Germany Facts

Germany Facts and History


Germany – the most populous country in the EU

On the eastern border of Germany, shortly after the end of World War II and until November 1989, the two major political systems that had divided the world faced each other irreconcilably. What hardly anyone thought was possible on November 9, 1989, the border between the GDR and the Federal Republic opened, and on October 3, 1990 the reunification of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic followed. Although it was legally precisely a connection between the GDR and the Federal Republic of Germany. A state with around 17 million residents, a developed economy and a strong army as well as an all-inclusive secret service (STASI) had simply dissolved.

In the 21st century, Germany is the most populous country in Europe and the EU with around 80.2 million residents and an area of 357,050 km². It is the country of Martin Luther, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Bertolt Brecht, Ludwig van Beethoven, Immanuel Kant, Johann Sebastian Bach, Günter Grass, Heinrich Böll, Max Planck and Albert Einstein – a country with wonderful literature, wonderful music and an important one Philosophy – but unfortunately also the country of Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler.

I think of Germany at night,

then I am brought to sleep,

I can no longer close

my eyes, And my hot tears flow.

This is how Heinrich Heine’s (1797-1856) poem “Night Thoughts” begins in 1843. But much better known of his is “The Loreley”, whose verses set to music still move many people to tears.

I don’t know what it should mean

that I’m so sad,

A fairy tale from old times,

That doesn’t get out of my mind.

After the Second World War, the country developed into a democratic constitutional state that, together with 26 other countries, is a member of the European Union (EU). Furthermore, Germany has been a member of NATO since 1955 and of the UN since September 18, 1973. Germany’s capital and seat of government is Berlin with around 3.4 million residents. Until November 9, 1989, the city was divided in half by the wall. Before reunification, East Berlin was the capital of the GDR, while West Berlin had a special status and (to a limited extent) belonged to the Federal Republic of Germany.


On July 13, 2014, Germany stood under its national coach Joachim Löw in the Estádio do Maracanã (stadium) in Rio de Janeiro in the final of the Soccer World Cup against Argentina.

After a goal by Mario Götze in extra time, Germany won 1-0 for the fourth time as world champions.

The 1954 World Cup in Bern on July 4, 1954 ended 3-2 against Hungary. The national coach was Sepp Herberger.

The 1974 World Cup in Munich on July 7, 1974 ended 2-1 against the Netherlands. National coach was Helmut Schön.

The 1990 World Cup in Rome on July 8, 1990 ended 1-0 against Argentina. National coach was Franz Beckenbauer.

In addition, Germany became European soccer champions in 1972, 1980 and 1996.

Name of the country Federal Republic of Germany, FRG
Form of government According to Article 20 of the Basic Law, the Federal Republic of Germany is a democratic and social federal state
Number of federal states 16, including three city-states with Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen
Federal President (Head of State) Frank-Walter Steinmeier became the 12th Federal President of the Federal Republic of Germanyon March 12, 2017.His election by the Federal Assembly took place on February 12 with 931 out of 1,239 valid Simmen
President of the Bundestag since October 24, 2017 Wolfgang Schäuble from the CDU
Election on September 24, 2017(voter turnout 76.1%) The Bundestag has 709 members of theCDU/CSU: 246 (33%) dacon 6.2% CSU – in Bavaria 38.8%

SPD: 153 (20.5%)

AfD: 92 (12.6%)

FDP: 80 (10.7%)

The Left: 69 (9.2%)

Bündnis90/Die Grünen: 67 (8.9%)

Non-attached: 2 withdrawals from the AfD

Coalition CDU/CSU, SPD (decided on February 7, 2018)
opposition AfD, Die Linke, Bündnis90/Die Grünen, FDP, non-attached
Chancellor Since November 22, 2005 Angela Merkel of the CDU4th term since March 14, 2018

Of the 692 votes cast, she received 364 yes and 315 no votes, 9 abstentions and 4 were invalid

Federal Minister Labor and Social Affairs Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD)Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD)

Education and Research Minister Anja Karliczek (CDU)


Minister Gerd Müller (CSU) Food and Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner (CDU)

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD)

Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU)

Interior Construction and Home Affairs Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU)

Justice Minister Katarina Barley (SPD)

Chancellery Minister Helge Braun (CDU)

Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD)

Transport Minister + Digital Andreas Scheuer (CSU)

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU)

Economics and Energy Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU)

Family Minister Franziska Giffey (SPD)

National anthem 3rd stanza from “Song of the Germans” by H. v. Fallersleben”Unity and Law and Freedom for the German Fatherland……”
National holiday October 3 (Unity Day 1990)
Geographical location Central Europe
Population around 82 million (Credit: Countryaah: Germany Population)
Ethnicities 19.3% of the residents have a migration background.
Religions 21.5 million Protestant, 23.3 million Catholic, approx. 3.5 million Muslimand approx. 110,000 members of Jewish communities, among others
official languages German, Sorbian, Danish
Capital Berlin with around 3.5 million
Surface 357,050 km²
Highest mountain Zugspitze in the Alps with a height of 2,964 m
Longest river Danube with a total length of 2,888 kmAustria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Molavia and the Ukaine lie on the river.

It flows into the Black Sea via the Danube Delta. (82.5% Romania and 17.5% in Ukraine)

Largest lake Lake Constance partly together with Austria and Switzerland with an area of 538.5 km²Müritz, which lies entirely in Germany with an area of around 117 km². (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania)
Important international memberships UN, NATO, EU, Eurozone
National currency Euro (€), 1 € = 100 cents
Time difference to CET = CET or in summer CEST (Central European Summer Time)
International phone code 0049
Mains voltage, frequency 230/400 volts, 50 hertz
Top Level Domain (TLD) .de
International license plate D.

