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Geography and Landscape

Geography

Germany (German: Deutschland), officially: Federal Republic of Germany (German: Bundesrepublik Deutschland; abbreviated: BRD), is a federal republic in Central Europe.

The total area has been 356,970 km2 since German reunification on 3 October 1990, making Germany the sixth largest country in Europe after Russia, Ukraine, France, Spain and Sweden. Germany is centrally located on the European continent and borders no fewer than nine countries: Denmark (68 km) in the north, the Netherlands (577 km), Belgium (167 km), Luxembourg (135 km) and France (451 km) in the west , Switzerland (334 km) and Austria (784 km) in the south, and the Czech Republic (646 km) and Poland (456 km) in the east. About one third of the current German territory is formed by the former Deutsche Demokratieve Republik (DDR).

Germany satellite photo: NASA

Germany stretches geographically from the Wadden island of Sylt in the north to Oberstdorf in southern Bavaria, and from Görlitz in the east on the Polish border to the far west of North Rhine-Westphalia. The longest distance from north to south is 876 km and from west to east 640 km. The borders of Germany have a combined length of 3618 kilometers.

Large islands include Rügen (930 km2), Usedom (German section 373 km2), Fehmarn (185 km2), Sylt (99 km2), Borkum and Norderney.

Wadden Island Borkum
image: TwanRebel, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Landscape

Germany consists of three major geographic landscapes: from the north, the landscape gradually changes from flat lowlands through low mountains to the high mountains of the Alps.

The North German lowland is part of the Eastern European lowland, which stretches from the Baltic states, along the coasts of Poland and Germany to the northern provinces of the Netherlands.

The generally fertile North German lowland landscape (0-200 meters) was formed in the ice ages of the Pleistocene, has a gently undulating bottom and here and there completely flat. The northernmost elevation, south of the Baltic Sea, is called the Baltic land ridge and is rich in lakes and forests. The second elevation lies further south from the Lower Elbe to the Katzengebirge. Parallel to these areas is a gently undulating, loamy area to the north and a wide strip of sterile sandy soil in the south, partly covered with heather (such as the Lüneburg Heath). In the same north-south direction there are several primeval stream valleys, 20 kilometers wide, previously consisting of peat, which are a result of the Ice Age. These used to be the river beds that drained the melt water from the ice sheet. They are now only visible as slightly lower lying strips in the landscape. More to the south, the North German Plain enters the low mountain ranges with deep curves, including the Middle Rhine Plain and the Saxon Plain.

Typical landscape Lüneburg Heath, Northern Germany
photo: Willow, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The German low mountain range (200-1500 meters) forms a natural division between the north and the south of the Federal Republic and is geologically a very complicated area. In the west, the mountainous region begins with a number of chains that are intersected almost at right angles by the Rhine: Rhines Schisteengebirge, Eifel, Westerwald (up to 657 m high), changing into Rothaargebirge, Hunsrück and Taunus (highest point: Grosse Feldberg 881 m ), to which connect the Vogelsberg (highest point: Taufstein 772 m) and the Rhör Mountains (up to 950 m high).
Further north is the Harz (highest point: Brocken 1142 m), with to the west the Weser Bergland and the Teutoburg Forest (highest point: Völmerstod 408 m) and to the north-east the Fläming. To the east of the Rhön is the Thuringian Forest (highest point: Grosser Beerberg 982 m) and to the southeast of it, the Fichtel Mountains form a junction with the Ore Mountains to the northeast, the Upper Palatinate-Bohemian Forest to the southeast and the Fränkische Alb to the southwest. The Franconian Alb is geologically integrated with the Swabian Alb and both are bounded to the south by the Danube.

Grosser Beerberg, highest mountain of the Thuringian Forest
photo: Elop, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic no changes made

Rivers have cut deep valleys in mountain ranges throughout the low mountain range. The Rhine has already been mentioned above and the Main, the Moselle and the Neckar can also be mentioned. Most of the villages and towns have been built in these river valleys and the slopes are very suitable for wine growing.

The Alps are a younger mountain range than the low mountain ranges in Germany. This makes the tops of the Alps more pointed than those of e.g. the Black Forest or the Erz Mountains.

South of the Danube, the low mountain range slowly changes into the Alps. The land there gradually rises and changes into the moraine region of the Pre-Alps, with an average height of 500 meters, a wooded area with both hills and many lakes. In the extreme south lies the relatively small German part of the Alps, which also forms the border with Austria, the so-called Limestone Alps.

From west to east lie the Allgäu Alps (highest point: Nebelhorn 2224 meters), the Ammergauer Mountains, the Berchtesgadener Alps (highest point: Watzmann 2713 meters) and the steep Wetterstein Mountains with the Zugspitze as highest point in Germany (2962 meters).

Zugspitze, highest mountain of Germany
photo: Octagon, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made

Highest mountains in Germany:

Zugspitze 2962 meter (Wettersteingebirge)
Hochwanner 2746 meter (Wettersteingebirge)
Höllentalspitze 2745 meter (Wettersteingebirge)
Watzmann 2713 meter (Berchtesgadener Alpen)
Plattspitze 2679 meter (Wettersteingebirge)
Hochfrottspitze 2649 meter (Allgäuer Alpen)
Mädelegabel 2645 meter (Allgäuer Alpen)
Dreitorspitze 2633 meter (Wettersteingebirge)
Alpspitze 2628 meter (Wettersteingebirge)
Hochkalter 2607 meter (Berchtesgadener Alpen)

Rivers, canals and lakes

Germany has several independent river systems that flow from south to north, the main ones being the Elbe (1112 kilometers; 700 kilometers in Germany), the Weser and the Rhine (865 kilometers in Germany). These rivers flow to the North Sea, the Danube (2842 km of which 686 km in Germany) flows into the Black Sea. The Weser (440 km) is the only one of the mentioned rivers that flows entirely through German territory.

Rhine basin
afbeelding: Ulamm, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Andere belangrijke rivieren zijn de Oder, met de zijrivier de Neisse, de Ems, de Isar, de Neckar, de Ruhr, de Spree (382 km), de Lahn en de Moezel en de Main (524 km), zijrivieren van de Rijn.

Other important rivers are the Oder, with its tributaries the Neisse, the Ems, the Isar, the Neckar, the Ruhr, the Spree (382 km), the Lahn and the Moselle and the Main (524 km), tributaries of the Rhine.

Longest rivers in Germany:
lengthof which navigable
Rhine865 km778 km
Elbe700 km700 km
Danube647 km387 km
Main524 km384 km
Weser440 km440 km
Ems371 km238 km
Neckar367 km201 km
Havel343 km243 km
Mosel242 km242 km
Elde208 km180 km
Oder162 km162 km

Stroomgebied van de Donau
afbeelding; Shannon, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Almost all rivers are normalized and are interconnected by channels running from west to east. The important channels for shipping are: the Mittelland Canal (321 km), the Dortmund – Ems Canal (269 km), the Nord – Ostsee Canal, the Oder – Spree Canal, the Ems – Jade Canal, the Oder– Havel-Kanal, the Küstenkanal, the Elbe-Lübeck-Kanal, the Wesel-Datteln-Kanal, the Elbe-Havel-Kanal and the Rhein-Herne-Kanal. The Main-Donau-Kanal was opened in 1999 (153 km).

Especially in the Alpine foreland (old glacier beds) and the Mecklenburg Lake District there are lakes. The largest lakes are the Müritzsee (after Lake Constance the largest lake in Germany with 110 km2) in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the Chiemsee (the largest lake in Bavaria: surface 80 km2), the Schweriner See, the Starnberger See, the Würmsee, the Ammersee and of course the largest lake in Germany, Lake Constance at the Austria / Swiss border. This lake is up to 15 kilometers wide and 74 kilometers long and the total area is 571.5 km². It is located at an altitude of 395 meters and the deepest point is at 252 meters. Most of the lakes are located in the north of Germany, especially in Mecklenburg.

Largest lakes in Germany:

Lake Constanz 571,5 km2
Müritz 110,3 km2
Chiemsee 79,9 km2
Schwerinersee 60,6 km2
Starnbergersee 56,4 km2
Ammersee 46,6 km2
Plauer See 38,0 km2
Kummerower See 32,2 km2
Steinhuder Meer 29,1 km2
Grosser Plöner See 29,0 km2
Schaalsee 23,3 km2
Selentersee 22,4 km2

Lake Müritz
photo: Mboesch, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Coast

In the northwest, the North Sea coast with the East Frisian islands is a continuation of the Dutch Wadden area. The actual North Sea coast is articulated: the tidal current penetrates far into the estuaries and has eroded them in a funnel-shaped way, so that the ports of Bremen and Hamburg, among others, are 70 and 100 kilometers inland respectively. The North Sea coast is a flat area with canals, dikes and islands. The island of Sylt off the coast of Schleswig-Holstein is connected to the mainland by a bridge.

The Baltic Sea coast is articulated in the west with fjords and sandy arches, in the east, on the other hand, flat: there are also beach lakes here. Steep coasts are almost non-existent but can be found on the islands of Rügen (122 meter high chalk cliffs), Heligoland (with towering red rocks) and Samland.

East Frisian Islands
Borkum 30,7 km²
Norderney 26,3 km²

Map East Frisian islands
afbeelding: Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa), CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

North Frisian Islands
Sylt 99,2 km²
Föhr 82,9 km²
Nordstrand 50,4 km²
Pellworm 37,4 km²
Amrum 20,4 km²

Schleswig-Holstein Islands
Fehmarn 185,4 km²

Mecklenburg Islands
Poel 34,3 km²

Vorpommern Islands
Rügen 930,0 km²
Usedom 373,0 km² (German part; in total 445 km²)

Climate and Weather

Germany is located in a temperate climate zone and the climate is mainly determined by the inland decreasing influence of the sea and the height above sea level. The average wind speed and precipitation gradually decrease inland, but it can rain everywhere in all seasons. In general, extreme weather situations or large temperature fluctuations hardly occur in Germany. January is the coldest month with average temperatures ranging from -6 °C to -1 °C. July is the hottest month with average temperatures of 17-20 °C.

Mist boven het Wiesental (Zwarte Woud)
photo: Klausrxt, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International, no changes made

The North German Plain has a climate similar to that of the Netherlands and England, with mild, rainy winters and sometimes warm summers. In the low mountain ranges, the climate depends on the local relief, with the low, sheltered parts having cold winters and very hot summers. Precipitation varies from 500-700 mm in the Low Plain to 700-1500 mm in the low mountain range and more than 2000 mm in the Alps. Further east and south, the climate is becoming increasingly continental, with harsh winters and hot dry summers.

In Bavaria, the Foehn blows regularly, a warm mountain wind blowing from the south. In Western Germany there is snow for about 25 days a year, to the east this number increases to about 40 days in the capital Berlin.

Winter landscape river Jachen in Bavaria, Germany
photo: Sebastian.sauer, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Plants and Animals

Plants

The German flora belongs to two plant geographic provinces of the Eurosiberian region: in the extreme northwest to the Atlantic province and in the rest of Germany to the Central European province. The alpine vegetation of the high mountains is a separate sector. Germany's national flower is the cornflower or bachelor's button (Kornblume or Zyane in German).

Cornflower, national flower of Germany
photo: Rasbak, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, no changes made

The natural vegetation consists predominantly of forest, with the exception of a saline strip along the coast, drifting dunes, living high moors and the mountains above the tree line. At the beginning of our era, Germany was still covered for approx. 75% with forest, in 1800 only for approx. 20% and at this time again for approx. 30% through reforestation. Two thirds of the forests consist of coniferous wood, especially pine and spruce.

The deciduous forest consists mainly of oak hedge-beech forest (with oak, hornbeam, beech, wild cherry, ash, maple) on nutrient-rich soils in the low plains; beech forest in the Atlantic and Baltic lowlands, in the hilly area and the beech belt of the mountains situated under the spruce belt; oak birch forest on nutrient-poor soils in the low plains; alder and willow forest in the swamps; willow forest and ash-elm-bird cherry forest in the floodplains of the rivers.

Germany also consists for approx. 14% of nature areas with vegetation types including heaths in the northwest, especially in high moors in the mountains. Marshes mainly in the south of Bavaria and Württemberg and in the north-east, rocky vegetation, thickets and locally the remarkable sparse vegetation of soils rich in zinc or lead.

Black Forest, wooded area in Germany
photo: Rainer Lück 1RL.de, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Until the early 20th century, the semi-natural landscapes, such as barren and extensively grazed grasslands, heaths and hay marshes, still played an important part in the vegetation of Germany. Due to revolutionary changes in agricultural culture, these ecological communities, which have remained stable for centuries, have been reduced to a few remnants and, moreover, they have been redeveloped or gone wild, which has led to a considerable impoverishment of flora and fauna.

A lot of heather occurs in swamp areas, on peat soils and in the humid forest areas of Northern Germany. Sea lavender is resistant to the salty coastal environment and grows mainly along the German North Sea coast. Sea thistle is a common plant in the dunes and the endangered yellow plump is found in the Rhine basin and the lower Elbe. Water lilies float on lakes and water conservation basins.

