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Federal Republic of Germany
Flag of Germany
Federal coat of arms of Germany
flag coat of arms
Official language German 1
capital city Berlin
Seat of government Berlin
State and form of government parliamentary republic ( federal republic )
Head of state Federal President
Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Head of government Federal Chancellor
Olaf Scholz ( SPD )
surface 357,588 ( 62nd ) km²
population 83,129,285 (June 30, 2021)
Population density 232 ( 41st ) inhabitants per km²
Population development   + 0.2% (2019) per year
gross domestic product
  • Total (nominal)
  • Total ( PPP )
  • GDP / inh. (nom.)
  • GDP / inh. (KKP)
  • $ 3.8 trillion ( 4. )
  • $ 4.5 trillion ( 5. )
  • 45,733 USD ( 18. )
  • 54,076 USD ( 17. )
Human Development Index   0.947 ( 6th ) (2019)
currency Euro (EUR)
founding January 1, 1871: German Empire (under international law on July 1, 1867 as the North German Confederation )

May 23, 1949: Federal Republic of Germany ( Basic Law )
(see section " Establishing a State ")

National anthem The song of the Germans ( third verse )
National holiday October 3 ( German Unity Day )
Time zone UTC + 1 , CET
UTC + 2 , CEST (March to October)
License Plate D.
ISO 3166 DE , DEU, 276
Internet TLD .de
Telephone code +49
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Germany (  [ ˈdɔɪ̯t͡ʃlant ] ; full form of the state name since 1949: Federal Republic of Germany ) is a federal state in Central Europe . It was founded in 1990 from 16  countries and is available as a free and democratic and social state of law written . The Federal Republic of Germany, founded in 1949, is the most recent form of the German nation- state. The federal capital and seat of government is Berlin . Germany borders on nine states, it shares in the North Sea and Baltic Sea in the north and Lake Constance and the Alps in the south. It is located in the temperate climate zone and has 16  national and over 100  nature parks . Please click to listen!Play

Today's Germany has 83 million inhabitants and is one of the densely populated states with an area of ​​357,588 square kilometers with an average of 232 inhabitants per square kilometer . The most populous German city is Berlin; other metropolises with more than one million inhabitants are Hamburg , Munich and Cologne ; the largest conurbation is the Ruhr area . Germany's population has a comparatively low birth rate of 1.57 children per woman (2018) , which rose slightly in the 2010s.

The presence of humans in Germany 500,000 years ago has been proven by finds of Homo heidelbergensis and some prehistoric works of art from the later Paleolithic Age . During the Neolithic , around 5600 BC. BC, the first farmers immigrated with cattle and seeds from the Middle East . The Latin name Germania has been known for the settlement area of ​​the Germanic peoples since ancient times . The Roman-German Empire , which existed from the 10th century and consisted of many domains , was, like the German Confederation established in 1815 and the democratic movement, the forerunner of the later German nation-state.

The German Empire , founded in 1871, quickly developed from an agricultural to an industrial state . After the First World War was lost , the monarchy was abolished in 1918 and the democratic Weimar Republic was established . From 1933 the National Socialist dictatorship led to political and racist persecution and culminated in the murder of six million Jews . The Second World War , started by the Nazi state in 1939, ended in 1945 with Germany's defeat. The country occupied by the victorious powers was divided in 1949 after its eastern territories had already been placed under Polish and partly Soviet administrative sovereignty in 1945 . The establishment of the Federal Republic as a democratic West German state with ties to the West on May 23, 1949 was followed by the establishment of the socialist GDR on October 7, 1949 as an East German state under Soviet hegemony. The inner-German border was cordoned off after the Berlin Wall was built (from August 13, 1961). After the peaceful revolution in the GDR in 1989, the German question was resolved through the reunification of the two parts of the country on October 3, 1990 , which also recognized Germany's external borders as final. With the accession of the five East German states and the reunification of East and West Berlin to become today's federal capital, the Federal Republic of Germany has had 16 federal states since 1990.

Germany is a founding member of the European Union and its most populous country. It forms a monetary union with 18 other EU member states , the euro zone . It is a member of the UN , the OECD , the OSCE , NATO , the G7 , the G20 and the Council of Europe . The United Nations has had its German headquarters in Bonn (“UNO City”) since 1951 . The Federal Republic of Germany is one of the politically most influential states in Europe and is a sought-after partner country on a global level.

Measured by the gross domestic product is the market- organized Germany, the largest economy in Europe and the fourth largest in the world. In 2016 it was the third largest export and import nation. Due to the scarcity of raw materials and the automation and digitization of industry, the country, which is dependent on the quality of its education system , is increasingly developing into an information and knowledge society . Frankfurt am Main is of international importance as a German financial center . According to the Human Development Index, Germany is one of the very highly developed countries.

The mother tongue of the majority of the population is German . There are also regional and minority languages and migrants with other mother tongues; the most important second language is English . The culture of Germany is varied and is in addition to numerous traditions, institutions and events, for example in the award as a UNESCO World Heritage in Germany , in cultural monuments and as intangible heritage recognized and appreciated.

Conceptual history: German and Germany

In the Berlin manuscript of the Sachsenspiegel from 1369 it says (in Middle Low German ): "Iewelk düdesch lant hevet sinen palenzgreven" ("every German country has its count palatine ").

The etymological pre-forms of German originally meant “belonging to the people”, with the adjective initially designating the dialects of the continental-West Germanic dialect continuum . The designation Germany has been used since the 15th century, but is attested earlier in individual documents; in the Frankfurt translation of the Golden Bull (around 1365) it is called Dutschelant . Before that, only word additions of the German attribute are given land , for example in the indefinite singular form “ein Deutsches Land” or the specific plural form “die Deutschen Länder”, but not in the particular singular form “das deutsche Land”. What was meant were countries with a ruling class, which referred to the political claim to rule of the (East) Franconian , from the 10th century of the Holy Roman Empire (962-1806). The term was used primarily for (pre-) state structures in the German- speaking or dominant area that has undergone major changes over the centuries.

The Holy Roman Empire , originally referred to as “ Reich ” ( Latin Empire ), received several additions to its name: “Holy” since the middle of the 12th century, “Roman” since the middle of the 13th century and since the end of the 15th century “German nation” “ (Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation) . It was not until the 16th century that the name "Teutschland" came up for the previously so-called "German lands". Soon it became common in contemporary literature to equate Reich and Teutschland , which were eventually used as synonyms (for example by the Halle lawyer Johann Peter von Ludewig in 1735).

An awareness that Germany as a whole should be viewed as the fatherland rather than the respective territorial state only began to spread during the Napoleonic wars . Before that, Friedrich Schiller had made a strict distinction in the Xenien in 1797 between an intellectual and a political Germany, which had no overlap : “Germany, but where is it? I don't know how to find the country. Where the learned begins, the political ends. ”He rejected the possibility of the latter:“ To form a nation, you hope it, Germans, in vain. ” German greatness (the title of an unfinished poem from 1801 ) he saw only in the spiritual. As recently as 1813, Achim von Arnim spoke of Germany as a "hollow word ideal", which he contrasted with "everything wonderful about the individual German peoples" (in the plural).

Initially, only a small group of intellectuals and politicians such as Ernst Moritz Arndt , Friedrich Ludwig Jahn , Johann Gottlieb Fichte or Heinrich Friedrich Karl vom und zum Stein had a political understanding of the name Germany , but it already had a significant mobilizing effect during the Wars of Liberation . The Empire of Austria and the Kingdom of Prussia now related positively to Germany: Archduke Karl von Österreich-Teschen issued an appeal to the German nation in 1809 at the beginning of the Fifth Coalition War , in which he assured: “Our cause is the cause of Germany”. The Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III. announced in the proclamation of Kalisch on March 19, 1813 "the princes and peoples of Germany the return of freedom and independence". This Germany was defined as the German- speaking area (Arndt: Des Deutschen Vaterland , 1813; similar to Hoffmann von Fallersleben's song of the Germans in 1841 ). It was no longer understood as an empire but as a nation ; In the following decades, the German national movement campaigned for all German territories to be united in one nation-state . This initially failed, at the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15 the territorial states were instead restored and combined in a confederation , the German Confederation . This was also referred to as Germany, but included some predominantly non-German-speaking territories such as Bohemia and Moravia , while other, predominantly German-speaking areas such as East Prussia did not belong to it. Nevertheless, the national movement initially remained an elite project. It did not develop on a mass scale until the Rhine Crisis in 1840.

