Germany’s history is often counted from the coronation of Otto I to the German-Roman emperor in 962, although Germany did not become a nation state until the 1871 rally.
The coronation of Otto 1 became the beginning of the German-Roman Empire. This consisted of several sovereign principalities and was formally dissolved in 1806. After the disintegration began the process that led to the unification of the German Empire in 1871. This fell apart after World War I and was replaced by the Weimar Republic in 1919. The appointment of Adolf Hitler to Chancellor of the State in 1933 created the Third Reich, which was disbanded in 1945. After World War II, Germany was divided into four zones. The three western zones became West Germany and the eastern to East Germany (GDR). In 1990, the country was reunited and now consists of 16 states.
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The East Frankish Empire and the Saxons
Gallia and began an expansion eastward which continued under the Carolingians. All Germanic tribes east of the Rhine were laid under Frankish rule. The division of the Frankish kingdom of the Carolingians, initiated by the settlement of Verdun in 843, developed over the following 40 years into a permanent division into an eastern and a western kingdom. The first was to give rise to Germany, the second to France. To see more information other than history, please visit Abbreviationfinder to learn more about climate, population, government, and economy for the country of Germany.
In 911, the Carolingian line died out in eastern France, and the political history of Germany is usually calculated from the German tribal dukes’ election of Henry of Saxony (Henrik Fuglefanger) to king in 919. The threat of the Madjans in the east must have been the main reason for the tribal king’s choice.
The Saxon dynasty remained in power in 1024, when the royal government passed to the Salic dynasty, which was again succeeded by the Hohenstaufer in 1138. Until the death of Frederick 2 in 1250, Germany was mostly united under one ruler, and the monarchy was the central political factor in the realm.
Then Germany went into a political dissolution process, and although German emperors were again elected from 1273, it was the territorial rulers who dominated in the following centuries. As emperor territorial rulers, some emperors were yet to assert themselves politically in the Late Middle Ages, at the same time as the emperor’s dignity was again used to promote territorial interests over national policy goals.
Thus, during the 13th century, Germany gained an increasingly stronger federal character, which was also constitutionally recognized through the Golden Bull in 1356. In the same period, the political center of gravity also shifted from west to east. Saxon and Salian emperors had found economic foundations for their politics in the Rhin region, the high stakes to a great extent also in Italy, especially southern Italy. The later Luxembourgers and Habsburgs built primarily on the revenues of Bohemia, Tirol, Carinthia and Austria.
But although Germany was mostly under one emperor throughout the period from the beginning of the 900s to the mid-1200s, and the monarchy during this period was the dominant factor in German politics, the period meant major population and economic changes, such as also had a decisive influence on the design of the political system. Unlike Western France, which underwent a feudal dissolution process during the 800s, the Austrian state was characterized by a more even peasant society under the leadership of the tribal dukes.
There has probably been a stronger social basis for a stable state formation here than in the west. Moreover, after the Madjans had been defeated in 955, Germany was far less exposed to external enemies than France.
However, the financial basis for the new German state was poor. The natural economy prevailed, and under the Saxon and partly Salian emperors the revenue from the king’s domicile areas was the most important. The administration was simple; there was no capital, and the king was still on the move. Collaboration with the church therefore became a pillar of the political and administrative system from the time of Otto 1 (936–973).
The relationship between king power and church
The bishops, who were bound to the king by oath of allegiance and endowed by him with office and authority, constituted the most important binder in the kingdom. In this connection, the Ottoman system is often spoken of.
Gradually, however, Germany was also federalized, and in the 1100s the situation in some parts of the empire, especially the western ones, approached France in the 900s. Emperor Fredrik Barbarossa (1152–1190), and his successors, therefore, like the kings of England and France, sought to uphold the monarchy of feudal laws and institutions. However, the decentralizing forces should prove to be stronger in Germany than in the western neighboring states. Importantly, the economic expansion of the Middle Ages – trade expansion and urbanization – did not occur in the German monarchy in the same way as in England and France.
Nor did one of the most important events in German medieval history, the migration eastward into Slavic territory, the so-called ” Drang nach Osten ” (sucked to the East), favor the royal power. On the contrary, this huge expansion of the German settlement area came along with the economic growth and urbanization to serve the interests of the territorial princes.
The relationship with the church, which had been of vital importance to the first emperors, entered a critical phase from the 1070s because it grew a European church demanding independence from worldly rulers. This movement was captured by the papacy, which from the time of Gregory 7 became the emperor’s worst opponent. The conflict is called investment struggles. Initially, a conflict arose between the emperor and the pope over who should have control over the bishops of Germany and Italy. Although a kind of compromise was reached for the time being in 1122, it meant the end of the Ottoman system.
But the relationship with the pope was far more than a matter of ecclesiastical autonomy and control over diocesan offices. During the high stakes, it was first and foremost a matter of power in Italy; moreover, it was always a matter of ideology and prestige. In 962, Otto 1 had obtained the imperial title during a warfare to Italy. From then on, the legacy of Charlemagne was taken over by the German kings.
But no real German imperialism was developed during the first two imperial dynasties; to them, the emperor was primarily a means of strengthening power at home, not least over the church, including the papacy. However, Fredrik Barbarossa set himself the goal of building a real empire in Italy. With his military forces he tried to suppress Northern and Central Italy, but failed.
Frederick’s most important gain was the marriage between his son Henry and the heir to the Norman kingdom in southern Italy and in Sicily, Constantia, daughter of Roger 2. From this point of view, Fredrik sought to create an empire in Italy. The imperialist policy of the Hohenstaufer was perceived by the pope as a life-threatening threat. Frederick 2 (1212–1250) had to grant far-reaching concessions to the German princes to gain support for his Italy policy, which, however, would end in defeat.
Around the year 1400 the German East expansion stopped, and in the Late Middle Ages the German Empire expanded, partly through French expansion eastwards in the direction of the Rhine – a movement that would continue for hundreds of years – towards Burgundy and Provence, and partly through the emergence of strong states in the east (Poland, Lithuania) and partly by the fact that smaller areas such as the Swiss cantons in the south and the Dutch provinces in the northwest, became independent.
Early modern times 1500–1800
A decentralized state
From the 1500s to the mid-1800s, political developments in Germany followed a different course than in the rest of Europe. Elsewhere in Europe, central power was strengthened and most often controlled by a king. Local administration was also greatly strengthened. The same was true of the army, which usually consisted of mercenaries. The lower stages of the old federal hierarchy of power gradually lost power.
In Germany things were different. The emperor never got a position similar to that of the king in France. The emperor’s income never allowed him to build an army. The administration was extremely small. The legislation was not common German. There was no German coin.
In Germany, the next stage of the hierarchy became sovereignty: after the Thirty Years War in 1648, there were in Germany about 300 sovereign rulers and around 1500 so-called national medieval areas, which in practice were also independent. It was the princes in these areas who gradually gained the same power as the kings of the rest of Europe; several of them even got the royal title.
There are several reasons why Germany did not receive a strong empire. The emperor had only minimal income from the kingdom, and he was chosen by a permanent college consisting of the greatest worldly and clergy princes. These could in recent elections defeat attempts at imperial power, which would have to happen over several generations. More importantly, however, is that Germany’s central location made the neighboring states look with great turmoil in attempts to establish a strong, centralized state in the heart of Europe.
Emperor Karl 5 (1519–1556) solved the financial problems by using income from his non-German territories. He defeated the Protestant princes, but was stopped by France in the attempt to establish a single state in Germany. In the 1600s, a similar dream was shattered by French and Swedish weapons during the Thirty Years War. After this, the emperor exercised only minimal control over the princes, and they were given the opportunity to establish their small monarchical states. A new center of power emerged: the vicarage of Brandenburg which in 1701 became the kingdom of Prussia.
During Fredrik the Great (1740–1786), Prussia became a great power that rivaled Austria over the hegemony in Germany.
