Make your own free website on


Germany is a large country in central Europe.  From 1949 to 1990, it was divided into the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany).  On Oct. 3, 1990, East and West Germany were unified into a single nation, also called the Federal Republic of Germany.  Berlin is Germany's capital and largest city.

For hundreds of years, Germans lived in many separate states, one of the most powerful of which was the kingdom of Prussia.  During the late 1800's, Otto von Bismarck, the prime minister of Prussia, united most of these states and cities under Prussian leadership.  After Bismarck, German leaders tried to expand their influence in Europe and overseas.  These policies helped trigger World War I in 1914.  When the war ended in 1918, Germany had been defeated, and a period of political and economic crises followed.

In 1933, Adolf Hitler--leader of the Nazi Party, an extremely militaristic and nationalistic political movement--established his dictatorship and began to rebuild Germany's military power.  In 1939, Hitler started World War II.  Germany was defeated in 1945 and was divided into zones that, in 1949, became West Germany and East Germany.  Berlin was also divided.  West Germany became a parliamentary democracy with strong ties to Western Europe and the United States.  East Germany became a Communist dictatorship closely associated with the Soviet Union.

After World War II, the West Germans and East Germans rebuilt their shattered industries and made them more productive than ever.  West Germany became one of the leading industrial nations.  Although East Germany's economic development was not as rapid, the country ranked as one of the most economically advanced of the nations that adopted Communism.  Yet dissatisfaction led millions of East Germans to flee to West Germany between 1946 and 1961, the year that East Germany built the Berlin Wall to cut off the major escape route.

In 1989, reform movements swept through the Communist nations of Europe.  In East Germany, political protests and massive emigration set in motion the chain of events that ended in the unification of East and West Germany.  In November 1989--in response to the protests--the East German government allowed its citizens to travel freely for the first time.  The end of travel restrictions included the opening of the Berlin Wall.  Also for the first time, non-Communist political parties were permitted to organize and form their own policies in late 1989.  In March 1990, East Germany held free parliamentary elections, and non-Communists gained control of the government.

With the end of Communist control in East Germany, many Germans, both East and West, began considering unification.  In July 1990, East Germany and West Germany united their economies into a single system.  In August, both nations signed a treaty that would finalize unification.  The treaty took effect on October 3.  Germany held its first national elections after unification in December 1990.

Germans are famous for being hard-working and disciplined, but they are also known for their love of music, dancing, good food, and fellowship.  Germans also enjoy vacations in their world-famous scenic areas.  The Bavarian Alps, for example, are a popular winter sports region.  The beautiful Rhine River winds through valleys with grand castles overlooking the river.

Germans have made important contributions to culture.  Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven composed some of the world's greatest music.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Thomas Mann wrote masterpieces of literature.  German scientists have made breakthroughs in chemistry, medicine, and physics.

For population and other key statistics, see the Germany in brief feature that appears in this article.


Germany is a federal republic in which the people elect their representatives by secret ballot.  The government's main bodies and offices include a Parliament, a federal chancellor, and a Cabinet.  The government was established after the unification of East and West Germany in 1990.  It was based on the democratic system of West Germany.  East Germany had operated under a dictatorial Communist government until shortly before unification, when a democratic system was established.

Parliament of Germany has two houses, the Bundestag (Federal Diet) and the Bundesrat (Federal Council).  The Bundestag, which is the more powerful of the two houses, passes the laws and chooses the head of government.  The Bundestag has 662 deputies elected by the voters to four-year terms.

The Bundesrat is the house in which Germany's states are represented.  Each state has three to six votes in the Bundesrat, depending on the population of the state.  Each state government may appoint up to as many delegates to the Bundesrat as the state has votes.  The maximum membership of the Bundesrat is 68.  Some laws passed by the Bundestag require approval of the Bundesrat.  They include laws that relate directly to the states' responsibilities, such as matters dealing with education and local government.  The Bundesrat can raise objections to other laws.  Its objections can be overridden by a majority vote of the Bundestag.

Executive.  The Bundestag elects a member of the strongest political party in that house to be federal chancellor, the head of the government.  The Bundestag can remove the chancellor from office by electing a replacement.  The chancellor selects the ministers who make up the Cabinet and head government departments.

The federal president is the head of state, but the powers of the office are largely ceremonial.  Bundestag deputies and an equal number of electors selected by German state legislatures elect the president to a five-year term.

State government.  Germany has 16 states.  Each state has a legislature.  Members of most of the legislatures are elected to four-year terms.  In most of the states, the legislature elects a minister president to head the state government.  In Berlin, Bremen, and Hamburg, which are cities as well as states, a mayor heads the state.

Politics.  The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party are Germany's largest political parties.  The CDU's branch in Bavaria is the Christian Social Union.  Traditionally, both large parties support close ties to other Western nations.  The CDU has conservative economic and social policies.  The Social Democratic Party supports more social welfare programs and greater regulation of the economy.

In most national elections, neither of the major partiesgains enough votes to control the Bundestag.  In such cases, the political party that has the most votes must form a coalition (alliance) to gain a majority of seats in the Bundestag.

Germany also has several smaller political parties.  They include the Free Democratic Party, which is a liberal party, and the Green Party, which represents environmental causes.  They also include the Party of Democratic Socialism, which is the Communist party that formerly controlled East Germany, and the Republican Party, a very small, extremely conservative party.  Germans must be at least 18 years old to vote.

Courts.  Germany's highest court is the Federal Constitutional Court.  It interprets the Constitution and settles disputes between the executive and the legislature and between federal and state governments.  The court's 16 judges are appointed for 12-year terms.  Half of the judges are appointed by the Bundestag and half by the Bundesrat.  The regular court system tries civil and criminal cases, which can be reviewed by regional and national appellate courts.  Judges in all these courts are appointed for life.  Administrative courts decide disputes between individuals and government agencies.  There are special courts for disputes about labor issues, taxes, and social security payments.

Armed forces.  After World War II, the Allies planned to keep Germany disarmed.  But by the 1950's, the Western Allies wanted West Germany's help against possible Communist expansion.  West Germany joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1955, and began to build up its armed forces under NATO command.  After unification, Germany remained in NATO. The East German armed forces were dissolved, but some of its personnel joined the unified German armed forces.  The German armed forces have about 340,000 troops.  German men must serve at least 10 months in the armed forces after reaching the age of 18.


Unification brought many changes to the German people.  For many years, the people were divided by the heavily guarded 858-mile (1,381-kilometer) border that split their land between East and West.  Many relatives and friends were separated from one another.  The East German government restricted travel between East and West Germany.

Until 1961, millions of East Germans fled to West Germany, through Berlin.  In August 1961, the Communists closed off this escape route by building the high, heavily guarded Berlin Wall between eastern and western sectors of the city.  Although some East Germans were allowed to resettle in West Germany, most people could not even visit there.

In 1989, thousands of East Germans fled to West Germany by way of neighboring countries.  In response to these departures and popular protests, the East German government lifted all restrictions on travel.  East Germans were permitted to travel to West Germany or any other country.  In addition, West Germans were permitted to visit East Germany without any restrictions.  After unification, all Germans were granted complete freedom of travel.

Germany ranks second in population among the countries of Europe.  Only Russia has more people.  Berlin, the country's capital, is also its largest city.  Hamburg and Munich are Germany's second and third largest cities.  Both of them have more than a million people.

Ancestry.  Almost all the people living in Germany were born there.  Germans are descended from many ancient tribes, including the Cimbri, Franks, Goths, and Teutons.

A small group of Slavic people called Sorbs live in eastern Germany.  Most non-Germans who live in the country moved there with their families as guest workers.  They came mostly from Turkey, Yugoslavia, and Italy to work in western Germany.  Since the late 1980's, about 2 million ethnic Germans from the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union have immigrated to Germany.  Hundreds of thousands of refugees of other ethnic backgrounds have also settled in Germany.

Language.  Two main forms of the German language have long been spoken in Germany--High German in the south and center and Low German in the north.  In addition, there are many dialects associated with particular regions or cities.  Today, schools, businesses, newspapers, and radio and television broadcasts use a standardized form of High German called Standard German.  For more detailed information about the language, see GERMAN LANGUAGE.

