Germany History

Germany History

Pre and early history

The area of ​​today’s Germany was populated in the earliest times. The remains of a representative of Homo sapiens, who lived here around 40,000 years ago and was named after the Neanderthal valley, were found in the Neandertal valley near D¨¹sseldorf.

From antiquity to migration

Around 800 years before the beginning of the Christian era, Germanic tribes, coming from the north, first penetrated areas between the Rhine and Oder, and later further south, where they mingled with the Celts living there. The Romans, who used the term Germanic for all Germanic tribes, built from 40 BC. to secure their Gaul province against the barbarian tribes along the Rhine border border fort (eg in Mainz, Koblenz and Trier). In AD 9. There was a battle in the Teutoburg Forest when the Cheruscan prince Arminius inflicted a crushing defeat on the legions of the Roman general Varus. From the end of the 1st century AD The Romans started building the so-called “Limes”, a 500 km long border wall between the Rhine and Danube.

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The advance of the Germanic tribes in the 2nd and 3rd centuries to the west and south was part of the first Germanic migrations. Larger West Germanic tribes were, for example, Alemanni, Franconia, Bavaria, Saxony and Longobards.

Around 260 the Teutons overcame the Limes and the Danube border, in 401 Rome had to give up the Rhine border. Shortly afterwards the Germanic tribes of the Vandals, Alemanni, Visigoths, Burgundians and Franconia defeated the Roman legions in Gaul, towards the end of the 5th century the Western Roman Empire fell.

Early Middle Ages

The Franconian king Chlodwig I (466-511), who professed Christianity, united parts of today’s France and Germany to the great Merovingian empire. At the time of his death in 511, the empire extended to the Pyrenees, and although it was subsequently divided among his four sons, the empire’s borders were further expanded (Burgundy in the north, Thuringia in the east, Italy in the south). Family feuds within the Merovingian royal families led over the next century to the so-called “Hausmeier” (lat. Major domus), the highest officials in the country, to seize power. As “Prince of the Franks”, 687 one of them, Pippin von Herstal, took over the three kingdoms then existing, Austrasia (in the east, capital of Reims), Neustria (in the west, capital of Paris) and Burgundy (capital of Orl¨¦ans).

According to AbbreviationFinder, Pippin III. appointed himself king of the Franks in 751 after the last Merovingian king (Childeric III) had been deposed with the consent of Pope Zacharias, thus establishing the Carolingian dynasty. Son Pippins III. and his successor was Charlemagne, who became the new King of the Franks in 764 and who was crowned 800 by the Pope as Emperor. The empire of Charlemagne included the areas of today’s France, Germany and Northern Italy. In the 9th century it was divided into an East Franconian and a West Franconian empire, the foundations for the later states of Germany and France.

High and late middle ages

After the Carolingians died out in the Eastern Franconian Empire (911), the Franconian Duke Konrad followed on the throne (911 to 918), then the Saxon Duke Heinrich (919-936). His son Otto I (936-973), who was crowned emperor in 962, is considered the founder of the medieval German Empire. The claims to power associated with the empire brought Otto I into conflict with the papacy and with Byzantium, which at that time ruled southern Italy. The Salians followed the rulers of the Ottonians from the 11th century, starting with Konrad II (1024-1039, emperor from 1027), from the middle of the 12th century the Staufer family with Friedrich I. Barbarossa (1152 to 1190, emperor from 1155). The Staufer period with fiefdom and chivalry, which lasted until 1254,

After a time when the power of the individual electors against the kingship increased more and more and Italy separated from Germany, Frederick III. the Habsburg family in the battle for the German royal crown (1440 to 1493). His son Maximilian I, who had been emperor since 1508, detached the emperor’s idea from the papacy and Rome. From then on, the German king was automatically German emperor.

Since the 14th century, the importance and power of cities and the bourgeoisie in the empire has increased continuously. The Hanseatic League, a union of northern German cities, was an important economic and political power from the middle of the 14th century.

In 1348, a large plague epidemic raged across Europe, and an estimated one in three in Germany fell victim to it.

Modern times

In the 16th century, Martin Luther founded the Reformation with his theses against the Roman church. While the ruling class of the Habsburgs supported the Catholic side, the bourgeoisie and most of the secular princes sided with the Reformation (Schmalkaldischer Bund). In 1555, Emperor Karl V had to grant secular princes the choice of their religion in the Religious Peace in Augsburg and lay down the equality of both denominations.

Nonetheless, denominational opposites intensified to such an extent that they triggered the Thirty Years’ War in 1618, which was initially a religious war, but which broadened to European conflict through the intervention of Sweden and France. The consequences of the war after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 for Germany were devastating: the empire was divided into many small individual states (recognition of the sovereignty of the German princes), areas had to be ceded to France and Sweden, and Switzerland and the Netherlands had to be granted independence almost every third German had died. The empire, which officially existed until 1806, had lost its power, which was now distributed differently.