Yellow water-lilly or brabdy-bottle, endangered aquatic plant in germany
photo: Kristian Peters Fabelfroh, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The yellow iris is also a protected plant species that usually grows between reeds or in moist wooded areas. In beech and pine forests we find the well-known holly, often used at Christmas.

In the Alps, the gentian is one of the most beautiful appearances. The famous edelweiss grows high in the Alps.

Animals

The animal world is very similar to that of the Netherlands and Belgium, at least as far as the north and west are concerned; in the east, the fauna matches that of Eastern Europe and in the south (Bavaria) that of the Alps.

The here and there still extensive forests provide shelter for deer, numerous wild boars and wild cats, largely due to good hunting management.

Statue of a wild boar in front of the Jagd- und Fischereimuseum in Munich, Germany
photo: Biso, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported, no changes made

The fox, badger, marten and otter occur in suitable biotopes. The red deer and roe have been able to survive thanks to excellent hunting laws. The moose has been reintroduced in some Baltic Sea areas and elsewhere this is also the case for fallow deer, sika deer and mouflon. Hare and rabbit are common, just like many other small rodents, including the squirrel, the hamster, and the so-called dormouse (including the dormouse). The muskrat has entered Germany from Bohemia and has expanded significantly in a northwestern direction. The beaver has been able to survive in the Elbe, among other places.

Swimming beaver near Stuttgart, Germany
photo: Gerbil, CC Attribution 4.0 International no changes made

The common seal lives on the North Sea coast, the stink seal on the Baltic Sea coast. Harbor porpoise and bottlenose dolphin are fairly common occurrences in the coastal areas. The bird world is a typical Western European with some alpine species (e.g. alpine chough, rock creeper and snow grouse). Special bird species include the capercaillie, the hazel grouse, the raven, the great bustard, the crane, the black stork, the golden eagle, the white-tailed eagle and the eagle owl.

Hazel grouse
photo: MichaelHaeckel, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Among the reptiles, mention can be made of the European pond terrapin, many types of lizards and snakes, including the esculap snake and the dice snake. Special amphibians are the alpine and fire salamander. Salmon has virtually disappeared from the Rhine as a result of water pollution. Population growth, urbanization and industrialization have greatly reduced fauna.

Alpine salamander
photo: böhringer friedrich, CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic no changes made

In 2015, for the first time in Europe, a population of cave fish, of the genus Barbatula, ray-finned fish from the verge family, was spotted. This fish, occurring in southern Germany (Swabian Alb), is also the most northerly cave fish ever found.

History

Prehistory and Antiquity

Some of the human remains found in Germany are among the oldest found in Europe. Still, artifacts from before the Riss / Saale Ice Age, c. 150,000 BC. are very very rare. From the time of the Neanderthals, objects have been found in both caves and open-air camp sites. From the Magdalenian (18,000-10,000 BC) there are unique camping sites where slate plates with images of people and animals can be seen. Remains of the Hamburg culture date from the same period. These were reindeer hunters who were the oldest inhabitants of the North German lowlands.

Location of the Hamburg-culture
image: Merikanto, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

At the end of the period 8200-5300 BC, the earliest Neolithic, we encounter the first farmers of the band-ceramic culture (5300-4800 BC). This is followed by the Rössen culture (4800-4400 BC) and the Michelsberg culture (4400-3600 BC).

In the north, flint axes from the Mesolithic have been found and there is evidence that around 4500 BC. contacts are between the north and the south of Germany. These contacts lead to the Ellerbek-culture, which was founded around 3800 BC, and is succeeded by the funnel beaker culture from 3100 BC. Until the beginning of the Bronze Age, different cup cultures existed throughout Germany.

Ellerbek artefact from the Archäologisches Landesmuseum Schleswig-Holstein, Schloss Gottorf
photo: Einsamer Schütze, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, no changes made

Centers of bronze industries with burial mounds and armor have been found in both the south and the north of Germany. Princes' tombs with riches show for the first time that social layers in the population can be distinguished.

The Iron Age, from 750 BC, is divided into the Hallstatt culture and the La Tène culture with finds of very rich royal tombs and royal castles. The La Tène culture is further characterized by the early formation of cities. Wherever the Romans did not settle, the Iron Age continued until the time of the migrations, ca.375 AD.

Germany to 843 AD.

The present-day German territory was inhabited around the beginning of the era by Germanic peoples and to the east by Slavic peoples. There was no real state formation yet, but sometimes some groups were led by what you could call a king. Julius Caesar's Roman legions subdued some Germanic peoples south and west of the Rhine. The Roman name Germania also dates from this time.

During the period of Emperor Augustus, Germany was occupied by the Romans up to the Elbe. However, this did not last long, because after the lost Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in AD 9, the Rhine again became the extreme northern border and in the south the Danube.

Roman Germania in the year 7-9 AD
afbeelding: Cristiano64, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Ultimately, the Franks became the leading power in this region. Under Charlemagne, Germany, west of the Elbe and along the Danube to present-day Hungary, belonged to the Frankish Empire.

The German Empire in the Middle Ages

The German Empire actually arose after the Treaty of Verdun in 843 and the Treaty of Meerssen in 870. In Verdun, the Frankish Empire was divided among the three sons of Louis the Pious. Lothair became emperor and ruled Italy, the Provence and a long strip of Burgundy over Lorraine and Brabant towards Friesland. Charles the Bald got old Gaul in the west and Louis the German got some areas on the left bank of the Rhine. Lothair's empire was divided among his three sons after his death in 855. Louis II received Italy with the imperial crown; Charles received the southern part of the central zone extending from the Mediterranean to the North Sea and Lothair II the northern part of it.

Lotharius II, king of Lorraine
afbeelding: Rijksmuseum, CC CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

The boundary between the northern and southern part was formed by the Langres Plateau. This northern part was given the name of its ruler: Lorraine (Regnum Lotharii). After the death of Lothair II, his empire was divided between Charles the Bald and Louis the German (Treaty of Meerssen, 870). The border between the French and the German Reichs approximately coincided with the rivers Saône and Maas. In 880 Lorraine came entirely to Louis the Younger, son and successor of Louis the German, and the Scheldt became and remained the border current for many centuries.

Imperial authority meant little in this time. The Carolingian pretenders to the throne competed for supremacy and the tribal dukes became increasingly powerful. The last German Carolingian king would turn out to be Louis the Child. He surrendered his crown to the Duke of Franconia, Conrad I. He was succeeded in 919 by Henry I and with him began the great era of the German Reich, which would last until 1250. Kings and emperors of the Saxon House, the Salic House and the House of the Hohenstaufen ruled successively. The policy of the German kings can be divided into three: the central imperial power was not to be lost; They wanted to enlarge the empire area to the east of the Elbe and they fought against the popes for dominance of the church, the so-called investiture battle. Otto I was one of the great emperors to be the first non-Carolingian German king to be crowned emperor in 962, and he managed to extend his authority even more vis-à-vis secular princes, popes and bishops.

Otto I "The Great", Holy Roman Emperor
photo: Playing Futures: Applied Nomadology, CC Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Since that time it has been referred to as the German Empire or the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation. In the reign of Henry IV and his successors, the Investiture Controversy was raging, which ended with the Concordat of Worms in 1122, which stipulated that the choice of bishops was transferred to the clergy. Under Frederick I, the German Empire was at the height of its power.

After the death of Conrad IV in 1254, turbulent times began, the so-called Interregnum. The electors elected Rudolf Van Habsburg as king, after which the electors could actually do whatever they wanted for about 150 years and there was no strong central authority. Germany splintered into a federation with great principalities, free cities and many lords. With Albrecht II, the German crown definitely went to the Habsburgs.

Albrecht II "The Magnanimous", king of Germany
image: Michal Manas, CC Attribution 4.0 International no changes made

The German Empire under the Habsburgs

Under the reign of Maximilian I (1493-1519), attempts were made to implement some political reforms, but the damage had long been done. The political disintegration could no longer be stopped and eventually about 2500 states would arise around the time of the Reformation. Emperorship was being increasingly eroded and the Reichsstag, which united the three estates, electors, princes and free cities, could not play a central role in political relations. In the areas that became Protestant, the city councils and the monarchs managed to further strengthen their position of power. An own ecclesiastical organization was even established, the “Landeskirchentum”.

Maximilian I, Archduke of Austria, holy Roman Emperor
photo: https://purl.org/nga/collection/artobject/45420, CC CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

The religious division led to much unrest, especially on the Roman Catholic side, and eventually led to the Thirty Years' War. The Catholic Habsburgs also hoped to restore imperial authority through this war.

At the height of Catholic successes, Ferdinand II promulgated the Restitution Edict in 1629, which indirectly also was to underpin his imperial authority. It then became clear, however, that even the German allies of the Habsburg House put the unrestricted maintenance of the liberity of the empire above the importance of the Catholic cause, so that the whole endeavor came to nothing. In the later phase of the Thirty Years' War, when it was clear that European conflicts of power were in fact being fought on German soil, although a rapprochement took place between the emperor and the other German princes, it was already too late to counteract the fatal development.

Borders of Europe during the Thirty Years War
image: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

The Peace of Westphalia (1648), which definitively regulated religious relations in the Holy Roman Empire and thus ended the protracted conflict, has been disastrous for the German nation in other respects. The Empire, which had endured the most severe trials during that war, now suffered for its powerlessness with the loss of vast areas, especially in the west, and weakened more and more in its political structure. Little more was left of emperorship than an empty title, and the individual German states that had acquired the “Ius foederationis” were now allowed to pursue their own foreign policy almost without restrictions.

European map after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648
afbeelding: Amitabho, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

With the rise of Brandenburg-Prussia, the era of Austro-Prussian dualism was heralded in national politics. This marked the final phase of the political decline of the Holy Roman Empire. Both superpowers saw the rest of the Empire as room for maneuver for their political interests and were followed by smaller countries such as Saxony, Bavaria and Hanover. It was typical of this situation that the people finally called only the fragmented areas on the Middle Rhine the Empire.

French rule

The era of the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars in the period 1792-1815 would have major political consequences. For example, France annexed all the land on the left bank of the Rhine and the large German states received some small dwarf states as compensation. Napoleon thus ensured that the French influence in Germany became stronger and stronger. In 1806, sixteen German monarchs founded the Confederation of the Rhine, which marked the definitive end of the Holy Roman Empire. The last emperor, Francis II, who was also Emperor of Austria since 11 August 1804, resigned the emperorship on 6 August 1806 under French pressure.

The Confederation of the Rhine was a confederation of client states of the First French Empire
afbeelding: ziegelbrenner, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Not long afterwards, Prussia went to war with France and lost half its territory. The remaining Prussian territory, however, was subject to heavy material burdens, and was therefore bound hand and foot to France. The former Prussian territories were divided among the Confederation of the Rhine. In 1810 a broad coastal strip in northwestern Germany was annexed by the French, where the important port cities of Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck were located.

With the exception of Prussia and Austria, the Confederation of the Rhine had meanwhile been expanded to include all existing German states. However, this league was entirely dependent on France and an instrument of French politics. Most Germans did not suffer much from the fact that the German nation had more or less fallen under French rule. Strong anti-German sentiments existed only in Prussia. This even led to a liberation war of 1813-1815, of which the population was hardly impressed.

On the way to German unity

Only after the Congress of Vienna in 1815 did national feelings bubble up again. Germany remained divided into 39 states of different sizes and significance, often with fragmented territory. Together these states formed the German Confederation. Prussia was dissatisfied because it came second in German politics. This was partly because the Berlin ministers joined forces with Klemens Metternich, who single-handedly determined the course of the German Confederation.

He was a declared opponent of all national and liberal movements and tried to slow down the development towards constitutionalism. The German states that already had a constitution were also prevented from pursuing liberal rule. The League intervened more and more, but in Prussia in particular, an increasingly closer unity became, mainly out of economic self-interest. It even created a “Zollverein” which, by 1834, already included most of the German states.

After the March Revolution of 1848, all nationalist and radical currents converged in Germany and the first elected national assembly met in Frankfurt. The task of this meeting was to give the future German Reich a liberal constitution and a provisional Reich government was also established under the leadership of Archduke Johan. Due to major political differences, this attempt came to nothing.

In 1849 the constitution finally came into effect and the German lands, except Austria, were united in a hereditary empire under Prussian rule. The Prussian king, however, refused to become emperors, and liberal nationalism suffered a heavy defeat. Prussia tried to establish a German Union, but failed due to the intervention of Austria and Russia, and in 1850 the old German Confederation was restored. Austria lost a lot of authority in German politics due to, among other things, a defeat in Italy. As a result, Prussia became increasingly powerful, both militarily and economically. In 1862, the conservative Otto von Bismarck came to power in Berlin, and a major internal crisis soon developed within the German Confederation. Bismarck was at odds with the liberals in his own Prussia and tried to fight Austrian hegemony with the help of liberals and radical nationalists in other German countries. This eventually led to a German fraternal war in 1866, in which Austria and its allies were severely defeated.

