Germany or the Federal Republic of Germany (German: Deutschland or Bundesrepublik Deutschland Template:Audio) is one of the world's leading industrialised countries, located in the heart of Europe. It is bordered to the north by the North Sea, Denmark, and the Baltic Sea, to the east by Poland and the Czech Republic, to the south by Austria and Switzerland, and to the west by France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Germany is a democratic federal parliamentary nation, made up of 16 federal states (Länder or, more commonly, Bundesländer), which in certain spheres act independently of the Federation. Germany in more or less its present form was shaped in 1871, after the Franco-Prussian War, which united a scattering of independent states into an empire.
- Main article: History of Germany
The state now known as Germany was unified as a modern nation-state only in 1871, when the German Empire, dominated by the Kingdom of Prussia, was forged. This was the second German Reich, usually translated as "empire", but also meaning "realm."
The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation (843–1806)
The medieval empire - known for much of its existence as the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation but also as the "Holy Roman Empire" —stemmed from a division of the Carolingian Empire in 843, which was founded by Charlemagne on 25 December 800, and existed in varying forms until 1806, its territory stretching from the river Eider in the north to the Mediterranean coast in the south. During this period of almost a thousand years, the Germans expanded their influence successfully with the help of the Catholic Church, the Teutonic Order and the Hanseatic League to the East. In 1530, the attempt of the Protestant Reformation of Catholicism turned out to have failed, and a separate Protestant church was acknowledged as new state religion in many states of Germany. This led to inter-German strife, the Thirty Years War (1618) and finally the Peace of Westphalia (1648), that resulted in a drastically enfeebled and politically disunited Germany, unable to resist the stroke of the Napoleonic Wars, during which the Imperium was overrun and dissolved (1806). The lasting effect of the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire came to be the division between Austria, formerly the leading state of Germany, from the more western and northern parts.
Restoration and revolution (1814–1871)
Following Napoleon's fall, the Congress of Vienna convened in 1814 in order to restructure Europe. In Germany, the German Confederation was founded, a loose league of 39 sovereign states. Disagreement with the restoration politics partly led to the lifestyle called Biedermeier and to intellectual liberal movements, which demanded unity and freedom during the Vormärz epoch each followed by a measure of Metternich repressing the liberal agitation. The Zollverein, a tariff union, profoundly furthered economic unity in the German states.
The states also started to be shaped by the Industrial Revolution, which was the initial step of the growing industrialisation and contributed to a wave of poverty in Europe, causing social uprisings. In the light of a series of revolutionary movements in Europe, which in France successfully established a republic, intellectuals and common people started the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states. The monarchs initially yielded to the revolutionaries' liberal demands and an intellectual National Assembly was elected to draw up a constitution for the new Germany, completed in 1849. However, the Prussian king Frederick William IV, who was offered the title of Emperor but with a loss of power, rejected the crown and the constitution. This prompted violent rollbacks by the monarchs, and the demise of the national assembly along with most merits of the revolution.
In 1862, conflict between the Prussian King Wilhelm I and the increasingly liberal parliament erupted over military reforms. The king appointed Otto von Bismarck the new Prime Minister of Prussia, who used the desire for national unification to further the interests of the Prussian monarchy. He successfully waged war on Denmark, on Austria and, finally, on France.
German Empire (1871–1918)
- Main article: German Empire
After the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, the German Empire (Kaiserreich) was proclaimed in Versailles on 18 January 1871. Virtually a result of the wars, the Empire was a unification of the scattered parts of Germany but without Austria—Kleindeutschland. Later, colonies were established. After 1888, the Year of Three Emperors, Bismarck was forced to quit by the young new Emperor William II in 1890 due to political and personal differences. The Emperor's foreign policy was opposed to that of Bismarck, who had established a system of alliances in the era called Gründerzeit securing Germany's position as a great nation and avoiding war for decades. Under Wilhelm II Germany took an imperialistic course, not unlike other powers, but it led to friction with neighbouring countries. Most alliances in which Germany had been involved were not renewed and new alliances excluded the Reich. Austria and Germany became increasingly isolated.
