Learn more about Germans
- This article is about the Germans as an ethnic group (see also Ethnic German). For information on citizens or nationals of Germany, see demographics of Germany; for information on speakers of the language, see German language.
|Total population||between 80 and 160 million<ref>80 million is the minimal estimate, counting 75 million inhabitants of Germany, plus some 5-10 million primary ancestry, German-speaking ethnic Germans worldwide. 160 is the maximal estimate, counting all people claiming ethnic German ancestry in the USA, Brazil and elsewhere.</ref>|
|Regions with significant populations|| Germany:|
75 million <ref>German citizens, 7 million of which are naturalized. Refer to Demographics of Germany for details of the ethnic composition of the population of Germany.</ref>
|Religion||Catholicism, Lutheranism, Atheism, Agnosticism, others.|
Germans (German: die Deutschen) are defined as an ethnic group, in the sense of sharing a common German culture, speaking the German language as a mother tongue and being of German descent. Germans are also defined by their national citizenship, which had, in the course of German history, varying relations to the above (German culture), according to the influence of subcultures and society in general (also refer to Imperial Germans, Federal Germans etc. and Demographics of Germany). The Germans are most commonly defined as a Germanic people assimilated with smaller Celtic, Roman and Slavic elements.
While there are approximately 100 million native German speakers in the world, about 75 million consider themselves Germans. There are an additional 70 million people of German ancestry (mainly in the USA, Brazil, Kazakhstan and Canada) who are not native speakers of German and who may still consider themselves ethnic Germans, so that the total number of Germans worldwide lies between 75 and 160 million, according to the criteria applied (native speakers, single-ancestry ethnic Germans or partial German ancestry).
 History of the term
The English term as used today translates German Deutsch. It is derived from Latin Germanus and has used since the 16th century synonymously with "Teuton", after teutonicus used in Latin since the 9th century to refer to the German language, from the name of the Teutones. Before the 16th century, the terms used in English were Almain, from the name of the Alemanni, or Dutch, an imitation of both Dutch "diets" (meaning "Dutch") and the German cognate "deutsch" (meaning: "German"). The diffuse nature of the term mirrors the heterogeneous nature of the Holy Roman Empire, from the 16th century also known as "Holy Roman Empire of the German nation". The linguistic affiliation of the English language itself was hotly debated at the time, and English academia was split into "Germanophiles" who preferred to include English as one of the "Germanic" or "Teutonic" languages, and "Scandophiles" who preferred to classify English as "Scandinavian" (now known as North Germanic)<ref>English is today classified as West Germanic, although as within a separate North Sea Germanic subgroup.</ref>.
With the rise of the German Empire as a threat to British interests in Hamburg, the "Germanophile" position came out of fashion and British romanticism turned to Scandinavia (see Viking revival). "German" from this period refers to the German Empire, already to the exclusion of Austria, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Usage of Dutch was narrowed to refer to the Netherlands exclusively during the early 16th century.
 Ethnic Germans
The term Ethnic Germans may be used in several ways. It may serve to distinguish Germans from those who may have citizenship in the German state but are not Germans; or it may indicate Germans living as minorities in other nations. In English usage, but less often in German, Ethnic Germans may be used for assimilated descendents of German emigrants.
Ethnic Germans form an important minority group in several countries in central and eastern Europe (Poland, Hungary, Romania, Russia) as well as in Namibia, southern Brazil (German-Brazilian), Argentina, Chile and Paraguay.
Some groups may be noted as Ethnic Germans despite no longer having German as their mother tongue or belonging to a distinct German culture. Until the 1990s, two million Ethnic Germans lived throughout the former Soviet Union, especially in Russia and Kazakhstan.
In the United States 1990 census, 57 million people are fully or partly of German ancestry, forming the largest single ethnic group in the country. Most Americans of German descent live in the Mid-Atlantic states (especially Pennsylvania) and the northern Midwest (especially in Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota, and eastern Missouri), but historically Germanic immigrant enclaves can be found in many other states (e.g., the Texas German Hill Country).
The Germans are a Germanic people. Ethnographers hypothesize that all Germanic speakers expanded from Jutland and the southwest shores of the Baltic Sea before the Migrations Period. Prior to that time, their ancestors may have migrated slowly from the Black Sea region and arrived in southern Scandinavia. Assimilation with other peoples is postulated, both with the (Fenno-Ugric) prior inhabitants of Scandinavia and with peoples encountered on their way from Asia. Celtic peoples were then either assimilated, exterminated, or driven out during the expansion southwards from the Baltic. Later in history, Germans — as most other European people — mixed with bordering ethnic groups such as Romans and Slavs.