Germany: history

Before the year 1000

Without a doubt, the most famous person in Central Europe is the Neanderthal, who appeared around 230,000 years ago and then disappeared around 30,000 years ago. Homo sapiens immigrated to Europe from Africa about 40,000 and settled in Central Europe together with Neanderthals. Nevertheless, there hardly seems to have been any meetings between them.

According to Abbreviationfinder website, in the following millennia, different cultures developed, e.g. the Celtic La Tène culture and a Germanic culture in the north. Grave finds, stone tools, ceramic remains and cave paintings are evidence of this.

It is worth mentioning the probably first great “battle” that took place around 1,300 BC. In the valley of the 68 km long river Tollense in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. At least 400 were killed and many injured in this bloody slaughter, in which probably more than 2,000 men were involved.

In the younger Iron Age, the Germans invaded the Celtic area. In the period that followed, the Germans ruled a large part of what is now Central Europe.

“Gallia est omnis diversa in partes tres”; this statement by Julius Caesar (100-44 BC) in his “De bello Gallico” will be remembered by anyone who has ever learned Latin. The work speaks of the Aquitans and Belgians, but not yet of the Teutons. A decisive event in the area of today’s Germany was the battle of the Teutons under the leadership of Herrmann the Cheruscan against the Roman legions under Varus in the year 9 AD in the “Teutoburg Forest”. The actual site of the battle is now believed to be near Kalkriese, north of Osnabrück. The Romans suffered a decisive defeat. However, their victory did not lead to a union of the strongly divided Germanic tribes.

The basis of the political, social and cultural development of the West, in particular of German and French culture, was formed by the Frankish Empire, probably the most important empire formation of the early Middle Ages. Since the 4th century, the Salian Franks settled in the south of what is now Belgium. Clovis I from the Merovingian family defeated the remaining Roman rule in northern Gaul and conquered parts of the Alemannic settlement area and the Visigothic Empire. The center of his Frankish unified empire was in northern France. The Franconian Empire achieved its greatest expansion under Charlemagne (747-814). After his death, the empire began to decline. The grandchildren of Karl d. Size the sons of Louis the Pious(778-840), divided the Franconian Empire among themselves in the Treaty of Verdun in 843. The land east of the Rhine was given to Ludwig the German (804-876). In the period that followed, an independent East Franconian empire developed. At what point in time the East Frankish empire became a “German” empire in the minds of the people cannot be determined with absolute certainty. The more recent research says that at the beginning of the 11th century at the earliest, an increasingly “German” consciousness appeared alongside the Franconian tradition. From the 11th century onwards, people evidently spoke of the “Germans” and an “Empire of the Germans”.

The economic basis of the developing German Empire was agriculture. An agrarian society prevailed throughout the Middle Ages. The rural population lived in personal and economic dependence on their landlord and cultivated his land. The landlords themselves either owned this land or were part of a large-scale feudal system of the knightly nobility.

The politics of the empire was largely determined by three major institutions: royalty, church and nobility. The king was chief judge and chief military officer. He was also the supreme liege lord of all landlords. Sections of the nobility did not regard their landed property as a fiefdom from the king, but as free property and thus claimed a lordship that was independent of the king. The dualism of royal central power and noble particular interests was therefore decisive for the developing German Empire from the start.

Heinrich I (876-936), whose remains are in the collegiate church of Quedlinburgare considered the first “German” king, which was shamelessly exploited by the National Socialists. He did not hand over his power to all his sons like Charlemagne, but appointed the later Otto I as his sole successor.

Otto I, the Great (936-973), then, as king and later emperor, tried, with the help of the bishops, to build up a comprehensive system of rule and administration (“Ottonian-Salian imperial church system”). From now on, the church was to serve as a power base and counterweight to the tribal princes. He was crowned king on August 7, 936 in the octagon of Aachen Cathedral and demonstratively took his place on the throne of Charlemagne there. He demonstrated his all-encompassing claim to power. Otto I was also very successful in foreign policy.

However, he reached his greatest triumph on August 10, 955 on the Lechfeld near Augsburg when he met the Hungarians therewho had besieged the city and had invaded the “Reich” about 50 times and had brutally lived, and were devastatingly beaten. In his army of 12,000 men there were Saxony, Franconia, Bavaria, Swabia and Lorraine. Many historians see the battle as the beginning of a “German” idea of the empire.

He conquered parts of Italy and was crowned emperor in Rome in 962. He did not get a greater power, but a greater dignity than the other kings. In the following years Germany and Italy were to be ruled from Rome. The “Holy Roman Empire” emerged, but its title (“Sacrum Romanum Imperium”) does not come from the 13th century. And it wasn’t until the 15th century that the name was added with the addition ”

With the death of Otto III. (983-1002) then the Ottonian (Saxon) line of rule came to an end.

From the year 1000 to the 17th century

In the middle of the 11th century there were significant changes in the rulership and social relations. The population grew enormously so that agricultural productivity had to be increased. New cultivation methods (e.g. three-field farming) and working techniques (e.g. grain mills, new plowing equipment) developed. Large forest areas, especially east of the Elbe and Saale, were cleared and developed for agriculture. German settlement in the east began.

One of the most important problems in the 11th century was the so-called investiture dispute between the Pope and the “German” king. At first glance, it was about the right to appoint bishops, but the deeper reason was the competition between papacy and kingship. When Pope Gregory VII, the former monk Hildebrandt, exiled Heinrich IV (1050-1106) in 1076, Heinrich moved to Italy in 1077 – in order to maintain his royal dignity – and implored “Canossa” as “Canossa” in front of the castle repentant sinner asked the Pope for grace, which was also granted to him on February 28, 1077. Despite the exemption from church exemption, the German princes and bishops, under the leadership of Archbishop Siegfried I of Mainz, elected the Swabian Duke Rudolf von Rheinfelden as the anti-king on March 15, 1077. In the battle of the White Elster (near Hohenmölsen) in 1080 Heinrich defeated his opponent, who died as a result of a serious injury. Rudolf’s remains are in Merseburg Cathedral. Heinrich was later buried in Speyer Cathedral. Speyer had around 30,000 residents at the time of Heinrich and had the largest cathedral in the world at the time. Incidentally, the investiture dispute was settled with a compromise in 1122 by the Worms Concordat.

