Main Births etc
Federal Republic of Germany
Bundesrepublik Deutschland(German)
  • "Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit"(German)
  • "Unity and Justice and Freedom" (unofficial)
  • Third stanza of
  • Das Lied der Deutschen[4] (Song of the Germans)

  • Coat of Arms of the German Government
Location of  Germany  (dark green) – on the European continent  (green & dark grey) – in the European Union  (green)  —  [Legend]
Location of  Germany  (dark green)

– on the European continent  (green & dark grey)
– in the European Union  (green)  —  [Legend]

and largest city
Country symbol of Berlin color.svg Berlin
52°31′N 13°23′E / 52.517, 13.383
Official languages German[1]
Low German[5]
Ethnic groups
Demonym German
Government Federal parliamentary constitutional republic
 -  President Joachim Gauck
 -  Chancellor Angela Merkel
 -  President of the Bundestag Norbert Lammert
 -  President of the Bundesrat Stephan Weil
 -  Upper house Bundesrat
 -  Lower house Bundestag
 -  Holy Roman Empire 2 February 962 
 -  German Confederation 8 June 1815 
 -  Unification 18 January 1871 
 -  Federal Republic 23 May 1949 
 -  Reunification 3 October 1990 
 -  Total 357,168 km2 (63rd)
137,847 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 2.416
 -  2014 estimate 80,716,000[10] (16th)
 -  2011 census 80,219,695[11] (16th)
 -  Density 226/km2 (58th)
583/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2014 estimate
 -  Total $3.338 trillion[12] (5th)
 -  Per capita $41,248[12] (15th)
GDP (nominal) 2014 estimate
 -  Total $3.876 trillion[12] (4th)
 -  Per capita $47,893[12] (18th)
Gini (2011)29.0[13]
HDI (2013)increase 0.920[14]
very high · 5th
Currency Euro () (EUR)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 -  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Drives on the right
Calling code 49
Internet TLD .de [2]
a. ^  Danish, Low German, Sorbian, Romany, and Frisian are officially recognised by the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML).
b. ^  The .eu domain is also used, as it is shared with other European Union member states.

Germany ( /ˈɜrməni/; German: Deutschland), officially the Federal Republic of Germany (German: Bundesrepublik Deutschland, pronounced [ˈbʊndəsʁepuˌbliːk ˈdɔʏtʃlant]  ( listen)),[15] is a federal parliamentary republic in western-central Europe. The "country" consists of 16 states and its capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 square kilometres (137,847 sq mi) and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. With 80.6 million inhabitants, it is the most populous member state in the European Union. Germany is the major economic and political power of the European continent and a historic leader in many cultural, theoretical and technical fields.

Various Germanic tribes have occupied what is now northern Germany and southern Scandinavia since classical antiquity. A region named Germania was documented by the Romans before AD 100. During the Migration Period that coincided with the decline of the Roman Empire, the Germanic tribes expanded southward and established kingdoms throughout much of Europe. Beginning in the 10th century, German territories formed a central part of the Holy Roman Empire.[16] During the 16th century, northern German regions became the centre of the Protestant Reformation. Occupied during the Napoleonic Wars, the rise of Pan-Germanism inside the German Confederation resulted in the unification of most of the German states in 1871 into the German Empire, which was dominated by Prussia.

After the German Revolution of 1918–1919 and the subsequent military surrender in World War I, the Empire was replaced by the parliamentary Weimar Republic in 1918 and lost some of its territory in the Treaty of Versailles. Despite its lead in many scientific and cultural fields at this time, Germany experienced significant economic and political instability which intensified during the Great Depression. The establishment of the Third Reich or Nazi Regime in 1933 eventually led to World War II and the Holocaust. After 1945, Germany was divided and occupied by the Allied nations into two states, East Germany and West Germany. In 1990, the country was reunified.

Germany has the world's fourth-largest economy by nominal GDP and the fifth-largest by purchasing power parity. As a global leader in several industrial and technological sectors, it is the second-largest exporter and third-largest importer of goods. It is a developed country with a very high standard of living, featuring comprehensive social security that includes the world's oldest universal health care system. Known for its rich cultural and political history, Germany has been the home of many influential philosophers, music composers, scientists, and inventors. Germany was a founding member of the European Community in 1957, which became the EU in 1993. It is part of the Schengen Area, and has been a member of the eurozone since 1999. Germany is a great power, and a member of the United Nations, NATO, the G8, the G20, the OECD and the Council of Europe.


The English word Germany derives from the Latin Germania, which came into use after Julius Caesar adopted it for the peoples east of the Rhine.[17] More specifically, it was the Gauls who first called the people who crossed east of the Rhine Germani (which the Romans adopted) as the original Germanic tribes did not refer to themselves as Germanus or Germani. Thus it was only when on Roman soil that this term was employed and the expression generally connoted those peoples who originally hailed east of the Rhine and/or north of the Danube.[18] The German term Deutschland (originally diutisciu land, "the German lands") is derived from deutsch, descended from Old High German diutisc "popular" (i.e. belonging to the diot or diota "people"), originally used to distinguish the language of the common people from Latin and its Romance descendants. This in turn descends from Proto-Germanic *þiudiskaz "popular" (see also the Latinised form Theodiscus), derived from *þeudō, descended from Proto-Indo-European *tewtéh₂- "people".[19]


Germanic tribes and Frankish Empire[]

Second- to fifth-century migrations in Europe

The Germanic tribes are thought to date from the Nordic Bronze Age or the Pre-Roman Iron Age. From southern Scandinavia and north Germany, they expanded south, east and west from the 1st century BC, coming into contact with the Celtic tribes of Gaul as well as Iranian, Baltic, and Slavic tribes in Central and Eastern Europe.[20] Under Augustus, Rome began to invade Germania (an area extending roughly from the Rhine to the Ural Mountains). In AD 9, three Roman legions led by Publius Quinctilius Varus were defeated by the Cheruscan leader Arminius. By AD 100, when Tacitus wrote Germania, Germanic tribes had settled along the Rhine and the Danube (Limes Germanicus), occupying most of the area of modern Germany; Austria, southern Bavaria and the western Rhineland, however, were Roman provinces.[21]

In the 3rd century a number of large West Germanic tribes emerged: Alemanni, Franks, Chatti, Saxons, Frisii, Sicambri, and Thuringii. Around 260, the Germanic peoples broke into Roman-controlled lands.[22] After an invasion by the Huns in 375, and with the decline of Rome from 395, Germanic tribes moved further south-west. Simultaneously several large tribes formed in what is now Germany and displaced the smaller Germanic tribes. Large areas (known since the Merovingian period as Austrasia) were occupied by the Franks, and Northern Germany was ruled by the Saxons and Slavs.[21]

Holy Roman Empire[]

The Imperial Crown of the kings of the Holy Roman Empire
Map of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation in 1600 (in today's state borders)

On 25 December 800, the Frankish king Charlemagne was crowned emperor and founded the Carolingian Empire, which was divided in 843.[23] Frankish rule was extended under Charlemagne's sons and then later by his grandson 'Louis the German' who was referred to as Germanicus, but the Carolingian Empire he ruled was the old Germania (to the right of the Rhine) and this geographical portion of the east Frankish kingdom additionally subsumed an assemblage of Alamanni, Bavarians, Main Franks, Saxons, Thuringians, Slavic tribes from the Baltic and Adriatic, and even some Pannonian Avars.[24] As such, the Holy Roman Empire comprised the eastern portion of Charlemagne's original kingdom and emerged as the strongest, some of this consequent to the aforementioned reign of 'Louis the German' and its extended cohesion was achieved through the unification efforts of Conrad of Franconia (911-918).[25] Its territory stretched from the Eider River in the north to the Mediterranean coast in the south.[23] Under the reign of the Ottonian emperors (919–1024), several major duchies were consolidated, and the German king Otto I was crowned Holy Roman Emperor of these regions in 962. In 996 Gregory V became the first German Pope, appointed by his cousin Otto III, whom he shortly after crowned Holy Roman Emperor.[26] The Holy Roman Empire absorbed northern Italy and Burgundy under the reign of the Salian emperors (1024–1125), although the emperors lost power through the Investiture Controversy.[27]

