Difference between revisions of "Germany"

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'''Germany''' (official name: '''Federal Republic of Germany''') is a federally organized [[Democracy]] in Western [[Europe]] with a population of about 82.2 million. The capital city and seat of government is [[Berlin]]. The former name of Germany is [[Prussia]] <ref>http://conservapedia.com/index.php?title=Talk%3AWorld_History_Lecture_Nine&diff=645134&oldid=645118</ref>.
'''Germany''' (official name: '''Federal Republic of Germany''') is a federally organized [[Democracy]] in Western [[Europe]] with a population of about 82.2 million. The capital city and seat of government is [[Berlin]].
The major ethnic groups are German 94%, Polish 1%, Yugoslavs 1% and others 4%. 34% of the population are Protestants, 34% are Roman Catholics and 4% are Muslim.<ref>https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/gm.html</ref>  
The major ethnic groups are German 94%, Polish 1%, Yugoslavs 1% and others 4%. 34% of the population are Protestants, 34% are Roman Catholics and 4% are Muslim.<ref>https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/gm.html</ref>  

Revision as of 07:32, 29 March 2009

Bundesrepublik Deutschland
Germany rel 94.jpg
Flag of Germany.JPG
Arms of Germany.png
Flag Coat of Arms
Capital Berlin
Government Federal Republic (Parliamentary)
Language German (official)
President Horst Köhler
Chancellor Angela Merkel
Area 137,858 sq mi
Population 82,310,000 (2006)
GDP per capita $36,975 (2006)
Currency Euro (formerly the Deutsche Mark)

Germany (official name: Federal Republic of Germany) is a federally organized Democracy in Western Europe with a population of about 82.2 million. The capital city and seat of government is Berlin.

The major ethnic groups are German 94%, Polish 1%, Yugoslavs 1% and others 4%. 34% of the population are Protestants, 34% are Roman Catholics and 4% are Muslim.[1]

As Europe's largest economy and the most populous nation wholly within Europe, Germany is a key member of the continent's economic, political, and defense organizations. The central German bank, the Bundesbank, has historically been the most influential force within the financial markets of the European Union.


Most inhabitants of Germany are ethnic German. There are, however, more than 7 million foreign residents, many of whom are the families and descendents of so-called "guest workers" (foreign workers, mostly from Turkey, invited to Germany in the 1950s and 1960s to fill labor shortages) who remained in Germany. Germany has a sizable ethnic Turkish population. Germany is also a prime destination for political and economic refugees from many developing countries. An ethnic Danish minority lives in the north, and a small Slavic minority known as the Sorbs lives in eastern Germany. Due to restrictive German citizenship laws, most "foreigners" do not hold German citizenship even when born and raised in Germany. However, since the German government undertook citizenship and immigration law reforms in 2002, more foreign residents have had the ability to naturalize.

Germany has one of the world's highest levels of education, technological development, and economic productivity. Since the end of World War II, the number of youths entering universities has more than tripled, and the trade and technical schools of the Federal Republic of Germany (F.R.G.) are among the world's best. With a per capita income level of more than $28,700, Germany is a broadly middle class society. A generous social welfare system provides for universal medical care, unemployment compensation, and other social needs. Millions of Germans travel abroad each year.

With unification on October 3, 1990, Germany began the major task of bringing the standard of living of Germans in the former German Democratic Republic (G.D.R.) up to that of western Germany. This has been a lengthy and difficult process due to the relative inefficiency of industrial enterprises in the former G.D.R., difficulties in resolving property ownership in eastern Germany, and the inadequate infrastructure and environmental damage that resulted from years of mismanagement under communist rule.

Economic uncertainty in eastern Germany is often cited as one factor contributing to extremist violence, primarily from the political right. Confusion about the causes of the current hardships and a need to place blame has found expression in harassment and violence by some Germans directed toward foreigners, particularly non-Europeans. The vast majority of Germans condemn such violence.

  • Population (2007 est.): 82 million.
  • Ethnic groups: Primarily German; Danish minority in the north, Sorbian (Slavic) minority in the east; 7.3 million foreign residents.
  • Religions: Protestants (26 million); Roman Catholics (26 million); approximately 3.2 million Muslims.
  • Language: German.
  • Education: Years compulsory--9-13 (depending on the Land); attendance--100%; literacy--99%.
  • Health: Infant mortality rate (2006 est.)--4.12/1,000; life expectancy (2006 est.)--women 81.96 years, men 77.81 years.
  • Persons employed (2006 avg.): 39.08 million; unemployed (2006 avg.): 9.8% of labor force.


