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Bundesrepublik Deutschland
Federal Republic of Germany
Image:Flag of Germany.svg Image:Coat of Arms of Germany.svg
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
(German for "Unity and Justice and Freedom”)
Anthem: Das Lied der Deutschen (3rd stanza)
also called Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
(and largest city)
52°31′N 13°24′E
Official languages German 1
Government Federal Republic
 - President Horst Köhler
 - Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU)
 - Holy Roman Empire 843 (Treaty of Verdun
 - Unification January 18 1871 
 - Federal Republic May 23 1949 
 - Reunification October 3 1990 
Accession to EU March 25, 1953
(West Germany)

 - Total 357,050 km² (63rd)
137,858 sq mi 
 - Water (%) 2.416
 - 2005 estimate 82,438,000 (14th)
 - 2000 census n/a
 - Density 230.9/km² (50th)
598.5/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2005 estimate
 - Total $2.522 trillion (5th)
 - Per capita $30,579 (17th)
GDP (nominal) 2005 estimate
 - Total $2.797 trillion (3rd)
 - Per capita $33,854 (19th)
HDI  (2004) 0.932 (high) (21st)
Currency Euro ()2 (EUR)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 - Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Internet TLD .de 3
Calling code +49
1 Danish, Low German, Sorbian, Romany and Frisian are officially recognised and protected as minority languages by the ECRML.
2 Prior to 1999 (introduction of the euro as legal tender) and 2002 (introduction of the euro as physical notes and coins): Deutsche Mark.
3 The .eu domain is also used, as it is shared with other European Union member states.</sup>

Germany (German: Deutschland IPA: [ˈdɔɪtʃlant]), officially the Federal Republic of Germany (German: , IPA: [ˈbʊndəsrepubliːk ˈdɔɪtʃlant]), is a country in Central 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. Within its borders are a portion of the Alps, the famous Rhine and Danube rivers, and the Black Forest.

Germany is a democratic parliamentary federal republic, made up of 16 states (Bundesländer), which in certain spheres act independently of the federation. Historically consisting of several sovereign states with their own history, distinct German tribe dialects, culture and religious beliefs, Germany was unified as a nation state amidst the Franco-Prussian War in 1871.

The Federal Republic of Germany is a member state of the United Nations, NATO, the G8 and the G4 nations, and is a founding member of the European Union. It is the European Union's most populous and most economically powerful member state. Germany has the third largest economy in the world and is the largest exporter of goods on the globe.<ref name="cnn">Germany still the export achiever CNN. Dec. 6, 2005. Retrieved 2006, 11-28</ref>

Map of Germany



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 began the German Reich, usually translated as empire, but also meaning kingdom, domain or realm.

Early history of the Germanic tribes (100 BC – AD 300)

Main articles: Germanic peoples and Germania

The ethnogenesis of the Germanic tribes is assumed to have occurred during the Nordic Bronze Age, or at the latest, during the Pre-Roman Iron Age in southern Scandinavia and northern Germany, from the first century BC expanding south, east and west, coming into contact with Celtic tribes of Gaul and Iranian, Baltic and Slavic tribes in Eastern Europe. Little is known about early Germanic history, except through their interactions with the Roman Empire and archaeological finds.

Under Augustus, the Roman General Publius Quinctilius Varus began to invade Germany, and it was from this period that the German tribes became familiar with Roman tactics of warfare while maintaining their national identity. In AD 9, three Roman legions led by Publius Quinctilius Varus were crushed by the Cheruscan leader Arminius (Hermann) in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. Germany as far as the Rhine and the Danube therefore remained outside the Roman Empire. By 100, the time of Tacitus' Germania, Germanic tribes settled along the Rhine and the Danube (the Limes Germanicus), occupying most of the area of modern Germany. The 3rd century saw the emergence of a number of large West Germanic tribes — Alamanni, Franks, Chatti, Saxons, Frisians, Sicambri, Thuringians. Around 260, the Germanic peoples broke through the Limes and the Danube frontier.

See also: List of meanings of countries' names

The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation (843-1806)

Main article: Holy Roman Empire
Image:Balduineum Wahl Heinrich VII.jpg
The prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire. From Bildatlas der Deutschen Geschichte by Dr Paul Knötel (1895)

The medieval empire stemmed from a division of the Carolingian Empire in 843, which was founded by Charlemagne on December 25 800, and existed in varying forms until 1806, its territory stretching from the river Eider in the north to the Mediterranean coast in the south. Often referred to as the Holy Roman Empire (or the Old Empire), it was officially called the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation ("Sacrum Romanum Imperium Nationis Germanicæ") since 1448 to adjust the title to its then reduced territory.

Under the reign of the Ottonian emperors (919–1024), the duchies of Lorraine, Saxony, Franconia, Swabia, Thuringia and Bavaria were consolidated and in 962 the German king was crowned Holy Roman Emperor. Under the reign of the Salian emperors (1024–1125), the Holy Roman Empire absorbed northern Italy and Burgundy. Under the Hohenstaufen emperors (1138–1254) the German princes were increasing their influence further south and east.