The German Confederation (German: Deutscher Bund) was a confederation of more than 40 German states.
image: ziegelbrenner, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

As a result, the German Confederation disintegrated and the Peace of Prague effectively pushed Austria out of German politics. Prussia grew stronger and with the German states to the north of the river Main founded the North German Confederation, a much stronger body than its predecessor with even an elected parliament. The southern German states became formally independent and concluded alliance treaties with the North German Confederation, which in particular strengthened economic ties.

Because of these treaties, the efforts of Austria and France to play the South Germans against Prussia also failed. In 1871, a war between the North German Confederation and the South German states on the one hand and France on the other ensured that German unity became a fact.

The Hohenzollern Empire

On January 18, 1871, the German Empire was founded by Bismarck in Versailles. The Prussian King Wilhelm I became the German Emperor, only the Habsburg Empire was excluded and there was no question of a Greater German Empire for the time being. It was also disappointing that it was in fact a royal league under Prussian leadership and not the desired liberal constitutional monarchy. As a result, Bismarck continued to exert a great influence on the new empire and the crown and the old feudal upper class continued to rule and the influence of the citizens was curtailed.

Moreover, the individual states, in particular Bavaria, with their princes and their own governments continued to exist as usual, and the office of Reich Chancellor usually coincided with that of Prussian Prime Minister. This created a complex two-unity relationship between the Empire and between Prussia, in which foreign policy and the most important domestic affairs were determined by the Reich government. Bismarck cleverly managed to ensure a majority in the Reichstag and thus played the parties off against each other.

 Map of German Reich 1871–1918
afbeelding:
ziegelbrenner Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

He had first allied himself with the liberals through his unity politics. Together with the liberals, he tried to break the cultural influence of internationally oriented Catholicism in order to make cultural and religious matters an exclusive state affair. This so-called "Kulturkampf" was only ended around 1878 after a series of highly controversial anti-church measures. In addition, moderate Leo XIII became Pope and Bismarck desperately needed the Catholic Center Party again.

In the meantime, Germany had been transformed from a predominantly agricultural country into an industrial society. Industry was protected so much by Bismarck through protectionist policies that he came into conflict with the liberals and their free economic ideas. Mainly relying on the agrarian conservatives, he also came into increasing conflict with the socialists, which he tried to mask by means of social insurance. In 1888, Wilhelm II accepted the crown, and his progressive plans soon led to conflicts with the chancellor, ultimately resulting in Bismarck's dismissal in 1890.

Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898), including Prime Minister of Prussia (1862 to 1890) and in 1867 Chancellor of the North German Confederation
photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R13234 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Bismarck's foreign policy was to maintain peace and for this purpose alliances were to be formed. An important goal was to weaken the influence of France. In 1878 an upcoming conflict in the Balkans could be nipped in the bud. He also managed to bind the opponents Austria and Russia to Germany. Nevertheless, Germany's strong position turned out to be an illusion and Germany's position in international relations was greatly overestimated. In 1892 the French and Russians allied and in 1904 the English and French. These thoughts were fueled by the tremendously prominent position in the world market of the economy after the United States and Great Britain.

Under Bismarck, a colonial empire had already emerged in Africa and Oceania and this imperialist aim was getting stronger (including China and the Near East). This imperialist behavior and the defiant attitude in many international tensions drove Germany into isolation, so much so that at one point it was only supported by the divided Habsburg monarchy.

In the First World War, the militarily powerful Germany, together with Austria, stood against a British-Franco-Russian alliance. Germany was only supported by Turkey and Bulgaria. The fronts were in France and Poland and it was possible to keep the war activities outside Germany. The people of Germany showed a remarkable unanimity, and even the Socialists supported the large expenditures associated with the war, but the war was increasing in casualties, the allies did not cooperate well, and the opponents grew to about thirty states, and a rapid victory proved impossible.

Kaart van militaire allianties in de Eerste Wereldoorlog in 1914
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This created unrest among the population who wanted constitutional reforms again in order to end the powerful position of the old elite. Peace was made with Russia in 1918, but partly due to the participation of the United States in the war, Germany fought a losing battle on the Western Front and total collapse followed. On November 9, 1918, the monarchy came to an end and the Republic was proclaimed.

The Weimar Republic

The new republic initially had the difficult task of negotiating an armistice and then making peace with the victors. On June 28, 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was concluded and Germany had to cede Alsace-Lorraine, other border regions and all of the colonies. Furthermore, the eastern border was re-established with the result that East Prussia was added to Poland and this was experienced as very humiliating by the Germans. The army was greatly reduced and high reparations had to be paid. In Weimar, a democratic constitution had meanwhile been drawn up with still fairly large powers for the president. The first Reich President was the socialist Friedrich Ebert.

Friedrich Ebert (1871-1925), 1st Reich President of Germany photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-00015 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

The first years of the Weimar Republic were characterized by economic misery and political chaos. In 1923 the provisional low point was reached by the French Ruhr occupation and the inflation that disrupted the entire economy. Right-wing and left-wing radical movements threatened unity. The following years brought about a normalization and improvement of the situation in the country. International tensions eased with the Locarno Pact in 1925.
In 1929 the global economic crisis broke out and Germany was also hit hard. Unemployment grew enormously and that was an excellent breeding ground for all kinds of radical groups to manifest themselves more and more emphatically, in particular the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP) of Adolf Hitler benefited from this and in 1930 obtained 107 seats in the Reichstag and thus became the second party. of Germany after the SPD. Between 1930 and 1933 some extra-parliamentary cabinets tried to overcome the economic and political situation. However, the socialists were soon eliminated and in 1932 the NSDAP emerged as the strongest party.

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), Führer and Chancellor of Germany
photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S33882 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Under the constant threat of a military coup d'état and the massive support of the NSDAP, no government dared to act against Hitler's National Socialists and Fascists. On January 30, 1933, he even became chancellor of a cabinet of National Socialists, German Nationals and non-party conservatives.

The Third Reich

In an ingenious, ruthless way, Hitler managed to eliminate all coalition partners within a few months and a dictatorial one-party regime based on terror emerged, resulting in an unparalleled totalitarian state. Trade unions were dissolved, other parties were eliminated, the first persecutions of the Jews took place and concentration camps were established.

Duitsland tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog
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Hindenburg, President of the Reich since 1925, died in August 1934, which offered Hitler the opportunity to become head of state and thus also dictator. Slowly he managed to get rid of all opponents and he also managed to gain power from the army. All this was made even easier for him by the rising international economy, which actually improved the economic situation after the crisis years. Foreign policy became more and more aggressive, aided by weakness and the West's tendency to make concessions. It soon became clear that Hitler was heading for war. Austria and the Sudetenland were annexed in 1938 and Bohemia, Moravia and Memelland followed in early 1939. On September 1, Hitler invaded Poland and World War II broke out.

Gevolgen bombardement op Dresden
photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-08778-0001 / Hahn / CC-BY-SA 3.0

The Germans soon managed to conquer most of the European continent. Only after the failed attack on Russia in June 1941, the odds turned. Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union now jointly turned against the German Wehrmacht and the war ended in total defeat for Germany in May 1945. Only now did the true nature of fascist rule emerge with the discovery of the concentration camps where, among other things, six million Jews were murdered.

 Rail leading to the German Nazi death camp Auschwitz II (Birkenau)
photo: Pimke, Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Poland no changes made

The period 1945-1949

After the war, Germany was divided into four occupation zones. The purpose of this was to govern the country jointly and to establish a democratic government. However, because of the contradictions between the United States, Great Britain and France on the one hand and the Soviet Union on the other, this plan failed miserably and after 1945 two separate states developed: the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR), both of which came about in 1949.

Germany divided by the Allies after World War II
image: 52 Pickup, CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic no changes made

The Federal Republic of Germany 1949–1990

The Federal Republic of Germany was formed on August 14, 1949 from the US, British and French occupation zones. According to the 1950 agreements, the western sectors of Berlin became a Land of the Federal Republic. The Saarland, occupied by the French, joined the Federal Republic on January 1, 1957. Finally, the Reunification Treaty - which on Oct. 1990 came into effect - the affiliation (Beitritt) of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) with the Federal Republic of Germany.

The first Bundestag elections were held in 1949, on the same day the new constitution came into effect. On September 12 the first president was elected, Theodor Heuss of the FDP. A few days later, Konrad Adenauer was elected Chancellor of the CDU, and then re-elected three more times, the last time in 1961.

Konrad Adenauer (1876-1967), first chancellor of West-Germany West-Duitsland, and Theodor Heuss, first federal president of West-Germany-Duitsland
photo: Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F006929-0004 / Rolf Unterberg / CC-BY-SA 3.0

A coalition party of CDU, FDP and Deutsche Partei (DP) was formed, which mainly focused on intensifying contacts with the west and putting reunification with the GDR in the background. The socialists, liberals and the refugee party, on the other hand, focused more on reunification with the GDR. The CDU also won the next two elections in 1953 and 1957. In 1953 a coalition of the CDU, FDP, DP and Refugee Party was formed which received a two-thirds majority in both the Bundestag and the Bundesrat. In 1955 the Refugee Party left the coalition and in 1956 the liberals followed suit. At that time, the opposition socialists were making progress in the state elections.

In the meantime, the so-called “Wirtschatfswunder” took place in Germany, the strong economic progress from which the workers also benefited.

In 1961 the CDU won the elections again, but this time did not achieve a convincing majority, partly due to a number of internal conflicts. Adenauer had to include the FDP as a coalition partner in his government and was replaced in October by Ludwig Erhard, the main man behind the economic miracle. In 1965, Willy Brandt's socialists were again clearly defeated by the CDU and Erhard was able to form a cabinet again with the FDP.

Ludwig Erhard (1897-1977), Chancellor of Germany from 1963 to 1966
photo: Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F015320-0001 / Patzek, Renate / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Despite the election victory of the CDU, Erhard failed to gain sufficient prestige as head of government. When the FDP ministers withdrew following a dispute over the budget, his fate was sealed. At the request of his own party, Erhard resigned.

His party colleague Kurt Georg Kiesinger became 1 Dec. 1966 elected Chancellor as his successor. He formed a coalition cabinet with the SPD, whose leader, Brandt, became Vice Chancellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs. This Great Coalition managed to reverse the economic recession of 1966 and bring about some recovery. Still, there were friction points between the coalition partners, especially in the field of foreign policy. In 1969, a small victory by the SPD in the Bundestag elections caused the Great Coalition to fall apart.

Willy Brandt (1913-1992), Chancellor of Germany from 1969 to 1974 and Nobel Peace Prize winner
photo: Anefo, Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

The SPD, together with the FDP, formed a new coalition led by Willy Brandt as chancellor, which, after early elections on 19 Nov. 1972 could be continued. After an espionage scandal involving one of his associates, Brandt stepped down as Chancellor in May 1974. He was succeeded by fellow party member Helmut Schmidt.

After the 1976 elections, the existing SPD-FDP coalition was continued. In the early 1970s, German politics was severely affected by the oil crisis and the strongly associated unemployment.

The 1976 elections produced another SPD / FDP coalition. The 1970s were also dominated by domestic terrorism committed by the Baader-Meinhof group or Red Army Faction. In connection with this, Berufsverbote were instituted, which meant that applicants for an official position with the government were screened for their political views. The purpose of this was to exclude politically radical thinkers.

The 1970s produced a new political trend; the environmental parties such as the Grüne Liste and the Grünen joined forces in 1980 to form a political party, the Grüne Partei.

Helmut Schmidt (1918-2015), Chancellor of Germany from 1974 to 1982
photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1990-0313-023 / Kluge, Wolfgang / CC-BY-SA

The SPD / FDP colation still achieved a fairly large majority in 1980, but then declined. There were major differences of opinion about the economic policy to be pursued and Chancellor Schmidt had problems with his supporters. In the summer of 1982 this led to a break in the coalition after which an agreement with the Christian Democrats was quickly reached and CDU leader Helmut Kohl formed a new government.

The elections of March 1983 yielded the CDU a seat gain and the Greens entered the Bundestag as the fourth fraction with 27 seats. The center-right Kohl-Genscher coalition remained in power and with the new president Richard von Weizsäcker, West Germany also gained an internationally very appealing head of state and he was also a great support for the somewhat clumsy Kohl. After the 1987 elections, the Grünen turned out not to be a one-day-fly but managed to consolidate their position in parliament. At the end of the eighties, the right-wing radical Republikaner, led by Franz Schönhuber, initially took off strongly and caused a lot of unrest. However, this party was unable to exceed the 5% limit and was therefore unable to take a seat in parliament.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl in conversation with Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers
photo: Rob Croes / Anefo, Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

Towards the reunification of West and East Germany

In March 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev took office as political leader of the Soviet Union and the East-West balance of power in Europe slowly began to move. In Germany, relations with the GDR and the ruling SED were intensified and a policy of “Wandel durch Annäherung” was pursued. In the government statement, Chancellor Kohl spoke out clearly in favor of reunification, but the time was not yet ripe in the Soviet Union and among the leaders of the GDR. In addition, the GDR government strongly rejected the Russian course of glasnost and perestroika and as a result became increasingly weaker in the German-German relationship. During his visit to the Federal Republic, the East German leader Honecker said that the border between the two countries should connect rather than separate.