Around 1500, Germany was very central to Europe’s economic life. In Northern and Western Europe, the Hansa merchants played a dominant role in all trade. The southern German cities controlled a large part of the commodity trade between the Mediterranean and Northern and Western Europe. This changed over the next centuries. The trade routes started to go outside Germany, and the trade was run by others. More typical coastal lands took over, especially England and the Netherlands. One reason for this was that more voluminous goods, such as grain, salt and timber, accounted for an ever larger share of the trading volume, and these were difficult to transport over land and on rivers.
But it may have meant just as much that German merchants lacked a strong state in the back, which led, among other things, to disproportionately many customs stations along German rivers and country roads. This made the goods more expensive, and kept German merchants away from overseas trade.
The earth throughout Germany was controlled by noble and spiritual landlords, but the operation of the earth evolved in two different directions. To the west of the Elbe the system can be called Grundherrschaft: the goods were divided into smaller parts which were leased to the farmers. Landlords lived by land rent. This was usually fixed in money, but could be paid in kind. The falling monetary value during the period led to falling revenues for the landlords in the west.
East of the Elbe dominated a system commonly called the Gutsherrschaft: the landowners operated most of the land itself; the farmers became landless workers. Landlords had the advantage of rising prices for agricultural products, especially grain. To get the best possible profit, they depended on sufficient and cheap labor. This meant that they were able to implement laws that bound the farmers to the goods on which they were born; the farmers became viable. This is a trend that was particularly rapid during periods of stagnation or decline in the population, such as during and after the Thirty Years War.
Napoleonic wars and incipient national unity
In the 19th century, the rivalry between Austria and Prussia continued. Both states fought against the French Revolutionary Armies during the Revolutionary Wars), and later against Napoleon in the Napoleonic Wars. In 1803, 103 German states were swept off the map and about 130,000 square miles of land were redistributed according to Napoleon’s order. Russia, Britain and Austria formed “the third coalition” in 1805, while Prussia remained passive.
Following Napoleon’s victory over Austria that year, Württemberg and Bavaria, which had supported Napoleon, were elevated to kingdoms and formed the core of the Rhine federation, which Napoleon controlled. The formal existence of the German-Roman Empire ceased when, in 1806, Frans 2 had to relinquish the title of German Emperor; from then on he called himself Emperor of Austria.
In 1807 Prussia also came into conflict with Napoleon, but was beaten. At the peace in Tilsit in 1807, Prussia lost half of its provinces, which were converted to the kingdom of Westphalia for Napoleon’s brother, Jerome, and to the Duchy of Warsaw for the King of Saxony. The entire North Sea coast and part of the Baltic Sea coast were incorporated into France for the sake of the continental barrier.
During these years, a stronger and more conscious national feeling was developed, and the Prussian state in particular prepared a freedom struggle by, among other things, introducing reforms such as the abolition of the quality of life. Napoleon forced Prussia to take part in the invasion of Russia in 1812, but Napoleon’s adversity became the signal for Prussian’s “war of freedom” in 1813-1815, which was supported by Britain, Russia and Austria. Napoleon lost the “people” at Leipzig in 1813 and withdrew to France.
After the Vienna Congress in 1815, the German states were united in a very loose state federation (Deutscher Bund), which had at most 39 members, with Austria as leader and a joint federal day in Frankfurt am Main. Between 1812 and 1842, Prussia succeeded in uniting all German states except Austria in the German Customs Union (Zollverein).
The Revolution of 1848
The liberal movement grew in the 1820s and was stimulated by the July revolution in France in 1830. In March 1848, it erupted during an economic crisis, and influenced by the February revolution in France, a revolution in Germany. It was led by the bourgeoisie, especially the academic middle class, and the program was a unified Germany with a liberal constitution.
In early March 1848, liberal constitutions were introduced in the German small states and in March the revolution broke out in Vienna and Berlin. Both the emperor of Austria and the king of Prussia were forced to take liberal governments and promise free constitutions. In May, a German National Assembly was elected, which met in Frankfurt (Frankfurt Parliament). It was split between ” big Germans ” who were led by southern German liberals and wanted Austria as the leader, and “little Germans” led by the Prussian liberals, who wanted a Germany without Austria.
The National Assembly elected an Austrian archduke to the head of state. The Schleswig rebel war against Denmark in Schleswig-Holstein in 1848–1850 was supported by Prussia, but when both the Russian and British governments supported Denmark, Prussia withdrew from the struggle. In the autumn of 1848, the reaction prevailed in both Austria and Prussia. In March 1849, the National Assembly passed a constitution for Germany and elected the king of Prussia as emperor of a “little German” empire.
However, the king refused to accept the offer, and the radical wing of the National Assembly sought to initiate a new revolution. It was knocked down by Prussian troops. After Austria had defeated Sardinia and with Russian aid also crushed the uprising in Hungary, the balance of power in Germany between Austria and Prussia was restored by the agreement in Olmütz in 1850. The following year, the Federal Agreement of 1815 was restored, and pronounced conservative powers gained power in the individual states.
However, Prussia retained a land day selected for a “three-class system”, which secured the upper social layers majority.
Split and Collection 1848-1870
The 1850s were a political reaction time, but there was great progress for the industry, and the development of an efficient rail network accelerated. Prussia was at the forefront of the work on a collection of Germany, and in this work could build on economic realities, namely the Customs Union of 1834, in which Austria was not included.
In Prussia, however, the noble landowner class, the ” Junks,” was still socially and politically leading. They had been skeptical of the demands of the Liberal and National Movement on Germany’s unification. At the end of the 1850s, this movement became active again, partly because of Italy’s gathering.
From 1862, the junker Otto von Bismarck was prime minister, and he ruled against the majority of the country. Bismarck understood that the gathering was unavoidable, but he wanted to carry it with the Prussian army under the leadership of the Hohenzollern house, thereby ensuring that the Prussian junks retained the political power in a unified Germany. In 1863, Bismarck supported Russia during the uprising in Poland, and achieved that Russia stayed away when Prussia and Austria in 1864 together conquered Schleswig and Holstein from Denmark.
After securing the neutrality of Russia and France and establishing an alliance with Italy, in 1866 Bismarck took the decisive battle with Austria over the domination of Germany (the German-Austrian war). At peace, Austria was forced to withdraw from Germany and relinquish Venice to Italy. Prussia annexed several German small states, including Hanover, and took over Schleswig-Holstein.
In 1867, the North German Confederation (Norddeutscher Bund) was established under the leadership of Prussia. The national liberals gave up their opposition and went on to support Bismarck in the hope of German unification and a strong and liberal state.
After the victory over Austria, Bismarck began to prepare for the settlement with France. The German-French war broke out in July 1870, created a strong national mood in Germany, and the German army won great victories. At the peace in Frankfurt in May 1871, France had to renounce Alsace-Lorraine (Alsace-Lorraine) and pay five billion francs in damages.
The Second Empire 1871-1918
On January 18, 1871, the German princes of Versailles had proclaimed King William of Prussia as German emperor. The constitution of the empire was built on the north German of 1867. The German empire became a federal state of 26 states, but in reality Prussia became the leading state. The executive power lay with the emperor, who was also king of Prussia. The legislative and granting authority lay with a parliament elected by universal suffrage for men, but under an electoral system that favored rural life, and a federal council of representatives of the governments of the individual countries. The chancellor, who was usually also the prime minister in Prussia, was directly responsible to the emperor, there was no parliamentarianism. Reichstag had no real influence on foreign policy and the military.
At that time, the so-called Second Industrial Revolution, there was a rapid industrialization that made Germany the leading industrialized country in Europe. This was particularly evident in the heavy industry and especially in the Ruhr district (Krupp, Thyssen). Germany became a leader in the new industries of the time, the chemical and the electrical engineering (for example Badische Anilin (BASF), AEG and Siemens-Schuckert).