Although not one of the main causes, the assassination of Austria's crown prince triggered World War I on 28 July 1914, which saw Germany as part of the unsuccessful Central Powers in the second-bloodiest conflict of all time against the Allied Powers. In November 1918, the German Revolution broke out, and Emperor William II and all German ruling princes abdicated. An armistice was signed on November 11 putting an end to the war. Germany was forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, whose unexpectedly high demands were perceived as humiliating in Germany and as a continuation of the war by other means.
Weimar Republic (1919–1933)
- Main article: Weimar Republic
After the German Revolution in November 1918, a Republic was proclaimed. That year, the German Communist Party was established, and in January 1919 the German Workers Party, later known as the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers Party, NSDAP, "Nazis"). On 11 August 1919, the Weimar Constitution came into effect. 1920s Berlin was a vibrant and exciting city that flourished during the Weimar Republic; many considered it to be the cultural capital of Europe during this time.
In a climate of economic hardship due to both the world wide Great Depression and the harsh peace conditions dictated by the Treaty of Versailles, and growing tired with a long succession of more or less instable governments and continuous coalition changes, the political masses in Germany increasingly lacked identification with their political system of parliamentary democracy. This was exacerbated by a wide-spread right-wing (monarchist, völkische, and nazi) Dolchstoßlegende, a political myth which claimed the German Revolution as the main reason why Germany had lost the war, decried the Revolutionists as traitors (Novemberverbrecher = November criminals) and the political system born of the Revolution as illegitimate. On the other hand, radical left-wing communists such as the Spartacist League had wanted to abolish what they perceived as a "capitalist rule" in favor of a "Räterepublik" and were thus also in opposition to the existing form of government.
During the years following the Revolution, German voters increasingly supported anti-democratic parties, both right- (monarchists, Nazis) and left-wing (communists). In the two extraordinary elections of 1932, the Nazis got 37.2% and 33.0%, the communists got 17% in the latter election - half of the parliament were actually anti-democrats, not including smaller parties with questionable credentials in this respect. As a result, democrats like the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) were a minority.
At the beginning of the 1930s, Germany was not far from a civil war. Paramilitary troops, which were set up by several parties, intimidated voters and seeded violence and anger among the public, who suffered from high unemployment and poverty.
A series of dramatic events marked the end of the Weimar Republic. On 30 January 1933, President von Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany. On 27 February, the Reichstag was set on fire. Basic rights were abrogated under an emergency decree. An Enabling Act gave Hitler's government full legislative power. A centralised totalitarian state was established, no longer based on the rule of democratic law.
Third Reich (1933–1945)
- Main article: Nazi Germany
The new regime made Germany a one-party state by outlawing all oppositional parties and repressing the different-minded parts of the public with the party's own organisations SA and SS, as well as the newly founded state security police Gestapo.
Industry was closely regulated with quotas and requirements in order to shift the economy towards a war production base. Massive public works projects and extensive deficit spending by the state helped to significantly lower the high unemployment rate. This and large welfare programmes are said to be the main factors that kept support of the public even late in the war.
In 1936, German troops entered the demilitarised Rhineland in an attempt to rebuild national self-esteem. Emboldened, Hitler followed from 1938 onwards a policy of expansionism to establish a "Greater Germany", starting with the forced unification with Austria and the annexation of the Sudetes region in Bohemia from Czechoslovakia. To avoid a two-front war, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was concluded with the Soviet Union. In 1939 Germany launched a Blitzkrieg against Poland, which, following British and French war declarations, ultimately led to World War II.
Germany quickly gained direct or indirect control of large parts of Europe. In 1941, Hitler broke the pact with the Soviet Union by opening the Eastern Front. Later the United States entered the war in support of the United Kingdom and France, and by 1943 the Soviet Union started to push Germany back, too. On 8 May 1945, Germany surrendered after the Red Army occupied Berlin, where Hitler had committed suicide a week earlier.
The most infamous atrocity that Nazi Germany had initiated was the persecution and genocide of millions of people in Germany and throughout occupied Europe, mostly because of religion, race or nationality (Jews, Roma), but also because of a number of other reasons such as political orientation or health.