Way of life

Before unification, the people of West Germany had a higher standard of living than the people of East Germany.  West Germans generally dressed better, were more likely to own a car, and had access to more luxury goods.  But East Germany was one of the most prosperous countries in Eastern Europe.  Government-controlled businesses provided jobs, and the government regulated prices.  Medical care was free.

Unification brought about a free enterprise economy for all of Germany, opening up new economic opportunities for Germans in the eastern states.  But the changes also resulted in some problems.  Many people in what had been East Germany lost their jobs because their companies or factories closed when they could not compete in the new economy.  Also, the cost of many goods rose, and medical care is no longer free.  However, Germans still enjoy one of the highest standards of living in Europe.

City life.  Most of Germany's people live in urban areas.  German cities face the problems of pollution and congestion that affect urban areas everywhere.  Many German cities also have housing shortages.

Many German cities were destroyed during World War II.  In some of them, such as Munich, the old city center has been restored.  Most cities, however, have buildings dating from the postwar construction of the 1950's and 1960's.

Rural life.  In western Germany, most farms are small and owned by families that live on them.  In eastern Germany, most farms were large collective farms formerly controlled by the East German government.  Since unification, the German government has returned most of this land to private ownership.

Food and drink.  Germans are known for enjoying good food in large quantities.  They usually eat their main meal at noon, a heavy meal often featuring veal, pork, beef, or chicken.  The main meal also includes such vegetables as beets, carrots, onions, potatoes, or turnips.  Breakfast usually consists of rolls and jam with coffee or milk.  In the afternoon, especially on Sunday, many Germans enjoy a snack of fancy pastries.  They generally eat a light supper of bread, cheese, and sausage.

German beer and wine are internationally famous for their high quality.  Immigrants from Germany started many U.S. breweries, especially in Milwaukee.

Many world-famous German dishes were created hundreds of years ago to prevent foods from spoiling.  Sauerkraut, perhaps the best-known German food, was developed to preserve cabbage.  To preserve meat, German cooks soaked it in vinegar and spices--and created sauerbraten.  The Germans also preserved meats by making such sausages as bratwurst and frankfurters.  They developed many kinds of cheeses, including Limburger, Munster, and Tilsiter, which were named for the regions where they were first made.

Recreation.  Germans enjoy hiking, reading, gardening, swimming, and watching television.  Many young people take bicycling, hiking, or hitchhiking trips.  They carry knapsacks and spend the night in the open or at inexpensive inns called youth hostels (see YOUTH HOSTEL).  Germany has many lakes and rivers for canoeing, rowing, sailing, and swimming.  The country's high, snow-covered mountains help make skiing a favorite winter sport.

Soccer is the most popular organized sport in Germany.  There are thousands of soccer teams, most of which represent various towns or cities.  Gymnastics, tennis, and track are also popular.  Some Germans belong to sharpshooting clubs.

Religion.  The Reformation began in Germany during the early 1500's.  This religious movement brought about the establishment of Protestantism.  By 1600, most people in northern and central Germany had become Protestants.  Most of those in the south remained Roman Catholics.  These religious groups are about the same today.  For more information, see REFORMATION.

About 45 per cent of Germans are Protestants, mostly Lutherans.  About 40 per cent of the people are Roman Catholics.  About 2 per cent are Muslims.

About 560,000 Jews lived in Germany when the Nazis came to power in 1933.  By the end of World War II, most Jews had been killed by the Nazis or had fled the country.  Today, about 40,000 Jews live in Germany.

Education.  The German states were among the first in the world to set up a public education system for all children.  Prussia established a system during the early 1800's.  The other German states developed their own public education systems by the mid-1800's.  By the 1900's, almost all Germans over the age of 15 could read and write.

Germany also developed one of the finest university systems in the world.  In the late 1800's and early 1900's, students came from many countries to study in Germany.  Such German universities as the University of Berlin (now Humboldt University) and the University of Leipzig (called Karl Marx University from 1953 to 1991) were especially famous for scientific research.  Between 1900 and 1933, German scientists won more Nobel Prizes than those from any other country.

Education in Germany is controlled by the individual states.  All children must go to school full-time for at least 9 or 10 years, starting at age 6.  But the length of time children spend in elementary and other types of schools varies from state to state.

In most German states, children attend elementary school for four years.  Children may then go to one of several types of schools.  A Gymnasium is a traditional junior and senior high school.  This type of school prepares students for entrance into a university.  There are also intermediate schools.  They provide students with academic subjects as well as some job training.  Other schools are Hauptschulen (vocational schools).  These have fewer academic subjects than the other types of schools but offer much job training.  Comprehensive schools combine all three types of junior and senior high levels of education.

Germany has about 60 universities and many specialized and technical colleges.  These universities and colleges have about 2 million students.  About 6 per cent of German adults have a university education.  The University of Heidelberg, founded in 1386, is Germany's oldest university.  See HEIDELBERG, UNIVERSITY OF.


Many of the world's greatest artists, musicians, writers, and thinkers have been German.  During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, German architects, painters, and sculptors produced great works, mostly with religious subjects.  During the 1700's, many German writers and thinkers were part of the European Enlightenment, which focused on rational thinking and the order of nature.  In the late 1700's and early 1800's, Germans helped create the Romantic movement.  More recently, Germans were among the pioneers in modern art, motion pictures, literature, and music.  This section mentions only some of the most important German contributions to the arts.  For more detailed information, see the separate articles on ARCHITECTURE; CLASSICAL MUSIC; DRAMA; GERMAN LITERATURE; OPERA; PAINTING; SCULPTURE; and THEATER.

Literature and philosophy.  The greatest period of German literature lasted from about 1750 to 1830.  During these years, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Friedrich Schiller, Friedrich Holderlin, Heinrich von Kleist, and many other German novelists, poets, and dramatists produced works of lasting importance.  The most important German philosopher during this period was Immanuel Kant, who wrote three influential works in the 1780's.  During the early 1800's, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel produced a philosophy of history that would have a lasting impact on Western thought.  Hegel's work greatly influenced Karl Marx, who used Hegelian ideas as the basis for his revolutionary theories.

From the mid-1800's on, German writers and philosophers often focused on the political and cultural situations in their own land.  Poet Heinrich Heine produced works that were critical of the German political establishment.  Theodor Fontane wrote gently ironic novels about Prussian society in the late 1800's.  Friedrich Nietzsche wrote a series of poetic philosophical works on the nature of language and culture.  Between 1890 and 1920, Max Weber created a series of studies about modern society.  During the 1900's, novelist Thomas Mann and dramatist Bertolt Brecht wrote about the problems of German politics and culture.  After the collapse of Nazi Germany, Gunter Grass, Heinrich Boll, and many other writers tried to come to terms with the burden of the Nazi past.

Music.  The great tradition of German music was established during the early 1700's by Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel.  Later in the 1700's, one of the greatest musical geniuses of all time, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, carried on this tradition in Austria, which was historically connected to the other German states.  In the early 1800's, Ludwig van Beethoven invented new and powerful forms of symphonic expression and then reached new heights of creative power with his last quartets.  Felix Mendelssohn became the most famous composer of his time, with his own classical works and by reviving interest in the works of Bach.  Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann achieved greatness by composing the romantic German art songs called lieder (see LIEDER).

In the mid-1800's, Richard Wagner established a new style in opera with his music dramas, which sought to combine music, poetry, and theatrical design.  In the late 1800's and early 1900's, Richard Strauss and Arnold Schoenberg wrote important music in different styles.  During the 1920's, Kurt Weill broke new musical ground with his innovative music for the stage.

Painting and sculpture.  German artists created some outstanding works during the Renaissance.  Albrecht Durer and Hans Holbein the Younger produced great paintings and engravings.  They are especially famous for their portraits.  Matthias Grunewald painted masterpieces of religious art, and sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider made beautiful woodcarvings.

In the early 1800's, Caspar David Friedrich was an important romantic painter.  In the late 1800's and early 1900's, Max Beckmann and other German painters developed the expressionist style.  They sought to express unconscious emotions and dreamlike states.