A well-known emperor of the 12th century is Friedrich I. Barbarossa (1122-1190). He was especially known for his arguments with the Guelph Duke Heinrich the Lion (1129-1195). Friedrich drowned on June 19, 1190 on the way to the Holy Land while bathing in the Salef River in Asia Minor. Although Friedrich’s balance sheet was rather mediocre, he quickly became the “cult emperor” of the following period. According to the legend, he is located in Kyffhäuser in Thuringia and will eventually reappear as the unifier and emperor of the empire. Incidentally, Henry the Lion emigrated to England, while his son, Otto IV (1177-1218), became emperor.

From the middle of the 12th century, those of the Slavs on the Havel, Elbe and Oder were subjugated. Silesia, previously part of Poland, was incorporated into the German Empire. Trade and commerce flourished and the money economy developed. Cities were increasingly being built. The old rulership relationships gradually dissolved. In place of the manorial self-management, the land was awarded as interest property (“leasing”). The previous compulsory labor was also converted into levies in cash or in kind. The economic and legal position of the farmers improved considerably as a result. The emerging cities developed their own legal and administrative systems. Local self-government ruled, at the center of which was the bourgeoisie, consisting of city lords, merchants and craftsmen. Guilds,

There were also reform movements in the church. Although the king retained influence on the occupation of the German bishoprics and imperial abbeys, the continuation of his previous policy, which was based on unrestricted church rule, was no longer possible. The old tribal duchies gradually dissolved. In their place came new, relatively small territories, whose rulers tried to expand their own rulership. The so-called imperial princes, to which archbishops, bishops, abbots, dukes and margraves belonged, separated from the rest of the nobility from the middle of the 12th century and claimed special privileges for themselves. Their influence on state politics grew.

The most powerful princes, the seven electors, succeeded in gaining the right to elect a king in 1257. In the most important imperial law of the Middle Ages, the Golden Bull of 1356, their legal status in this regard was finally laid down. In the elections for the king, they were no longer guided by blood law ideas, but instead asserted power-political interests. For this reason, different dynasties (Habsburg, Nassau, Luxemburg, Wittelsbach) alternated after the fall of the Hohenstaufen kings. From now on the royal rule in Germany was characterized by discontinuity. An efficient Reich administration with the exercise of Reich legislation had thus become impossible.

In the 15th century there was general legal uncertainty and unrestrained feuds. The call for a comprehensive reform of the empire began. Under the Elector of Mainz, Berthold von Henneberg, a general ban on feuds (“Eternal Landfriede”) was imposed and an Imperial Court of Justice was established. The German Empire was divided into ten imperial circles.

The craftsmen and merchants formed alliances (city federations, Hanseatic League) in order to protect their interests against the princely territorial powers. Extensive long-distance trade developed in the south of the empire in the 15th and 16th centuries. The news and transport system was expanded. Trade fairs, stock exchanges, bills of exchange, credit companies and double-entry bookkeeping emerged. The Italian renaissance and humanism led to an enormous development in art and science in Germany. The first universities (Prague, Vienna, Heidelberg, Cologne) were founded.

Martin Luther’s (1483-1546) Reformation turn led to the dissolution of the medieval world order as a single Christianity. Protestantism as a doctrine of the faith spread. In 1524/25 there was the famous peasant uprising in which the evangelical theologian and social revolutionary Thomas Müntzer (1489-1525) was involved. The strong religious contrasts between Catholicism and Protestantism erupted in the Thirty Years War (1618-48). This ended in the Peace of Westphalia between Münster and Osnabrück. The German Empire lost parts to France, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The elective monarchy was confirmed and the sovereign princes retained almost full sovereignty. In the territories of the sovereigns, states emerged that were characterized by princely absolutism (Austria, Brandenburg-Prussia,

In the 18th and 19th centuries

In the 18th century, the Enlightenment was the predominant spiritual trend. It contributed significantly to the weakening of religious contradictions and to the establishment of an internal reform movement in most of the imperial territories. The bourgeoisie gained new self-confidence. The French Revolution of 1789 severely shook the social and political foundations of the absolutist order in Germany. The German Empire collapsed due to the defeat against the French revolutionary armies. It was divided according to the interests of the major European powers. The so-called Reichsdeputationshauptschluss in 1803 dissolved the political and legal foundations of the old Reich. The spiritual principalities were secularized and incorporated into cities. 16 South and West German states merged to form the Rhine Confederation in 1806 and declared their exit from the Holy Roman Empire. Emperor Franz II, who had also been Emperor of Austria since 1804, laid down the imperial crown on August 6, 1806 at the request of Napoleon I (1769-1821). The time of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation was over.

After the fall of the Napoleonic Army in Russia, Prussia rose against foreign rule in 1813/14. The remaining parts of Germany gradually joined. Germany liberated itself through the Battle of the Nations near Leipzig (October 16-19, 1813). Napoleon was overthrown and the First Peace of Paris in 1814 returned France to the 1792 borders. After the repeated defeat of the returned Napoleon, Landau went to Bavaria and Saarlouis and Saarbrücken to Prussia in the 2nd Paris Peace of 1815. The Congress of Vienna of 1814/15 led to a reorganization of the European state system and regulated the territorial structure and constitutional order of Germany. The now 37 princely states and four free cities were merged into a loose confederation, the German Confederation,

In the German Confederation, Prussia and Austria were the largest individual states. Under Prussian leadership, the German Customs Union was established in 1834, bringing economic unity to most of Germany, excluding Austria. Taxation and finance were standardized within the individual states. The industrial age began with the construction of the first railways. At the end of the 1850s there was a more than 6,000 km long railway network in Germany, which made the country a unified traffic area. Large companies in the coal and iron industries emerged. Due to industrialization, Germany became one of the leading economic powers in the world (early years). But the increasingly bad working conditions with long working hours, low wages and poor hygienic conditions exacerbated the social differences. The labor movement with the establishment of parties and unions emerged in the 1860s.