The edict of the Golden Bull in 1356 provided the basic constitution of the empire up to its dissolution. For three hundred years starting in 1438, the Emperors were elected nearly exclusively from the Austrian Habsburg family.

In 1530, a separate Protestant church was acknowledged as the new state religion in many states of Germany. This led to inter-German dispute, the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648). From 1740 onwards the dualism between Austria and Prussia dominated the Empire's history. In 1806 the Imperium was overrun and dissolved as a result of the Napoleonic Wars.

Restoration and revolution (1814-71)

Main article: German Confederation
Frankfurt Parliament in 1848/49

Following Napoleon's fall, the Congress of Vienna convened in 1814 and founded the German Confederation, 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's repression of liberal agitation. The Zollverein, a tariff union, profoundly furthered economic unity in the German states. During this era, many Germans had been stirred by the ideals of the French revolution and nationalism became a more significant force, especially among young intellectuals. For the first time, the colours of black, red and gold were chosen to represent the movement, which later became the national colours.

In light of a series of revolutionary movements in Europe, which in France successfully established a republic, intellectuals and commoners started the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states. The monarchs initially yielded to the revolutionaries' liberal demands, however, the Prussian king Frederick William IV, who was offered the title of Emperor but with a loss of power, rejected the crown and a proposed constitution, leading to a temporary setback for the movement. 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. In 1864 Bismark successfully waged war on Denmark. Prussian victory in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 enabled him to create the North German Confederation and to divide Austria, formerly the leading state of Germany, from the more western and northern parts.

Second German Empire (1871-1918)

Main article: German Empire
Foundation of modern Germany, Versailles, 1871. Bismarck is in white in the middle

After the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, the German Empire (Deutsches Kaiserreich) was proclaimed in Versailles on January 18 1871. As a result, the new empire was a unification of all the scattered parts of Germany but without Austria — Kleindeutschland. Beginning in 1884 Germany established several colonies. The young 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, isolating France with diplomatic means and avoiding war for decades. Under Wilhelm II, however, Germany took an imperialistic course, like other powers, but it led to friction with neighbouring countries. Most alliances in which Germany had been previously involved were not renewed, and new alliances excluded the country. Specifically, France established new relations by signing the Entente Cordiale with the United Kingdom, and got ties with Russia. Austria-Hungary and Germany became increasingly isolated.

Imperial Germany (1871-1918)

Although not one of the main causes, the assassination of Austria's crown prince triggered World War I on July 28 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 second German Revolution broke out, and Emperor Wilhelm 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, as a continuation of the war by other means and a breaking of traditional post-war diplomacy that included negotiations between the victors and vanquished.

Weimar Republic (1919-33)

Main article: Weimar Republic
Image:Deutsches Reich 1925 b.png
Subdivisions of Germany in 1925. Map showing borders of Germany from 1919 until 1937.

After the German Revolution in November 1918, a Republic was proclaimed. That year, the German Communist Party was established by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, and in January 1919 the German Workers Party, later known as the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers Party, NSDAP, "Nazis"). On August 11 1919, the Weimar Constitution came into effect, with the sign of the Reichspräsident Friedrich Ebert. In a cool climate of economic hardship from both the world wide Depression and the harsh peace conditions dictated by the Treaty of Versailles, and a long succession of more or less unstable governments, 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 was the main reason why Germany had lost WWI. 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 favour of a "Räterepublik". Paramilitary troops were set up by several parties and there were thousands of politically motivated murders. They intimidated voters and seeded violence and anger among the public, who suffered from high unemployment and poverty. After a succession of unsuccessful cabinets, on January 29 1933, President von Hindenburg, seeing little alternative and pushed by advisors, appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany.

Third Reich (1933–45)

Main article: Nazi Germany
Image:WWII Poland Invasion 1939-09-01.jpg
1939: German troops supposedly destroying a Polish border checkpoint. The picture was staged a few days after the outbreak of the war for use in National Socialist propaganda

On 27 February 1933, the Reichstag was set on fire. Some basic democratic rights were quickly abrogated afterwards under an emergency decree. An Enabling Act gave Hitler's government full legislative power — only the Sozial Demokratische Partei, SPD voted against it; the communists could not because many had already been imprisoned or murdered. A centralised totalitarian state was established by a series of moves and decrees making Germany a single-party state. Industry was closely regulated with quotas and requirements in order to shift the economy towards a war production base. In 1936, German troops entered the demilitarised Rhineland and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's appeasement policies proved inadequate. Emboldened, Hitler followed from 1938 onwards a policy of expansionism to establish Greater Germany. To avoid a two-front war, Hitler concluded the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with the Soviet Union, and broke it.

