Federal Republic of Germany
and largest city
|Government||Federal parliamentary constitutional republic|
• President of the Bundesrat
|2 February 962|
|18 January 1871|
• Federal Republic
|23 May 1949|
|3 October 1990|
|357,021 km2 (137,847 sq mi) (63rd)|
• Water (%)
• 2013 estimate
• 2011 census
|225/km2 (582.7/sq mi) (58th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2012 estimate|
|$3.197 trillion (5th)|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2012 estimate|
|$3.401 trillion (4th)|
• Per capita
|HDI (2013)|| 0.920
very high · 5th
|Currency||Euro (€) (EUR)|
|Time zone||UTC+1 (CET)|
• Summer (DST)
|ISO 3166 code||DE|
The Federal Republic of Germany, also called Germany (German: Bundesrepublik Deutschland or just Deutschland), is a country in Central Europe. The country's full name is sometimes shortened to the FRG (or the BRD, in German).
To the north of Germany are the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the country of Denmark. To the east of Germany are the countries of Poland and the Czech Republic. To the south of Germany are the countries of Austria and Switzerland. To the west of Germany are the countries of France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The total area of Germany is 357,021 square kilometres (137,847 square miles). The large majority of Germany has warm summers and cool or cold winters. In June 2013, Germany had a population of 80.6 million people. After the United States, Germany is the second most popular country for migration in the world.
Before it was called Germany, it was called Germania. In the years A.D. 900 until 1806, Germany was part of the Holy Roman Empire.
From 1949 to 1990, Germany was made up of two countries called the Federal Republic of Germany (inf. West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (inf. East Germany). During this time, the capital city of Berlin was divided into a west and an east part. On 13 August 1961, East Germany started building the Berlin Wall between the two parts of Berlin. West Germany was one of the countries that started the European Union.
Germany gained importance as the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, which was the first Reich, a word translated as empire. It was started by Charlemagne who became the first Holy Roman Emperor in 800 AD, and it lasted until 1806, the time of the Napoleonic Wars.
The Second Reich was started with a treaty in 1871 in Versailles. The biggest state in the new German Empire was Prussia. The rulers were called Kaisers or "German Emperors", but they did not call themselves "Emperors of Germany". There were many smaller states in the Empire, but not Austria. Germany stayed an empire for 50 years.
The treaty of unification of Germany was made after Germany won the Franco-Prussian War with France in 1871. In World War I, Germany joined Austria-Hungary, and again declared war on France. The war became slow in the west and became trench warfare. Many men were killed on both sides without winning or losing. In the Eastern Front the soldiers fought with the Russian Empire and won there after the Russians gave up. The war ended in 1918 because the Germans could not win in the west and gave up. Germany's emperor also had to give up his power. France took Alsace from Germany and Poland got the Danzig corridor. After a revolution, the Second Reich ended and the democratic Weimar Republic began.
The Third Reich was Nazi Germany; it lasted 12 years, from 1933 to 1945. It started after Adolf Hitler became the head of government. On 23 March 1933, the Reichstag (parliament) passed the Enabling Act, which let Hitler's government command the country without help from the Reichstag and the presidency. This gave him total control of the country and the government. Hitler in effect became a dictator.
Hitler wanted to unify all Germans in one state, and did this by annexing places where Germans lived, such as Austria and Czechoslovakia; Hitler also wanted the land in Poland that Germany had owned before 1918. Poland refused to give it to him. The invasion of Poland started World War II on 1 September 1939. In the beginning of the war, Germany was winning. It managed to take over much of Europe. However, Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941 and, after the Battle of Kursk, the German Eastern Front began a slow retreat until war's end. On 8 May 1945, Germany gave up after Berlin was captured, Hitler had killed himself a week earlier. Because of the war, Germany lost a lot of German land east of the Oder-Neiße line, and for 45 years, Germany was split into West Germany and East Germany.
East and West Germany
After Germany surrendered, the Allies partitioned Berlin and Germany's remaining territory into four military occupation zones. The western sectors, controlled by France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, were merged on 23 May 1949 to form the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland); on 7 October 1949, the Soviet Zone became the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik). They were informally known as West Germany and East Germany. East Germany selected East Berlin as its capital, while West Germany chose Bonn as a provisional capital, to emphasize its stance that the two-state solution was an artificial and temporary status quo.
West Germany was established as a federal parliamentary republic with a "social market economy". Starting in 1948 West Germany became a major recipient of reconstruction aid under the Marshall Plan and used this to rebuild its industry. Konrad Adenauer was elected the first Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzler) of Germany in 1949 and remained in office until 1963. Under his and Ludwig Erhard's leadership, the country enjoyed prolonged economic growth beginning in the early 1950s, that became known as an "economic miracle" (Wirtschaftswunder). The Federal Republic of Germany joined NATO in 1955 and was a founding member of the European Economic Community in 1957.