The emerging powers in 17th century Germany were Austria in the south and Brandenburg-Prussia in the north. Through contracts, occupations and wars, the absolutist rulers of Prussia were able to record large territorial gains (including Western Pomerania and Silesia). Frederick II the Great (1740 to 1786) made Prussia the second strongest German state after Austria, which was a major European power after the Turks were defeated before Vienna in 1683 and the French expansion movements were defended.

19th century

The Napoleonic Wars finally ended the “Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation” at the beginning of the 19th century, the last emperor Franz II became emperor of Austria (1806-1835). The many small states, principalities and free imperial cities were dissolved and larger states incorporated. In the wars of liberation in 1813/14, hopes of a national unity sprouted in the French-occupied countries, but were not fulfilled: The German Confederation, which was founded at the Vienna Congress in 1815, was dominated by Austria and suppressed both national and liberal movements, which had also developed in Germany from the French Revolution in favor of the old monarchical order.

In 1848 there was revolt and revolution in German cities, the liberals forced the election of a national assembly, which was to draw up a constitution for a German unitary state. This was supposed to lay down both the political rights of the liberal forces and the abolition of absolutism. However, the congregation in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt failed due to the Greater or Lesser German question (Germany with or without Austria) and the refusal of the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm IV to accept the imperial crown.

In the German War of 1866, Prussia prevailed over Austria, and with it the Little German solution. Prussia was also a major European power in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71. In 1871 Wilhelm I was proclaimed German emperor by the German princes.

The decisive politician at that time was the Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck, from the founding of the German Empire in 1871 Reich Chancellor (the Reichstag as a parliament had hardly any powers). He pursued a sophisticated alliance strategy with Austria-Hungary and Italy. In the short period of German imperialism, Germany came into the possession of the colonies of Togo, Cameroon, German South West Africa and South East Africa (1884/85). Due to the rapidly advancing industrialization, the new German empire had an enormous economic upswing. Under Kaiser Wilhelm II (1888-1918) the course of Germany changed, which from then on emerged as a colonial and world power and, through the expansion of its fleet, caused resistance, especially in Great Britain.

20th century

The murder of the Austrian heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 triggered the outbreak of the First World War between Germany and Austria-Hungary on the one hand and Russia, France and Great Britain on the other (the United States entered the war in 1917).

After the foreseeable defeat of Germany, the so-called November Revolution came in 1918, in which the social democrat Philip Scheidemann proclaimed the German Republic. In 1919, democratic elections to the National Assembly were held. In the Treaty of Versailles, Germany, as the sole bearer of the war debt, had to accept tough conditions on the part of the victorious powers, which led to social hardship and political unrest in the country: the high demands for reparations prevented the German economy from consolidating after the war, the dissatisfaction and poor living conditions the population was a breeding ground for left and right forces.

A relatively quiet period in the mid-1920s was followed by the Great Depression in 1929, which hit Germany particularly hard. In 1933 Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of the National Socialist Party, and the Reichstag signed his own death sentence with the Enabling Act. The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 laid the foundation for the persecution and extermination of the Jews in Germany. By 1945, more than six million people had died in the concentration camps, alongside the Jews, other members of the Sinti and Roma peoples, and those who had different political opinions and opposition.

Hitler’s plans for expansion (with the aim of gaining “living space in the east”) triggered the Second World War in 1939, which through the inclusion of Japan, the Soviet Union and the United States actually became a worldwide war.

Postwar period until 1989

After Germany’s defeat, the country was occupied by the four victorious powers USA, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union and divided into four zones of occupation. The capital Berlin, which was located in the middle of the Soviet zone, was divided into four sectors. While the western zones were economically rebuilt and cooperated politically with the help of the Marshall Plan, the Soviet Occupation Zone (SBZ) was redesigned according to the communist model and weakened by extensive dismantling.

Political parties were formed again soon after the end of the war. In the SBZ in 1946, the Social Democratic and the Communist Party were forced to unite to form the Socialist Unity Party (SED), whose loyal Soviet leaders directed politics in the Eastern Zone. In 1948 the currency reform initiated an economic separation in the western zones, in 1949 two German states were constituted: in the west the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) with Bonn as the provisional capital, in the east the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Berlin received a four-power status. The goal of a united all of Germany was missed. As part of the Cold War, the FRG joined the North Atlantic Defense Alliance (NATO) in 1955 and the GDR the Warsaw Pact.

While the “economic miracle” in West Germany in the 1950s and 1960s was the introduction of the social market economy, which made Germany one of the leading industrial nations, the GDR recovered only slowly from the aftermath of the war. In order to prevent the rapid rise of refugees across the border into the West, the GDR leadership had the inner German border blocked and closely guarded. The Berlin Wall was built in Berlin in 1961.

Konrad Adenauer had not recognized the GDR as a state and declared the FRG to be the only legitimate German state that was allowed to represent German interests. With Willy Brandt as Foreign Minister (1966-69) and later as Chancellor (1969-1974) as successor to Kurt Georg Kiesinger (1966-69, CDU), this attitude changed to “change through rapprochement”: in the basic treaty of 1972 the GDR recognized. In the Eastern Treaties (1970 with the USSR, 1973 with the CSSR), the relationship to the Eastern Bloc was to be normalized. The FRG and the GDR were both admitted to the UN in 1973. As a result, the GDR was also recognized diplomatically by the western countries.