Main article: World War II

In 1939 the growing tensions from nationalism, militarism, and territorial issues led to the Germans launching a blitzkrieg on September 1st against Poland, followed two days later by declarations of war by Britain and France, marking the beginning of World War II. Germany quickly gained direct or indirect control of the majority of Europe. On June 22, 1941, Hitler broke the pact with the Soviet Union by opening the Eastern Front and invading the Soviet Union. Shortly after Japan attacked the American base at Pearl Harbor, Germany declared war on the United States. Although initially the German army rapidly advanced into the surprised Soviet Union, the Battle of Stalingrad marked a major turning point in the war. Subsequently, the German army commenced retreating on the Eastern front, followed by the eventual defeat of Germany. On 8 May 1945, Germany surrendered after the Red Army occupied Berlin.

In what later became known as The Holocaust, the Third Reich regime enacted governmental policies directly subjugating many parts of society: Jews, Slavs, Roma, homosexuals, freemasons, political dissidents, priests, preachers, religious opponents, and the disabled, amongst others. During the Nazi era about 11 million people were murdered in the Holocaust, including more than 6 million Jews.

Image:Deutschland Besatzungszonen 1945 1946.png
German occupation zones in 1946 after territorial annexations in the East. The Saarland (in stripes) became a protectorate of France between 1947 and 1956

Division and reunification (1945-90)

The war resulted in the death of several million German soldiers and civilians, in total nearly ten million, large territorial losses, the expulsion of about 15 million Germans and the destruction of multiple major cities. Germany and Berlin were partitioned by the Allies into four military occupation zones. The sectors controlled by France, the United Kingdom, the United States were merged on May 23 1949, to form the democratic nation of the Federal Republic of Germany and on October 7 1949 the Soviet Zone established the German Democratic Republic. In English the two states were known informally as "West Germany" and "East Germany".

West Germany, established as a liberal parliamentary republic with a "social market economy", was allied with the United States, the UK and France. The country eventually came to enjoy prolonged economic growth beginning in the early 1950's (Wirtschaftswunder). The recovery was largely because of the previously forbidden currency reform of June 1948 and U.S. assistance through the Marshall Plan aid. West Germany joined NATO in 1955 and was a founding member of the European Economic Community in 1958. Across the border, 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 Warsaw Pact, but many of its citizens looked to the West for political freedoms and economic prosperity. During the summer of 1989, in the face of a growing migration of East Germans to West Germany via Hungary and mass demonstrations, East German authorities unexpectedly eased the border restrictions in November 1989, allowing East German citizens to travel to the West. This led to the acceleration of the process of reforms in East Germany that ended with German reunification on October 3 1990. Under the terms of the treaty between West and East Germany, Berlin again became the capital of the reunited Germany. Since reunification Germany has taken a leading role in the European Union and NATO. Germany sent a peacekeeping force to secure stability in the Balkans and sent a force of Bundeswehr troops to Afghanistan as part of a NATO effort to provide security in that country after the ousting of the Taliban.

The Berlin Wall that had partitioned Berlin in front of the Brandenburg Gate shortly after the opening of the wall

Administrative divisions

Main article: States of Germany

Germany is divided into 16 states (in German called Länder, singular Land; commonly Bundesländer, singular Bundesland). It is further subdivided into 439 districts (Kreise) and cities (kreisfreie Städte) (2004). There is a list of all Administrative Divisions of Germany.

In English Auf Deutsch (In German)
State Capital Land Hauptstadt
1 Baden-WürttembergStuttgartBaden-WürttembergStuttgart
2 (Free State of) BavariaMunich(Freistaat) BayernMünchen
3 Berlin Berlin BerlinBerlin
4 BrandenburgPotsdamBrandenburgPotsdam
5 (Free Hanseatic City of) BremenBremen(Freie Hansestadt) BremenBremen
6 (Free and Hanseatic City of) Hamburg Hamburg (Freie und Hansestadt) HamburgHamburg
7 HesseWiesbadenHessenWiesbaden
8 Mecklenburg-Western PomeraniaSchwerinMecklenburg-VorpommernSchwerin
9 Lower SaxonyHanoverNiedersachsenHannover
10 North Rhine-WestphaliaDüsseldorfNordrhein-WestfalenDüsseldorf
11 Rhineland-PalatinateMainzRheinland-PfalzMainz
12 SaarlandSaarbrückenSaarlandSaarbrücken
13 (Free State of) SaxonyDresden(Freistaat) SachsenDresden
14 Saxony-AnhaltMagdeburgSachsen-AnhaltMagdeburg
15 Schleswig-HolsteinKielSchleswig-HolsteinKiel
16 (Free State of) ThuringiaErfurt(Freistaat) ThüringenErfurt

Geography and Climate

Main article: Geography of Germany


Since reunification Germany has resumed its role as a major centre country between Scandinavia to the north, the Mediterranean region to the south, the Atlantic to the west and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe to the east.

