990. The six foreign ministers met four times in the ensuing months in Bonn (May 5), Berlin (June 22), Paris (July 17), and Moscow (September 12). The Polish Foreign Minister participated in the part of the Paris meeting that dealt with the Polish-German borders.

Of key importance was overcoming Soviet objections to a united Germany's membership in NATO. The Alliance was already responding to the changing circumstances, and, in NATO, issued the London Declaration on a transformed NATO. On July 16, after a bilateral meeting, Gorbachev and Kohl announced an agreement in principle to permit a united Germany in NATO. This cleared the way for the signing of the "Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany" in Moscow on September 12. In addition to terminating Four Power rights, the treaty mandated the withdrawal of all Soviet forces from Germany by the end of 1994. This made it clear that the current borders were 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 German armed forces to 370,000 within 3 to 4 years after the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, signed in Paris on November 19, 1990, entered into force.

German unification could then proceed. In accordance with Article 23 of the F.R.G.'s Basic Law, the five Laender (which had been reestablished in the G.D.R.) acceded to the F.R.G. on October 3, 1990. The F.R.G. proclaimed October 3 as its new national day. On December 2, 1990, all-German elections were held for the first time since 1933.

The Final Settlement Treaty ended Berlin's special status as a separate area under Four Power control. Under the terms of the treaty between the F.R.G. and the G.D.R., 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 G.D.R. The Russian withdrawal was completed August 31, 1994. On September 8, 1994, ceremonies marked the final departure of Western Allied troops from Berlin.

In 1999, the formal seat of the federal government moved from Bonn to Berlin. Berlin also is one of the Federal Republic's 16 Laender.

United Germany

Former German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle welcomes former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in Berlin, 2010.

From 1982 to 1998 Conservative chancellor Helmut Kohl (CDU) ruled the country under a coalition of CDU and the liberal-libertarian Free Democratic Party. Since then the left-center SPD and environmental Alliance '90/The Greens with chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) were in power. He was succeeded by Angela Merkel (CDU), who had a coalition with the SPD (2005-2009), the FDP (2009-2013) and since 2013 with the SPD again.

During the European migrant crisis Angela Merkel's open borders policies allowed more than 2.5 million refugees and migrants to enter Germany. Merkel opposed setting an upper limit on the number of refugees Germany would allow in annually.[8]

See also


Surveys and historiography

  • Bithell, Jethro, ed. Germany: A Companion to German Studies (5th ed. 1955), 578pp; essays on German literature, music, philosophy, art and, especially, history. online edition
  • Buse, Dieter K. ed. Modern Germany: An Encyclopedia of History, People, and Culture 1871-1990 (2 vol 1998)
  • Detwiler, Donald S. Germany: A Short History (3rd ed. 1999) 341pp; online edition
  • Evans, Richard J. Rereading German History: From Unification to Reunification, 1800-1996 (1997) online edition
  • Fulbrook, Mary. A Concise History of Germany (2004) excerpt and text search
  • Holborn, Hajo. A History of Modern Germany (3 vol 1959-64); vol 1: The Reformation; vol 2: 1648-1840 online and text search; vol 3. 1840-1945
  • Maehl, William Harvey. Germany in Western Civilization (1979), 833pp
  • Ozment, Steven. A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People (2005) excerpt and text search
  • Reinhardt, Kurt F. Germany: 2000 Years (2 vols., 1961), stress on cultural topics
  • Schulze, Hagen, and Deborah Lucas Schneider. Germany: A New History (2001) excerpt and text search
  • Taylor, A. J. P. The Course of German History: A Survey of the Development of German History since 1815. (2001). 280pp; online edition; also excerpt and text search

Pre 1870


  • Arnold, Benjamin. Medieval Germany, 500-1300: A Political Interpretation (1998)
  • Barraclough, Geoffrey. The Origins of Modern Germany (2d ed., 1947)
  • Fuhrmann, Horst, and Timothy Reuter. Germany in the High Middle Ages: c.1050-1200 (1986) excerpt and text search
  • Haverkamp, Alfred, Helga Braun, and Richard Mortimer. Medieval Germany 1056-1273 (1992)
  • Jeep, John M. Medieval Germany: An Encyclopedia (2001), 928pp, 650 articles by 200 scholars cover A.D. 500 to 1500 excerpt and text search
  • Reuter, Timothy. Germany in the Early Middle Ages, C. 800-1056 (1991)


see also Martin Luther

  • Bainton, Roland H. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (1978; reprinted 1995) excerpt and text search
  • Dickens, A. G. Martin Luther and the Reformation (1969), basic introduction
  • Junghans, Helmar. Martin Luther: Exploring His Life and Times, 1483–1546. (book plus CD ROM) (1998)
  • Ranke, Leopold von. History of the Reformation in Germany (1905) 792 pp; by Germany's foremost scholar complete text online free
  • Smith, Preserved. The Life and Letters of Martin Luther. (1911) complete edition online free

Early Modern to 1815

  • Asprey, Robert B. Frederick the Great: The Magnificent Enigma (2007) excerpt and text search
  • Clark, Christopher. Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 (2006)
  • Heal, Bridget. The Cult of the Virgin Mary in Early Modern Germany: Protestant and Catholic Piety, 1500-1648 (2007) excerpt and text search
  • Hughes, Michael. Early Modern Germany, 1477-1806 (1992) [ excerpt and text search]
  • Ozment, Steven. Flesh and Spirit: Private Life in Early Modern Germany (2001) excerpt and text search