From the establishment of the empire in 1871 , a change in meaning began, from Germany as a cultural nation to the state name, with geographical restriction to the current area:

The Austrian Empire did not become part of the German Empire in 1871. The German-speaking residents of Austria continued to feel that they were Germans. When the multi-ethnic state disintegrated at the end of the First World War , the German-Austrians wanted to join the German Empire. The peace treaty forbade that. Different national identities began to develop. The terms German and Germany were increasingly identified only with the German Empire. This process was first interrupted when in 1938 under Nazi rule the annexation of Austria was made to the German Reich. The distancing from National Socialism after the Second World War led in Austria to distance themselves from the term Germany and to consolidate their own national identity of the Austrians . In the course of the political reorganization of the existing state as a whole, the Parliamentary Council in West Germany rejected the continuation of the state name German Reich because of its "aggressive accent" and used Germany for the first time as the state name in the then constituted " Federal Republic of Germany". In the deliberations said Theodor Heuss 1948: "The word Germany we give the whole a certain pathos ... sentimental and does not make political." The German Democratic Republic (GDR) took advantage of Germany not in state name, but as other synonyms for DDR in Art. 1 of the 1949 Constitution . Later, the GDR used almost only the attribute German or the suffix "... der GDR" for national sovereign names. With German unification in 1990, Germany became the official short form of the state name.


physical geography

Location of Germany in Europe

The large natural regions are from north to south: the North German lowlands , the low mountain range and the Alpine foothills with the Alps .


Surface geology of Germany

Geologically, Germany belongs to Western Europe , that is, to that part of the continent that is attached to the pre-Cambrian consolidated "Ur-Europe" (Eastern Europe including a large part of Scandinavia, cf. Baltica ) only in the course of the Phanerozoic through continent-continent collisions ( mountain formations ) would. The corresponding crust provinces ( basement provinces ) are classically simplistic (eastern) Avalonia (see Caledonian mountain formation ) and Armorica (see Variscan mountain formation ). The youngest crust province is the Alpine-Carpathian orogen (cf. Alpidic mountain formation ), in which Germany only has a share with the extreme south of Bavaria and which, in contrast to the other two tectonic provinces, represents an active orogen.

Today's surface geology in Germany, i.e. the pattern of rock complexes of different ages and structures, as it is often depicted in geological maps , only emerged in the course of the last 30 to 20 million years in the younger Cenozoic and was significantly shaped by two events: the Alpidian Orogeny and the Quaternary Ice Age .

The Quaternary ice age formed the comparatively monotonous surface geology of northern Germany and the Alpine foothills with their moraines -ablagerungen and other side effects of large-scale glaciations (see. Glacial series ).

The surface geology of central and most of the south of Germany is the result of significant fracture tectonic uplifts and subsidence, which can be traced back to the long-range effects of the Alpid mountainous formation. Partly old (predominantly Paleozoic ), Variscan folded basement complexes (slate mountains and crystalline ) were lifted out of the subsoil and exposed over a large area (including Rhenish slate mountains , Harz , ore mountains ), partly the earth's crust sank and formed sedimentation spaces that resulted in more or less powerful Cenozoic sediments recordings ( Upper Rhine Graben , Lower Rhine Graben , Hessian Valley , Molasse Basin ). The tabular lands with their unfolded Mesozoic strata, dominated by the Triassic and Jurassic ( Thuringian Basin , southern German plain ), occupy an intermediate tectonic position .


The Zugspitze in Bavaria is 2,962 meters above mean sea level, the highest peak in Germany.

The geologically young fold mountains of the Alps are the only high mountains in which Germany has a share. The German Alps, which are almost entirely in the state of Bavaria - a small part of the extreme northwest of the Allgäu Alps is in Baden-Württemberg - have the only mountain peaks with more than 2000  m above sea level. NHN on. The summit of the Zugspitze ( 2962  m above sea level ), which Germany shares with Austria, is the highest point in the country.

The German low mountain ranges extend from the northern edge of the low mountain range to the edge of the Alps and the Upper Rhine with Lake Constance. They tend to increase in height and extent from north to south. The highest low mountain range peak is the Feldberg in the Black Forest ( 1,493  m above sea level ), followed by the Großer Arber in the Bavarian Forest ( 1,456  m above sea level ). Summit over 1000  m above sea level NHN also have the Ore Mountains , the Fichtel Mountains , the Swabian Alb and the Harz Mountains , which are quite isolated as the northernmost of the highest German low mountain ranges with the Brocken at 1141  m above sea level. NHN raises. To the north of the low mountain range threshold, only a few mountains within the Ice Age terminal moraine ranges reach more than 100  m above sea level. NHN , of which the Heidehöhe in Schraden ( southern ridge in the Brandenburg-Saxon border area) with 201  m above sea level. NN is the highest.

The deepest publicly accessible state office in Germany is 3.54  m below  sea ​​level in a depression near Neuendorf-Sachsenbande in Wilstermarsch (Schleswig-Holstein). The deepest cryptodepression is also in this state : It is 39.6  m below sea level on the bottom of the Hemmelsdorfer See, northeast of Lübeck . The deepest artificially created terrain point is 267  m below sea level on the bottom of the Hambach opencast mine east of Jülich in North Rhine-Westphalia.


Germany belongs entirely to the moderate climate zone of Central Europe in the area of ​​the west wind zone and is located in the transition area between the maritime climate in Western Europe and the continental climate in Eastern Europe . The climate in Germany is influenced, among other things, by the Gulf Stream , due to which the average temperature level is unusually high for the latitude.

The mean annual average temperature , based on the normal period 1961–1990, is a national mean of 8.2 ° C, the mean monthly average temperatures are between −0.5 ° C in January and 16.9 ° C in July. The mean annual precipitation is 789 millimeters. The mean monthly amount of precipitation is between 49 millimeters in February and 85 millimeters in June.

The lowest officially recognized temperature measured in Germany was -37.8 ° C; it was registered in Wolnzach in 1929 . The highest temperature so far was 41.2 ° C and was measured on July 25, 2019 in Duisburg-Baerl and in Tönisvorst on the Lower Rhine.


Of the six streams with the largest catchment areas draining Rhine , Elbe , Weser and Ems on the North Sea and the Oder on the Baltic Sea in the Atlantic , while the Danube into the sea Black flows and thus hydrographic the Mediterranean attributable. The catchment areas of these two systems are separated from each other by the main European watershed .

The Rhine, which rises in Switzerland, dominates the southwest and west. It flows 865 kilometers through or on the border with Germany before flowing into the North Sea via the Netherlands. Its main German tributaries are the Neckar , Main , Mosel and Ruhr . The Rhine is of great economic importance and is one of the busiest waterways in Europe. In the south, the Danube drains almost all of the German Alpine foothills over a distance of 647 kilometers and continues to flow to Austria and south-eastern Europe . Its main German tributaries are the Iller , Lech , Isar and Inn . The Elbe, which rises in the Czech Republic, flows through eastern Germany for 725 kilometers. Its main German tributaries are the Saale and Havel . For 179 kilometers, the Oder, like its most important tributary, the Neisse , is the border river to Poland . Only the catchment area of ​​the 452 kilometer long Weser is completely in Germany. It is fed by the Werra and Fulda rivers and drains the central north. The Ems flows through the extreme northwest of the country for 371 kilometers. Their catchment area also extends to parts of the Netherlands.

The natural lakes are predominantly of glacial origin. This is why most of the large lakes are to be found in the Alpine foothills, in Holstein Switzerland and in Mecklenburg . The largest lake that belongs entirely to the German state is the Müritz , which is part of the Mecklenburg Lake District . The largest lake with a German share is Lake Constance , which is also bordered by Austria and Switzerland. In the west and east of Germany there are many artificial lakes created by the recultivation of lignite opencast mines or industrial fallow land, such as the Leipziger Neuseenland or the Dortmund Phoenix-See .


