The Stone Age
About half a million-year-old gear along with the legs of Homo erectus have been found in Bilzingsleben near Halle and in Mauer near Heidelberg. In southern and central Germany, the Middle Paleolithic is richly represented by settlement and skeletal finds derived from Neanderthal people (compare the Steinheim man). A large number of surveys of cave settlements and open settlements from the Late Paleolithic have been conducted; Of importance to Northern Europe is the documentation of reindeer hunter settlements in the district of Hamburg (see hamburg culture, ahrensburg culture and Stellmoor). The Mesolithic is in most of Germany another diffuse period; In the north, however, settlements with as rich material as excavated in Scandinavia have been excavated.
Agriculture reached central Germany from the southeast around 5500 BC. through immigrant representatives of the band ceramic culture; along Oder they reached as far as the Baltic Sea. Large excavations in the region of Cologne have documented entire groups of these farmers’ settlements. The further development in southern and central Germany was essentially based on the so-called linear band ceramic culture, in which the previously existing long houses were replaced by smaller houses in village-like groups. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Germany.
Already around 4500 BC appeared in copper metallurgy in southern Germany defined by Digopaul. Currently around 4000 BC a certain level of cultural equalization can be noticed, associated with the michelsberg culture. Great fences of probably cultic significance are also associated with this culture. Shortly thereafter, the funnel cup culture emerged in central Germany. With its spread, a rapid transition to agricultural economics took place throughout northern Germany; a later phase, the so-called sphere amphora culture, got a widespread spread eastward. All over Germany appeared shortly after 3000 BC different varieties of lace ceramic culture. From now on, the finds are diffuse, probably due to increasing livestock management. The use of stone coffins and cans ceased and the graves became simpler, sometimes covered by low piles. In many areas, the western associated bell-cup culture appeared in parallel with or after the lace-ceramic culture.
The bronze age
Just before 2000 BC a number of changes took place; inter alia metal finds become much more common, and social differences appear more clearly in the burial material. In the eastern part of central Germany the aunjetitz culture and in Bavaria the related straubing culture can be mentioned. These and related cultures formed the basis of the Central European excavation culture from about 1500 BC. In northern Germany, older Bronze Age culture is very close to that of the Nordic countries. In southern and central Germany, the excavation culture was replaced around 1350 BC. of the urn field culture, i.e. characterized by fire graves with ash urns under flat ground. The settlements, now again distinct to the archaeologists, are often characterized by village-like house groups. In northern Germany there are no clear indications of major changes, but the transition to the younger Bronze Age also meant that urn excavations became commonplace.
THE iRON aGE
During the Hall State period (about 1000-400 BC), the use of iron became general. Now sharp social contrasts emerged, exemplified by fortified chief settlements and splendid graves. During the Celtic-oriented latency period (about 400 BC – BC), the development in the south went toward even more complicated societies. A number of fortified elevation sites and oppidum are known from these periods (see Heuneburg, Manching and oppidum).
East of the Rhine and north of the Danube, an Iron Age culture borne by Germans had expanded since the second century BC. The local population was quickly assimilated. However, this development is mainly known through burial finds, and there is often doubt in the attempts to archaeologically identify Germanic groups mentioned in Roman sources. From the time of migration and early medieval times there are, among other things, rich burial finds from the so-called Reiheng grabber civilization (ca. 500–700 AD) in southern Germany, while the material in the north is much poorer. Along the North Sea coast, friezes developed a distinctive culture. From about 600 AD Slavic culture prevails in Eastern Germany alone.
Romans and Germans
Through Caesar’s battles in Gaul against Ariovistus in the 50s BC the area west of the Rhine was drawn into the Roman Empire, first as part of the Gallic provinces, later – after Domitian’s conquest of agri decumates 83 AD – converted to the provinces of Germania Superior and Germania Inferior (see Germania). Augustus’s attempt to extend the empire to Elbe was fueled by the defeat of the Teutoburger Wald 9 AD. However, the area south of the Danube belonged to the Roman Empire from the early imperial period, since the provinces of Raetia and Noricum were organized (compare limes).
Roman merchants maintained close contacts with “free Germany” east of the Rhine, and aspects of Roman culture reached as far as Scandinavia. From the War of the Markers 166–180 AD however, the Romans had to devote themselves to the defense of the Rhine and Danube borders. From the 230s, Germanic tribes increasingly crossed borders, and during the 400s they definitely took over power in the border provinces.
The migrations brought with it major ethnic migrations in the area that is now Germany. While Germanic tribes sought places in western and southern Europe, slaves settled in the country north and east of Elbe and Saale. Of the Germanic migrants, the Franks came to mean more than the others to the emergence and early development of Germany.
One of the core areas of France, Austrasia, included parts of northwestern Germany, and the Frankish rulers, both meroving and caroling, for centuries of security policy pursued a purposeful east-oriented expansion policy. Already in the 500s, the Merovingians conquered the tribal kingdom of the Thuringians between Elbe and the Danube, and during the Carolingians the lands of the Frisians, the Saxons and the Bajuvers, as well as parts of the Langobardian Empire, were incorporated with the Frankish Empire.
Hand in hand with military political penetration went the Christian mission, whose motives were likely to be as religious as realpolitical. Bonifatius laid the foundation for a church organization (dioceses and monasteries) of importance in the political consolidation in the 7th century. The mission was followed by Karl the Great with the so-called swordsmanship’s hard methods, and after decades of fighting he succeeded in incorporating Saxony with France and Christianity. On the other hand, the attempts to extend the Church’s influence to the Nordic countries also stopped, which, through Ansgar’s mission, was made under Louis I (the pious) (814-40) by mere efforts.
After Ludwig’s death, the Franks were divided by the Treaty of Verdun 843 according to common practice between the heirs. In doing so, Louis II (the German) (843–876) got the eastern parts of his lot. From this East Frankish kingdom was developed since Germany. Gradually, the eastern Frankish kings subjugated the neighboring kingdoms to the west and south (Lotharingia 925, Italy 951 and Burgundy in the 1030s), so that during the Middle Ages, the German kings’ power came deep into the present France and Italy.
From the East Frankish to the German-Roman Empire (843-1024)
The origin of Germany cannot be exactly dated. It was a development process that spanned almost two centuries. In accordance with Frankish tradition, the East Frankish kings were taken from the Carolingian house for a long time. Only with the election of Konrad I of Franken 911 did Germany receive a king of pure German descent. However, it took a long time for a German national consciousness to penetrate. Only during the 11th century were expressions such as “Germans” and “the kingdom of the Germans” common.
Economically and socially, the kingdom rested on a base of primitive agriculture in the context of a progressive feudalisation. Apart from the people in restricted areas such as Ditmarsken and Switzerland, the large mass of peasants exchanged their freedom for the protection that the county seat and church could provide for a troubled time, while a decentralized and weakened state power was unable to protect the kingdom from the recurring invasions of Norwegians, slaves and magyars. Responsibility for the defense was increasingly taken over by the tribes in Saxony, Franken, Swabia and Bavaria. Their increased authority made them dangerous rivals for the kings, who in turn sought to mobilize support among lower officials (graves, bailiffs, land graves), the so-called ministries, and not least among the bishops of the church.
Konrad I (911–918) tried to strengthen the king’s power at the expense of the tribes but failed to achieve lasting results. With insight into this, he appointed his successor his most dangerous opponent, the Saxon Duke Henry I (the Bird Catcher) (919–936), the ancestor of the Saxon royal family. Through a conciliatory policy against the tribes, he succeeded in creating peace in the kingdom and thus the conditions for a powerful foreign policy. The Magyars’ looting train was halted, the latter Brandenburg was conquered by the slaves and the kingdom of Lotharingia was permanently incorporated into the East Frankish kingdom.
His son Otto I (the Great) (936–973) resumed the battle with the tribes with the help of a reorganized, state-controlled national church, which was engaged in missionary work among slaves and Scandinavians. He successfully pursued his father’s eastern policy. He definitely eliminated the threat from the Magyars by adding to them a thorough defeat in the equestrian battle at Lechfeld (near Augsburg) 955. In the borderlands to the east, defenses were established and bishopric was founded. Otto also created a long tradition of meddling in Italy’s affairs, when in 951 he was proclaimed king of the loboards in Pavia and 962 by Pope John XIIreceived the imperial crown and thus laid the foundation for the German-Roman Empire (962-1806). Byzantine also acknowledged his emperor dignity, which was confirmed by the marriage between his son Otto and Byzantine princess Theofano.