At the beginning of the 19th century a national unity movement awoke. In 1848 the March Revolution took place. The Bundestag was now replaced by a German national assembly that emerged from democratic elections. However, the idea of national unity failed because of the particular interests of the individual states. The German Confederation was restored. In the period that followed, Prussia and Austria prevented further attempts at reform. Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898), appointed Minister-President of Prussia in 1862, finally declared the German Confederation to be over in 1866 and brought about the Prussian-Austrian War in which Austria was defeated. As a result, Germany was reorganized without Austria. The North German Confederation was founded on August 18, 1866, and the elected North German Reichstag was opened on February 24, 1867. The constitution he adopted provided for the later entry of the southern German states. The Federal Presidium was transferred to Prussia and the regulation of foreign policy and the army of the Federation were subordinated. Federal Chancellor Bismarck introduced uniform federal legislation. In terms of foreign policy, Bismarck pursued the isolation of France. In 1870/71 the Franco-German War broke out, in which southern German states also took part. In November 1870, Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden and Hesse joined the North German Confederation in Versailles. This received the name “German Reich” by the Reichstag resolution of December 10, 1870. On January 18, 1871, King Wilhelm I of Prussia was declared German Emperor in the Palace of Versailles, whereby the establishment of the empire was finally completed. The imperial constitution came into force on 16. In force April 1871. The highest constitutional body was the Federal Council, in which the princes were represented. The only Reich Minister responsible was the Chancellor to be appointed by the Kaiser. The new Reichstag met for the first time in March 1871.

The great economic boom in the early years was followed by the crisis of 1874. Bismarck now pursued an increasingly conservative domestic policy and in 1879 introduced protective tariffs to promote agriculture and industry. There was a break between Bismarck and the National Liberals, who had supported him for a long time in his free-trade economic policy and in his cultural war against the Catholic Church. In 1878, Bismarck initiated the Socialist Law (“Law against the Social Democracy’s Dangerous Endeavors”) in the Reichstag, which remained in force until 1890. In order to reconcile the workforce, he introduced far-reaching social laws on health, accident, pension and disability insurance in the years 1883-89. These social insurances form the pillars of the social security systems in Germany to this day and were unique worldwide at the time. After attempting to introduce a stricter socialist law in the Reichstag, Bismarck had to resign in 1890 at the request of Kaiser Wilhelm II.

In the 20th century

First World War 1914 to 1918

In terms of foreign policy, Germany increasingly isolated itself from France, Great Britain and Russia in the following years. Great Britain formed an Entente (friendly alliance) with France in 1904 and also came to an understanding with Russia (Triple Entente) in 1907. The Central Powers Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy and the Ottoman Empire faced this. In this situation, the assassination of the Austrian heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo (then Austro-Hungarian territory) on June 28, 1914 triggered a political crisis (July crisis), which ended with the outbreak of the First World War. Around 10 million people lost their lives in this war and around 20 million were injured. The cost of the war was over a trillion gold marks, which far exceeded the economic strength of the European countries. On November 11, 1918, Germany’s military defeat was sealed with the Compiègne armistice.

Even during the war, the November Revolution in Germany led to the collapse of the monarchist system of government. On November 9, 1918, Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated and handed over the business of government to the chairman of the SPD, Friedrich Ebert. On the same day, Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed the “German Republic” from the Reichstag building. The uprising of the Spartacists, who in January 1919 wanted to fundamentally revolutionize the social order within the framework of the system of workers and soldiers’ councils, was put down. On January 15, 1919, the leaders of the Spartakusbund in hiding, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, were arrested and murdered.

Weimar Republic

On January 19, 1919, a national assembly was elected. It met in February of the same year and elected Friedrich Ebert as President of the Reich. On August 11, 1919, the Weimar Constitution came into force. The government was formed by the SPD, Zentrum (Z) and the German Democratic Party (DDP). Under pressure from the victorious powers, the National Assembly accepted the Treaty of Versailles on June 22, 1919. Germany suffered major territorial losses as a result of this treaty and was obliged to pay high reparations.

Domestically, there were major unrest in the following years. The economic crisis and inflation intensified the dispute over the Versailles Treaty. Right-wing extremist currents, in particular, criticized the government for a policy of compliance. Numerous uprisings and putsch attempts (Kapp Putsch in March 1920, communist uprisings 1919/21, murder of Walther Rathenau in 1922, Hitler putsch in 1923) were suppressed. From 1924 a phase of internal consolidation of the republic began. The currency stabilized after the inflation year 1923. In addition, the so-called “Dawes Plan” initiated an economic upswing through the modalities of reparation payments. In 1925, after Ebert’s death, the popular General Paul von Hindenburg (1847-1934) was elected President of the Reich.

In terms of foreign policy, Germany tried to end its isolation. In 1926, Germany joined the League of Nations and concluded a friendship agreement with the USSR. In 1929 the world economic crisis broke out. Unemployment in Germany peaked and domestic political tensions intensified. In 1930, the then government under Hermann Müller (1876-1931), SPD, was overthrown. Reich President von Hindenburg appointed the center politician Heinrich Brüning (1885-1970) as Reich Chancellor. During his reign, unemployment grew to over six million by 1932. Left and right-wing extremist parties were now very popular, especially the Communist Party KPD and the National Socialist Party NSDAP.