Martin Luther initiated the Protestant Reformation

Under the Hohenstaufen emperors (1138–1254), the German princes increased their influence further south and east into territories inhabited by Slavs, preceding German settlement in these areas and further east (Ostsiedlung). Northern German towns grew prosperous as members of the Hanseatic League.[28] Starting with the Great Famine in 1315, then the Black Death of 1348–50, the population of Germany plummeted.[29] The edict of the Golden Bull in 1356 provided the basic constitution of the empire and codified the election of the emperor by seven prince-electors who ruled some of the most powerful principalities and archbishoprics.[30]

Martin Luther publicised The Ninety-Five Theses in 1517 in Wittenberg, challenging the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church and initiating the Protestant Reformation. A separate Lutheran church became the official religion in many German states after 1530. Religious conflict led to the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648), which devastated German lands.[31] The population of the German states was reduced by about 30%.[32] The Peace of Westphalia (1648) ended religious warfare among the German states, but the empire was de facto divided into numerous independent principalities. In the 18th century, the Holy Roman Empire consisted of approximately 1,800 such territories.[33]

From 1740 onwards, dualism between the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy and the Kingdom of Prussia dominated German history. In 1806, the Imperium was overrun and dissolved as a result of the Napoleonic Wars.[34]

German Confederation and Empire[]

Origin of the Black-Red-Gold: German Revolution of 1848 (Berlin, 19 March 1848)

Foundation of the German Empire in Versailles, 1871. Bismarck is at the center in a white uniform.

Following the fall of Napoleon, the Congress of Vienna convened in 1814 and founded the German Confederation (Deutscher Bund), a loose league of 39 sovereign states. Disagreement with restoration politics partly led to the rise of liberal movements, followed by new measures of repression by Austrian statesman Metternich. The Zollverein, a tariff union, furthered economic unity in the German states.[35] National and liberal ideals of the French Revolution gained increasing support among many, especially young, Germans. The Hambach Festival in May 1832 was a main event in support of German unity, freedom and democracy. In the light of a series of revolutionary movements in Europe, which established a republic in France, intellectuals and commoners started the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states. King Frederick William IV of Prussia was offered the title of Emperor, but with a loss of power; he rejected the crown and the proposed constitution, leading to a temporary setback for the movement.[36]

Conflict between King William I of Prussia and the increasingly liberal parliament erupted over military reforms in 1862, and the king appointed Otto von Bismarck the new Minister President of Prussia. Bismarck successfully waged war on Denmark in 1864. Prussian victory in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 enabled him to create the North German Confederation (Norddeutscher Bund) and to exclude Austria, formerly the leading German state, from the federation's affairs. After the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, the German Empire was proclaimed in 1871 in Versailles, uniting all scattered parts of Germany except Austria (Kleindeutschland, or "Lesser Germany").

The German Empire (1871–1918), with the dominant Kingdom of Prussia in blue

With almost two-thirds of its territory and population, Prussia was the dominating constituent of the new state; the Hohenzollern King of Prussia ruled as its concurrent Emperor, and Berlin became its capital.[36] In the Gründerzeit period following the unification of Germany, Bismarck's foreign policy as Chancellor of Germany under Emperor William I secured Germany's position as a great nation by forging alliances, isolating France by diplomatic means, and avoiding war. As a result of the Berlin Conference in 1884 Germany claimed several colonies including German East Africa, German South-West Africa, Togo, and Cameroon.[37] Under Wilhelm II, however, Germany, like other European powers, took an imperialistic course leading to friction with neighbouring countries. Most alliances in which Germany had previously been involved were not renewed, and new alliances excluded the country.[38]

The assassination of Austria's crown prince on 28 June 1914 triggered World War I. Germany, as part of the Central Powers, suffered defeat against the Allies in one of the bloodiest conflicts of all time. An estimated two million German soldiers died in World War I.[39] The German Revolution broke out in November 1918, and Emperor Wilhelm II and all German ruling princes abdicated. An armistice ended the war on 11 November, and Germany signed the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919. Germans perceived the treaty as humiliating and unjust and it was later seen by historians as influential in the rise of Hitler.[40][41][42][43]

Weimar Republic and the Third Reich[]

At the beginning of the German Revolution in November 1918, Germany was declared a republic. However, the struggle for power continued, with radical-left Communists seizing power in Bavaria. The revolution came to an end on 11 August 1919, when the democratic Weimar Constitution was signed by President Friedrich Ebert.[44] Following a period of Hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic during 1922-23, a debt restructuring plan (the Dawes Plan), withdrawal of Belgian and French troops from the Ruhr and the creation of a new currency in 1924, led to the Golden Twenties; an era of increasing national confidence, artistic innovation, liberal cultural life and economic prosperity.

The Great Depression of 1929 caused high unemployment and in September 1930 the Nazi Party won just under 18% of the votes in the federal election of 1930. Forming a coalition government proved impossible and Chancellor Heinrich Brüning's government asked President Paul von Hindenburg to grant him Article 48 powers so that he could enact emergency policies without parliamentary approval. Hindenburg approved the request and Brüning's government pursued a policy of fiscal austerity and deflation which caused higher unemployment and left Germans, especially the unemployed, with fewer social services.

Adolf Hitler, Führer[45] of Nazi Germany

By 1932 nearly 30% of Germany's workforce was unemployed[46] and in the special federal election of 1932 the Nazi Party won 37% of the vote but could not could not form a coalition government. After a series of unsuccessful cabinets, President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany on 30 January 1933.[47] On 27 February 1933 the Reichstag building went up in flames, the Reichstag Fire Decree was passed abrogating basic civil rights and the Enabling Act of 1933 gave Hitler unrestricted legislative power. Hitler established a centralised totalitarian state and opened Germany's first concentration camps in February 1933. In September 1933 Germans voted to withdraw from the League of Nations. Hitler began to pursue military rearmament[48] and used deficit spending to employ millions of Germans in public works projects and industry.

In August 1934 the cabinet enacted the "Law Concerning the Highest State Office of the Reich" which altered the traditional loyalty oath of servicemen so that they affirmed loyalty to Hitler personally rather than to the office of supreme commander or the state[49] and in a special referendum 90 per cent of the electorate approved merging the presidency with the chancellorship.[50] In 1935 the Nazi regime reintroduced compulsory military service, withdrew from the Treaty of Versailles and introduced the Nuremberg Laws which targeted Jews and other groups.

Germany reacquired control of the Saar in 1935 and in 1936 sent troops into the Rhineland, which had been forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles.[51] Austria was annexed in 1938 and despite the Munich Agreement in September 1938, Germany occupied Czechoslovakia on 15 March 1939. Hitler's government then prepared for the invasion of Poland by signing the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact and planning a fake Polish attack. On 1 September 1939 the German Wehrmacht launched their Invasion of Poland, and swiftly occupied the country along with the Soviet Red Army. As a result of the invasion the United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany, marking the beginning of World War II.[52] As the war progressed, Germany and the other Axis powers quickly gained control of most of continental Europe and North Africa, though plans to force the United Kingdom to an armistice or surrender failed. On 22 June 1941, Germany broke the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact and invaded the Soviet Union. Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor led Germany to declare war on the United States in December 1941. The Battle of Stalingrad was a turning point in the war and forced the German army to retreat on the Eastern front.[52]

In September 1943, Germany's ally Italy surrendered, and additional German troops were needed to defend against Allied forces in Italy. The D-Day invasion of France opened a Western front in the war and despite a German counter offensive Allied forces had entered Germany by 1945. Following Hilter's suicide and the Battle of Berlin, the German armed forces surrendered on 8 May 1945.[53] The war was humanity's bloodiest conflict and caused the deaths of around 40 million people in Europe alone.[54] German army war casualties were between 3.25 million and 5.3 million soldiers,[55] and between 1 and 3 million German civilians were killed.[56][57]

In what later became known as The Holocaust, the Nazi regime enacted policies which targeted minorities as well as political and religious opposition. Over 10 million civilians were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust, including six million Jews, between 220,000 and 1,500,000 Romani people, 275,000 persons with mental and/or physical disabilities, thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses, thousands of homosexuals, and hundreds of thousands of members of the political and religious opposition.[58] Six million Ukrainians and Poles and an estimated 2.8 million Soviet war prisoners were also killed by the Nazi regime.

Berlin in ruins after World War II.