During the Otto II (973-1983) and his son Otto III (983-1002), the Italian line was completed. Otto III, who was very proud of his Byzantine descent, surrounded himself with plans to relocate the center of the kingdom to Rome, reform the church and renew the Roman empire, plans that were, however, destroyed by his early demise. His successor, Henry II(1002–24), the last emperor of the Saxon House, again placed the center of gravity of the kingdom to Germany and sought to subdue the great men by bringing the church closer with rich gifts, which is why he, as the only German king, was declared saint (1146). However, the German kings failed to keep the initiative in the east. As early as 983, the slaves revolted and forced the Germans back. Therefore, until the 1100s, the rivers Elbe and Saale came to form Germany’s eastern border.
German – Roman Empire during the High Middle Ages (1024–1250)
The Middle Ages were in Germany a period of major economic, social and political changes that eventually led the country on a different path of development than the rest of Western Europe. The population increased sharply, new soils were added to the plow, initially in the old cultivation areas, later further east, beyond Elbe and Saale. The German colonization movement was raised by all classes of society: princes, nobles, churchmen, citizens and peasants. It spread German language and culture and extended Germany’s economic and political influence to the Gulf of Finland and the Black Sea.
The crises of the Crusader era and the increase in money management led throughout the old national area as well as in the new colonization areas in the east to the emergence of a city system with its own legal rules and a powerful and self-conscious bourgeoisie. For the national unity, the church’s self-awareness also increased and expressed itself, among other things. in demands for “freedom of the church”, ie. its independence from world power, especially in office appointments. Thus, a cornerstone of the German political system was threatened, the emperor’s power to appoint the holders of the spiritual counties, and a church-state conflict became inevitable. This weakened the central power, which also strained its resources through its Italian expansion policy. When this in the middle of the 13th century led to the total collapse of the empire,
While the kings of England and France gradually increased their spheres of power at the expense of the county seat and built up efficient state administrations, similar developments took place in Germany within the various territories. Of these, many were small and insignificant, while others, especially in eastern Germany, had significant extent and resources. Germany’s map came to look like a patchwork, an expression of the decentralized power structure, where anyone who wanted to assert himself must make sure to acquire his own territorial power base (Hausmacht). This was also true of the King/Emperor dignity holders.
With Konrad II of Franken (1024–39), the crown went to the Salish house. Konrad favored the smaller vassals by making their counties hereditary and pursuing a powerful foreign policy both in the east and west. His son and successor Henry III (1039–56) favored church reform efforts and promoted the mission in the Nordic countries. The expansion of power in the east continued. Following Henry’s death, a guardian government followed under his pious widow, Agnes of Poitou (d. 1077). During her reign, the Church was able to advance its positions of power.
Since Henry III ‘s son Henry IV (1056-1105) assumed the government, he argued with force the central government interests but happened thus into a two-front war, with rebels worldly vassals and the papacy, represented by Clunyrörelsens leading figure, Gregory VII (see Investiture). Henrik managed to divide his opponents and even expel Gregorius from Rome by his executioner to Canossa 1077, but the investiture struggle continued during the following papacy and was resolved in the sign of the compromise only through the concordate in Worms 1122 under the last Salian Emperor Henrik V (1105–25).
After an interplay during Lothar III of Supplinburg (1125–37), the crown went to the first representative of the house Hohenstaufen, Konrad III (1138–52). He had won it in fierce competition with the Duke appointed by the representative of Bavaria, Henrik the proud (Welf). Thus began a long power struggle between the Welf and Hohenstaufen families. Together with the French king Louis VII, Konrad participated in the Second Crusade (1147–49). He was followed on the throne by his nephew Fredrik I Barbarossa (1152–90). With his rival, the wolf Henrik Lejonet, the foremost representative of the German East Expansion, he struck a deal that included, among other things. gave Henrik Bavaria, while raising Austria to the duchy under the house Babenberg.
With his back thus free, Fredrik could forcefully assert the interests of the kingdom in Italy, where he, however, met a fierce and, in the long run, invincible resistance, partly from the pope power and partly from the Lombard urban association. After he had a dispute with Henrik Lejonet he turned to him and took away most of his possessions, including Bavaria. Instead, this land went to the Wittelsbach House, which ruled there until the end of the First World War. Thus, after creating peace in Germany, Fredrik was able to turn his attention again to Italy, where he succeeded in establishing a settlement with the Lombard cities and a marriage agreement between his eldest son and the heiress to the Kingdom of Sicily, which also included southern Italy with Naples.
After Fredrik perished during the Third Crusade, he was succeeded by his son Henry VI (1190–97), during whose reign the Stauphian empire reached its greatest extent. After his death, the opposition welfer-staufer flared up again, and Otto IV (Welf) competed for a time successfully for the supreme power with Henry VI ‘s brother Philip of Swabia and was crowned emperor in 1209. Since being defeated by the French at Bouvines 1214, he won Henry VI ‘s son Fredrik II(1212–50), already ruling in Sicily, recognition as king and crowned emperor in 1220. However, he was most interested in Sicily and largely let the German vassals wander their own ways. His struggle against the papacy, however, had far-reaching consequences for Germany as well, where most bishops and some worldly princes stood on the Pope’s side.
The internal divide continued under Fredrik’s son Konrad IV (1250–54) and finally led to complete national dissolution. In the years 1254–73, Germany had no universally recognized king (interregnum).
Between the Interregnum and the Reformation (1254–1519)
After a few years of confusion and civil war, the situation was stabilized by the fact that seven leading princes (three archbishops and four worldly princes, the so-called chief priests) elected Rudolf I of Habsburg (1273–91) as king. Thus, for the first time, the Habsburg house appeared in German politics. Rudolf laid the foundation for his position of power when he ate for his family to acquire the later so-called heritage countries Austria, Styria, Carinthia and Krain. In doing so, the kingdom’s center of gravity was shifted to the east after previously lying on the Rhine and Main. However, it would take some time before the royal/imperial power finally came into the possession of the Habsburgs.
Unlike France and England, Germany remained an electoral kingdom, and for fear of overly strong Habsburg dominance, the Elves rarely chose king from other lineages. Rudolf’s son Albrekt I (1298–1308) was succeeded by the first emperor of the house of Luxembourg, Henry VII (1308–13), who acquired Bohemia for his son Johan and resumed the Stavian tradition of German power development in Italy, but without success. After him, the Elves chose Louis IVof Bavaria by the house Wittelsbach (1314–47), who, however, could assert his position only after a protracted civil war against the Habsburg citizen Fredrik (the beautiful one). Ludvig also tried to expand his house power by acquiring Brandenburg for his son. In completing traditional German Italy politics, he happened to be in conflict with the Pope, and his court became the focal point for church-critical intellectuals, including Marsilius of Padua. The Pope banned Ludwig, and interdict was announced over Germany. However, this was not heard to any great extent, and the Pope’s claim to make the German royal election dependent on papal approval was emphatically rejected by the Rense Association in 1338.
Louis was succeeded by yet another Luxembourg citizen, Charles IV (1346–78). With great energy he worked to make his inheritance Bohemia a modern state; inter alia he founded the University of Prague in 1348. Karl in 1356 sealed the so-called golden bull, which governed the royal election and gave the Kurfurstens increased influence over the national government and almost complete sovereignty in their territories. Karl’s closest successor became the eldest son Wenzel (1378–1400) and after an interlude under Ruprecht of Palatinate (1400–10) a younger son, Sigmund of Hungary (1410–37). The latter succeeded, through the Konstanzkonciliet, to end the great schism within the church, but on the other hand was forced to fight a twelve-year long civil war against the Hussites.
After Sigmund’s death, his son-in-law Albrekt II was elected king of Austria (1438–39). Thus, the Crown finally attacked the Habsburg house, which, with a brief interruption, retained it for the demise of the kingdom in 1806. Albrekts son Fredrik III (1440–93) was primarily interested in his house power. By telling his son and future successor Maximilian I (1493-1519) to Mary, daughter of Charles the Bold of Burgundy, he laid the foundation for a powerful dynasty, which included the Austrian heirs, the liberation of Burgundy and the Netherlands, but without increasing its influence in Germany.
The uncertainty created by the constant local feuds led to the emergence of military alliances between knights (eg the St. Georg Knights’ Association in Swabia), peasants and cities. Many so-called national knights were, in practice, independent and must join together to withstand the pressures of the outside world. Many peasant municipalities made armed resistance to the princes, and many southern German cities experienced great economic prosperity during the 1400s, which strengthened the citizens’ self-awareness.
However, in the late Middle Ages, the increasingly divided country received an All-German assembly, a Parliament (German Reichstag). On a parliamentary day in Worms 1495, the establishment of a national council consisting not only of the Kurfur princes but also of the other princes and the national cities, was proposed, but Maximilian rejected the proposal. On the other hand, he agreed to a division of the kingdom into “circles”, which at his disposal would have troops to maintain the order, a reform which would not, however, have any major practical significance.