The largest German island, Rügen , is located in Western Pomerania in the Baltic Sea. (Fig .: Cape Arkona )

The Frisian Islands are located in the Wadden Sea, directly in front of the Dutch, German and Danish North Sea coast . While the North Frisian Islands are continental remnants that have been separated from the coast by subsidence and subsequent flooding, the East Frisian Islands are barrier islands that were created from sediments washed up by currents parallel to the coast as well as wave and tidal dynamics. Located in the middle of the German Bight , Heligoland is the inhabited German island farthest from the mainland. It goes back to the rise of a salt dome in the subsurface of the North Sea.

The largest German islands in the Baltic Sea are (from west to east) Fehmarn , Poel , Hiddensee , Rügen and Usedom . Rügen is also the largest German island. The largest peninsula is Fischland-Darß-Zingst . With the exception of Fehmarn, these land areas are part of a lagoon coast , i.e. a ground moraine landscape that was flooded after the glacial period and subsequently modified by landings .

The largest and most famous islands in inland waters are Reichenau , Mainau and Lindau in Lake Constance and the Herreninsel in Chiemsee .


The natural area of ​​Germany lies in the moderate climatic zone ; from west to east, its natural vegetation marks the transition from the west side sea climate to the continental climate . The Flora would be without human influence mainly of deciduous and mixed forests dominated, except nutrient-poor or dry locations such as rock hills, heath plains and moorland and alpine and subalpine highlands, the extremely vegetationsarm and in their environment kaltgemäßigt are.

In terms of locality, the flora in Germany is highly diversified due to the location factors of the terrain and the mesoclimatic location. The total stock of wild plant species in Germany is estimated at over 9,500 species , of which almost 3,000 species are seed plants, 74 fern plants, over 1,000 mosses and around 3,000 diatoms. There are also around 14,000 types of fungus and 373 types of slime mold . In particular fallow and interfering surfaces are found today a number of introduced species such as the black locust and Himalayan Balsam .

The Thuringian Forest in winter. Around 32 percent of the German land area is forested.

The forest in Germany currently covers 32 percent of the land area. This makes Germany one of the most densely forested countries in the European Union. The current tree species composition only partially corresponds to the natural conditions and is mainly determined by forestry . The most common tree species are the common spruce with 26.0 percent of the area , followed by the Scots pine with 22.9 percent, the common beech with 15.8 percent and the oak with 10.6 percent.

Around half of the state's area is used for agriculture ; According to the Federal Statistical Office , there were 182,637 square kilometers on December 31, 2016. In addition to being used as permanent grassland , a large part of arable farming has been practiced , since the Stone and Bronze Ages mainly with crops that do not occur naturally in Central Europe (most of the grain from the Middle East , potato and corn from America). In the river valleys, including those of the Main, Moselle, Ahr and Rhine, the landscape was often redesigned for wine growing.

The preservation of nature is a public task in Germany and a state goal anchored in Art. 20a of the Basic Law . The nature serve 16 national parks (see national parks in Germany ), 19 biosphere reserves , 105 nature parks and thousands of nature reserves , protected areas and natural monuments .


The white-tailed eagle , a protected bird of prey

Approximately 48,000 animal species have been recorded in Germany, including 104 mammals, 328 bird, 13 reptile, 22 amphibian and 197 fish species as well as over 33,000 insect species, which means that the country "due to geological development and its geographic location is one of the more species-poor areas" counts. In addition to these species, there are over 1,000 crustaceans, almost 3,800 arachnids, 635 molluscs and over 5,300 other invertebrates.

The wild mammals native to Germany include roe deer , wild boar , red and fallow deer as well as foxes , martens and lynxes . Beavers and otters are rare inhabitants of the floodplains, with populations increasing again in some cases. Alpine ibex , Alpine marmot and chamois live in the Bavarian Alps ; the latter can also be found in various low mountain ranges. Other large mammals that used to live in what is now Germany have been exterminated: wild horses , aurochs (15th century), wisent (16th century), brown bear (19th century), wolf (19th century), elk ( 20th century). While moose occasionally migrate from neighboring countries today, wolves from Poland have firmly established themselves in Germany again and gave birth to offspring for the first time around the turn of the millennium. In 2018 there were 73 known wolf packs in Germany, most of which live in the states of Saxony, Brandenburg and Lower Saxony. In 2013 a herd of European bison was released into the wild in the Rothaar Mountains. In October 2019, a brown bear, who presumably had immigrated from Italy, was photographed by a wildlife camera in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen district . In the following months the animal could be detected again several times. In 2006, Bruno, the "problem bear ", had already migrated to Germany. In the meantime, native lynxes are living here again in Germany, albeit in a low population density because they are repeatedly victims of poaching and road traffic.

The eagle , which as a template for the German emblem applies, there are again about 500 couples, especially in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Brandenburg . The golden eagle is only found in the Bavarian Alps , where the bearded vulture from Switzerland and Austria, which has been exterminated there, is also returning. The most common birds of prey today are buzzards and kestrels , the population of peregrine falcons is significantly lower. Over half of the total population of red kites breeds in Germany, but is declining due to intensive agriculture. In contrast, many birds benefit from the presence of humans as cultural followers , especially urban pigeons , blackbirds (former forest birds), sparrows and titmice , whose survival is also provided by winter feeding , as well as crows and gulls on rubbish dumps . The Wadden Sea is a resting place for ten to twelve million migratory birds per year.

Seal on the North Sea island of Helgoland dune

The salmon , which used to be common in the rivers , was largely wiped out in the course of industrialization , but was reintroduced in the Rhine in the 1980s . The last sturgeon was caught in Germany in 1969. The carp introduced by the Romans are kept in many ponds . The seal and gray seal species, which were practically exterminated by professional fishermen in the middle of the 20th century as competitors for prey and are now protected - the latter the largest predator native to Germany - are now represented again with several thousand specimens on the German coasts. There are eight species of whale in the North and Baltic Seas , including the porpoise , and the common dolphin is also a species of dolphin .

The reptiles living in Germany include grass snakes , adder and European pond turtles . Amphibians such as salamanders , frogs , toads , toads and newts are all on the in Germany endangered Red List species out.

The - partly invasive - neozoa in Germany (introduced animal species) include raccoons , raccoon dogs , muskrats , nutria , ringed parakeets , Canada goose and Egyptian goose .


The hunt is with that in Germany real estate connected, individual right and in an area organized hunting system. The value of the venison and because of caused in the forest and field hall game damage most important game animals are deer and wild boar. Other game species relevant for hunting include red deer, mallard and brown hare . In Germany there were almost 360,000 hunters in 2016/17. In 2019/2020 over 1.2 million deer were killed, in 2019 almost 600,000 wild boars.

Human geography

Highly diverse cultural landscape in a rural region of the most densely populated area North Rhine-Westphalia : settlements, agricultural areas, forest areas and a reservoir

Germany has a total of nine neighboring countries : In the north Germany borders on Denmark , in the northeast of Poland , in the east of the Czech Republic , in the southeast of Austria , in the south to Switzerland , in the southwest of France , to the west of Luxembourg and in Belgium and in the northwest of the Netherlands . The limit length is a total of 3876 kilometers. This makes Germany the European country with the largest number of neighboring countries.

In Germany, a total of 51 percent of the land area is used for agriculture (2016), forests cover a further 30 percent. 14 percent are used as settlement and traffic areas. Water areas make up two percent, the remaining three percent are spread across other areas, mostly wasteland and opencast mines .

Administrative division

The federally structured Federal Republic consists of 16 member states , which are officially referred to as Länder (federal states). The city-states of Berlin and Hamburg each consist of uniform municipalities of the same name , while the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen , as the third city-state, comprises two separate municipalities with Bremen and Bremerhaven . In contrast to other federal states, there are no federal territories in Germany .

The municipalities are the smallest, democratically constituted, legally independent regional authorities and administrative units in Germany. They have a long tradition due to their cooperative character, which goes back to the Middle Ages. Today, the communities in Germany, with the exception of city-states and the most independent cities , in districts and other local government associations summarized. There are 401 regional authorities at the district level, of which 294 are districts and 107 independent cities. They are subdivided into a total of 10,790 municipalities (as of January 2021), with a downward trend , as well as more than 200 largely uninhabited areas free of municipalities . Districts and municipalities are subject to the local constitutional law of the respective federal state and are therefore organized differently across the country. The district is thus both a supra-local local authority as well as a lower state administrative authority, it has its own representative body , the district council ( Article 28, Paragraph 1, Sentence 2 of the Basic Law), and performs various tasks of the “supra-local community” for the communities belonging to the district.