Losing the war resulted in territorial losses for Germany, the expulsion of millions of ethnic Germans from the former eastern territories of Germany and formerly occupied countries. Germany, like many of the countries it had occupied,[59] suffered mass rape[60] and the destruction of numerous major cities due to bombing and fighting during the war. After World War II, Nazis, former Nazis and others were tried for war crimes, including crimes related to the Holocaust, at the Nuremberg trials.[61]

East and West Germany[]

Occupation zones in Germany, 1947. The territories east of the Oder-Neisse line, under Polish and Soviet de jure administration and de facto annexation, are shown as white, as is the detached Saar protectorate.

After the surrender of Germany, the remaining German territory and Berlin were partitioned by the Allies into four military occupation zones. Together, these zones accepted more than 6.5 million of the ethnic Germans expelled from eastern areas.[62] The western sectors, controlled by France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, were merged on 23 May 1949 to form the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland); on 7 October 1949, the Soviet Zone became the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik, or DDR). They were informally known as "West Germany" and "East Germany". East Germany selected East Berlin as its capital, while West Germany chose Bonn as a provisional capital, to emphasise its stance that the two-state solution was an artificial and temporary status quo.[63] The Federal Republic of Germany became a major recipient of reconstruction aid under the Marshall Plan and received around $1.5 billion (apx. $14.5 billion in 2014 dollars)[64] in aid between 1948 and 1951.

West Germany, established as a federal parliamentary republic with a "social market economy", was allied with the United States, the UK and France. Konrad Adenauer was elected the first Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzler) of Germany in 1949 and remained in office until 1963. Under his and Ludwig Erhard's leadership, the country enjoyed prolonged economic growth beginning in the early 1950s, that became famous as the "economic miracle" (German: Wirtschaftswunder). West Germany joined NATO in 1955 and was a founding member of the European Economic Community in 1957.

East Germany was an Eastern Bloc state under political and military control by the USSR via the latter's occupation forces and the Warsaw Pact. Though East Germany claimed to be a democracy, political power was exercised solely by leading members (Politbüro) of the communist-controlled Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), supported by the Stasi, an immense secret service,[65] and a variety of sub-organisations controlling every aspect of society. A Soviet-style command economy was set up; the GDR later became a Comecon state.[66]

The Berlin Wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate shortly before its fall in 1989. Today the Gate is often regarded as Germany's main national landmark.

While East German propaganda was based on the benefits of the GDR's social programmes and the alleged constant threat of a West German invasion, many of its citizens looked to the West for freedom and prosperity.[67] The Berlin Wall, built in 1961 to stop East Germans from escaping to West Germany, became a symbol of the Cold War,[36] hence its fall in 1989, following democratic reforms in Poland and Hungary, became a symbol of the Fall of Communism, German Reunification and Die Wende.

Tensions between East and West Germany were reduced in the early 1970s by Chancellor Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik. In summer 1989, Hungary decided to dismantle the Iron Curtain and open the borders, causing the emigration of thousands of East Germans to West Germany via Hungary. This had devastating effects on the GDR, where regular mass demonstrations received increasing support. The East German authorities unexpectedly eased the border restrictions, allowing East German citizens to travel to the West; originally intended to help retain East Germany as a state, the opening of the border actually led to an acceleration of the Wende reform process. This culminated in the Two Plus Four Treaty a year later on 12 September 1990, under which the four occupying powers renounced their rights under the Instrument of Surrender, and Germany regained full sovereignty. This permitted German reunification on 3 October 1990, with the accession of the five re-established states of the former GDR (new states or "neue Länder").[36]

German reunification and the EU[]

The German Unity Flag, raised outside the Reichstag on 3 October 1990 as a national memorial to German reunification. The Reichstag is the meeting place of the Bundestag (German parliament).

Based on the Berlin/Bonn Act, adopted on 10 March 1994, Berlin once again became the capital of the reunified Germany, while Bonn obtained the unique status of a Bundesstadt (federal city) retaining some federal ministries.[68] The relocation of the government was completed in 1999.[69]

Since reunification, Germany has taken a more active role in the European Union and NATO. Germany sent a peacekeeping force to secure stability in the Balkans and sent a force of German troops to Afghanistan as part of a NATO effort to provide security in that country after the ousting of the Taliban.[70] These deployments were controversial since, after the war, Germany was bound by domestic law only to deploy troops for defence roles.[71] In 2005, Angela Merkel became the first female Chancellor of Germany as the leader of a grand coalition.[36] Germany hosted the 2007 G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Mecklenburg. In 2009, a liberal-conservative coalition under Merkel assumed leadership of the country. In 2013, another grand coalition was established in a Third Merkel cabinet.


Topographic map

Germany is in Western and Central Europe, with Denmark bordering to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France and Luxembourg to the southwest, and Belgium and the Netherlands to the northwest. It lies mostly between latitudes 47° and 55° N (the tip of Sylt is just north of 55°), and longitudes and 16° E. The territory covers 357,021 km2 (137,847 sq mi), consisting of 349,223 km2 (134,836 sq mi) of land and 7,798 km2 (3,011 sq mi) of water. It is the seventh largest country by area in Europe and the 62nd largest in the world.[4]

Elevation ranges from the mountains of the Alps (highest point: the Zugspitze at 2,962 metres or 9,718 ft) in the south to the shores of the North Sea (Nordsee) in the northwest and the Baltic Sea (Ostsee) in the northeast. The forested uplands of central Germany and the lowlands of northern Germany (lowest point: Wilstermarsch at 3.54 metres or 11.6 ft below sea level) are traversed by such major rivers as the Rhine, Danube and Elbe. Glaciers are found in the Alpine region, but are experiencing deglaciation. Significant natural resources are iron ore, coal, potash, timber, lignite, uranium, copper, natural gas, salt, nickel, arable land and water.[4]


Steep coast of Darss, Western Pomerania - typical of the Baltic coastal landscape in northern Germany

Most of Germany has a temperate seasonal climate in which humid westerly winds predominate. The country is situated in between the oceanic Western European and the continental Eastern European climate. The climate is moderated by the North Atlantic Drift, the northern extension of the Gulf Stream. This warmer water affects the areas bordering the North Sea; consequently in the northwest and the north the climate is oceanic. Germany gets an average of 789 mm (31 in) precipitation per year. Rainfall occurs year-round, with no obligatory dry season. Winters are mild and summers tend to be warm, temperatures can exceed 30 °C (86 °F).[72]

The east has a more continental climate; winters can be very cold and summers very warm, and longer dry periods can occur. Central and southern Germany are transition regions which vary from moderately oceanic to continental. In addition to the maritime and continental climates that predominate over most of the country, the Alpine regions in the extreme south and, to a lesser degree, some areas of the Central German Uplands have a mountain climate, characterised by lower temperatures and greater precipitation.[72]


The golden eagle is a protected bird of prey.

The territory of Germany can be subdivided into two ecoregions: European-Mediterranean montane mixed forests and Northeast-Atlantic shelf marine.[73] As of 2008 the majority of Germany is covered by either arable land (34%) or forest and woodland (30.1%); only 13.4% of the area consists of permanent pastures, 11.8% is covered by settlements and streets.[74]

Plants and animals are those generally common to middle Europe. Beeches, oaks, and other deciduous trees constitute one-third of the forests; conifers are increasing as a result of reforestation. Spruce and fir trees predominate in the upper mountains, while pine and larch are found in sandy soil. There are many species of ferns, flowers, fungi, and mosses. Wild animals include deer, wild boar, mouflon, fox, badger, hare, and small numbers of beavers.[75] The blue cornflower was once a German national symbol.[76]

The 14 national parks in Germany include the Jasmund National Park, the Vorpommern Lagoon Area National Park, the Müritz National Park, the Wadden Sea National Parks, the Harz National Park, the Hainich National Park, the Saxon Switzerland National Park, the Bavarian Forest National Park and the Berchtesgaden National Park. In addition, there are 14 Biosphere Reserves, as well as 98 nature parks.

