Germany, Federal Republic of (German Bundesrepublik Deutschland),
country in central Europe, bounded on the north by the North Sea, Denmark, and
the Baltic Sea; on the east by Poland and the Czech Republic; on the south by
Austria and Switzerland; and on the west by France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and
the Netherlands. For much of German history, Germany was a geographical term for
an area occupied by many states. A unified nation for 74 years (1871-1945), it
was divided after World War II (1939-1945) into the Federal Republic of Germany
(FRG; commonly known as West Germany),
a western-style republic, and the German Democratic Republic (GDR; commonly
known as East Germany),
a Communist nation under the influence of the Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics (USSR). On October 3, 1990, East
Germany, or the GDR, became part of the FRG, and Germany once
again became a unified nation, with a total area of 356,733 sq km (137,735 sq
mi). Berlin is Germany's capital and largest city.
Medieval German education had been limited chiefly to schools and
universities run by religious orders to train churchmen and a few government
officials. Even the new humanist learning was at first intended for a small,
scholarly elite. But Luther, consistent with his belief in the priesthood of
all believers and individual study of the Bible, thought that state schools
should be open to children of every class. In the Protestant states, primary
schools were set up to teach German and religion. Latin was the principal
subject in the secondary schools (Gymnasien) founded by Melanchthon,
which presented for the first time a graded course of study. Saxony
and other Protestant states gradually opened Gymnasien, which influenced
German education into the 20th century. In the Catholic states similar but
highly centralized schools were established. All these schools were attended
chiefly by boys whose families could afford the fees.
Rise of Austria
In the late 17th and 18th centuries, the empire was overshadowed by France and England. Its creaking framework was
supported by lesser German princes, who wanted its protection, and undermined
by greater princes, who wanted freedom to develop on their own. The Wettins of
Saxony, expanding eastward, became kings of Poland. The Welfs of
Brunswick-Lüneburg became electors of Hannover and gained great influence when
Elector George inherited Great
Britain in 1714. The Wittelsbachs of Bavaria
intrigued for a crown in the Spanish Netherlands. Dominating the other princes
were the Habsburgs of Austria, who also held Bohemia
and Hungary, and the
Hohenzollerns of Brandenburg, who became kings of Prussia.
Scarcely had they recovered from the Thirty Years' War when the princes
and the emperor plunged into a variety of new dynastic struggles.
In the west the princes were involved in four wars by which Louis XIV
strove to extend French territory to the Rhine.
In the War of the Devolution (1667-1668), Great Elector Frederick William of Brandenburg accepted a
pension from Louis in return for political support. In the Dutch War
(1672-1678), however, Frederick William turned against Louis and lost his
conquests in Pomerania. But he later benefited
by offering refuge to Huguenots (French Calvinists), whom Louis had exiled by
revoking the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Some 20,000 Huguenots migrated east,
bringing with them weaving skills and French culture. Louis's invasion of the
Palatinate led to the War of the League of Augsburg (1688-1697), which won him Strasbourg and Alsace.
The War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) was fought over the right
of Louis XIV's grandson, Philip V, to inherit the Spanish throne. Bavaria sided with France, because Louis promised the
elector the crown of the Spanish Netherlands. Brandenburg
supported the successive emperors Leopold I and Joseph I in return for imperial
recognition of Prussia
as a kingdom. The other European states also allied with the empire to block
unification of France and Spain. Large,
well-trained, well-equipped armies fought in Bavaria
and western Germany,
wreaking havoc and ruin. When both sides were exhausted, they accepted the
Peace of Utrecht.
Encroached on from the west, the German princes turned to the north and
east, where they came into conflict with Sweden in the Baltic. In the First
Northern War (1655-1660) the emperor and the elector of Brandenburg
supported Poland and Denmark against Charles X Gustav of Sweden. The
outcome did not effect much change.
In the Great Northern War (1700-1721), which paralleled the War of the
Spanish Succession, Saxony, Poland, Brandenburg-Prussia, Hannover,
Denmark, and Russia joined forces against Sweden. At the
end of it, the treaties of Stockholm and Nystadt
restored Poland to Augustus,
transferred Stettin and West Pomerania from Sweden
to Brandenburg-Prussia, and gave Sweden's
eastern Baltic lands to Russia.
The Germans also had to reckon with the Ottoman Turks, who, after a
period of quiescence, were vigorously expanding in southeastern Europe. When the Turks invaded Hungary in 1663, imperial troops
managed to defeat them and win a 20-year truce. More eager to check the
Catholic Habsburgs than the Muslim Turks, Louis XIV and the Hungarians
encouraged Turkish aggression. When the truce was up, the Ottomans besieged Vienna in 1683. In this
emergency imperial troops, combined with those of Jan III Sobieski of Poland, rescued
the city. The Turks were driven beyond the Danube, and Hungary was compelled
to recognize the Habsburg right to inherit the Hungarian crown. The Turkish
wars continued, however, until the brilliant general Prince Eugene of Savoy led imperial
troops to victory at Senta (1697). By the Treaty of Karlowitz (1699) the
Habsburgs regained most of Hungary.
The depopulated country was resettled with German veterans, and imperial
authority centralized in Vienna
By 1740 the other German states had fallen behind, leaving Austria and Prussia
as rivals for dominance in central Europe.
Growth of Prussia
The family of Hohenzollern, which had been granted Brandenburg in the 15th century, had
acquired a number of additional, geographically unconnected territories in the
west. Outside the empire to the east was the most important area, Prussia, which
they had inherited as a Polish duchy in 1618 and converted into an independent
kingdom in 1701. Gradually, all the Hohenzollern lands came to be known as the kingdom of Prussia.
Frederick William I of Prussia
was a sturdy, hardheaded soldier determined to unite his disparate possessions
into a modern military state. Crushing local customs and interests, he created
an honest, efficient bureaucracy, which filled the treasury and ran the country
for the benefit of a large standing army. He tried to convert his intellectual
and artistic son Frederick into an image of himself.
Frederick II, the Great, an unhappy genius, was equally at home on the
battlefield and enjoying French literature and music in his Sans Souci (French
for “carefree”) Palace near Berlin.