The territory of Germany covers 357,021 km² (137,850 mi²), of which land makes up 349,223 km² (134,835 mi²) and water- 7,798 km² (3,010 mi²). In elevation, the land ranges from the high mountains of the Alps (highest point: the Zugspitze at 2,962 m  ( 9,718 ft)) in the south to the shores of the North Sea (Nordsee) in the north-west and the Baltic Sea (Ostsee) in the north-east. In between are the forested uplands of central Germany and the low-lying lands of northern Germany (lowest point: Wilstermarsch at 3.54 metres (11.6 ft) below sea level), traversed by some of Europe's major rivers such as the Rhine, Danube and Elbe.<ref name="CIA">Germany CIA Factbook. Nov. 14, 2006. Retrieved 2006, 11-29</ref>

Because of its central location, Germany shares borders with more European countries than any other country on the continent. Its neighbours 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 beautiful scenery in southern Bavaria, cold during winters and hot in the summer

The greater part of Germany lies in the cool/temperate climatic zone in which humid westerly winds predominate.

The climate is influenced to some extent by the Gulf Stream, which promotes an unusually mild climate in areas adjacent to it. The climate in Great Britain, Portugal, France and Norway is especially influenced by this stream and to a lesser extent the areas bordering on the North Sea including the peninsula of Jutland in north Germany and the area along the Rhein which flows into the North Sea.

In the north-west and the north the climate is oceanic and rain falls all year round. Winters there are relatively mild and summers tend to be comparatively cool, even though temperatures can reach above 30 degrees Celsius (86 °F) for prolonged periods of time. 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. In the central part and the south there is a transitional climate which varies from moderately oceanic to continental, depending on the location. Hot summers with temperatures about 30 degrees Celsius (86 °F) are possible.<ref>German Climate Handbuch Deutschland. Retrieved 2006, 11-30</ref><ref>German Climate and Weather World Travels. Retrieved 2006, 11-30</ref>


Image:Germany demography.png
Population of Germany over time. Note that for years before 1990, the values of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic are combined. The federal statistics office estimates the population will shrink to approximately 75 million by 2050<ref name="p2300022"></ref>

Because of the country's federal and decentralised structure Germany has a number of larger cities. The most populous are Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt and Stuttgart. By far the largest conurbation is the Rhine-Ruhr region, including the Düsseldorf-Cologne district and the cities of Essen, Dortmund, Duisburg and Bochum.

As of December 2004, about 7 million foreign citizens are registered in Germany and 19% of the country's residents are of foreign or partially foreign descent, the majority are Turkish, or are from Italy, Yugoslavia, and other European states.<ref> Federal Statistical Office Germany: Foreign population on 31 December 2004 by country of origin</ref> In its State of World Population 2006 report, the United Nations Population Fund lists Germany with hosting the third-highest percentage of international migrants worldwide, about 5% or 10 million of all 191 million migrants.<ref> United Nations Population Fund: State of World Population 2006</ref>

Because of modifications to Germany's traditionally rather unrestricted laws on asylum and immigration in the years around 2000, the number of annual asylum seekers as well as on immigrants based on German ethnicity (mostly from the former Soviet Union) has been declining since then.

Germany is facing major demographic change, its birth rate being one of the lowest in the world. The federal statistics office estimates the population will shrink to approximately 75 million by 2050, with ethnic Germans risking displacement by foreigners with higher birthrates. Questions remain as to how Germany will pay for the sustenance of immigrants, in addition to its own aging population.<ref name="p2300022"/> Chemnitz is thought to be city with the lowest birth rate in the world.<ref></ref>

There are 2.3 million guest workers of Turkish origin in Germany, making them the largest group of foreign workers.<ref>Bernstein, Richard. A Quiz for Would-Be Citizens Tests Germans' Attitudes New York Times. March 29, 2006. Retrieved 2006, 11-30</ref>


Main article: Economy of Germany
Frankfurt am Main — popularly referred to as "Mainhattan", drawing clear parallels to Manhattan — is Germany's financial centre.
Germany is the largest European economy and the third largest economy in the world in real terms, placed behind the United States and Japan. It is ranked fifth in the world in terms of purchasing power parity. According to the World Trade Organization, Germany is also the world's top exporter, and number two in imports behind the United States.<ref name="cnn"/> It currently has the largest trade surplus in the world (160.6 billion euros).

The export of goods is an essential part of the German economy and one of the most relevant reasons for Germany's wealth. Overtaking the United States in 2003, Germany is now the world's largest exporter of goods with $1.016 trillion exported in 2005 (Germany's exports to other eurozone countries are included in this total). In export of services (tourism, financial services, engineering, etc) it ranks third behind the United States and the United Kingdom. Although most of its exports are in engineering (such as cars, machinery, chemical goods, and optics), Germany also has a strong position in the export of microelectronics, which, according to the WTO, account for 15 percent of German exports. A major issue of concern remains the persistently high unemployment rate and weak domestic demand which slows down economic growth. The economic transition of Eastern Germany presents a major problem, as the region still lags behind the West in terms of economic development and living standards.<ref>Eastern Germans Irked by EU Official's Unification Comments Deutsche Welle. Nov. 22, 2006. Retrieved 2006, 11-28</ref> In spite of its extremely good performance in international trade, domestic demand has stalled for many years because of stagnating wages and consumer insecurity. Germany's government runs a restrictive fiscal policy and has cut numerous regular jobs in the public sector.<ref>The German Economy is at the Cyclical Peak Kiel Institute for the World Economy. Retrieved 2006, 11-28</ref> But while regular employment in the public sector shrank, "irregular" government employment such as "one euro" jobs, government supported self-employment, and job training increased.<ref>German unemployment weighs on voters BBC. Sep. 16, 2005. Retrieved 2006, 11-28</ref> Despite the tense situation in eastern Germany, total government employment in Germany remains lower than in other states such as the United Kingdom or Canada.