More than 400 registered zoos and animal parks operate in Germany, which is believed to be the largest number in any country.[77] The Berlin Zoo opened in 1844 is the oldest zoo in Germany, and presents the most comprehensive collection of species in the world.[78]


Political system of Germany

The Reichstag building in Berlin is the site of the German parliament (Bundestag)

Germany is a federal, parliamentary, representative democratic republic. The German political system operates under a framework laid out in the 1949 constitutional document known as the Grundgesetz (Basic Law). Amendments generally require a two-thirds majority of both chambers of parliament; the fundamental principles of the constitution, as expressed in the articles guaranteeing human dignity, the separation of powers, the federal structure, and the rule of law are valid in perpetuity.[79]

The president is the head of state and invested primarily with representative responsibilities and powers. He is elected by the Bundesversammlung (federal convention), an institution consisting of the members of the Bundestag and an equal number of state delegates. The second-highest official in the German order of precedence is the Bundestagspräsident (President of the Bundestag), who is elected by the Bundestag and responsible for overseeing the daily sessions of the body.

2011 Joachim Gauck-2.jpg Angela Merkel (August 2012) cropped.jpg
Joachim Gauck
President since 2012
Angela Merkel
Chancellor since 2005

The third-highest official and the head of government is the Chancellor, who is appointed by the Bundespräsident after being elected by the Bundestag.[36] The chancellor, currently Angela Merkel, is the head of government and exercises executive power, similar to the role of a Prime Minister in other parliamentary democracies.

Federal legislative power is vested in the parliament consisting of the Bundestag (Federal Diet) and Bundesrat (Federal Council), which together form the legislative body. The Bundestag is elected through direct elections, by proportional representation (mixed-member).[4] The members of the Bundesrat represent the governments of the sixteen federated states and are members of the state cabinets.[36]

Since 1949, the party system has been dominated by the Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democratic Party of Germany. So far every chancellor has been a member of one of these parties. However, the smaller liberal Free Democratic Party (which had members in the Bundestag from 1949 to 2013) and the Alliance '90/The Greens (which has had seats in parliament since 1983) have also played important roles.[80]

Minor parties such as The Left, Free Voters and the Pirate Party are represented in some state parliaments.


German state police officers, with a typical German police car

Germany has a civil law system based on Roman law with some references to Germanic law. The Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court) is the German Supreme Court responsible for constitutional matters, with power of judicial review.[36][81] Germany's supreme court system, called Oberste Gerichtshöfe des Bundes, is specialised: for civil and criminal cases, the highest court of appeal is the inquisitorial Federal Court of Justice, and for other affairs the courts are the Federal Labour Court, the Federal Social Court, the Federal Finance Court and the Federal Administrative Court. The Völkerstrafgesetzbuch regulates the consequences of crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes, and gives German courts universal jurisdiction in some circumstances.[82]

Criminal and private laws are codified on the national level in the Strafgesetzbuch and the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch respectively. The German penal system is aimed towards rehabilitation of the criminal and the protection of the general public.[83] Except for petty crimes, which are tried before a single professional judge, and serious political crimes, all charges are tried before mixed tribunals on which lay judges (Schöffen) sit side by side with professional judges.[84][85]

Many of the fundamental matters of administrative law remain in the jurisdiction of the states, though most states base their own laws in that area on the 1976 Verwaltungsverfahrensgesetz (Administrative Proceedings Act) covering important points of administrative law. The Oberverwaltungsgerichte are the highest level of administrative jurisdiction concerning the state administrations, unless the question of law concerns federal law or state law identical to federal law. In such cases, final appeal to the Federal Administrative Court is possible.

Constituent states[]

Germany comprises sixteen states which are collectively referred to as Länder.[86] Each state has its own state constitution[87] and is largely autonomous in regard to its internal organisation. Because of differences in size and population the subdivisions of these states vary, especially as between city states (Stadtstaaten) and states with larger territories (Flächenländer). For regional administrative purposes five states, namely Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia and Saxony, consist of a total of 22 Government Districts (Regierungsbezirke). As of 2009 Germany is divided into 403 districts (Kreise) at a municipal level; these consist of 301 rural districts and 102 urban districts.[88]

Template:German Federal States

State Capital Area (km²) Population[89]
Baden-Württemberg Stuttgart 35,752 10,569,100
Bavaria Munich 70,549 12,519,600
Berlin Berlin 892 3,375,200
Brandenburg Potsdam 29,477 2,449,500
Bremen Bremen 404 654,800
Hamburg Hamburg 755 1,734,300
Hesse Wiesbaden 21,115 6,016,500
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Schwerin 23,174 1,600,300
Lower Saxony Hanover 47,618 7,779,000
North Rhine-Westphalia Düsseldorf 34,043 17,554,300
Rhineland-Palatinate Mainz 19,847 3,990,300
Saarland Saarbrücken 2,569 994,300
Saxony Dresden 18,416 4,050,200
Saxony-Anhalt Magdeburg 20,445 2,259,400
Schleswig-Holstein Kiel 15,763 2,806,500
Thuringia Erfurt 16,172 2,170,500

Foreign relations[]

Chancellor Angela Merkel hosting the G8 summit in Heiligendamm

Germany has a network of 229 diplomatic missions abroad[90] and maintains relations with more than 190 countries.[91] As of 2011 it is the largest contributor to the budget of the European Union (providing 20%)[92] and the third largest contributor to the UN (providing 8%).[93] Germany is a member of NATO, the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the G8, the G20, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It has played a leading role in the European Union since its inception and has maintained a strong alliance with France since the end of World War II. Germany seeks to advance the creation of a more unified European political, defence, and security apparatus.[94][95]

The development policy of the Federal Republic of Germany is an independent area of German foreign policy. It is formulated by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and carried out by the implementing organisations. The German government sees development policy as a joint responsibility of the international community.[96] It is the world's third biggest aid donor after the United States and France.[97][98]

During the Cold War, Germany's partition by the Iron Curtain made it a symbol of East–West tensions and a political battleground in Europe. However, Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik was a key factor in the détente of the 1970s.[99] In 1999, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's government defined a new basis for German foreign policy by taking part in the NATO decisions surrounding the Kosovo War and by sending German troops into combat for the first time since World War II.[100] The governments of Germany and the United States are close political allies.[36] The 1948 Marshall Plan and strong cultural ties have crafted a strong bond between the two countries, although Schröder's vocal opposition to the Iraq War suggested the end of Atlanticism and a relative cooling of German-American relations.[101] The two countries are also economically interdependent: 8.8% of German exports are US-bound and 6.6% of German imports originate from the US.[102]


The Eurofighter Typhoon is part of the Luftwaffe

Germany's military, the Bundeswehr, is organised into Heer (Army), Marine (Navy), Luftwaffe (Air Force), Bundeswehr Joint Medical Service and Streitkräftebasis (Joint Support Service) branches. The role of the Bundeswehr is described in the Constitution of Germany (Art. 87a) as absolutely defensive only. Its only active role before 1990 was the Katastropheneinsatz (disaster control). Within the Bundeswehr, it helped after natural disasters both in Germany and abroad. After 1990, the international situation changed from East-West confrontation to one of general uncertainty and instability. Today, after a ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court in 1994 the term "defense" has been defined to not only include protection of the borders of Germany, but also crisis reaction and conflict prevention, or more broadly as guarding the security of Germany anywhere in the world.

Leopard 2 tanks of the German Army

In 2011, military spending was an estimated 1.3% of the country's GDP, which is low in a ranking of all countries; in absolute terms, German military expenditure is the 9th highest in the world.[103] In peacetime, the Bundeswehr is commanded by the Minister of Defence. If Germany went to war, which according to the constitution is allowed only for defensive purposes, the Chancellor would become commander-in-chief of the Bundeswehr.[104]

As of March 2012 the Bundeswehr employs 183,000 professional soldiers and 17,000 volunteers.[105] The German government plans to reduce the number of soldiers to 170,000 professionals and up to 15,000 short-term volunteers (voluntary military service).[106] Reservists are available to the Armed Forces and participate in defence exercises and deployments abroad.[106] As of April 2011, the German military had about 6,900 troops stationed in foreign countries as part of international peacekeeping forces, including about 4,900 Bundeswehr troops in the NATO-led ISAF force in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, 1,150 German soldiers in Kosovo, and 300 troops with UNIFIL in Lebanon.[107]

Until 2011, military service was compulsory for men at age 18, and conscripts served six-month tours of duty; conscientious objectors could instead opt for an equal length of Zivildienst (civilian service), or a six-year commitment to (voluntary) emergency services like a fire department or the Red Cross. On 1 July 2011 conscription was officially suspended and replaced with a voluntary service.[108][109] Since 2001 women may serve in all functions of service without restriction, but they have not been subject to conscription. There are presently some 17,500 women on active duty and a number of female reservists.[110]


Frankfurt is Germany's financial capital (New ECB HQ pictured)

The labour productivity level of Germany is one of the highest in Europe. OECD, 2012

A Mercedes-Benz car. Germany was the world's leading exporter of goods from 2003 to 2008.[111]

Germany is part of a monetary union, the eurozone (dark blue), and of the EU single market.