The municipalities are part of the states under constitutional law , which means that they are subject to their right to supervise and issue instructions and therefore do not have their own state sovereignty . The self-government guarantee of Article 28.2 of the Basic Law - on the one hand a so-called institutional legal guarantee , from which it follows that there must be municipalities in the state structure, and on the other hand a subjective public right with constitutional status - distinguishes between cities and municipalities to which this right is granted in full , and the municipal associations (districts), to which it is only awarded in a graduated form. Thus, there is a clear rule-exception relationship in favor of the municipalities for the delimitation of tasks between municipalities and districts ( principle of subsidiarity ). The Federal Constitutional Court has with regard to the "affairs of the local community", i.e. the authority guaranteed in Article 28, Paragraph 2, Clause 1 of the Basic Law to conduct the business independently in this area of ​​responsibility (so-called objective legal institution guarantee ), the precedence of the community level over the district level as required the law stated: After that applies to cities and towns "as Essentiale and identity-defining characteristic of municipal self-government" the principle of "universality of the municipal sphere," as opposed to the special competence of the local government associations of express statutory allocation, which is also no fixed association of municipalities Highnesses are .

capital city
in km²
resident Inhabitants
per km²
Baden-WuerttembergBaden-Wuerttemberg Baden-Wuerttemberg Stuttgart 035,748 11.103.043 0.311
BavariaBavaria Bavaria Munich 070,541 13.140.183 0.186
BerlinBerlin Berlin - 000.892 03,664,088 4,109
BrandenburgBrandenburg Brandenburg Potsdam 029,654 02,531,071 0.085
BremenBremen Bremen Bremen 000.420 00.680.130 1621
HamburgHamburg Hamburg - 000.755 01,852,478 2,453
HesseHesse Hesse Wiesbaden 021,116 06,293,154 0.298
Mecklenburg-Western PomeraniaMecklenburg-Western Pomerania Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania Schwerin 023,295 01,610,774 0.069
Lower SaxonyLower Saxony Lower Saxony Hanover 047,710 08.003.421 0.168
North Rhine-WestphaliaNorth Rhine-Westphalia North Rhine-Westphalia Dusseldorf 034,112 17,925,570 0.525
Rhineland-PalatinateRhineland-Palatinate Rhineland-Palatinate Mainz 019,858 04,098,391 0.206
SaarlandSaarland Saarland Saarbrücken 002571 00.983.991 0.383
SaxonySaxony Saxony Dresden 018,450 04,056,941 0.220
Saxony-AnhaltSaxony-Anhalt Saxony-Anhalt Magdeburg 020,459 02,180,684 0.107
Schleswig-HolsteinSchleswig-Holstein Schleswig-Holstein Kiel 015,804 02,910,875 0.184
ThuringiaThuringia Thuringia Erfurt 016.202 02,120,237 0.131
GermanyGermany Germany Berlin 357.376 83.155.031 0.233
Political division of Germany into states , administrative districts , districts and independent cities

Metropolitan areas

Map of the population density at the level of the administrative districts and cities, the cities of Bremen and Bremerhaven and the islands in the North Sea and Baltic Sea, in Germany in 2018

In Germany, densely populated and metropolitan areas ( agglomerations ) are not statistically precisely delimited. There are 81 large cities (with more than 100,000 inhabitants), 14 of which have more than 500,000 inhabitants, mostly in the west and south-west of Germany for historical reasons. These conurbations running along the Rhine form the middle part of the central European population concentration ( blue banana ). Most agglomerations are monocentric, whereas the Ruhr area is a (polycentric) conurbation . With its numerous centers, Germany, unlike the neighboring countries Austria with its capital Vienna and Denmark with Copenhagen , does not have a prime city .

The Ministerial Conference for Spatial Planning established eleven European metropolitan regions in Germany . These go far beyond the corresponding agglomerations. Cologne / Düsseldorf / Dortmund / Essen belong to the metropolitan region of Rhine-Ruhr , Leipzig / Halle / Chemnitz to the metropolitan region of Central Germany . Another is the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region around Ludwigshafen / Mannheim / Heidelberg.

Most populous settlement areas in Germany

The following table shows all German cities with over 500,000 inhabitants including the agglomeration and metropolitan region to which they belong:

Berlin Hamburg Munich


Settlement area City * Agglomeration Metropolitan area

Cologne Frankfurt am Main Stuttgart
Frankfurt am Main


01 Berlin 3,644,826 4,630,000 06,120,000
02 Hamburg 1,841,179 2,820,000 [00] 05,360,000
03 Munich 1,471,508 2,210,000 05,990,000
04th Cologne 1,085,664 4,910,000 10,680,000
05 Frankfurt am Main 0.753.056 2,710,000 05,720,000
06th Stuttgart 0.635.911 2,360,000 05,300,000
07th Dusseldorf 0.619.294 4,910,000 10,680,000
08th Leipzig 0.587.857 1,200,000 02,400,000
09 Dortmund 0.587.010 5,610,000 10,680,000
10 meal 0.583.109 5,610,000 10,680,000
11th Bremen 0.569.352 0.990,000 02,730,000
12th Dresden 0.554,649 0.830,000 02,400,000
13th Hanover 0.538.068 1,130,000 03,830,000
14th Nuremberg 0.518.365 1,350,000 03,560,000

*) As of December 31, 2019



Population growth by age in 2021
Population development
year population year population
1950 69,346,000 1990 79,753,000
1955 71,350,000 1995 81,817,000
1960 73,147,000 2000 82,260,000
1965 76,336,000 2005 82,438,000
1970 78,069,000 2010 81,752,000
1975 78,465,000 2015 82,176,000
1980 78,397,000 2020 83,191,000
1985 77,661,000

According to the 2011 census , on September 30, 2020, there were 83,190,556 inhabitants in Germany in an area of ​​357,381 square kilometers. With just under 233 people per square kilometer, the country is one of the densely populated territorial states . In 2020, 50.7 percent of the population were women and 49.3 percent were men. In 2019, 18.4 percent of the population were under 20 years old, 24.6 percent between 20 and 40 years and 28.4 percent between 40 and 60 years old. Those aged 60 to 80 years were 21.7 percent of the population and 6.8 percent were older. In 2019, the average age was 44.5 years. This makes Germany one of the oldest societies in the world.

In addition to the family as the most common form of living together, many life models are represented in German society. The number of live births was 737,575 in 2015, the highest number of births in 15 years. This corresponds to a birth rate of 1.50 children per woman or 9.6 births per 1,000 inhabitants. In the same period 925,200 deaths were registered, about 11.2 cases per 1,000 inhabitants. In 2017, the birth rate per woman increased to 1.57 children.

Because the death rate has been higher than the birth rate every year since 1972, the political focus is on a family-friendly , children and offspring-promoting society with large families ( pronatalism ). Experts consider the compatibility of family and work to be a key requirement for this . If the birth rate continues to be low, especially in population groups with middle and higher educational qualifications, social, economic and geopolitical problems are predicted for Germany.

Around 72.650 million people in Germany had German citizenship as of September 30, 2020 . This corresponds to 87.33 percent of the resident population. In 2017, around 18.9 million people had a migration background (23%). All foreigners and all Germans who immigrated to what is now the Federal Republic of Germany after 1955 or who have at least one parent who immigrated after 1955 were counted as persons with a migration background in the 2011 census . Among them, the repatriates and ethnic German repatriates form the largest group, followed by citizens of Turkey , other states of the European Union and the former Yugoslavia . Between 1950 and 2002 a total of 4.3 million people, either born in the country or living there for a long time, were naturalized at their own request .

In 2017, the Institute of the German Economy (IW) forecast that Germany's population would continue to grow as a result of immigration and that it would amount to around 83.1 million people in 2035. In 2018, the German population grew by 227,000, bringing Germany over the 83 million mark. In 2019 it grew by 147,000 people (+ 0.2%) to 83.2 million. At the end of September 2020 the population was 83,190,556.