Main articles on politics and government of Germany can be found at the Politics and government of Germany series.

Political system

Germany's political system is a framework of a federal parliamentary representative democratic republic, whereby the Chancellor is the head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Federal legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of parliament, Bundestag and Bundesrat. While the Bundestag is elected in direct election the Bundesrat represents the governments of the 16 German States. Since 1949 the party system is dominated by the conservative Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democratic Party of Germany. Smaller parties that have an important role are the liberal Free Democratic Party, that has been in the Bundestag since 1949, as well as the Green Party that has had seats in the parliament since 1983.

The German head of state is the President of Germany, elected by an institution consisting of Bundesrat and Bundestag (called Bundesversammlung which means federal convention). The second highest official in the German order of precedence is the President of the Bundestag elected by the Bundestag itself. He is responsible for the parliaments sessions and the regularity of the institution. The third highest official is the chancellor as the head of government recommended by the President of Germany, elected by the Bundestag and if necessary removed by a constructive motion of no confidence of the Bundestag. Constructive motion means that the Bundestag has to elect a successor.

See also: List of German institutions

The Judiciary of Germany is independent of the executive and the legislature. The political system is laid out in the 1949 constitutional document under approval of the allied forces which wanted to assure among other restrictions that Germany's military forces are restricted exclusively to defence and that a dictatorship could not reoccur. It is known as the Grundgesetz literally Basic Law. It is akin to the American Constitution. Changes in the Grundgesetz require a majority of two thirds of both chambers of the parliament. The Grundgesetz remained in effect with minor amendments after 1990's German Reunification.

Legal system

Main article: Judiciary of Germany

Germany has a civil or statute law system based ultimately on Roman law with some references to Germanic 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. In 1976, with the Verwaltungsverfahrensgesetz (VwVfG), the main form of actions of administration was codified. Most federated states have followed this codification. There are a series of special 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 to the Constitution. It acts independently of the other state bodies, but cannot act on its own behalf.

Foreign relations

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.<ref> Declaration by the Franco-German Defence and Security Council May 13, 3004. Retrieved 2006, 12-03</ref>

Since its establishment on May 23, 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany kept a notably low profile in international relations, because of both its recent history and its occupation by foreign powers. In 1999, however, on the occasion of the NATO war against Yugoslavia, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's government assumed a new course by sending German troops into combat for the first time since World War II.<ref>Germany's New Face Abroad Deutsche Welle. Oct. 14, 2005. Retrieved 2006, 12-03</ref>

Germany and the United States have been close allies since the end of the Second World War.<ref>Background Note: Germany U.S. Department of State. July 6, 2006. Retrieved 2006, 12-03</ref> The Marshall Plan and continued US support during the rebuilding process after World War II, as well as the significant influence American culture has had on German culture, have crafted a strong bond between Germany and the US that lasts to this day. Not only do the United States and Germany share many cultural similarities: they are also deeply economically interdependent; of all German exports, 8.8% are US-bound and 6.6 of German imports originate from the United States.<ref>U.S. - German Economic Relations Factsheet U.S. Embassy in Berlin. May 2006. Retrieved 2006, 12-03</ref> Other signs of the close ties between Germany and the US are the continuing status of German-Americans as the largest ethnic group in the US<ref>German Still Most Frequently Reported Ancestry U.S. Census Bureau June 30, 2004. Retrieved 2006, 12-03</ref> and the status of Ramstein Air Base, close to the city of Kaiserslautern, Germany, as the largest US military community outside the US.<ref>Kaiserslautern, Germany Overview U.S. Military. Retrieved 2006, 12-03</ref>

Armed forces

Main article: Bundeswehr

Germany's military, the Bundeswehr, is a defence force with Heer (German Army), Marine (German Navy), Luftwaffe (German Air Force), Zentraler Sanitätsdienst (Central Medical Services) and Streitkräftebasis (Joint Service Support Command) branches. Military Service is compulsory for men at the age of 18 and conscrpits serve nine month tours of duty. In 2003 military spending constituted 1.5% of the country's GDP.<ref name="CIA"/> In peacetime, the Bundeswehr is commanded by the Minister of Defence, currently Franz Josef Jung. If Germany goes to war, which according to the constitution is allowed only for defensive purposes, the Chancellor becomes commander in chief of the German Bundeswehr.<ref>Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland Retrieved 2006, 11-30</ref>