He spent most of his life, however, aggrandizing Prussia
at the expense of Austria
and refining and reorganizing the Prussian government and economy to better
serve the army.
War of the Austrian Succession
Emperor Charles VI, anxious to keep Habsburg lands unified, issued the
Pragmatic Sanction in 1713, declaring that his only child, Maria Theresa,
should succeed him. When he died in 1740, the electors of Bavaria
and Saxony rejected the Pragmatic Sanction on
the grounds that they had prior claims through their wives. Frederick II
offered his support to Maria Theresa in exchange for the rich province of Silesia.
Convinced of the justice of her cause, she indignantly refused. Frederick promptly invaded Silesia, precipitating the War of the
Austrian Succession (1740-1748). The Bavarians, Saxons, and French invaded Austria and Bohemia,
while Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Russia
came to the aid of Austria.
Alarmed by Frederick's military victories,
Maria Theresa made peace with him in 1742, ceding him Silesia. Austria
and its allies succeeded, however, in driving the French from Bohemia
and conquering Bavaria to replace the lost Silesia. By the Treaty
of Aix-la-Chapelle, Maria Theresa's husband, Francis, duke of Lorraine, was recognized as emperor,
although it was she who actually ruled. In return, Maria Theresa gave up Bavaria and allowed Prussia
to keep Silesia.
Seven Years' War
The emergence of Prussia
as a major power led to a radical shift of alliances and to new hostilities.
Maria Theresa, determined to reconquer Silesia,
made an alliance with Elizabeth of Russia. George II of Britain, fearing possible French attack on
Hannover, made a treaty of neutrality with Frederick. The old Habsburg-Valois rivalry
was forgotten as the Austrian minister, Prince Kaunitz, maneuvered Louis XV,
fearful of Prussia,
into an alliance with Maria Theresa. Frederick,
anticipating encirclement, struck first by invading Saxony and Bohemia, beginning the
Seven Years' War (1756-1763).
Violence spread as the Austrians invaded Silesia,
the Russians marched into Prussia,
and the French attacked Hannover. Despite good
soon found himself hard pressed by many enemies. He was conveniently rescued by
the death of Elizabeth of Russia and the succession of Peter III, who admired Frederick and at once
made peace. The exhausted French also wanted peace. The Treaty of Hubertusburg
restored the status quo, with Frederick keeping Silesia.
Bitterly disappointed, Maria Theresa devoted herself to internal affairs.
She gradually reorganized the government and established uniform taxes, a
customs union, and state-supported elementary schools. She encouraged nobles
and commoners to take government and army posts. Wise, warmhearted, and
tactful, she was loved by all her subjects. She did not always agree, however,
with her idealistic son, Joseph. Joseph II was an enlightened monarch who
impatiently tried to create an efficient, modern Germanic bureaucracy without
regard for the strong local prejudices.
Prussia was anxious to
annex Polish territory separating Brandenburg
Austria, still regretting Silesia, looked to the
east for compensation. Both countries feared the new Russian presence. A weak Poland seemed ample excuse for intervention, and
in 1772 Austria, Prussia, and Russia
agreed to the first partition of Poland.
When the Bavarian throne became vacant, Joseph tried to annex Bavaria. Frederick objected and
formed the League of Princes against the emperor. Blocked by Frederick in the short War of the Bavarian
Succession (1778-1779), Joseph turned east again. A Turkish war (1788-1791)
proved fruitless, and he was left out of the second partition of Poland (1793).
Not to be overlooked, he insisted that Austria
share in the third partition (1795), in which Poland entirely disappeared.
The Baroque Age and the Enlightenment
The end of religious strife and of the Turkish threat gave Germans new
confidence. In the 18th century, German culture, nourished by French, English,
and Italian developments, reached a brilliant flowering.
The Princely Courts
The princes, resisting imperial control and overriding local diets, made
themselves absolute monarchs on the model of Louis XIV. They centralized their
governments and established mercantile economies. Engaging the foremost
artists, they made their capitals artistic and intellectual centers,
resplendent with palaces, churches, museums, theaters, gardens, and
Social and cultural life centered in the courts, which were the chief
source of status. Courtiers scorned burghers and peasants as uncouth citizens,
useful only to pay taxes to support court life. Princes maintained their courts
also by accepting foreign subsidies and selling peasant boys as mercenary
soldiers. To escape war and taxes, many Germans migrated to North
Art and Music
In the Catholic south, great numbers of churches and monasteries were
built or rebuilt. They borrowed the dramatic baroque style that had developed
out of the Italian and French Renaissance, transforming it into a graceful,
playfully exuberant, rococo style that was uniquely German. Outstanding are the
church at Vierzehnheiligen by Balthasar Neumann; the Karlskirche, Vienna, by Johann
Bernhard Fischer von Erlach; and the churches of the brothers Cosmas Damian
Asam and Egid Quirin Asam. The baroque-rococo style was also used for palaces,
such as Schönbrunn, outside Vienna, and the
Zwinger in Dresden.
In the baroque period, instrumental music, mostly for chamber groups or
keyboard, took the form of complex, highly structured polyphonic suites,
preludes, and fugues by such masters as Heinrich Schütz and Johann Sebastian
Bach. In the preclassical and classical periods, after 1720, orchestral music
became more dominant and the compositions themselves longer and more abstract,
with the development of sonata form and symphonic structure. Experimentation
with orchestral forces and textures by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and others
culminated in the great achievements of Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,
and Ludwig van Beethoven. Instrumental and vocal music were combined in the
religious chorales and oratorios of J. S. Bach and George Frideric Handel and
in the Italian-inspired operas of Handel and Georg Philipp Telemann. Opera
truly came of age in the hands of Christoph Willibald Gluck and was carried to
greater refinement by the versatile Mozart.
Literature and Thought
In reaction against the religious concerns of the tumultuous 16th and
early 17th centuries was the growth of rationalism and the scientific spirit,
which produced the European Enlightenment. Absorbing the works of British and
French thinkers, German professors discarded the theology of a world in which
sinful men and women needed divine grace. They adopted the optimistic, secular
philosophy of a world ordered by natural law in which all humans, innately
rational and good, could, through education, aim at perfection.