During this time, Germany, like other countries in Europe, suffered a prolonged economic depression, which caused widespread destruction of cultivated land and stagnation in trade and industry. Another consequence was that the peasants of the former eastern colonization areas, which had hitherto had a freer position than their professional brethren in the west, were now sinking into livelihood, while the large-scale expedition spread. Political and social development took place mainly within the framework of the territorial states and followed similar paths as in the Western European countries. In order to impose new tax burdens, the princes must convene nobles, priests and citizens to farm days; the feudal princes were converted to states.
In addition to the principalities, cities also played an important role. They joined forces with urban associations, e.g. The Rhenish City Union, the Swabian City Union and, above all, Hansan, which built up an economic empire in the North and Baltic Sea areas, based on military-political cooperation to guard privileges and exclude competitors.
The Age of Religious Wars (1519–1648)
To the successor of Maximilian I, the Electorals chose his grandson Karl V (1519–56), whose power base was incomparably much larger than any previous emperor’s. Thanks to his grandfather’s skillful marriage policy, he already ruled over the Austrian heritage countries, the so-called Burgundian heritage, mainly the Netherlands, and the Spanish empire.
His ambition was to strengthen the national unity and the imperial power, and his conditions to achieve this goal seemed good. After all, his failure was mainly attributed to two factors: the protracted and resource-intensive wars against France and the Ottoman Empire, and the religious and social unrest that followed Luther’s prominence and the spread of the Reformation movement, which did not allow the emperor on parliament Worms in 1521 declared Luther outlawed and banned his writings (compare the Reformation). On the contrary, in 1524, a peasant uprising broke out in southern Germany, which spread to large parts of the country. The peasants demanded social reforms, invoking Luther’s idea of “the freedom of a Christian man” (see peasant uprising, German peasant war). When the father himself, in drastic terms, distanced himself from the uprising and restricted the Christian freedom to the purely religious sphere, this had far-reaching consequences. With his authority, he helped stabilize the existing feudal power relations and ensured the Reformation, while at the same time entering into an important alliance with the princes for the future.
Over the next few years, evangelical country churches were organized in a number of territories. The church property was withdrawn to the state, and the priests were paid public servants, whose duties it was to sharpen their audiences with the God-given authority. Saxony, Brandenburg, Pomerania, Ostpreussen and many national cities, including Hamburg and Lübeck, joined the evangelical camp, while the Rhine Valley and southern Germany except Württemberg and some national cities, including Nuremberg, remained Catholic.
Karl V’s attempt to restore religious unity by means of power and at the same time to transform Germany into a successional kingdom with strong central power drove the Lutheran princes to organize themselves militarily in the narrow Chaldean alliance (1531). The tension was discharged through the Schmaldic War of 1546-47, where Karl V won a decisive victory at Mühlberg. However, a continued opposition to the Habsburg dominion eventually forced him to give up his plans and enter the religious peace in Augsburg in 1555. Catholics and Lutherans (but not Calvinists) became equals, and the princes were guaranteed the right to determine the religion of their subjects, however, so that dissidents would have the right to emigrate.
The following year Karl V abdicated, and his empire was divided into a Spanish-Burgundian and an Austrian part. The latter came to his brother Ferdinand I, who in 1558 also followed him on the German emperor’s throne.
The Augsburg Peace began a quiet period, when the emperors respected the independence of the territorial princes and the two warring confessions focused on peaceful coexistence for the foreseeable future. At the same time, the religious contradictions were deepened by Lutheranism solidifying into a harsh and unbearable orthodoxy and by the Catholic counter-Reformation, with the Jesuit order as the driving force, went on the offensive to regain as large areas as possible. The Elector Maximilian I of Bavaria almost exterminated Protestantism in his country, and after the tolerant Maximilian II (1564–76) was followed on the throne by the son Rudolf II(1576–1612) the counter-Reformation also made progress in the Habsburg districts. On the other hand, a number of Catholic dioceses in Northern Germany became worldly owned, while the confessional image was further complicated by the fact that the more radical and less compromised Calvinism gained entry into western Germany, including in Palatinate. Under such conditions, the confessional contradictions were sharpened again; Protestants and Catholics formed armed covenants (Evangelical Union 1608, Catholic League 1609).
The next emperors Mattias (1612-19) and Ferdinand II (1619-37) pursued a wavering policy towards Protestants in the inheritance countries, which in 1618 triggered the long-awaited war between Catholics and Protestants. However, the Thirty Years War was never merely a religious war, but was also about the power structure and position of the German-Roman Empire in Europe. The end result of the war was summed up in the Westphalian Peace in 1648. The religious issues were resolved so that the division into Catholic and Protestant states would be the same as in 1624 and that the Protestants, including Calvinists, would enjoy the same benefits guaranteed to the Lutherans in the Augsburg religious peace. To compensate for their war efforts, Sweden and France were provided with significant land areas.
The Netherlands and Switzerland, which in practice had already left the kingdom, had their independence confirmed. More important, however, was that the princes now gained full sovereignty and could even make covenants with foreign powers and that the central power was crippled by the emperor being allowed to do nothing without the consent of the parliament, a representation of the princes, prelates and free cities. Thus, the unification and development of Germany was delayed into a modern, centralized nation-state by over two hundred years. At the same time, the protracted war meant that the general economic decline that began in the 16th century as a result of the shift in trade in the western direction was now further accelerated.
The decline and fall of the German-Roman Empire (1648-1806)
The empire and the empire became even more empty than before, without any real political content, even though the imperial crown was sought after because of the prestige it gave. Apart from the years 1742–45, the emperors were taken from the Habsburg house throughout. Their influence as emperor was limited; they based their real power on the real resources they could muster as princes in their heritage countries and as kings in Bohemia and Hungary. However, these resources increased in importance after the Habsburgs’ victories over the Turks and the peace in Karlowitz in 1699.
Within the empire, Austria had to compete with other, equally power-hungry territorial states. The most dangerous rival was Brandenburg-Prussia, whose rise to leading European great power is the period’s most important historical process in Germany, with a decisive turning point in the mid-1700s (see the Austrian Succession War and the Seven Years’ War). Then and until 1866, dualism Austria-Prussia is the basic theme of Germany’s political history. But other states also participated in the power struggle. So did Bavaria, who became the Curfew of Westphalian Peace and whose Curfew Karl Albrekt held for a short period the Emperor’s Dignity (Karl VII 1742–45).
In foreign policy, Bavaria traditionally cultivated France’s friendship to win support against the legacy of Austria. Saxon Elector Frederick August I (August the Strong) strengthened his position by being elected king of Poland in 1697 and laying the foundations for a staff union, which lasted until 1763. Similarly, Elector Georg Ludvig of Hannover, when he, as Georg, acted I ascended the throne of Britain (staff union 1714-1837). Western Germany lacked strong territorial states and was therefore open to Louis XIV ‘s expansionary policy, which allowed France to incorporate almost all of Alsace (Alsace).
While many German states came to be governed by strong standing congregations with limited firepower, the larger territories underwent a different development. The role model was France, whose prince absolutism and mercantilism, later also physiocraticism, everywhere became pattern-forming, while the enlightenment characterized the way of thinking and taste within the social strata formed. This accelerated the deconfessionalisation of the political climate, which became noticeable already at the end of the thirty-year war. A leading role in this process was played by the House of Hohenzollern, who was of Reformed confession but ruled over a predominantly Lutheran people and therefore consistently advocated religious tolerance.
The Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars deeply interfered with the conditions of Germany and eventually led to a total breakdown for the German-Roman Empire. As a result of the defeat of the first coalition war, the entire western Rhine beach must be resigned to France (see Revolutionary Wars). In order to meet the compensation claims of the princes who lost territories, in 1803 Napoleon led a comprehensive reorganization of the German-Roman Empire. The spiritual curve rulings became worldly ownership, areas belonging to national knights and minor princes, and most cities merged with larger states. After the end of the Third Coalition, in 1806 a number of South and West German princes joined the Rhine Confederation under French patronage and resigned. The last emperor, Frans II, who in 1804 assumed the title of Emperor of Austria, then lost his crown (1806).
Napoleon and the National Awakening
Napoleon’s military victories over Austria and Prussia in 1805–06 began a period of French hegemony in Germany. Prussia was forced into the peace in Tilsit in 1807 to resign all land west of Elbe and much of what it gained through the divisions of Poland. Former Prussian possessions in western Germany formed the backbone of a French satellite state, the Kingdom of Westphalia. Prussia must also enter into a forced alliance with France. French domination then culminated even after Austria was incorporated into the French system after another failed war in 1809 and this was sealed by the marriage between Napoleon and Frans II ‘s daughter Marie-Louise. In order to facilitate the implementation of the continental block, Napoleon incorporated the following year northwest Germany to Lübeck with the French empire.