  • Berghahn, Volker Rolf. Modern Germany: society, economy, and politics in the twentieth century (1987) ACLS E-book
  • Blackbourn, David, and Geoff Eley. The Peculiarities of German History: Bourgeois Society and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Germany (1984) online edition
  • Brose, Eric Dorn. German History, 1789-1871: From the Holy Roman Empire to the Bismarckian Reich. (1997) online edition
  • Craig, Gordon A. Germany, 1866-1945 (1978) online edition
  • Mann, Golo. History of Germany since 1789 (1968), very well written
  • Mommsen, Wolfgang J. Imperial Germany 1867-1918: Politics, Culture and Society in an Authoritarian State (1995)
  • Retallack, James. Germany in the Age of Kaiser Wilhelm II (1996) excerpt and text search
  • Scheck, Raffael. “Lecture Notes, Germany and Europe, 1871-1945” (2008) full text online, a brief textbook by a leading scholar
  • Sheehan, James J. German History, 1770-1866 (1993), the major survey in English except and text search
  • Sheehan, James J. German Liberalism in the Nineteenth Century (1978, 1995) excerpt and text search
  • Wehler, Hans-Ulrich. The German Empire 1871-1918 (1984)

Nazi era

see also Nazi Party for more books

  • Bracher, Karl D. The German Dictatorship: The Origins, Structure and Consequences of National Socialism (1973). Influential analysis by political scientist
  • Burleigh, Michael. The Third Reich: A New History. (2000). 864 pp. Stress on antisemitism; excerpt and text search
  • Evans, Richard J. The Coming of the Third Reich: A History. 2004. 622 pp., a major scholarly survey excerpt and text search
  • Evans, Richard J. The Third Reich in Power: 1933-1939. (2005). 800 pp. The major scholarly study excerpt and text search
  • Evans, Richard J. The Third Reich at war 1939-1945 (2009)
  • Mommsen, Hans. The Third Reich between Vision and Reality: New Perspectives on German History, 1918-1945 (2001) online edition
  • Overy, Richard. The Dictators: Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia (2004) excerpt and text search
  • Roderick, Stacke. Hitler's Germany: Origins, Interpretations, Legacies (1999) excerpt and text search
  • Scheck, Raffael. “Lecture Notes, Germany and Europe, 1871-1945” (2008) full text online, a brief textbook by a leading scholar
  • Zentner, Christian and Bedürftig, Friedemann, eds. The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich. 2 vol. Macmillan, 1991. 1120 pp.

Nazi Leaders

see Adolf Hitler for more books


  • Dawidowicz, Lucy. The War against the Jews, 1933-45, (1977).
  • Friedlander, Saul. Nazi Germany and the Jews: Volume 1: The Years of Persecution 1933-1939 (1998)
  • Friedlander, Saul. The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 (2007), the standard history excerpt and text search
  • Gilbert, Martin. The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War (1987) excerpt and text search
  • Gilbert, Martin. The Routledge Atlas of the Holocaust (2002)excerpt and text search
  • Landau, Ronnie. The Nazi Holocaust (2002)
  • Niewyk, Donald, and Francis Nicosia. The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust. (2000) online edition
  • Wistrich, Robert S. Hitler and the Holocaust. 2001. 295 pp.

Economics and Labor

  • Baranowsky, Shelley. Strength Through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the Third Reich (2004)
  • Overy, R. J. The Nazi Economic Recovery 1932-1938 (1996) excerpt and text search
  • Tooze, Adam. The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy (2007), highly influential new study


  • Benz, Wolfgang, and Walter H. Pehle, eds. Encyclopedia of German Resistance to the Nazi Movement. (1997). 354 pages
  • Hamerow, Theodore S. On the Road to the Wolf's Lair: German Resistance to Hitler (1997) 454 pages
  • R. P. Heller. The Flame of Freedom: The German Struggle against Hitler. (1994) focus on Army online edition
  • Thomsett, Michael C. The German Opposition to Hitler: The Resistance, the Underground, and Assassination Plots, 1938-1945 (2nd ed 2007) 278 pages

Women, children, youth

  • Bridenthal, Renate, Atina Grossmann, and Marion Kaplan. When Biology Became Destiny: Women in Weimar and Nazi Germany (1984).
  • Cosner, Shaaron and Cosner, Victoria. Women under the Third Reich: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood, 1998. 203 pp.
  • Koonz, Claudia. Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, Family Life, and Nazi Ideology, 1919-1945. (1986). 640 pp. The major study
  • Rempel, Gerhard. Hitler's Children: The Hitler Youth and the SS, (1989) online edition
  • Stephenson, Jill. The Nazi Organisation of Women. (1981). 246 pp.
  • Stibbe, Matthew. Women in the Third Reich, 2003, 208 pp.


  • Berghahn, Volker Rolf. Modern Germany: society, economy, and politics in the twentieth century (1987) ACLS E-book
  • Fulbrook, Mary. Anatomy of a Dictatorship: Inside the GDR, 1949-1989 (1998) excerpt and text search
  • Klessmann, Christoph. The Divided Past: Rewriting Post-War German History (2001) online edition
  • Pritchard, Gareth. The Making of the GDR, 1945-53 (2004)
  • Ross, Corey. The East German Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives in the Interpretation of the GDR (2002)

Famous Germans


  • source: U.S. State Department
  1. Medieval Sourcebook Tacitus: Germania
  2. The Sack of Rome
  3. [1]
  4. List in John J. Lalor, ed. Cyclopædia of Political Science (1881) 3:118 online
  5. The 20th Century Day by Day, Dorling and Kingdersley, 2000, Pg. 308
  6. http://www.germannotes.com/hist_inflation.shtml
  7. http://www.sgipt.org/politpsy/finanz/schuldp/weimar.htm
  8. Delcker, Janosch (October 2, 2017). Angela Merkel’s new refugee dilemma. Politico. Retrieved October 3, 2017.