An important, widely visible part in this are the Nürnberger Rassengesetze of 1935 (Nuremberg race laws), which officially deprived Jews of their German citizenship and thus of most rights. The open persecution culminated in the so called Reichskristallnacht on 9 November 1938. However, in order to create a master race, the Nazis also undertook various programs targeting other "unfit" members of the population, said to have hereditary defects, which could be anything from mental illness over homosexuality to alcoholism. About half a million individuals fell victim to this.
Persecution began as soon as the NSDAP came into power in 1933. Between 1939 and 1945, about twelve million people were murdered in a system of concentration camps, ghettos and other facilities. The genocide of the largest group, about 6 million Jewish people, is known as The Holocaust.
Division and reunification (1945–1990)
- Main article: History of Germany since 1945
The war resulted in the death of several million Germans, large territorial losses and the expulsion of Germans from Eastern Germany and other parts of Eastern Europe. All major and many smaller German cities lay in ruins. Germany and Berlin were occupied and partitioned by the Allies into four military occupation zones – French in the south-west, British in the north-west, American in the south, and Soviet in the east.
On 23 May 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) was established on the territory of the Western occupied zones, with Bonn as its provisional capital, and declared "fully sovereign" May 5, 1955. On 7 October 1949 the Soviet Zone was established as the German Democratic Republic (GDR, Deutsche Demokratische Republik), with East Berlin as its capital. In English the two states were known informally as "West Germany" and "East Germany" respectively. The former German capital, Berlin, was a special case, being divided into East Berlin and West Berlin, with West Berlin completely surrounded by East German territory.
West Germany was allied with the United States, the UK and France. Established as a liberal parliamentary republic with a "social market economy," the country enjoyed prolonged economic growth following the currency reform of June 1948 and U.S. assistance through the Marshall Plan aid (1948-1951).
East Germany was at first occupied by and later (May 1955) allied with the USSR. An authoritarian country with a Soviet-style command economy, East Germany soon became the richest, most advanced country in the Eastern bloc, but many of its citizens looked to the West for political freedoms and economic prosperity. The flight of growing numbers of East Germans to non-communist countries via West Berlin led on 13 August, 1961, to East Germany erecting the Berlin Wall and a fortified border to West Germany.
Relations between East Germany and West Germany remained icy until the Western Chancellor Willy Brandt launched a highly controversial rapprochement with the East European communist states (Ostpolitik) in the 1970s, culminanting in the Warschauer Kniefall on 7 December 1970.
During the summer of 1989, rapid changes took place in East Germany, which ultimately led to German reunification. Growing numbers of East Germans emigrated to West Germany via Hungary after Hungary's reformist government opened its borders. Thousands of East Germans also tried to reach the West by staging sit-ins at West German diplomatic facilities in other East European capitals, especially in Warsaw and Prague. The exodus generated demands within East Germany for political change, and mass demonstrations with eventually hundreds of thousands of people in several cities – particularly in Leipzig – continued to grow.
Faced with civil unrest, GDR leader Erich Honecker was forced to resign in October, and on 9 November, East German authorities unexpectedly allowed East German citizens to enter West Berlin and West Germany. Hundreds of thousands of people took advantage of the opportunity; new crossing points were opened in the Berlin Wall and along the border with West Germany. This led to the acceleration of the process of reforms in East Germany that ended with the German reunification that came into force on 3 October 1990.
- Main article: Politics of Germany
- Main article: Judiciary of Germany
Germany has a civil or statute law system based ultimately on Roman law. Legislative power is divided between the Federation and the individual federated states. While criminal law and private law have seen codifications on the national level (in the Strafgesetzbuch and the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch respectively), no such unifying codification exists in administrative law where a lot of the fundamental matters remain in the jurisdiction of the individual federated states. There are a series of specialist supreme courts; for civil and criminal cases the highest court of appeal is the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice), located in Karlsruhe. The courtroom style is inquisitorial.
The Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht), also located in Karlsruhe, is the German Supreme Court responsible for constitutional matters, with power of judicial review. It acts as the highest legal authority and ensures that legislative and judicial practice conforms with the Basic Law. It acts independently of the other state bodies but cannot act on its own behalf.
- Main article: Foreign relations of Germany
Germany plays a leading role in the European Union, having a strong alliance with France. Germany is at the forefront of European states seeking to advance the creation of a more unified and capable European political, defence and security apparatus.