Napoleon’s greatest significance for German history, however, lay in the resistance he brought to life. It was directed not only at his military-spotty system of government, but at the French influence and the associated culture of enlightenment in general. Against the cosmopolitanism of Enlightenment, the idea of romance was set against a specific Volksgeist, which gave each nation its distinctive character and right to develop according to its own historical conditions. Writers and philosophers such as Goethe, Schiller, Herder, Kant, Fichte and Hegel each contributed in their way to creating a German cultural identity, and at the same time, in some German states, a determined work on a long-needed social modernization began.
The center for the patriotic revival as well as for the modernization work became Prussia, where important reforms (farmer liberation, business freedom, local autonomy, general conscription) were carried out under the leadership of, among other things. Karl vom und Stein and KA von Hardenberg. Prussia thus became the natural leader of Germany’s liberation and renewal on a national basis. It was also from Prussia that the war of liberation against Napoleon ended, while Austria delayed with its accession to the anti-French coalition and the Rhine Alliance withdrew from Napoleon only after its defeat in the “great peoples” at Leipzig in October 1813.
Through the Vienna Congress of 1814–15, Germany was reorganized again; see map Europe (History). The German-Roman Empire was not restored, instead the German Confederation came, a loose association of 30 to 40 princes and four free cities. Among the participating states were one empire (Austria) and five kingdoms (Prussia, Saxony, Hanover, Württemberg and Bavaria). The Bundestag, which met in Frankfurt am Main, consisted of government representatives. Each state guarded its sovereignty, and the difficulties of making joint decisions were significant. At the Vienna Congress, a territorial redistribution was also carried out in Germany, which included gave Prussia Swedish Pomerania, half of Saxony and the Rhine province, with the latter also the task of being a defense to Germany against feared new French aggression attempts.
Germany unites with blood and iron
The Vienna Congress’s order did not satisfy the reform friends who dreamed of a united and free Germany, nor did it respond to the demands of social development. Some restricted areas, including The Rhineland and Silesia, were industrialized early and became centers for textile, iron and steel manufacturing. However, the political structure with many customs borders and small markets has long prevented the development of a viable German industry. To some extent this problem was solved by the German Customs Association in 1834, which brought all German states except Austria into a common market.
However, it became increasingly clear that stronger state coordination was needed if Germany’s opportunities for economic progress could be exploited. But the conservative resistance was strong, and until 1848 Metternich, with the help of the German federation, succeeded in holding back the liberal and national movements. In doing so, he could also rely on the East German landlords, the “Junkers,” who were favored by economic development and had a firm grip on the state bureaucracy and the army of the still absolutist-controlled Prussia.
The March Revolution of 1848 shook the German Confederation but failed to disrupt its foundations. Metternich was overthrown, Prussia got a, let alone democratic, constitution, and in the Paul Church in Frankfurt am Main, elected representatives from all German states met to a national assembly to resolve the unity issue. There, the sentences were shared between the “little Germans” who wanted to create a united Germany under Prussian leadership without Austrian participation, and “the big Germans” who wanted to also include Austria with its non-German territories. The Little German line prevailed, and in 1849 the National Assembly offered the imperial crown in a constitutional German federal state to the Prussian King Fredrik Vilhelm IV, who declined.
The Frankfurt Assembly, which for the most part consisted of well-meaning liberal intellectuals and lacked military power, gave up and soon dissolved. Thus, the idea of a united liberal and democratic Germany had failed. A later attempt by the king to realize a small German union with a more conservative constitution was stranded on the resistance of Austria and Russia.
When Germany’s unification was finally implemented, it was not as an outgrowth of a parliamentary process, but “with blood and iron” (Bismarck), as a result of Prussian power politics, through three severely limited wars in time and space: Prussia and Austria’s joint war against Denmark 1864 (see the Danish-German war), which brought Germany Schleswig-Holstein, the same power of the same authority in 1866 (see the German unit war), and the French-German war1870-71. The unification was carried out from the top by princes and governments without public participation. After Prussia defeated Austria in the German Unity War, peace in Prague in 1866 was made on condition that the German Confederation was dissolved and that the bond between Austria and the German state world was severed. Large areas, including Schleswig-Holstein, Hannover, Hesse-Kassel and Nassau were annexed by Prussia, which organized the North German Alliance with Main as a southern border. The southern German states, including Bavaria and Württemberg, must enter into defense alliance with Prussia. The cornerstone of the Bismarck-led unit was laid during the French-German war, when a united German imperial kingdom was proclaimed in Versailles on January 18, 1871 with the Prussian King William I (1871–88) as emperor.
To this kingdom were also joined the southern German states as well as the newly acquired areas of Alsace and Lorraine (Alsace and Lorraine) in the French-German war. The way in which the unification was implemented came to characterize Germany’s political culture, which became authoritarian and militaristic. According to some historians, Germany was thus led into an anti-democratic “special path” (Sonderweg), which separated Germany from other parts of Europe and helped to create and deepen the contradictions that led to the two world wars.
Second Empire (1871-1918)
The new state was a federal state, which included 25 states under their own laws and regulations. Compared to abroad, it was one unit. Common issues were foreign policy and defense, customs, foreign trade, railways, postal and telegraphs. With 65% of the country’s area and almost as much of its population, Prussia was the dominant state. The King of Prussia was a self-proclaimed emperor with extensive powers of power, i.e. to appoint the head of government, the chancellor, who was at the same time Prussian prime minister. The chancellor was also chairman of the national council, a representation of the states, where Prussia had an actual veto right. Parliament, elected with universal and equal voting rights for men, controlled the budget and took part in the legislation but had no influence over the government’s policy or composition.
At the same time as Germany agreed, it made its entry into the circle of modern industrial states. In agriculture, development since the beginning of the 19th century has been characterized by extensive new cultivation and strong productivity growth. The profits were primarily harvested by the Prussian big landlords, who took great advantage of the way in which the peasant liberation was carried out and was a class of strong economic and social progress. The essence of this class was still the nobility, despite losing most of its land privileges. It also controlled the central positions of power in government offices, diplomatic corps and the army. At the same time, industrial growth accelerated, and infrastructure was expanded.
The railways, in association with Germany’s location in the middle of the European continent, represented the central economic position lost through the reorganization of the trade routes in the 16th century. The growth was accompanied and made possible by a structural transformation, organized by the major commercial banks. The leading bankers and industrialists merged with the merchant oligarchs of the Hanseatic cities into a well-organized economic elite. This development also created strong social contradictions.
The rising bourgeoisie demanded an influence that corresponded to its importance. At the same time, the feudal-bourgeois class society was threatened from below by an industrial proletariat, which was constantly growing by immigration from the countryside and becoming increasingly class conscious. In 1869, a Social Democratic Party was founded under the leadership of August Bebel.
During the first two decades, politics was dominated by Bismarck, who by skillfully playing emperor and parliament against each other built up a strong personal position of power. During most of the 1870s he collaborated in the Riksdag with the national liberals and fought the Catholic Church in the so-called cultural struggle. Towards the end of the decade, the policy was shifted in a conservative direction. The anti-clerical line was abandoned, and protection tariffs were introduced to benefit agriculture and the large industry. The threat from the workers’ movement was sought by Bismarck, partly through repressive legislation, the “socialist laws” and partly through an exemplary social insurance system. Outwardly, Bismarck pursued a cautious policy to prevent the formation of alliances directed against Germany. To this end, the Trinity Empire had 1873 between Germany, Austria and Russia, and, since the Russian-Austrian opposition to the Berlin Congress in 1878, rendered it useless, a defense alliance with Austria in 1879, which, through Italy’s entry in 1882, was extended to the Triple Alliance, in 1887 supplemented by the reinsurance treaty.
In 1890, Bismarck was dismissed by the new emperor William II (1888–1918), who with the help of various national chancellors (Caprivi 1890–94, Hohenlohe-Schillingfürst 1894–1900, von Bülow 1900–09, Bethmann Hollweg 1909–17) switched politics on new tracks. The reinsurance treaty with Russia was not renewed, and Britain was challenged by a worldwide naval and colonial policy (“Weltpolitik”). The fears this raised with other powers led to the Franco-Russian alliance in 1894 and the triple mentality between France, Britain and Russia in 1904–07. Mutual fear welded the alliance systems, making it impossible in 1914 to limit the Serbian-Austrian conflict. See also the First World War.
Before the outbreak of war, despite its economic efficiency and military strength, Germany was a weak country in important respects with minority problems, class contradictions and an outdated political structure. Therefore, the decisions that led to the outbreak of war have been interpreted by some historians as a “Flucht nach vorn”, an escape forward, into the war. The official propaganda, however, portrayed this as a purely defensive struggle against the hostile entente powers, which would have “encircled” Germany, and this claim gained confidence in the vast majority of domestic opinion. Political bourgeoisie entered, and even the Social Democrats voted for the war credits on the basis that they were involved in a defense battle against authoritarian and barbaric Tsarist Russia.