Currently, the German military has almost 9000 troups stationed in foreign lands as part of various international peacekeeping forces, including 1,180 troops stationed in Bosnia-Herzegovina; 2,844 Bundeswehr soldiers in Kosovo; 750 soldiers stationed as a part of EUFOR in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and 2800 German troops making up the largest contingent of the NATO-led ISAF force in Afghanistan.<ref>Germany is planning a Bosnia withdrawal International Herald Tribune. Oct. 31, 2006. Retrieved 2006, 11-30</ref>

Energy policy

Image:E-112 Egeln feb2005.jpg
Wind turbine in Germany.

In 1999, electricity production in Germany was powered by coal (47%), nuclear power (30%), natural gas (14%), renewable sources (including hydro, wind and solar power) (6%), and oil (2%).<ref>Background Energey Information Administration. Retrieved 2006, 11-30</ref> As for energy consumption, oil accounted for 41% of the total. At the World climate conference, the German government announced a carbon dioxide reduction target of 25% by the year 2005 as compared to 1990, to protect global climate.<ref>Renewable Energy Policy in Germany AGORES. Retrieved 2006, 11-30</ref> In 2000, the German SPD-led government along with (Alliance '90/The Greens), officially announced its intention to phase out the use of nuclear energy. Jürgen Trittin as the Minister of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, reached an agreement with energy companies ending the civil usage of nuclear power by 2020.

In 2005, the German government reached an agreement with Russia to build a gas pipeline along the bottom of the Baltic Sea directly from Russia to Germany. Bypassing Poland and other Baltic countries lead to controversy.

Due in part to generous subsidies, Germany leads Europe by having the greatest capacity on the continent to generate electricity from sun and wind.<ref>Steffen, Alex. More on German Green Energy World Changing. Dec. 24, 2004. Retrieved 2006, 11-30</ref> This achievement was boosted by the Renewable Energies Act (EEG), introduced on April 1, 2000, aimed at achieving a minimum 12% market share for renewable energy by 2010. By 2005 German solar electricity capacity had reached 794 MWp (78.6% of total European capacity)<ref>Photovoltaic: Objectives - Technology Retrieved 2006, 11-30</ref>, while wind generating capacity had reached 16,629 MWp (48.4% of European capacity)<ref>Wind Energy : Objectives - Technology. Retrieved 2006, 11-30</ref> It is estimated that the renewable industries now employ, directly or indirectly, more than 120,000 people. Germany has committed to a 21% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 1990 levels by 2012. In terms of total capacity to generate electricity from windpower Germany is No.1 in the world and its emphasis on renewable energy sources has resulted in the founding of numerous high-tech companies for such technologies. Germany is also the main exporter of wind turbines, the demand greatly exceeding capacity.<ref>Wind Power Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (Germany) Retrieved 2006, 11-30</ref>

See also: Nuclear power phase-out and Nuclear energy policy



Main article: Religion in Germany
Martin Luther, Father of the Protestant Reformation and reformer of the German language, 1529

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 31% of the population and Roman Catholics (particularly in the south and west) also 31%. The current Roman Catholic Pope, Benedict XVI, was born in Bavaria. In total more than 55 million people officially belong to a Christian denomination.

The third largest religious identity in Germany, after the two Christian groups, is that of non-religious people (including atheists and agnostics (especially in the former GDR)), who amount to a total of 28.5% of the population (23.5 million).<ref>Religionen in Deutschland: Mitgliederzahlen Religiosenwissenschaftlicher Medien- und Informationsdienst. Nov. 4, 2006. Retrieved 2006, 11-30</ref>

Approximately 3 million Muslims<ref> Deccan Herald from Reuters. Retrieved 2006, 11-30</ref> (predominantly from Turkey and some from the former Yugoslavia) live in Germany. Most are Sunnis and Alevites from Turkey but there are a small number of Shiites.<ref>Germany Retrieved 2006, 11-30</ref>

See also: Islam in Germany

Today's Germany has Western Europe's third-largest Jewish population.<ref>Blake, Mariah. In Nazi cradle, Germany marks Jewish renaissance Christian Science Monitor. Nov. 10,2006. Retrieved 2006, 11-30</ref> 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, up from 30,000 before reunification. Jews have a strong voice in German public life through the Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland (Central Council of Jews in Germany). Important cities with significant Jewish populations include Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich.<ref>The Jewish Community of Germany European Jewish Congress. Retrieved 2006, 11-30</ref>