In 1932, the NSDAP emerged from the Reichstag elections as the strongest parliamentary group. Hindenburg was confirmed in office and, after Brüning’s dismissal, set up right-wing presidential cabinets with the governments of Franz von Papen (1879-1969) and Kurt von Schleicher (1882-1934). In July 1932, the von Papen government deposed the Prussian government under Prime Minister Otto Braun (1872-1955), SPD, and thus eliminated one of the main political pillars of the Weimar Republic.

National Socialism from 1933 to 1945

On March 23, 1993 the “Law to Eliminate the Need of the People and the Reich” – the so-called Enabling Act – was passed by the German Reichstag in the Berlin Kroll Opera House with 444: 99 votes. With the help of this law, the government could legislate without parliament. All the bourgeois parties – along with the National Socialists – voted for the law. Only the Social Democrats voted against it. The grand and courageous speech by Otto Wels (1873-1939) is still today a model for political courage and democratic sentiments. At that time he concluded with the words: “Freedom and life can be taken from us – honor cannot!”

On January 30, 1933, Hindenburg appointed the party chairman of the NSDAP Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) as Reich Chancellor. Hitler saw the takeover of government as a seizure of power and began to build a dictatorial system. Demands for ‘larger living space’ for the ‘Aryan race’ and radical anti-Semitism were at the center of his policy. On the night of February 27-28, 1933, the Reichstag fire broke out in Berlin. It was accused of social democrats, communists and trade unionists and led to the implementation of an emergency ordinance, the “Ordinance for the Protection of People and State”, on February 28, 1933. With the help of this emergency ordinance, Hitler suspended the basic rights of the Weimar Constitution. In future, the police and SA had a free path in the pursuit, Arrest and murder of political opponents of the NSDAP. The violence against people who think differently and those who are unpopular, especially Jews, was no longer controlled by any state control. In the Reichstag election on March 5, 1933, the NSDAP achieved a majority in the Reichstag with 43.9 percent of the votes, as the communists had previously been excluded. On March 24, 1933, Hitler passed the so-called ‘Enabling Act’ against the votes of the Social Democrats, but with the consent of the bourgeois parties. The entire state power was thus handed over to the National Socialist government, and a totalitarian system of government was established. The Communist MPs had already been removed from their mandate or arrested in the course of the defeat of the KPD after the Reichstag fire and thus no longer had the right to vote.

In the course of the Gleichschaltung, the National Socialist government set up state governments that were devoted to it. Hermann Göring (1893-1946) became Prime Minister of Prussia. In July 1933 the SPD was forcibly dissolved and the bourgeois parties were forced to dissolve themselves. The trade unions were eliminated and the press was controlled from now on by the newly established Propaganda Ministry under Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945). The establishment of concentration camps for the imprisonment of opponents of the regime and the later extermination of the Jews began. After Hindenburg’s death on August 2, 1934, Hitler combined the office of Reich President with that of Reich Chancellor and became the leader and Reich Chancellor of the German Reich. He also brought the Reichswehr and Wehrmacht into line.

The persecution of the Jews began immediately after the National Socialists came to power. Discriminatory laws against this population group reached their climax in the Nuremberg Race Laws of 1935. They contained, among other things, the so-called Blood Protection Act, which forbade marriage between Jews and non-Jews as well as extramarital sexual intercourse between them. It was also stipulated that only “citizens of German or related blood” could be citizens of the Reich. The anti-Semitic ideology of the National Socialists was thus placed on a legal basis. Jews were excluded from economic life and robbed of their property. In the so-called “Reichskristallnacht” (also Reichspogromnacht) from 9th to 10th November 1938 there were violent attacks on Jews, their homes and businesses by members of the SA and SS. More than 200 Jewish synagogues were burned or otherwise destroyed across the country. Within a few days, around 30,000 Jews were probably arrested and deported to concentration camps.

In terms of foreign policy, Hitler initially tried to disguise the rearmament that was immediately initiated and to express a will for peace. However, in 1938 a phase of open expansion began. In 1939 Hitler occupied Bohemia and Moravia (“Reach for Prague”) and signed the steel pact with Italy. After the conclusion of the German-Soviet non-aggression pact on August 23, 1939, Hitler let the German Wehrmacht invade Poland on September 1, 1939. This triggered the Second World War. In early September France and Great Britain declared war on Germany.

Second World War 1939-1945

Around 60 million people died during the Second World War. Most of the casualties were made by the Soviet Union, with around 27 million civilians and soldiers killed. The implementation of the “final solution to the Jewish question” decided at the Wannsee Conference in 1942 led to the murder of around 6 million Jews in the extermination camps Auschwitz-Birkenau, Chelmno, Treblinka, Majdanek and others. In addition to the genocide of the Jews, other groups of the population, including political ones, were also murdered Opponents: Sinti and Roma, Eastern Europeans, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals and the insane. The National Socialist extermination policy fell victim to a total of over 10 million people.

Numerous attempts to stop Hitler failed (Johann Georg Elser, Rote Kapelle, Weisse Rose, Kreisauer Kreis). The assassination attempt by the military under Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (1907-1944) on Hitler on July 20, 1944 also failed. After the military defeat of France in 1940, Great Britain continued to fight with the support of the USA. At the same time, Hitler attacked the Soviet Union with the aim of exterminating the “Jewish-Bolshevik” ruling class and building a German-Germanic empire from the Urals to the Atlantic. The German Wehrmacht was pushed back in both the west and the east. On April 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler committed suicide. Germany’s surrender followed on May 7, 8 and 9, 1945, ending World War II in Europe.