Executive Branch

Germany has a President as Head of State. However, his/her political power is small and his position is mostly representative. Although the president has to sign every law, and has the right to refuse signature on constitutional grounds, few president have ever used this right. The president is elected by a joint assembly of the federal parliament and an evenly strong group of electors, who are selected by the state parliaments for a five year term, and he can be re-elected once. During absence and illness of the president, the president of the Bundesrat (comparable to the Senate) assumes the duties of the president.

The actual political power and head of government is the Chancellor ("Bundeskanzler"), who is elected by federal parliament ("Bundestag"). The Chancellor is typically elected in the first session of a newly elected Bundestag for the entire legislative period of four years. The parliament can only force the Chancellor to resign in a constructive motion of no-confidence, if it elects at the same time a new Chancellor. The current Chancellor is Dr. Angela Merkel. The current government [2] is a coalition between the two largest parties, the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and the Social Democrats (SPD).

Legislative Branch

Germany has a bicameral system with a federal parliament ("Bundestag") and a representation of the states ("Bundesrat"). The members of Bundestag in elected every four years, using a personalized proportional system. The members of the Bundesrat are representatives of the state governments, and the delegations of each state are required to vote as a bloc on behalf of their governments. Each delegation has between 3 and 6 members, depending on the size of the represented state. The position of president of the Bundesrat rotates on an annual basis between the prime ministers of the states.

Judicative Branch

The German constitution provides for an independent jurisdiction. The highest appeals court in Germany is the Federal Court of Justice ("Bundesgerichtshof"), which is seated in the Southwestern city of Karlsruhe. Members of the Federal court are elected by a committee, with 16 delegates from the states, one from each state, appointed by the state governments, and 16 delegates appointed by the federal parliament. The Federal Constitutional Court ("Bundesverfassungsgericht") is the highest court to review decisions and acts by the executive and legislative branches of government. It can be called to determine whether public acts are unconstitutional and can render them ineffective if they are not. This court is also seated in city of Karlsruhe, and it members are elected by the Bundesrat and Bundestag, and need a 2/3 majority in each.

Political Parties

Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU)

An important aspect of postwar German politics was the emergence of a moderate, ecumenical Christian party--the Christian Democratic Union (CDU)--operating in alliance with a related Bavarian party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). Although each party maintains its own structure, the two form a common caucus in the Bundestag and do not run opposing campaigns. The CDU/CSU has adherents among Catholics, Protestants, rural interests, and members of all economic classes. It is generally conservative on economic and social policy and more identified with the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches.

Social Democratic Party (SPD)

The SPD is one of the oldest organized political parties in the world. It originally advocated Marxist principles, but in the 1959 Godesberg Program abandoned the concept of a "class party" while continuing to stress social welfare programs. Under the leadership of Gerhard Schroeder, the SPD-Greens government implemented in 2003 the centrist Agenda 2010 reforms, designed to modernize the country's social system and labor market. The SPD has a powerful base in the bigger cities and industrialized states.

Free Democratic Party (FDP)

The FDP has traditionally been composed mainly of middle and upper class Protestants who consider themselves heirs to the European liberal tradition. It supports free trade and reducing the role of the state in economic policy. It is libertarian on social issues. The party has participated in all but three postwar federal governments but has not been in federal government since 1998.

The Left

The PDS (composed largely of former East German communists) and the WASG (composed of western leftists) merged in June 2007 to form a party simply known as "The Left." The party's foreign policy is largely shaped by its rigid opposition to foreign military deployments. On domestic policy, the party opposes economic and social reforms, such as Hartz IV, which aim to increase free markets and reduce unemployment benefits. The Left proposes to replace the free market system with a return to socialist principles.

Alliance 90/Greens

In the late 1970s, environmentalists organized politically as the Greens. Opposition to nuclear power, military power, and certain aspects of highly industrialized society were principal campaign issues. In the December 1990 all-German elections, the Greens merged with the Eastern German Alliance 90, a loose grouping of civil rights activists with diverse political views. The Greens joined a federal government for the first time in 1998, forming a coalition with the SPD.

Other parties

Because of the instability caused by the need for multi-party coalitions in the Weimar Republic, Germany's Basic Law today requires parties reach 5% of the vote to win seats in the Bundestag. In addition to those parties that won representation in the Bundestag in 2005, a variety of minor parties won a cumulative 2.7% of the vote, down from 3.0% in 2002. Several other parties were on the ballot in one or more states but did not qualify for representation in the federal Bundestag.