However, the expansion program already advocated by an influential military-industrial complex and gained new nutrition through Germany’s major initial successes, however, revived new contradictions, which in 1917 led to the resignation of Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg. During the last years of the war, power was concentrated in the Oberste Heeresleitung (OHL), where Erich Ludendorff was the leader. Following the peace in Brest-Litovsk in March 1918, he sought to bring about a decision through a major offensive on the western front. When this failed, he explained to the emperor that Germany could not win the war, and demanded that they demand a ceasefire.
The “dagger bump legend” cherished during the interwar period – that the victorious army would have fallen victim to a “dagger bump” in the back by civilian left-wing politicians (the “November traitors”) – is thus baseless. The initiative for the stagnation negotiations came from a military point of view, although the left-wing revolts and mutiny (in Kiel, among others) in October-November 1918 further accelerated the development towards the collapse of the empire. Following a liberal transitional government under Prince Max of Baden with the participation of the Social Democrats, the emperor’s abdication and escape to the Netherlands followed on November 9-10. Also in the states, the princes abdicated, and from the Parliament House in Berlin was proclaimed “the German Republic”.
Weimar Republic (1919–33)
The question now was whether Germany should choose the path of parliamentary democracy or follow the Russian example and build the future society on the labor and soldier councils that were being formed all over the country. In January 1919, a workers’ revolt, the so-called Spartakist uprising (compare Spartakusbund), erupted in Berlin, with the support of left-wing socialists and communists. At this stage, the Social Democratic government did not hesitate to restore order with military aid, whereby Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were murdered. In April of that year, a Council Republic was proclaimed in Bavaria, but it was likewise crushed after bloody battles by the national government with the military’s help.
In February 1919, a Constituent National Assembly was convened in Weimar to draft a new constitution. The choice of venue was symbolic; the new society would be based on the humanistic values associated with Goethe’s city. The constitution agreed upon also fulfilled all democratic requirements. Germany remained a federal state, though with enhanced powers of central power. At the head of the National Board was a people-elected national president; the post’s first holder became the social democratic former saddle maker Friedrich Ebert. The government, led by the chancellor, would be accountable to the parliament, which was elected in direct elections with universal and equal voting rights for both women and men, with full proportionality and no blocking rules, which favored the emergence of small parties and made it difficult to form strong governments.
Politically, the Weimar Republic was dominated by the groupings that remained outside the establishment of power during the empire: the Social Democrats, the Catholic Center Party and the bourgeois left. The former national liberals, who now called themselves the German People’s Party, joined Gustav Stresemann behind the new order. On the other hand, significant peoples on both the right and the left were critical or hostile to the republic, which had to bear the responsibility for the hatred of Versailles for most Germans.
During the first few years, the outlook of the Weimar Republic seemed bleak. New communist uprisings alternated with right-wing overthrowing attempts (including the Kappkuppen 1920). Separatist movements in Bavaria and the Rhineland threatened the national unity. Debts from the war and the claims of the victorious forces worked together to propel inflation of a previously unknown extent. When France occupied the Ruhr area in January 1923 with a view to securing damages payments, this triggered a passive resistance, which further fueled inflation. Concerns in the country increased; in November, Adolf Hitler failed with the “beer cellar” in Munich. Foreign policy remained at odds with the victorious powers, especially in the matter of damages. An attempt to break international isolation was made by the Rapallo Treaty with Russia in 1922 on weapons-technical cooperation.
The situation stabilized in 1924–25. Inflation was tempered by a radical currency reform, and according to the Dawes plan, German claims payments were reduced, while Germany gained access to American capital. Prosperity and faith in the future returned, and culture flourished. In 1925, the popular World War General Paul von Hindenburg was elected national president. Outwardly, under Stresemann’s leadership, a policy of relaxation was pursued vis-à-vis the Western powers, the clearest result of which was the Locarno Treaty in 1925. As a symbol of the regained confidence, Germany was incorporated into the League of Nations in 1926. In 1928, a majority government could be formed over the bourgeois-socialist bloc with Stresemann as Foreign Minister.
Germany was hit in 1929 and the following year by the world economic crisis with price falls on agricultural products and unemployment rates of up to 6 million. In the 1930 parliamentary elections, the Nazis increased from 14 to 107 seats; in July 1932 they became the largest party of parliament. The communists also noted very large electoral successes, while the “weimar coalition” weakened.
Chancellor Heinrich Brüning of the Center Party sought to overcome the crisis through a tough and unpopular deflationary policy, and when he could not get a majority for this, he had to govern with the aid of §48 of the Weimar Constitution, which gave the president the right to issue so-called emergency regulations. The following bourgeois Chancellors Franz von Papen and Kurt von Schleicher also have to rely on the President’s emergency decree, which is why, in practice, parliamentarianism ceased to function even before Hitler’s takeover of power. This initially took place in constitutional forms.
The government with Hitler as chancellor who took office on January 30, 1933 was in fact the first parliamentary majority government in a long time, formed under Hindenburg mediation and with the participation of the conservative German National People’s Party. However, Hitler used unscrupulous parliamentary house fire on February 27 to enforce the “regulation for the protection of people and the state” which abolished freedom of speech, association and assembly. When the Communists, who were wrongly blamed for the house fire, were deprived of his mandate, he also gained a majority in the parliament for the power of attorney that enabled him to establish his personal dictatorship.
Third Reich (1933–45)
The Nazi takeover of power has been described as the “revolution of nihilism” (Hermann Rauschning) and meant a total break with all the existing legal traditions. The password became “equalization”, a continuous adaptation of the entire society to the Nazi ideology. All political parties except the Nazi were dissolved as well as the trade unions. Workers and employers were brought together in the German work front; the class struggle would give way to “the community”. Press, radio and culture were subordinated to a state propaganda ministry under Joseph Goebbel’s leadership.
Nazi students, with the good memory of the university authorities, employed bookshelves on works by writers of Jewish origin or with liberal or socialist sympathies. The regime’s opponents were terrorized by a semi-military corps, SA (Sturmabteilung). Concentration camps were set up, where dissimilar thinking could be adapted without research and judgment. The Protestant churches were infiltrated by the Deutsche Christen organization, and a Nazi-friendly “national bishop” was appointed.
When Hitler began to see SA as a threat to his position of power, on June 30, 1934, he let the head of the organization murder Ernst Röhm, along with a number of other leaders and political opponents, including former Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher (Long Knives Night). In the place of SA came the SS (Schutzstaffel) under Heinrich Himmler, who also had military allies at his disposal (later called the Waffen-SS) and was responsible for the secret state police Gestapo and the concentration camps. See also Nazism.
When Paul von Hindenburg died in August 1934, no new president was appointed, but Adolf Hitler became the Führer und Reichskanzler (‘leader and national chancellor’) as head of state. The new Germany would be a “leader state”, where all power was based on the charismatic leader and then delegated down into a military-like hierarchy. The power of the leader was arbitrary and was not to be limited by any constitution or written rules of law.
The leader entrusted special social duties to people who had his trust. Thus Fritz Todt was given responsibility for the motorway construction, Hermann Göring for the four-year plan that would put Germany at war. In this way, a complicated and difficult-to-understand power structure emerged, in which various leaders competed to win Hitler’s ear. The new leader state was considered superior to all previous social systems, it was the Third Reich (after the German-Roman Empire and the Wilhelmina Empire) and was predicted by its followers for a lifetime of a thousand years.
During the first years, the regime was also able to record significant successes. The unemployment was overcome, let alone with the help of an autarchic, highly state-controlled economy, and Germany strengthened its international position through a relatively moderate revisionist policy, which from 1936, however, adopted increasingly unbridled expansionist features. This year, German troops occupied the Rhineland in violation of international agreements, in March 1938 the Great German Empire was realized through Austria’s accession to Germany (see the Anschluss movement), in September the same year, the Sudetenland won through the Munich agreement and in March 1939 Hitler occupied the remaining Czechos. The culmination of the expansion was reached by the attack on Poland on September 1, 1939, which triggeredWorld War II.
The regime’s international trust capital quickly dissipated, to which not least contributed its racial politics, which manifested itself in the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 and the Crystal Night of 1938 to assume horrendous dimensions during the war; see the Holocaust. It became increasingly clear that anti-Semitism was not a “disease of the movement” but a cornerstone of its ideology. The purity of the breed was regarded as the highest moral value and the highest goal of politics.
Within the country, the Hitler regime was enjoying considerable popularity in the long run, and the propaganda’s claim of war as a “forced” defense war and in its later stages a fight for European civilization against the barbarians of Bolshevism seems to have been accepted by large sections of the population. The resistance was limited to certain circles, ecclesiastical (the Confessional Church) and military (the twenty-July attack against Hitler in 1944). Only the total military defeat in May 1945 could set the end point for the Third Reich.