The first major German philosopher, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, posited a
universe ruled by a natural, preestablished harmony. The idealist philosopher
Immanuel Kant analyzed the power of reason and asserted a rational basis for
ethics. The playwright Gotthold Ephraim Lessing returned to the structure of
classical drama and introduced to German theater the English principle of
toleration and an interest in ordinary middle-class life.
Rationalism was soon opposed by a current stressing intuition and
feeling. In religion it took the form of an evangelical revival, known as
Pietism. Many middle- and lower-class Germans became followers of the Lutheran
pastors Philipp Jakob Spener and August Hermann Francke, who urged individual
Bible study and personal experience of spiritual regeneration expressed in
ethical conduct. The University
of Halle (1694) became a
center of Pietist education, charity, and training of missionaries. Pietism had
a lasting influence on Lutheranism and on many German thinkers.
In literature the antirationalist tendency led to the late 18th-century Sturm
und Drang (literally, storm and stress) movement. Writers in this
revolutionary spirit viewed nature as a constantly changing force and valued
humans for their individual passions rather than universal reason. Contributing
to this spirit was the insistence of Johann Gottfried von Herder on the influence of history on literature,
especially the importance of medieval folk songs and tales. Inspired by the
French Revolution (1789-1799), antirationalism broadened into early
romanticism, primarily concerned with the will and feelings of the unique,
creative individual. The philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte saw the universe as
based on the moral will of God. August von Schlegel translated Shakespeare's
plays, which emphasize history and individual character. Novalis wrote mystical
Christian lyric poetry.
These contrasting and yet complementary streams came together in the work
of three German literary masters: Friedrich von Schiller, who wrote classical
dramas in historical settings, infused with moral conviction and the struggle
for freedom; Friedrich Hölderlin, who wrote lyrical poems of profound spiritual
anguish modeled on classical Greek forms; and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the
sage of Weimar, a giant of European literature. Goethe's early autobiographical
novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774; translated 1779), was in the
romantic spirit. The more disciplined dramas Egmont (1788) and Torquato
Tasso (1790), inspired by his Italian travels, were in the classical vein.
He harmoniously combined both romantic and classical outlooks in the dramatic
masterpiece Faust (1832).
Age of Nationalism
Enlightenment theories of representative government, combined with
romantic stress on freedom and the distinctive history of a people, inspired
Germans and other ethnic groups with a desire for national unification and
liberal reform. The conquests of Napoleon subsequently aroused their sense of
For 18 years the German states variously engaged in five wars of defense
against the well-trained, unified armies of revolutionary and Napoleonic
France. In the first two wars the French took the left bank of the Rhine. In the third, Napoleon conquered Vienna
In 1806 he reorganized the western German states, to compensate for their
left-bank losses, into the Confederation of the Rhine.
Austria and Prussia were
excluded and lost much territory. In 1809 Austria
led a fourth war against France,
while Napoleon was occupied in Spain,
but in the process it lost more land.
In 1812, Napoleon's disastrous retreat from Moscow, pursued by the Russians, encouraged
the allies to make another effort. Frederick William III of Prussia, joined by Austria
and Russia, led a War of
Liberation, in which Napoleon was defeated at Leipzig (1813). After much bloodshed the
allies took Paris
At the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) the allies redrew the map of Europe. Austria,
which gave up the Austrian Netherlands and its Swabian lands in the west, was
compensated in the south and east by Salzburg,
the Tirol (Tyrol), Lombardy and Venetia in Italy,
and Illyria and Dalmatia on the Adriatic Sea. Prussia lost most of its Polish territory but
gained much of Saxony and Swedish Pomerania as well as land in the Rhineland
and Westphalia, including the undeveloped iron and coal resources of the Ruhr
The German Confederation
The Congress of Vienna replaced the Holy Roman
Empire of more than 240 states with the German Confederation of 39
states represented by a powerless diet (assembly). Opinions differed on what
the character of the new confederation should be. Many Germans wanted to
fashion a liberal government on British and French models according to a
constitution guaranteeing popular representation, trial by jury, and free
speech. They also hoped for national unification. Such ideas were especially
popular among journalists, lawyers, and professors and with impatient
university students, who formed secret societies for rapid action. These aims
also appealed to the various restive peoples within the Austrian Empire.
Liberalism and nationalism were bitterly opposed by the rulers of Prussia and Austria
and by the recently crowned kings of Bavaria,
Hannover, Württemberg, and Saxony, who dreaded
any encroachment on their individual sovereignty. Accordingly, Austria, Prussia,
Russia, and Britain formed the Quadruple Alliance to
suppress—by force if necessary—any threat to the Vienna settlement. The German rulers
supported the repressive system instituted by the Austrian foreign minister
Prince Klemens von Metternich. Frederick William III blocked reforms planned by
his ministers. Prussia
outmaneuvered Austria by
instituting a customs union of most German states except Austria.
The July Revolution in Paris
in 1830 set off liberal risings in many German states. Metternich had the
confederation forbid public meetings and ban petitions. Nevertheless, in 1848
another wave of revolutions, beginning in Paris,
washed over Europe. Nationalist groups
revolted in Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, Galicia, and Lombardy.
Metternich resigned and Emperor Ferdinand I abdicated in favor of his young
nephew Francis Joseph I. Uprisings also took place in Bavaria,
Prussia, and southwestern Germany. The
frightened rulers agreed to send delegates to an assembly in Frankfurt.
The rebellions were soon crushed, however. In Austria a liberal constitutional
assembly was dissolved, and a constitution providing highly centralized,
although representative, government was imposed. Hungary, which had declared itself
a republic, was forcibly subdued. In Prussia Frederick William IV imposed an
Meanwhile, the Frankfurt Assembly wrote a liberal constitution for a
under a hereditary emperor. Austria
refused to allow its German lands to be included, so the assembly regretfully
decided that Germany should
consist of the German states without Austria. For lack of an
alternative, they offered the crown to Frederick William, who refused it. The
assembly dispersed in failure; unity was to be achieved with Prussian military
The German Empire
After the failure of the Frankfurt Assembly, both Prussia and Austria put forth conflicting plans
for union. On the brink, Prussia
backed down, but only temporarily. William I was determined that neither Austria nor a newly aggressive France should
thwart Prussian ambitions. He and his chief minister, Otto von Bismarck,
decided that Prussia
must become unassailable. Bismarck, a Prussian Junker (aristocrat) of
forceful intellect, overbearing manner, and deep loyalty to the crown, used
unification as a means to that end.
planned a realpolitik (politics of reality) that astutely combined
diplomacy with “blood-and-iron” militarism in order to eliminate Austrian
influence and bring about unification on Prussian terms. As a preliminary he
bought the neutrality of Russia,
Italy, and France with
friendly treaties. His first step was to invite Austria in 1864 to join an invasion
of Schleswig-Holstein. These two duchies were ruled by Denmark. The
Austrians and Prussians quickly defeated the Danes but soon fell out over
control of the conquered duchies.