Architecture.  During the Middle Ages, magnificent cathedrals in the Romanesque and Gothic styles were built in such cities as Bamberg, Cologne, Regensberg, Ulm, and Worms.  In the 1700's, German princes built palaces modeled on the magnificent French palace at Versailles.  At the same time, Germans built great baroque and rococo churches, especially in the predominantly Roman Catholic southern German states.  During the 1800's, such German architects as Friedrich Schinkel built museums and other public buildings in the neoclassical style.  After 1900, Walter Gropius and his famous Bauhaus group developed a basic style of modern architecture.

The land

Germany has a varied landscape made up of five main land regions.  From north to south, they are (1) the North German Plain, (2) the Central Highlands, (3) the South German Hills, (4) the Black Forest, and (5) the Bavarian Alps.

The North German Plain, the largest land region in Germany, is low and nearly flat.  Almost the entire plain lies less than 300 feet (91 meters) above sea level.  The region is drained by broad rivers that flow northward into the North Sea or the Baltic Sea.  These rivers include the Elbe, Ems, Oder, Rhine, and Weser, all of which are important commercial waterways.  Large ports and industrial centers are located on them.

The wide river valleys, as well as land along the seacoasts, have soft, fertile soil.  Between the valleys are large areas covered with sand and gravel.  These areas are called heathlands.  The sand and gravel were deposited by glaciers that moved across much of Europe thousands of years ago.  The glaciers also formed many small lakes in the North German Plain.  The soil of the heathlands is not suitable for farming, and trees have been planted in many to provide timber.

The southern edge of the North German Plain has highly fertile, dustlike soil called loess.  This area is heavily cultivated and thickly populated.  Many of Germany's oldest cities, including Bonn and Cologne, are located in this area.

The Central Highlands are a series of plateaus that range from nearly flat to mountainous.  They are covered with rock and poor soil.  Most of the plateaus lie from 1,000 to 2,500 feet (300 to 760 meters) above sea level.  Two of them--the Harz Mountains and the Thuringian Forest--have peaks that rise more than 3,000 feet (910 meters).

Rivers in the Central Highlands have cut steep, narrow valleys.  These rugged gorges, especially that of the Rhine River, are among the most beautiful sights in Germany.  In some areas, the valleys broaden into small, fertile basins.  See RHINE RIVER.

The South German Hills include a series of long, parallel ridges, called escarpments, that extend from southwest to northeast.  Sheep are raised on these rocky ridges.  Lowlands between the ridges have fertile clay soil.  Some of these lowlands are among the best farmlands in Germany.  Along the southern edge of the hill region are large areas covered with sand and gravel.  This soil was deposited by ancient glaciers that spread northward from the Alps.  Most of the South German Hills rise from 500 to 2,500 feet (150 to 762 meters).

Much of the region is drained by the Rhine River and two of its branches, the Main and Neckar rivers.  The Danube River drains the southern part.  The Danube is the only major river in Germany that flows eastward.  See DANUBE RIVER.

The Black Forest is a mountainous region.  Its name comes from the thick forests of dark fir and spruce trees that cover the mountainsides.  The region consists of granite and sandstone uplands with deep, narrow valleys.  It averages between 2,500 and 3,000 feet (762 and 910 meters) above sea level.  Some peaks rise more than 4,000 feet (1,200 meters).  The Black Forest is the scene of many old German legends and fairy tales.  It is also known for its mineral springs.  Many famous health resorts are located near them.  See BLACK FOREST.

The Bavarian Alps are part of the Alps, the largest mountain system in Europe.  The majestic, snow-capped Bavarian Alps rise more than 6,000 feet (1,800 meters).  The highest point in Germany, the 9,721-foot (2,963-meter) peak Zugspitze, is in this region.  The beauty of the Bavarian Alps has made them a year-round vacationland.  The region has many lakes formed by the ancient glaciers from the Alps.  It is drained by mountain streams that flow into the Danube River.  See ALPS.


Germany has a mild climate, largely because the land is near the sea.  In winter, the sea is not so cold as the land.  In summer, it is not so warm.  As a result, west winds from the sea help warm Germany in winter and cool it in summer.  Away from the sea, in southern areas, winters are colder and summers are warmer.

The average temperature in January, the coldest month in Germany, is above 30 °F. (-1 °C).  Cold winds from eastern Europe sometimes reach Germany in winter, and the temperature may drop sharply for short periods.  In July, the hottest month in Germany, the temperature averages about 64 °F. (18 °C).

Most of Germany receives from 20 to 40 inches (50 to 100 centimeters) of precipitation (rain, melted snow, and other forms of moisture) a year.  Some hilly and mountainous areas receive more precipitation.  The moisture-bearing west winds first reach Germany in the northwest.  In that area, rain falls almost evenly throughout the year, with a little more in autumn and winter than in spring and summer.  Inland, most rain falls in summer, often in heavy thunderstorms.  Deep snow covers some mountainous areas throughout the winter.


In 1945, at the end of World War II, Germany's economy lay almost in total ruin.  Both West and East Germany had to be rebuilt by the controlling Allied powers.  West Germany's postwar recovery was greatly helped by aid that the United States began to send in 1948 under the Marshall Plan (see MARSHALL PLAN).  The West German economy recovered at an amazing rate in the 1950's.  This recovery is described as West Germany's "economic miracle."

In East Germany, the Soviet Union set up a strong Communist state where the government controlled the economy, including production, distribution, and pricing of almost all goods.  Under this system, East Germany grew to be one of the wealthiest Communist countries, though it lagged well behind West Germany.

In 1989, popular protests forced the government of East Germany to make political and economic reforms.  As part of these reforms, free, multiparty elections were held in 1990.  East German voters elected officials who favored unification with West Germany.

One of the first steps toward unification was the union of the two economies.  Germany began economic unification on July 1, 1990.  East Germans traded their money, called DDR marks, for West German money, called Deutsche marks.  The Deutsche mark became the unit of currency throughout Germany.  East Germany began to operate under a free enterprise system.  The East German government started to sell government-owned businesses.

Economic unification had several results.  Goods that had been scarce in East Germany became readily available.  But the cost of many goods in the free market was higher than they had been when the government controlled prices.  The government of the unified Germany continued selling businesses formerly owned by the East German government.

Economic unification also caused problems for eastern German businesses.  Many of them could not operate without the government's financial support.  They closed or operated on shorter hours, which caused increased unemployment.

In the 1950's, West Germany helped found several European economic groups.  These groups became the basis of the European Community (EC), an economic association of European nations.  The EC helped strengthen the nation's economy through increased trade with other member nations of the association.  The united Germany remained a member of the EC. In 1993, the EC countries formed the European Union (EU).  The EU works for both economic and political cooperation among its member nations.

Manufacturing is the foundation of Germany's economic strength.  Germany has several major manufacturing regions, and there are factories almost everywhere.  The Ruhr is the most important industrial region and one of the busiest in the world.  It includes such manufacturing centers as Dortmund, Duisburg, and Dusseldorf.  This region has more than 8 million people.  It produces most of the nation's iron and steel and has important chemical and textile industries.  See RUHR.

Much of Germany's steel is used to make automobiles and trucks, industrial and agricultural machinery, ships, and tools.  The country is the world's third largest manufacturer of automobiles, after Japan and the United States.  Germany also produces large quantities of cement, clothing, electrical equipment, and processed foods and metals.  The chemical industry produces large quantities of drugs, fertilizer, plastics, sulfuric acid, and artificial rubber and fibers.  Other important products manufactured in Germany include cameras, computers, leather goods, scientific instruments, toys, and wood pulp and paper.

Service industries are those economic activities that produce services, not goods.  Service industries account for a large share of Germany's economic production.  The most important group of service industries in Germany is community, government, and personal services.  Community services include such economic activities as education and health care.  Personal services consist of such activities as advertising and data processing, and the operation of cleaning establishments, repair shops, and beauty salons.  Government includes both public administration and defense.  Other service industries are finance and insurance, trade, transportation and communication, and utilities.