During the last months of the war, “the German disaster” (Friedrich Meinecke) was completed. From the eastern regions, millions of people fled from the Soviet army, metropolitan areas and industrial areas were almost wiped out by the Allied bombing, and Nazi terror intensified to bolster resistance while clinging to the vain hope of a super-weapon that would eventually turn war. On April 30, 1945, Hitler then committed suicide in his bunker in Berlin, and on May 7-9, the appointed successor, Major-General Karl Dönitz, capitulated unconditionally to the Allies.
The fragmentation of Germany
Germany was now divided between the victorious powers into four occupation zones, which were placed under military administration. Berlin, which was within the Soviet zone, was divided into four sectors, one for each occupation power. The northern part of Ost Prussia resigned to the Soviet Union. Other areas east of the Oder – Neisse line came to Poland, and Sudetenland was returned to Czechoslovakia. The German population in these areas was expelled under great suffering and loss of human life. The German leaders were held accountable before the Nuremberg Military Court (see the Nuremberg Trial), and a program was launched to denazify, disarm and dismantle the German industry.
The cold war meant that Germany’s division, which was intended to be temporary, came to last for 45 years and that development in the parts of Germany controlled by the Western powers and the Soviet Union, respectively, went different ways. The US and Britain abandoned their original plan to de-industrialize Germany and instead focused on economic development in their zones. In 1948, a currency reform was implemented, which in combination with assistance according to the Marshall Plan triggered a dynamic economic development, “the German wonder”. The following year, the three western zones were merged into a new state, the Federal Republic of Germany (BRD, West Germany). The Soviet Union responded by transforming its zone into the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany). The Soviet Union also sought in vain to prevent the development towards integration in the West through the Berlin blockade1948-49; see also the Berlin issue.
According to its constitution of May 23, 1949, the Federal Republic was a federal state consisting of ten “countries” and West Berlin with its own land and governments and self-government in all matters not expressly reserved to the union. The Constitution was based on the principles of parliamentary democracy with well-defined guarantees for the individual’s rights and freedoms. (See also State Condition and Policy above.)
The economic system, designed by Ludwig Erhard, was described as a “social market economy” and meant a combination of free competition and a minimal social protection network. Against this, the Social Democratic opposition, under Kurt Schumacher’s, opposed his planning economic vision. A party system emerged, with the dominant parties becoming the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Social Democrats (SPD), while the significantly smaller, Liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) came to play a important role as support party.
The political scene was dominated until 1963 by Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, whose main goal was to integrate West Germany into Western European cooperation, while the reunification was held in the future. He was particularly anxious to bridge the opposition to France. West Germany joined the OEEC in 1949, the Council of Europe in 1951, the Coal and Steel Union in 1952 and the EEC (EC) in 1957.
Since the idea of a common European army was given up, in 1955 the country joined the Western European Union and NATO militarily. At the same time, West Germany was granted full sovereignty with the right to dispose of its own fighting forces. As a player in the Cold War, Adenauer saw in the Federal Republic the foremost defense bastion of “the Christian West” against communism and refused to maintain diplomatic relations with states that recognized East Germany (see Hallstein’s Doctrine). He was succeeded in 1963 by Erhard at the head of a coalition government CDU-FDP with less ideological and more economic appearance.
In 1966 it was time for a “big coalition” between CDU and SPD with KG Kiesinger as chancellor and Willy Brandt as vice chancellor. Brandt formed his own government in 1969 together with the FDP and initiated a new eastern policy. In 1970, West Germany recognized treaties with the Soviet Union and Poland’s eastern borders, and accepted the existence of two German states. In 1973, both West and East Germany were admitted to the UN. Since Brandt resigned in 1974, Helmut Schmidt continued his policy in coalition with the FDP.
The favorable economic development was broken by the oil crisis in 1973, but through a tight fiscal policy, the government managed to maintain West Germany’s position as a leading industrialized country, let alone at the price of high unemployment. Foreign policy, led by Hans-Dietrich Genscher, was characterized by continued relaxation efforts. at the Security Conference in Helsinki in 1975. Strong tensions prevailed beneath the prosperity surface, and a militant extra-parliamentary opposition turned, partly with terror as weapons, among other things. towards the construction of nuclear power plants, highways and airports. “The Greens” emerged as a new parliamentary force and in 1983 was represented for the first time in the Bundestag.
When Schmidt loyally supported NATO in 1979 on the deployment of nuclear-weapon missiles, this triggered violent protests from the peace movement. The FDP changed its side in 1982, and a bourgeois government was formed under Helmut Kohl, who began a long period of economic stability, but with persistently high unemployment, and spectacular foreign policy success.
While West Germany was integrated into the Western bloc, East Germany was hard at the beginning of the Soviet Union. Under the leadership of the Soviet Military Administration (SMAD), all agriculture was nationalized over 100 hectares, while private commercial and industrial companies were converted to Volkseigene Betriebe (VEB). Later, during the 1950’s, designs were set up by the Soviet collective agricultural Landwirtschaftliche Produktionsstätten (LPG). The Communist and Social Democratic parties merged into the Socialist Unity Party (SED). The other parties were organized into a block system under SED’s leadership, the so-called national front.
Party leader Walter Ulbricht transformed SED into a cadre party of the usual Stalinist type in 1950, and a state security service (Stasi) was organized. During the first years, the Soviet Union squeezed out substantial damages from the East German industry at the cost of large hardship to the population. In 1952, East Germany was further aligned with the Soviet Union through the “decision on the construction of socialism”, an army, the so-called People’s Police, was set up and the old administrative structure based on the former principals was replaced by a new division into district (Bezirke).
In the precarious situation following Stalin’s death in 1953, worker unrest erupted, which was suppressed by the Soviet military (the June uprising). The growing gap between the West German wonder between the standard of living in the East and the West led to a stream of refugees through Berlin which created a deadly threat to the East German economy. Ulbricht sought to solve this problem by building the Berlin Wall (13 August 1961) and by reorienting the market towards increased market adaptation. The result was economic growth and elevated living standards (“the East German wonder”), but the party dictatorship persisted, even if the harsh Stalinist repression was replaced by subtler methods.
East Germany, which was led by Erich Honecker since 1971, suffered economic stagnation during the 1980s but still seemed stable towards the end of the decade. The regime was reluctant to concede and made little impression of the so-called perestroika in the Soviet Union, despite the fact that East Germany’s foreign policy was in its entirety characterized by the greatest adherence to this power.
In 1950, East Germany had joined the SEV (COMECON) and 1955 in the Warsaw Pact, and in 1968 the country took part in the invasion of Czechoslovakia and later supported the Soviet Union’s positions on disarmament and relaxation issues. An important foreign policy goal, to gain international recognition, reached the regime in 1972 through the basic treaty with Willy Brandt’s social liberal government in West Germany. Honecker’s state visit to Bonn in September 1987 was seen as a symbol of Germany’s final division.
The sometimes dramatic political and economic reform process in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s changed the conditions for Germany. Hungary’s decision to open the border with Austria led to an influx of refugees from the east via Hungary and Austria to West Germany. Mass demonstrations in Berlin forced Honecker to resign on October 18, and on November 9, the demolition of the Berlin Wall began. Then it took less than a year to reunite the two German states.
The dissolution of the East German political system led, among other things. for the abolition of the special status of the state-carrying Communist Party, the re-creation of the five states (Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia) and freer rules for opinion formation and party political activity. In the electoral movement before the parliamentary elections in the GDR in the spring of 1990, all West German parties became involved. The election results clearly showed that the old regime had fallen. The winner of the election became the Christian Democrats. The successor to the Communist Party, the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), received only 16% of the vote.
The new political leadership had strong popular support in the reunification negotiations that immediately began. Already in July, the GDR switched to the West German currency D-mark. On October 3, 1990, the reunion was established. The Federal Republic of Germany had been expanded by five states and 16 million residents. Parallel to the reunification process, in the West, an economic crisis was underway and the Federal Government was engaged in the work of reforming and expanding European cooperation and creating the European Union.
The first elections in reunited Germany in the autumn of 1990 indicated the need for major efforts to strengthen democracy and party system in the eastern states. Large efforts also proved necessary to prevent the industrial sector in the east from collapsing and to modernize the infrastructure. Expectations of rapid action were high from the citizens of the East, but the financial resources were limited. The result was that dissatisfaction with the reunification grew. Even in the western states, dissatisfaction grew, as costs were considered to lead to increased taxes.
The new Germany
Since 1990, efforts in the eastern Länder have put a heavy strain on the economy of the Federal Republic. At the same time, the export industry has had difficulties maintaining its position in the world market and economic growth has been low. The need for cuts in public spending led to a reform of the welfare system. Labor law changed, many benefits were reduced and self-employment taxes were introduced. Both the major parties, the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and the Social Democrats (SPD), were forced to take such measures in office and the protests of the voters showed in declining votes. The SPD was the hardest hit.