The whole barbarism of the war was particularly evident in Stalingrad, today’s Volgograd, which lies on the banks of the Volga. This battle has become a symbol of the Nazi rulers’ contempt for human beings towards their own soldiers and the beginning of the end of the war. On February 31, 1943, the Southern Group of the 6th Army surrendered under the command of General Field Marshal Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Paulus (1890-1957) – who had been promoted to General Field Marshal by Hitler on January 31 – and on February 2, 1943 also the Northern group under General Strecker. The Battle of Stalingrad had started on August 7, 1942 with the offensive on Stalingrad. Of the 300,000 soldiers of the 6th Army initially in the pocket, around 40,000 were flown out, around 150. 000 were killed or missing during the fighting. The remaining 150,000 were taken into Soviet captivity after the surrender. By 1956, only 6,000 survivors came back to Germany.

In total, around 1 million people – civilians and soldiers – including Russians, Germans, Italians and Romanians, died in and around Stalingrad. Incidentally, after his release from Soviet captivity in the GDR in 1953, Paul became an honored figurehead of the communists. In order to remove the ground from the numerous legends about the generals who were involved in the battles for Stalingrad, the data kindly made available to us by the Military History Research Office of the Bundeswehr in Potsdam (MGFA) are presented below:

  • Field Marshal General Friedrich Paulus, released from captivity in 1954
  • Colonel General Walter Heitz, died in captivity in 1944
  • General of the Artillery Max Pfeffer, died in captivity in 1955
  • General of the Artillery Walter von Seydlitz-Kurzbach, released from captivity in 1955
  • General of the Infantry Karl Strecker, released from captivity in 1955
  • Lieutenant General Alexander Edler von Daniels, released from captivity in 1953
  • Lieutenant General Heinrich-Anton Deboi, released from captivity in 1953
  • Lieutenant General Arno von Lenski, released from captivity in 1949.
  • General Staff Doctor Prof. Dr. med. Otto Renoldi, released from captivity in 1955
  • Lieutenant General Carl Rodenberg, released from captivity in 1955
  • Lieutenant General Werner Sanne, died in captivity in 1952
  • Lieutenant General Helmuth Schlömer, released from captivity in 1949
  • Lieutenant General Arthur Schmidt, released from captivity in 1955
  • Major General Hans Adolf von Arenstorff, died in captivity in 1952
  • Major General Moritz von Drebber, released from captivity in 1949
  • General doctor Dr. med. Hermann Kayser, died in captivity in 1948
  • Major General Otto Korfes, released from captivity in 1948
  • Major General Martin Lattmann, released from captivity in 1948
  • Major General Richard Lepper, died in captivity in 1943
  • Major General Hans-Georg Leyser, released from captivity in 1949
  • General doctor Dr. med. Siegfried Müller, released from captivity in 1956
  • Major General Richard Stempel, died in captivity in 1943

According to this, seven of the 22 generals mentioned died in captivity.

Other generals who died in the course of the Battle of Stalingrad were:

  • General of the Infantry (posthumous) Alexander von Hartmann, died January 26, 1943
  • General of the Panzer Troop Willibald Freiherr von Langermann, killed October 3, 1942
  • Lieutenant General Günther Angern, + February 2, 1943 (suicide)
  • General doctor Dr. med. Karl Arndt, missing since January 23, 1943
  • Major General (posthumously) Bruno Chrobeck, fallen December 10, 1942
  • Major General (posthumously) Erich Grosse, died December 1, 1942
  • General doctor (posthumously) Dr. med. Walter Hanspach, died January 26, 1943
  • Major General (posthumously) Wilhelm von Lengerke, died August 26, 1943
  • Major General (posthumously) Gustav-Adolf Riebel, died August 23, 1942
  • Major General (posthumously) Hans Rings, missing since January 20, 1943
  • General doctor (posthumously) Dr. med. Hans Spiegelberg, missing since January 1943

After 1945 until today

The military commanders-in-chief of the four victorious powers France, Great Britain, the USA and the USSR took over government in Germany with the “Berlin Four Power Declaration” of June 5, 1945. They divided Germany and the city of Berlin into four zones of occupation. The common governing body was the Allied Control Council. With the Potsdam Agreement, the Allies formulated common principles for the future treatment of Germany. The NSDAP was banned, the German population was to be denazified, reparation payments were set and the demilitarization and democratic reconstruction of Germany were decided.

Only a few of the people primarily responsible for the National Socialist dictatorship were declared war criminals in the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg in 1946 and executed or sentenced to long prison terms, unless they had evaded responsibility by suicide.

Between the Western Powers and the USSR, in the context of the beginning East-West conflict and the Cold War, there were increasing tensions regarding their German policy. The Soviet military administration established a German administration under its control in the Soviet occupation zone. The Socialist Unity Party of Germany, SED, emerged from the SPD and KPD in 1946, assumed sole political leadership here. The British and American occupation zones united to form the bizone, into which the French occupied area was gradually integrated. In 1949 the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany was passed on the territory of these three former occupation zones. The political division of Germany was complete. The economic split had already started a year earlier on June 1948 with the introduction of the D-Mark instead of the old Reichsmark. The CDU and CSU were re-established in 1945 and the FDP in 1948.

Berlin blockade

From June 24, 1948 to May 19, 1949, the Soviet occupying forces blocked road, rail and water traffic to Berlin. The background was the currency reform in the west of June 20, 1948. During this time, the Americans supplied the city via an airlift using DC-4 aircraft, also known as “cherry bombers”. The idea of the Airlift came from US General Lucius Dubignon Clay (1897-1978), who had the support of Air Force General William H. Tunner (1906-1983). During the airlift with 277,264 flights, almost two million tons of supplies of all kinds were transported to Berlin during this time. The first US Air Force aircraft flew to Berlin-Tempelhof Airport on June 26th. The British Operation Plain Fare followed two days later. They flew among others the Berlin-Gatow airfield. The Havel served as a landing pad for seaplanes. During this dramatic time, the mayor of the three western sectors, Ernst Rudolf Johannes Reuter (1889-1953), became a symbol of the Berliners’ perseverance. His speech on September 9 in front of the ruins of the Reichstag with the appeal to the world not to forget Berlin is still remembered today (“You peoples of the world! Look at this city!”).