Agriculture.  About a third of Germany's food must be imported.  Germany is one of the world's largest importers of agricultural goods.  Potatoes are the only food produced in large enough quantities so that they do not have to be imported.  The chief grains include barley, oats, rye, and wheat.  Sugar beets, vegetables, apples, grapes, and other fruits are also important crops.  Fine wines are made from grapes grown in vineyards along the Rhine and Moselle (or Mosel) rivers.  Livestock and livestock products are important sources of farm income.  Large numbers of farmers raise beef and dairy cattle, hogs, horses, poultry, and sheep.

Many German farms are 25 acres (10 hectares) or less in size.  Most of these small farms are operated part-time by farmers who have other jobs.  In eastern Germany,most of the large farms formerly controlled by the East German government have been broken up and sold to individuals.

Mining.  Germany has large supplies of potash and rock salt.  It also has some lead, copper, petroleum, tin, uranium, and zinc.  In the 1800's, coal deposits near the Ruhr River helped German industries grow.  But by the 1970's, most of the high-quality deposits had been exhausted.  Eastern Germany produces large quantities of a low-quality coal called lignite.

Foreign trade.  Germany is one of the world's leading trading nations.  Germany imports great amounts of food, fuel, manufactured goods, and industrial raw materials.  Its major exports include automobiles, chemicals, iron and steel products, and machinery.  Germany trades with countries in all parts of the world.  More than half its trade is with European Union nations.  The United States, Switzerland, and Austria are also important trading partners.

Energy sources.  Coal is still a major source of electrical power in Germany, but its use has declined since 1970 as oil-burning and nuclear-powered generating plants have become more common.  In southern Germany, mountain streams are used to generate hydroelectric power.  Germany has some gas fields, but it must import most of its natural gas.  The nation also depends on imported oil, mainly from the Middle East.

Transportation and communication.  Railroads and highways connect all parts of Germany.  Germany has one of the most extensive railroad networks in the world, providing excellent passenger and freight service.  Germany's fine highway system includes about 6,500 miles (10,500 kilometers) of four-lane highways called autobahns.  Adolf Hitler began building the autobahns in the 1930's.  Today, Germany has one of the world's highest rates of private automobile ownership.

The Rhine River and its branches carry more traffic than any other European river system.  Canals connect the major rivers of Germany.  The chief seaports are Hamburg, Wilhelmshaven, and Bremen.

Germany's largest airline, Deutsche Lufthansa, flies to all parts of the world.  Major airports operate at many cities, including Berlin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt am Main, Hamburg, Leipzig, and Munich.

Germany has about 400 daily newspapers.  The largest is the Bild Zeitung of Hamburg.  Several other large newspapers circulate throughout the country.  The press is free from government censorship.

Nearly all German homes have one or more radios, and most homes have a TV set.  Three major channels, all produced by public corporations, are broadcast nationwide.  Local programs are also broadcast.  Commercials may be broadcast at only a few times a day.  The corporations receive money from license fees paid by owners of radios and TV sets.  The government owns and runs the postal, telegraph, and telephone systems.


Ancient times.  Fossils discovered in what is now Germany indicate that the area was home to primitive human beings as early as 500,000 years ago.  The Neanderthal people, who lived throughout Europe between about 130,000 and 35,000 years ago, are named for a fossil that was discovered in Germany's Neander Valley, near Dusseldorf.

But the history of the German people really began sometime after 1000 B.C., when warlike tribes began to migrate from northern Europe into what is now Germany.  These tribes wandered the area and lived by hunting and farming.  In the 100's B.C., they moved south to the Rhine and Danube rivers, the northern frontiers of the Roman Empire.  The Romans called the tribes Germani, though that was the name of only one tribe.  Other tribes included the Cimbri, Franks, Goths, and Vandals.  The Romans called the tribes' land Germania.

In A.D. 9, the Romans tried to conquer the tribes, but Germanic warriors crushed the Roman armies in a decisive battle at the Teutoburg Forest.  The Romans built a wall, called the limes, between the Rhine and Danube rivers to protect their lands to the south from attacks.  By the late A.D. 300's, Roman power had begun to collapse.  In the 400's, Germanic tribes moved south, plundered Rome, and eventually broke up the western portion of the empire into tribal kingdoms.  The kingdom of the Franks became the largest and most important.  See ROME, ANCIENT (Decline and fall).

Kingdom of the Franks.  In 486, Clovis, a Frankish king, defeated the independent Roman governor of Gaul (now mainly France).  Clovis extended the boundaries of his territory by defeating other Germanic tribes in Gaul and parts of what is now western Germany.  He became an orthodox Christian and also introduced other Roman ways of life into his kingdom (see CLOVIS I).  The greatest Frankish ruler, Charlemagne, came to power in 768.  He established his capital in Aachen.  Charlemagne expanded his kingdom east to the Elbe River and, in some places, beyond the river.  In 800, Pope Leo III crowned him emperor of the Romans.  See CHARLEMAGNE.

The breakup of Charlemagne's empire.  In 843, the Treaty of Verdun divided Charlemagne's empire into three kingdoms, one for each of his grandsons.  Louis II (called the German) received lands east of the Rhine

River, most of which later became what is now Germany.  The western part, later called France, went to Charles II (the Bald).  Lothair I received the middle kingdom, a narrow strip that extended from the North Sea tocentral Italy.  He also kept the title of emperor.

In 911, the German branch of the Frankish royal family died out.  By then, the German kingdom had been divided into five powerful duchies (territories ruled by a duke)--Bavaria, Lorraine, Franconia, Saxony, and Swabia.  The dukes elected Conrad I of Franconia as king.  In 919, Conrad was succeeded by Henry I (the Fowler) of Saxony, whose family ruled until 1024.  With the founding of the Saxon dynasty (a series of rulers from the same family), the lands given to Louis II became permanently separated from the French parts of Charlemagne's empire.

Henry's son, Otto I (the Great), drove invading Hungarians out of southern Germany in 955, and extended the German frontier in the north.  Otto also won control over most of the old middle Frankish kingdom, including Italy.  This gave him the right to claim the title of emperor.  In 962, Otto was crowned emperor in Rome.  This marked the beginning of what later was called the Holy Roman Empire.  See OTTO I, THE GREAT.

The Holy Roman Empire.  Under the Saxon emperors, the Holy Roman Empire was a powerful combination of territories, each with a separate ruler.  The Salian dynasty (1024-1125) included several strong emperors.  In 1075, Pope Gregory VII disputed the right of Emperor Henry IV to appoint bishops.  Many German princes sided with the pope and a series of civil wars began.  See HENRY IV; GREGORY VII, SAINT.

The Hohenstaufen emperors (1138-1254) reestablished order.  But after the dynasty died out, disorder returned.  By the 1300's, the emperors were almost powerless.  The last Hohenstaufen died in 1254.  The German princes did not elect another emperor until 1273.  He was Rudolf I of Habsburg (or Hapsburg).  Rudolf seized Austria and made it his main duchy.  After Rudolf, emperors of various families reigned.  Starting in 1438, the Habsburgs reigned almost continuously until 1806.  See HABSBURG, HOUSE OF; HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE.

The Holy Roman Empire was never fully a German territory.  Some Germans lived outside its borders, while some non-German areas were part of the empire.  For a time, the empire included parts of Italy, as well as Slavic areas in eastern Europe, and part of what are now Belgium and the Netherlands.  The empire also was made up of independent territories.  A strong emperor could make their rulers cooperate.  But often the emperor could not force them to do what he wanted.

The rise of cities.  Before the fall of the West Roman Empire in 476, Roman towns stood along and near the Rhine and Danube rivers.  These towns were centers of trade.  They included what are now Bonn, Cologne, Regensburg, Trier, and Vienna.  After the fall of Rome, these towns almost disappeared.  Trade gradually resumed under the Saxon and Salian emperors.  Some of the old towns grew again, and new ones appeared around the castles of princes and bishops.  Many cities became so large and rich that they gained self-rule.