The German industry came to control important patents and played an increasingly important role on the world market. The merchant fleet grew to the second largest in the world. The German colleges, which provided competent engineers and administrators to the business community, were leaders in Europe. Towards the end of the centenary, a great emigration to the United States took place, but the population of the empire nevertheless rose from 41 million in 1870 to 68 million in 1914, an increase which helped create a large domestic market for German industry.
Otto von Bismarck
Bismarck was in charge of Germany’s domestic politics even after 1871. However, the landlords retained their social position and influence in the army and bureaucracy. In the Riksdag, Bismarck first relied on the national liberals and the free conservatives against the center party that defended the rights of individual states and the Catholic Church. In the years after 1871, the so-called cultural struggle against the Catholic Church stood in the forefront. Bismarck sought to gain dominion over the diocesan appointments and the school system. But by the end of the 1870s, the Bismarck Center’s political assistance needed to be driven by a protectionist policy that would, among other things, secure a high grain tariff.
He abandoned the cultural struggle and turned to the social democrats instead. The two Social Democratic parties had joined the congress in Gotha in 1875, and gained nearly half a million votes in the 1877 election. In 1878, the emperor was subjected to two assaults that were not due to the Social Democrats, but which gave Bismarck the pretext to pass a law banning the Socialist Party and its press. The ban was not effective. In Bismarck’s time, several social security laws came, including with a view to preventing further progress for the socialists. Germany became a pioneer in social legislation, but this did not have major political effects.
Bismarck pursued a cautious foreign policy after 1870. The aim was to preserve the German Empire. One means was to maintain friendship with Austria and Russia against France. Bismarck believed that France would try to take revenge, and his foreign policy was to isolate France. In 1872, during a conference in Vienna, a trekeiser union was concluded between the German and Austrian emperors and the Russian tsar.
However, the battle in the Balkan Peninsula, the Balkan Wars, led to a sharp contradiction between Austria-Hungary and Russia. At the Berlin Congress in 1878, Bismarck wanted to act as the “honest broker”, but the Russians believed he had taken the party of Austria-Hungary. There was a tense relationship between Germany and Russia, and in 1879 Germany formed a defense alliance with Austria-Hungary. In 1882 it was expanded to a triple alliance, with Italy joining. In 1887, Bismarck feared a French war of revenge and concluded a secret “reinsurance treaty” with Russia. It was in breach of the German-Austrian agreement, and Bismarck’s attempt to balance Russia with Austria was doomed to failure.
In the 1880s, Germany established colonies in German West Africa (now Namibia), Cameroon, Togo, German East Africa (now Tanzania), in part of New Guinea and the Bismarck Islands. Later, several other archipelagos in the Pacific were added. None of these colonies was of great economic importance.
In 1888, William 1 died and was succeeded by his son Fredrik, who was considered liberal. He died after three months and was succeeded by William 2, his young son who had not inherited his father’s liberal views. A contradiction developed between the young, ambitious emperor and Bismarck, and in March 1890 Bismarck resigned. The later chancellors were less independent of the emperor.
William 2 and his “world politics”
The most important domestic policy issues were the armor policy and the tax policy. In 1897, Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz became Minister of Navy; in 1898 he was allowed his first “naval law”, and later the costs of the fleet increased steadily. Fleet policy was a burden on the UK. From 1890 to 1914, various nationalist associations played a major role, especially in the middle class.
On the left, the Social Democrats went ahead and got 4.5 million votes in the 1912 election. The Social Democrats built on a Marxist program, but in practice pursued a reformist policy. However, the party was in opposition to the regime, which in turn considered it a threat. Foreign policy was given an expansionary character. Bismarck’s moderate politics, concentrated on Europe, were replaced by “Weltpolitik”. German capital gained a license on the Baghdad Railway, and Germany assumed the United Kingdom’s role as Turkey’s protector. At the same time, Germany showed great interest in Africa, and German « geopoliticians»Planned the establishment of a German Central Africa.
The German government, under the impression of Germany’s strong economic growth, sought to make the kingdom a leading power both on land and at sea. The United Kingdom entered into an alliance with France in 1904 and in 1907 with Russia. The Allies regarded Germany’s foreign policy as aggressive, while Germany in turn felt “encircled” by hostile states.
Germany during the First World War 1914-1918
Following the assassination of Sarajevo in June 1914, Emperor William supported Austria-Hungary’s war policy, and only in the last days of July did he make a feeble and unsuccessful attempt to avert the disaster. At the outbreak of the First World War, a nationalist wave of mood swept over the German people, and political peace was concluded. As the war widened and Germany suffered a severe blockade, the country had to implement a strict war economy, put the industry under state control and introduce rationing of raw materials and food.
The war economy was during the first years of the war led by industrialist Walther Rathenau. Political power increasingly shifted to the General Staff, especially after General Field Marshal Paul von Beneckendorff Hindenburg and General Erich Ludendorff had taken over the military leadership in August 1916. The winter of 1916–1917 was very harsh and there was unrest in the country. US entry into the war weakened the belief in victory.
In January 1916, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg formed an illegal revolutionary organization, the Spartacus League, which was against the war and the bourgeoisie and advocated a socialist revolution. In the spring of 1917, a separate “independent” social democratic party was formed, which advocated peace without compensation and annexation. In July 1917, a majority of the Riksdag, on the proposal of the center politician Matthias Erzberger, passed a resolution on peace without annexes. Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg resigned, but both of the following chancellors depended on the general staff, and this one maintained his war goals: control over Belgium, annexation of the industrial districts of Lorraine and the establishment of vassal states in Poland, the Baltic countries and Ukraine. The Russian Revolution in the autumn of 1917 opened new perspectives, and the opposition came into the background. A strike in January 1918 was defeated by Ludendorff.
At the end of September 1918, Bulgaria left the war, and it became clear that Austria-Hungary was about to collapse. The General Staff now demanded that a parliamentary government be formed that could end the ceasefire. On October 2, Liberal Prince Max of Baden formed a new government, in which the social democrats were also present. It turned to US President Woodrow Wilson to obtain a ceasefire on the basis of his “14 points.” After an exchange of notes, the ceasefire agreement was signed at Compiègne north of Paris on November 11, 1918.
The Revolution and the Weimar Republic 1918–1933
By October 1918, a revolutionary mood had spread. On November 5, a naval uprising occurred in Kiel, and workers’ councils (similar to the Russian Soviets) were established among workers and sailors. On November 7, a Council Republic was proclaimed in Munich, and on November 9, Prince Max resigned in favor of Social Democrat Friedrich Ebert. Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed the Republic of Berlin on the same day, and a government was formed to represent the two Social Democratic factions. The emperor fled to the Netherlands.
The “majority socialists” wanted a parliamentary democracy based on universal suffrage, while the independents wanted to build on the councils as bodies for the dictatorship of the proletariat. The majority socialists retained the leadership of the unions and the majority within the councils. In December, the independents resigned from the government.
The Spartacus League, now renamed the Communist Party of Germany, worked for a new revolution following the example of the Russian Bolsheviks. In January 1919, along with some independents, they attempted an insurgency, which was turned down, and Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were assassinated. Communist uprisings in Ruhr in March 1919 and the Bavarian Council Republic in April 1919 were also defeated by force. In these battles, the government used reactionary troop units and free corps.
The Weimar Republic is created
In February 1919, the newly elected National Assembly met in Weimar. The majority socialists had the largest group – along with the more radical independent 185 of 421 seats. Friedrich Ebert became prime minister and Philipp Scheidemann prime minister at the head of a coalition of majority socialists, the center and the democrats. In August 1919, the Weimar Constitution was adopted. It was to safeguard social and democratic human rights. The president was to be elected by the people every seven years, and he was to appoint the government, which must also have the confidence of the parliament. The government was headed by a national chancellor. The president had dissolution sets, but no veto rights. He could rule with decrees (emergency regulations) if the kingdom’s security was compromised.