Germany has been a de facto country of immigration for years . In 2020, around 220,000 more people moved in than away.

Foreign population (2020)
rank nationality population Share among
all foreigners
01. TurkeyTurkey Turkey 1,461,910 12.8%
02. PolandPoland Poland 0.866.690 07.6%
03. SyriaSyria Syria 0.818.460 07.2%
04th RomaniaRomania Romania 0.799.180 07.0%
05. ItalyItaly Italy 0.648.360 05.7%
06th CroatiaCroatia Croatia 0.426.845 03.7%
07th BulgariaBulgaria Bulgaria 0.388,700 03.4%
08th. GreeceGreece Greece 0.364.285 03.2%
09. AfghanistanAfghanistan Afghanistan 0.271,805 02.4%
10. RussiaRussia Russia 0.263,300 02.3%


Knowledge of the German language in the countries of the European Union in 2006

The main language used in Germany is German ( Standard German ). It is used as the standard language in the national media and as a written language; As the language of everyday life, it is spoken almost exclusively in many regions (often slightly colored regionally). The transition to the German dialects is fluid. Among the official languages ​​in Germany , German is the most important administrative language . In principle, responsibility lies with the cultural sovereignty of the federal states ; the state as a whole only defines such languages ​​for the fulfillment of its own tasks. If European law is applicable, applications and documents can be submitted to the court in any official or court language of any member state of the European Union . Ancestral national minorities are Danes , Frisians , Sorbs and Sinti and Roma . Some regional and minority languages ​​may be used as official, legal or judicial languages. The basis is the European Charter of Regional or Minority Languages , according to which Germany recognizes Low German as a regional language and the following minority languages: Danish (around 50,000 speakers, both Imperial Danish , mainly in the variant Sydslesvigdansk , and Sønderjysk ), Frisian (around 10,000, North Frisian in Schleswig -Holstein, Sater Frisian in Lower Saxony), Sorbian (around 30,000, Upper Sorbian in Saxony, Lower Sorbian in Brandenburg), Romanes of the Roma (around 200,000 in all of Germany). Other new minority languages or minority languages that are barely spoken in Germany, such as Yiddish or the Yenish language , were not included in the charter. The languages ​​of immigrants are expressly excluded from the charter. The German Sign Language (DGS) used by the deaf was recognized as an independent language in Germany with the introduction of the Disability Equality Act (BGG) in 2002. Other languages ​​that were used earlier, such as Moselle Romansh (extinct in the 11th century) and Polabish (extinct in the 18th century) are no longer spoken today.

The first complete translation of the Bible into German , 1534
The Goethe-Institut operates branches around the world for teaching the German language. (Image: Headquarters in Munich)

Whether the Low German language is its own or a variety of German, is in linguistics controversial . In 2007, Low German had around 2.6 million active speakers, around three quarters of the population of the language area had passive knowledge. In 2016, passive understanding was good to very good in almost half of the residents of the language area, 70 percent in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, almost 60 percent in Schleswig-Holstein, and almost 50 percent in Lower Saxony. Actively speaking Low German in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania was just under 21 percent, in Schleswig-Holstein just under 25 percent, in North Rhine-Westphalia and Saxony-Anhalt just under 12 percent and in Brandenburg just under 3 percent.

North Germans tend to use the Low German language or regional dialects to a lesser extent, while in Central and Upper Germany the use of Franconian , Bavarian and Alemannic dialects is more widespread, even in the academic environment.

Immigrants brought their languages ​​with them again and again , for example the Ruhr Poles in the 19th century. While the descendants of the older waves of immigration have largely adapted linguistically, immigrants of the past decades (such as guest workers ) often use their mother tongue alongside German, especially Turkish (around two million). The Russian language is also widespread among contingent refugees and among Russian Germans, who include not only German or Plautdietsche , but also Russian native speakers (three to four million). The number of people using Polish as their everyday language is also assumed to be relatively high.

The main foreign language taught in public schools is English . The second foreign language is often French , Latin or Spanish , more rarely Russian or Italian (decision-making authority of the countries).


Martin Luther (1483–1546), painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder , 1528


Like most of Western and Central Europe, today's Germany has been shaped by Christian-Occidentally dating back to late antiquity and has been scientifically enlightened since the 18th century. This is based on influences from ancient Greek and Roman culture as well as Jewish and Christian traditions, which had been mixed with Germanic traditions since the beginning of the Christianization of northwestern Europe , from around the 4th century onwards. The area of ​​Germany has been Christianized since the early Middle Ages . During the Frankish times, proselytizing in the empire of Charlemagne was completed, partly by compulsion. With Martin Luther's posting of the theses in 1517, the Christian Reformation began and, as a result, the formation of Protestant denominations , which in addition to the Catholic denomination shape the religious landscape in Germany.

Relationship between state and religion

The religious freedom in Germany guarantees Art. 4 of the Basic Law, individually as a fundamental right and institutionally in the relationship between religion and state. Thus the ideological neutrality of the state and the right of self-determination of the religious communities are enshrined. On this basis, the relationship between religious communities and the state is based on partnership; So there is no strict separation of church and state , but there are interdependencies in many social and school-cultural areas, for example through church-based but state-financed sponsorship of kindergartens, schools, hospitals or nursing homes. Some German parties also refer to the country's Christian tradition. The Christian churches have the status of official churches and are corporations under public law , but due to the applicable state church law , they are sui generis . As religious societies under public law , the churches should be given certain design options without being subject to state supervision; instead, the church's public relations mandate is recognized in some cases in church contracts with the states or the corresponding regulations in the state constitutions , and the special, original church authority is legally confirmed. Certain Christian churches and Jewish communities levy a church tax , which the state collects in return for an expense allowance and forwards it to the respective churches or to the Central Council of Jews in Germany . Furthermore, according to the Basic Law, religious education is an optional but still a regular subject in public schools (with the exception of Bremen, Berlin and Brandenburg). This subject is often taught by a representative from one of the two major churches.

Denomination according to the 2011 census: yellow: Roman Catholic, purple: Protestant, green: does not belong to any religious community under public law; dark: absolute majority, light: relative majority

Population shares

Around 59 percent of the population belong to a Christian denomination : the Roman Catholic Church 28.9 percent (predominantly in West and South Germany), the Protestant Church ( Lutherans , Reformed and Uniates ) 27.1 percent (mainly in Northern Germany) ; other Christian churches such as the Orthodox and Ancient Near Eastern churches , the Jehovah's Witnesses , the New Apostolic Church and the free churches, a total of approx. 3 percent. The number of people attending services is much lower than the number of church members. On the so-called counting Sundays (second Sunday of Lent and second Sunday in November) in 2016, 2.4 million people (2.9% of the total population) attended Catholic services and 0.8 million (1%) those of the Protestant Church. Significantly more people take part in church services on high church holidays, especially on Christmas Eve . About 37 percent of the population are non-denominational . In the new federal states, their share is between 68 (Thuringia) and 81 percent (Saxony-Anhalt). The GDR had propagated and conveyed an atheistic worldview (see youth consecration ) and encouraged people to leave the church . Due to long-term processes of secularization and the change in values , the proportion of non-denominational people in the total population also increased in the old Federal Republic (1970: 3.9%; 1987: 11.4%). This development continued in the united Germany.

At the end of 2015 there were around 4.5 million Muslims living in Germany. They make up around 5.5 percent of the total population. Over half have a Turkish migration background, a good 17 percent come from the wider Middle East . Between 2011 and 2015, 1.2 million Muslims came to Germany. The Coordinating Council of Muslims in Germany was founded as an umbrella organization for the many Islamic organizations and a point of contact for outsiders .

The German Buddhist Union assumes there are around 270,000 Buddhists in Germany . Half of them are immigrant Asians . This corresponds to 0.3 percent of the population.

About 200,000 Jews live in Germany, which corresponds to 0.25 percent of the population. About half of them are organized in Jewish communities . Since the 1990s, there has been a strong increase in immigrants from the former Eastern Bloc countries , especially from Ukraine and Russia .