On that excuse Bismarck took a second step
by launching the Seven Weeks' War against Austria in 1866. Skillfully
coordinating three armies, General Helmuth von Moltke quickly defeated the
Austrians at Königgrätz. Bismarck, however, did
not want to alienate Austria
irrevocably; he made an easy peace. Austria
gave up Venetia to Italian nationalists. Prussia annexed Schleswig-Holstein, Hannover,
and other states and organized the North German Confederation (1867) without Austria.
To overcome southern German fears of an enlarged Prussia, Bismarck
took a third step, the Franco-Prussian War. In 1870 the aggressive French
emperor Napoleon III unwisely pressed William I to promise that a Hohenzollern
would never take the vacant Spanish throne. Bismarck distorted William's account of the
incident to make it seem as if the French had been insulted and then published
the account. The outraged French declared war. Stirred by national loyalty, the
southern German states joined forces behind Prussia,
whose seasoned armies conquered the disorganized French at Sedan
and, after a long siege, took Paris
in 1871. With these events Bismarck
convinced the southern German states that Prussian control was inevitable. At Versailles in 1871 he
persuaded a reluctant William to take a new title as head of the German Empire,
the Second Reich.
The Age of Bismarck
Having sufficiently aggrandized Prussia,
the Iron Chancellor, as Bismarck
was called, worked for peace. He constructed a series of alliances designed to
from aggression. At the Congress of Berlin (1878) Bismarck
mediated a settlement in the Balkans, where various Slavic groups kept rising
against the decaying Ottoman Empire. Largely
to please the merchant class, he consented to Germany's
acquiring colonies in Africa and the Pacific. Germany found
its colonies valuable chiefly for prestige, however.
At home, Bismarck encouraged the
Industrial Revolution, which developed rapidly after 1850 as Germans applied
advanced industrial technology to the iron and coal resources of the Ruhr and Saar. The population rose by a third, and factories
boomed, transforming rural farmers into urban producers of steel for machinery,
railways, and ships. This enlarged city population demanded a share in the
The empire, however, did not function democratically. The 25 nominally
sovereign states (plus Alsace-Lorraine) of the North German Confederation were
ruled by a Bundesrat of princes dominated by Prussia and a powerless Reichstag
of elected deputies, while the chancellor was responsible only to the emperor. Bismarck's scorn for the
ordinary citizen and his distrust of the Roman Catholic Center Party and the
workers' Social Democratic Party further discouraged parliamentary government.
Mindful of old papal-imperial rivalry, Bismarck believed that the Catholic church,
which had declared the infallibility of the pope in 1870, threatened the
supremacy of the German state. He therefore initiated the Kulturkampf
(“culture struggle”) during which he suppressed many religious orders and
dismissed, imprisoned, or exiled disobedient priests. Church-state strife
cooled in 1879, chiefly because Bismarck
needed the Center Party's support against the Liberals to obtain high tariffs
that would protect German agriculture and industry from cheap imports.
next turned his wrath on the Socialist Party, forerunner of the Social
Democratic Party. Blaming on it two attempts by non-Socialists to assassinate
William, he had a new Reichstag elected, which supported tariffs and outlawed
the Socialists. To forestall workers' demands and to ensure healthy army
recruits, he provided state insurance for sickness, accidents, and old age.
When the outlawed Socialist Party won a large number of seats in the election
of 1890, Bismarck
prepared to abolish the constitution. Suddenly, however, he was dismissed by
the new emperor, William II, who wanted to rule the empire in his own right.
19th-Century Art and Thought
With little scope for political action, many middle-class Germans turned
to cultural pursuits, through which they influenced the Western world.
German painting, reacting from the neoclassicism of Anton Raphael Mengs,
became romantic, as exemplified by the vast, allegorical landscapes of Caspar
David Friedrich and Philipp Otto Runge. Later painting was realistic.
Architecture was romantic Gothic or imposing neoclassical.
Music also became romantic. Much of it was inspired by literature, for
example, the art songs, or lieder, of Franz Peter Schubert, Johannes
Brahms, and Hugo Wolf and the operas of Richard Wagner. Wagner's emphasis on
dramatic theme and artistic unity changed the concept of opera and exerted a
profound influence on European music, theater, and literature. Instrumental music
with literary or pictorial allusions, called program music, took the form of
symphonic poems by Franz Liszt. Pure music, in contrast to program music, by
such masters as Brahms, Robert Schumann, and Felix Mendelssohn, continued
classical forms. Late romantic music tended toward the dramatic and thickly
textured, as in the complex symphonies of Gustav Mahler and the emotionally
intense tone poems of Richard Strauss.
Romantic literature, inspired by the lyrics of Goethe, Schiller, and
Heinrich Heine, included the work of such poets and storytellers as Ludwig
Tieck, Clemens Brentano, Joseph von Eichendorff, E. T. A. Hoffmann, and Ludwig
Uhland. These romantics often used German folk materials such as the songs and
tales collected by the Grimm Brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm. The conflict between
the individual and society, first treated by Goethe, was expressed in the
novels of Theodor Fontane, Adalbert Stifter, and Gottfried Keller, a Swiss, and
in the dramas of Franz Grillparzer and Friedrich Hebbel. Their interest in
psychology was part of the more realistic approach to the world that gradually
superseded romanticism. Realistic criticism of society was evident in the
ironic lyrics of Heine and took the extreme form of social determinism in the
naturalist poems of Arno Holz and the plays of Hermann Sudermann and Gerhart
The French capture of Berlin
in 1806 shocked the Prussians into an effort to recover in cultural dignity
what they had lost in political fact. Under Wilhelm von Humboldt, the educational
system was reorganized to stress the individuality of the student and the moral
duty of the state to educate its citizens. Elementary schools emphasized
experience instead of memorization. Gymnasiens combined classical, Christian,
and patriotic values to prepare middle-class as well as aristocratic students
for the university. The University
of Berlin became an
outstanding center of humanistic, historical, and, especially, scientific
German nationalism found justification in the work of the foremost
thinkers of the day, J. G. Fichte and Friedrich Schleiermacher. The romantic
Friedrich von Schelling presented all history as developing toward an absolute
harmony of mind and matter. He influenced the absolute idealist G. W. F. Hegel,
who synthesized nature and mind in the progress of the Absolute World Spirit to
its embodiment in the Prussian state.