Since its establishment on 23 May, 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany kept a notably low profile in international relations. In 1999, however, on the occasion of the NATO war against Yugoslavia, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's government broke convention by sending German troops into combat for the first time since World War II.
In 2003, Germany and France were leaders in the coalition of nations opposing the US-led war in Iraq. Nevertheless, the German government has offered help to the reconstruction efforts in Iraq, but only outside of the war-torn country, mainly by training Iraqi military and police personnel.
Despite the recent disagreement between Germany and the U.S. concerning the Bush Administartion's foreign policy, Germany and United States have been close allies ever since the end of the Second World War. The Marshall plan and continued U.S. support during rebuilding process after World War II as well as the significant influence American culture has had in German culture have crafted a strong bond between Germany and the U.S. that last until this day. Not only do the United States and Germany share many cultural similarities but also deeply economicaly interdependent. 8.8% of all German export are U.S. bound, and U.S. German trade according to the U.S. Census Bureau totaled $108.2 for 2004. An illustration of the strong economic realtions between may be the fact that 18.3% off all cars sold in the U.S. were manufactrued by German car manufacturers.
Germany's military, the Bundeswehr, is a defence force with Heer (Army), Deutsche Marine (Navy), Luftwaffe (Air Force), Zentraler Sanitätsdienst (Central Medical Services) and Streitkräftebasis (Joint Service Support Command) branches. It employs some 250,000 personnel, 50,000 of whom are 18-23-year-old men on national duty for currently at least 9 months. In peacetime, the Bundeswehr is commanded by the Minister of Defence, currently Peter Struck (since 2002). If Germany is at war, the Chancellor becomes commander in chief of the German 'Bundeswehr'.
The military budget has not kept up with the Bundeswehr's mission, which has changed dramatically from protecting Germany's borders against a Soviet invasion into a mobile unit deployed around the world. The funding levels for the Bundeswehr have actually been falling since 1990, when military spending amounted to about 3.5 per cent of gross domestic product. Today, defence spending equals about 1.2 per cent of German GDP, compared to the NATO average of 2.3 per cent and the United States' more than 4 per cent. Critics argue that the current budget of €24.4 billion is too small to finance the necessary transformation of the Bundeswehr into a well-equipped force ready for NATO and UN led missions abroad. Opponents argue that the transformation from a manpower based army securing the Eastern border to a modernized force with less soldiers kept in pay is duly reflected in a lower budget.
Currently, the German military has about 1,180 troops stationed in Bosnia-Herzegovina; 2,650 Bundeswehr soldiers are serving in Kosovo; 3,900 Bundeswehr troops are assisting the US anti-terrorism operation called Enduring Freedom off the Horn of Africa. In Afghanistan, 4,500 German troops currently make up the largest contingent of the NATO-led ISAF force.
In 2000, the German SPD-led government along with Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (Alliance '90/The Greens), officially announced its intention to phase out the use of nuclear energy. Jürgen Trittin (from the German Greens) as the Minister of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, reached an agreement with energy companies on the gradual shut down of the country's nineteen nuclear power plants and a cessation of civil usage of nuclear power by 2020. As of 2005, the CDU has narrowly won the German federal election, 2005 with candidate Angela Merkel and it has been speculated she will cancel the phase-out (compare ).
In 1999, electricity production in Germany was made up by coal (47%), nuclear power (30%), natural gas (14%), renewable sources (including hydro) (6%), and oil (2%) (). As for energy consumption, oil accounted for 41% of the total. The German government declaring climate protection as a key policy issue, announced a carbon dioxide reduction target by the year 2005 compared to 1990 by 25% (, pdf).
In 2005, the German government reached an agreement with Russia in building a gas transport in the Baltic sea from Russia to Germany.
- Main article: Geography of Germany
- Main article: States of Germany
Germany is divided into sixteen federal states (in German called Länder, singular Land; though more commonly Bundesländer, singular Bundesland). It is further subdivided into 439 districts (Kreise) and cities (kreisfreie Städte) (2004).
|In English||In German|
|2||(Free State of) Bavaria||Munich||(Freistaat) Bayern||München|
|5||Bremen||Bremen||(Freie Hansestadt) Bremen||Bremen|
|6||Hamburg||Hamburg||(Freie und Hansestadt) Hamburg||Hamburg|
|13||(Free State of) Saxony||Dresden||(Freistaat) Sachsen||Dresden|
|16||(Free State of) Thuringia||Erfurt||(Freistaat) Thüringen||Erfurt|
Since reunification Germany has resumed its role as a major centre between Scandinavia in the north and the Mediterranean region in the south, as well as between the Atlantic west and the countries of central and eastern Europe.