Germany has a social market economy with a highly skilled labour force, a large capital stock, a low level of corruption,[112] and a high level of innovation.[113] It has the largest and most powerful national economy in Europe, the fourth largest by nominal GDP in the world,[114] the fifth largest by PPP,[115] and was the biggest net contributor to the EU budget in 2011.[116] The service sector contributes approximately 71% of the total GDP, industry 28%, and agriculture 1%.[4] The official average national unemployment rate in April 2014 was 6.8%.[117] However, the official average national unemployment rate also includes people with a part-time job that are looking for a full-time job.[118] The unofficial average national unemployment rate in 2013 was 5.3%.[4]

Germany is an advocate of closer European economic and political integration. Its commercial policies are increasingly determined by agreements among European Union (EU) members and by EU legislation. Germany introduced the common European currency, the euro, on 1 January 2002.[119][120] Its monetary policy is set by the European Central Bank, which is headquartered in Frankfurt. Two decades after German reunification, standards of living and per capita incomes remain significantly higher in the states of the former West Germany than in the former East.[121] The modernisation and integration of the eastern German economy is a long-term process scheduled to last until the year 2019, with annual transfers from west to east amounting to roughly $80 billion.[122] In January 2009 the German government approved a €50 billion economic stimulus plan to protect several sectors from a downturn and a subsequent rise in unemployment rates.[123]

Germany is the world's top location for trade fairs. Around two thirds of the world's leading trade fairs take place in Germany.[124]

Of the world's 500 largest stock-market-listed companies measured by revenue in 2010, the Fortune Global 500, 37 are headquartered in Germany. 30 Germany-based companies are included in the DAX, the German stock market index. Well-known global brands are Mercedes-Benz, BMW, SAP, Siemens, Volkswagen, Adidas, Audi, Allianz, Porsche, Bayer, Bosch, and Nivea.[125] Germany is recognised for its specialised small and medium enterprises. Around 1,000 of these companies are global market leaders in their segment and are labelled hidden champions.[126]

The list includes the largest German companies by revenue in 2011:

Rank[127] Name Headquarters Revenue
(Mil. €)
(Mil. €)
01. Volkswagen AG Wolfsburg 159,000 15,800 502,000
02. E.ON SE Düsseldorf 113,000 −1,900 79,000
03. Daimler AG Stuttgart 107,000 6,000 271,000
04. Siemens AG Berlin, München 74,000 6,300 360,000
05. BASF SE Ludwigshafen am Rhein 73,000 6,600 111,000
06. BMW AG München 69,000 4,900 100,000
07. Metro AG Düsseldorf 67,000 740 288,000
08. Schwarz Gruppe (Lidl/Kaufland) Neckarsulm 63,000 N/A 315,000
09. Deutsche Telekom AG Bonn 59,000 670 235,000
010. Deutsche Post AG Bonn 53,000 1,300 471,000
 — Allianz SE München 104,000 2,800 141,000
 — Deutsche Bank AG Frankfurt am Main 21,600 4,300 101,000


The ICE 3 on the Cologne–Frankfurt high-speed rail line

With its central position in Europe, Germany is a transport hub. This is reflected in one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated transportation systems, as well as one of the densest road networks in the world.[128] The motorway (Autobahn) network ranks as the third-largest worldwide in length and is known for its lack of a general speed limit.[129] Germany has established a polycentric network of high-speed trains. The InterCityExpress or ICE network of the Deutsche Bahn serves major German cities as well as destinations in neighbouring countries with speeds up to 300 kph (186 mph).[130] The largest German airports are Frankfurt Airport and Munich Airport, both hubs of Lufthansa, while Air Berlin has hubs at Berlin Tegel and Düsseldorf. Other major airports include Berlin Schönefeld, Hamburg, Cologne/Bonn and Leipzig/Halle. Both airports in Berlin will be consolidated at a site adjacent to Berlin Schönefeld, which will become Berlin Brandenburg Airport.[131] The Port of Hamburg is one of the largest in the world.[132]

In 2008, Germany was the world's sixth-largest consumer of energy,[133] and 60% of its primary energy was imported.[134] Government policy promotes energy conservation and renewable energy commercialisation. Energy efficiency has been improving since the early 1970s; the government aims to meet the country's electricity demands using 40% renewable sources by 2020 and 100% by 2050.[135] In 2010, energy sources were: oil (33.7%); coal, including lignite (22.9%); natural gas (21.8%); nuclear (10.8%); hydro-electric and wind power (1.5%); and other renewable sources (7.9%).[136] In 2000, the government and the nuclear power industry agreed to phase out all nuclear power plants by 2021.[137] Germany is committed to the Kyoto protocol and several other treaties promoting biodiversity, low emission standards, recycling, and the use of renewable energy, and supports sustainable development at a global level.[138] The German government has initiated wide-ranging emission reduction activities and the country's overall emissions are falling.[139] Nevertheless the country's greenhouse gas emissions were the highest in the EU in 2010, while it is also the largest country by population and economical output.[140] The German energy transition (Template:Lang de) is the globally recognised move to a sustainable economy by means of renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable development. The final goal is the abolition of coal and other non-renewable energy sources.[141] With the Wendelstein 7-X experiment in Greifswald, Germany is also a leading country in the research of fusion power.

Science and technology[]

Albert Einstein

Germany's achievements in the sciences have been significant, and research and development efforts form an integral part of the economy.[142] The Nobel Prize has been awarded to 104 German laureates.[143] For most of the 20th century, German laureates had more awards than those of any other nation, especially in the sciences (physics, chemistry, and physiology or medicine).[144][145]

Albert Einstein introduced the relativity theories for light and gravity in 1905 and 1915 respectively, which remain mainstream theories in physics to this day. Along with Max Planck, he was instrumental in the introduction of quantum mechanics, in which Werner Heisenberg and Max Born later made major contributions.[146] They were preceded by such key physicists as Hermann von Helmholtz, Joseph von Fraunhofer and Gabriel Daniel Fahrenheit, among others. Wilhelm Röntgen discovered X-rays and was the first winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901.[147] Otto Hahn was a pioneer in the fields of radioactivity and radiochemistry and discovered nuclear fission,[148] while Ferdinand Cohn and Robert Koch were founders of microbiology. Numerous mathematicians were born in Germany, including Carl Friedrich Gauss, David Hilbert, Bernhard Riemann, Gottfried Leibniz, Karl Weierstrass, Hermann Weyl and Felix Klein. Research institutions in Germany include the Max Planck Society, the Helmholtz Association and the Fraunhofer Society. The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize is granted to ten scientists and academics every year. With a maximum of €2.5 million per award it is one of highest endowed research prizes in the world.[149]

Germany has been the home of many famous inventors and engineers, such as Johannes Gutenberg, credited with the invention of movable type printing in Europe; Hans Geiger, the creator of the Geiger counter; and Konrad Zuse, who built the first fully automatic digital computer.[150] German inventors, engineers and industrialists such as Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, Otto Lilienthal, Gottlieb Daimler, Rudolf Diesel, Hugo Junkers and Karl Benz helped shape modern automotive and air transportation technology.[151] Aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun developed the first space rocket and later on was a prominent member of NASA and developed the Saturn V Moon rocket, which paved the way for the success of the US Apollo programme. Heinrich Rudolf Hertz's work in the domain of electromagnetic radiation was pivotal to the development of modern telecommunication.[152]

Germany is one of the leading countries in developing and using green technologies. Companies specialising in green technology have an estimated turnover of €200 billion. Key sectors of Germany's green technology industry are power generation, sustainable mobility, material efficiency, energy efficiency, waste management and recycling, and sustainable water management.[153]