Opposing nationalism, the revolutionary philosophy of Karl Marx cast the
Hegelian dialectic in materialistic terms, declaring that all ideas arise from
economic systems. Marx urged workers throughout the world to unite in violently
overthrowing existing governments and creating a new classless society.
Much more pessimistic was the view of Arthur Schopenhauer, who saw the
world as a scene of painful, unavoidable conflict among individual wills.
Drawing on Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche valued the creative “will to
power” of the heroic individual, which sets him apart from the inferior masses.
Extreme nationalists, mixing the Nietzschean superman with a romantic
glorification of the German people, developed a hazy but heady concept of
German racial superiority that contributed to two world wars.
Early 20th-Century Art and Thought
The era of relative peace and prosperity that preceded World War I
(1914-1918) gave rise to artistic and intellectual reaction against traditional
forms and conceptions. The avant-garde increasingly separated itself from the
general public as it experimented with new ideas and techniques. Continuing to
flourish in the Weimar
period, it was suppressed by the Nazis. Many artists and thinkers emigrated to
avoid a state-imposed return to stereotyped tradition. After World War II,
German culture slowly recovered.
Art and Music
About 1900, German and Austrian architects and designers employed the
graceful floral curves of Jugendstil (see Art Nouveau),
especially in the Vienna
Sezessionstil (“Secession style”) movement. Closely allied was a new
interest in materials and structure, seen in the work of Peter Behrens, Joseph
Maria Olbrich, and Walter Gropius. Adaptation of aesthetics to the machine age
inspired buildings in the starkly functional International Style developed at
the Bauhaus school of design founded by Gropius in Weimar in 1919. Its principles spread through
Europe and the Americas.
German expressionist paintings emphasized the artists' feelings instead
of objectively describing the outside world. Such painters as Ernst Ludwig
Kirchner, Emil Nolde, Franz Marc, Wassily Kandinsky (a Russian), and Paul Klee
(a Swiss) used strident colors and distorted forms. In the 1920s Otto Dix and
Max Beckmann painted bitter social commentaries. Surrealist interests
influenced Klee and Max Ernst. Kandinsky created the first nonrepresentational
In music, Richard Strauss and Carl Orff wrote innovative program works.
At the same time Arnold Schoenberg and his pupils Anton von Webern and Alban
Berg devised a revolutionary twelve-tone music that abandoned traditional
melodies and harmonies for emphasis on rhythm and dissonance. The level of music
education and performance remained high.
Literature and Thought
Writers such as Franz Werfel, the poets Stefan George, Hugo von
Hofmannsthal, and Rainer Maria Rilke, and the psychological novelists Thomas
Mann, Hermann Hesse, and Franz Kafka turned from realistic description of the
world to an expressionistic exploration of the mind and spirit. Often they used
myth, symbol, and exaggerated language to convey inner truths, frustrations,
ironies, ambiguities, and subconscious forces. Social criticism was the primary
purpose of the playwrights Arthur Schnitzler, Frank Wedekind, and Carl
Sternheim. The narrative epic theater of Bertolt Brecht in Berlin in the 1920s attacked capitalist
society. Expressionism influenced German film directors such as Robert Wiene,
G. W. Pabst, and Fritz Lang, who produced work of great originality. After
World War II such novelists as Uwe Johnson, Heinrich Böll, and Günter Grass
continued to analyze German society.
A great influence on expressionism in the arts was the new science of
psychoanalysis developed about 1900 by Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis seemed to
undermine confidence in the progress of a rational human race in an orderly
universe by focusing on the uncharted, amoral depths of the subconscious.
Belief in rational, liberal Christianity was specifically attacked by the Swiss
neoorthodox theologians Karl Barth and Emil Brunner. Existentialism, as
developed by the philosophers Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers and the
theologian Paul Tillich, sought to integrate religion, art, and science.
World War and Defeat
The nationalism that created Germany in the 19th century led it
into two disastrous wars and consequent division in the 20th century.
World War I
None of the European powers wanted World War I, but they all feared
Germany—newly unified, outstripping them in population and industry, and
aggressively self-assertive—as a dangerous rival. Specifically, France wanted to recover Alsace-Lorraine; Britain, a seafaring country, felt threatened by
German colonial expansion and William II's insistence on a large navy; Austria and Russia feared pressure within their
tottering empires. Germany
itself had nightmares of a war on two fronts. All these powers sought
protection in huge, peacetime, standing armies and in an intricate system of
delicate balance of powers proved too difficult for William II to maintain.
Refusing in 1887 to renew the Reinsurance Treaty with Russia, he continued the Triple Alliance (1882)
of Germany, Austria, and Italy. Rebuffed, Russia made an alliance in 1894 with France. Britain, long neutral, settled its colonial
differences with France in
the Entente Cordiale (1904) and its Middle East dispute with Russia in 1907,
resulting in the Triple Entente. Thus, Europe
was divided into two armed camps.
Steps Toward War
Crises in Morocco
and the Balkans intensified antagonisms. William twice interfered in Morocco (1905, 1911), which France claimed, to protect German interests in Africa. Austria's
annexation in 1908 of the Turkish provinces of Bosnia
and Herzegovina spoiled Serbia's hopes of gaining them. The
assassination, with Serbian knowledge, of the liberal Austrian archduke Francis
Ferdinand in Sarajevo
in June 1914 proved to be the spark that set off the war. Germany rashly assured Austria of full support, resulting in an
Austrian ultimatum that Serbia
could not accept. Because military advantage depended on rapid mobilization,
the powers then moved with headlong speed. Austria
declared war on Serbia.
