The Federal Republic of Germany is one of the world's major industrialised countries, located in the middle of Europe. It is bordered to the north by the North Sea, Denmark and the Baltic Sea, to its east by Poland and the Czech Republic, to the south by Austria and Switzerland and to its west by France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. The country had been split up after World War II into West and East Germany, but was re-united in 1990.
National motto: Einigkeit und Recht und
(German: Unity and Justice and Freedom)
- % water
- Total (2002)
|Formation||May 23, 1949|
|Currency||Euro¹, German euro coins|
|Time zone||UTC +1|
|National anthem||Das Lied der Deutschen (Midi)|
|(1) Prior to 1999: Deutschmark/Deutsche Mark|
Even though the German language and the feeling of "Germanhood" go back many centuries, the region now known as Germany was only formally created in 1871, when the German Empire emerged from the northern part of the German Confederation, which was dominated by Prussia.
Germany, which had become one of the major powers in Europe, became involved in World War I through ally Austria-Hungary (1914). Germany subsequently invaded France. After initial advances, the war amounted to a slow war in the trenches, killing many on both sides. The war ended in 1918, and the German emperor was forced to abdicate. In the post-war Treaty of Versailles, Germany was held responsible for the war.
Some people contend that anger over the harsh conditions of the 1919 Versailles Treaty and economic trouble caused by the worldwide economic crisis starting in 1929 allowed Hitler's NSDAP (Nazi) party to be elected by the citizens of Germany and to ultimately be allowed to form the government in 1933 with Hitler as Chancellor. The following year, Hitler took absolute control by becoming head of state and forcefully getting rid of inner-party opposition. In 1935 anti-semitism became finally official German policy with the Nürnberger Gesetze[?] (Nuremberg Laws[?]). Hitler's policy of annexing neighbouring lands eventually led to the outbreak of World War II in Europe on September 1, 1939.
Intially, Germany had many military successes, and gained control over most of Europe's mainland, a large part of the Soviet Union and North Africa. In 1941, the Germans initiated the Holocaust, the highly organized mass murder of millions of Jews and others. In 1942-1943, the momentum in the war switched to the Allied forces against Germany, the major ones being: the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States. In May 1945, Germany surrendered after Hitler committed suicide.
Ravaged by the war, Germany and Berlin were split up in four parts, each controlled by one of the Allied nations (including France). This eventually resulted in Germany being split up into two countries; the western oriented Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, German: BRD) (West Germany) and the Soviet oriented German Democratic Republic (GDR, German: DDR) (East Germany).
Especially West Germany quickly recovered from the war and became an important economic power in Europe. In 1990, after the fall of communism in Europe, the two Germanies were united. The united country currently is one of the most important nations in Europe and the European Union.
(There is a german word for constitution; the name Grundgesetz was chosen on purpose, to reflect the temporary nature of it. There was supposed to be a 'real' constitution, after reunification. After reunification came, the Grundgesetz was accepted as the official german constitution by parliament.)
The parliament, called Bundestag (Federal Assembly), is elected every four years by popular vote in a complex system combining direct and proportional representation. The 16 Bundesländer are represented at the federal level in the Bundesrat (Federal Council), which -- depending on the subject matter -- may have a say in the legislative procedure.
Germany is divided into sixteen Bundesländer (singular Bundesland), or Federal States.
Germany is further subdivided into 438 Kreise (districts).
Germany stretches from the high mountains of the Alps (highest point: the Zugspitze[?] at 2,963 m) in the south to the shores of the North and Baltic Seas in the north. In between are found the forested uplands of central Germany and the low-lying lands of northern Germany (lowest point: Freepsum Lake[?] at -2 m), traversed by some of Europe's major rivers such as the Rhine, Danube and Elbe.
Germany possesses the world's third most technologically powerful economy after the US and Japan, but its basic capitalistic economy has started to struggle under the burden of generous social benefits. Structural rigidities - like a high rate of social contributions on wages - have made unemployment a long-term, not just cyclical, problem, while Germany's aging population has pushed social security outlays to exceed contributions from workers. The integration and upgrading of the eastern German economy remains a costly long-term problem, with annual transfers from the west amounting to roughly $100 billion. The recent adoption of a common European currency and the general political and economic integration of Europe are thought to bring major changes to the German economy in the early 21st century.
The population of Germany is primarily German. There are more than 7 million foreign residents, including those granted political asylum, guest workers, and their dependants. Germany is a prime destination for political and economic refugees from many developing countries. An ethnic Danish minority lives in the north, and a small Slavic minority known as the Sorbs lives in Saxony. Immigration has also created a sizeable Turkish minority, and other smaller minorities such as those of Croats, Italians, Russians or Poles.
Protestants (38%) and Catholics (34%) represent the major religions in Germany. There is also a noticeable Islamic minority of 1.7%, while the rest (26.3%) is either unaffiliated or belongs to smaller religious minorities.
Germany has one of the world's highest levels of education, technological development, and economic productivity. Since the end of World War II, the number of youths entering universities has more than tripled, and the trade and technical schools of Germany are among the world's best. With a per capita income level of about $25,000, Germany is a broadly middle class society. A generous social welfare system provides for universal medical care, unemployment compensation, and other social needs. Germans also are mobile; millions travel abroad each year.
Germany's contributions to the world's cultural heritage are numerous. Germany was the birthplace of composers such as Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, and Wagner; poets such as Goethe and Schiller; philosophers of the likes of Kant, Hegel, Marx or Nietzsche; as well as scientists of the caliber of an Einstein.
Religion Roman Catholicism was Germany's top religion in the 1500s, but the religious movement commonly known as the Reformation changed this drastically. In 1517 Martin Luther challenged this religion as he saw it a commercialization of his faith. Through this, he altered the course of European and world history and established Protestantism, the second largest confession in Germany today.
Before World War II, about two-thirds of the German population was Protestant and one-third was Roman Catholic. In the north and northeast of Germany especially, Protestants dominated.
Currently about 67 percent of the German population, more than 55 million people, officially belong to a Christian Church, although most of them take no part in church life. Nearly half of them are Protestants and nearly half of them Roman Catholics. Most German Protestants are members of the Evangelical Church in Germany. Approximately three million Muslims and 100,000 Jews live in Germany.