The Syrian Christianity is due to the continuous influx of Assyrians of Mesopotamia with about 130,000 members a growing Christian denomination in Germany. Of these, around 100,000 Assyrians belong to the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch .


Prehistory, Celts, Teutons and Romans

The lion man from the Stadel cave in Hohlenstein , Lonetal , was created between 39,000 and 33,000 BC. Chr.
Map of the Germanic tribes of Central Europe with the Roman Limes and the legionary camps around 50 AD.
The Nebra Sky Disc from the Early Bronze Age

The oldest evidence for the presence of the genus Homo on German territory is around 700,000 years old; a permanent presence at least in the south has been assumed since 500,000 BC. Chr. From. Homo heidelbergensis was named after the site near the city of Heidelberg . The at least 300,000 years old Schöninger spears are the oldest fully preserved hunting weapons known to man and have revolutionized the image of the cultural and social development of early humans.

The Neanderthals , named after a place where they were found in the Neandertal , east of Düsseldorf , were followed around 40,000 years ago by Homo sapiens , the anatomically modern human, who immigrated from Africa . The Neanderthals may have disappeared, but it has recently been shown that both had common offspring. The Upper Paleolithic minor art is the oldest known art of mankind.

Neolithic farmers from the Middle East who immigrated with their cattle and their crops via Anatolia and the Balkans ( linear ceramicists) displaced from around 5700/5600 BC. The hunters and gatherers of the Mesolithic from the southern half of Germany. Not until 4000 BC The appropriating cultures of the hunters, gatherers and fishermen were also replaced in northern Germany by peasant, now consistently sedentary cultures; The Ertebølle culture is considered to be the last culture of the hunters in Northern Germany .

With a delay of more than 1000 years, the Bronze Age began on German territory around 2200 BC. BC. One of their most important finds is the Nebra Sky Disc . With the beginning of the Hallstatt period (1200–1000 BC) southern and central Germany were settled by Celts , and iron began to establish itself as the most important metal. Around 600 BC In northern Germany the Jastorf culture developed , which is regarded as a Germanic culture. The term "Germanen" (Latin Germani ) was used in the 1st century BC. First mentioned by ancient authors. This is an ethnographic , imprecise collective term that, for methodological reasons, should not be misunderstood as a term for a unified people.

From 58 BC The areas to the left of the Rhine and south of the Danube belonged to the Roman Empire until around 455 AD, and from around 80 to 260 AD also part of Hesse and most of today's Baden-Württemberg south of the Limes . These Roman areas were divided into the provinces of Gallia Belgica , Germania superior , Germania inferior , Raetia and Noricum . There the Romans founded legionary camps, a number of cities such as Trier , Cologne , Augsburg and Mainz - the oldest cities in Germany . Allied Germanic tribes secured these provinces , and settlers from other parts of the empire settled here.

The part of the settlement area of ​​the Germanic peoples lying outside the Roman provinces Germania Inferior and Germania Superior was called Germania magna by the Romans in the early and high imperial times and in late antiquity .

Attempts to expand the sphere of influence further into this Germanic area failed with the Varus Battle in 9 AD. The efforts of the Romans to establish provinces up to the Elbe finally ended. Tacitus ' Germania , which was written in 98 at the earliest, is the oldest description of the Germanic tribes.

Migration and Early Middle Ages (375–962)

After the invasion of the Huns in 375, the migration of peoples began; at the same time, in the transition from late antiquity to the early Middle Ages, several major tribes emerged, namely those of the Franks , Alamanni , Saxony , Bavaria and Thuringia . In this context, the complex process of ethnogenesis of the different gentes (tribes) is important in recent research . The emergence of ethnic identities ( ethnicity ) in late antiquity or the beginning of the early Middle Ages in connection with the so-called migration of peoples is no longer understood as a biological category. Rather, identities arise in a changeable social process in which several factors play a role.

The aim of the groups that penetrated the empire was above all to participate in the prosperity of the empire, whose structures and culture they did not want to destroy at all. But the following military conflicts and internal Roman power struggles led to a process of political erosion in the western empire. In the course of the fall of Western Rome (the last emperor in Italy was deposed in 476), Germanic-Romanic successor empires were formed on the soil of the western empire.

Slavic tribes immigrated to the largely depopulated areas of today's East Germany in the 7th century . They were only assimilated in the course of the high medieval settlement in the east . Western and Central Europe was dominated by the Franconian Empire that emerged at the end of the 5th century , and today's northern Germany by the Saxons and Slavs. All areas of the Franconian Empire that belong to Germany today were in the eastern part of Austrasia . There were repeated dynastic conflicts among the Merovingians .

The division of territory in the Treaty of Verdun , 843

In the middle of the 8th century, Pippin the Younger from the Carolingian dynasty succeeded the Merovingians who had ruled until then. After the subjugation and forced missioning of the Saxons and conquests in Italy, northern Spain and in the eastern border area under Charlemagne , the multi-ethnic empire was reorganized. The organization of the church and the promotion of culture were partly based on Roman traditions ( Carolingian Renaissance ). At Christmas 800, Charles had himself crowned emperor by the Pope in Rome and thus raised a claim to the successor to the Roman Empire ( Translatio imperii ), which led to competition with the Byzantine emperors ( two- emperor problem ). After Karl's death in 814 there were fights among his descendants, which led in 843 in the Treaty of Verdun to the three-part division of the empire into eastern Franconia under "Ludwig the German" , western Franconia and Lotharingia .

In the East Franconian Empire, five large duchies emerged around 900, namely the tribal duchies of Saxony , Bavaria , Swabia , Franconia and Lorraine . In the 10th century, the Carolingian dynasty died out in both West and East Franconia, and both parts of the empire remained politically separate from then on. The battle on the Lechfeld ended decades of Hungarian invasions in 955 , led to a gain in prestige for King Otto , who was crowned emperor in Rome in 962, and to the assignment of the Archangel Michael as patron saint of the Germans.

From Eastern Franconia to the Holy Roman Empire (962–1806)

The realm in the 10th century (outlined in red)

The Ottonian dynasty was essential for the formation of Eastern Franconia , but it is no longer the beginning of the actual “German” history of the empire. The process associated with this dragged on at least until the 11th century. The term regnum Teutonicorum ("Kingdom of the Germans") can be found in the sources for the first time at the beginning of the 11th century , but it was never the title of the empire (empire) , but served the popes to relativize the claim to rule of the Roman-German kings .

The Lombard royal dignity accepted by Otto I in 951 linked the Regnum Teutonicum with imperial Italy . In 962 Otto was crowned emperor and thus united the Roman-German royal dignity with the claim to the western "Roman" empire ( imperial idea ). This Roman-German Empire assumed a hegemonic position in western Europe under the Ottonians . In 1024 the Salians became the royal succession, which until the end of the Middle Ages was always linked to an election by various greats of the empire. The teeth secular and spiritual power by the imperial church system led to the investiture controversy with the reformed papacy, for Canossa 1077 and the interim solution of the Concordat of Worms 1122. reached a high point the conflict between Emperor and Pope in Staufer time, especially under Frederick II. , The gave up many regalia in the German part of the empire . With his death in 1250, the Hohenstaufen monarchy collapsed; the following interregnum increased the power of the princes. The empire continued to exist as a factor of political order, but increasingly lost its influence on the European level.

The Aachen Cathedral served as the coronation site for 31 German rulers until 1531.  The royal throne there (right) was built for Charlemagne in the 790s. The Aachen Cathedral served as the coronation site for 31 German rulers until 1531.  The royal throne there (right) was built for Charlemagne in the 790s.
The Aachen Cathedral served as the coronation site for 31 German rulers until 1531 . The royal throne there (right) was built for Charlemagne in the 790s .

In the form of the territorial states , numerous feudal rule became independent at the expense of the royal-imperial power, which however was never very pronounced and was therefore dependent on consensual rule with the greats of the empire. Emperor Heinrich VI. had failed at the end of the 12th century with the attempt to introduce the hereditary monarchy through the inheritance plan . While the West Franconia developed into a central French state, the East Franconian or Roman-German Empire remained shaped by sovereigns and the right to choose a king . In the middle of the 13th century in the Holy Roman Empire - the term Sacrum Imperium (Holy Empire) was used as early as 1157, Sacrum Imperium Romanum (Holy Roman Empire) was first secured in 1254 - the view that a college of electors had the choice of the king entitled to what was made binding by the Golden Bull 1356. Until the end of the empire in 1806, the empire remained formally an elective monarchy. Although the emperors repeatedly tried to strengthen their position, the empire remained a supranational association of many different sized territories and imperial cities .