Russia, to defend Serbia, mobilized against Austria and Germany. Germany
gave Russia 12 hours to
demobilize, called up its own troops, and, receiving no answer, declared war on
Assuming that France would
aid Russia, Germany also declared war on France.
The Germans hoped that a quick conquest of France would secure the western
front and release forces for the east. Avoiding the fortified French frontier,
German armies moved through neutral Belgium,
hoping to take Paris by surprise, but the
Germans encountered greater resistance in Belgium than expected. Their
violation of international law brought Britain
to the aid of France
and destroyed all sympathy for the Central Powers.
Course of War
German forces nearly reached Paris.
The British and French miraculously turned back the overstretched German lines
at the Battle of the Marne,
however, and the two sides dug trenches for a ferocious war of attrition that
would last for four years. Meanwhile, the Russians attacked on the east,
into the dreaded two-front war.
The Germans several times defeated the ill-equipped Russians, but they
could make no headway in the west. The Allies blockaded Germany to cut
off food and raw materials. Desperate to break the blockade, the Germans
declared unrestricted submarine warfare. After several U.S. ships were sunk, the United States
entered the war in 1917. The next year Russia, in the throes of two
revolutions that brought Communists to power, sued for peace, which was
concluded at Brest-Litovsk in 1918. Thus freed in the east, in 1918 the Germans
launched a final, all-out offensive in the west, but the united Allies slowly
turned the tide.
Recognizing the situation as hopeless, the German high command urged
William to let a new civil government sue for peace. Moreover, Woodrow Wilson, U.S. President from 1913 to 1921,
insisted on dealing with civilians. William grudgingly appointed Prince Max of
Baden chancellor, and while he negotiated with Wilson,
fighting continued, sailors mutinied, socialists staged strikes, workers and
the military formed Communist councils, and revolution broke out in Bavaria. Prince Max
announced the abdication of William II and resigned. A leader of the Social
Democrats proclaimed Germany
Having surrendered and changed its government, Germany expected a negotiated peace
rather than the harsh terms imposed by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. But
the Allies were determined to receive reparation for their losses and to see
that their enemy was never again in a position to endanger them. Accordingly, Germany lost Alsace-Lorraine to France and West Prussia
to Poland, creating a Polish
Corridor between Germany and
It also lost its colonies and had to give up most of its coal, trains, and
merchant ships, as well as its navy. Germany
had to limit its army and submit to Allied occupation of the Rhineland
for 15 years. Worst of all, the Germans had to accept full responsibility for
causing the war and, consequently, pay its total cost. These last provisions
particularly rankled; Germans did not consider themselves more guilty than
anyone else and could not possibly pay all that was demanded.
treaty, understandable from the Allies' immediate point of view, did not ensure
lasting peace. Germany
was neither crushed completely nor encouraged to return to the European
community. Instead, by accepting the treaty, the new German government gained a
bad name among its citizens, crippling its chances of success.
in 1919, a national assembly, led by the Social Democratic party, wrote a
democratic constitution for the new German Reich. But the prospects of the Weimar Republic,
as it was familiarly known, were dim. For most Germans the government bore the
stigma of military defeat and the Versailles
treaty, which they regarded as only temporary. In addition, as parliamentary
government, it was opposed on principle by both conservative militarists and
revolutionary socialists. Both sides, using private armies, frequently tried to
overthrow the government, as in the military Kapp Putsch (1920) and the
uprising of the Communist Spartacists (1919) under Karl Liebknecht and Rosa
The economic situation made matters worse. Because Germany could not meet reparations requirements,
France invaded the Ruhr in 1923 to take over the coal mines. The government
encouraged the workers to resist passively, printing vast amounts of money to
pay them. The resulting inflation wiped out savings, pensions, insurance, and
other forms of fixed income, creating a social revolution that destroyed the
most stable elements in Germany.
Aided by the Dawes Plan (1924), which set reasonable annual amounts of
reparations and provided for foreign loans, the brilliant German minister
Gustav Stresemann reorganized the monetary system and encouraged industry. For
five years Germany enjoyed
relative peace and prosperity; in 1926 it joined the League
of Nations. The worldwide depression of 1929, however, plunged the
country once more into disaster. Millions of unemployed, disillusioned by
capitalist democracy, turned to communism or to the party of National Socialism
(Nazism) led by Adolf Hitler.
Hitler and the Third Reich
A former German army corporal, Hitler hated aristocrats, capitalists,
Communists, and liberals, as well as Jews and other so-called non-Aryans. He
had already tried to topple the government in the “beer hall putsch” (revolt)
in 1923. This abortive attempt at revolution occurred when Hitler, right-wing
military leader General Erich Ludendorff, and Nazi troops stormed a Munich beer hall where a
right-wing political meeting was being held. After forcing the local political
leaders to declare their support for the “National Revolution,” the Nazis
attempted to take over the Bavarian War Ministry the next day. They were
defeated, however, and Hitler was convicted of treason and sentenced to five
years in prison. After serving less than a year, however, Hitler continued to
build up the Nazi party. A gifted public speaker, he rapidly won supporters by
denouncing the Weimar
government as weak and treacherous. He proposed giving the jobs of Jews, whom
he painted as villainous, to deserving Germans, and he promised to recover Germany's
strength and honor. In return, he demanded the complete loyalty and obedience
of people to himself as their Führer (leader). To reinforce his message,
brown-shirted storm troopers attacked Communists, Jews, and other party
In the depths of the depression of 1932, the Nazis were the largest party
in the Reichstag. In 1933, with the support of right-wing elements, Hitler was
appointed chancellor. To secure supreme power for himself, Hitler called new
elections. Blaming a fire in the Reichstag building on the Communists, he
banned the Communist party. In the new Reichstag the Nazis, Nationals, and Catholic Center passed the revolutionary Enabling
Act allowing the government to dictate all aspects of German life.
Armed with this power, Hitler set out to make the Third Reich, as he
called the new totalitarian Germany.