With a population of 80.2 million according to the May 2011 census,[11] Germany is the most populous country in the European Union, the second most populous country in Europe after Russia, and ranks as the 16th most populous country in the world.[154] Its population density stands at 225 inhabitants per square kilometre. The overall life expectancy in Germany at birth is 80.19 years (77.93 years for males and 82.58 years for females).[4] The fertility rate of 1.41 children born per woman (2011 estimates), or 8.33 births per 1000 inhabitants, is one of the lowest in the world.[4] Since the 1970s, Germany's death rate has continuously exceeded its birth rate.[155] The Federal Statistical Office of Germany has forecast that the population could shrink to between 65 and 70 million by 2060 (depending on the level of net migration).[156] However, such forecasts have often been proven wrong in the past, and Germany is currently witnessing increased birth rates[157] and migration rates since the beginning of the 2010s. It is notably experiencing a strong increase in the number of well-educated migrants.[158][159] In 2012, 300,000 more immigrants than emigrants were reported in Germany.[160]

National Minorities[]

Four sizable groups of people are referred to as "national minorities" (nationale Minderheiten) because they have lived in their respective regions for centuries: Danes, Frisians, Roma and Sinti, and Sorbs.[161] There is a Danish minority (about 50,000, according to government sources) in the northern-most state of Schleswig-Holstein.[161] Eastern and Northern Frisians live at Schleswig-Holstein's western coast, and in the north-western part of Lower Saxony. They are part of a wider community (Frisia) stretching from Germany to the northern Netherlands. The Sorbs, a Slavic people with about 60,000 members (according to government sources), are in the Lusatia region of Saxony and Brandenburg.[161] They are the last remnants of the Slavs that lived in central and eastern Germany since the 7th century to have kept their traditions and not been completely integrated into the wider German nation through Germanization.

A person like Simone Hauswald, who has a German and a Korean parent, is considered a "persons with immigrant background" in German statistics even if they themselves are born in Germany. Another statistical term that is used to classify person with one German and one Asian parent is Eurasian

Development of German population since 1800

Immigrant Population[]

Germans by nationality make up 92.3% of the population of Germany.[11] As of 2011 and about six million foreign citizens (7.7% of the population) were registered in Germany.[11] Regarding ethnic background, 20%[6] of the country's residents, or more than 16 million people, were of foreign or partially foreign descent (including persons descending or partially descending from ethnic German repatriates), 96% of whom lived in the former West Germany or Berlin.[162] In 2010, 2.3 million families with children under 18 years were living in Germany, in which at least one parent had foreign roots. They represented 29% of the total of 8.1 million families with minor children. Compared with 2005 – the year when the microcensus started to collect detailed information on the population with a migrant background – the proportion of migrant families has risen by 2 percentage points.[163]

Most of the families with a migrant background live in the western part of Germany. In 2010, the proportion of migrant families in all families was 32% in the pre-unification territory of the Federal Republic. This figure was more than double that in the new Länder (including Berlin) where it stood at 15%.[163] Families with a migrant background more often have three or more minor children in the household than families without a migrant background. In 2010, about 15% of the families with a migrant background contained three or more minor children, as compared with just 9% of the families without a migrant background.[163]

The United Nations Population Fund lists Germany as host to the third-highest number of international migrants worldwide, about 5% or 10 million of all 191 million migrants.[164] As a consequence of restrictions to Germany's formerly rather unrestricted laws on asylum and immigration, the number of immigrants seeking asylum or claiming German ethnicity (mostly from the former Soviet Union) has been declining steadily since 2000.[165] In 2009, 20% of the population had immigrant roots, the highest since 1945.[166] As of 2008, the largest national group was from Turkey (2.5 million), followed by Italy (776,000) and Poland (687,000).[167] About 3 million "Aussiedler"—ethnic Germans, mainly from the former eastern bloc—have resettled in Germany since 1987.[168] Large numbers of people with full or significant German ancestry are found in the United States,[169] Brazil,[170] Argentina[171] and Canada.[172] Most ethnic minorities (especially those of non-European origin) reside in large urban areas like Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt Rhine-Main, Rhine-Ruhr, Rhine-Neckar and Munich. The percentage of non-Germans and immigrants is rather low in rural areas and small towns, especially in the East German states of the former GDR territory.

Germany is home to the third-highest number of international migrants worldwide.[173]


Germany has a number of large cities. There are 11 officially recognised metropolitan regions in Germany – and since 2006, 34 potential cities were identified which can be called a Regiopolis. The largest conurbation is the Rhine-Ruhr region (11.7 million in 2008), including Düsseldorf (the capital of North Rhine-Westphalia), Cologne, Bonn, Dortmund, Essen, Duisburg, and Bochum.[174]

Template:Largest cities of Germany


The catholic Cologne Cathedral at the Rhine river is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Berliner Dom, one of the main evangelical cathedrals in Germany

Christianity is the largest religion in Germany, with around 51.5 million adherents (62.8%) in 2008.[175] Relative to the whole population, 30.0% of Germans are Catholics, 29.9% are Protestants belonging to the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), and the remaining Protestants belong to smaller denominations each with less than 0.5% of the German population.[176] Protestantism is concentrated in the north and east and Roman Catholicism is concentrated in the south and west;[177] 1.6% of the country's overall population declare themselves Orthodox Christians.[175]

The second largest religion is Islam with an estimated 3.8 to 4.3 million adherents (4.6% to 5.2%),[178] followed by Buddhism with 250,000 and Judaism with around 200,000 adherents (0.3%); Hinduism has some 90,000 adherents (0.1%). All other religious communities in Germany have fewer than 50,000 adherents.[179] Of the roughly 4 million Muslims, most are Sunnis and Alevites from Turkey, but there are a small number of Shi'ites and other denominations.[178] German Muslims, a large portion of whom are of Turkish origin, lack full official state recognition of their religious community.[177] Germany has Europe's third largest Jewish population (after France and the United Kingdom).[180] Approximately 50% of the Buddhists in Germany are Asian immigrants.[181]

Germans with no stated religious adherence make up 34.1% of the population and are concentrated in the former East Germany and major metropolitan areas.[176] German reunification in 1990 greatly increased the country's non-religious population, a legacy of the state atheism of the previously Soviet-controlled East. Christian church membership has decreased in recent decades, particularly among Protestants.[177]


The German language is the most widely spoken first language in the European Union, with around 100 million native speakers.[182]

German is the official and predominant spoken language in Germany.[183] It is one of 23 official languages in the European Union, and one of the three working languages of the European Commission.

Recognized native minority languages in Germany are Danish, Low German, Sorbian, Romany, and Frisian; they are officially protected by the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The most used immigrant languages are Turkish, Kurdish, Polish, the Balkan languages, and Russian. 67% of German citizens claim to be able to communicate in at least one foreign language and 27% in at least two languages other than their own.[183]

Standard German is a West Germanic language and is closely related to and classified alongside English, Low German, Dutch, and the Frisian languages. To a lesser extent, it is also related to the East (extinct) and North Germanic languages. Most German vocabulary is derived from the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family.[184] Significant minorities of words are derived from Latin and Greek, with a smaller amount from French and most recently English (known as Denglisch). German is written using the Latin alphabet. German dialects, traditional local varieties traced back to the Germanic tribes, are distinguished from varieties of standard German by their lexicon, phonology, and syntax.[185]


Heidelberg University is the oldest of Germany's universities and among its best ranked.[186] It was established in 1386.

Over 99% of Germans age 15 and above are estimated to be able to read and write.[4] Responsibility for educational supervision in Germany is primarily organised within the individual federal states. Since the 1960s, a reform movement attempted to unify secondary education in a Gesamtschule (comprehensive school); several West German states later simplified their school system to two or three tiers. A system of apprenticeship called Duale Ausbildung ("dual education") allows pupils in vocational training to learn in a company as well as in a state-run vocational school.[187] This successful model is highly regarded and reproduced all around the world.[188]

Optional kindergarten education is provided for all children between three and six years old, after which school attendance is compulsory for at least nine years. Primary education usually lasts for four to six years and public schools are not stratified at this stage.[187] In contrast, secondary education includes three traditional types of schools focused on different levels of academic ability: the Gymnasium enrols the most gifted children and prepares students for university studies; the Realschule for intermediate students lasts six years; the Hauptschule prepares pupils for vocational education.[189]

Wendelstein 7-X, a research facility at the Max Planck Institute of Plasma Physics in Greifswald. Much of Germany's academic research is done in independent institutes.