In June 1989, during his state visit to Bonn, Gorbachev suggested the possibility of tearing down the Berlin Wall.

In the summer of 1989, GDR holidaymakers fled en masse to the west, often via Eastern European countries where freedom had prevailed for some time. This accelerated the German question and in November 1989 the Berlin Wall was pulled down.

Just after the fall of the Berlin Wall
photo: Raphaël Thiémard, CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

On May 18, 1990, the finance ministers of both countries signed a state treaty on economic, monetary and social unification. On May 5, talks began between the two Germans and the Allies. It was agreed that the new Germany would remain a member of NATO and that the Oder-Neisse border would be recognized by the Bundesrat and the Volkskammer. In September the CDU and the SPD merged with their East German counterparts.

On October 3, 1990, the reunification of the Federal Republic with the GDR was sealed by the Reunification Treaty.

East and West Germany reunited

In December 1990, the first parliamentary elections in a reunited Germany were won by the CDU with 44% of the vote. The SPD reached a post-war low with 33% and the Greens did not return to the Bundestag at all. The coalition between the CDU and the FDP continued, but as early as January 1991, it turned out that the costs for the entire reunification operation were much higher than budgeted and Kohl was forced to raise taxes.

The Treuhand Anstalt was given the difficult and extensive task of privatizing 8,000 state-owned companies in former East Germany and 3 million hectares of land. The divestments and closings of companies increased labor unrest in the east of Germany and a deep recession ensued throughout Germany.

Map of Germany after the German Reunification
image: Lencer, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The early 1990s were also marked by increased xenophobia that forced the government to curb ongoing immigration. In July 1993, an amendment to the constitution followed, allowing refugees from so-called safe countries to be expelled and all asylum seekers admitted.

In May 1993, for the first time since the creation of the Federal Republic in 1955, armed German soldiers came into action in a non-NATO area; a U.N. operation in Somalia.

Stagnating economy

After two terms in office, Richard von Weiszäcker was succeeded as president in 1994 by Roman Herzog of the CDU. The Bundestag elections were largely dominated by economic development, which showed an earlier and stronger recovery. The CDU had the worst election result since 1949, but remained the largest party and was once again able to form a coalition government with the liberal FDP led by Helmut Kohl, who was elected Chancellor for the fourth time with a single majority vote. It was remarkable that the extreme right-wing parties did not gain a foothold.

In 1995 economic growth stagnated and unemployment remained high, especially in the former GDR. That is where growth was strongest, mainly due to government investments in construction and infrastructure.

Federal President Roman Herzog and Argentine President Carlos Menem
photo: Presidencia de la Nación Argentina, CCommons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Despite concerns from the Bundesbank, the government continued to support plans for a single European currency. In 1996 talks on Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) sparked a fierce battle against almost all other EU countries, with Bonn defending the pursuit of the "hardest" possible euro, the future common currency. In addition to embedding the D-mark in a monetary union, the German economy faced several other interconnected problems in 1996: the economic and psychological divide between the east and the west of the country, the modernization of the welfare state and reorganization. of public finances. In addition, some cracks came to light internationally in the Bonn-Paris axis, where French protectionism clashed with the German pursuit of free trade. The considerably improved relationship with the Netherlands was expressed in 1995, among other things, in the formation of a Dutch-German military unit.

Thanks to additional privatizations and budget cuts, the budget deficit came to 3% in 1997, exactly the demand that Germany itself had set for participation in EMU. The government's announcement in March 1997 to drastically cut multi-billion coal mining subsidies until 2005 sparked massive demonstrations from trade unions, after which the government decided to postpone the clean-up.

The end of the Kohl era

The Bundestag elections of September 1998 were disappointing for Helmut Kohl and in the polls his party lagged behind the SPD. With his new leader, the Prime Minister of the Land of Lower Saxony Gerhard Schröder, the Social Democrats presented themselves as the party of the Neue Mitte, with a focus on changes that were mainly economic, such as the fight against the (youth) unemployment.

Gerhard Schröder, prime minister of Germany
photo: Campus Symposium GmbH, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The CDU / CSU coalition had the worst result since 1949 and the liberal coalition partner FDP also lost significantly and was halved. The big winner was the SPD and it became the largest party in the Bundestag. The new government was formed from a coalition of the SPD and the Grünen that for the first time granted government power at the national level. Gerhard Schröder became the first Social Democratic Prime Minister since Helmut Schmidt. Oskar Lafontaine, representative of the left wing of the SPD, became Minister of Finance with extensive powers. The political leader of the Grünen Joschka Fischer took his place in the government as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In December 1999, Germany was shocked by a massive corruption scandal within the CDU. Even Chancellor Kohl had accepted bribes on behalf of the CDU's party fund. Kohl, however, declined to name names and would be subject to a criminal investigation. On January 18, 2000, Kohl had to step down from his position of honorary president of the CDU, after it became clear that the party leadership no longer supported him.

Period Schröder

On foreign policy front, the new government continued to follow Kohl's line, strengthening ties with France and Great Britain. Economically, people looked with jealous eyes at the Netherlands, where the unemployment rate fell drastically due to, among other things, the polder model. However, this solution was not for the Germans and in July 1998 the unemployment rate was 10.9% of the labor force, the highest rate since 1945.

In the East German states, the situation was and is even more worrisome and there are many social problems. The new government coalition appeared to have great difficulty in working together in harmony and soon the Minister of Finance, Oskar Lafontaine, stepped down from the government and also resigned his position as party chairman.

In June 1999, the Schröder government presented a very drastic austerity program in which cutbacks amounted to approximately DM 30 billion. On May 23, 1999, Johannes Rau was elected from the SPD as the new Federal President and in the summer of that year the Bundestag, including 12,000 officials, moved to Berlin.

Johannes Rau, Federal President of Germany
photo: Roland Gerrits / Anefo, CC CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

In 2000, the government continued to implement austerity measures and tax cuts for businesses. As a result of all these measures, the German economy showed clear signs of recovery. The economic development of the former GDR was quite successful, only the unemployment rate was significantly higher compared to the former West Germany.

The red-green government coalition led by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder won the German parliamentary elections. The election campaign fulfilled the expectations of a neck-and-neck race. SPD and CDU / CSU each received 38.5% of the vote.

Schröder may form a new government, but has been punished by the voters for his faltering economic policy. The SPD lost 2.4% to reach 251 seats, just enough to supply the largest fraction in the Bundestag. Schröder was thus held against the massive unemployment that his government had done too little to combat. More than 4 million Germans were looking for a job at that time.

Horst Köhler was designated as Germany's new head of state on Sunday, May 23, 2004. The former boss of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) received the support of the majority of the so-called Federal Assembly, the electoral college that the Federal President appoints. Köhler succeeded Johannes Rau, who was not eligible for re-election.

Köhler received 604 votes, one more than the absolute majority required. A total of 1,206 persons were allowed to determine who held the highest office in Germany until 2009. That number of 1206 is exactly double the number of seats in the parliament, the Bundestag. The 603 Bundestag parliamentarians make up one half of the Bundestag. The other 603 members are a reflection of the political relations in the federal states. These include prime ministers of the sixteen federal states, representatives of the regional parliaments, ex-politicians and well-known Germans. Although he was a CDU member since 1981, he often gained a reputation for acting commercially and politically independently. The Christian Democrats and Liberals therefore labeled him the ideal president for all Germans.

Period Merkel

The elections in September 2005 were narrowly won by the CDU / CSU (226 seats against 222 for the SPD), after which the CDU / CSU and SPD formed a grand coalition for the first time since 1966. Angela Merkel (CDU) was appointed first female Chancellor on November 22, 2005. In March 2008, Angela Merkel will pay a historic visit to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Merkel is re-elected in September 2009.

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany since November 22, 2005
photo: kremlin.ru, Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

At the end of 2009 in early 2009, Germany will fall into recession and pump large sums of money into the economy. In May 2010, the parliament grudgingly approved support for the Greek economy. Public opinion is against this support. In May 2011, Germany decided to abandon all nuclear energy in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster in Japan in 2022. In September 2013, Merkel got a lot of votes in the parliamentary elections, but just not the absolute majority. In December 2013, she finalized coalition talks with the SPD and became head of government of a so-called "Grosse Koalition". Germany will introduce the minimum wage for the first time in April 2014. In September 2015, Merkel plays a decisive role in the migrant crisis. Germany take many migrants to Merkel's winged statement: "Wir Schaffen das".

In January 2016, the mood changed after sexual attacks on women, perpetrated in Cologne, among others, by perpetrators with an Arab or North African appearance. In December 2016, there was a heavy attack with a trick on a Christmas market in Berlin by the Islamic State, in which 12 people were killed. In September 2017, the populists of the Alternative fur Deutschland party took advantage of the country's vote by finishing third in the parliamentary elections. A coalition is difficult to form. Also in 2017, Frank-Walter Steinmeier will become the 12th Federal President of Germany. In March 2018, after a very long formation by German standards, Merkel took up the position as Chancellor of a new grand coalition with the SPD.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, 12th Federal President of Germany
photo: ? ?, CC Attribution 4.0 International, no changes made

In July 2020 it will be Germany's turn to hold the presidency of the EU. Angela Merkel may be able to assert her authority one last time to get out of the difficult negotiations about the budget and the spending of the Corona funds. She will no longer be eligible for re-election in the 2022 elections in Germany.

Population

In 2017, there were 80,594,017 inhabitants in Germany, of which 8 million were foreigners. Germany thus has the largest population of the countries of the European Union. Germany is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe, with just under 230 inhabitants per km2. Only Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have a higher population density.

The most densely populated areas are the metropolises (Berlin, Hamburg and Munich), the Rhine-Westphalia industrial area, the Rhine-Main area, the Rhine-Neckar area and the Stuttgart area, the Leipzig-Halle industrial area, the Chemnitz-Zwickau area and the surroundings of Dresden. More than 75% of the total population lives in cities or urban areas.

The largest population concentration, approx. 11 million people, is in the Ruhr area, where cities such as Essen, Duisburg and Dortmund are so close to each other that they merge with no clear boundary. Of the more than 80 million inhabitants, about 15 million people live in the former East Germany and another nearly 3.5 million in Berlin.

A relatively large number of people live in small villages of less than 5000 inhabitants and in the many medium-sized cities of 100,000-500,000 inhabitants.

The largest German cities are:

About 60,000 Danish-speaking Germans of Danish origin live in the north of Schleswig-Holstein. The same number has the Slavic Sorbian minority in the east (Lansitz). Approx. 30% of the foreigners are Turks, plus Yugoslavs, Italians, Greeks, Poles, Bosniaks and Croats. Due to the large flow of refugees to Germany from the end of the eighties, from the Eastern bloc countries, in particular East Germany, Yugoslavia, Russia, but also from Africa and Asia, the right of asylum was restricted in 1993.

Number of inhabitants Germany from 1961
afbeelding:user:Valérie75, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Population composition, population growth and net migration have undergone a completely different development in East and West Germany after the German unity in 1991. First, the fall of the Berlin Wall triggered a large flow of migrants from East to West Germany. Furthermore, the population grew strongly after unification due to the influx of foreign migrants. An estimated 8 million inhabitants of the total population have a foreign nationality.

Finally, the birth rate in East Germany fell sharply. For example, 45% fewer children were born in 1991 than in 1988. Since 1994, this number has increased again. Nevertheless, the aging population in East Germany is still continuing and the population is still declining. In 1997 there were 1 million fewer people living there than in 1989.

Population data Germany (2017)

Population pyramid Germany 2019-12-31
image: sdgedfegw, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

East Germany

The population structure in the former East Germany or the “neue Länder” is very unbalanced. The ages of around 50 and 80 years are underrepresented due to the two world wars. There has also been a decline in births between the ages of 30 and 40 as a result of the introduction of the contraceptive pill.

By 1975, the number of births fell significantly due to the authorization of abortion. This was followed by a birth-stimulating policy by the government, whereby the number of births increased again and the 10-20 year olds are strongly represented in the East German population..

West Germany

Naturally, the influences of both world wars can also be found in the former West Germany. The differences in population structure are mainly in the period after 1975. Birth control was much less in West Germany than in East Germany, so the ages between 10 and 20 years are much better represented in West Germany and the population pyramid has a more regular course.

Language

Spread

German is a Germanic language spoken mainly in the Central European countries of Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein and Northern Switzerland. There are also minorities in the following countries and regions who also speak German: South Tyrol, Alsace-Lorraine, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Hungary and Russia (Volga Germans).

German is the seventh language on earth and is spoken by approximately 120 million people.