The groundwork had been laid in World War I, when the military ran the
government. From that foundation, Hitler proceeded with frightening efficiency.
Consolidating legislative, executive, judicial, and military authority in
himself, he remained chancellor, became head of state after the death of Paul
von Hindenburg, headed a new court system, and commanded the armed forces.
All political parties except the Nazis were banned. Strikes were
forbidden, and the unemployed were enrolled in labor camps or the army as Germany strove
to be economically self-sufficient. A professional army, enlarged by
conscription, was established to carry out Hitler's plan for conquest. An
organized system of propaganda was implemented through publishing and teaching.
Children were also indoctrinated through the Hitler Youth movement. Gigantic
rallies were staged to galvanize the German public. Backing up the propaganda
were the Gestapo, a secret police force created to suppress opposition
and round up Jews, which operated without civil restraints; and the
Schutzstaffel (SS), originally an elite personal bodyguard for Hitler, which
grew into a vast bureaucracy with military and police powers. Some Germans did
not take Hitler seriously, but others accepted his emphasis on race and
violence. Outspoken dissenters left the country or took the consequences.
Initially, Jews were targeted for discriminatory laws and directives, deprived
of citizenship, and barred from civil service and professions. Jewish firms
were liquidated or purchased for less than full value by companies owned by
non-Jews. On the night of November 9, 1938, Nazis killed more than 90 Jews at
random, smashed thousands of store windows, and set fire to synagogues during Kristallnacht
(“Night of the Broken Glass”). Hundreds of thousands of Jews fled the country.
Beginning in 1933, the first German concentration camps were constructed
to imprison numerous groups of political opponents and so-called asocials:
Jews, Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals, Communists, religious dissenters, Jehovah's Witnesses,
professional criminals, prostitutes, and shirkers. The prisoners were exploited
as forced laborers; when no longer able to work they were killed by gassing,
shooting, or fatal injections. Inmates were also used for “medical
experiments.” The camps increased in size and number throughout the war.
When Germany occupied Poland in
September 1939, Polish Jews were killed or forced into walled ghettos, where
thousands died monthly from starvation and illness. The conquests of France, Belgium,
Denmark, Yugoslavia, and Greece brought hundreds of
thousands more Jews under German rule. Invading the USSR in June 1941, the German army
was followed by specially formed death squads, which killed nearly a million
Jews on Russian soil. By the end of that year, a “final solution to the Jewish
question” was formulated by Hitler's staff. Extermination centers were built to
kill entire populations. Millions of Jews and thousands of Roma and Soviet
prisoners were gassed and shot. While collaborators in the occupied territories
resistance was substantial. Before German occupation, Bulgaria, Hungary,
Finland, and Italy refused to deport Jews; widespread
partisan resistance existed in the occupied territories; and there were armed
Jewish uprisings in Tarnow, Radom,
and others, and in the camp at Sobibór. For three weeks in 1943, the 65,000
remaining Jews of the Warsaw
ghetto battled German police attempting a final roundup. By the end of the war,
Jewish dead numbered about 6 million, and millions of others targeted by the
Nazis had died in the Holocaust. See Holocaust; Concentration Camp.
World War II
Many of Europe's problems were left
unresolved by World War I. Germany's willingness to seek a solution by force,
while other countries wanted to avoid violence at all costs, led to World War
Steps Toward War
Hitler planned to threaten and bluff the European powers into allowing
him gradually to revise Germany's
boundaries. His goal, to unite all Germans and give them Lebensraum
(“living space”), did not seem unreasonable to some statesmen, who realized
that the Versailles
treaty had been unjust. At the time, no single demand of Hitler's seemed worth
risking war to protest. Germany
left the League of Nations in 1933 and, virtually unopposed, began to rearm in
1935; it then reoccupied the Rhineland in
1936. Germany signed an
anti-Communist pact with Japan
and made an alliance with Fascist Italy, creating the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis.
In 1938 it declared an Anschluss (union) with Austria. At Munich
that year, Britain, France, and Italy
timorously acceded to Hitler's demand for the German-populated Sudetenland of
Czechoslovakia, on his promise that Germany would then be satisfied (see
In March 1939, breaking his word, Hitler occupied the remainder of Czechoslovakia.
In August, dramatically reversing his anti-Communist policy, he made a
nonaggression pact with the USSR
containing a secret clause on the partition of Poland. His repeated demands for
Danzig (now Gdansk) in the Polish
Corridor led to a Polish-British pact and Polish mobilization. On
September 1, Germany invaded
Britain and France promptly declared war on Germany. World
War II had begun.
Course of the War
In a few weeks of blitzkrieg (“lightning war”), mechanized German
divisions overwhelmed the ill-equipped Poles, taking western Poland. The
Soviets, not to be outdone, seized the eastern part. Encouraged by success, in
1940 Germany swallowed Denmark, Norway,
and the Low Countries and invaded France, which rapidly collapsed.
British and French forces were hastily evacuated from Dunkerque to England. Hitler
then blockaded Britain
with submarines and bombed the country with his new air force. He made a
ten-year military pact with the other Axis powers—Italy
In 1941, to aid faltering Italian forces, he sent troops to North
To block Soviet ambitions in agricultural eastern Europe, which industrial Germany needed, he suddenly invaded the USSR. As the
Soviets retreated eastward, German armies engulfed the rich Ukraine.
At this point, Hitler was master of continental Europe.
In 1942, however, Britain
was still resisting, and the United States,
which had entered the war after an attack by Japan,
was sending supplies to Britain
and the USSR.
Hitler then ordered total mobilization of men and resources. Throughout Europe, conquered peoples, especially Slavs and Jews,
were executed or enslaved in German war factories, while their countries were
drained of food and raw materials.