The territory of Germany stretches from the high mountains of the Alps (highest point: the Zugspitze at 2,962 m) in the south to the shores of the North Sea in the north-west and the Baltic Sea in the north-east. In between are found the forested uplands of central Germany and the low-lying lands of northern Germany (lowest point: Neuendorfer/Wilstermarsch at 3.54 metres below sea level), traversed by some of Europe's major rivers such as the Rhine, Danube and Elbe.
Due to its central location Germany has more neighbours than any other European country; these are Denmark in the north, Poland and the Czech Republic in the east, Austria and Switzerland in the south, France and Luxembourg in the south-west and Belgium and the Netherlands in the north-west.
The greater part of Germany lies in the cool/temperate climatic zone in which humid westernly winds predominate.
In the north-west and the north the climate is oceanic and rain falls all the year round. Winters there are relatively mild and summers tend be comparatively cool, even though temparatures can reach above twenty-eight degrees Celcius for prolonged periods of time. (Average temperatures: Hamburg: January 0.3°C / July 17.1°C; Essen: January 1.5°C / July 17.5°C)
In the east the climate shows clear continental features; winters can be very cold for long periods, and summers can become very warm. Here, too, long dry periods are often recorded. (Average temperatures: Berlin: January -0.9°C / July 18.6°C)
In the central part and the south there is a transitional climate which varies from moderately oceanic to continental, depending on the location. (Average temperatures: Munich: January -2.2°C / July 17.6°C; Freiburg: January 1.2°C / July 19.4°C)
- Main article: Economy of Germany
Germany is the world's third largest economy measured by gross domestic product, placed behind the United States and Japan. According to the World Trade Organization, Germany is also the world's top exporter, ahead of the United States and China. Its major trading partners include France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy and the Netherlands. Germany is the largest trading partner of most European countries. A major issue of concern remains the persistently high unemployment rate and weak domestic demand which slows down economic growth. However, according to Bert Rürup, head of Germany's Council of Economic Advisers, reunification is to blame for two-thirds of Germany's growth lag compared to its EU neighbours. In particular, eastern Germany lacks a solid base of small and medium-sized companies, which provided the foundation for West Germany's economic prosperity. Other major problems in the current politcal debate are high non-wage labor costs, the complex tax system (Taxation in Germany), bureaucratic regulations and labor market regulations like dismissal protection.
As mentioned above the exporting of goods is an essential part of the German economy and one of the most relevant reasons for Germany's wealth. As many other export oriented countries, Germany itself does not have the climate or the natural resources necessary to support a high living standard. These shortages have long made international trade completely indispensible to the German economy. Considering these economical forces it should not come as a suprise that Germany is the world's largest exporting country, with exports for 2004 totaling $893,3 billion.
Germany's main exoprts:
- Metals and Manufactures
- Consumer electronics
As a nation that relies heavily on international trade, Germany also imports a wide variety of goods. Germany is the world's second largest importer of goods with a total of $716.7 billion in imports. It is, however, important to remember that it is vital to the German economy to have a trade surplus. For 2004 the German trade surplus totaled $176.6 billion.
Germany's main imports are:
For many years now agriculture in Germany has been in a state of decline. Poor earnings and lack of profitability are counted as the main reasons for the failure of many medium and small farms. The main crops grown are potatoes, wheat, barley, sugar beet and cabbage. Germany ranks among the world's largest producers of milk, milk byproducts and meat. Agricultural support is managed under the EU Common Agricultural Policy.
As in most other large economic nations, Germany's industrial sector has declined in favour of the service sector. Germany is among the world's largest and most technologically advanced producers of iron, steel, cement, chemicals, machinery, motor vehicles, machine tools and electronics, as well as a world leader in the shipbuilding industry. Major car manufacturers like BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Porsche, Opel and Volkswagen, and it is also home to huge multinational corporations like Siemens AG, which consistently rank among the world's largest firms.
