History of Germany

By | April 28, 2022

Man appeared on the territory of Germany 500 thousand years BC, in the era of the Lower Paleolithic. In the 1st millennium BC. Most of the territory of Germany was inhabited by tribes of Germans. In 9 AD the prince of the Germanic Cherusci tribe Arminius won a victory in the Teutoburg Forest over three Roman legions, and this year was long considered the beginning of German history, and Arminius was the first German national hero. In the 6th-8th centuries. the Franks subjugated the entire territory of Germany, which became part of the Frankish state, which reached its greatest power under Charlemagne. Soon after his death (814), the state collapsed: the Western and Eastern empires arose.

According to historyaah, the isolation of the German lands and the formation of the German state proper dates back to the 10th century. The Frankish Duke Conrad I (911–19) is considered the first German king. Only Otto I (936–73), who in 962 conquered northern Italy and was crowned emperor by the pope, became the real ruler of the empire. This was the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire. Under Frederick I Barbarossa (reigned 1152–90), feudal fragmentation began, which sharply intensified in the 13th century. Despite the fragmentation, the country experienced rapid economic development, the growth of crafts and trade. During the revolutionary communal movement, which began in late. 11th c. uprisings in the Rhine cities of Worms, Cologne, and others, which continued until the 14th century, many cities freed themselves from the power of the lords, achieved self-government, and the personal freedom of the townspeople.

In the beginning. 16th century Opposition sentiments that had long been ripening engulfed various social strata and resulted in the first major socio-political uprisings in Germany, which began with Martin Luther’s speech against indulgences (1517). The uprising of the imperial chivalry (1522–23) and the Peasants’ War (1525) failed. However, the religious and political struggle continued for several more decades. According to the Augsburg Religious Peace (1555), the princes received the right to determine the religion of their subjects. Protestantism gained equal rights with Catholicism.

Confessional and political contradictions led to the Thirty Years’ War (1618–48), during which vast German territories were devastated and depopulated. Under the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, part of German territory was ceded to France and Sweden. The territorial fragmentation of the country (about 300 principalities per 4 million population) was legally fixed. In the 18th century under Frederick II of Hohenzollern (the Great) (1740–86), the Kingdom of Prussia became a powerful military power, annexing Silesia and part of Poland. However, the unsuccessful attempt of Prussia and Austria to stop the revolutionary movement in France turned into a retaliatory strike by the Napoleonic troops, as a result of which the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation finally collapsed. After the victory over Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna (1814-15), the German Confederation was created as an association of sovereign states. See ehistorylib for more about Germany history.

In the beginning. 19th century In the Confederation of the Rhine, created in 1806 under the protectorate of France, reforms were carried out in Prussia aimed at removing feudal barriers to political and economic development (in Prussia this is associated with the names of K. von Stein, K. A. Hardenberg, and W. Humboldt).

In the 1830s industrialization began, especially in the Rhineland and Saxony. In 1834, the German Customs Union of 18 states headed by Prussia came into being. The process of industrialization exacerbated social problems and gave rise to the beginnings of a labor movement. In 1844 the first major uprising of the German proletariat took place (an uprising of the Silesian weavers, which was suppressed by the Prussian army). In the 1840s Marxism was born on German soil, claiming to express the interests of the proletariat on a world scale.

Rapid economic growth was accompanied by the rise of Prussia, whose prime minister in 1862 was Otto von Bismarck, who headed for the unification of Germany.

The first steps along this path were the Danish War of 1864 (separation of Schleswig-Holstein from Denmark) and the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, which ended with the defeat of the Austrian army at Sadovaya (July 3, 1866). Under the terms of the Prague Peace of 1866, Austria left the German political scene. Her former allies (Nassau, Hanover, Hesse, Frankfurt) were annexed to Prussia. The German Confederation was liquidated, and in 1867 the North German Confederation was created under Prussian domination to replace it.

