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Istoria Germanei – razboaiele si cuceririle Germaniei (in egleza)


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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 and Prussia

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.

Foreign Wars

Scarcely had they recovered from the Thirty Years' War when the princes and the emperor plunged into a variety of new dynastic struggles.

French Wars

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 Brandenburg 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.

Northern Wars

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.

Turkish Wars

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 was imposed.

Austro-Prussian Rivalry

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 Poland, 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 leadership, Frederick 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.

Eastward Expansion

Prussia was anxious to annex Polish territory separating Brandenburg and Prussia. 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 universities.

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 America.

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 national identity.

Napoleonic Wars

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 and Berlin. 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 in 1814.

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 and Saar.

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 authoritarian constitution.

Meanwhile, the Frankfurt Assembly wrote a liberal constitution for a united Germany 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 might.

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.


Bismarck 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 protect Germany 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 government.

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.

Bismarck 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 Hauptmann.

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 studies.

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 works.

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 international alliances.

Bismarck's 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 Russia. 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, plunging Germany 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 a republic.

Versailles Treaty

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 East Prussia. 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.

The Versailles 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.

The Weimar Republic

In Weimar 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 Luxemburg.

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 targets.

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, Holland, Norway, 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 assisted Germany, 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, Bedzin, Bialystok, 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 II.

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 Munich Pact).

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 Poland. 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 and Japan. In 1941, to aid faltering Italian forces, he sent troops to North Africa, Greece, and Yugoslavia. 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 invaded Normandy in 1944 and swept inexorably east while the Soviets marched west. Hitler committed suicide just before Soviet tanks rolled into Berlin in April 1945.


Germany's 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 diverged, Germany 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 USSR. 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, West.

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 police officer.


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 the Solingen 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 Holocaust.

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 the constitution.

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.

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