In 1998, after 16 years as Chancellor, Christian Democrat Helmut Kohl was forced to resign after an election. A new government was formed by Social Democrat Gerhard Schröder in collaboration with the party Die Grünen. The federal government invested in reforming the social welfare system, but came into conflict with trade unions and lost voter support. For a short time, government power was strengthened again thanks to a strong opposition to the US-led war in Iraq (2003). However, continued low economic growth and high unemployment undermined the government’s long-term work.
In the spring of 2005, Chancellor Schröder was forced to announce early elections. The election result gave neither CDU/CSU nor SPD the opportunity to form a government-led coalition on the Bundestag, and therefore, after much doubt, a coalition government was formed between CDU/CSU and SPD. For the first time, a woman, Angela Merkel (CDU), became Chancellor. Both parties were aware that the co-government was associated with major political risks. In the early years, the government benefited from improved economy and falling unemployment. In the ongoing reform work, however, both parties faced increasing problems in accepting compromises on key political issues. Within the CDU/CSU the criticism came from the right wing and within the SPD from left groups.
Germany was severely affected by the world economic crisis 2008-2009. Unemployment rose, as did government criticism. However, the campaigns before the Bundestag election in 2009 were unusually calm. The uncertainty about the outcome was great and the state elections in the years before showed no clear tendency. The losers of the election became the two major parties CDU/CSU and SPD. The winner was the left-wing party Die Linke, which captured many dissatisfied Social Democrats, the Liberal Party FDP and Die Grünen. CDU/CSU and FDP formed government, with Angela Merkel as Chancellor.
In 2010, economic development improved and unemployment fell. Continued savings in public finances, including in the unemployment benefit and parental insurance, however, the government parties were forced to note setbacks in several state elections. SPD, Die Grünen, Die Linke, as well as the German Pirate Party achieved significant successes.
A number of political scandals and the startling shifts of 2010-12 on the post that the German president contributed to further headwinds for the government. Particularly harsh was the criticism of cuts in social welfare, lack of investment in the country’s infrastructure and government support for the many crisis packages that were forced within the EU to save crisis economies in Greece, Portugal and Ireland.
In 2011, the German Confederation Day made a noteworthy decision which means that all nuclear power plants in Germany should be decommissioned by 2022. The decision was welcomed by the citizens and supported by all parties. This was clearly influenced by the serious nuclear accident that occurred in Japan earlier that year (the Fukushima accident). In the first place, Die Grünen and SPD were favored by the decision, while the Merkel government noted further setbacks in a number of state elections. For CDU/ CSU’s coalition partner in the government, the FDP, the election results were very poor and speculation started if the party would pass the five percent barrier in the next federal election.
The German economy continued to strengthen and unemployment fell. Chancellor Merkel emerged more and more clearly as the strongest political leader in Europe. In the election campaign ahead of the 2013 federal election, this became a main argument in CDU/CSU’s election propaganda. The SPD launched former Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück as its chancellor candidate but found it difficult to seriously challenge the CDU/CSU, which in the opinion polls early predicted a big victory. So was the result in September 2013. The labeling effect was clearly visible. CDU/CSU made one of its better choices during the postwar period. The SPD improved its results slightly. Die Linke grew larger than Die Grünen, whose voter support declined significantly. The newly formed Party Alternative für Deutschland(AfD) with its Eurocritical profile reached almost up to the five percent barrier, while the result for the Pirate Party was worse than expected. Despite the CDU/CSU’s success, the election results gave no clear mandate for the formation of a new federal government. The FDP received less than 5 percent of the vote and lost its representation on the Bundestag.
Of the three government alternatives that were found possible, the alternative CDU/CSU and Die Grünen could be written off relatively quickly, as the parties were too far apart in several key political issues. A government of the SPD, Die Grünen and Die Linke was also not possible because of opposition to Die Linke within both the SPD and Die Grünen. In this situation, just as after the 2005 election, there remained only a “major coalition” between the two main competitors in German politics; CDU/CSU and SPD. In the SPD, there was initially considerable resistance to such a solution, since many considered that the SPD lost the last time to be a “junior partner” for the CDU/CSU. Government negotiations between the SPD and the CDU/CSU nevertheless began after a decision by the SPD’s party convention in October. In December 2013, almost three months after the election, a new government could be appointed.
The government negotiations in 2013 took place in the light of a calming financial market, continued favorable economic development in the country and retained Germany’s position as a major power in the EU. The government cooperation between the CDU/CSU and the SPD was considered to guarantee continued stability in the federal government for the next four years. At the same time, the Great Coalition is affecting Germany’s domestic political map as it results in sharply reduced room for political opposition.
In the 2014 European Parliament elections, the Christian Democratic CDU lost substantially compared to the 2013 federal election but remained the largest party. The Conservative and EU-critical Alternative for Germany (AfD) formed in 2013 received 7 percent of the vote and seven seats. In addition, a further seven smaller parties were given a mandate each. These include the neo-Nazi NPD, the Pirate Party, the Animal Protection Party and the Party (Die Partei), who, by satirizing the European Parliament (“Spass Parliament”) and European cooperation, generally collected 185,000 EU-critical votes.
The Bundestag in July 2014 decided for the first time to introduce a minimum wage in Germany, which in 2019 was EUR 9.19 per hour. It was a heart issue for the SPD and part of the government deal with the CDU. A new law was passed on gender quotas in corporate boards. As of 2016, at least 30 percent of the places must be held by women or left empty.
Foreign policy was focused heavily on the Russian Federation’s annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. Germany slowed down some increased sanctions on the Russian Federation and instead sought to work to improve the humanitarian situation in Ukraine and to establish a lasting ceasefire. The fighting and the refugee disaster that arose in the wake of the Islamic State (IS) advancement in Iraq led to a decision to assist Iraqi Kurds with military equipment. The decision was disputed, as arms sales regulations prohibit exports to war zones.
Increased migrant flows were noted at the beginning of 2015 and the forecast of how many asylum seekers Germany would receive was gradually revised upwards. By the end of the year, there were about one million, which paved the way for domestic political concerns. When the scope of the refugee stream was completed at the end of the summer, Merkel clearly made a stand for a generous reception. In a famous statement, the Chancellor said Germany was strong: “could we cope with the banks we could cope with the refugees” was her message aimed at government efforts to rescue crisis banks during the financial crisis a few years earlier. Regulations were adopted for housing construction, and municipalities and states were promised money to handle newly incurred costs. But initiatives also soon came to stop the flow, among other things by increasing the rate of rejections of those who lacked asylum reasons. During most of the year, around 40 percent of asylum seekers came from countries in the Balkan Peninsula – the second most Syrians were Albanians. Many, however, also wanted to stop refugees from war herds, and during the autumn a sharp increase in attacks on asylum facilities was noted. In October, Merkel traveled to Turkey to ask for help in stopping migrants on their way to Europe. Many accused her of sending out wrong signals and attracting migrants to apply to Germany. At the same time, she had failed to get the other EU to set up and share the responsibility for the refugee crisis.
Extensive sexual abuse committed outside the central station in Cologne on New Year’s night 2016 aroused great dismay. A heated debate on integration and the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe followed. The events in Cologne in combination with ever-increasing demands to reduce the influx of migrants led to the adoption of a stricter asylum law. The right to family reunification was also restricted. Another consequence was that the Covenant Day adopted a further definition of rape so that the term did not require violence. It also became easier to expel sex offenders.
The development contributed to a strong upswing for the right-wing populist AfD, which increasingly profiled itself as hostile to Islam. In the five state elections held during the year, the party received between 14 and 24 percent of the vote. Both federal parties at the federal level, Christian Democratic CDU and Social Democratic SPD, lost mandate. In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the AfD came in second place, before the CDU, but neither there nor elsewhere the party was invited to participate in any coalition government. Most startling in general was that for the first time, the environmental party Die Grünen became the largest party in a state, Baden-Württemberg.
The week before Christmas 2016, Berlin was hit by a terrorist attack that gave new fuel to the criticism against Merkel. Twelve people were killed and over 50 injured when a truck was driven into the crowd at a Christmas market. The assailant was a 24-year-old Tunisian who was known by the police as a radical Islamist.
The Bundestag election in 2017 was preceded by an election campaign in which the programs of the major parties were considered to be too similar and lack profile issues. The smaller parties and in particular the AfD attracted considerable interest both in the mass media and in the general debate. The result of the Bundestag election in 2017 was that the two co-governing parties CDU/CSU and SPD were forced to record record low voter support, but could nevertheless form a government. Merkel thus began his fourth term as Chancellor.