East Germany was an Eastern Bloc state under political and military control by the USSR via occupation forces and the Warsaw Pact. Although East Germany claimed to be a democracy, political power was exercised solely by leading members (Politbüro) of the communist-controlled Socialist Unity Party of Germany, supported by the Stasi, an immense secret service controlling many aspects of the society. A Soviet-style command economy was set up and the GDR later became a Comecon state. While East German propaganda was based on the benefits of the GDR's social programmes and the alleged constant threat of a West German invasion, many of its citizens looked to the West for freedom and prosperity. The Berlin Wall, rapidly built on 13 August 1961 prevented East German citizens from escaping to West Germany, eventually becoming a symbol of the Cold War. Ronald Reagan's "Mr. Gorbachov, Tear down this wall!" speech at the Wall on 12 June 1987 influenced public opinion, echoing John F. Kennedy's famous Ich bin ein Berliner speech of 26 June 1963. The fall of the Wall in 1989 became a symbol of the Fall of Communism, the Dissolution of the Soviet Union, German Reunification and Die Wende.
Tensions between East and West Germany were reduced in the early 1970s by Chancellor Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik. In summer 1989, Hungary decided to dismantle the Iron Curtain and open the borders, causing the emigration of thousands of East Germans to West Germany via Hungary. This had devastating effects on the GDR, where regular mass demonstrations received increasing support. The East German authorities eased the border restrictions, allowing East German citizens to travel to the West; originally intended to help retain East Germany as a state, the opening of the border actually led to an acceleration of the Wende reform process. This culminated in the Two Plus Four Treaty a year later on 12 September 1990, under which the four occupying powers renounced their rights under the Instrument of Surrender, and Germany regained full sovereignty. This permitted German reunification on 3 October 1990, with the accession of the five re-established states of the former GDR.
Reunified Germany and European Union
The united Germany is considered to be the enlarged continuation of the Federal Republic of Germany and not a successor state. As such, it retained all of West Germany's memberships in international organisations. Based on the Berlin/Bonn Act, adopted in 1994, Berlin once again became the capital of the reunified Germany, while Bonn obtained the unique status of a Bundesstadt (federal city) retaining some federal ministries. The relocation of the government was completed in 1999. Following the 1998 elections, SPD politician Gerhard Schröder became the first Chancellor of a red–green coalition with the Alliance '90/The Greens party. Among the major projects of the two Schröder legislatures was the Agenda 2010 to reform the labour market to become more flexible and reduce unemployment.
The modernisation and integration of the eastern German economy is a long-term process scheduled to last until the year 2019, with annual transfers from west to east amounting to roughly $80 billion.
Since reunification, Germany has taken a more active role in the European Union. Together with its European partners Germany signed the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, established the Eurozone in 1999, and signed the Lisbon Treaty in 2007. Germany sent a peacekeeping force to secure stability in the Balkans and sent a force of German troops to Afghanistan as part of a NATO effort to provide security in that country after the ousting of the Taliban. These deployments were controversial since Germany is bound by domestic law only to deploy troops for defence roles.
In the 2005 elections, Angela Merkel became the first female Chancellor of Germany as the leader of a grand coalition. In 2009 the German government approved a €50 billion economic stimulus plan to protect several sectors from a downturn.
Germany is a constitutional federal democracy. Its political rules come from the 'constitution' called Basic Law (Grundgesetz), written by West Germany in 1949. It has a parliamentary system, and the parliament elects the head of government, the Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzler). The current Chancellor, Dr Angela Merkel, is a woman who used to live in East Germany.
The people of Germany vote for the parliament, called the Bundestag (Federal Assembly), every four years. Government members of the 16 States of Germany (Bundesländer) work in the Bundesrat (Federal Council). The Bundesrat can help make some laws.
|President||Joachim Gauck||Independent||18 March 2012|
|Chancellor||Angela Merkel||CDU||22 November 2005|
|Other government parties||SPD, CSU|
The judiciary branch (the part of German politics that deals with courts) has a Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court). It can stop any act by the law-makers or other leaders if they feel they go against Germany's constitution.
The opposition parties are the Alliance '90/The Greens and Die Linke.
Germany is one of the largest countries in Europe. It stretches from the North Sea and Baltic Sea in the north to the high mountains of the Alps in the south. The highest point is the Zugspitze on the Austrian border, at 2,962 metres (9,718 ft).
Germany's northern part is very low and flat (lowest point: Neuendorf-Sachsenbande at −3.54 m or −11.6 ft). In the middle, there are low mountain ranges covered in large forests. Between these and the Alps, there is another plain created by glaciers during the ice ages.
In Germany there are sixteen states (Bundesländer):
In these states there are 301 Kreise (districts) and 114 independent cities, which do not belong to any district.
Germany has one of the world's largest technologically powerful economies. Bringing West and East Germany together and making their economy work is still taking a long time and costing a lot of money. Germany is the largest economy in Europe. In September 2011, the inflation rate in Germany was 2.5%. The unemployment rate of Germany was 5.5% as of October 2011.