The late medieval 14th and 15th centuries were shaped by the electoral monarchy: three large families - the Habsburgs , the Luxembourgers and the Wittelsbachers - had the greatest influence in the empire and the greatest domestic power . The most important king is Charles IV , who pursued a skilful domestic power policy . Despite crises like the plague ( Black Death ), the agrarian crisis and the occidental schism , cities and trade flourished; the transition into the Renaissance began . In the empire, the Habsburgs took over the legacy of the Luxembourgers, who died out in the male line in 1437, and were almost continuously the Roman-German rulers until the end of the empire. Through clever politics, the Habsburgs secured additional territories in the empire and even the Spanish royal crown: Habsburg thus rose to become a major European power.

The evocation of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 in the town hall of Münster as the end of the Thirty Years' War

At the turn of the 16th century the attempt to establish early modern state structures through a comprehensive reform of the empire largely failed . From 1519, Emperor Charles V , who was also King of Spain with an overseas colonial empire , pursued the concept of a universal monarchy . Its predominance in Europe established the centuries-old French - Habsburg conflict . In 1517, Martin Luther initiated the Reformation with demands for internal church and theological reforms and an anti-papal stance , which led to the development of “ Protestantdenominations . Catholicism reacted with the Counter-Reformation , but the Protestant Church asserted itself in large parts of the empire. The Augsburg Religious Peace in 1555 brought about a provisional settlement; Rulers determined the denomination of their subjects ( Cuius regio, eius religio ). Denominational and power-political contradictions triggered the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) with many deaths and devastated landscapes, ended by the Peace of Westphalia , which gave the emperor a weakened position that was more limited to the representation of the empire (see Last Reichs Farewell ). The imperial princes emerged stronger from this conflict; they could conclude treaties with foreign powers. As a result, the empire became de facto a confederation of states , de jure it remained a monarchical rulership shaped by estates. From 1663 the Reichstag was transformed into a permanent delegates' congress ( Perpetual Reichstag ), which met in Regensburg .

As part of his reunion policy , Louis XIV led the Palatinate War of Succession . France acted as a model of absolutism , which in the empire turned not the royal central power but rather individual principalities into bureaucratically organized states. Some rulers, especially Friedrich II of Prussia , opened up to the philosophical zeitgeist and carried out reforms ( Enlightened absolutism ). The political rise of Prussia in the 18th century led to dualism with the House of Habsburg. After the French Revolution , their troops occupied the left bank of the Rhine . After Napoleon Bonaparte's victory in the Second Coalition War , the Reichsdeputation Hauptschluss took place in 1803 . In 1806 the last Emperor Franz II laid down the crown, with which the empire fell.

Rhine Confederation, German Confederation, North German Confederation (1806–1871)

The German Confederation 1815–1866

Between 1801 and 1806, under Napoleon's influence, the number of states in the area of ​​the "Old Kingdom" was reduced from around 300 to around 60. France annexed the German west and northwest and created German vassal states , whose thrones Napoleon occupied with family members ( Grand Duchy of Berg , Kingdom of Westphalia , Grand Duchy of Frankfurt ). Napoleon built some German states into allies, especially the newly created Kingdom of Bavaria , Württemberg and Baden , which was created in the Peace of Pressburg in 1805 , by expanding them to include the areas of secularized and mediatized small states and uniting them in the Confederation of the Rhine , allied with France . This followed with the opponents Prussia and Austria defeated by Napoleon in the three-part Holy Roman Empire, which was eliminated as a power factor. The " French period " brought the Confederation of the Rhine States considerable modernization impulses, including civil liberties, the introduction of the civil law book Napoleonic Code . In Prussia, too, far-reaching reforms were undertaken from 1806 onwards in order to make subjects citizens (cf. Citoyen ) and the state capable of acting and fighting again.

From 1809 resistance against French occupation and rule rose; various uprisings, such as those of Andreas Hofer in Tyrol and Ferdinand von Schill in Prussia, were initially put down. After Napoleon's defeat in the Russian campaign in 1812 Prussia and Austria started in alliance with the Russian Empire , the Napoleonic Wars (1813 to 1815) that the German national sentiment strengthened, initially Protestant academics, such as in Lutzow Freikorps , which is also the origin of the colors black and red Gold applies. Most of the Confederation of the Rhine joined the allies who, after winning the Leipzig Battle of Nations in 1813, finally defeated Napoleon by 1815.

Subsequently , the Congress of Vienna (1814–1815) largely restored monarchical rule. In the German Confederation , a confederation of states dominated by Austria and Prussia, 38 states (→ Third Germany ) organized themselves  with the Frankfurt Bundestag as the decision-making body. In 1833/1834 the German Customs Union was created under Prussian supremacy. In the pre-March period , the old ruling elite suppressed the economically growing bourgeoisie ( persecution of demagogues ), which demanded further political participation and the formation of a nation state, for example in 1817 at the student Wartburg Festival and in 1832 at the Hambach Festival with the hoisting of black, red and gold, the later national colors.

National Assembly in the Paulskirche in
Frankfurt , 1848/49: the first freely elected German parliament
1867: The North German Confederation

With the bourgeois March Revolution in 1848 , many conservative politicians had to resign, among them the Austrian State Chancellor Prince Metternich, who had a defining influence on the era . Under the pressure of the revolution in Berlin, the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV accepted the establishment of the Frankfurt National Assembly . His Paulskirche constitution , which would have created a German nation-state as the " German Empire " with a constitutional monarchy, he rejected, however, as well as the imperial crown proposed to him , which he called the bourgeois "rag crown ". After the May Uprising was suppressed , the revolution ended on July 23, 1849 with the capture of Rastatt fortress by Prussian troops. The failure of the democratic movement led to the flight and emigration of the Forty-Eighters and to an era of reaction in the German states.

Soon afterwards, the conflict between Prussia and Austria for supremacy in the German Confederation ( German dualism ) broke out, which ended in Prussia's victory in the German War of 1866. The German Confederation was dissolved, Prussia annexed several areas of northern and central German war opponents. In 1866, under the rule of Prussia, the North German Confederation was initially founded as a military alliance . Its constitution of 1867 made it a sovereign federal state and introduced the small German solution - that is, the formation of a total German state without Austria.

German Empire (1871-1918)

The German Empire was the first German nation-state to be founded in the Franco-Prussian War on January 18, 1871, when the Prussian King Wilhelm I was proclaimed the first German Emperor in Versailles . The southern German states in particular were incorporated.

German Empire , 1871–1918

As Prime Minister of Prussia , Otto von Bismarck founded the Reich and became the first Reich Chancellor . The Bismarckian constitution supported the power of the constitutional monarchy , but was also designed for modernization and was ambivalent; Laws on school and civil marriage were partly liberal. There was universal suffrage (for men) in the Reichstag . Bismarck led the Kulturkampf against the Catholic Church , against social democracy he passed the socialist laws from 1878 and tried to bind the workers to the state through social legislation . The high industrialization in Germany ensured economic and population growth, rural exodus and a broad increase in the standard of living; Germany rose to become the largest economy in Europe.

The alliance policy of Otto von Bismarck aimed at the isolation of France with Germany as halbhegemonialer power in the middle of Europe. After German merchants and associations had pursued private colonial policy, the Reich took part in the race for Africa as a result of the Berlin Congo Conference in 1884, despite Bismarck's skepticism . German colonies were designated by Bismarck as "protected areas". Wilhelm II came to power in the “ three emperor year ” of 1888 , demanded the recognition of the previous great powers (“ Place in the Sun ”) for the economically and militarily advanced German Empire, and tried to acquire colonies and build fleets under imperialism . The challenged England then excluded Germany instead of France in a new alliance system ( Triple Entente ). These tensions triggered the First World War in 1914 , a multi-front war with many losses ; more than two million German soldiers died, around 800,000 civilians starved to death.