When the emperors began losing power, the cities could not rely on outside help in case of attack.  The more prosperous cities banded together into leagues and formed their own armies for protection.  The strongest league was the Hanseatic League, which began to develop in the late 1100's.  It included Cologne, Dortmund, and the major ports of Bremen, Hamburg, and Lubeck.  The Hanseatic League became a great commercial and naval power in the North and Baltic seas during the 1300's.  See HANSEATIC LEAGUE.

Serfdom in Germany.  By the 700's, most peasant farmers in western Germany had become serfs.  Each serf worked on land that was owned by a powerful person or by the church.  In return for their work, the serfs received protection and a share of the harvest.  Generally, serfs were not free to leave the land they worked.  Beginning in the 1100's, some serfs gained their freedom by escaping to towns.  In the western parts of Germany, serfdom gradually died out as peasants were allowed to substitute monetary payments for labor.  In eastern Germany, serfdom did not begin to develop until the 1300's.  It lasted until the early 1800's.

The Reformation.  In 1517, Martin Luther, a German monk, began to attack many teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church.  Nobles, peasants, and townspeople joined this movement, called the Reformation, and it spread quickly.  Its followers became known as Protestants, meaning those who protest.

Some princes were sincere reformers, but others became Protestants in order to gain church property.  Many peasants hoped the Protestant movement would free them from their lord's control.  The peasants revolted against the lords in the Peasants' War of 1524-1525, but were brutally crushed.  See LUTHER, MARTIN; PEASANTS' WAR.

Neither the pope nor Emperor Charles V could stop the Protestant movement.  In 1555, Protestant princes forced Charles to accept the Peace of Augsburg.  This treaty gave each Lutheran and Roman Catholic prince the right to choose the religion for his own land.  It also established a division of church lands between the two religions.  See REFORMATION.

During the 1500's and 1600's, the Roman Catholic Church underwent its own reform, called the Counter Reformation or Catholic Reformation.  In this movement, the church won back many Protestants by peaceful means or by force.  By 1600, relatively few Protestants were left in Austria, Bavaria, and parts of Bohemia and the Rhineland.  The rest of Germany remained chiefly Lutheran.  See COUNTER REFORMATION.

The Thirty Years' War.  By 1600, the German lands were divided by many political and religious rivalries.  In 1618, a Protestant revolt in Bohemia set off a series of wars that lasted for 30 years.  The wars were partially religious struggles between Protestants and Catholics, but they were also political struggles between certain princes and the emperor.  In addition, the kings of Denmark, Sweden, and France entered the wars to gain German lands and to reduce the Habsburgs' power.

The Peace of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years' War in 1648.  Under this treaty, France and Sweden received some German lands.  The wars had been hard on German trade and farming.  Large parts of Germany were ruined, and some towns had nearly disappeared.  The emperor's already limited power had been further weakened by the wars.  Germany was a collection of free cities and hundreds of states.  See THIRTY YEARS' WAR.

The rise of Prussia.  During the 1600's, the Hohenzollern family began to expand its power in eastern Germany.  The Hohenzollerns ruled the state of Brandenburg.  Berlin was their capital.  In 1618, the ruler of Brandenburg inherited the duchy of Prussia.  The Peace of Westphalia added part of Pomerania and some territories on the lower Rhine River to the Hohenzollern holdings.  See HOHENZOLLERN.

The Hohenzollerns' rise to power began with Frederick William (the Great Elector), who became ruler of Brandenburg in 1640.  He began to unite and expand his lands after the Thirty Years' War.  In 1701, his son, Frederick I, was given the title king of Prussia.  The Hohenzollerns' power continued to grow under the next two kings, Frederick William I and Frederick II (the Great).  See FREDERICK II; FREDERICK WILLIAM; PRUSSIA.

The Hohenzollerns built a large, well-trained professional army and a strong civil service to defend and rule their scattered territories.  Through their civil service, they improved farming and industry, and filled their treasury with tax money.  They built canals, schools, and roads, and promoted the arts and learning.

After Frederick the Great became king in 1740, he seized Silesia, a rich province of Austria.  This invasion led to fighting between Prussia and Austria in two wars, the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) and the Seven Years' War (1756-1763).  Many other nations fought in these wars.  Some sided with Frederick, and others with his enemy, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria.  Under the final peace treaty, Silesia remained under Prussian rule.  Prussia was now recognized as a great power.  See MARIA THERESA; SEVEN YEARS' WAR; SUCCESSION WARS (The War of the Austrian Succession).

During the 1770's, Prussia, along with Austria and Russia, began to seize parts of Poland.  By the end of 1795, Poland had been divided among these states.

Conflicts with France.  The French Revolution, which began in 1789, caused many changes throughout Europe.  France built huge armies made up of citizens inspired by patriotism.  Germany's old-fashioned professional armies were not prepared for the new age.

From 1792 until 1815, France was almost continually at war with other European states.  Much of the fighting involved German states and took place on German soil.  By the end of 1806, Napoleon--who had seized control of France in 1799--had taken parts of western Germany, set up dependent states, and destroyed the Holy Roman Empire.  Some German states became members of the Confederation of the Rhine, which Napoleon had established in 1806 and which was allied with France.

Between 1795 and 1806, Prussia stayed out of the wars.  But Napoleon's threats became too great.  In 1806, Prussia declared war on France.  Napoleon crushed the Prussian army at the battles of Jena and Auerstadt that same year.  As a result, Prussia lost its territories west of the Elbe River and had to pay war damages to France.  To recover from this defeat, the Prussian government introduced reforms, including laws that freed the serfs and gave some self-government to the cities.  In the army, reformers fired incompetent officers and improved training.

After the failure of Napoleon's Russian campaign in 1812, Prussia, Austria, Russia, and Great Britain joined against him.  The reformed Prussian army helped defeat Napoleon at Leipzig in 1813 and at Waterloo in 1815.  For the story of the Napoleonic wars, see NAPOLEON I.

The Congress of Vienna.  The victorious powers met in Vienna from late 1814 to early 1815 to restore order to Europe.  They left intact most of the middle-sized states created in the Confederation of the Rhine.  But their treaty divided the rest of Napoleon's lands among themselves.  Prussia received lands including the Rhineland, Westphalia, and much of Saxony, greatly increasing its power in northern and western Germany.  Austria gave up its territories in southern Germany and the lands that are now Belgium and Luxembourg, and it took territories in Italy.  Austria, Prussia, and Russia again divided Poland.  See VIENNA, CONGRESS OF.

The German Confederation.  The Congress of Vienna also set up the German Confederation, a union of 39 independent states.  An assembly called the Bundestag was established.  Members of the Bundestag were appointed by the rulers of the states.  Austria appointed the president.

Except for four self-governing cities, the German states were ruled by kings or princes.  Each state had its own laws, collected its own taxes, and was responsible for its own defense.  Several states had constitutions and parliaments, but even in these states the people had little voice in their government.  Though the king of Prussia had promised to grant a constitution during the war against Napoleon, he did not keep his word.

During the early 1800's, the German population was growing faster than the economy.  Some regions prospered, but most areas were still poor.  Cities were small, and most people still lived by farming.  In the 1840's, popular discontent increased.  Business and professional people wanted more opportunities for political involvement.  Farmers and craftworkers suffered from poor harvests and economic depression.

The Revolution of 1848.  In February 1848, the people of Paris rebelled against their king.  When this news reached the Germans, they also rebelled.  In Austria, rioting and demonstrations forced the chancellor to resign.  In Berlin, people defied the army and forced the Prussian king to appoint new ministers and to promise a constitution.  Similar rebellions occurred in most other German capitals.  Many Germans hoped that they could replace the Confederation with a more unified nation.  In May, an elected assembly met in Frankfurt to write a new constitution.

However, some people began to lose interest in the revolution.  Others disagreed about its goals.  Meanwhile, the governments began to recover.  In October 1848, Austrian troops recaptured Vienna.  In December, the new Prussian assembly was dissolved by troops.

The Frankfurt Assembly was divided on many issues, especially on whether Catholic Austria or Protestant Prussia should be the leading power in the new German nation.  In March 1849, members compromised on a constitution that called for an emperor and a two-house parliament.  The Prussian king Frederick William IV was invited to be emperor but he refused.  The assembly then broke up.  The revolution was defeated in the spring of 1849.  The German Confederation of 1815 was reestablished.