German speaking areas of the world
image: Shibo77, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Also related to German are Yiddish, Letzeburgs in Luxembourg, Pennsilvan in the United States and Schwyzerdütsch in Switzerland. German is closely related to, among others, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Dutch, Flemish and English.

High German is the language of the entire population. In Schleswig, Danish is also spoken and a small part of the country, around Cottbus and Bautzen, is bilingual; in addition to High German, West Slavic Sorbian is also spoken here.

Lower German or Flat German, which is still spoken in the northwest, has many similarities with the regional languages in the eastern Netherlands.

History

In the first century AD, the various West Germanic dialects did not yet form a close linguistic unity. It is believed that within the Carolingian Empire all Germanic tribes were considered linguistically related. In the south of Germany, the High German dialects gradually emerged, which showed a great uniformity due to language and sound shifts.

In the north, the Saxons continued to expand their power and a Lower German (Old Saxon) language area was established there. Both languages were strongly influenced by Christianity and the ancient Latin cultural tradition, especially in word formation and meaning.

In the period 800-1100 the German language area expanded further to the east and southeast. Between 1170 and 1250 German was strongly influenced by French and classical Middle High German, a courtly literary language, emerged.

 Development tree of the Germanic languages
afbeelding: Vlaemink, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

From 1250, High German was increasingly used in official documents. The Lower German language area expanded from 1100 to the Oder, the Weichsel and also to the northeastern Netherlands. East of the Elbe and the Salle a so-called colonial East-Middle German language emerged with elements of different geographic origins.

Mainly through Martin Luther's translation of the Bible, the East-Middle German written language became the basis of the German “Schriftsprache”. This development was also further promoted by humanism and emerging national sentiments. The definitive establishment of contemporary grammatical and lexical norms was mainly due to the influence of grammarians in the 17th and 18th centuries. The classical literary language flourished at the end of the 18th and early 19th century. However, it remained a writing language often very different from the spoken dialects. The spelling of this written language was recorded around 1900.

In addition to this written language, there is a colloquial language that is regionally characterized by strong sound and word variants. Due to political, social and cultural developments, the regional differences between written language and colloquial language are becoming smaller and smaller.

Example of the Cologne dialect
photo: User Bordeaux on de.wikipedia, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

General Article 4 of the constitution guarantees the German population freedom of religion: “Die Freiheit des Glaubens, des Gewissens und die Freiheit des religiösen und weltanschaulichen Bekenntnisses sind unverletzlich. Die ungestörte Religionsausübung wird gewährleistet ”.

In 1919 the actual separation between church and state was declared.

 Distribution of the two major Christian denominations (Catholicism and Protestantism) on the German states ("Bundesländer") in percent
image: KaterBegemot, CC Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made

In 2002 about 34% of the population belonged to the Protestant, mainly Lutheran churches and also 34% to the Roman Catholic Church; 3.7% belonged to the Islamic faith.

In 1995 the Jewish community consisted of 72 congregations with a total of almost 54,000 members. In 1933, before Hitler took power, there were approximately 530,000 Jews in Germany. The largest Jewish community is in Berlin, followed by the communities of Frankfurt and Munich. Traditional Jewish communities in Leipzig and Dresden can again actively practice their faith after reunification.

Protestant Churches

There are a total of 18 Lutheran and Reformed (Reformed) churches in West Germany that are united in the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (EKD). In 1991, the EKD united with the Bund der Evangelischen Kirchen from the former GDR.

The Evangelical churches in Germany belong to the World Council of Churches and there is close cooperation with the Roman Catholic Church.

The Protestant churches organize biennial national meetings: the so-called church days.

Percentage of the Protestant population at the district level according to the results of the 2011 census in Germany
image: Michael Sander, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Catholic Church

Until 1994, the Roman Catholic Church was divided into 23 dioceses, five of which were archdioceses. After a realignment due to German unity, Germany currently has 20 dioceses and seven archdioceses, Bamberg, Cologne, Freiburg, Munich and Freising, Paderborn, Hamburg (new) and Berlin (formerly a diocese). The Archdiocese of Cologne is the richest in the world, partly thanks to the church tax (“Kirchensteuer”).

The Roman Catholic Church organizes biennial gatherings: the so-called Catholic Days.

Dioceses and Archdioceses in Germany
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Society

State structure

The Constitution of 23 May 1949 declared the Federal Republic a “federal, democratic, parliamentary and social constitutional state”.

In Germany, the three powers in the central government are divided as follows:

- Legislative: the Bundestag and the Bundesrat

- executive: the Federal Government and the Chancellor

- in court: the Bundesverfassungsgericht and the judiciary in general

Overview political system in Germany
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The Bundestag, the parliament, is the supreme body and exercises legislative power. The Bundestag is elected by the people for four years by universal direct suffrage, according to a system that is a compromise between proportional representation and the majority system. In certain cases it can be dissolved.

The main tasks are: legislation, controlling the government and electing the chancellor. The Bundestag currently has 672 delegates who moved from Bonn to Berlin in 1999.

The Federal Council consists of 69 members of the sixteen German state governments (three, four, five or six depending on the number of inhabitants of the respective state). The Federal Council has, among other things, a suspensive veto right against most of the laws passed by the Bundestag.

The Federal Council has a strong say in the drafting of laws that affect the federal states. The political balance of power in the Federal Council depends on the party composition of the state governments. It may be that the Bundesrat has a different majority than the Bundestag.

Building in Berlin where the federal council of Germany sits
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The Federal Government consists of the Chancellor (the President of the Government), and the Federal Ministers. The Chancellor is appointed by the Bundestag on the nomination of the Federal President; the federal ministers are appointed by the federal president on the recommendation of the chancellor. The Chancellor has great personal power because, for example, sets out the guidelines for government policy, which gives him great esteem within the cabinet.

Although all ministers are answerable to the Bundestag, only the Chancellor can be passed a so-called “constructive vote of no confidence”, as he is the only cabinet member elected by Parliament. He only has to resign if the majority agrees on the choice of a successor.

It has so far happened once in German post-war history that a chancellor was sent home by such a motion (Helmut Schmidt in 1982).

Overview Chancellors germany since 1949

nameperiodpolitical party
Konrad Adenauer (1876-1967)1949-1963CDU
Ludwig Erhard (1897-1977)1963-1966CDU
Kurt Georg Kiesinger (1904-1988)1966-1969CDU
Willy Brandt (1913-1992)1969-1974SPD
Walter Scheel (1919-2016)1974FDP
Helmut Schmidt (1918-2015)1974-1982SPD
Helmut Kohl (1930-2017)1982-1998CDU
Gerhard Schröder (1944-)1998-2005SPD
Angela Merkel (1954- )2005-CDU

The Federal President is the head of state but has very limited powers and is therefore mainly a representative function. The president signs new laws, after which they take effect. He is elected for five years by the Federal Assembly, a college consisting of the Bundestag and an equal number of deputies, elected by the parliaments of the federal states and can be re-elected once.

The Federal President is allowed to address sensitive issues in his own title.

Overview Federal Presidents of Germany since 1949

nameperiodpolitical party
Theodor Heuss (1884-1963)1949-1959FDP
Heinrich Lübke (1894-1972)1959-1969CDU
Gustav Heinemann (1899-1976)1969-1974SPD
Walter Scheel (1919-2016)1974-1979FDP
Karl Carstens (1914-1992)1979-1984CDU
Richard von Weizsäcker (1920-2015)1984-1994CDU
Roman Herzog (1934-2017)1994-1999CDU
Johannes Rau (1931-2006)1999-2004SPD
Horst Köhler (1943- )2004-2010CDU
Christian Wulff (1959- )2010-2012CDU
Joachim Gauck (1940- )2012-2017partyless
Frank-Walter Steinmeier (1956- )2017-SPD

The supreme judicial power in Germany is the Constitutional Court or Bundesverfassungsgericht, and in summary it can be said that it watches over the constitution. It consists of two senates of eight judges each, half elected by the Bundesrat and the other half by an electoral commission of the Bundestag.

Both federal states and individuals who disagree on the interpretation of the constitution can ask the Bundesverfassungsgericht to pass judgment. Also, any German citizen can file a complaint with the court and the decision of the court is binding on all state organs, parties and persons.

Building of the Bundesverfassungsgericht in Karlsruhe, Germany
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The federal states or Länder each have their own parliament, the Landtag. The Landtag elects a Prime Minister, who appoints the other members of the government. In Hamburg and Bremen, instead of the Landtag, they have the Bürgerschaft and instead of the government, the Senat.

The constitution delimits the powers of Bond and the states. Foreign affairs, nationality, finance, weights and measures, railways, air traffic, patent and copyright are reserved to the Federation, and furthermore, “Federal law breaks state law”.

For the current political situation, see chapter history.

Electoral system

The German electoral system is rather complicated. For example, the German voter can cast her or his vote twice. With the first vote or “Erststimme”, a voter chooses a candidate in his or her district according to the majority principle or “Mehrheits / Persönlichkeitswahl”. With the second vote or “Zweitstimme” you can vote on a party list according to the principle of proportional representation or “Verhältniswahl”.

The seats are allocated on the basis of the votes cast on the lists of parties or “Landeslisten” (Zweitstimme). These votes are used to calculate how many seats a party has received at national level, which are then divided per state.

Uitslag landelijke verkiezingen Duitsland 2017
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Only then the number of Erststimmen is looked at. The number of “direct mandates” is then deducted from the number of mandates to which a party in a federal state is entitled according to the second vote. The number of seats that remain is divided among the candidates who are highest on a Landesliste but have not obtained a Direct Mandat. In short, the second vote is decisive for the allocation of seats in the Bundestag.

Normally, a political party cannot join the Bundestag until it has obtained at least 5% of the vote. Even if a party receives the most votes in three or more constituencies, it can join the Bundestag. Such a party receives the status of “Gruppe” and then one does not have as many rights as of a directly elected faction. One limitation is, for example, that a “Gruppe” is not represented in all committees.

The Federal Republic is divided into 328 electoral districts or “Wahlkreise” and each voter may vote for a candidate within his or her electoral district (Erststimme). The candidate who wins the most votes within a district is directly elected in the Bundestag (Direktmandat).

Wahlkreisen (electoral districts) Germany
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Administrative division

Germany is divided into 16 Länder, each with its own constitution and directly elected parliament and government. The federal states are independent tand are allowed to determine their own policy in the areas of education, nature conservation, water management and health care, provided that they are within the framework of the laws drawn up by the Federal Government.

The states have no influence on foreign policy, defense, railways and part of the taxes. The federal government and the governments of the federal states are jointly responsible in the areas of criminal law, immigration policy, housing and environmental legislation.

Conflicts between the federal states and the federal government are often resolved by the Bundesverfassungsgericht.

Overview federal states

namecapital city inhabitantssurface
Baden-WürttembergStuttgart 10.716.00035.751 km²
BavariaMunich 12.692.00070.553 km²
Berlinn / a. 3.500.000889 km²
BrandenburgPotsdam 2.500.00029.053 km²
Bremenn / a 661.000326 km²
Hamburgn / a 1.774.000755 km²
HesseWiesbaden 6.094.00021.114 km²
Mecklenburg-VorpommernSchwerin 1.600.00023.170 km²
NiedersachsenHannover 7.860.00047.343 km²
North Rhine-WestphaliaDüsseldorf 17.860.00034.070 km²
Rhineland-PalatinateMainz 4.012.00019.486 km²
SaarlandSaarbrücken 990.0002.570 km²
SachsenDresden 4.056.00018.338 km²
Sachsen-AnhaltMagdeburg 2.232.00020.443 km²
Schleswig-HolsteinKiel 2.831.00015.731 km²
ThuringiaErfurt 2.155.00016.251 km²

Brief description of all federal states of Germany:

Baden-Württemberg

Location Baden-Württemberg in Germany
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Baden-Württemberg is the third largest federal state in Germany and has the same surface area as Belgium and Luxembourg combined. The country is known as the most important high-tech area in Germany and even in Europe! Companies such as Mercedes Benz, Bosch, Porsche and Zeiss are all originally companies from this federal state. Furthermore, Baden-Württemberg is the land of spas and baths. The state receives millions of guests every year.

The main industries are electrical engineering, machine building and the automotive industry.

Young industries such as biotechnology, ICT, medicine technology and microtechnology are also becoming increasingly important in Baden-Württemberg. Biotechnology parks exist in Heidelberg, Freiburg, Ulm and Karlsruhe, among others, and around 2,200 software companies are located in the state. About a third of all goods and services produced in the state are destined for export. The export volume of Baden-Württemberg is larger than that of Spain, Switzerland or Sweden. Growth sectors are parts of services and the construction industry.

About 70 percent of the population lives in the urban areas and the largest cities are: Stuttgart, Mannheim, Karlsruhe and Freiburg.

Bavaria (Bayern)

Location Bavaria in Germany
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Bavaria is the largest federal state in Germany and has the same surface area as the Benelux or Ireland. The state was known as an economically backward area with a strong agricultural character, but has developed strongly since the Second World War into one of the most developed states in the field of industry and services. The share of agriculture in GDP is now only 1.3%.