After the Migrations Period, Slavs expanded westwards at the same time as Germans expanded eastwards. The result was German colonization as far East as Romania, and Slavic colonization as far west as present-day Lübeck (at the Baltic Sea), Hamburg (connected to the North Sea), and along the river Elbe and its tributary Saale further South. After Christianization, the superior organization of the Roman Catholic Church lent the upper hand for a German expansion at the expense of the Slavs, giving the medieval Drang nach Osten as a result. At the same time, naval innovations led to a German domination of trade in the Baltic Sea and Central–Eastern Europe through the Hanseatic League. Along the trade routes, Hanseatic trade stations became centers of Germanness where German urban law (Stadtrecht) was promoted by the presence of large, relatively wealthy German populations and their influence on the worldly powers.
This means that people whom we today often consider "Germans", with a common culture and worldview very different from that of the surrounding rural peoples, colonized as far north of present-day Germany as Bergen (in Norway), Stockholm (in Sweden), and Vyborg (now in Russia). At the same time, it's important to note that the Hanseatic League was not exclusively German in any ethnic sense. Many towns who joined the league were outside of the Holy Roman Empire, which wasn't by far entirely German itself, and some of them ought not at all be characterized as German.
Also the "German" Holy Roman Empire was not in any way exclusively German, and its course became much different from that of France or Great Britain. The Thirty Years' War confirmed its dissolution; the Napoleonic Wars gave it its coup de grâce.
 Ethnic nationalism
The reaction evoked in the decades after the Napoleonic Wars was a strong ethnic nationalism that emphasized, and sometimes overemphasized, the cultural bond between Germans. Later alloyed with the high standing and world-wide influence of German science at the end of the 19th century, and to some degree enhanced by Bismarck's military successes and the following 40 years of almost perpetual economic boom (the Gründerzeit), it gave the Germans an impression of cultural supremacy, particularly compared to the Slavs. However, also Germans had to endure their share of prejudice, this was particularly evident in the post-war expulsion of not only Nazi but also non-Nazi Germans from their homes in Eastern Europe.
 The Divided Germany
The idea that Germany is a divided nation is not new and not peculiar. Foreign powers had long interceded in German affairs, pitting one German principality against the other. Since the Peace of Westphalia, Germany has been "one nation split in many countries". The Austrian–Prussian split, confirmed when Austria remained outside of the 1871 created Imperial Germany, was only the most prominent example. The initial unification of Germany came as a great shock to these foreign powers, who had been trying to undo Germany as a national entity for many years. Most recently, the division between East Germany and West Germany kept the idea alive.
The beginnings of the divided Germany may be traced back much further; to a Roman occupied Germania in the west and to Free Germania in the east. Starkly different ideologies have many times been developed due to conquerors and occupiers of sections of Germany. Poets talked of Zwei Seelen in einem Herz (Two souls in one heart).
In the 19th century, after the Napoleonic Wars and the fall of the Holy Roman Empire (of the German nation), Austria and Prussia would emerge as two opposite poles in Germany, trying to re-establish the divided German nation. In 1870, Prussia attracted even Bavaria in the Franco-Prussian War and the creation of the German Empire as a German nation-state, effectively excluding the multi-ethnic Austrian Habsburg monarchy. From this time on, the connotation of Germans came to shift gradually from "speakers of the German language" to "Imperial Germans."
The dissolution of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire after World War I led to a strong desire of the population of the new Republic of Austria to be integrated into Germany. This was, however, prevented by the Treaty of Versailles.
Trying to overcome the shortfall of Chancellor Bismarck's creation, the Nazis attempted to unite "all Germans" in one realm. This was welcomed among ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia, Austria, Poland, Danzig and Western Lithuania, but met resistance among the Swiss and the Dutch, who mostly were perfectly content with their perception of separate nations established in 1648. The Dutch, in particular, had never spoken a form of the German language.
Before World War II, most Austrians considered themselves German and denied the existence of a distinct Austrian ethnic identity. It was only after the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II that this began to change. After the War, the Austrians increasingly saw themselves as a nation distinct from the other German-speaking areas of Europe; today, some polls have indicated that no more than 10% of the German-speaking Austrians see themselves as part of a larger German nation linked by blood or language.