The unification of Germany.  In the early 1860's, a conflict about army reforms caused a constitutional crisis in Prussia.  The Prussian king, Wilhelm I, appointed Otto von Bismarck prime minister in 1862.  Bismarck hoped he could resolve the constitutional crisis with foreign triumphs.  He also wanted to establish Prussia as the leading German power.

Between 1864 and 1870, Bismarck had the German states fight three short, victorious wars.  In the first, Austria and Prussia, in the name of the German Confederation, took the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein from Denmark.  In 1866, Bismarck picked a quarrel with Austria.  His army easily defeated Austria at Koniggratz in what was called the Seven Weeks' War (see SEVEN WEEKS' WAR).  Bismarck then dissolved the German Confederation, annexed some territory to Prussia, and established the North German Confederation under Prussian leadership.  The four German states south of the Main River remained independent, but made military alliances with Prussia.  Austria's defeat left it greatly weakened.  In 1867, the Austrian emperor was forced to give equal status to his Hungarian holdings, creating the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary.  Austria was never again a power in Germany.

To complete the unification of Germany, Bismarck knew that he needed to overcome the opposition of France.  In 1870, he encouraged a Hohenzollern prince to accept the throne of Spain.  As Bismarck expected, France objected.  Although the prince withdrew as a candidate, Bismarck used the dispute to start the Franco-Prussian War.  This conflict pitted France against the North German Confederation and its south German allies.  After several battles, the Germans defeated the main French armies at Sedan in September 1870.  The German army captured Paris in January 1871.  Under the peace treaty, France gave up almost all of Alsace and part of Lorraine.  See FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR.

During the Franco-Prussian War, the four south German states agreed to join a united German nation under Prussian leadership.  On Jan. 18, 1871, Wilhelm I was crowned the first kaiser (emperor) of the new German Empire.  Wilhelm appointed Bismarck chancellor and head of government.  See BISMARCK, OTTO VON; WILHELM (I).

The German Empire.  The German constitution provided for a two-house parliament.  Members of one house, the Reichstag, were popularly elected.  Members of the other house, the Bundesrat, were appointed by the state governments.  The empire had 26 member states.  Most states were very small, and several were completely surrounded by Prussia.  The emperor, who was also the king of Prussia, controlled foreign policy, commanded the army, and appointed the chancellor.  The parliament approved all laws and taxes, but could not force the chancellor to resign.

Bismarck allowed all men over 25 to vote, thinking that most Germans would support the government.  He won support from the growing class of business people and the traditional Prussian landowners and nobles.  But Bismarck faced opposition from Roman Catholics and Socialists.  Catholics did not trust the Protestant-led empire and organized their own political party.  Socialism was growing popular among city dwellers and the workers in the developing industries.  Bismarck tried to wreck the Catholic and Socialist parties, but failed.

Foreign policy.  After 1871, Bismarck tried to avoid conflicts so the newly united empire could develop.  He particularly feared a combined attack from east and west.  He tried to keep Germany allied with Russia and Austria-Hungary so they would not form alliances with France.  But Russia and Austria-Hungary had opposing interests in the Balkans, which made it difficult to keep an alliance with both of them.

Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia formed a loose alliance in 1873, but it soon broke up over the Balkan problem.  In 1879, Bismarck established a military and political alliance with Austria-Hungary.  Italy joined in 1882, and the alliance became known as the Triple Alliance.  During the 1880's, Germany also established colonies in Africa and on islands in the Pacific Ocean.

In 1888, Wilhelm I died.  He was succeeded by his terminally ill son Frederick III, whose reign lasted only 99 days.  The crown then passed to Frederick's son, Wilhelm II, who was eager to establish his own authority.  In 1890, he forced Bismarck to resign.  Wilhelm demanded that Germany have influence throughout the world.  He also wanted to build a modern navy to defend German interests and challenge British naval supremacy.  Wilhelm's ambitions, which he often expressed in an aggressive manner, frightened other powers.  In 1894, Russia allied itself with France.  Great Britain felt its control of the seas threatened and established the Entente Cordiale (cordial understanding) with France in 1904.  In 1907, Britain and Russia signed a similar agreement.  Under these agreements, the three countries formed the Triple Entente.  Europe was divided into two armed camps, with the Triple Alliance on one side and the Triple Entente on the other.  See TRIPLE ALLIANCE; TRIPLE ENTENTE; WILHELM (Wilhelm II).

World War I started in the Balkans.  On June 28, 1914, Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary and his wife were murdered in Sarajevo, Bosnia.  Bosnia was an Austrian territory claimed by Serbia, a little Balkan country where the murder had been planned.  Austria-Hungary decided to punish Serbia, and Germany promised to support these efforts.  Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914.  Russia prepared for war to support Serbia.  Germany then declared war on Russia.  After France called up its troops to support Russia, Germany went to war against France.  In an effort to reach Paris quickly, German troops invaded neutral Belgium.  Great Britain then declared war on Germany.

Germany won the opening battles of the war, but France, Britain, and Russia continued to fight.  Germany, Austria-Hungary, and their allies were called the Central Powers.  The nations opposing them were called the Allies.  As the war dragged on, other countries became involved.  Almost all of them joined the Allies.  In 1915, Italy joined the Allies, hoping to gain Austrian land.  In 1917, the United States entered the war on the Allied side.

Despite the size and strength of the Allies, Germany seemed close to winning the war.  After 1914, German troops held Luxembourg, most of Belgium, and part of northern France.  In 1917, Germany won on the Eastern Front as the Russian war effort collapsed.  But by 1918, Germany's armies were exhausted.  Supplies were running low and there was social unrest at home.  Meanwhile, an increasing number of fresh American troops were arriving to reinforce the Allies.  In the summer of 1918, American troops helped stop the last great German offensive in the west.  On November 11, Germany signed an armistice.  For the story of Germany in World War I, see WORLD WAR I.

Under the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed after World War I, Germany lost its colonies and some of its European territory.  Alsace and the German part of Lorraine were returned to France.  Poland was reestablished, and it received Posen (now Poznan), some of Silesia, and part of West Prussia.  France got control of the Saar region for 15 years.  The treaty also placed the Rhineland under Allied occupation for 15 years.  Germany's army was reduced to 100,000 men, and the nation was forbidden from having an air force.  Germany was also required to pay the Allies reparations (payments for war damages), which were later set at about $33 billion.

The Weimar Republic.  Before the armistice was signed in November 1918, German workers and troops had revolted in protest against continuing the war.  This revolution began in Kiel, and spread quickly from city to city.  On November 9, Germany was declared a republic.  Emperor Wilhelm II fled to safety in the Netherlands.

In January 1919, the German voters, including women for the first time, elected a national assembly to write a constitution.  The assembly met in Weimar, and the new republic became known as the Weimar Republic.  The constitution established a democratic federal republic in August 1919.  It provided for a parliament of two houses--the Reichstag and the Reichsrat--and a popularly elected president.  The chancellor and the cabinet members were appointed by the president, but could be removed from office by the Reichstag.

The Weimar Republic was weak from the start.  Many important Germans remained loyal to the empire.  German army officers claimed that Germany had been defeated by the revolution, not by Allied armies.  The terms of the Treaty of Versailles were harsher than the Germans had expected.

In 1922 and 1923, the economy collapsed when inflation ruined the value of German money.  By 1923, the republic appeared doomed.  Communists rebelled in some areas.  In Munich, the National Socialist German Workers Party--better known as the Nazi Party--attempted an armed rebellion under its leader, Adolf Hitler.  But despite these events, the republic survived.

Gustav Stresemann became chancellor and then foreign minister.  Under his leadership, order was restored.  A new money system was set up to end the inflation.  In 1924, the Allies made it easier for Germany to pay its reparations.  At the Locarno Conference in 1925, Stresemann signed a security pact with France and Belgium.  The pact was also guaranteed by Great Britain and Italy (see LOCARNO CONFERENCE).