The service sector has grown steadily in recent years and now contributes the largest share of GDP. This sector includes tourism. As of 2004, the largest numbers of foreign visitors to Germany came from the Netherlands, followed by the United States and the United Kingdom (). Germany also has a large (and possibly underrated) presence in the banking world, lead by Deutsche Bank and Allianz.
Germany is lacking in natural raw materials, if one disregards the hard coal deposits in the Ruhr area, in the Aachen district and in the Saarland, where mining is profitable only thanks to state subsidies. Brown coal from mines in the Leipziger Bucht and the Niederlausitz is still the major energy source in the eastern Bundesländer, while mineral oil enjoys this position in the western "Länder". The current red-Green coalition government is pursuing a long-term strategy of phasing out nuclear power in favour of renewable sources of energy.
- Main article: Demographics of Germany
Due to the country's decentralized structure Germany has many large cities. Thus, the population is much less oriented towards a single large city than in most other european countries.
As of 2004, about 7.5 million non-citizen residents were living in Germany. By far the largest number came from Turkey, followed by Italy, Greece, Croatia, the Netherlands, Albania,Kosovo,Serbia and Montenegro, Spain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria, Portugal, Vietnam, Morocco, Poland, Macedonia, Lebanon and France.  Thanks to German citizenship reform, many of these immigrants are eligible for naturalisation (). 9% of the population is not ethnically German.
Germany is still a primary destination for political and economic refugees from many less industrialized countries, especially Turkey and southern/southeastern Europe, but the number of annual asylum seekers has been declining in recent years, reaching about 50,000+ in 2003.
An ethnic Danish minority of about 50,000 people lives in Schleswig, mostly close to the Danish border, in the north; a small number of Slavic people known as the Sorbs lives in the states of Saxony (about 40,000) and Brandenburg (about 20,000). The Frisian language is mother tongue to about 12,000 speakers in Germany. In rural areas of Northern Germany, Low Saxon is widely spoken.
There are also a large number of ethnic German immigrants from the former Soviet Union area (1.7 million), Poland (0.7 million) and Romania (0.3 million) (1980–1999 totals), who are automatically granted German citizenship, and thus do not show up in foreign resident statistics; unlike non-ethnic German immigrants, they have been settled by the government almost evenly spread throughout Germany.
- Main article: Religion in Germany
Germany is the home of the Reformation launched by Martin Luther in the early 16th century. Today, Protestants (particularly in the north and east) comprise about 33% of the population and Catholics (particularly in the south and west) also 33%. In total more than 55 million people officially belong to a Christian denomination. The third largest religious identity in Germany is that of non-religious people (including atheists and agnostics), who amount to a total of 28.5 % of the population (23.5 millions).
Most German Protestants are members of the Evangelical Church in Germany. Free churches (as Baptists, Methodists and other independent Protestants are usually called in Germany) exist in all larger towns and many smaller ones, but most such churches are small. The current pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, is German.
Besides this there are several hundred thousand Orthodox Christians (mostly Greeks and Serbs), 400,000 New Apostolic Christians, more than 150,000 Jehovah's Witnesses, and numerous other small groups. The highest numbers of members of these denominations in Germany has the Greek Orthodox Church, the Serb Orthodox Church coming fourth.
Approximately 3.7 million Muslims (mostly from Turkey, including Turkish and Kurdish people) live in Germany.
Today's Germany has Western Europe's third-largest Jewish population. In 2004, twice as many Jews from former Soviet republics settled in Germany as in Israel, bringing the total influx to more than 200,000 since 1991. About half joined a settled Jewish community, of which there are now more than 100, with a total of 100,000 members—up from 30,000 before reunification. Some German cities have seen a revival of Jewish culture, particularly in Berlin, where there are also 3,000 Israelis. Jews have a voice in German public life through the Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland. See also History of the Jews in Germany.
In the territory of the former East Germany, there is much less religious feeling than in the West. Only 5% attend a mass at least once per week, compared with 14% in the West according to a recent study. About 30% of the total population are officially religiously unaffiliated. In the East this number is considerably higher.