Principal Government Officials

  • President--Horst Köhler (CDU)
  • President of the Bundestag--Norbert Lammert (CDU)
  • Chancellor--Angela Merkel (CDU)
  • Vice Chancellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs--Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD)
  • Minister of Defense--Franz Josef Jung (CDU)
  • Minister of Finance--Peer Steinbrueck (SPD)
  • Minister of Interior--Wolfgang Schaeuble (CDU)
  • Minister of Labor and Social Affairs--Olaf Scholz (SPD)

Foreign Relations

Germany continues to emphasize close ties with the United States, membership in NATO, and the "deepening" of integration among current members of the EU. The Federal Republic of Germany took part in all of the joint postwar efforts aimed at closer political, economic, and defense cooperation among the countries of western Europe. Germany has been a large net contributor to the EU budget. Germany also is a strong supporter of the United Nations and of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

During the postwar era, the Federal Republic of Germany also sought to improve its relationship with the countries of eastern Europe, first establishing trade agreements and, subsequently, diplomatic relations. With unification, German relations with the new democracies in central and eastern Europe intensified. On November 14, 1990, Germany and Poland signed a treaty confirming the Oder-Neisse border. They also concluded a cooperation treaty on June 17, 1991. Germany concluded four treaties with the Soviet Union covering the overall bilateral relationship, economic relations, the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the territory of the former G.D.R., and German support for those troops. Russia accepted obligations under these treaties as successor to the Soviet Union. Germany continues to be active economically in the states of central and eastern Europe and to actively support the development of democratic institutions, bilaterally and through the EU.

Relations with the United States

U.S.-German relations have been a focal point of American involvement in Europe since the end of World War II. Germany stands at the center of European affairs and is a key partner in U.S. relations with Europeans in NATO and the European Union.

German-American ties extend back to the colonial era. More than 7 million Germans have immigrated over the last three centuries, and today nearly a quarter of U.S. citizens claim German ancestry. In recognition of this heritage and the importance of modern-day U.S.-German ties, the U.S. President annually has proclaimed October 6, the date the first German immigrants arrived in 1623, to be "German-American Day."

U.S. policy toward Germany remains the preservation and consolidation of a close and vital relationship with Germany, not only as friends and trading partners, but also as allies sharing common institutions. During the 45 years in which Germany was divided, the U.S. role in Berlin and the large American military presence in West Germany served as symbols of the U.S. commitment to preserving peace and security in Europe. Since German unification, the U.S. commitment to these goals has not changed. The U.S. made significant reductions in its troop levels in Germany after the Cold War ended, and, on July 12, 1994, President Clinton "cased the colors" at the Berlin Brigade's deactivation ceremony. The U.S., however, continues to recognize that the security and prosperity of the United States and Germany significantly depend on each other.

As allies in NATO, the United States and Germany work side by side to maintain peace and freedom. This unity and resolve made possible the successful conclusion of the 1987 U.S.-U.S.S.R. Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), the Two-plus-Four process--which led to the Final Settlement Treaty--and the November 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty.

More recently, the two allies have cooperated closely in peacekeeping efforts in the Balkans and have worked together to encourage the evolution of open and democratic states throughout central and eastern Europe. Germany is also a strong contributor to our common effort to secure peace and stability in Afghanistan, contributing almost 3,000 troops to the NATO ISAF mission.

Following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC, Germany has been a reliable U.S. ally in the campaign against terrorism. As two of the world's leading trading nations, the United States and Germany share a common, deep-seated commitment to an open and expanding world economy. Personal ties between the United States and Germany extend beyond immigration to include intensive foreign exchange programs, booming tourism in both directions, and the presence in Germany of large numbers of American military personnel and their dependents.

The United States and Germany have built a solid foundation of bilateral cooperation in a relationship that has changed significantly over nearly six decades. The historic unification of Germany and the role the United States played in that process have served to strengthen ties between the two countries.

German-American political, economic, and security relationships continue to be based on close consultation and coordination at the most senior levels. High-level visits take place frequently, and the United States and Germany cooperate actively in international forums.

War on Terror

Germany currently contributes troops to the NATO-led ISAF operation in Afghanistan, but did not support the invasion of Iraq. German military participates in NATO Force Protection Program, protecting US military bases located in Germany.


Neuschwanstein Castle, a popular tourist destination.