See also: History of the Jews in Germany

Social issues

Germany continues to struggle with a number of social issues. Although problems created by the German Reunification of 1990 have begun to diminish, the standard of living is higher in the western half of the country. Germans continue to be concerned about a relatively high level of unemployment, especially in the former East German states where unemployment figures top 18%.<ref>The Price of a Failed Reunification Spiegel Online International. Sep. 5, 2005. Retrieved 2006, 11-28</ref> Population growth is burdened with an extremely low fertility rate, the average being less than 1.39 children per mother, below the replacement rate. According to provisional figures from the Federal Statistics Office, 680,000 babies were born in Germany in 2005, down from a peak of 1.3 million in 1964 and fewer even than in 1945, when nearly all the country lay in rubble.<ref>Fertility U.S. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2006, 11-30</ref><ref name="CIA"/>

Since World War II, Germany has experienced intermittent turmoil from various groups. In the 1970s leftist terrorist organisations like the 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 nationalist crimes. According to former Interior Minister Otto Schily, the number of these crimes rose in recent years, although this trend does not necessarily indicate a rise in membership in right-wing groups.<ref>31,800 Islamist radicals in Germany: Schily Retrieved 2006, 11-30</ref> Critics have alleged, Germany has failed to fully implement European Union laws prohibiting racial discrimination. The European Court of Justice ruled on April 29 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). Immigrants to Germany oftenface integration issues and other difficulties. Gender inequality is seen as another problem by some. For centuries, a woman's role in German society was summed up by the three words: Kinder (children), Küche (kitchen), and Kirche (church). Throughout the twentieth century, women have gradually won victories in their quest for equal rights, although women are noticeably absent in the top tiers of German business, holding only hold 9.2% of jobs in Germany's upper and middle management positions.<ref>Hoppenstedt business databank 2002</ref> The first woman to become chancellor is Angela Merkel, who was elected in 2005.


Main article: Education in Germany
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The University of Würzburg is one of the most renowned universities in the world

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, French, Latin, Italian and Spanish. Some languages, such as Russian, Ancient Greek, Turkish, Chinese, Japanese, Polish and Arabic are taught less widely. 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 because of its very high standards. In the annual league of top-ranking universities compiled by Shanghai Jiaotong University in 2004, Germany came 4th overall, with 7 universities in the top 100 (to compare, the United States had 51 in the top 100, but also had a greater number of universities generally; proportionally, the two compare very well). The highest ranking university, at #45, was the TU Munich. Most German universities are state-owned and were until recently free of charge. However, a recently passed education reform calls for fees between €300 and €500 per semester from each student, started in 2006 in the first state (Niedersachsen). Additionally university students are often supported by the so called BAföG, a federal subsidy, running as high as €290 per month as interest free credit plus €290 as direct payment.

Germany (along with Austria and Switzerland) has a special system of apprenticeship called "Duale Ausbildung" in which apprentices learn in a company as well as in a state-run school.

German educational ideals differ considerably from Anglo-Saxon educational ideals, emphasising socialisation, debate, vocal participation in class and critical faculties. The results of the PISA student assessments, which tested students' comprehension of the respective subject matter only, were a shock to the German public but no surprise to many education experts. In the test of 31 countries in year 2000, Germany ranked 21st in reading and 20th in both Mathematics and the Natural Sciences.

Participation in the official school system is compulsory. However, home-schooling is still practised by a small number of people. There has been some publicity to government prosecution of this practice.<ref> Christian Broadcasting Network Nov. 16, 2006. Retrieved 2006, 11-30</ref>


Main article: Culture of Germany
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a significant German poet

Germany's contributions to the world's cultural heritage are numerous, and the country is often known as das Land der Dichter und Denker (the land of poets and thinkers).

Many historical figures, though not citizens of Germany in the modern sense, were important and influential figures in German culture, such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Kafka and Stefan Zweig.

Literature, philosophy and sociology

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 fairy tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm are world famous and the Nibelungenlied, whose author is not known, is also a major contribution to German literature. The Thidrekssaga with similar sources is more based in the north european area. Theologian Luther, who translated the Bible into German, is widely credited for having set the basis for modern "High German" language. The most admired German poets and authors are Lessing, Goethe, Schiller, Kleist and Hoffmann. Other poets include Friedrich Hölderlin, Heinrich Heine, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, Theodor Fontane, Rainer Maria Rilke and authors of the 20th century include Nobel Prize winners Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, Heinrich Böll and Günter Grass. Other famous authors are Brecht and Schmidt. Germany's influence on world philosophy was significant as well, as exemplified by Albertus Magnus, Leibniz, Kant, Herder, Mendelssohn, Novalis, Fichte, Hegel, Marx, Engels, Feuerbach, Schopenhauer, Schweitzer, Nietzsche, Husserl, Hartmann, Jaspers, Luxemburg, Heidegger, Arendt, Steiner, Gadamer and Habermas. In the field of sociology influential German thinkers were Tönnies, Simmel, Weber, Horkheimer, Adorno and Luhmann.