The Constitution allowed access to hold a referendum, but in practice this was of little importance. The legislative power lay with the Riksdag, which was composed of proportional elections, and all men and women over the age of 20 had the right to vote. The National Council replaced the Federal Council, but was of little importance. Democratic constitutions were also introduced in the individual countries of the kingdom, with Prussia at the forefront. The states retained control over the judiciary, the police and the education system. The Weimar Constitution was in many ways a democratic design constitution.
The revolution had led to the fall of the empire and the establishment of a parliamentary democracy, but not to economic and social structural changes. The Weimar Republic started with the handicap that it was associated with the defeat. In protest, the government signed the Versailles Treaty on June 28, 1919. Germany lost about eight million inhabitants as well as valuable agricultural and industrial areas. In particular, the new border against Poland and the provision of Germany’s war-guilty outrage aroused, and German nationalists started a fierce propaganda against the treaty, and against the Social Democrats and the Catholic center party who had signed it. After a series of conferences, the Allies at a conference in London in 1921 set Germany’s damages to 132 billion gold marks.
Nationalism and economic problems
Germany’s further policy in the period 1919-1923 was largely determined by inflation. The state’s revenue fell, and the government financed its state operation by banknote printing. Parts of the business sector, especially the export industry, had economic benefits from the declining monetary value. Workers’ real wages were declining, and public servants, retirees and small savers were particularly hard hit.
Young nationalists, especially former officers, were organized into terrorist groups, including the assassinations of Matthias Erzberger (1921) and Walther Rathenau (1922). Several fascist and anti-Semitic groups emerged, including the National Socialist German Labor Party under Austrian Adolf Hitler in Bavaria. At the Independent Social Democrats’ Congress in Halle in 1920, the majority decided to join the Communist Party, which for the first time gained a mass base in Germany.
The French government claimed that the Germans sabotaged replacement supplies, and in January 1923 the Ruhr district was occupied by French and Belgian troops. The Germans responded with passive resistance, including strikes, and the government funded this resistance. Inflation now threatened to lead to complete financial chaos, and in November 1923, one dollar was worth two and a half trillion marks. In August 1923, the leader of the People’s Party Gustav Stresemann formed a coalition government in which the social democrats also participated. The passive resistance was abandoned, and in November German marks stabilized. At the same time, the government turned down a Nazi insurgency attempt in Munich.
In 1924, the issue of damages was provisionally settled, under American involvement (the Dawes Plan) by making payments with loans from the United States; In return, Germany had to find some control over its finances. The immediate consequence of the stabilization was deflation and unemployment, but from 1925 there was a steady flow of US and some British capital to Germany. The German large-scale industry, which by far retained a dominant position, at least in European markets, was rationalized and even more concentrated than before. Workers’ living standards increased, but in the relatively good times of the period 1925–1929, there was still some unemployment.
Between 1924 and 1928, Germany was ruled by bourgeois governments. The Social Democrats emerged during the election in 1928, and a new coalition government was formed with Social Democrat Hermann Müller as national chancellor. Social legislation was further developed, but the position of the Social Democrats was weak; they depended on the support of the German People’s Party.
In foreign policy, some circles on the right wanted cooperation with Soviet Russia. In 1922, Rathenau joined the Russians as Foreign Minister Rapallo’s treaty. There was some connection between the military leadership of the two countries, and considerable trade developed.
The relaxation policy of the mid-1920s was led by Gustav Stresemann, who was German Foreign Minister from 1923 until his death in the fall of 1929. He implemented a relaxation in relation to France, signed the Locarno Pact in 1925 and brought Germany into the League of Nations in 1926. At the same time, he signed a new friendship agreement with the Soviet Union. In 1929, he adopted the Young Plan, which contained provisions for the permanent settlement of the compensation issue, and which abolished foreign control of Germany’s finances.
Towards economic and political crisis 1930–1933
The economic world crisis
In 1930, Germany was hit by the economic crisis. Credit from abroad stopped, and short-term loans were withdrawn. Foreign trade fell by around two-thirds in the period 1930–1933. A moratorium on compensation was passed in July 1931 on a proposal from the President of the United States, and a year later after a meeting in Lausanne, compensation payments were suspended. However, it did not play a crucial role. In 1931 a number of banks collapsed. Price declines and overproduction led to reductions and reduced activity in the large industry, while numerous smaller companies went bankrupt. By the end of 1932, there were around six million unemployed. The fall in prices of agricultural products led to forced auctions in the countryside, and the grain-growing landowners in the east were particularly hard hit.
The economic crisis was accompanied by a political crisis. In March 1930, the Social Democrats, with Hermann Müller in the lead, stepped out of the government. President Hindenburg appointed Heinrich Brüning, who belonged to the center’s right wing, as chancellor. When his budget proposal, which entailed strong cuts in public spending, was voted down, the government dissolved Parliament. Thus, the parliamentary system ceased to function, and the government ruled by emergency regulations.
NSDAP comes to power
The September 1930 election was a breakthrough for the parties on the outer wing, the National Socialist Party (NSDAP) and the Communists. Heinrich Brüning sought to address the crisis with a policy of cuts and deflation. In 1931, the Nazis joined forces with the German nationals under Alfred Hugenberg for a united opposition. There was a constant clash between the semi-military organizations of the various parties. The Nazis received 37.3 percent of the vote in the July 1932 election; the Social Democrats 21.5 percent and the Communists 14.3 percent. The NSDAP, which had previously been endorsed by German nationalists, homemakers and youths, now almost eradicated the bourgeois middle parties.
In a new election in November 1932, some relaxation occurred, and the Nazis declined from 230 to 196 seats. Hitler was still the leader of the largest party, but did not have a majority in parliament. Hindenburg became increasingly dependent on reactionary, extra-parliamentary forces and the National Guard. During the crisis, the National Guard, through one of its leaders, General von Schleicher, launched a lively political intrigue. These circles wanted a strong, national and independent government that had a certain mass basis. Several chancellors succeeded each other (Heinrich Brüning, Franz von Papen, Kurt von Schleicher).
1933 – Hitler to power
With Franz von Papen as an intermediary, Adolf Hitler secured sufficient support from the large industry and landlords, based on a collaboration with the German national, and on 30 January 1933 Hindenburg appointed Hitler as national chancellor. Hermann Göring and Wilhelm Frick became members of the government, but the others were conservative or partisan, and von Papen was vice-chancellor. The conservative politicians and the National Guard had hoped to gain control of Nazism, but it soon became clear that Hitler’s decision lay and the non-Nazi ministers were in the background. Parliament was disbanded, the election campaign was a sign of terror, especially after the parliamentary fire On February 27, and on March 5, the Nazis received 44 percent of the vote and the German national eight percent.
The Communists who were elected were arrested or covered. On March 23, 1933, Hitler received unlimited powers of attorney for the Social Democrats’ votes. The so-called power of attorney law provided the legal basis for the dictatorship. Then followed the eradication of a number of institutions with power, and a system change: “the national revolution”. The unions were dissolved and in June all parties except the Nazi were banned. Press and cultural life were unified under propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. Anyone who could be suspected of being political opponents risked being sent to concentration camps without law and judgment, and often subjected to brutal abuse.
The Jews in particular were severely affected by the persecution. By the Nuremberg Laws in 1935, they were deprived of their civil rights and general legal protection. The Nazi party apparatus gained control over the entire public administration. Hitler wrote several referendums which gave him an overwhelming majority, and parliamentary elections were held with only one list; the Nazi. In 1934, Hindenburg died, and Hitler followed him, taking over as the “leader and chancellor” of the functions of the national president. Until 1939 the management of economic policy was with the Director of the Riksbank, Hjalmar Schacht. The goal was for Germany to be as self-help as possible. Unemployment was abolished, especially by major public works and military armaments.
Hitler’s foreign policy
In 1933, Germany was foreign policy isolated and subject to the provisions of the Versailles peace. Within a few years Hitler succeeded in removing the military clauses imposed on Germany and coming out of the foreign policy isolation. General conscription was introduced in 1935, and the following year German troops marched into the demilitarized Rhineland. The Western powers remained passive. The Ethiopia conflict in 1935–1936, where Italy attacked Ethiopia without a declaration of war, and the Spanish civil war in 1936–1939 led to an approach between Germany and Italy.
From 1938 Hitler began to realize other parts of his program: revision of the territorial losses during the First World War and fulfillment of other national aspirations. In 1938, Austria was annexed (” Anschluss “) and the Sudanese territories in Czechoslovakia incorporated into the realm after the Munich settlement. However, the annexation of “the rest of Czechoslovakia” in March 1939 and the German pressure on Poland led to a shift in the politics of the Western powers.
Ahead of the great war that was to come, Germany and the Soviet Union chose a preliminary understanding through a non-assault pact; On August 23, an agreement was concluded in which Germany agreed on a division of Poland and on handing over the Baltic countries to the Russians. On September 1, 1939, German troops crossed the border into Poland, and on September 3, Britain and France declared war on Germany.
Germany during World War II
A strict war economy was implemented, but despite many difficulties, the nutritional situation was easier than during the First World War. A systematic looting of the occupied lands was conducted. To remedy the shortage of labor, the Germans used prisoners of war and workers from the occupied countries. During the war, the persecution of Jews, which had been going on since the Nazi takeover, continued with increased force. Between 1938 and 1945, more than six million Jews were killed across Europe. The genocide of the Jews is known as the Holocaust. Both Jews and prisoners of war were among the groups placed in concentration camps. The top military and political leadership was constantly with Hitler. In some officer circles, there was some opposition to the war policy, and there were also smaller civilian opposition groups reacting to the Nazi regime’s crimes, which eventually reached an unprecedented extent.
After the defeat of the Germans at Stalingrad in 1943, the opposition became more active. The attack on Hitler at the headquarters in East Prussia on July 20, 1944, following the West Allied invasion of Normandy, was part of a larger conspiracy that would put the Nazis out of business and set up a provisional government. The action was canceled on the same day, and the following terror largely targeted the aristocracy and officer corps. Heinrich Himmler and his SS came to the fore more and more strongly. On April 30, 1945, after Soviet troops moved into Berlin, Hitler and Goebbel committed suicide. Major Admiral Karl Dönitz formed a new government in Flensburg.
The High Command signed 7th-8th. May the terms of capitulation, and on June 5, the victors issued a declaration that they took over political power in Germany.
Occupation and sharing 1945–1949
The division of Germany
The Allies had agreed at the Yalta Conference in February 1945 on the principles of the occupation, and the provisions were further elaborated at the Potsdam Conference in July – August of the same year.
Germany was divided into four zones; a Soviet, which besides the country east of the Elbe included Saxony and Thuringia, while West Germany was divided between the United Kingdom, the United States and France. An Allied Control Council was set up consisting of four General Governors. Each of them had the executive power in his zone, and the Board of Control had little to say. Also Berlin was divided into zones, but here was established a joint kommendantura, who would lead the city administration.
Norway, in agreement with the United Kingdom, contributed to the Allied occupation of Germany. Around 50,000 Norwegian soldiers served in the German brigade and the German command in 1947–1953 , which was deployed in the British occupation zone northwest of the country.
Until the peace agreement, Poland was granted the right to take over the German landscapes east of the Oder – Neisse line, that is, Pomerania, a large part of Brandenburg and all of Silesia, with a German-speaking population of 5-6 million. Eastern Prussia was divided between Poland and the Soviet Union. The Saar area gained political autonomy in 1946, while at the same time it was financially linked to France. An Nuremberg court was set up in Nuremberg, which in October 1946 sentenced a number of leading Nazis and military to death or long prison sentences. In the various zones war criminals were convicted and the administration “denazified”.
Germany had lost about 3.3 million soldiers at the front and about half a million civilians by air strikes and the like. More than one and a half million people disappeared in flight from the eastern areas on their way to Germany. About 800,000 were forcibly dispatched to the Soviet Union. More than two million Germans suffered lasting physical injuries during the war. In addition, more than 100,000 prisoners of war were detained in the Soviet Union after the war. Over 300,000 Germans had been killed by the Nazis in the period 1933-1945. Industry capacity had dropped by 25 percent, and eight million people were without housing when the war was over.
With this situation, the Allies soon became disputed over the interpretation of the Potsdam decisions, in particular about Germany’s compensation payments and the country’s political governance. In accordance with the Potsdam, the Occupation Forces sought to abolish the German war industry and reduce the German steel industry. The dismantling of German factories was very unpopular and was becoming increasingly restricted; first in the western zones, until it stopped in the fall of 1949.
The Soviet Union and the Western Allies also had very different objectives in the German economy. While the first would take as much value as possible, the American authorities in particular wanted a well-functioning economy in the middle of Europe. The disagreement led to a very different policy in the Soviet-occupied eastern zone and the western zones.
In the east, a centralist administration was completely dominated by the occupying power. Agriculture underwent reforms and industry became socialized. In the early days, many factories were dismantled and the production equipment shipped to the Soviet Union – much of it without any use to be used there. Later they chose to keep the East German factories in operation, rather than seizing parts of the production. Politically and culturally, the eastern zone became unified according to the “popular democratic” pattern. In April 1946, the Soviet Communists with Soviet support forced a gathering of the Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party of the German Socialist Unity Party (SED).
Most of the German industry was in the western zones. According to the agreements entered into in Potsdam, a proportion of the factory facilities that were dismantled there should fall to the Soviet Union as war damage compensation. In return, the eastern zone was to supply a number of raw materials to the western zones. When these commodity deliveries did not occur as intended, the Americans stopped deliveries eastward in May 1946, and by the turn of the year, the British and US occupation zones were merged, among other things, to promote German economic recovery. There was a permanent distinction between East and West in Germany, as in the rest of Europe.
The Cold War
The disagreement over what was desirable in Germany was inextricably linked to the ” Cold War ” that broke out between the Allies from the war in the late 1940s. A gradual “Sovietization” of Eastern Europe (the ” Eastern Bloc “) in 1946-1947 was met with the proclamation of the American Truman Doctrine in March 1947 and the presentation of the Marshall Plan a few months later.
In the spring and summer of 1948, a crisis occurred in the relationship between the Soviet Union and the Western powers in Germany. The Soviet Union unilaterally dissolved the Allied Control Council for Germany, while the Western powers convened a German legislative assembly and implemented radical monetary reform in the western zones. When the Western powers introduced the new currency, the D-mark, also in West Berlin, a blockade of the city was carried out in the eastern zone. That prompted the Western powers to organize an air bridge with supplies for the city’s residents, giving them a clear propaganda victory.
But SED then prepared the establishment of its own state in the Soviet-occupied part of Germany. When the Berlin blockade was lifted in May 1949, the division of Germany was a reality, even though the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was formally established only in October of that year.
The history of West Germany from 1949 to the 1980s
The Western powers prepared the establishment of a separate West German state from 1947. A parliamentary council met in Bonn in September 1948. After many difficulties, a new constitution was adopted and approved by the Western powers in May 1949. The authority of the Occupying Powers was established in an “Occupation Statute”, which essentially gave them a controlling authority, while the administration itself was left to the Germans themselves. The military commission representing the occupying powers was replaced by a civilian.
In August 1949 it was the election for Bundestag. The Christian Democrats and the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU), which were clerical, federalist and liberalist in economic politics, got 30.2 percent, and the Social Democrats (SPD) 28.5 percent of the vote. The Free Democrats (FDP), liberal in cultural policy and liberal in economic policy, gained 11.5 percent. Extreme parties had little support.
In September, the leader of the Free Democrats, Theodor Heuss, was elected president of the Federal Republic, and CDU’s leader, Konrad Adenauer, elected Chancellor. He formed a unity government of the CDU, FDP and the conservative, Protestant “German party”. Adenauer achieved relief in the Occupation Statute, and at the Foreign Minister’s meeting in London in May 1950, the Western powers agreed in principle that the Federal Republic should have greater self-determination. In September they approved the establishment of a separate West German military defense in cooperation with the Western powers.
In 1951, Adenauer assumed the new post of Foreign Minister and signed the European Coal and Steel Community Agreement. West Germany joined the Council of Europe, and Britain and France declared the state of war with Germany to end. In 1952, a “main agreement” was signed which replaced the occupation statute. The new agreement linked West Germany to Western defense cooperation, and secured the country almost full independence. Following the stranding of the European Army project, the Paris Agreement of October 1954 followed, instead, the full sovereignty of the Federal Republic of May 5, 1955; the Allied occupation was formally terminated and the country joined NATO.
Under Adenauer’s official leadership, the country strengthened its cooperation with the western countries in several areas and played an active role in establishing the EC. Adenauer retired in 1963 and was succeeded by Ludwig Erhard.
Since the establishment in 1949, the development of the new state was characterized by strong economic progress. Industrial production more than doubled from 1950 to 1960. Capital from West Germany found its way to all parts of the world, but income distribution was very uneven, and sometimes strikes occurred. On the other hand, there was a rapid expansion in the social field. One of the main problems in the first years was the integration of large groups of displaced and exiles into German social life. Good economic conditions eased the task so that they were able to maintain full employment.
The CDU/CSU remained in power until 1969, most often in coalitions with other bourgeois parties, including the FDP, but in 1966-1969 also with the SPD in “the big coalition” under Kurt Georg Kiesinger. After the 1969 election, Social Democrat Willy Brandt took over and formed government together with the FDP. Walter Scheel, the FDP’s leader, became Foreign Minister and Vice-Chancellor. The government had very little majority in the Bundestag, but strengthened its position in the 1972 elections.
Relaxation between east and west
Adenauer’s government had laid the groundwork for close cooperation with the Western powers. Following a declaration of government in 1955 (the Hallstein doctrine), the Federal Republic was the only legitimate representative of the entire German people, and it was not supposed to have diplomatic relations with any state that recognized the GDR. An exception formed the Soviet Union after negotiations in Moscow that year. Slowly, however, a certain softening occurred in relation to the states of the east. From the mid-1960s, this became more marked, and Brandt’s declaration of government drew up a program that relied on relaxation between East and West.
In the early 1970s, a number of agreements were established with the eastern states that laid the foundation for relaxation. The Federal Republic recognized the Oder – Neisse line as the Polish western border. The four-power talks on Berlin in 1971 led to an agreement that secured transit traffic between West Berlin and the Federal Republic, and the West Berlin’s access to visit the GDR. Negotiations in 1972 between the two German states led to a normalization of the relationship through the so-called basic agreement which came into force in June 1973. The same year, the two German states became members of the UN.
An agreement with Czechoslovakia cleared the road problems associated with the 1938 Munich agreement, and diplomatic relations were also established with Hungary and Bulgaria.
West Germany was also hit by the economic crisis of 1973/1974, which led to a fall in exports and investments, reduced production capacity and high unemployment. Under the leadership of Helmut Schmidt, who took over as Chancellor after Brandt in May 1974, West Germany tackled the problems better than most other countries. It has managed to maintain its position as Europe’s leading economic power with stable currency and moderate price rises. However, in the 1976 election, the government coalition SPD/FDP had to withstand a clear setback. The government also met with opposition from extra-parliamentary groups, which, among other things, opposed the program for the development of nuclear power plants. In the fight against left-wing terrorism (for example, from The Red Army faction), which was aimed at prominent figures, had prosperity.
During the federal election in the autumn of 1980, the government coalition SPD/FDP strengthened its position, with the FDP in particular emerging. However, the contradictions between the partners in the economic policy coalition to meet the crisis became evident. In September 1982, the coalition cracked down; Helmut Schmidt lost his majority and was replaced by CDU chairman Helmut Kohl, who formed a government of CDU/CSU and FDP. At the March 1983 election, the CDU/CSU rose strongly, gaining 48.8 percent of the vote, while the SPD, now led by Hans-Jochen Vogel, declined to 38.2 percent. The environmental party, “Die Grünen”, entered the Bundestag with 5.6 percent of the vote.
In 1983-84, the government was facing some domestic turmoil. The deployment of US missiles led to fierce confrontation with nuclear weapons opponents. A long strike for demands for shorter working hours paralyzed the metal and workshop industries, including the car factories, for several weeks. After the January 1987 elections, the bourgeois coalition returned with a reduced majority. The Greens increased their share to 8.3 percent.
The West German economy in the 1980s was very strong. Gross domestic product grew by an average of two percent per year in the period 1973–1985, and the country exported far more than it imported. An unemployment rate of about ten percent of the labor force nevertheless settled. The number of foreigners in West Germany, immigrants and refugees increased in the 1970s and 1980s to 4.5 million (1986), of which the largest group, 1.4 million, were Turkish nationals.
East Germany – German Democratic Republic
In March 1949, an East German People’s Council presented a draft constitution, and elections were held for a People’s Congress. At the same time, the election was a referendum on the draft constitution. At the May 1949 election, just over 7.9 million voted for and around four million against. The new People’s Council met in October 1949 and then formally declared the German Democratic Republic (GDR) established. Wilhelm Pieck became president and Otto Grotewohl prime minister. From 1950 Walter Ulbricht was Secretary General of the SED; from 1954 First Secretary and the state’s strong leader after a change in party statutes.
Comecon and the Warsaw Pact
The GDR joined Comecon in 1950, and the government accepted the Oder – Neisse line as a border with Poland. The first five-year plan was published in 1950 and aimed at reaching the same standard of living as before the war. In 1952, the GDR had its own defense forces, initially taken from the People’s Police, and joined the Warsaw Pact from its creation in 1955 after the Russians declared peace with the GDR.
Discontent with the regime led to unrest in June 1953, and on 17 June a large demonstration train in Berlin was halted with Soviet weapons power. In August, an agreement was reached with the USSR to delay damages deliveries, but the GDR had to pay five percent of state revenue as a contribution to the deployment of Soviet forces. In 1957, an agreement was entered into which formally allowed the presence of the Soviet forces.
Wilhelm Pieck was president until his death in 1960. The state leadership was then reorganized. A Cabinet of Ministers was established with Walter Ulbricht as chairman (head of state).
The industry was nationalized and the collectivization of agriculture was hard-fought. School education was reshaped according to the party’s guidelines, and the authorities intervened with opposition in cultural life. Millions of East Germans fled west and the population dropped. A large part of the refugees represented skilled labor that could be difficult to replace. The border between East and West Germany was strictly blocked off, especially by many leaving the country by crossing the sector boundaries in Berlin. In August 1961, East German forces built a wall that isolated West Berlin, thus stopping the flow of refugees.
East German forces participated in 1968 during the Warsaw Pact march in Czechoslovakia. That same year, the GDR got a new constitution that defined the country as “the socialist state of the German nation” and stated that Berlin was the capital. In March 1970, West German Chancellor Willy Brandt and the Prime Minister of the GDR (from 1964) met Willi Stoph in the East German city of Erfurt and in West German Kassel to discuss the possibilities of normalizing relations between the two German states. The relaxation policy that followed in the next few years had major consequences for the GDR, which was now recognized diplomatically by a number of countries in Western Europe, and in 1973, together with the Federal Republic, a member of the UN.
In 1971, Erich Honecker became Secretary General of the SED (title changed again); Willi Stoph became head of state after Ulbricht’s death in 1973, and this position for Honecker in 1976 also took over. Stoph then became prime minister again. In its foreign and security policy as well as ideologically, the GDR leaders remained loyal to the Soviet Union.
Within the framework of a socialist planning economy, the GDR from the 1960s experienced considerable economic progress. The housing situation and wage conditions improved, living standards rose and became the highest in Comecon. The GDR has developed into a leading industrialized country, not only in Eastern Europe, where it took second place after the Soviet Union, but throughout the world. Foreign trade increased significantly in the period 1980–1985. 66.1 percent of foreign trade went to socialist countries; the largest trading partner was the Soviet Union with 38.8 percent, followed by the Federal Republic with 8.3 percent. The GDR depended entirely on oil from the Soviet Union; pipeline supply covered about 90 percent of the country’s needs.
The economic progress made it possible to develop a comprehensive public welfare system in the 1960s and 1970s; East Germans received relatively high education and were guaranteed access to health services and kindergartens. On the other hand, industrial development led to very extensive environmental problems. In the 1980s, it also became evident that the East German economy was stagnating. As in the Soviet Union, the industry struggled with low productivity, and there was a lack of mechanisms that could stimulate the development of new products in line with people’s wants and needs.
Road to German collection
Holes in the Iron Curtain
Such conditions outside Germany were decisive in dividing the country in 1949, there were also conditions outside that created the conditions for a reunion 40 years later. In May 1989, Hungarian soldiers began dismantling the barbed wire fence between Hungary and Austria. This was the first hole in the Iron Curtain since the Berlin Wall was erected – and it was East Germans in particular who would use it.
The Soviet authorities under the reformer Mikhail Gorbachev had made it clear that they would not intervene in the internal affairs of the Eastern European states. In the summer of 1989, the reform process was the furthest in Poland and Hungary, where there was a prospect of a real multi-party system. After the summer holidays, thousands of East Germans were left in Hungary. In early September, Hungarian authorities gave in and the borders were opened. Kilometers of car columns with East Germans crossed the border on their way to West Germany. The wave of refugees quickly spread to West Germany’s embassies in Prague and Warsaw, and in October 20,000 refugees from these embassies received a travel permit to the west.
At the same time as the escape wave, there was growing support for large demonstrations in East Germany, especially in Leipzig, where the demonstrations every Monday gradually gathered hundreds of thousands of people. On October 14, the 40th anniversary of the GDR was celebrated with, among others, Mikhail Gorbachev as guest. The celebration came in the shadow of the escape wave and mass demonstrations, which on the anniversary day were beaten by hard means. Four days later, Erich Honecker resigned as head of state and party. He was replaced by his “Crown Prince”, Egon Krenz.
The fall of the Berlin wall
Krenz showed a willingness to reform and put his policies closer to Gorbachev’s perestroika, but that did not stop the demonstrations or the wave of escape. At the beginning of November, both the government and the Politburo departed, and on November 9, 1989, what remained as the symbol of the East German Revolution happened: as a result of new travel regulations, the borders to West Berlin and the rest of West Germany were opened. Millions of East Germans took the opportunity to visit the West in the first few weeks. After the “fall of the Berlin Wall” there was no turning back. Dresden Liberal Communist leader Hans Modrow became prime minister, the Communist Party’s special rights were revoked and Egon Krenz resigned as head of state and was temporarily replaced by Manfred Gerlach of the Liberal Party.
In November, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl came up with a two-point plan for Germany. The final goal of the plan was German reunification, which was still considered out of date by both East German politicians and large sections of the international community. Other parts of the plan, including closer cooperation between the German states towards an economic union, were well received.
In December 1989, a round table conference started in East Germany. The SED, which was eventually renamed the PDS (Democratic Socialism Party), met with its former coalition partners, the CDU and the Liberal Party. The newly formed Social Democratic Party was represented; so were various action groups and civic initiatives that had been behind the mass demonstrations. The conference quickly reached an agreement to print free elections to the House of Representatives. After that, the old state structures partially collapsed throughout the winter, and Modrow’s government had to speed up the election. On March 18, 1990, the first – and last – free elections to the GDR’s People’s Chamber were held.
West German politicians became strongly involved in the East German election campaign. Chancellor Kohl’s election promise that East German land could be exchanged at a 1: 1 ratio in the coming economic union probably had a major impact on CDU’s election results. The party alone got over 40 percent of the vote (with alliance partners 48 percent). The Social Democrats, who had predicted a very good election a few months earlier, got only 22 percent, while the PDS (the remnants of the former Communist Party) got 16 percent. The major losers of the election were those groups that were not supported by Western parties, including opposition groups and citizen initiatives from the fall demonstrations.
CDU’s Lothar de Maizière formed a unifying government, which quickly became the character of a transitional government until the German reunification that most people eventually had to come. But while the two German states alone could negotiate the economic and social union that came into force on July 1, 1990, the political gathering had to be negotiated in collaboration with several other states.
It united Germany in the 1990s
After first highlighting opposition, the Soviet Union gave its consent in the summer of 1990 that a reunited Germany could choose military bloc membership, that is, NATO membership. An important obstacle to the reunion was then removed, and the changes came in quick succession. A monetary, economic and social union between the two states entered into force in July 1990. In August 1990, the two German states agreed on a state agreement laying down the legal basis for the reunification, which happened on October 3, 1990. December 2 the first joint German day elections since 1932 were held. After the election, Helmut Kohl became head of a right-center government consisting of CDU/CSU and FDP.
There was great enthusiasm and festivities around the German reunion, both in Germany and outside. But after the celebration, challenges related to administrative coordination, merging of two very different economies, environmental problems, as well as millions of people’s mental and social adaptation awaited a new reality.
In 1991, the Bundestag decided that the entire German government city should be Berlin, and a comprehensive relocation process was initiated from Bonn. In 1999, the old parliament building was completely rebuilt, and the Bundestag held its first meetings in the capital. The same year, new government buildings were put into operation, and the move was completed when the Federal Chancellor’s new house was inaugurated in 2001. A final sentence for the winding-up of post-war Germany was set on August 31, 1994, at a ceremony with Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Russian President Boris Yeltsin present, highlighting the recent Russian troops’ departure from German territories.
Overview of the history of Germany
Overview of the history of Germany is a list in key form of important years and events in the country’s history.
|1800 BCE||The Bronze Age begins|
|1000 BCE||Transition to Iron Age in the south: the Celtic Hallstatt culture|
|500 BCE||From a starting point in southern Scandinavia and northern Germany, the Germans migrate south. The Celtic La Tène culture in southern Germany|
|100 century BCE||The Germans come into contact with the Roman Empire|
|1st century BCE – 2. century AD||Roman conquests, border fortresses of the Rhine and the Danube|
|200-400’s||The Germanic migrations|
|401||The Romans enter the Rings|
|500’s||The Franks conquer the southwestern parts of the country|
|600-700’s||The Germans in the west become Christian|
|772-804||Karl the Great’s war against the Saxons|
|800s||The first cities. Dioceses and monasteries are founded|
|843 and 870||France is divided. The East Frankish Empire will be the beginning of the later German Empire|
|900-911||The East Frankish kingdom is disintegrating. The tribal dukes of Saxony, Thuringia, Bavaria, Swabia, Lorraine and Franken are created|
|919||Henry 1 of Saxony is chosen by the tribal dukes as German king|
|955||Otto 1 the Great defeats the Madjars at Lechfeld near Augsburg|
|962||Otto is crowned emperor of Rome; The German-Roman Empire is created. Alliance between the emperor and the church, which becomes the defender of the national unit. The emperors have been constantly trying to gain control of all of Italy|
|1070-1122||The investiture battle between the emperor and pope over the right to control the bishops ends with a compromise, the Worms Concordate|
|1100s||The feederalization process takes place later in Germany than in France. Settlement expansion east of the Elbe and north along the Baltic Sea coast; lasts for approx. 1400|
|1200s||Spiritual Order of the Knights gathers a kingdom in the Baltic region (German Order); the empire dates to the 15th century|
|1282||The German Hansa Federation is established and will have a great impact on the economic life of Northern Europe|
|1291||The Swiss Confederation of Eds is founded|
|the 1300’s||Føydal solution. The conquest policy in Italy is ending|
|1346-1378||Karl 4 makes Čechy (Bohemia) the center of the German-Roman Empire. Plague reduces the population|
|1356||In the Golden Bun, the rulers gain full sovereignty in their realms|
|1400s||Part of the national territory is lost in the east (to Poland) and west (to Burgundy)|
|1438||House Habsburg’s long continuous reign in the German-Roman Empire begins|
|About. 1450||Strong growth in mining operations in southern and central Germany|
|1517||The Reformation is initiated by Luther’s 95 theses|
|1519||Karl of Habsburg is elected emperor (Charles 5) and becomes ruler of a vast empire|
|1521||Parliament in Worms. Karl transfers Habsburg’s inheritance within the German-Roman Empire to his brother Ferdinand; thus arises the Austrian branch of the dynasty|
|1555||Religious Peace in Augsburg: The princes are to choose the form of religion in their realms|
|1556||Karl abdicates; his son Philip (2) inherits most kingdoms, but does not become emperor|
|The 1560s and 1570s||The counter-reformation begins|
|1618-1648||Brandenburg and Prussia are united. The Thirty Years War begins as a predominantly religious conflict and ends as a European power struggle. Violent destruction in Germany. The religious peace in Augsburg is confirmed and now includes the Calvinists. The League of Oaths and the Northern Netherlands Republic leave the German-Roman Empire|
|1640-1688||Fredrik Vilhelm 1 of Brandenburg-Prussia modernizes his kingdom; the reform work is still being undertaken by Fredrik 1 Vilhelm and Fredrik 2 the Great in the 18th century|
|1740-1748||The Austrian Succession War: Prussia conquers Silesia|
|1756-1763||The Seven Years’ War. Prussia becomes Europe’s fifth great power. Until 1866, German politics was dominated by the Prussia-Austria rivalry|
|1772-1795||By Poland’s three divisions, Prussia, Austria and Russia are expanding their territories|
|1793||The wars of revolution with France begin|
|1803-1814||A number of German small states disappear through Napoleon’s intervention. Prussia suffers military collapse, but also undergoes a new reform period: peasant liberation, Jewish emancipation, a number of stand privileges are abolished and public service is introduced.|
|1806||The German-Roman Empire is being dissolved|
|1815||The German Confederation is established under the leadership of Austria. Westphalia falls to Prussia|
|1815-1831||Several German states are getting constitutions. Liberal political movement occurs|
|1834||German Customs Union under the leadership of Prussia|
|1840||Industrialization begins in full|
|1848-1849||Rises in several places in Germany. The Constitutional Assembly in Frankfurt am Main is trying unsuccessfully to create a German nation state|
|1862||Otto von Bismarck becomes Prime Minister of Prussia and the leading politician for the German assembly|
|1864||The Danish-German War: the Germans win Schleswig and Holstein|
|1866||War between Prussia and Austria ends with Prussian victory. The German Confederation is dissolved; Prussian conquests in the west|
|1867||The North German Confederation is established under the leadership of Prussia|
|1870-1871||The Franco-German War. The German Empire is established with the King of Prussia as Emperor|
|1870||Germany becomes Europe’s leading industrial and land military force and the most populous state next to Russia. The ” cultural struggle” against the influence of the Catholic Church. The working class grows, socialist labor movement becomes a threat to the nation state order and meets with ban|
|1880||Germany is ahead with social legislation. The Triple Alliance Germany-Austria-Italy is established. German participation in European colonial race|
|1890||Bismarck withdraws. Increased international tension until 1914. Strong expansion of the German navy. The labor movement is being rebuilt|
|1912||The Social Democratic Party becomes the largest in Parliament|
|1914-1918||First World War. Germany and its allies, the central powers, defeat Russia, but lose the war on the entente|
|1918-1919||The empire falls, but attempts at revolution are turned down. Parliamentary Democracy (Weimar Republic). Germany is blamed for the war and imposed heavy war reparations. Large land areas must be relinquished and the economy will be severely broken|
|1919-1923||The post-war crisis. Huge inflation; remediation of the money system|
|1924-1930||Economic and political stabilization. International cooperation (Locarno Pact 1925; membership of the League of Nations 1926). Foreign investment in Germany|
|1930-1933||World Crisis. The National Socialist Party becomes Germany’s largest|
|1933-1938||The Nazis, with Adolf Hitler as the Führer, come to power through a coalition government that slides into dictatorship. Persecution of ethnic minorities and opposites. Military and industrial armament. Cooperation with fascist and other authoritarian forces in other countries|
|1938-1939||Annexation of Austria and Bohemia. Slovakia becomes German sound|
|1939-1941||Non-assault pact with the Soviet Union|
|1939-1945||World War II is being started by Germany with attacks on Poland. After great victories until 1942, Germany and its allies suffer complete defeat. The Holocaust: the extermination of millions of Jews. A number of German cities are destroyed by bomb attacks and the entire country is occupied|
|1945||Germany and Berlin are divided into occupation zones. A large area in the east goes to Poland|
|1946-1949||Nazi leaders are convicted as war criminals. Reconstruction begins|
|1947-1948||The occupying zones of the Western powers are merged into an economic unit|
|1948-1949||Russians block supplies to West Berlin; the western powers create an air bridge|
|1949||The division of Germany. The occupation zones of the Western Allies constitute the German Federal Republic (West Germany, BRD), a parliamentary democracy with Konrad Adenauer (CDU) as prime minister. The Soviet-occupied zone becomes the German Democratic Republic (East Germany, GDR), a people democratic state under Soviet control; the Communist Party SED becomes a state party. The three western zones of Berlin are affiliated with the Federal Republic|
|1950s and 1960s||Rapid economic growth in the west. In the east: somewhat slower growth during the planned economy; development of socialist welfare system and apparatus for monitoring citizens|
|1954||The GDR becomes formally independent|
|1955||BRD becomes formally independent and joins NATO; The GDR becomes a member of the Warsaw Pact|
|1957-1958||West Germany participates in the creation of the EEC (later developed into the EU) and gets the Saar area back|
|1961||The Berlin Wall is being erected. Refugee flows from East Germany are stopped and an economic growth period ensues|
|1960s and 1970s||East Germany becomes a leading economic power in Eastern Europe, while West Germany becomes the leader in Western Europe|
|1966-1969||West Germany: large coalition between CDU/CSU and SPD|
|1969-1982||West Germany: coalitions between SPD and FDP|
|1970||Relaxation policy: West Germany recognizes the Oder – Neisse line as the Polish western border. Erich Honecker becomes East German party leader (1971). Basic agreement on normalizing relations between the two German states, both states becoming members of the UN (1973)|
|1970||Extensive immigration to Western Germany from southern Europe and Turkey, among others. Normalization of relations with several Eastern European states. Political terrorism|
|1980||West Germany: coalition between CDU/CSU and FDP (from 1982). East Germany: economic stagnation and increasing environmental problems|
|1989||Mass escape from the GDR. Honecker has to step down after major demonstrations. Transition regime under Egon Krenz. The Berlin Wall is falling; the borders between East and West Germany are opened. Democratic opposition is recognized|
|1990||German reunion. CDU/CSU, led by West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, wins election for Joint German Bundestag|
|1990||Germany plays a leading political and economic role in Europe. Increasing social unrest due to unemployment, especially in the east.|
|1998||Helmut Kohl must retire after 16 years as Chancellor of the United States. Coalition government between the SPD and the Greens, who are joining the government for the first time|
|2002||Large budget deficits and rising unemployment. Despite strong austerity, the SPD and Gerhard Schröder win the election. Worst flood disaster of 150 years|
|2003||Tight relationship with the United States in the context of the Iraq crisis. The economic tightening leads to dramatic defeat for the SPD in several state elections|
|2004||EU enlargement places Germany even more at the center of the EU|
|2005||Bundestag election one year before the general election causes a decline for both major parties. Difficult parliamentary situation ends with major coalition CDU/CSU-SPD. Angela Merkel becomes new Chancellor|