Germany is the world's third-largest economy and the largest in Europe. From the 1948 currency reform until the early 1970s, West Germany experienced almost continuous economic expansion. Real gross domestic product (GDP) growth slowed down, and even declined, from the mid-1970s through the recession of the early 1980s. The economy then experienced 8 consecutive years of growth that ended with a downturn beginning in late 1992. Since unification, Germany has seen annual average real growth of only about 1.5% and stubbornly high unemployment. In 2006, Germany had its best year since 2000 with 2.7% growth; for 2007, growth was at 2.5% despite a 3 percentage point VAT hike at the beginning of the year. The government forecasts 1.7% growth in GDP for 2008. Unemployment in 2007 dropped to an annualized average of 9.0% nationwide, but it is still significantly higher--15.1%--in the German states that make up the former East Germany.

Germans often describe their economic system as a "social market economy." The German Government provides an extensive array of social services. The state intervenes in the economy by providing subsidies to selected sectors and by owning some segments of the economy, while promoting competition and free enterprise. The government has restructured the railroad system on a corporate basis, privatized the national airline, and is privatizing telecommunications and postal services.

The German economy is heavily export-oriented, with exports accounting for more than one-third of national output. As a result, exports traditionally have been a key element in German macroeconomic expansion, accounting for over half of the economic growth in recent years. Germany is a strong advocate of closer European economic integration, and its economic and commercial policies are increasingly determined within the European Union (EU). Germany uses the common European currency, the euro, and the European Central Bank sets monetary policy.

In the early-mid 2000s, Germany adopted a complex set of labor/social welfare reforms to overcome structural weaknesses of the German welfare state and to create policies more conductive to employment. Defying a skeptical German public, the coalition government of Chancellor Angela Merkel initiated additional reform measures, such as the gradual increase in the mandatory retirement age from 65 to 67--a move that would add 2.5 million to the workforce by 2030. Subsequently, however, there has been active political debate and some rollback of these labor reforms; most notably the government decided to extend the payment period of unemployment benefits to older workers in early 2008.

Fifteen years after reunification (October 3, 1990), Germany had made great progress in raising the standard of living in eastern Germany, introducing a market economy and improving its infrastructure. At the same time, the process of convergence between east and west is taking longer than originally expected and, on some measures, has stagnated since the mid-1990s. Eastern economic growth rates have been lower than in the west in recent years, unemployment is twice as high, prompting many skilled easterners to seek work in the west, and productivity continues to lag. Eastern consumption levels are dependent on public net financial transfers from west to east totaling about $13 billion per year. In addition to social assistance payments, the government will extend funds to promote eastern economic development through 2019.

The United States is Germany's second-largest trading partner, and U.S.-German trade has continued to grow strongly. Two-way trade in goods totaled $184 billion in 2007. U.S. exports to Germany were $ 71 billion while U.S. imports from Germany were more than $113 billion. At nearly $45 billion, the U.S.'s fifth-largest trade deficit is with Germany. Major U.S. export categories include aircraft, electrical equipment, telecommunications equipment, data processing equipment, and motor vehicles and parts. German export sales are concentrated in motor vehicles, machinery, chemicals, and heavy electrical equipment. Much bilateral trade is intra-industry or intra-firm.

Germany has a liberal foreign investment policy. For 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available, German investment in the U.S. amounted to 233 billion euros (29 % of all German foreign direct investment, or FDI; the U.S. is the number-one destination for German FDI), while U.S. investment in Germany was 45 billion euros (11.5 % of all FDI invested in Germany; U.S. is third-largest source of FDI in Germany).

U.S. firms employ about 510,000 people in Germany; German firms likewise employ about 746,000 people in the United States.

Despite persistence of some structural rigidities in the labor market and extensive government regulation, the economy remains strong and internationally competitive. Although production costs are very high, Germany is still an export powerhouse, and unit labor costs have decreased in the last 10 years. Additionally, Germany is strategically placed to take advantage of the rapidly growing central European countries. The current government has addressed some of the country's structural problems, with important tax, social security, and financial sector reforms.