In 2017, the Bundestag voted yes to a ban on comprehensive veil for some public servants, including in the military and the judiciary. The Bundestag also voted in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. Chancellor Merkel was one of those who voted against the proposal.
Angela Merkel announced in October 2018 that she will not be a candidate for CDU party leadership. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was elected at the party congress the same year as new party leader. She was Merkel’s candidate and won against the more conservative Friedrich Merz (born 1955) with 517 votes against 482 for Merz. Merkel also announced in October that she will remain as federal Chancellor until the 2021 elections.
In July 2018, the German government coalition agreed on an agreement on the issue of migration. After many trips, the CDU/CSU had agreed to establish so-called transit centers at the border with Austria. The Social Democratic SPD opposed these and succeeded in persuading the CDU/CSU to instead let the police handle the transit process. But the agreement also meant stopping refugees at the German border and sending back migrants who had previously sought asylum in another EU country.
Environment and climate issues characterized the political debate after the record heat in 2018. Protests against logging of wood to produce lignite in Hambach in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, driving ban on older diesel cars in several large cities and demonstrations of Fridays for the Future movement attracted much attention in German media.
In Germany, there are signs of increasing gaps between voters in larger cities and voters in rural areas. Political issues related to environmental and housing policy predominate in cities, which runs counter to the fear of increased taxes on carbon dioxide emissions in rural commuters, which are more dependent on gasoline-powered vehicles.
The gaps were reflected in the 2019 election results. In these, the AfD was the big winner in mainly rural regions in East Germany, while support for the environmental party Die Grünen grew in the big cities.
Ursula von der Leyen from CDU, former Minister of Defense, was elected one of the most important positions in the EU in 2019, the role of European Commission President.
|about 500,000 BC||Homo erectus in Germany.|
|200 000 BC||Neanderthal people in Germany.|
|12 000 BC||Reindeer hunter in northern Germany.|
|5500 BC||Agriculture is introduced in central Germany by representatives of the band ceramic culture.|
|4500 BC||Copper machining is introduced in the south.|
|2000–700 BC||The Bronze Age. Increased social differences are reflected, among other things. in grave gifts.|
|700 BC – BC||In the south, a series of Celtic altitude fortifications, called the Opida, are erected. North of the Danube and east of the Rhine, Germanic culture is gradually emerging.|
|50s BC||The Swabian ruler Ariovistus, established west of the Rhine, is driven by Julius Caesar, and his territory is incorporated with the Roman Empire.|
|9 AD||Emperor Augustus’s attempt to conquer the country between the Rhine and Elbe is stated after German smashing Arminius’s devastating victory in the Teutoburger Wald.|
|40s AD||Parts of southern Germany are incorporated into the Roman province of Raetia.|
|83 AD||During Emperor Domitian’s capture of the so-called agri decumates in southern Germany. Under Roman rule the foundations include the cities of Cologne, Trier, Mainz, Augsburg and Regensburg.|
|AD 200–400||The Roman provinces of Germania inferior and Germania superior are subjected to increasingly harsh attacks by German people – i.e. alemans, burgundies, gliders, vandals and francs – and finally collapse.|
|500-700 century||Germany is Christianized and incorporated into France.|
|843||The Treaty of Verdun divides the kingdom of France, and an East Frankish kingdom is formed, from which Germany develops.|
|911||With Konrad I of the Franks, Germany gets its first king of pure German descent.|
|919||With the reign of Henry I (the Birdcatcher), the power of the Saxon family begins (919-1024).|
|962||Otto I (the Great) is crowned Emperor of the Pope, thus laying the foundation for the German-Roman Empire (962-1806).|
|1000-1100 centuries||A powerful colonization movement spreads German influence and culture throughout Eastern Europe.|
|1024||With Konrad II of Franken’s ascension, the crown goes to the Salian house (1024–1125).|
|1056-1105||Under the reign of Henry IV, the investiture battle erupts between the emperor and the papacy.|
|1138-1254||The house Hohenstaufen rules Germany but must fight for its power against, among other things. the house Welf.|
|1152-90||The Hohenstaufer’s empire culminates with Fredrik I Barbarossa, who succeeds in defeating his chief rival Henrik Lejonet (Welf).|
|1254-73||Germany has no universally recognized king (interregnum).|
|1273||With Rudolf of Habsburg’s ascension, the Habsburg house appears for the first time in German major politics. However, it did not take until 1438 before the Habsburgs finally established themselves as a German royal and emperor’s house.|
|1300-1400 centuries||Germany is suffering from prolonged economic depression with widespread destruction of cultivated land. The peasants in the eastern colonization areas are sinking into living traits.|
|1517||Luther emerges as a reformer, thus triggering a long-standing religious and political crisis in Germany.|
|1519-56||During the reign of Karl V, Germany is part of a world empire, which also includes the Burgundian heritage, mainly the Netherlands, and Spain with car countries in the Old and New World.|
|1524-25||Insurgent peasants demand social reform but are suppressed (German peasant war).|
|1546-47||The tension between Protestants and Catholics is discharged through the Schmaldic war.|
|1555||Religious Peace in Augsburg. Catholics and Lutherans become equals, the princes are given the right to decide the religion of their subjects.|
|1618-48||The thirty-year war.|
|1648||Westphalian peace strengthens the power of territorial princes and delays Germany’s development into a modern, centralized nation-state.|
|1740-63||During the Austrian succession war (1740–48) and the seven-year war (1756–63), Prussia under Fredrik the Great’s leadership turns out to be equal to Austria.|
|1806||The German-Roman Empire is dissolved.|
|1807-13||Following Napoleon’s military victories over Austria and Prussia followed a period of French hegemony, which in turn brought to life a nationalist resistance movement.|
|1814-15||At the Vienna Congress, the German Confederation is founded, a loose association of German princes and cities.|
|1834||The German Customs Association is formed. All German states except Austria become a common market.|
|1848||The March Revolution shakes over the German League. The attempt by the Frankfurt Parliament to unite Germany with liberal signs fails.|
|1864-71||Bismarck unites Germany “with blood and iron”, through the wars with Denmark (1864), Austria (1866) and France (1870-71).|
|1871||The Second Empire (1871-1918) is proclaimed in Versailles.|
|1871-79||Bismarck fights the Catholic Church in alliance with the national liberals.|
|1873-87||Bismarck is building an alliance system to prevent French attempts at revenues (the Three-Empire Association, the Triple Alliance, the reinsurance treaty).|
|1879-90||Bismarck for a conservative policy of tariff increases and repression against social democracy.|
|1890||Bismarck is dismissed by the new Emperor William II. It launches a worldwide naval and colonial policy that challenges the United Kingdom and contributes to the triggering of the First World War.|
|1914-18||After major initial successes in the First World War, Germany in 1918 was forced to cease armistice and enter into peace negotiations. The emperor abdicates and the republic is proclaimed (“Weimar Republic”).|
|1919||Germany is forced to sign a hard and humiliating peace in Versailles.|
|1923||France occupies the Ruhr area with a view to securing German damages. Hitler makes his first failed coup attempt in Munich.|
|1925||The Locarno Treaty entails a period of relaxation in relation to the former enemy powers.|
|1929-33||The economic world crisis is affecting Germany with mass unemployment and leading to the gradual dissolution of the Weimar Republic.|
|1933||Hitler takes power.|
|1934||Hitler lets a large number of political opponents execute. SA Manager Ernst Röhm.|
|1936||Hitler sets out on a clear expansionist path, which eventually leads to the outbreak of World War II.|
|1938||Anti-Semitic rattles during the “crystal night” reveal the meaning of Nazi racial politics.|
|1939-45||WWII. The war ends with the collapse of Germany and the country’s division between the Allies.|
|1949||The western zones are merged with the Federal Republic of Germany (BRD, West Germany). The Soviet Union responds by transforming its zone into the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany).|
|1949-63||Konrad Adenauer integrates West Germany into Western cooperation, and in 1955 the country joins the Western Union and NATO.|
|1961||The Berlin Wall is being built and further marks the division of Germany.|
|1969||Willy Brandt forms a social democratic-liberal coalition government and initiates a new Eastern policy.|
|1982||Helmut Kohl forms a bourgeois coalition government and for a market liberal policy with a strong D-mark as the main target.|
|1989-90||The Berlin Wall is being demolished and the two German states are reunited by joining East Germany to West Germany.|
|1991||Signed border and cooperation agreement with Poland. After 45 years, the boundary between reunited Germany becomes governed by state and international law.|
|1998||Helmut Kohl retires after 16 years in power. The Social Democrats with Gerhard Schröder form a coalition government with the Greens who are for the first time in office.|
|1999||Berlin again becomes the capital of Germany. The German Bundestag moves into the old parliament building.|
|2002||Currency D mark is replaced by the euro.|
|2005||Angela Merkel is elected Germany’s first female Chancellor.|