Church and state are separate, but there is cooperation in many fields, most importantly in the social sector. Churches and religious communities, if they are large, stable and loyal to the constitution, can get special status from the state as a corporate body under public law which allows the churches to levy taxes called Kirchensteuer (church tax) on their members on the basis of laws of the Länder, and to apply laws of public service to their ministers. In most cases, the revenue is collected by the state in return for a collection fee, while some smaller-sized religious bodies chose to administer the collection of the taxes themselves (such as the Jewish Community of Berlin). See Status of religious freedom in Germany and Separation of church and state in Germany.
- Main article: Education in Germany
Germany has one of the world's highest levels of education and many famous universities. The most important foreign languages taught at school are English, Latin and French. Russian, Ancient Greek, and Spanish are not taught everywhere. Since the end of World War II, the number of youths entering universities has more than tripled, but university attendance still lags behind many other European nations. In the annual league of top-ranking universities compiled by Shanghai Jiaotong University in 2004, Germany came 4th overall, but with only 7 universities in the top 100 (to compare, the United States had 51). The highest ranking university, at #45, was the TU Munich.
For Germany, the results of the PISA student assessments were a nationwide shock. The comparatively low scores brought on heated debate about how the school system should be changed. Furthermore it was revealed that more than in other countries students with higher-earning parents are better-educated and tend to achieve higher results. There is also some diversity between the schools of the various states that determine their respective school system independently.
In addition to academic education, Germany also has a elaborate system of vocational education, called the dual system, which combines apprenticeship in enterprises with theoretical teaching in vocational schools.
Germany prohibits home-schooling; however, this is still practised by a number of people. There has been some publicity to government prosecution of this practice.
- Main article: Social issues in Germany
The German social market economy (German: soziale Marktwirtschaft) helped bring about the "economic miracle" (the german "Wirtschaftswunder") that rebuilt Germany from ashes after World War II to one of the most impressive economies in Europe.
Germany continues to struggle with a number of social issues although problems created by the German Reunification of 1990 have begun to decline. The standard of living is higher in the western half of the country, but easterners now share a reasonably high standard of living. Germans continue to be concerned about a relatively high level of unemployment. They are generally not willing to concede to labour concessions such as longer working hours. Despite this sentiment Germany has passed several reforms to curb unemployment. Some of these reforms will require people in the labour force to worker harder and more effciently.
For centuries, a woman's role in German society was summed up by the three words: Kinder (children), Kirche (church), and Küche (kitchen). Throughout the twentieth century, however, women have gradually won victories in their quest for equal rights. Despite significant gains, discrimination remains in united Germany. Women are noticeably absent in the top tiers of German business. They only hold 9.2 percent of jobs in Germany's upper and middle management positions, according to 2002 figures from the Hoppenstedt business databank.
Since World War II, Germany has experienced intermittent turmoil from various extremist groups. In the 1970s the terrorist Red Army Faction engaged in a string of assassinations and kidnappings against political and business figures and there has been a recent surge in right-wing extremist crimes. According to Interior Minister Otto Schily, the number of these crimes rose 8.4% to 12,553 cases in 2004, which the minister attributed to such crimes as the display of illegal Nazi symbols being reported more frequently. The majority of these cases are not violent crimes, although these do exist as well.
Germany has failed to implement EU laws prohibiting racial discrimination. The European Court of Justice ruled on the 29th of April, 2005, that Germany had breached EU law by failing to transpose fully the 'Racial Equality Directive' prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of race or ethnic origin (Directive 2000/43/EC). The deadline for EU Member States to transpose this Directive was 19 July 2003 – except for the 10 new Member States, who had to ensure that their legislation complied with the Directives by their accession to the EU on 1 May 2004. Immigrants to Germany may generally face integration issues and other difficulties. In addition to the challenges of adapting to a new language and culture, they may be subject to security-related police inquiries and violence from right-wing extremist groups. The government has attempted to improve immigrant integration by mandating courses on language, culture, politics, and society for some immigrants.
