Europe

Germany Country Facts Part II

Historical facts

The origins of German national identity go back to the 10th century BC, when Teutonic tribes settled in the present territory of Germany. The region was conquered by Julius Caesar in 53 BC and suffered invasions from the Huns in the 5th century.

Between 772 and 802, the French emperor Charlemagne annexed Saxony, Bavaria, Rhineland and other Germanic lands to the domains of the Holy Roman Empire. Germans are converted to Christianity.

Frankish rule ended in 911 with the election, by the Germanic dukes, of Konrad I as the first king of Germany. In 962, Otto I became emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (1st Reich). Between the 11th and 12th centuries, Germanic domains expanded to the east, but struggles between princes and conflicts with the Vatican weakened the monarchy.

In 1517, Martin Luther provoked a schism with the Vatican by leading the Protestant Reformation. The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) divides Germany into small kingdoms and principalities.

Unification

In the 18th century, under Frederick II the Great, Prussia became the most powerful German principality. The Prussian Army proves to be fundamental to the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte. The Vienna Congress, in 1815, created the German Confederation, uniting 39 states. Most of them formed a customs union in 1834.

The popular revolutions of 1848 led to the formation of the first Germanic Parliament. In 1862, Otto von Bismarck became Chancellor of Prussia. Four years later, after being defeated by Prussia, Austria is excluded from the German Confederation.

In 1871, Bismarck defeats the French in the Franco-Prussian War and, supported by the northern states, declares the unification of Germany. Guilherme I is proclaimed kaiser (emperor) of the 2nd German Reich. From 1880 onwards, the country experienced a phase of economic and colonial expansion.

Under the militaristic policy of William II, Germany supports the Austro-Hungarian Empire against Russia, which ends up leading the country to the First World War (1914-1918). The German defeat provokes the establishment of the Republic, proclaimed in 1919 in the city of Weimar. The Versailles Treaty prohibits Germany’s rearmament, also imposing territorial losses and heavy war reparations. The Weimar Republic (1919-1933) is experiencing serious economic crises.

Nazism

In 1933, Adolf Hitler became chancellor and soon transformed Germany into a dictatorship dominated by the National Socialist Party. Hitler initiates the rearmament of the country. In 1938, Austria and the Sudetenland, the German region in Czechoslovakia, were annexed by Hitler.

The German invasion of Poland in 1939 initiated World War II (1939-1945). Germany allies itself with Italy and Japan, forming the military coalition known as Axis. In 1940, German troops occupied France and the following year they invaded the USSR.

At the height of its expansion, in 1942, Germany and its allies control the entire European continent, with the exception of the British Isles, a part of the USSR and a few neutral countries, such as Switzerland and Portugal.

Nazis create concentration camps in Eastern Europe, in which at least 6 million Jews are murdered. After the German defeat by the Soviets at the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943, the 3rd Reich began to be expelled from the territories it had occupied. Allied troops invaded Germany in 1945. In May, the country surrendered unconditionally to the USSR, USA, United Kingdom and France. Under the Yalta and Potsdam agreements, Germany is divided by the allies: the westerners occupy the west and the USSR, the east of the country. Germany loses territories to Poland and Russia.

Cold War

In 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, or West Germany), of capitalist regime, and the German Democratic Republic (GDR, or East Germany), socialist, were created. During the government of the Christian Democratic Chancellor (Prime Minister) Konrad Adenauer (1948-1961), West Germany experienced a period of prosperity, mainly due to the American economic aid of the Marshall Plan.

According to Carswers.com, Germany becomes the center of the conflict between the US and the USSR during the Cold War. In 1948, the Soviets ordered the blockade of Berlin, which was breached by a gigantic US airlift. A workers’ revolt in East Berlin is crushed by the Soviet Army in 1953.

In 1955, West Germany joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Western military alliance. East Germany reacts by joining the Warsaw Pact, the military alliance led by the USSR, in the same year. In 1961, the eastern authorities built the Berlin Wall to stop the flow of refugees to the West.

The process of rapprochement between the two Germans began in the late 1960s, spurred on by Western Chancellor Willy Brandt of the Social Democratic Party. In 1973, RDA and RFA entered the United Nations (UN) and recognized each other the following year. In West Germany, Christian Democrats returned to power in 1982 with the election of Helmut Kohl, who replaced Social Democrat Helmut Schmidt. The announcement of the installation of US nuclear missiles in West Germany, in 1983, provokes major pacifist protests.

Germany Nazism