In 1943 the tide began to turn. Supply lines in the USSR were
overextended, and the Germans were gradually driven west. Axis forces in North
Africa were defeated, and Italy
was invaded. Germany
itself, from 1942 on, was being systematically bombed. Although defeat was
inevitable, a deranged Hitler refused to surrender. The war dragged on as
British and U.S. forces
in 1944 and swept inexorably east while the Soviets marched west. Hitler
committed suicide just before Soviet tanks rolled into Berlin in April 1945.
unconditional surrender ended the Third Reich. The Allies reduced Germany to its prewar western boundaries and
assigned a large portion on the east to Poland. Setting up four occupation
zones, they tried war criminals and dismantled factories. But as their policies
was split into two parts. Britain,
the United States, and,
eventually, France wanted to
rebuild Germany into a major
Western European power capable of countering the expansionist tendencies of the
In 1948 they merged their zones into one region, supplied with U.S. aid, and
encouraged the Germans to form a democratic government. The USSR, on the other hand, imposed a Communist
German government, under Soviet domination, on East Germany. In 1949 this
practical polarization of Germany
was legalized by the creation of two German states: the Federal Republic of
Germany, or West Germany,
and the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany. For the history of
the two separate German states, see Germany,
East and Germany,
In 1972, Munich
hosted the summer Olympic Games, which were marred by tragedy. Members of an
Arab guerrilla organization killed two Israeli athletes and took nine hostages,
who were later killed along with five of the guerrillas and a West German
With the rise of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the USSR in the late 1980s, the Soviet-backed
regimes of Eastern Europe began to lose
control over their people. East Germany's
Communist government fell in 1989, an event which profoundly altered relations
between the two Germanys.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall and other emigration barriers, more than
200,000 East Germans streamed into West Germany. The West German
government not only aided the new immigrants but also allocated a massive
infusion of capital to shore up the ailing East German economy. West Germany and East
Germany merged their financial systems in July 1990, and
in October East Germany
dissolved and all its citizens became citizens of the Federal Republic of
Germany. The coalition led by Helmut Kohl scored a decisive victory in
all-German elections in December 1990. The newly elected Bundestag,
representing both East and West, named Berlin
the capital of Germany
on June 20, 1991. The transfer of administration from Bonn
was expected to be completed by the year 2000, with some government offices and
the Bundesrat remaining in Bonn.
While reunification (Die Wende, or “the change”) brought together
long-separated families and friends, it also brought numerous economic and
social problems to Germany,
including housing shortages, strikes and demonstrations, unemployment, and
increases in crime and right-wing violence against foreigners. Budget deficits
caused by unification and worsened by a recession have led to increased taxes,
reduced government subsidies and increased privatization, and cuts in social
services. While increasing the market for consumer products, reunification has
significantly affected the strength and competitiveness of the German economy.
A gulf is evident between the two Germanys in standards of living,
industrial performance, and infrastructure.
Of great significance for Germany
is the problem of xenophobia and attacks on foreigners. Since the end of World War II, West Germany addressed its often
acute labor shortage by permitting immigrants known as guest workers to live
and work there. Guest workers, many from Turkey,
worked full-time and had families in West Germany, but were not allowed
to become citizens. By the 1990s, Germany had nearly 2 million guest
workers. In addition, 440,000 asylum seekers entered the country in 1992, an
increase of 71 percent from 1991. Of these, 122,666 were from the former Yugoslavia. In
1992 about 2300 attacks on foreigners were reported, and 17 people were killed.
In 1993 about 1300 right-wing attacks were reported. Attacks on Jews declined,
but attacks on homeless and disabled people more than doubled, from 145 to 324.
Eight people died from right-wing extremist violence in 1993, including five
Turkish immigrants killed when a firebomb destroyed their home in Solingen in west central Germany. Four men were later
convicted of murder and attempted murder in the case, which was the deadliest
incident of right-wing violence in Germany since reunification. After
attack, mass demonstrations were held to protest the violence, and the
government increased its activities against neo-Nazi groups. However, the
German parliament also approved limitations on asylum for foreigners in Germany, which
took effect July 1, 1993. Between the months of June and July of that year,
asylum applications to Germany
decreased 34 percent. In 1994 the government approved harsher penalties for
racially motivated attacks and statements that denied the history of the
In October 1993 Germany
became the 12th and final nation to ratify the Treaty on European Union, also
known as the Maastricht Treaty. The European Union (EU; formerly the European
Community) officially went into effect on November 1. In 1993 Germany also
renewed its bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations (UN) Security
Council. A major roadblock to achieving this status was removed with a German
high court decision in July 1994, which declared that German military
participation in UN peacekeeping operations outside of NATO was allowed under
A historic moment occurred in August 1994 as the last Russian troops left
Berlin, signaling the conclusion of a complete
pullout of eastern Europe by the former Soviet Union.
Eight days later, the final 200 Allied troops also left Berlin, marking the first time since World
War II that the city had not been host to foreign troops. Overall, in late 1994
the United States had about
60,000 troops remaining in Germany,
compared with 213,000 in 1990. In the national elections in October, Kohl's
coalition government of the Christian Democratic Union, Christian Social Union,
and Free Democratic party retained its majority in the Bundestag, but saw it
sharply reduced from a margin of 134 seats to just 10. Kohl was reelected
chancellor for his fourth consecutive term. In early 1995 Germany suffered catastrophic floods for the
second time in less than 18 months, chiefly of the Rhine River.
Five years after reunification, Germany continued to cope with
troubling issues from its days as a divided land. In 1995 seven former
officials from East Germany
were charged with manslaughter in the deaths of East Germans who had attempted
to flee to the west before German reunification. The defendants, including
former head of state Egon Krenz, were accused of being partly responsible for
giving border guards shoot-to-kill orders, which led to nearly 600 deaths
between 1961 and 1989. Earlier efforts to try former East German leader Erich
Honecker on similar charges had been suspended, and Honecker died in 1994.
A proposal to merge the city-state of Berlin
and the surrounding state of Brandenburg
was rejected in a 1996 referendum. Berlin
voters approved the plan, but it was voted down in Brandenburg,
a comparatively poor agricultural region of the former East Germany.
Merging the two areas, which together formed the core of historic Prussia, was supported by most of Germany's
political leaders but opposed by the former East German Communists.
In early 1996 Germany's
unemployment rate reached 11.1 percent, its highest level since World War II.
Among the reasons cited for the increase were an economic downturn, cold
weather that hampered the construction industry, and high wages. Facing a growing
budget deficit, Chancellor Kohl announced plans to cut Germany's
welfare system by billions of dollars. His proposal, which called for reducing
unemployment and sick-pay benefits, drew immediate protests from labor unions
and the opposition Social Democratic Party.