The general entrance requirement for university is Abitur, a qualification normally based on continuous assessment during the last few years at school and final examinations; however there are a number of exceptions, and precise requirements vary, depending on the state, the university and the subject. Germany's universities are recognised internationally; in the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) for 2008, six of the top 100 universities in the world are in Germany, and 18 of the top 200.[190]

Most of the German universities are public institutions, funded by the Länder governments, and students have traditionally undertaken study without fee payment. In 2005 the public universities introduced tuition fees of around €60 per semester (and up to €500 in the state of Niedersachsen) for each student for a trial period;[191][192] however, the German public was not amenable to the experiment and the temporary fee-based system was mostly abolished, with two remaining universities to cease the fee requirement by the end of 2014.[193]

Academic education is open to most citizens and studying is increasingly common in Germany.[194] The dual education system that combines practical and theoretical learning, but does not lead to an academic degree, is typical for Germany and is recognised as an exemplary model for other countries.[195]

The established universities in Germany are among the oldest in the world, with Heidelberg University being the oldest in Germany (established in 1386 and in continuous operation since then). Heidelberg is followed by Leipzig University (1409), Rostock University (1419), Greifswald University (1456), Freiburg University (1457), LMU Munich (1472) and the University of Tübingen (1477).

Academic research is also performed at independent non-university research institutions, such as the Max Planck, Fraunhofer, Leibniz and Helmholtz institutes. Many of these institutions have close connections with nearby universities.


Hospice of the Holy Spirit in Lübeck - one of the world's oldest humanitarian institutions and a precursor to modern hospitals

Germany has the world's oldest universal health care system, dating back to Bismarck's social legislation in 1883.[196] He stressed the importance of three key principles; solidarity, the government is responsible to ensure access by those who are in need, subsidiarity, policies are implemented with smallest no political and administrative influence, and corporatism, the government representative bodies in health care professions deems feasible procedures.[197] Since then there have been many reforms and provisions to ensure a balanced health care system. Currently the population is covered by a fairly comprehensive health insurance plan provided by statute. Certain groups of people (lifetime officials, self-employed persons, employees with high income) can opt out of the plan and switch to a private insurance contract. Previously, these groups could also choose to do without insurance, but this option was dropped in 2009.[198] According to the World Health Organization, Germany's health care system was 77% government-funded and 23% privately funded as of 2005.[199] In 2005, Germany spent 11% of its GDP on health care. Germany ranked 20th in the world in life expectancy with 77 years for men and 82 years for women, and it had a very low infant mortality rate (4 per 1,000 live births).[199]

In 2010, the principal cause of death was cardiovascular disease, at 41%, followed by malignant tumours, at 26%.[200] In 2008, about 82,000 Germans had been infected with HIV/AIDS and 26,000 had died from the disease (cumulatively, since 1982).[201] According to a 2005 survey, 27% of German adults are smokers.[201]


Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827), composer

From its roots, culture in German states has been shaped by major intellectual and popular currents in Europe, both religious and secular. Historically Germany has been called Das Land der Dichter und Denker ("the land of poets and thinkers"),[202] because of the major role its famous writers and philosophers have played in the development of Western thought and culture.

The federated states are in charge of the cultural institutions. There are 240 subsidised theatres, hundreds of symphonic orchestras, thousands of museums and over 25,000 libraries spread in Germany. These cultural opportunities are enjoyed by many: there are over 91 million German museum visits every year; annually, 20 million go to theatres and operas; 3.6 million per year listen to the symphonic orchestras.[203] As of 2013 the UNESCO inscribed 38 properties in Germany on the World Heritage List.[204]

Germany has established a high level of gender equality,[205] promotes disability rights, and is legally and socially tolerant towards homosexuals. Gays and lesbians can legally adopt their partner's biological children, and civil unions have been permitted since 2001.[206] Germany has also changed its attitude towards immigrants; since the mid-1990s, the government and the majority of Germans have begun to acknowledge that controlled immigration should be allowed based on qualification standards.[207] Germany has been named the world's second most valued nation among 50 countries in 2010.[208] A global opinion poll for the BBC revealed that Germany is recognised for having the most positive influence in the world in 2011,[209] and for being the most positively viewed nation in the world, in 2013.[210]


Chalk Cliffs on Rügen (1818) by Caspar David Friedrich, the most prominent artist of Romanticism

Numerous German painters have enjoyed international prestige through their work in diverse artistic styles. Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein the Younger, Matthias Grünewald and Lucas Cranach the Elder were important artists of the Renaissance, Peter Paul Rubens and Johann Baptist Zimmermann of Baroque, Caspar David Friedrich and Carl Spitzweg of Romanticism, Max Liebermann of Impressionism and Max Ernst of Surrealism.

Several German artist groups formed in the 20th century, such as the November Group or Die Brücke (The Bridge) and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) in Expressionism. The New Objectivity arose as a counter-style to it during the Weimar Republic. After WWII, main movements of Neo-expressionism, performance art and Conceptual art evolved, with notable artists such as Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter, Jörg Immendorff, HA Schult, Aris Kalaizis, Neo Rauch (New Leipzig School) and Andreas Gursky (photography). Major art exhibitions and festivals in Germany are the documenta, transmediale and Art Cologne.


J.S. Bach
Toccata und Fuge
L.v. Beethoven
Symphonie 5 c-moll
R. Wagner
Die Walküre

German classical music comprises works by some of the world's most well-known composers, including Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johannes Brahms, Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss, Franz Schubert, Georg Friedrich Händel, Carl Maria von Weber, Robert Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Carl Orff.

Germany is the second largest music market in Europe, and fourth largest in the world.[211] German popular music of the 20th and 21st century includes the movements of Neue Deutsche Welle (Nena, Trio), Pop (Alphaville, Modern Talking), Ostrock (City, Keimzeit), Metal/Rock (Rammstein, Scorpions), Punk (Die Ärzte, Die Toten Hosen), Pop rock (Beatsteaks, Tokio Hotel), Indie (Tocotronic, Blumfeld) and Hip Hop (Die Fantastischen Vier, Deichkind). Especially the German Electronic music gained global influence, with Kraftwerk being a pioneer group in this genre,[212] and the Minimal and Techno scenes in Germany being very popular (e.g. Paul van Dyk, Tomcraft, Paul Kalkbrenner and Scooter).


Kurhaus Binz on Rugia Island, a typical example of resort architecture. This style is common on the German Baltic Sea coast.

Architectural contributions from Germany include the Carolingian and Ottonian styles, which were precursors of Romanesque. Brick Gothic in medieval times and Brick Expressionism in modern times are two distinctive styles that developed in Germany. Also in Renaissance and Baroque art, regional and typically German elements evolved (e.g. Weser Renaissance and Dresden Baroque). Among many renowned Baroque masters were Pöppelmann, Balthasar Neumann, Knobelsdorff and the Asam brothers.

Germany is especially renowned for its timber frame old towns, with many well-kept examples to be found along the German Timber-Frame Road, leading from the very south of Germany to Northern Germany and its coasts.

When industrialisation spread across Europe, Classicism and a distinctive style of historism developed in Germany, sometimes referred to as Gründerzeit style, due to the economical boom years at the end of the 19th century. Resort architecture and Spa architecture are sub-styles, that evolved since the 18th century in Germany, with the first modern Spas and Seaside resorts of Europe. Many architects formed this era, with Schinkel, Semper, Stüler, von Gärtner, Schwechten and Lipsius among them.

Jugendstil became a dominant architectural style at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, with a strong influence of the Art Nouveau movement.[213] The Art Deco movement did not gain much influence in Germany, instead the Expressionist architecture spread across the country, with e.g. Höger, Mendelsohn, Böhm and Schumacher being influential architects.

Germany was particularly important in the early modern movement - it is the home of the Bauhaus movement founded by Walter Gropius. And thus Germany is a cradle of modern architecture. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe became one of the world's most renowned architects in the second half of the 20th century. He conceived of the glass façade skyscraper.[214]

Renowned contemporary architects and offices include Hans Kollhoff, Helmut Jahn, Graft, Behnisch, Albert Speer Junior, Frei Otto, GMP, AWA, Ingenhoven, Sauerbruch Hutton, Sergei Tchoban, Hadi Teherani, Oswald Mathias Ungers, Gottfried Böhm, Stephan Braunfels and Anna Heringer.