The republic's prospects looked much brighter by the late 1920's.  But in 1929, a worldwide economic depression began.  Millions of Germans lost their jobs.  The government appeared powerless and political violence increased.  The voters increasingly supported groups that promised a new system of government.  After the 1930 elections, political parties in the Reichstag failed to agree on a program.  Between 1930 and 1933, President Paul von Hindenburg and his chancellors ruled largely by issuing laws without the approval of parliament.

Nazi Germany.  During the political confusion of the early 1930's, the Nazi Party made rapid gains in German elections.  The Nazi Party had been founded in 1919.  After his 1923 revolt failed, Hitler decided to gain power by lawful means rather than by revolution.  From 1924 to 1929, the republic was prosperous and stable, so the Nazis attracted few voters.  After the Great Depression struck, more Germans were attracted to Hitler's promises to improve the economy, defy the hated Treaty of Versailles, and rebuild Germany's military power.  In 1932, the Nazis emerged as the strongest party in the Reichstag.  In 1933, Hindenburg appointed Hitler chancellor.  See HITLER, ADOLF; NAZISM.

Soon after he became chancellor, Hitler began to destroy the constitution and build a dictatorship.  He permitted only one political party--the Nazis.  The party seized control of the nation's courts, newspapers, police, and schools.  People who opposed the government were murdered, imprisoned in concentration camps, forced to leave Germany, or beaten up by the Nazis' private army called storm troopers.  After Hindenburg died in 1934, Hitler declared himself der Fuhrer (the leader) of Germany.  The Nazis called their government the Third Reich (Third Empire).  The first was the Holy Roman Empire, and the second was the German Empire.

Many Germans approved of Nazism.  Many others objected to some features of Nazi rule, but supported Hitler's efforts to improve the economy and rebuild the military.  Some Germans opposed Hitler but remained silent.  Only a very few resisted.

Hitler pursued two goals.  He wanted to assert German superiority over what he believed to be inferior races, including Jews, Slavs, and other non-German peoples.  He also wanted to gain territory--Lebensraum (living space)--for Germany, especially in eastern Europe.  In 1933, Hitler removed all German Jews from government jobs.  In 1935, he took away the rights of Jewish citizens.  Faced with this persecution, more than half of Germany's 500,000 Jews left the country.  On Nov. 9, 1938, Nazi crowds burned down synagogues and broke the windows of Jewish businesses in an event later called Kristallnacht (Crystal Night).  In English, the event is known as the Night of Broken Glass.

At the same time Hitler was acting against the Jews, he was also preparing for war.  In 1936, German troops reoccupied the Rhineland.  Also in 1936, Germany formed an alliance with Italy and signed an anti-Communist agreement with Japan.  The three countries became known as the Axis powers.  In March 1938, Germany occupied Austria and made it part of the Third Reich.  In September, Britain and France consented to Hitler's demands to take over the German-speaking areas of Czechoslovakia (see MUNICH AGREEMENT).  The next year, Germany seized the rest of Czechoslovakia.

In August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union (which had been formed under Russia's leadership in 1922 and existed until 1991) agreed to remain neutral if the other became involved in a war.  They also secretly planned to divide Poland and much of the rest of eastern Europe between themselves.  On September 1, Germany invaded Poland and World War II began.

World War II.  On Sept. 3, 1939, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany to help defend Poland.  But Poland fell quickly under the German, and later, Soviet attacks.  In the spring of 1940, German forces captured Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg.  The Allied forces that opposed the Germans had been unprepared for Germany's blitzkrieg (lightning war) methods.  Hitler used fast-moving tanks and infantry supported by dive bombers.

In May 1940, the German army moved around France's eastern defenses and overwhelmed the French army.  France fell by the end of June.

The German advance stopped at the English Channel.  After a series of desperate air battles over Britain in the summer and fall of 1940, the Germans failed to gain the air superiority they needed to invade England.  Hitler now turned to the east and the south.  He conquered the Balkans, occupied Crete, and sent an army to northern Africa.  In June 1941, a huge German force invaded the Soviet Union and drove deep into Soviet territory.

At the end of 1941, Nazi Germany dominated the continent.  Hitler used his power as proof of his theory that the Germans belonged to a "master race."  The Nazis ruthlessly murdered about 6 million European Jews and about 5 million Poles, Gypsies, and others.  Many of these people died in the Nazi concentration camps.

Despite his army's initial success, Hitler could not defeat the Soviet Union.  The Soviets continued to resist and slowly pushed the invaders back.  Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, brought the United States into the war.  The tide turned against Germany in 1943.  The Soviets counterattacked in the east.  American and British troops drove the Germans out of North Africa and invaded Italy from the south.  In June 1944, the Allies invaded France.  After the failure of the last German offensive in December 1944, Allied troops poured into Germany.  As Soviet troops closed in on Berlin from the east, Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945.  On May 7, Germany surrendered.  For the story of Germany in World War II, see WORLD WAR II.

Occupied Germany.  The war left most of Germany in ruins.  The Allied bombing and invasion had destroyed cities, farms, industries, and transportation.  Supplies of food, fuel, and water were very low.  People were half starved, and many lived in ruined buildings.

In June 1945, the Allied Big Four--the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union--officially took over supreme authority in Germany.  The country was divided into four zones of military occupation, with each power occupying a zone.  Berlin, located deep in the Soviet zone, was also divided into four sectors.

In July and August 1945, leaders of the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union met in Potsdam, Germany.  They agreed to govern Germany together and to rebuild it as a democracy.  They also agreed to stamp out Nazism and to settle German refugees from Eastern Europe in Germany.  Under the agreement, the Soviet Union also was granted northern East Prussia, which it claimed.  The rest of that region, and German territory east of the Oder and Neisse rivers, were placed under Polish control.  As a result, Germany lost about a fourth of its land.  See POTSDAM CONFERENCE.

Many of the most important Nazi leaders had committed suicide or had disappeared.  The Allies brought to trial those remaining.  A number of these Nazis were hanged or imprisoned.  The most important trials took place in Nuremberg (see NUREMBERG TRIALS).

The division of Germany.  Almost immediately after their victory over the Nazis, the Allies began to quarrel among themselves.  The Soviet Union began to establish Communist governments in the Eastern European countries its army had occupied at the end of the war.  The Western powers tried to block Communist expansion in the areas under their control.  The Soviets imposed barriers against communication, trade, and travel between East and West.  Extreme mistrust and tension grew on each side, a condition that came to be called the Cold War.  See COLD WAR.

The outbreak of the Cold War affected Germany immediately.  When the Soviet Union and the Western Allies could not agree on a common policy in Germany, each side began to organize its own occupation zones in Germany overall and in Berlin.  The Western Allies occupied western Germany, and the Soviet Union occupied the east.  Berlin, located in the east, was divided into Allied-occupied West Berlin and Soviet-occupied East Berlin.  Great Britain, France, and the United States combined the economies of the zones they controlled and prepared to unite the zones politically.  The Soviet Union imposed Communist rule on its zone.

In June 1948, the Western Allies moved to rebuild the economy of their occupation zones in Germany.  They reorganized the German monetary system and issued new money, replacing the virtually worthless existing currency.  Under the Marshall Plan, U.S. aid began to pour into the Western Allied zones, and economic recovery got underway (see MARSHALL PLAN).  The Soviets responded by stopping all highway, rail, and water travel between Berlin and western Germany.  The Soviets hoped to force the Allies out of Berlin.  But the Allies set up the huge Berlin airlift and flew about 8,000 short tons (7,300 metric tons) of supplies into the city every day.  The Soviets lifted the blockade in May 1949, realizing it had failed.  See COLD WAR (The Berlin blockade).

West Germany.  The Western Allies turned over more authority to German officials.  As the division between the Eastern and Western zones grew, the Allies arranged for a German council to write a constitution, which they approved in May 1949.  On Sept. 21, 1949, the Western zones were officially combined as the Federal Republic of Germany (also called West Germany).  The military occupation ended, and the Allied High Commission, a civilian agency, replaced the military governors.  Military occupation continued in West Berlin because treaties uniting Germany had not been signed.  On May 5, 1955, the Allied High Commission was dissolved, and West Germany became completely independent.