The victory over France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, as a result of which France lost Alsace and Lorraine and paid huge reparations, removed the last barriers to unification. The South German states merged with the North German Confederation to form the German Empire. On January 18, 1871, the Prussian King Wilhelm I was proclaimed German Emperor at Versailles. The constitution, adopted in April 1871, provided for general elections to the Reichstag and a federal structure for Germany, although the most important questions were decided by the imperial authorities, primarily the government and the Reich Chancellor (who was Bismarck from 1871–90).

Bismarck pursued a balanced, peaceful and allied foreign policy, but in domestic politics he fought against all liberal-democratic tendencies – from socio-political Catholicism and the left-liberal bourgeoisie to the organized labor movement. Bismarck, with the help of progressive laws that improved the social position of employees (compulsory health insurance in 1883, an insurance pension system with old-age and disability pensions in 1889), laid the foundation for the “welfare state” that still exists in Germany.

In 1888 Emperor Wilhelm II ascended the throne. Continuing the reactionary course in domestic politics, he supplemented it with a transition to “world politics”, which meant broad expansion (imperialism) and militarism. Germany began to create a powerful fleet to put an end to British dominance on the seas. In World War I (1914–18), Germany suffered not only a military defeat, but also a political collapse. On November 11, 1918, an armistice between Germany and the Entente was signed in Compiègne.

On November 9, during the November Revolution, the Kaiser regime collapsed. In February 1919, the Constituent Assembly opened in Weimar, which adopted the Constitution of the German Republic (Weimar Constitution) on July 31. Germany became a parliamentary republic. The first president was the Social Democrat Friedrich Ebert. The government, which consisted of representatives of the bourgeois parties and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), was headed by F. Scheidemann.

The Troubles of 1923 (colossal inflation, which amounted to 2.4 thousand% in 1922, and 1.87 billion% in 1923, the occupation of the Ruhr by France and Belgium, the Hitler-Ludendorff putsch, the communist uprising in Hamburg under the leadership of E. Thalmann) almost led the Weimar Republic to collapse. The situation was briefly stabilized, until the economic crisis of 1929–32, which became the beginning of the fall of the Weimar Republic. Unemployment and mass poverty led to the strengthening of the left and right-wing nationalist radicals in the Reichstag, which did not allow the creation of a capable government. On January 30, 1933, President Paul von Hindenburg appointed A. Hitler, leader of the National Socialist Workers’ Party, Reich Chancellor and instructed him to form a government.

Having come to power, the Nazis in a short time eliminated the basic political freedoms, banned all parties (except their own), dispersed the trade unions in 1934, and abolished freedom of the press. Those who disagreed with the regime were thrown into concentration camps. In 1934, after the death of Hindenburg, Hitler united the posts of chancellor and president in his person, thus becoming the supreme commander in chief. The country’s economy has undergone a radical restructuring.

Already in 1935, the Nazi regime began to eliminate the consequences of the Treaty of Versailles and expand the “living space for the German people.” In 1935, the Saarland was returned to Germany and the right to create a regular army was restored. In March 1938, Germany annexed Austria and, with the connivance of Great Britain and France, annexed the Sudetenland, which had been wrested from Czechoslovakia, and then the whole of Czechoslovakia. Having signed the Non-Aggression Pact with the USSR on August 23, 1939, Germany attacked Poland on September 1, 1939, thus unleashing the 2nd World War, which, according to Hitler’s plans, was to ensure the Third Reich complete dominance in Europe.

Initially, the German army was victorious, quickly occupying Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Yugoslavia and Greece. On June 22, 1941, Germany attacked the USSR, and within 5 months, the Wehrmacht forces captured the Baltic states, Belarus, Ukraine and came close to Moscow. However, driven back in December 1941 from the capital and suffering crushing defeats at Stalingrad and Kursk, they were forced to retreat. From con. 1942 Germany and its allies were defeated on all fronts. May 8, 1945 Germany signed the act of unconditional surrender.

The war cost Germany almost 14 million killed, wounded and captured. The country was destroyed, the remaining intact industrial enterprises were subject to dismantling after the war. The direct material losses suffered by Germany in the war as a result of the destruction amounted to approximately $50 billion.