The 1970s in the FRG were characterized by a wave of terrorist attacks (RAF) and the consequences of a global economic crisis (from the late 1970s), which caused the number of unemployed to skyrocket. The NATO retrofit decided in 1979 and the associated stationing of medium-range missiles in Europe triggered a major peace movement in the Federal Republic of Germany. The social-liberal coalition under Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (1974-1982), which failed due to the conflict over NATO retrofitting, was followed by a Christian-liberal coalition under Helmut Kohl (1982 to 1998).

A peace movement had also formed in the GDR at the end of the 1970s, which was initially governed by the state, but then formed the basis for the civil rights movement in the second half of the 1980s. Mikhail Gorbachev’s reform policy in the Soviet Union from 1985, which is inextricably linked to the terms glasnost and perestroika, could not leave the GDR without a trace. While the SED leadership sharply criticized the Russian President’s reform policy, it came under increasing domestic pressure.

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Since reunification

In 1989 Hungary opened its border with Austria and there was a mass exodus of GDR citizens across the border to the West. At the same time, mass demonstrations against the regime took place in many cities in the GDR, to which party leader Erich Honecker resigned. On November 9, 1989, the border between the GDR and the Federal Republic of Germany was opened. In the two plus four contract (September 12, 1990) between the freely elected government of the GDR under Lothar de Maizi¨¨re (CDU), the government of the FRG and the four victorious powers from World War II, the prerequisites for the reunification of the two Germans States created, which was implemented on October 3, 1990. Berlin became the capital again. In November 1990 the Oder-Neisse line was confirmed as the final eastern border of Germany.In the first free all-German elections since the end of the Second World War, the coalition of CDU / CSU and FDP under Chancellor Helmut Kohl was confirmed (again in 1994).

Reunification placed a great economic burden on Germany. Due to the assumption of old debts and the high costs of reconstruction in the new federal states, government debt increased, as did the number of unemployed. It was not until 2005 that there was an economic upswing again. Coping with the social problems that arose through reunification was also difficult. In general, there was an increase in right-wing extremism, right-wing parties with xenophobic slogans were particularly successful in the new federal states.

The coalition under Helmut Kohl lost the 1998 elections, the government was taken over by a coalition of the Social Democratic Party and Alliance 90 / The Greens. Chancellor became Gerhard Schröder (SPD). The ruling red-green coalition narrowly won the 2002 elections with a lead of eleven seats. With the Agenda 2010 (a concept for the reform of the German social system and the labor market), the government received the first reform measures. The income from the controversial eco-tax succeeded in reducing the non-wage costs (pension insurance contributions). In general, the topic of ecology was given more weight.

The first combat mission of German soldiers since World War II – 1999 in the Kosovo war – marked a turning point in German foreign policy. Germany supported the war in Afghanistan as part of the anti-terrorist war, but did not participate in the Iraq war in 2003. This led to conflicts, above all with the USA, but to great sympathy from the German population towards Schröder. The Hartz IV labor market concept, which came into force in 2005, aimed to stimulate the labor market; however, the protests, particularly those affected, grew against a policy that was perceived as anti-social.

In 2005, Federal President Horst Köhler dissolved the Bundestag after Schröder asked the question of trust on July 1.Neither party was able to achieve an absolute majority in the new elections in September. After long exploratory talks, Angela Merkel (CDU) was finally elected German Chancellor in a grand coalition as the first woman in history. In 2007, after two years of preparation, the two parties “Left Party” (Die Linksparte.PDS) and the alternative social justice (WASG) merged to form the new party “Die Linke”.

The men’s World Cup took place in Germany in 2006. The German national team was able to advance to the semi-finals, but failed due to Italy and won the third place game against Portugal.

The real estate crisis in the United States and the sudden illiquidity of the rapidly growing market with asset-backed securities brought several private and publicly owned banks in Germany to life-threatening crises in 2007. In October 2008, the German government issued a comprehensive political guarantee statement for private savings in full in view of the global financial crisis. In the same month, an urgent law was passed that provided the banks with a financial market stabilization fund totaling EUR 480 billion. In view of the impending economic recession, the government passed a stimulus package worth billions in early 2009 and secured the labor market with generous regulations regarding short-time work benefits.

In the elections to the German Bundestag in September 2009, the Union parties and the FDP together achieved the necessary majority for the mutually sought formation of a black and yellow coalition under Angela Merkel. The SPD achieved its worst result in a federal election. After the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, the government agreed to phase out nuclear power completely by 2022 a few months later.

In the federal elections in September 2013, the Union parties received the best second-vote result since 1990 with 41.5%; however, the FDP failed to re-enter the Bundestag with 4.8%. After long coalition negotiations, Angela Merkel was sworn in as Chancellor of a large coalition of CDU / CSU and SPD in December 2013.

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