  • GDP (2007 est.): $3.1 trillion.
  • Annual growth rate: (2006) 2.7%; (2007) 2.5%.
  • Per capita income (PPP, 2006): $31,900.
  • Inflation rate (consumer prices, 2007): 2.2%.
  • Natural resources: Iron, hard coal, lignite, potash, natural gas.
  • Agriculture (0.9% of GDP): Products--corn, wheat, potatoes, sugar, beets, barley, hops, viticulture, forestry, fisheries.
  • Industry (29.1% of GDP): Types--car-making; mechanical, electrical, and precision engineering; chemicals; environmental technology; optics; medical technology; biotech and genetic engineering; nanotechnology; aerospace; logistics.
  • Trade (2006): Exports--$1.03 trillion: chemicals, motor vehicles, iron and steel products, manufactured goods, electrical products. Major markets--France, U.S., and U.K. Imports--$844 billion: food, petroleum products, manufactured goods, electrical products, motor vehicles, apparel. Major suppliers--France, Netherlands, U.S.

The German economy showed substantial improvement in 2007 at 2.5% growth due to the effect of recent economic reforms and strong global economic growth. The export-led recovery is now filtering through to the domestic economy where private consumption has long been at a low level.

Crisis of 2008

The worldwide Financial Crisis of 2008 hit Germany in the summer, revealing high risk policies pursued by numerous large banks looking for high rates of return outside Germany. In September the government unveiled a $635-billion bailout package for its floundering banks. Economic growth for 2009 is forecast to be an anemic 0.2%.

Automobile manufacturing is a major sector, but the financial crisis caused credit to be harder to obtain; many families postponed purchases. Auto exports fell 10% in October 2008 from October 2007; domestic sales dropped 8%. In contrast 2007 was a record year with production of 12.1 million vehicles and employment of 756,000 workers; an eighth of those jobs were created in the last five years alone.


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".[3] 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.[4] 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.[5]

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 gradually expanded through the addition of Lorraine, Saxony, Franconia, Thuringia, and Bavaria, and the German king was crowned Holy Roman Emperor of these regions in 962. Under the reign of the Salian emperors (1024–1125), the Holy Roman Empire absorbed northern Italy and Burgundy. 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. Notably, one of these Electors, George Louis the Elector of Hanover (1660-1727), was recruited by the heir-less Kingdom of Great Britain in 1714 to become its king, taking the name King George I.

The Reformation

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 one, and devastated the former Empire. The Peace of Westphalia (1648) ended religious warfare in Germany, but the empire broke down into numerous independent principalities. From 1740 onwards, the dualism between the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy and the Kingdom of Prussia dominated German history. In 1806, the Imperium was overrun and dissolved as a result of the Napoleonic Wars.

1806 - 1871

It was not until after the fall of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in 1814 that 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 Prime Minister of Prussia in mid-century that something resembling the modern sense of "Germany" came into being. Austria was, however, not a part of this new North German Confederation. After the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, the German Empire was formally proclaimed, under Wilhelm I, with its capital in Berlin.

Imperial Germany

After Germany was united by Bismarck in what was to become the second German Reich, Bismarck determined German politics until the young Kaiser Wilhelm II came to the throne. 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 what was dubbed the Kulturkampf, literally "culture struggle". He later softened his stance on the Catholics because he needed the support of the Catholic Zentrum Party.

After the death on Kaiser Wilhelm I, and his ailing successor of three months Friedrich II in 1888, the young and ambitious Kaiser Wilhelm II became emperor. It was obvious that it was just a matter of time until Bismarck and the young Kaiser would come into conflict. Most notably, the young Kaiser opposed Bismarck's careful foreign policy and wanted Germany to pursue colonialist policies, as Great Britain and France had been doing for quite some time, as well as build a navy that could match the British. Bismarck eventually resigned as chancellor in 1890 when an attempt to establish a working relationship with the Zentrum Party was thwarted by Wilhlem. After Bismarck's departure Wilhelm II engaged in active colonization of Africa and Asia for those areas that were not already colonies of other European powers, 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.

Between the World Wars

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[6] 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 15th 1923, the exchange rate was 4.2 trillion Mark to the US dollar. [7]. 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 [8]. This change turned out to be short-lived with the onset of the Great Depression and renewed hardship.

Nazi period

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 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 Nuremburg 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.

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, the United Kingdom, the U.S.S.R. and, later, 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, the United Kingdom, 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. However, Soviet policy turned increasingly toward dominating the part of Europe where Soviet armies were present, including eastern Germany. 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.

Political Developments in West Germany

The United States and the United Kingdom moved to establish 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.

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 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.

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.

Political Developments in 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.

Inter-German Relations

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 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

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.

The states (Bundesländer) and their capitals

(In alphabetical order)

Famous Germans

External links


See Also

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License: Some content for this article is in the Public Domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States Federal Government under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the U.S. Code
Source: File available from the United States Federal Government [2].