Germany is the seventh most visited country in the world, with a total of 407 million overnights during 2012. This number includes 68.83 million nights by foreign visitors. In 2012, over 30.4 million international tourists arrived in Germany. Berlin has become the third most visited city destination in Europe. Additionally, more than 30% of Germans spend their holiday in their own country, with the biggest share going to Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Domestic and international travel and tourism combined directly contribute over EUR43.2 billion to German GDP. Including indirect and induced impacts, the industry contributes 4.5% of German GDP and supports 2 million jobs (4.8% of total employment).
Germany is well known for its diverse tourist routes, such as the Romantic Road, the Wine Route, the Castle Road, and the Avenue Road. The German Timber-Frame Road (Deutsche Fachwerkstraße) connects towns with examples of these structures.
Germany's most-visited landmarks include e.g. Neuschwanstein Castle, Cologne Cathedral, Berlin Bundestag, Hofbräuhaus Munich, Heidelberg Castle, Dresden Zwinger, Fernsehturm Berlin and Aachen Cathedral. The Europa-Park near Freiburg is Europe's second most popular theme park resort.
In Germany live mostly Germans and many ethnic minorities. There are at least seven million people from other countries living in Germany. Some have political asylum, some are guest workers (Gastarbeiter), and some are their families. Many people from poor or dangerous countries go to Germany for safety. Many others do not get permission to live in Germany.
About 50,000 ethnic Danish people live in Schleswig-Holstein, in the north. About 60,000 Sorbs (a Slavic people) live in Germany too, in Saxony and Brandenburg. About 12,000 people in Germany speak Frisian; this language is the closest living language to English. In northern Germany, people outside towns speak Low Saxon.
Many people have come to Germany from Turkey (about 1.9 million Turks and Kurds). Other small groups of people in Germany are Croats (0.2 million), Italians (0.6 million), Greeks (0.4 million), Russians, and Poles (0.3 million). There are also some ethnic Germans who lived in the old Soviet Union (1.7 million), Poland (0.7 million), and Romania (0.3 million). These people have German passports, so they are not counted as foreigners. A lot of these people do not speak German at home.
Christianity is the biggest religion; Protestants are 38% of the people (mostly in the north) and Catholics are 34% of the people (mostly in the south). There are also many Muslims, while the other people (26.3%) are either not religious, or belong to smaller religious groups. In the eastern regions, the former territory of the GDR (known as the DDR in German), only one fifth of the population is religious.
Germany has one of the world's highest levels of schooling, technology, and businesses. The number of young people who attend universities is now three times more than it was after the end of World War II, and the trade and technical schools of Germany are some of the best in the world. German income is, on average, $25,000 a year, making Germany a highly middle class society. A large social welfare system gives people money when they are ill, unemployed, or similarly disadvantaged. Millions of Germans travel outside of their country each year.
Germany's constitution says that all people can believe in any religion they want to, and that no one is allowed to discriminate against somebody because of the person's religion.
In ancient times Germany was largely pagan. Roman Catholicism was the biggest religion in Germany up to the 15th century, but a major religious change called the Reformation changed this. In 1517, Martin Luther said that the Catholic Church used religion to make money. Luther started Protestantism, which is as big as the Catholic religion in Germany today. Before World War II, about two-thirds of the German people were Protestant and one-thirds were Roman Catholic. In the north and northeast of Germany, there were a lot more Protestants than Catholics. Today, about two-thirds of German people (more than 55 million people) call themselves Christian, but most of them do not practice it. About half of them are Protestants and about half are Roman Catholics. Most German Protestants are members of the Evangelical Church in Germany. The previous Pope, Benedict XVI, was born in Germany.
Before World War II, about one percent of the country's people were German Jews. Today, Germany has the fastest-growing group of Jewish people in the world. Many of them are in Berlin. Ten thousand Jews have moved to Germany since the fall of the Berlin Wall; many came from countries that were in the Soviet Union. Schools teaching about the horrible things that happened when the Nazis were in power, as well as teaching against the ideas of the Nazis, has helped to make Germany very tolerant towards other people and cultures, and now many people move there from countries that may not be so tolerant.
About three million Muslims live in Germany, 3.7% of the total population. The country also has a large atheist and agnostic population, and there are also Jain, Buddhist and Zoroastrian communities. The 20th century has also seen a neopagan revival.
Germany has a long history of poets, thinkers, artists, and so on. There are 240 supported theaters, hundreds of orchestras, thousands of museums and over 25,000 libraries in Germany. Millions of tourists visit these attractions every year.
Germany has created a high level of gender equality, disability rights, and accepts homosexuality. Gay marriage is somewhat legal in Germany.
Germany is also known for their food. Their food varies from region to region. For example, in the southern regions, such as Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, they share their type of food with Switzerland and Austria. Everywhere in Germany, meat is eaten as a sausage. Even though wine use is increasing, the national alcoholic drink is beer. The number of Germans who drink beer is one of the highest in the world. German restaurants are also rated the second-best, with France rated first place.
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