Literature and philosophy[]

The Brothers Grimm

German literature can be traced back to the Middle Ages and the works of writers such as Walther von der Vogelweide and Wolfram von Eschenbach. Well-known German authors include Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and Theodor Fontane. The collections of folk tales published by the Brothers Grimm popularised German folklore on an international level. Influential authors of the 20th century include Gerhart Hauptmann, Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, Heinrich Böll and Günter Grass.[215] German-speaking book publishers produce some 700 million books every year, with about 80,000 titles, nearly 60,000 of them new. Germany comes third in quantity of books published, after the English-speaking book market and the People's Republic of China.[216] The Frankfurt Book Fair is the most important in the world for international deals and trading, with a tradition spanning over 500 years.[217]

German philosophy is historically significant. Gottfried Leibniz's contributions to rationalism; the enlightenment philosophy by Immanuel Kant; the establishment of classical German idealism by Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling; Arthur Schopenhauer's composition of metaphysical pessimism; the formulation of communist theory by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels; Friedrich Nietzsche's development of perspectivism; Gottlob Frege's contributions to the dawn of analytic philosophy; Martin Heidegger's works on Being; and the development of the Frankfurt school by Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse and Jürgen Habermas have been particularly influential. In the 21st century, Germany has contributed to the development of contemporary analytic philosophy in continental Europe.[218] Along with the earlier mention of achievements in science by Germans, it is clear that German literature and philosophy have profoundly shaped Western society's development. Correspondingly, 20th century author Peter Watson, who has written extensively on the progressive development of modern thought, incisively remarks, "Kant, Humboldt, Marx, Clausius, Mendel, Nietzsche, Planck, Freud, Einstein, Weber, Hitler—for good or ill, can any other nation boast a collection of eleven (or even more) individuals who compare with these figures in regard to the enduring influence they have had on modern ways of thought?"[219]


Star of Fritz Lang on the Boulevard of Stars at Berlin's Potsdamer Platz. Lang was the director of Metropolis, the first science fiction film (in feature length), that premiered in 1927.[220]

German cinema dates back to the earliest years of the medium, it has made major technical and artistic contributions to film, as with the work of Max Skladanowsky, who showed the first film sequences ever to an audience, in 1895. Early German cinema was particularly influential with German expressionists such as Robert Wiene and Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau. Director Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) is referred to as the first modern science-fiction film. In 1930 Josef von Sternberg directed The Blue Angel, the first major German sound film.[221]

During the 1970s and 1980s, New German Cinema directors such as Volker Schlöndorff, Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder put West German cinema on the international stage.[222] The annual European Film Awards ceremony is held every other year in Berlin, home of the European Film Academy (EFA); the Berlin Film Festival, held annually since 1951, is one of the world's foremost film festivals.[223]

In the 21st century, several German movies have had international success, such as Nowhere in Africa (2001), Das Experiment (2001), Good Bye, Lenin! (2003), Gegen die Wand (Head-On) (2004), Der Untergang (Downfall) (2004), Perfume (2006), The Baader Meinhof Complex (2008), The Wave (2008), The White Ribbon (2009), Pandorum (2009), Soul Kitchen (2009), Animals United (2010), Combat Girls (2011) and Cloud Atlas (2012). The Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film went to the German production Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum) in 1979, to Nowhere in Africa in 2002, and to Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) in 2007.[224]

Germany's television market is the largest in Europe, with some 34 million TV households. Around 90% of German households have cable or satellite TV, with a variety of free-to-view public and commercial channels.[225] The most watched television broadcast of all-time in Germany was the Germany vs Spain semi-fnal game of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.[226] Nine out of ten of the top ten most watched television broadcasts of all-time in Germany feature the German national football team.

The German video gaming market is one of the largest in the world.[227] The Gamescom in Cologne is Europe's leading gaming convention. Popular game series from Germany include Turrican, the Anno series, The Settlers series, the Gothic series, SpellForce, the X series, the FIFA Manager series, Far Cry and Crysis. The most relevant game developers and publishers are Ascaron, Bigpoint, Blue Byte, Crytek, Deck13, Deep Silver, EA Phenomic, Gameforge, Nintendo Europe, Piranha Bytes, Radon, Related, Spellbound and Wooga.


A Bavarian woman holding glasses of Hacker-Pschorr, one of the few traditional beer brands that are allowed to be served at Oktoberfest.

German cuisine varies from region to region. The southern regions of Bavaria and Swabia, for instance, share a culinary culture with Switzerland and Austria. In all regions, meat is often eaten in sausage form.[228] Organic food has gained a market share of ca. 2%, and is expected to increase further.[229] Although wine is becoming more popular in many parts of Germany, the national alcoholic drink is beer. German beer consumption per person is declining, but at 121.4 litres in 2009 it is still among the highest in the world.[230] The Michelin guide has awarded nine restaurants in Germany three stars, the highest designation, while 15 more received two stars.[231] German restaurants have become the world's second-most decorated after France.[232]

Pork, beef, and poultry are the main varieties of meat consumed in Germany, with pork being the most popular. The average person in Germany will consume up to 61 kg (130 lb) of meat in a year. Among poultry, chicken is most common, although duck, goose, and turkey are also enjoyed. Game meats, especially boar, rabbit, and venison are also widely available all year round. Trout is the most common freshwater fish on the German menu; pike, carp, and European perch also are listed frequently. Vegetables are often used in stews or vegetable soups, but are also served as side dishes. Carrots, turnips, spinach, peas, beans, broccoli and many types of cabbage are very common. A wide variety of cakes and tarts are served throughout the country, most commonly made with fresh fruit. Apples, plums, strawberries, and cherries are used regularly in cakes. Cheesecake is also very popular, often made with quark. Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest cake, made with cherries) is probably the most well-known example of a wide variety of typically German tortes filled with whipped or butter cream.


The German national football team in 2012. Football is the most popular sport in Germany.

Twenty-seven million Germans are members of a sports club and an additional twelve million pursue sports individually.[233] Association football is the most popular sport. With more than 6.3 million official members, the German Football Association (Deutscher Fußball-Bund) is the largest sports organisation of its kind worldwide.[233] The Bundesliga, the top league of men's club football in Germany, is the most popular sports league in Germany and attracts the second highest average attendance of any professional sports league in the world. The Frauen-Bundesliga is the top league of women's club football in Germany.

The German men's national football team won the FIFA World Cup in 1954, 1974 and 1990 and the UEFA European Championship in 1972, 1980 and 1996. Germany hosted the FIFA World Cup in 1974 and 2006 and the UEFA European Championship in 1988. Among the most well-known footballers are Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller, Jürgen Klinsmann, Lothar Matthäus, and Oliver Kahn. The German women's national football team won the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2003 and 2007 and the UEFA European Women's Championship in 1989, 1991, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, and 2013.

Other popular spectator sports include wintersports, boxing, handball, volleyball, basketball, ice hockey, tennis, horse riding and golf. Water sports like sailing, rowing, swimming, wind- and kitesurfing, wakeboarding, underwater diving, fishing, powerboating and yachting are popular in Germany as well, especially with large annual events such as Kiel Week or Hanse Sail Rostock.[233]

Germany is one of the leading motor sports countries in the world. Constructors like BMW and Mercedes are prominent manufacturers in motor sport. Additionally, Porsche has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, an annual endurance race held in France, 16 times, and Audi has won it 11 times. The Formula One driver Michael Schumacher has set many motor sport records during his career, having won more Formula One World Drivers' Championships and more Formula One races than any other driver; he is one of the highest paid sportsmen in history.[234] Sebastian Vettel has won the championships from 2010 until 2013 and thus is among the most successful F1 drivers of all times.

Historically, German sportsmen have been successful contenders in the Olympic Games, ranking third in an all-time Olympic Games medal count, combining East and West German medals. In the 2008 Summer Olympics, Germany finished fifth in the medal count,[235] while in the 2006 Winter Olympics they finished first.[236] Germany has hosted the Summer Olympic Games twice, in Berlin in 1936 and in Munich in 1972. The Winter Olympic Games took place in Germany once in 1936 in the twin towns of Garmisch and Partenkirchen.

See also[]

  • Outline of Germany


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Work cited

Fulbrook, Mary (1991). A Concise History of Germany. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-36836-0. 

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