The Protestant Reformation started in the German cultural sphere, when in 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses to the door of the Schlosskirche ("castle church") in Wittenberg. Today, the German identity includes both Protestants and Catholics. The groups are about equally represented in Germany, contrary to the belief that it is mostly Protestant. Among Protestant denominations, the Lutherans are well represented by the Germans, while Calvinists are historically only to be found near the Dutch border and in a few cities like Worms and Spiers. The late 19th century saw a strong movement among the Jewry in Germany and Austria to assimilate and define themselves as à priori Germans, i.e. as Germans of Jewish faith (a similar movement occurred in Hungary). In conservative circles, this was not always embraced, and, for the Nazis, it was unacceptable. The Nazi rule led to the annihilation and expulsion of almost all domestic Jews. Today Germany attempts to successfully integrate the Gastarbeiter and later arrived refugees from ex-Yugoslavia, who often are Muslims.
In recent years, the German-speaking countries of Europe have been confronted with demographic changes due to decades of immigration. These changes have led to renewed debates (especially in the Federal Republic of Germany) about who should be considered German. Non-ethnic Germans now make up more than 8% of the German population, mostly the descendants of guest workers who arrived in the 1960s and 1970s. Turks, Italians, Greeks, and people from the Balkans in southeast Europe form the largest single groups of non-ethnic Germans in the country.
In addition, a significant number of German citizens (close to 5%), although traditionally considered ethnic Germans, are in fact foreign-born and thus often retain the cultural identities and languages or their native countries in addition to being Germans, a fact that sets them apart from those born and raised in Germany. Of course, the idea of foreign-born repatriates is not unique to Germany. The English and British equivalent legal term is lex sanguinis, which is exactly the same principle- that citizenship is inherited by the child from his/her parents. It has nothing to do with ethnicity.
Ethnic German repatriates from the former Soviet Union are a separate case and constitute by far the largest such group and the second largest ethno-national minority group in Germany. The repatriation provisions made for ethnic Germans in Eastern Europe are unique and have historical basis, since these were areas where Germans traditionally lived. A controversial example of repatriation involves the Volga Germans, descendents of ethnic Germans who settled in Russia during the 18th century, who have been able to claim German citizenship even though neither they nor their ancestors for several generations have ever been to Germany. In contrast, ethnic Germans from North America, South America, Africa, etc. must actually prove their eligibility for German citizenship according to the clauses pertaining to the German nationality law. Other countries with post-Soviet Union repatriation programs include Greece, Israel and South Korea.
Unlike these ethnic German repatriates, some non-German ethnic minorities in the country, including some who were born and raised in the Federal Republic, choose to remain non-citizens. Although citizenship laws have been recently relaxed to allow such individuals to become nationalized citizens, many choose not to give up allegiance to the countries of their ethnic roots and continue to live in Germany under an ambiguous status of an alien resident or a guest worker, especially since this status, though lacking certain political rights, often does not impede one's ability to work, get free public higher education and travel abroad.
As a result, close to 10 million people permanently living in the Federal Republic today distinctly differ from the majority of the population in a variety of ways such as race, ethnicity, religion, language and culture, yet often fail to be recognized as minorities in official statistical sources due to the fact that such sources traditionally survey only German citizens, and under the so called jus sanguinis system, that has been in effect in Germany since the 19th century, and has only recently been partially replaced by the alternative jus soli system, citizens are, by definition, ethnic Germans. This situation contributes to the invisibility of Germany's minorities making Germany technically one of the most ethnically homogeneous nation in the world, whereas in all practicality the Federal Republic is today one of the most ethnically diverse countries in Europe.
Since the mid 1990s, however, changes in citizenship laws and the increased visibility of ethnic minorities seems to indicate that the concept of who is a German is slowly moving away from one that centered on ethnicity and heritage (jus sanguinis) to a concept based more on citizenship and cultural identification (jus soli). It may also develop a new concept which includes both of these aspects.
 Historical persons and institutions
There is a certain lack of consensus with regard to the characterization of many historical persons and institutions, like for instance Kafka and the Hansa. Many, particularly Germans, would hold that they belong to the German culture, which is what decides if someone is considered a German or not. On the other hand, Poles, Austrians and others often prefer to see the same persons and institutions as Polish, Austrian or quite simply European. Particularly, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven — who spent most of their lives in what is Austria today — may be considered to have been central within the German culture but may nevertheless often be characterized as Austrians, not as Germans.
 See also
- List of Germans
- List of Austrians
- List of Swiss people
- Germans of Romania
- Germans of Paraguay
- Germans of Poland
- German Americans
- German Mexicans
- German Namibians
- German Australians
- Organised persecution of ethnic Germans
- Names of the German people and language in other languages
- German idealism
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