More than 600,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are located in Bavaria. More than 77% of Bavarian employees work in SMEs. Business-oriented services in particular have developed positively in recent years. This sector shows a growth between 1996 and 1999 from 12,400 companies to a total of 127,000. It is mainly thanks to SMEs that the state of Bavaria has the lowest unemployment rate in the Federal Republic. In the last four years, SMEs have created 144,000 new jobs, which have compensated for job losses at large companies. Bavaria also has large multinationals in its territory such as Dasa-Aerospace, BMW, Adidas, Siemens and Audi. Bavaria also has many technological sectors such as information and communication technology, drug industry, biotechnology and space technology. In terms of service provision, Bavaria is the number one location and number two for banks in Germany. The Munich region has more than 10,000, mostly young, media companies (print media, audiovisual media, multimedia, advertising and information services).

The six main industries by turnover are:

1. Automotive industry

2. Mechanical engineering

3. Electrical engineering

4. Food industry

5. Chemical industry

6. Radio, TV and press technology

Berlin

Location Berlin in Germany
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Berlin is the capital of Germany and is also considered one of the sixteen states. About as many people live in Berlin as in all of Ireland. The small federal state is located in the middle of the federal state of Brandenburg.

Services are the driving force behind Berlin's economy. Important core sectors in Berlin are traffic technology, biotechnology, media and communication, environmental technology and the pharmaceutical industry.

The media sector in Berlin is one of the most important in Germany. Berlin has 7,700 companies and about 70,000 employees active in the media and communications sector. In the city, 20 radio stations and 7 television broadcasters compete in Berlin to produce their programs. Berlin is also Germany's second publishing city. More local publications appear in Berlin than anywhere else in Europe. Among other things, 7 daily newspapers, 4 Sunday newspapers, 1 weekly newspaper and 11 city magazines will be published.

The industry in Berlin is characterized by small and medium-sized companies. Of the 2,200 companies, 94 percent employ fewer than 200 employees. The largest employers in Berlin are Deutsche Bahn AG, Siemens AG, Bankgesellschaft Berlin. Major production companies in Berlin are: BMW (motorcycles), Mercedes (car engines), Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Gilette, Philip Morris and Samsung. Some companies with a (European) head office in Berlin are: Siemens, Deutsche Bahn, Debis, IBM Deutschland and Coca-Cola. Medical and biotechnology are also important sectors with growth potential. Berlin is currently the most important biotechnology region with more than 120 companies.

Brandenburg

Location Brandenburg in Germany
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Brandenburg borders Poland and this makes the federal state interesting for entrepreneurs who are also interested in Eastern Europe as a market. In terms of area, the federal state is comparable to Belgium and the largest cities of Brandenburg are Potsdam, Cottbus and Brandenburg.

The Land, together with Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, remains the cause of concern for the Neue Bundesländer. Economic growth is lagging behind the other federal states and the unemployment rate is still high.

The level of education in Brandenburg is high because more than 80 percent of the population has an education and one in three people has a college or university degree.

Important industrial sectors are energy, chemicals, railway construction and wood processing, but new industries such as traffic technology (aerospace), biotechnology, media and communication and electrical engineering are also emerging strongly. The largest branch in Brandenburg is still the food industry, which accounts for a turnover of approximately 4 billion marks.

Furthermore, Brandenburg is the destination country number one of the new federal states with regard to tourism. There are approximately 7,000 catering companies that employ 45,000 people and generate a turnover of approximately 909 million euros.

Large companies located in Brandenburg include BMW / Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz, ABB, Bosch-Siemens and BASF.

Bremen

Location Bremen in Germany
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The smallest federal state in Germany is Bremen and consists of the city of Bremen and the port city of Bremerhaven. The area between Bremen and Bremerhaven (65 km) does not belong to the federal state of Bremen, but to the federal state of Lower Saxony.

More than 20,000 companies are located in Bremen. Transport, logistics, shipping and trade are the most important economic sectors for Bremen. But the automotive industry and the food industry (beer, fish, coffee, chocolate) are also well represented in Bremen. Some major producers are Beck & Co (Beck's Bier), Kellogg's, Kraft Jacobs Suchard and Nordsee.

Bremen is also referred to as the call center city of Germany. There are about 40 call centers in Bremen with a total of 2,000 employees.

Other important industries are: steel production, electrical engineering and aircraft construction.

Hamburg

Location Hamburg in Germany
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The city-state of Hamburg is, after Berlin, the city with the most inhabitants in Germany. Its 1.7 million inhabitants provide 4 percent of Germany's total gross domestic product. The city has one of the largest ports in the world and is centrally located between Scandinavia, Eastern and Western Europe.

Trade and services are important economic sectors in Hamburg, and about 75 percent of the workforce is employed in services. Insurance companies, banks, software developers, consultants, lawyers, trade associations and trading companies are particularly well represented in Hamburg. In addition, Hamburg, together with Toulouse in France, is a leader in the civil aviation industry in Europe. The important companies Airbus and Lufthansa Technik are located in Hamburg and the city has an international airport. Several publishing houses, television broadcasters, PR and advertising agencies and film companies have chosen Hamburg as their location.

Of the 500 most turnover companies in Germany, 41 are located in Hamburg and about 2,300 foreign companies are active in Hamburg.

Hesse

Location Hesse in Germany
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The Land of Hesse is the traffic and service center of Germany. The economic center of gravity is the Rhine-Main Region, with Frankfurt as the main city. Frankfurt am Main is the largest city in Hesse and one of the most important financial and trading places in Europe. More than 400 financial institutions are located there, more than two-thirds of which are foreign banks. Furthermore, Frankfurt has the largest station and the second most important airport (after London Heathrow) in Europe.

In addition to financial services and the transport sector, Hessen is also known as a stock exchange country. About 41 percent of all German trade fairs take place in Hesse Frankfurt. Hesse not only has service companies, but also the industry is represented in Hesse. The largest industrial sector is the chemical / pharmaceutical industry, the automotive industry, mechanical engineering, software companies and the plastics / rubber industry.

Some important companies in Hesse are: Opel, AEG, Deutsche Bank AG, Deutsche Bundesbahn, Mannesmann, Siemens, Linde, Hoechst, Lufthansa, FedEx, UPS, EMS and DHL.

The largest cities in Hesse are: Frankfurt am Main, Wiesbaden, Kassel, Darmstadt and Offenbach am Main.

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

Location Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in Germany
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Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is the most north-eastern federal state in Germany and is centrally located between Hamburg, Berlin and Szczecin in Poland. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is the most sparsely populated federal state in Germany and has a very high unemployment rate. The country is still under construction and investments by the government are still necessary.

The state has a maritime character. This is not only due to the coastline that has a length of 354 kilometers, but also because of the various inland lakes. Germany's largest lake, Müritz, is located in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Shipbuilding is therefore an important sector in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

In 2002 UNESCO placed the Hanseatic cities of Stralsund and Wismar on the list of World Heritage Sites. The cities are known as representatives of the so-called German "Brick Gothic".

Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen)

Location Lower Saxony in Germany
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Lower Saxony is the second largest federal state in Germany and is larger than, for example, the Netherlands, Belgium or Denmark. Most residents and industry can be found in the southern part of the state in the areas around Hanover, Braunschweig and Hildesheim.

More than 60% of the land is used for agricultural activities and yet Lower Saxony is no longer an agricultural state. This is because less than 4 percent of the working population works in agriculture. Most of the workers (39 percent) are active in services. About 30 percent of the labor force is employed in industry and 20 percent in the trade and transport sector.

Transport and logistics are important factors in Lower Saxony as important North-South and East-West connections run right through the state. Niedersachsen has an extensive and high-quality traffic infrastructure. Furthermore, the insurance sector, the automotive sector and high-value industries, such as the ICT sector and biotechnology, are also present in Lower Saxony.

Some large companies in Lower Saxony are Volkswagen, Continental, Polygram, AEG, IBM, Minolta, Toshiba and Solvay. Furthermore, TUI, Germany's largest tour operator, and of course Deutsche Messe AG are also located in Niedersachsen. A total of 243,000 companies are located in Niedersachsen.

North Rhine-Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen)

Location North Rine-Westphalia in Germany
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North Rhine-Westphalia is the most important federal state in Germany. This is where most of the inhabitants live and about 22 percent of the gross domestic product is generated here. North Rhine-Westphalia is the same size as Belgium and Luxembourg combined and has more inhabitants than the whole of the Netherlands. This is also an important federal state for the Netherlands. More than 30% of the total Dutch exports to Germany goes to this German state.

Almost all industries are represented here and important sectors are technology and the service sector. The main sub-sectors are chemicals, mechanical engineering, steel industry, food industry, metal processing / automotive industry, electronics, and the paper, publishing and printing industries. 20 of Germany's 40 largest companies are located in NRW, including VEBA, Deutsche Telekom, RWE, Bayer, Thyssen, Mannesmann, Ford, Krupp-Hoesch, Bertelsmann and Henkel.

Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz)

Location Rhineland Palatinate In Germany
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Rhineland-Palatinate has a beautiful and varied landscape through which the Rhine and Moselle make their way. Rhineland-Palatinate is Germany's largest wine-growing country.

The largest chemical concern in Europe, BASF, is based in Rhineland-Palatinate. BASF is the largest employer in the Rhineland with 44,850 employees. Rhineland is also the location of the glass factory Schott, Mercedes, Boehringer, Opel, IBM and the RTV channels ZDF, SAT1, 3sat and SWR.

The chemical industry is the most important industry in Rhineland-Palatinate with a turnover of more than 30 billion marks. Furthermore, mechanical engineering and the car industry are also engines behind the country's economy. Other major industries are the plastics industry, glass industry, metal processing and the paper and printing industry.

In 2002, UNESCO placed the 65-kilometer-long Middle Rhine Valley between the cities of Bingen and Koblenz on the list of World Heritage Sites. In the Rhine Valley lies, among other things, the rock on which, according to legend, the seductive skippers passing by Loreley plunged to destruction with her song.

Saarland

Location Saarland in Germany
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Saarland is a small federal state of Germany. Services are an important driver of the Saarland economy, including tourism, software development, telecommunications and consultancy. Tourism, in particular, has risen sharply in recent times. The number of overnight stays in Saarland has doubled since 1986 and approximately 20,000 people work in this sector.

The largest growth sectors in the industry are mechanical engineering, the automotive industry, the plastics processing industry and the metal processing industry. Two large companies in Saarland are Ford and Villeroy & Boch.

Saxony (Sachsen)

Location Saxony in Germany
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Saxony borders the Czech Republic, Poland and a few other German states. Thanks to this favorable geographic location, Sachsen fulfills an important bridging function between Eastern and Western Europe. In terms of inhabitants, the country is the same size as Denmark, making it the largest East German state. The state has a young population with an average age of 35 years. The average is therefore one year lower than in the other new federal states and three years lower than in the old federal states.

Saxony is doing relatively best of all East German states. It is true that economic growth is certainly not overwhelming; the export ratio, on the other hand, is steadily increasing. The state is very popular with new investors because of good location factors such as an excellent communication network and infrastructure, well-trained staff, good investment schemes and proximity to colleges and universities.

Unemployment is quite high, as in the other East German states. Almost all industries are represented in Saxony. An important industry in Saxony is micro-electronics and other traditional industries such as the textile industry, machine building and the car industry. Some large companies in Saxony are Audi, Melitta, Stabag, Wella and the Dresdner Bank.

Saxony-Anhalt (Sachsen-Anhalt)

Locartion Saxony-Anhalt in Germany
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Saxony-Anhalt is about the same size as Hesse and about 25% of the population lives in the cities of Halle, Magdeburg and Dessau. The most northern wine regions of Germany are located around Saale and Unstrut.

Chemistry, machine building and the food industry are the most important industries. Coca Cola, Nestlé, Erasco, Elf, Akzo Nobel, Dow Chemical and Bayer have invested heavily in this region.

Schleswig-Holstein

Location Schleswig-Holstein in Germany
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Schleswig-Holstein is the northernmost federal state in Germany and borders, among others, Denmark and the North and Baltic Sea. Schleswig-Holstein connects Scandinavia with Western Europe and the state is therefore a distribution link between these two areas. The channel between the North and Baltic Sea is one of the busiest (constructed) canals in the world.

Hamburg is close to Schleswig-Holstein and the state benefits considerably from it. Many industries are located near Hamburg, but just in the territory of Schleswig-Holstein. In total, there are approximately 100,000 companies located in the state.

Important sectors in Schleswig-Holstein are mechanical engineering (Krupp Maschinebau), the food industry, measurement and control technology, the chemical industry and the publishing industry (Axel Springer Verlag). Since the state has traditionally been very strong in the agricultural sector, the food industry has been able to develop very well here.

Thuringia

Location Thuringia in Germany
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Thuringia is centrally located in Germany and the main cities are the capital Erfurt and the cities Gera, Jena and Weimar. Together with neighboring Saxony, Thuringia is the most industrialized of the Neue Bundesländer.