Brief history of the Federal Republic of Germany

After ratification by all federal states in the area of the French, British and American occupation zones with the exception of Bavaria, the Basic Law was promulgated by Konrad Adenauer on May 23, 1949 in a solemn session of the then Parliamentary Council. It came into force one day later, on May 24, 1949. May 23, 1949 can therefore be seen as the founding day of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The federal states in the area of the occupation zones of the three Western Allies were initially:

  • Schleswig-Holstein, founded in 1946 and part of the Bizone
  • Hamburg, founded in 1946 and part of the Bizone
  • Bremen, founded in 1947 and part of the Bizone
  • Lower Saxony, founded in 1946 and part of the Bizone
  • North Rhine-Westphalia, founded in 1946 and part of the Bizone
  • Hessen, founded in 1945 and part of the Bizone
  • Rhineland-Palatinate, founded in 1947 and part of the French zone of occupation
  • Württemberg-Baden, founded in 1945 and part of the Bizone
  • Württemberg-Hohenzollern, founded in 1947 and part of the French occupation zone
  • Baden, founded in 1946 and part of the French occupation zone
  • Bavaria, founded in 1945 and part of the Bizone
  • Berlin with special status

From 1952 until reunification on October 3, 1990, the Federal Republic of Germany was divided into the following federal states:

  • Schleswig-Holstein
  • Hamburg
  • Bremen
  • Lower Saxony
  • North Rhine-Westphalia
  • Hesse
  • Rhineland-Palatinate
  • Baden-Württemberg
  • Saarland, since 1957
  • Bavaria
  • Berlin with special status

The first German Bundestag was elected on August 14, 1949 in a free and secret ballot. It met for its first meeting on September 7, 1949 in Bonn. Shortly before, the representation of the federal states, the Bundesrat, had been formed. The two legislative state organs were thus constituted. On September 13, 1949, Theodor Heuss (1884-1963) was elected by the Federal Assembly as the first Federal President of the Federal Republic of Germany. Shortly afterwards, on September 15, 1949, the German Bundestag elected Konrad Adenauer (1876-1967) as the first Federal Chancellor of the new state, who officially took office on September 20 and held it until 1963.

The Petersburg Agreement of November 22, 1949 gave the Federal Republic of Germany a number of rights (partial sovereignty). The Federal Constitutional Court was constituted on September 28, 1951. On September 1, 1952, the Burden Equalization Act came into force, regulating the compensation of displaced persons and refugees. On September 10th of the same year, the reparation agreement with the State of Israel was sealed. With the Paris Treaties, which came into force on May 5, 1955 (signed in Paris on October 24, 1954, ratified by the Bundestag on February 27, 1955), the Federal Republic obtained a number of other sovereign rights from the Allied occupying powers. At the same time she joined the North Atlantic Defense Organization (NATO) and the Western European Union (WEU) and officially renounced the production of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The Bundeswehr was founded on May 12 of the same year. In 1956 the first units of the new Bundeswehr were launched.

On January 1, 1958, the unification of Europe began with the entry into force of the EEC Treaty. In addition to Germany, the EEC also included France, Italy and the three Benelux countries, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. At the now historic party convention in Godesberg, today a district of Bonn, from November 13th to 15th, 1959, the SPD decided on its new party program, the “Godesberg Program”. On August 13, 1961, the GDR regime under its General Secretary Walter Ulbricht (1893-1973) sealed off West Berlin from the eastern part of the city by building a wall. The Berlin Wall led to the complete separation of the two parts of Berlin. The American President John F. Kennedy visited the city on June 26, 1963 to document his ties to Berlin. During his speech he uttered the famous phrase: ”

RAF, Benno Ohnesorg, Dutschke

During the visit of the Shah of Persia, serious riots broke out, particularly in Berlin, as a result of which on June 2, 1967, the West Berlin police officer Karl-Heinz Kurras shot and killed the student Benno Ohnesorg. This act was the prelude to years of often violent clashes with the critical extra-parliamentary opposition (APO) and also with one of the causes for the emergence and radicalization of the Red Army faction “around Bader and Meinhof. And the terrorist” movement June 2nd “related expressly refer to this act for their legitimation.

A sensation, however, was the announcement that went through the press on May 22, 2009 that the shooter Karl-Heinz Kurras, who at the time had been acquitted of the charge of negligent homicide by the Berlin Regional Court and the Federal Court of Justice – and was later even promoted to high commissioner – an informal employee of the Stasi (IM) since 1955 and a member of the SED since 1965.

One of the most important and well-known leaders of the student movement was Rudi Dutschke (1940-1979), who was shot down and seriously injured by the young unskilled worker Josef Bachmann near the SDS office on Kurfürstendamm in Berlin on April 11, 1968. Dutschke died on December 24, 1979 in Denmark as a result of the long-term consequences of this attack. Bachmann killed himself in prison in 1970; he had been sentenced to 7 years in prison for attempted murder.

On May 9, 1976, Ulrike Meinhof hanged herself on the cell window with the help of a towel. After the failed attempt to free the prisoners in the so-called German Autumn, Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin and Jan-Carl Raspe committed suicide on October 18, 1977. Raspe and Baader shot each other with smuggled pistols while Gudrun Ensslin hanged himself. Irmgard Möller inflicted stab wounds in the heart area with a knife, which she survived. And on November 12, 1977 Ingrid Schubert hanged herself in the Munich JVA. It was not until 1998 that the RAF declared its self-dissolution

Brief history of the GDR

The German Democratic Republic (GDR) was founded on October 7, 1949 on the territory of the Soviet occupation zone.