The new West German parliament met for the first time in Bonn, the country's capital, in September 1949.  It elected Konrad Adenauer chancellor.  Under him, West Germany helped found the Council of Europe and several organizations that eventually became the European Community, an economic association that is now part of the European Union.  In 1955, West Germany joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and began to establish its armed forces.

By 1955, West Germany had made an amazing economic recovery.  The value of goods produced there was greater than that for all Germany in 1936.  This "economic miracle" helped West Germany absorb more than 10 million refugees from Eastern Europe and more than a million workers from the rest of Europe.

West Germany's prosperity helped the republic gain the support of its citizens.  Also, Adenauer was a strong leader, though he was criticized in his later years for ignoring the views of others.  He retired in 1963.  Ludwig Erhard succeeded Adenauer as chancellor and served until 1966.  Kurt Georg Kiesinger was chancellor from 1966 to 1969.  Adenauer, Erhard, and Kiesinger were members of the Christian Democratic Union.

Willy Brandt of the Social Democratic Party, who had been vice chancellor since 1966, became chancellor in 1969.  He resigned in 1974 after it was discovered that one of his aides was an East German spy.  Helmut Schmidt, also a Social Democrat, succeeded Brandt.  In 1982, Schmidt was forced from office by a vote of no confidence from the Bundestag.  The small Free Democratic Party, which had supported the Social Democrats, switched its parliamentary support to the Christian Democratic Union.  The Bundestag elected Christian Democratic leader Helmut Kohl chancellor.  Kohl remained chancellor following the 1983 and 1987 elections, in which the Christian Democratic coalition with the Free Democrats won majorities in the Bundestag.

In the 1980's, many Germans, especially young people, expressed concern for the environment and opposition to the placement of U.S. missiles in West Germany.  Mass protests occurred.  The Green Party, an organization devoted to environmental issues, gained popularity.

East Germany.  After World War II, the Soviet Union appointed German Communists to local offices and set up a system much like that of the Soviet Union.  Banks, farms, and industries were seized and reorganized.  People suspected of opposing Communism were thrown into prison camps.  In 1946, the Communists forced the Social Democratic Party to join them in forming the Socialist Unity Party.  The party came under control of the Communist leader Walter Ulbricht.  Ulbricht became first secretary, or head, of the Socialist Unity Party.  The first secretary (later general secretary) was the most powerful leader in East Germany.

A Communist-prepared constitution was adopted in May 1949.  On October 7, the Soviet zone became the German Democratic Republic (commonly called East Germany), with East Berlin its capital.  Ulbricht held the real power, though he did not head the government.  In October 1955, East Germany became officially independent, but Soviet influence continued.  Also in 1955, East Germany joined the Warsaw Pact, an Eastern European military alliance under Soviet command (see WARSAW PACT).  East Germany's armed forces were established officially in 1956, though special "police" units had been given tanks and other heavy weapons as early as 1952.

The East German economy recovered after 1945, but the standard of living remained much lower than West Germany's.  In 1953, Ulbricht tried to increase working hours without raising wages.  Strikes and riots broke out in East Berlin and other cities.  Soviet tanks and troops crushed the revolt.  Living and working conditions slowly improved, but many people remained dissatisfied.  Every week, thousands of East Germans fled to West Germany.  Almost 3 million East Germans left, and the labor force fell sharply.  Most refugees fled through Berlin because the Communists had sealed off the East-West border.  In August 1961, the Communists built the Berlin Wall between East and West Berlin.  They also strengthened barriers around the rest of West Berlin and along the border between East and West Germany.  From 1961 to 1989, when the borders were opened, hundreds died trying to escape from East Germany, including many who tried to cross the Berlin Wall.

In 1971, Ulbricht resigned as head of East Germany's Socialist Unity Party.  Erich Honecker, a member of the party's Central Committee, succeeded him.  Under Honecker, East Germany improved its relations with many non-Communist nations.  Before 1960, only the Soviet Union and several other Communist countries had diplomatic relations with East Germany.  But eventually, East Germany established relations with other nations.

East Germany experienced major changes in 1989.  In many Eastern European nations, people demonstrated against their Communist governments.  Communist Hungary removed its barriers on its border with non-Communist Austria.  Thousands of East Germans went to Hungary, crossed into Austria, and then moved to West Germany.  Throughout East Germany, citizens protested for more freedom.  In October, the growing pressure forced Honecker to resign as head of the party and from his government positions.  He was succeeded in all his positions by another Communist, Egon Krenz.  In November 1990, the German government charged Honecker with manslaughter for ordering border guards to shoot East Germans trying to escape to West Germany during his leadership.  Honecker became ill and died in 1994 while in exile in Chile.

In a dramatic change in policy, the East German government announced on Nov. 9, 1989, that it would open its borders and permit its citizens to travel freely.  The opening of the Berlin Wall, long a symbol of the East German government's control of its citizens, was part of this policy change.  Thousands more East Germans moved to West Germany.  During this time, protests continued.  Non-Communist political parties and organizations were started.  In December, Krenz resigned as party head and from his government positions.  Hans Modrow, chairman of East Germany's cabinet, took control of the government, though he was not a party head.

On March 18, 1990, East Germans voted in free parliamentary elections for the first time.  The Christian Democratic Union, a non-Communist party, won the most seats in parliament.  Together with the Social Democrats and some smaller parties, the Christian Democrats formed a government with CDU leader Lothar de Maiziere as its head.  The Socialist Unity Party, which had been renamed the Party of Democratic Socialism, won only about 17 percent of the seats.

East-West relations.  Throughout the 1950's and 1960's, relations between East Germany and West Germany were strained.  Little travel was permitted between the two nations.  Following the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, many East Germans were killed trying to flee to the west.  Relations improved slightly during the 1970's.  But the governments of East and West Germany continued to view each other with suspicion and hostility.  In 1973, both countries joined the United Nations.

The unification of East and West Germany.  With the move toward a more democratic government in East Germany, many people began to consider the idea of a unified Germany.  In February 1990, East German leader Modrow announced that he favored unification.  In their March elections, most East Germans voted for candidates who favored rapid unification.  Most West Germans also supported unification.

In mid-1990, East Germany began selling many government-owned businesses.  In May, East Germany and West Germany signed a treaty providing for close economic cooperation.  In July, the economies of East Germany and West Germany were united.

Between May and September, talks about unification were held among the foreign ministers of the two German states and the four Allied powers of World War II--Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States.  The Allied powers still held some occupation rights in Berlin and in East and West Germany, including certain rights to oversee Berlin and to approve Germany's borders.  In a treaty signed on September 12, the Allied powers agreed to give up these rights.  The treaty, called the Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany, made it possible for the Germans to complete the unification of East and West Germany.

On August 31, representatives of East Germany and West Germany signed their own treaty for unification.  The treaty detailed the major aspects of unification, including the merging of the social and legal systems.  The treaty took effect on Oct. 3, 1990, marking the official date for the unification of East and West Germany.  Berlin was also unified.  It was named the capital of united Germany.  West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl continued to serve as chancellor of Germany.  The first national elections of unified Germany were held in December 1990. The Christian Democratic Union won the majority of seats in the Bundestag and formed a coalition with the Free Democratic Party.  Kohl remained chancellor.

After unification, unemployment grew in the eastern German states, and Germans there protested.  Germans in the western states complained because the government raised taxes to pay for the high cost of unification.  In addition, large numbers of immigrants entered the country.  Neo-Nazis and other right-wing Germans protested the increased immigration.  Some of them made attacks against foreigners, resulting in a number of deaths.  Large numbers of Germans took part in public demonstrations that protested the attacks.  Germany had had a policy of allowing any people who said they were fleeing persecution to enter the country.  In 1993, the German parliament amended the Constitution to reduce the flow of immigrants into Germany.

Recent developments.  In 1994 elections, the Christian Democrats won the most seats in parliament, and Kohl continued as chancellor.  Unemployment rates remained high. In 1998 elections, Kohl's party was defeated.  The Social Democratic Party won the most seats and formed a coalition government with the Green Party.  Gerhard Schroder, leader of the Social Democrats, became Germany's chancellor.