Industry is the main driver of economic growth in the state and is very strongly dominated by small and medium-sized enterprises.

Electrical engineering, optical industry, precision mechanics, mechanical engineering and the automotive industry are the industries that characterize Thuringia, in addition to trade and logistics. Ikea, for example, has its distribution center in Saxony and Otto and METRO are also located in Thuringia. Other industries present in Thuringia: food industry, metal industry and glass and ceramic industry.

Erfurt is, in addition to the state center of government, a location for microelectronics, machine building and the furniture industry.

The optical industry, fine mechanics and medical technology are located near Jena, among others. Jena, like many other German cities, tries to profile itself as a high-tech location for starting entrepreneurs. One of the best-known starters is Intershop. This company was founded in 1994 and has grown in 6 years to become one of the foremost software specialists in the field of e-commerce. The company now has more than 500 employees and is listed on the stock exchange.

The automotive industry is mainly concentrated in Eisenach. Here Opel produces, for example, the Corsa and Astra. Bosch is active in Eisenach in the field of sensors for the automotive industry.

Schwarza / Rudolstadt is home to the largest synthetic fiber industry in East Germany and Saalfeld is the center of the Thuringian steel industry.

Some other companies based in Thuringia: BMW, Fujitsu, IBM, AlliedSignal, Lear Corporation.

Education

Nursery and primary education

Pre-primary education includes Kindergarten and so-called preparation classes. Kindergarten is the traditional voluntary form of pre-primary education for children from 3 to 6 years old. The also voluntary preparation classes or “vorklassen” are attached to a primary school, and are intended for children of 5 years old who are not yet required to attend school, but whose parents want them to receive special guidance and preparation for primary school.

Kindergarten in Berumbur-Kleinheide (Lower Saxony)
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From the age of six all German children are of compulsory school age. Compulsory education usually lasts 12 years, of which nine years are full-time education and three years are partially compulsory. In some states, children must attend full-time school for ten years. In most states, pupils can voluntarily attend a tenth year of school to obtain a diploma that gives them access to secondary education.

Compulsory education includes primary school (Grundschule) for children from 6 to 10 years old and the first phase of secondary education for 10 to 15 year olds. After primary school, various directions can be chosen in secondary education:

Hauptschule: general education from the fifth to the ninth grade.

Realschule: general education of a higher level from the fifth to the tenth grade. With their diploma, students can proceed to vocational training and to school types that are completed with a VWO diploma.

Gymnasium: highest level of secondary education and usually goes from fifth to thirteenth grade. The “Abitur” gives access to the university.

Städtisches Goethe-Gymnasium in Ibbenbüren, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
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Gesamtschule (Middle Schools): same subjects as in the above school types, but the Gesamtschulen curriculum also includes all subjects taught in other school types. In the fifth and sixth grade, all students are taught together. The final diplomas are awarded under the same conditions as for the traditional school types.

In recent years, new types of schools have been introduced in a number of federal states, combining the curricula of the Hauptschule and the Realschule.

Secondary education

Higher secondary education is optional. The second phase of secondary for the age group of 16 to 19 offers students the following options:

General education: general education is provided in the highest classes of the “Gymnasium”, usually from the 11th to the 13th grade.

Vocational education based on full-time education is provided at the following schools: Berufsaufbauschulen, Fachoberschulen, beruflichen Gymnasien / Fachgymnasien and Fachschulen. There are also combinations of general education and vocational education.

Staatliche Fachschule für Agrarwirtschaft in Fürth (Bavaria), Germany
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School performance is assessed with grades between 1(lowest) and 6(highest).

Higher education

Higher education in Germany can be university or non-university. Higher education includes:

Universities and integrated universities: there are various disciplines at universities and students can obtain a PhD. Integrated universities are a combination of universities, higher professional education and in part music and art academies.
The oldest university in Germany is the Ruprecht-Karls-University in Heidelberg (Baden-Württemberg), this city was granted the right to open a university by Pope Urban VI on October 23, 1385, the third in the Holy Roman Empire after Vienna and Prague.

Ruprecht-Karl-University in Heidelberg, Germany
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Academic and specialized higher education institutions are combined in the Gesamthochschulen.

Higher professional education mainly offers practical training courses for engineers in economics, agriculture, the social sector, library and documentation studies and computer science.

Pedagogical academies train primary school teachers and teachers for certain school types of the first stage of secondary education; all other teachers are trained at the university. The university in Germany with the most students is the FernUniversität in Hagen (North Rhine-Westphalia), specialized in distance learning, with approx. 77,000 students.

FernUniversität Hagen is the university with the most students in Germany
afbeelding: FernUniversität in Hagen, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The studies are usually divided into a “Grundstudium”, which is concluded with an intermediate exam, and a “Hauptstadium”, which is concluded with an academic degree.

Furthermore, so-called “Hochschulprüfungen” can be taken, which includes the following exams:

The “Diplomführung” with which the title of PhD student is obtained.

The “Magisterprüfung” that conferred the title of master.

The promotion that entitles the holder to the title of doctor.

Some studies are concluded with the “Staatsprüfung”. They are medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, law and the academic teacher training.

Economy

General

After the Second World War, Germany developed rapidly into one of the most important industrial countries in the world. The gross national product (GNP) per capita is one of the highest in the world, comparable with that of the United States and Japan, and the German Mark (now: euro) is one of the most stable currencies in the world.

Germany has a social market economy in which the state is broadly in charge, but has no direct involvement in matters such as wage and price setting. The Kartellgesetz of 1957 protects competition against mutual agreements between companies. Labor peace has been largely preserved through comprehensive social legislation. The leadership by the state is expressed in, among other things, the Konzertierte Aktion, a tripartite consultation between the government, employers and employees' organizations to pursue economic policy. In the second half of the 1990s, Germany was faced with high unemployment, stagnation in growth and high budget deficits, partly as a result of the rapid unification process and the enormous costs involved.

Employment and employment structure
afbeelding: Maximilian Dörrbecker, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

GDP rose from 163.5 billion euros in 1960 to 4171 billion euros in 2017. Despite the price increases, production continued to increase. Nearly half of GDP came from industry and mining, while the share of the agricultural sector has declined sharply in recent decades. The services sector, on the other hand, quintupled.

The GDP per capita amounts to $ 50,400 per year in 2017. The millions of refugees from the German Democratic Republic (GDR) contributed significantly to the “economic miracle”. However, economic reforms are slow. Germany is struggling with, among other things, an expensive welfare state, high wage costs and large expenditures on the backward East. Despite the credit crisis, the economy is growing by 3.4% in 2011 by 0.9% in 2012 and by 0.5% in 2013 and has now returned to the level of 2.5% in 2017. Unemployment is relatively low, at 3.8% in 2017, well below the European average. The figure in the east is still twice as high as in the west.

Share of sectors in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017:

Agriculture and fishing 0.6%

Industry 30.1%

Services 69.3%

Agriculture, livestock, forestry and fishing

Although the agricultural sector contributes less than 1% of the German national product, productive, highly mechanized agriculture covers more than three-quarters of the domestic demand for agricultural products. The total number of farms is decreasing in Germany while the average farm size is increasing across the country. At present there are still more than 400,000 farms, of which approximately 95% are sole proprietorships. The smallest farms (33.2 ha) can be found in southern Germany, especially in Bavaria. The largest companies are located in the East German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern with an average size of 220 ha. The main agricultural state is Lower Saxony.

The main products of arable farming are cereals (especially in the lowlands in the north, Münsterland, Upper Palatinate and Bavaria), potatoes, sugar beets (in the Hanover-Brunswijk-Kassel triangle), and fruit, vegetables and wine.

Three quarters of the farms are organized in cooperatives and specialized chicken, pig and beef fattening farms are run very rationally. Despite redevelopment, small businesses still dominate and large businesses are mainly located in the northwest.

Land construction activities just outside the city
photo: qwesy qwesy, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made

The most important German states for forestry are Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate, Pomerania, Thuringia and the Saxon mountains. Almost one third of Germany (10.3 million ha) is covered by forest and, in addition to timber extraction, the forest is of great importance for recreation and environmental protection.

In places where trees are felled, there is a legal obligation to plant new trees. In the eighties, more and more damage was observed to the forests as a result of the acid rain. Germany is trying to reduce air pollution by means of national and international measures.

German fishing vessel
photo: Magnussen, Friedrich (1914-1987), CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany no changes made

Fisheries have been modernized considerably in recent years, but due to the catch limits imposed by the EC, the survival of deep-sea, cutter and coastal fisheries is threatened. The import of very cheap fish from the former Eastern Bloc countries also hampers German sales.

The German fishing fleet has more than 2000 ships. With 36% of the total catch, the North Sea is the most important sea for German fishermen. Other important fishing areas are the Baltic Sea, the coast of Greenland and the areas around Great Britain. The main sales countries are the Netherlands, Spain, Iceland and Denmark.

Mining and energy supply

The German soil is extremely poor in raw materials and has very modest quantities of iron ore, oil and natural gas, for example. On the other hand, reserves of coal, lignite and salt are abundant, but their extraction is hardly or not profitable due to the high labor costs.

Coal is mainly mined in the Ruhr area and the Saarland, lignite near Helmstedt and Cologne and around the East German cities of Leipzig, Halle, Dresden and Cottbus. The extraction and use of lignite as fuel has caused serious environmental problems in those areas. Fortunately for the environment, natural gas is taking over the function of lignite in the new provinces. Salt is extracted from, among others, Fulda.

Lignite is extracted through opencast mining
photo: Haloorange, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Energy needs are met by oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear energy. Rich natural gas discoveries were made in East Frisia. Approx. 30% of the imported natural gas comes from the Netherlands. The use of nuclear energy is being phased out faster after the accident in Fukishima. Germany is taking many initiatives in green energy.

Industry

West Germany

More than half of industrial companies have fewer than 50 employees and only 5% are companies with more than 500 employees. More than half of all employees work in these large companies and they also supply more than half of the total industrial production. Large corporations are mainly found in the coal, steel, petroleum, chemical and automotive industries. The main primary industry is the chemical industry (Hoechst, BASF and Bayer) with approximately 500,000 employees. Machine and equipment manufacturing and the production of means of transport are also very important.

Mercedes Benz, topmeruk uit Duitsland
photo: Tokumeigakarinoaoshima, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

After the United States and Japan, Germany is the third largest passenger car producer worldwide. The electrical engineering industry and the production of desk machines and computers are at a high level and employ more than a million people. Of the consumer goods industry, textiles and upholstery are of particular importance. Germany is Western Europe's largest producer of, among other things, pig iron and crude steel, rolling mill products and cotton yarns and fabrics. Heavy industry dominates in the Ruhr area, and this area has been the center of the West German economy for many decades.

Even before the reunification of the two Germanys, various partnerships had already been established between the West and East German industry. In March 1990, the Treuhandanstalt, the organization that would coordinate the privatization of East German state-owned companies, was founded.

East Germany

Eisenhüttenstadt is the main seat of heavy industry. The city is located on the Oder, which means that much of the raw material can be transported over water and the cast iron can be transported away. Another center of cast iron production is Calbe, where the iron ores (with a low content) from the Harz Mountains and coke from lignite are processed. Despite the results achieved, the major shortcoming remains that the metalworking industries do not have their own raw material base, leaving them in a vulnerable position. Mechanical engineering, metal industry, chemical industry and textile industry are the main industries. The geographic distribution of the industry is broadly as follows:

machine building and metal industry mainly in Saxony and Thuringia (Chemnitz, Magdeburg, Leipzig, Weimar, Dresden);

automotive industry in Eisenach, Zwickau and Brandenburg;

shipbuilding in Rostock;

light metal industry in Thuringia;

optical industry in Jena and Dresden;

Main building Carl Zeiss AG, manufacturer of optical devices in Jena
photo: ardwareonkel, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International, no changes made

electrical engineering industry in Leipzig, Erfurt and Dresden;

chemical industry mainly in the area of Leuna-Schkopau-Bitterfeld, in Berlin and Dresden;

textile industry in the area (Chemnitz) -Zwickau-Plauen;

rubber industry in Gotha, Leipzig and Riesa;

food, beverage and tobacco industry in Thuringia (meat products) and Saxony-Anhalt (preserved).

Various economic sectors

Construction and infrastructure

In the early 1990s, this sector benefited from the many reconstruction projects in eastern Germany. The greater demand in the west for housing by the migrants from the eastern part of Germany also led to a lot of construction activities. However, since 1995, the construction industry has been in a dip, particularly the housing sector.

Construction activities in Frankfurt Am Main, Germany
photo: Simsalabimbam, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

In total there are approximately 80,000 companies active in the construction sector, three quarters of which are small companies with less than 20 employees. In total, approximately 1 million people still work in the construction sector. The number of jobs has fallen sharply since the early 1990s. One of the causes is the high wages with which the German construction sector works. For large construction projects, a lot of work is now done with foreign contractors who work with cheap Eastern European construction workers.