Image:Beethoven wiki.jpg
Ludwig van Beethoven was an influential German composer and pianist

German language

Main article: German language

The German language was once the lingua franca of central, eastern and northern Europe. Within the European Union, German is the language with the most native speakers, with more than English, French, Spanish and Italian, because the borders of the German language reach through Austria, France, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and into Switzerland. As a foreign language, German is the third most taught worldwide.[1] It is also the second most used language on the Internet after English. The language has its origin in Old High German which is related to old English. There are numerous dialects of German, many of which are not intelligible to speakers of standard German or a different dialect. Some consider Low German to be a different language from High 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. Other dialects, which are very different from standard German are spoken in Saxony, Bavaria, Rhineland-Palatinate and Swabia. The Pennsylvania Dutch, spoken by the Amishe is derived from the dialect spoken in the Rhineland-Palatinate.


Main article: Music of Germany

In the field of music, Germany's influence is noted through the works of, among others, Bach, Handel, Telemann, Beethoven, Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Mozart, Brahms, Schumann, Wagner, Strauss, Orff, Mahler.

Science and technology

Germany is a leading nation in scientific research and the production of innovative technological products. Some of the most important industrial contributions include automobiles, rocketry, material science, and chemical products.

As in physics and chemistry, Germans are a leading nation in the Nobel Prizes for physiology or medicine. In spite of past achievements of their ideals young scientists are currently emigrating at the rate of over 2000 per month (26,000 in 2005). Assumed reasons are overwhelming bureaucracy and a bleak outlook for their future.

Germany has been the homeland of many great scientists like Helmholtz, Fraunhofer, Fahrenheit, Kepler, Haeckel, Wundt, Virchow, Ehrlich, Humboldt, Röntgen, Braun, Einstein, Alzheimer, Born, Planck, Heisenberg, Creuzfeldt, Hertz, Koch, Hahn, Leibniz, Liebig, Ostwald, Haber, Mayr, Behring and Bunsen.

It has been the home of many inventors and engineers such as Gutenberg, Otto, Geiger, Fick, Lilienthal, Junkers, Reis, von Ardenne, von Mayenburg, Bosch, Bentz, von Drais, Zeppelin, Krupp, Siemens, von Braun, Porsche, Maybach, Daimler, Zuse, Diesel and Benz.

Important mathematicians were born in Germany such as Dedekind, Bessel, Gauß, Hilbert, Jacobi, Riemann, Riese, Klein, Cantor, Weierstraß and Weyl.

With the construction of the first laboratory for psychology at the University of Leipzig in 1879 , Wilhelm Wundt established psychology as an independent empirical science. Important psychologists were born in Germany such as Wundt, von Helmholtz, Charlotte Bühler, Karl Bühler, Heckhausen.


Main article: Transport in Germany
Image:Autobahn 1-999.png
Map of the German autobahn network

Because of Germany's central position in Europe, the volume of traffic, especially the transit of goods, is very high. In the past decades, much of the freight traffic shifted from rail to road transport and individual traffic increased to such an extent that on German roads, traffic densities are very high by international comparison. Germany possesses one of the densest road systems of the world. It covers 12,037 kilometres (7,479 mi) of federal "Autobahn" motorways and 41,386 kilometres (25,716 mi) of federal highways. In contrast to other European countries, German motorways partially have no blanket speed limit, although there are signposted limits in certain locations for safety concerns.

Another way to travel is via rail. Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) is the major German railway infrastructure and service operator. For commuter and regional services, franchises of various sizes are granted by the individual states, though largely financed from the federal budget. Unsubsidised long-range service operators can compete freely all over the country, at least in theory. Actually, Deutsche Bahn holds a de facto monopoly on long-range services. The InterCity Express or ICE is a type of high-speed train operated by Deutsche Bahn in Germany and neighbouring countries. Nearly all larger metropolitan areas are served by an S-Bahn, a heavy rail metro system. A large proportion of towns feature underground and/or tram systems. Good urban and overland bus services are ubiquitous.

Frankfurt International Airport is a major international airport and European transportation hub. Frankfurt Airport ranks among the world's top ten airports and serves 304 flight destinations in 110 countries. Germany's second important international airport is Munich International Airport; with other major airports including Düsseldorf International Airport, Berlin-Schönefeld Airport, Hamburg Airport and Cologne Bonn Airport. Travelling by plane within Germany is unusual due to the extensive network of motorways and railway services.

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Germany hosts a lot of the central European traffic corridors — Bundesautobahn 3 next to the Cologne-Frankfurt high-speed rail line

International rankings

For an explanation of the ratings, see the corresponding article.

Political and economic rankings

Health rankings

  • Fertility rate — 171st most fertile country with a rating of 1.39 per woman
  • Birth rate — 192nd most births per capita at 8.33 per 1000 people
  • Infant mortality — 11th least infant deaths with a rating of 4.16 per 1000 births
  • Death rate — 55th highest with a rating of 10.55 deaths per 1000 people
  • Life expectancy — 23rd highest with 78.80 years
  • Suicide rate — 28th highest with 20.4 for men, 7.0 for women and 13.5 total

Other rankings

See Also:


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External links

Preceded by:
West Germany

Concurrent with: East Germany 1949-1990

Government of Germany
Succeeded by: