The Germany reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Apr-2004
(provided by Fixed Reference: snapshots of Wikipedia from


Support a children's charity online
The Federal Republic of Germany or FRG (German: Bundesrepublik Deutschland or BRD) is one of the world's major industrialized countries, located in Western 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. Germany is a founding member of the European Union.

Bundesrepublik Deutschland
Flag of Germany Germany: Coat of Arms
([[Flag of Germany|In Detail]])
National motto: Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
(German: Unity and Justice and Freedom)''
Official language German¹
Capital Berlin
Largest CityBerlin
President: Johannes Rau
Chancellor: Gerhard Schröder
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 61st
357,022.90 km2
 - Total (2003)
 - Density
Ranked 13th
Treaty of Verdun (843),
January 18, 1871,
May 23, 1949
October 3, 1990
Currency Euro (€)², German euro coins
Time zone UTC +1
National anthem Das Lied der Deutschen
(third verse only)
Internet TLD .DE
Calling Code 49
(¹) Danish, Sorbian, Romany and Frisian are officially recognized and protected as minority languages. Low Saxon is protected by the European Union.
(²) Prior to 1999: Deutsche Mark.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 States
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Culture
8 Religion
9 International rankings
10 Miscellaneous topics
11 External links


Main article: History of Germany

The German language and the feeling of "Germanhood" go back more than a thousand years, but the state now known as Germany was unified as a modern nation-state only in 1871, when the German Empire, dominated by Prussia, was forged. This was the second German Reich, usually translated as "empire", but also meaning "realm". 

The first Reich – known for much of its existence as the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation – stemmed from the division of the Carolingian Empire in 843, which was founded december 25th 800 by Charlemagne and existed in varying forms until dissolved in 1806 as one of the consequences of the Napoleonic Wars.

Between 1815 and 1871 Germany consisted of dozens of independent states, 39 of which formed the German Confederation (Deutscher Bund). For a detailed list, see List of German Confederation member states.

The German Empire was proclaimed January 18th, 1871, in Versailles after the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. This was mainly the results of the efforts of Otto von Bismarck, Germany's most prominent statesman of the 19th century.

After being subdued by France in the Napoleonic Wars, France was to be perceived as Germany's arch-enemy in the successful Franco-Prussian War of 1871 and in World War I. 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, Germany's emperor was forced to abdicate, and after a quenched revolution the Second Reich was succeeded by the Weimar Republic.

The Peace Treaty of Versailles held Germany responsible for the war. Economic hardship due to both the peace conditions and to the world wide Great Depression is mostly pointed to as explanation why anti-democratic parties, both right-wing and left-wing, were increasingly supported by German opinion leaders and voters. In extraordinary elections of July and November 1932, the Nazis got 37,2% and 33,0% respectively. On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany, and by the Enabling Act on March 23, 1933, a wide majority of the parliament effectively disbanded the constitution of the Weimar Republic.

Foundation of modern Germany, Versailles, 1871Enlarge

Foundation of modern Germany, Versailles, 1871

The Third Reich was that of the Nazis, which lasted 12 years, from 1933 to 1945. In 1934, Hitler affirmed control of government, when he also succeeded the President of Germany.

Hitler's policy of annexing neighbouring lands eventually led to the outbreak of World War II in Europe on September 1, 1939. Initially, Germany and her allies had many military successes, and gained control over most of Europe's mainland, including a large part of the Soviet Union. After the Soviet Union and the United States entered the war, the momentum in the war switched. On 8 May 1945, Germany surrendered after Hitler committed suicide. The war resulted in large losses of territory, 15 million Germans expelled, and 45 years of division, while the country was split up into West and East Germany.

In 1949 two German states were founded: the Federal Republic of Germany with originally twelve states and the German Democratic Republic with five states. In 1952, the Länder of East Germany were abolished, and the GDR was divided into Bezirke (districts). The Saarland joined the Federal Republic as eleventh state in 1957.

After the fall of Communism in Europe, Germany was reunited in 1990 (see German reunification); together with France the new Germany is playing the leading role in the European Union. Germany is at the forefront of European states seeking to exploit the momentum of monetary union to advance the creation of a more unified and capable European political, defense and security apparatus. The Chancellor recently also claimed a permanent seat for Germany in the UN Security Council.


Main article: Politics of Germany

Germany is a constitutional federal democracy, whose political system is laid out in the 1949 'constitution' called Grundgesetz (Basic Law). It has a parliamentary system in which the head of government, the Bundeskanzler (Chancellor), is elected by the 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. Lately, there has been much concern about the Bundestag and the Bundesrat blocking each other, making effective government very difficult.

The function of head of state is performed by the Bundespräsident (Federal President), whose powers are mostly limited to ceremonial and representative duties.

The judiciary branch includes a Constitutional Court called Bundesverfassungsgericht, which may ultimately overturn all acts by the legislature or administration if they are deemed unconstitutional.


Main article: States of Germany
Map of Germany with cities

Germany is divided into sixteen Bundesländer (singular Bundesland), or federal states:

Germany is further subdivided into 438 Kreise (districts).


Main article: Geography of Germany

Germany stretches from the high mountains of the Alps (highest point: the Zugspitze at 2,962 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: Neuendorfer/Wilstermarsch at -3.54 m), traversed by some of Europe's major rivers such as the Rhine, Danube and Elbe.

The weather is sometimes unpredictable. In the middle of summer it could be warm and sunny one day and then cold and rainy the next.


Main article: Economy of Germany

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.


Main article: Demographics of Germany

Germany has at least 7 million foreign residents, including refugees, foreign workers (Gastarbeiter), and their dependents. Germany is a primary destination for political and economic refugees from many developing countries.

An ethnic Danish minority lives in the north, a small Slavic minority known as the Sorbs lives chiefly in the state of Brandenburg. The Frisian language, considered the language closest to English language, is mother tongue for about 12,000 speakers in Germany. In rural areas of Northern Germany Low Saxon widely is spoken.

Immigration has also created a sizeable Turkish minority, and other smaller minorities including Croats, Italians, Russians and Poles.

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.


Main article: Culture of Germany

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a significant German poetEnlarge

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a significant German poet

Germany's contributions to the world's cultural heritage are numerous, and the country is often known as das Land der Dichter und Denker. Germany was the birthplace of composers such as Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Schumann and Wagner; poets such as Goethe and Schiller as well as Heine; philosophers including Kant, Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche, theologians like Luther, authors including Hermann Hesse and Grass; and scientists including Einstein, Born and Planck. There are also numerous fine artists from Germany such as the Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer, the surrealist Max Ernst, the expressionist Franz Marc, the conceptual artist Joseph Beuys or the neo expressionist Georg Baselitz.

The German language was once the lingua franca of central, eastern and northern Europe, and remains one of the most popular foreign languages taught worldwide. Many important historical figures, though not citizens of Germany in the modern sense, were nevertheless immersed in the German culture, for example Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Kafka and Copernicus.

Today Germany turns out to be a hip country with its casual capital Berlin and a self-confident music and art culture. Current movie and literature movements work up the re-unification. Germany is also well known for its many opera houses.


Grundgesetz, Germany's constitution, guarantees freedom of faith and religion. It also states that no one may be discriminated against due to their faith or religious opinions.

Christianity is the major religion, with Protestants (particularly in the north) comprising 38% of the population and Catholics (particularly in the south) 34%.

Currently about two thirds of the German population, more than 55 million people, officially belong to a Christian denomination, 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.

Roman Catholicism was Germany's top religion in the 15th century, but the religious movement commonly known as the Reformation changed this drastically. In 1517 Martin Luther challenged this religion as he saw it as a commercialisation of his faith. Through this, he altered the course of European and world history and established Protestantism, the 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.

There is also a noticeable Islamic minority of 1.7%, while the rest (26.3%) is either unaffiliated or belongs to smaller religious minorities.

Approximately three million Muslims and 160,000 Jews, of which around 100,000 belong to a synagogue, live in Germany.

Today Germany, especially its capital Berlin, has the fastest growing Jewish community worldwide. Some ten thousands of Jews from the former Eastern Bloc settled in Germany since the fall of the Berlin wall. The experiences during the Nazi era, a cosmopolitan and anti-nationalistic post-war education and especially the political 68ers movement created just the right tolerant atmosphere in Germany, which still is missing in some post-communist states. Also, speaking Yiddish, it's often more easy to learn German than other languages like Hebrew or English for Jews from Eastern Europe.

International rankings

Miscellaneous topics

External links

Albania | Andorra | Austria | Belarus | Belgium | Bosnia and Herzegovina | Bulgaria | Croatia | Czech Republic | Denmark | Estonia | Finland | France | Germany | Greece | Hungary | Iceland | Ireland | Italy | Latvia | Liechtenstein | Lithuania | Luxembourg | Macedonia | Malta | Moldova | Monaco | Netherlands | Norway | Poland | Portugal | Romania | Russia | San Marino | Serbia and Montenegro | Slovakia | Slovenia | Spain | Sweden | Switzerland | Turkey | Ukraine | United Kingdom | Vatican City
Faroe Islands | Gibraltar | Guernsey | Isle of Man | Jersey

European Union (EU)
Austria | Belgium | Cyprus | Czech Republic | Denmark | Estonia | Finland | France | Germany | Greece | Hungary | Ireland | Italy | Latvia | Lithuania | Luxembourg | Malta | Netherlands | Poland | Portugal | Slovakia | Slovenia | Spain | Sweden | United Kingdom

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)
Belgium | Bulgaria | Canada | Czech Republic | Denmark | Estonia | France | Germany | Greece | Hungary | Iceland | Italy | Latvia | Lithuania | Luxembourg | The Netherlands | Norway | Poland | Portugal | Romania | Slovakia | Slovenia | Spain | Turkey | United Kingdom | United States

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
Australia | Austria | Belgium | Canada | Czech Republic | Denmark | Finland | France | Germany | Greece | Hungary | Iceland | Ireland | Italy | Japan | South Korea | Luxembourg | Mexico | Netherlands | New Zealand | Norway | Poland | Portugal | Slovakia | Spain | Sweden | Switzerland | Turkey | United Kingdom | United States