Chemistry and plastics

Germany is the third largest chemical producer in the world after the United States and Japan. The production of chemical raw materials is the most important in Germany with almost 50%. After that come the pharmaceutical products with nearly 20% and paints, sealants and inks with 8%.

The sector has approximately 470,000 employees, making it the sixth largest employer in Germany. In total there are about 1750 companies, of which only about 10% have more than 500 employees. The main chemical companies are BASF, Bayer, Degussa-Hüls, Celanese and Procter & Gamble.

Building of BASF Coatings in Münster
photo: Stahlkocher, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Food retailing

Compared to the rest of Europe, this branch has developed differently. Almost all large companies focus on the lower segment of the market. Discounters and in particular the arrival of Aldi on the German market has had a major impact on the food retail trade, which is therefore subject to very high price competition.

The German top 5 had a market share of approximately 65% in 2000 and further concentration is expected to increase to 82% in 2014.

Lidl headquarters in Neckarsulm
photo: Pimvantend, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Banking sector

The Bundesbank is the central bank of Germany and is responsible for, among other things, the settlement of domestic and foreign payments, the supply of banknotes and coins and is the home bank of the state and the Bundesländer. The nine Landeszentralbanks act as headquarters of the Bundesbank with extensive independence and individual responsibility.

There are also:

- Large private banks that are active in all areas of financial services.

- Public-law savings banks are widely spread in Germany and mainly focus on services to private individuals and small and medium-sized businesses.

- The Volks- und Raiffeisen banks (so-called cooperative banks) mainly focus on rural areas.

- Smaller and medium-sized commercial banks; Bausparkassen; specialized institutions such as investment banks, building societies and ship mortgage banks.

Headquarters Deutsche bank in Frankfurt Am Main
photo: Markus Bernet, CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic no changes made

Electronics industry

Growth segments include electronic components, semiconductors, products and systems for automation, drive systems, switchgear, switchgear and industrial control systems.

Top 10 German electronics industry:

1. Siemens

2. Bosch

3. Philips Germany

4. ABB Germany

5. Alcatel Germany

6. Hella

7. Miele

8. Electrolux Germany

9. Braun

10.Grundig

Buildng of Siemens in Neuperlach
photo: High Contrast, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Germany no changes made

Energy sector

The main energy carriers for generating electricity are coal and lignite. However, more than half of the primary energy must be imported, including almost all oil. The main gas suppliers for Germany are Russia, Norway and the Netherlands.

Machine industry

Machine and equipment construction had more than 900,000 employees in 2013 and there were approximately 6,000 companies active at the time. This sector is therefore the largest sub-sector in the processing industry. The main export countries are the United States, France, England, Italy and the Netherlands

Mining

Germany has large stocks of coal and lignite and is the largest lignite producer in the world with approximately 150 million tons. The coal basins are mainly located in the northern Ruhr area and in Saarland. There are still 15 mines in operation and around 2014 there are still 10 mines open.

Expensive, heavily subsidized coal production has been declining sharply in recent years, and a further reduction in production is also anticipated for the coming years. Both private business and the government are active in the coal industry. The situation for the lignite industry is somewhat more favorable because extraction and production are cheaper and therefore more profitable. However, opencast lignite production is causing enormous damage to the landscape and is subject to strong criticism. Furthermore, Germany is poor in minerals, although there are, for example, several salt mines still in operation.

Locations saltmines in Germany
photo: Gretarsson, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Automotive industry

The German automotive industry is the largest in Europe with a market share of approximately 17%. The German automotive industry is mainly concentrated in the states of Hesse, Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Thuringia and Saxony.

The main export countries are Italy, Great Britain, United States and France.

Top 5 German automotive industry:

1. DaimlerChrysler

2. Volkswagen

3. BMW

4. Adam Opel

5. Ford

Logo Volkswagen
photo: High Contrast, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Germany no change made

Biotechnology

Biotechnology is an important growth market, but it accounts for less than 1% of total turnover in the chemical industry. Still, the German biotechnology sector is the third most important in the world after the United States and Great Britain.

The main biotechnology centers in Germany are located in the regions around Munich, Berlin, Heidelberg and Mannheim.

ICT sector (information-communication-telecommunications)

The German ICT sector is the third largest market in the world after the United States and Japan, with a share of 5.7%.

The number of internet users is growing explosively in Germany. There is a computer in almost every German household.

Germany has the largest telecommunications market in Europe and is the third largest market in the world. Germany is a leader in Europe in the field of ISDN connections. Mobile telephony is one of the fastest growing subsectors.

Deutsche Telekom locations worldwide
afbeelding: Peeperman, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, no changes made

Trade

The value of imports was $ 1,104 billion in 2017 and the value of exports was $ 1,401 billion. The trade balance thus shows a considerable surplus. The services balance, on the other hand, shows a large negative balance, mainly due to German tourism abroad and exports by foreign workers. Most of the exports are machines, cars, electrical and chemical products. Food, beverages, tobacco, oil and natural gas mainly play a role in imports. Trade has increased significantly within the European Communities.

Handelscijfers tussen Duitsland en Europa (2009)
image: nkMap-Europe-v5.png: Zaparojdik , CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Germany's main trading partners are western, often European industrialized countries. More than half of the foreign trade proceeds come from trade with EU member states. Trade with Central and Eastern European countries such as Russia, the Baltic states, Poland and the Czech Republic is also increasing. Outside Europe, the United States and Japan are the most important trading partners and trade with other Asian countries and countries around the South Pacific is also intensifying.

Traffic

The largest transport company is the Deutsche Eisenbahn A.G. (DEAG), privatized since 1994. In 2002, Germany had 41,8100 kilometers of rail, of which nearly 20,000 kilometers were electrified.

Only 20% of passenger traffic takes place by public transport.

Train of the Deutsche Bundesbahn (DB)
photo: User:Wiki-observer, CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generi no change made

The truck is the most important means of transport for domestic transport. In the 1950s the railways was still the main transporter, followed by inland shipping and then road transport. Truck transport now takes care of 80% of all goods transport.

Ocean shipping, with Hamburg, Wilhelmshaven, Bremen, Bremerhaven, Lübeck, Kiel, Rostock, Wismar and Stralsund as the main ports, is of great importance to the German economy. Important receiving and destination countries are Great Britain, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands. The German merchant navy has approximately 1,400 ships with a loading capacity of approximately 7 million tonnes gross registered tons.

Inland navigation on rivers and canals (6500 km navigable) is very busy; more than 60% of inland shipping takes place on the Rhine, the busiest inland waterway in Europe. The main ports here are Duisburg, Cologne, Mannheim, Karlsruhe and Ludwigshafen. Duisburg is the largest inland port in Europe. Container transport is becoming increasingly important.

Top 10 German inland ports by goods turnover:

Duisburg

Cologne

Hamburg

Mannheim

Ludwigshafen

Karlsruhe

Heilbronn

Berlin

Frankfurt am Main

Neuss

Inland shipping has a fleet of approximately 3000 ships and is a relatively cheap and environmentally friendly means of transport. After road and rail transport, inland waterway transport ranks third in freight transport.

Aviation is provided by the Deutsche Lufthansa A.G. (founded in 1953) in Cologne. The main airport is Frankfurt, followed by Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Munich, Hanover, Tegel in the west, Schönefeld in the east and Tempelhof in the south of the city of Berlin.

Lufthansa, national airline of Germany
photo: Anna Zvereva from Tallinn, Estonia, CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

Air transport is becoming increasingly important in Germany. The main flight destinations of the Germans are Spain (Mallorca and the Canary Islands), Great Britain, United States, Turkey, Greece, Italy and France.

The main domestic air connections are Frankfurt-Berlin (Tegel), Munich-Düsseldorf, Frankfurt-Hamburg, Frankfurt-Munich and Munich-Berlin.

Holidays and Sightseeing

Germany is a very popular holiday destination and the tourism industry sets new records every year. The main countries of origin of the foreign travelers are the Netherlands, the United States and England. Bavaria remains Germany's top destination in terms of overnight stays, followed by Baden-Württemberg at a great distance. The main flight destination for the Germans themselves is Spain.

Berlin is the capital of Germany. Tiergarten is the park of no less than 210 hectares in Berlin. It is located right in the center and is truly an oasis of peace. In this beautiful park you can enjoy walking, cycling and picnicking. This park used to be the royal hunting ground, hence the name Tiergarten. The Reichstag is the German parliament building. It is a beautiful building in which a modern architectural style is tastefully combined with the classical. The building's glass dome is the most eye-catching element. The dome can be climbed and from the top point you have a beautiful view of Berlin. The entrance is free and it is a unique experience. There are long lines in front of the Reichstag on most days, so you have to be patient. An extensive and impressive memorial to the Holocaust can be found on Berlin's Eberstrasse. The monument was designed by the architect Peter Eisenman. He based the monument on the phrase: "It happened and therefore it can happen again." by the Italian writer and Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi. Read more on the Berlin page of Landenweb.

Rijksdaggebouw, zetel van het Duitse parlement, gebouwd van 1884-1894
photo: Magnus Manske, CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

Cologne is a beautiful city and lies on the banks of the Rhine. The city's most famous monument and the symbol of its inhabitants is Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom). Construction of this remarkable Gothic church started in 1248 and was completed in 1880. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1996. The cathedral houses the shrine of the Three Kings and is said to have the relics of the Three Biblical Magi. Medieval houses from the inner city are of particular interest to tourists. The town hall (Kölner Rathaus) from the 12th century is the oldest town hall in Germany and still in use. The Renaissance style loggia and tower were added in the 15th century. Other famous houses are the Gürzenich, the Haus Saaleck and the Overstolzenhaus. Cologne has many famous museums, which are a must to visit. The most important are: The Roman-Germanic museum with art and architecture from antiquity. The Ludwig Museum has one of the most important collections of modern art in Europe, including a Picasso collection that is matched only by the collections in the museums of Barcelona and Paris. The Schnütgen Museum of Religious Art is housed in one of the city's twelve Romanesque churches, the Church of St. Cecilia. Read more on the Cologne page of countries web.

Cologne Cathedral
photo: Neuwieser, CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic, no changes made

Hamburg is Germany's second city. Speicherstad is the oldest collection of red brick warehouses in the world. It is known for the storage of various goods from different corners of the world. The collection of the history museum of the city of Hamburg covers the period from the 8th century to the 20th century. The changing history of Hamburg is documented in this museum. The Hamburger Kunsthalle is Hamburg's most important art museum. The collection consists of works of art from the Middle Ages to the present day. Works by Rembrandt, Monet and Rodin are on display. Read more on the Hamburg page of Landenweb.

Kunsthalle of Hamburg
photo: Membeth, CC CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication no changes made

Frankfurt is one of the largest cities in Germany. The Frankfurter Messe is one of the largest exhibition centers in the world. About 40-50 fairs are held annually and attract a great many visitors. St. Bartholomew's Cathedral (Dom Sankt Bartholomaeus) is a Gothic building built in the 14th and 15th centuries on the foundation of an earlier church from the Merovingian era. It is Frankfurt's main church. The tower can be climbed in the summer season. The famous old opera house (Alte Oper) was built in 1880 by the architect Richard Lucae. It was one of the great opera houses in Germany until it was badly damaged in World War II. Until the late 1970s it was in ruins. It was even thought of simply blowing up the remains. Due to public pressure, the building was finally completely renovated and reopened in 1981. Today it functions as a concert hall, operas are performed at the Oper Frankfurt. Read more on the Frankfurt page of Landenweb.

Alte Oper, Frankfurt
photo: Daderot, Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

Numerous churches and bell towers dominate the center of Dortmund. The Reinoldikirche (St. Reinoldus Church) and the Marienkirche are gems of medieval architecture. Dortmund city center still has the characteristics of a medieval city. A ring has been built on the site of the old city wall and the Hellweg, a former part of the medieval trade route is still the main (car-free) street that divides the center of the city into two parts. There are a number of remarkable sights and places that you must see in Dortmund. Read more on the Dortmund page of Landenweb.

Reinoldi church in Dortmund
photo: H.Helmlechner, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Heidelberg has many great tourist attractions, visitors fall in love with the charming medieval architecture and the river. The atmospheric old town offers endless narrow streets, historic sights and a handful of beautiful churches, all overshadowed by the imposing Heidelberg Castle. For the best views of Heidelbergs, you can walk along the high Philosophenweg or, as a comfortable alternative, enjoy the landscape via the Bergbahn (cable car). Read more on the Heidelberg page of Landenweb.

View on Heidelberg, Germany
photo: Filius humanitas, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

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Sources

Ayer, E.H. / Germany
Lucent Books

Egert-Romanowska, J. / Duitsland
Van Reemst

Europese Unie : vijftien landendocumentaties
Europees Platform voor het Nederlandse Onderwijs

Mark, D.F.W. van der / De Bondsrepubliek Duitsland voor en na 1990 : geschiedenis, politiek, economie en ruimtelijke ontwikkeling
Landensurveys

Tatsachen ├╝ber Deutschland

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated June 2021
Copyright: Team Landenweb