The countries on the territory of the Soviet occupation zone were:

1) Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, founded in 1947

2) Brandenburg, founded in 1947

3) Saxony-Anhalt, founded in 1947

4) Thuringia, founded in 1946

5) Saxony, founded in 1947

6) Berlin with special status

In 1952, the states were replaced by smaller administrative units, the districts:

  • Rostock
  • Neubrandenburg
  • Schwerin
  • Frankfurt/Oder
  • Magdeburg
  • Potsdam
  • cottbus
  • Hall
  • Leipzig
  • Dresden
  • Erfurt
  • Suhl
  • Gera
  • Karl Marx City
  • Berlin, capital of the GDR

The first election to the German Bundestag took place on August 14, 1949. The Bundestag had 402 members from 11 parties and an additional eight Berlin MPs with only very limited voting rights. On September 15, Konrad Adenauer, the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, was elected. 202 MPs had voted for him and 142 against. 44 abstained and one vote was invalid. Adenauer was thus elected with one vote above the required absolute majority.

After the election, Adenauer commented as follows: “Et hett still jut jejange!”

Otto Grotewohl (1894-1964) received the approval of the then provisional People’s Chamber to form a bloc government from all parties, in which the SED had sole power. Wilhelm Pieck (1876-1970) became the first president of the new state. From then on, the GDR developed into a one-party state based on the model of people’s democracy. Regular elections to the People’s Chamber have taken place since 1950, which always confirmed the leading role of the SED as enshrined in the GDR constitution.

Under the leadership of Walter Ulbricht (1893-1973), the party, state and society were aligned with the Soviet model. In the 1950s to 1970s in particular, there were repeated purges with arrests of regime critics based on Stalinist models. With the establishment of the State Security Service (Stasi) in 1950 and the establishment of the Supreme Court, the SED created effective organs to control political and social life in the GDR. Expropriations took place in industry and agriculture. Gradually, state-owned enterprises (VEB) and agricultural production cooperatives (LPG) emerged.

On June 17, 1953, there was a popular uprising. Oppressive political conditions, a poor supply situation for the population and a drastic increase in labor standards led to demonstrations in numerous cities. The uprising was put down by the invasion of Soviet troops, according to official information 51 people died. In the following period, the opposition forces were persecuted and imprisoned.

On May 14, 1955, the GDR became a founding member of the military alliance of the Eastern Bloc countries, the Warsaw Pact. On March 1, 1956, the National People’s Army (NVA) was founded. Little by little the GDR received its sovereignty from the USSR.

On August 13, 1961, the party and state leadership closed the border with West Berlin and built the Berlin Wall, the “anti-fascist protective wall”. From now on, residents of the GDR could only leave for the FRG or West Berlin with a special permit.

In the 1960s, the GDR developed into the second largest industrial power in the Eastern Bloc after the USSR. She participated in the invasion of the Warsaw Pact troops in Czechoslovakia in 1968 to crush the reform communist efforts of the “Prague Spring”.

In 1971 Erich Honecker (1912-1994) succeeded Walter Ulbricht in the post of First Secretary of the Central Committee of the SED. After Ulbricht’s death, Honecker was appointed chairman of the GDR’s state council in 1976. In the course of the Ostpolitik of the West German governments since 1966, which was mainly formulated by Willy Brandt (1913-1992) and Egon Bahr (born 1922), there was a rapprochement between GDR and FRG. Both became members of the UN in 1973.


In the summer and autumn of 1989 there was a flight of GDR citizens via Hungary, which opened its border with Austria on May 2, 1989 and from September 11, 1989 officially allowed GDR citizens to travel to Austria. People also fled through embassies of the FRG in some socialist states (Czechoslovakia, Poland). In view of the reform efforts in the USSR since 1985 by Mikhail Gorbachev (born 1931), the so-called perestroika, the GDR increasingly destabilized from within. The Monday prayers in Leipzig developed into large Monday demonstrations. Under the pressure of this peaceful autumn revolution, Erich Honecker had to resign on October 18, 1989. On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell and the SED regime collapsed. On the 18th March 1990 the first and at the same time also the last free election to the People’s Chamber of the GDR took place. The winner was the alliance “Alliance for Germany”, consisting of the former GDR bloc party CDU, the German Social Union (DSU) and the Democratic Awakening (DA). On August 23, 1990, the GDR decided to join the FRG with effect from October 3, 1990. The People’s Chamber dissolved. The reunification of Germany was made possible by the Two-Plus-Four Treaty, which was signed in Moscow on September 12, 1990. In it, the four victorious powers of the Second World War gave Germany back full sovereignty. In return, the FRG unreservedly recognized the Oder-Neisse line as its eastern border. As part of the monetary union, the D-Mark was introduced instead of the GDR-Mark in the former GDR.

On December 2, 1990, the first all-German federal election took place. Chancellor Kohl ruled for 16 years from 1982 to 1998 and was replaced in 19998 by the Social Democrat Schröder in the office of Chancellor. At the endeavors of Federal Chancellor Schröder, who deliberately lost a vote of confidence he had requested on July 1, 2005, the 15. Bundestag and new elections that took place on September 18, 2005. This election just lost the SPD with 34.2% of the vote against the CDU/CSU with 35.2% of the vote – and with Angela Merkel (CDU) in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany became the first woman in the office of Federal Chancellor.

Since then she has governed the country with the help of a coalition of CDU/ CSU and SPD.

National anthem

In August 1991 – as a result of an exchange of letters between the then Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker and the Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl – the national anthem of the Federal Republic was determined as the anthem of the reunified Germany.

Germany Facts