At the Yalta Conference (February 1945), the Allies decided to divide Germany into 4 occupation zones (Berlin into 4 sectors), but not split it into separate states. From June 5, the supreme power in the country passed to the victorious powers (USSR, USA, Great Britain and France), which formed the Control Council consisting of the commanders of the occupying forces. The Potsdam Conference (July 17-August 2, 1945) established the need for denazification, demilitarization, demonopolization and democratization of Germany. The occupation zones were tied to different political and economic systems, which led to a particularly acute manifestation of the Cold War in Germany and its forty-year split.

On June 20, 1948, a monetary reform was carried out in the western zones and the German mark was introduced. At the same time, a reform of economic liberalization was carried out. The Soviet leadership used this separate reform as an excuse to blockade West Berlin (June 24, 1948 – May 4, 1949). From Ser. 1948 West and East Germany developed according to different economic models. In the western part, thanks to American economic assistance (in 1948–52, under the Marshall Plan, Germany received assistance in the amount of $1.4 billion) and reforms carried out by Ludwig Erhard, Director of the Economics Administration (then Minister of Economics), the model of the social market economy began to be implemented. In the eastern part, where a monetary reform was also carried out on June 24, 1948, the socialization of production and the formation of a Soviet-style administrative-planned economy continued.

The economic split of the country was followed by a political one. On May 23, 1949, the Parliamentary Council in Bonn proclaimed the entry into force of the Basic Law (Constitution) of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). In August 1949, elections were held for the West German parliament, the Bundestag. On September 20, 1949, a government was formed headed by the leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Konrad Adenauer, who took the post of federal chancellor. Nevertheless, in West Germany, the occupation status was maintained until May 5, 1955, when Germany joined NATO.

On October 7, 1949, the People’s Council proclaimed the establishment of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). On the same day, the People’s Council transformed itself into the Provisional People’s Chamber, which enacted a democratic constitution. Wilhelm Pieck was elected president of the GDR, and Otto Grotewohl became prime minister.

In 1951, the three Western occupying powers announced the end of the state of war with Germany, and in January 1955 the USSR did the same by establishing diplomatic relations with Germany (diplomatic relations with the GDR were established in 1949). In 1951, Germany became one of the founders of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), and on March 27, 1957, together with five other European countries, signed the Treaties of Rome, which created the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). Germany actively participated in the European integration building and became one of the initiators of the Maastricht Treaty (1992) and the creation of the European Union (and within its framework, the Economic and Monetary Union).

With broad support from the United States, the Adenauer government succeeded in quickly and effectively rebuilding the shattered German economy. The German “economic miracle” is associated with the consistent implementation of the principles of the liberal model of the social market economy by Minister of Economics L. Erhard, who became Federal Chancellor in 1963. After the first post-war recession of 1966/67, first a grand coalition government (Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union and SPD) was formed, and in 1969 a small coalition government (SPD and Free Democratic Party) headed by Chancellor Willy Brandt, who in 1974 replaced by Helmut Schmidt. In the foreign policy sphere, a “new eastern policy” began to be carried out, aimed at improving relations with the countries of the Soviet bloc.

In 1982-98, the government of the right-liberal coalition of the CDU / CSU and the FDP and Chancellor Helmut Kohl, whose name is associated not only with a turn in economic policy, but above all with the unification of Germany, were in power.

Mass demonstrations in Leipzig that began in September 1989 became the prologue to the collapse of the GDR. On October 19, the Secretary General of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, Erich Honecker, resigned, and on November 9, the Berlin Wall collapsed. The unification of the country took place on October 3, 1990 (on the basis of the Unification Treaty signed on August 31, 1990). Even before that, on July 1, 1990, the Treaty on the Formation of an Economic, Monetary and Social Union came into force, which authorized the transfer to the territory of East Germany of the West German system of the social market economy.

1990s passed under the sign of the integration of the East German lands, which turned out to be more difficult than it seemed at first. Germany as a whole is facing tough challenges forcing it to reform the labor market, social services and public finances. This became the main task of the coalition government of the SPD and Alliance 90/The Greens, in power since 1998, and led by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

History of Germany