We have many articles devoted to Germany's history, but here we want to provide a concise summary of information and facts about contemporary Germany, its people, and its recent history since reunification, when Germany's eastern and western halves were rejoined in 1990. First a short introduction:
Geography and History
Today Germany is the European Union's most populous nation. But Germany as a unified nation is much newer than most of its European neighbors. Germany was created in 1871 under the leadership of chancellor Otto von Bismarck after Prussia (Preußen) had conquered most of German-speaking Europe. Prior to that, "Germany" had been a loose association of 39 German states known as the German League (der Deutsche Bund).
The German Empire (das Kaiserreich, das deutsche Reich) reached its zenith under Kaiser Wilhelm II just prior to the start of World War I (der Erste Weltkrieg) in 1914. After the "War to end all wars" Germany attempted to become a democratic republic, but the Weimar Republic proved to be only a short-lived prelude to the rise of Hitler and the dictatorial "Third Reich" of the Nazis.
Following the Second World War, one man gets most of the credit for creating today's democratic Federal Republic of Germany. In 1949 Konrad Adenauer became the new Germany's first chancellor, the "George Washington" of West Germany. That same year also saw the birth of communist East Germany (die Deutsche Demokratische Republik) in the former Soviet Occupation Zone. For the next forty years, Germany's people and its history would be divided into an eastern and a western part.
But it was not until August 1961 that a wall physically split the two Germanys. The Berlin Wall (die Mauer) and the barbed wire fence that lined the entire border between East and West Germany became a major symbol of the Cold War. By the time the Wall fell in November 1989, Germans had lived two separate national lives for four decades.
Most Germans, including West German chancellor Helmut Kohl, underestimated the difficulties of reunifying people who had been divided and living under very different conditions for 40 years. Even today, more than a decade after the Wall's collapse, true unification is still a goal. But once the barrier of the Wall was gone, Germans had no real choice other than reunification (die Wiedervereinigung).
So what does today's Germany look like? What about its people, its government, and its influences on the world today? Here are some facts and figures.
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