Some German states have banned Muslim teachers from wearing headscarves in class and all states have banned crosses from the classroom as well, generally by prohibiting the use of all religious symbols by teachers. This is legitimate by combining the German states' privilege of educational laws with the principle of separation of church and state, both provided for in the German federal constitution: According to this legal view, teachers in their vocational function within a state administered educational system are obliged to maintain and publicly exhibit religious neutrality when on duty. As this status of employment does not hold for pupils, whose constitutional right to religious freedom thus remains unencumbered by these provisions, this ban cannot legally be extended to them as it is in France. The question of headscarves and crosses in schools has been heavily discussed politically throughout Germany in recent years, but could only be solved by a decision of the Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court) in 2003.
- Main article: Culture of Germany
Germany's contributions to the world's cultural heritage are numerous, and the country is often known as das Land der Dichter und Denker (the land of poets and thinkers). German literature can be traced back to the Middle Ages, in particular to such authors as Walther von der Vogelweide and Wolfram von Eschenbach, considered some of the most important poets of medieval Europe. The Nibelungenlied, whose author is not known, is also a major contribution to German literature. Theologian Luther, who translated the Bible into German, is widely credited for having set the basis for modern "High German" language. The mostly admired German poets and authors are without doubt Goethe and Schiller. Other poets include Heine, and authors of the 20th century includes Nobel prize winners Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, Heinrich Böll, and Günter Grass. Other authors include Brecht and Enzensberger. Germany's influence on world philosophy was major as well, as exemplified by Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Engels, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Heidegger.
In Art, there are several fine German painters such as the Renaissance artist Dürer, the romanticist Friedrich, the surrealist Ernst, the expressionist Marc, the conceptual artist Beuys or the neo expressionist Baselitz. Architecture also flourished in Germany. Several UNESCO World Heritage Sites are scattered throughout Germany (including, for instance, the cathedral of Cologne and the Museum Island in Berlin). Famous architects include neoclassicist Schinkel and Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus. A significant part of the architectural heritage of Germany, however, has been irrevocably destroyed by air raids on city centers during World War II.
Germany was also the homeland of scientists like Helmholtz, Fraunhofer, Fahrenheit, Kepler, Haeckel, Humboldt, Einstein, Born, Planck, Heisenberg, Creuzfeldt, Hertz, Koch, Hahn, Leibniz, Liebig, Mayr and Bunsen; and inventors and engineers such as Gutenberg, Otto, Bosch, Siemens, von Braun, Daimler, Benz and Diesel.
The German language was once the lingua franca of central, eastern and northern Europe. Within the European Union, German is the language with most native speakers before English, French, Spanish and Italian. As a foreign language, German is the third most taught worldwide. It is also the second most used language on the Internet. The language has its origin in Old High German. There are numerous dialects of German, many of which are not intellegible to speakers of standard German. Some consider Low German to be a different language from German; Low German has been given the status of a minority language by the European Union, although it is less used today in the traditionally Low German-speaking areas of northern Germany.
Since about 1970 Germany has once again had a thriving popular culture, now increasingly being led by its new old capital Berlin, and a self-confident music and art culture. Germany is also well known for its many opera houses, the most famous of which being located in Bayreuth.
- Communications in Germany
- Historical Eastern Germany
- List of English exonyms for German toponyms
- List of famous Germans
- List of German districts
- List of German towns
- List of Germans - German people
- List of political parties in Germany
- List of universities in Germany
- Tourism in Germany
- Taxation in Germany
- Transportation in Germany
- German federal election, 2005
- Nuclear power phase-out
- References and bibliography can be found in the more detailed articles linked to in this article.
- Deutschland.de — Official German portal
- Bundespräsident — Official site of the German Federal President
- Bundesregierung Deutschland — Official site of the German Federal Government
- Bundestag — German Parliament
- campus-germany.de — Study and Research in Germany (multilingual)
- Handbuch für Deutschland — An official manual for immigrants (in English)
- Destatis.de — Federal Statistical Office Germany (in English)
- Deutsche Welle Germany's international broadcaster, 30 language website
- Zuwanderung.de — Official website on immigration to Germany
- Facts about Germany — Official site published by the German Federal Foreign Office
- Germany Info — Official site of the German Embassy, the German Information Centre, and the Consulates General in the United States
- Statistikportal.de — More official statistical data
- Routenplaner24 — Street Maps & Map of Germany (German)
- Germany taxes, business and economy
- Parks in Germany — National parks, nature parks, reserves and other protected areas.
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