Weimar Republic (1919–1933)

German Empire 1919–1937

With the November Revolution and the proclamation of the Republic on November 9, 1918, the German Empire ended , and with its surrender it conceded defeat in the First World War. After the election of the constituent national assembly - in which women were actively and passively eligible to vote for the first time - the Weimar constitution came into force on August 14, 1919. In the Peace Treaty of Versailles , considerable territorial cedings, the Allied occupation of the Rhineland and reparations were determined on the basis of an established German sole guilt for the war . This initial situation put a strain on the political climate; Right-wing extremists spread the stab-in- the-back legend against the “ November criminals ”, which led to political murders and coup attempts ( Kapp Putsch 1920 and Hitler putsch 1923). Even communist uprisings like the Ruhr Uprising in 1920, the March fighting in central Germany in 1921 and the Hamburg uprising in 1923 ensured instability. Inadequate reparations payments were taken by Belgium and France as the occasion for the occupation of the Ruhr from 1923 to 1925.

Philipp Scheidemann proclaims the republic from the Reichstag building on November 9, 1918.

In the short " golden twenties ", culture flourished and, from 1924, the economy too . With over four million inhabitants, Berlin was the third largest and one of the most dynamic cities in the world. The prosperity ended in 1929 with the global economic crisis , their peak 1932 in Germany more than six million unemployed were, for the most part lived in misery. Radical parties were very popular, making it increasingly difficult for moderate parties to form stable governments. After the landslide victory of the National Socialists in the Reichstag election in 1930 , the Reich Chancellor, who changed in rapid succession, no longer had a parliamentary majority; their presidential cabinets were dependent on the Reich President Paul von Hindenburg and his emergency ordinances . The deflationary policy of Chancellor Heinrich Brüning exacerbated the economic crisis. His successor Franz von Papen (June – November 1932) subordinated the democratic government of Prussia to a Reich Commissioner ( Preussenschlag ) and held new elections in which the National Socialists became even stronger.

Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher tried by a " cross-front " of trade unions and parts of the Nazis a takeover of Adolf Hitler to prevent, but von Papen persuaded to appoint the reluctant Hindenburg, Hitler on 30 January 1933 as Chancellor. On February 27, the Reichstag fire - which has not yet been resolved - broke out , which Hitler used to create the “ Reichstag Fire Ordinance ”, which suspended basic rights for an indefinite period of time. The subsequent mass arrests of political opponents, especially communists and social democrats, shaped the Reichstag elections in 1933 , in which the NSDAP narrowly missed an absolute majority and continued to rule with the reactionary DNVP . The final takeover of power took place five days later, when the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act with the votes of the bourgeois parties, against the votes of the SPD alone , and thus also left the legislation to the Hitler government .

National Socialist dictatorship (1933–1945)

Greater German Reich with occupied territories, 1943–1945

The NSDAP quickly established a totalitarian one-party state in the German Reich under the leadership of Adolf Hitler and bringing the institutions into line. Unpopular people and political opponents, especially communists, social democrats and trade unionists, were removed from all authorities, the first concentration camps were set up, books were burned and unpopular art was defamed as " degenerate ". Nazi propaganda also permeated private life; Pressure was already being exerted on children to join party organizations. In October 1933, Hitler announced Germany's withdrawal from the League of Nations . He secured his rule internally by also murdering opponents and former companions within the party, especially during the Röhm murders on June 30, 1934, when the SA was disempowered in favor of the SS, which was unconditionally devoted to him . The generals of the Reichswehr took the oath of leadership on him personally . The Gestapo was used as a political police force to fight political and ideological opponents.

From the beginning Hitler had two goals, a war of aggression and extermination to create " living space in the East " and the persecution of the Jews , which began with discrimination, humiliation and marginalization and ended as the " final solution to the Jewish question " in the Holocaust . In 1934 the armament of the armed forces began . An uninhibited expansionary monetary policy and debt economy were geared towards an early warfare. With the Reinhardt program , unemployment was reduced; this was welcomed by the population as the redemption of economic promises. The German Jews were placed worse and worse; the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 severely punished relationships between “ Aryans ” and Jews as “ racial disgrace ”. Jews lost all public offices, were arbitrarily persecuted, robbed and blackmailed and finally banned from practicing their profession, and Jewish assets were Aryanized . More and more Jews were sent to concentration camps. Many made the decision to emigrate , but most of them stayed in Germany.

Destroyed Cologne at the end of the bombing war , April 1945

The racist Nazi ideology to create a “healthy” “ people's community ” (cf. master race ) was directed against two other groups, Roma and Slavs as “ subhumans ”. Not as " foreign racy ", but when the "health" of the "National Body" threatening, harassed and murdered them also homosexuals , the disabled and " asocial ". At the same time, the regime celebrated propaganda successes; In 1936 the Olympic Games improved its reputation abroad and the demilitarized Rhineland was occupied . The expansion began with the forced annexation of Austria in March 1938, after which Germany was referred to as the Greater German Reich . The Munich Agreement in October 1938 sealed the annexation of the Sudetenland . With the defeat of the Czecho-Slovak Republic in March 1939, Hitler broke his promise that the Sudetenland would be his last territorial claim. This made it clear that the Western powers ' policy of appeasement towards Germany had been a mistake.

After the German Reich began the attack on Poland on September 1, 1939 , Great Britain , Canada , Australia , India , New Zealand , South Africa and France declared war on Germany. The Second World War claimed around 55 to 60 million deaths in six years. Germany initially achieved some military successes known as " Blitzkrieg ". Poland was divided up between Hitler and Stalin in the non-aggression pact , the Wehrmacht then threw its armies west, attacked Denmark and Norway in the “ Weser exercise ” and the neutral states of Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands in the “ Western Campaign ” and occupied large parts within six weeks in 1940 Of France. Hitler's popularity peaked.

During the war, the Third Reich intensified the persecution of the Jews. They were banned from leaving the country and many died as a result of inadequate care and epidemics as a result of forced labor . From 1941 they had to wear the “ Jewish star ” and their systematic murder began throughout the entire German sphere of influence . The SS, which was primarily responsible for the execution, set up extermination camps on formerly Polish or Soviet territory , in which most of the victims, brought in cattle wagons, were gassed immediately (see Aktion Reinhardt ). Over a million people were murdered in the gas chambers and crematoria of the Auschwitz concentration camp alone . The total number of murdered Jews amounts to 6.3 million.

The Barbarossa company began on June 22, 1941 ( Russian campaign 1941–1945 ). The German army advanced on Moscow and was stopped in the Battle of Moscow in December 1941. After war ally Japan (→  Axis Powers ) attacked the American Navy in the attack on Pearl Harbor in the same month , Germany also declared war on the United States . A lack of resources and the overwhelming power of the enemy soon turned the war, which manifested itself in the lost battle of Stalingrad with the complete destruction of the German 6th Army . The more inevitable the defeat became, the harder the internal politics became. In his Sportpalast speech on February 18, 1943, Joseph Goebbels proclaimed the " total war ", while the German armies retreated on almost all fronts and numerous German cities were destroyed by the bombing war . When Soviet armies had already taken the capital in the battle for Berlin , Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945 in the Führerbunker . The unconditional surrender of the Wehrmacht followed on May 8, the last Reich government was arrested in the Mürwik special area near Flensburg on May 23, 1945. Surviving political, military and economic leaders were charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Nuremberg trials because of their individual responsibility .

Allied occupation (1945–1949)

The four zones of occupation according to the Potsdam Agreement , the Saar protectorate and the
eastern areas placed under Polish and Soviet administration
The participants of the Potsdam Conference , 1945

Germany was divided within the borders of December 31, 1937 ; June 5, 1945, put four victorious powers USA, USSR, UK, and - finally, France - occupation zones firm and then exercised west of the Oder-Neisse line the sovereignty in their respective zone and jointly by means of an Allied Command over Greater Berlin from. The German eastern territories , a quarter of the Reich's area, inhabited by a fifth of the Reich's population, had been subordinated to the administration of the People's Republic of Poland before the end of the war after their conquest by the Red Army and, in northern East Prussia, to the Soviet Union ( Kaliningrad Oblast ). At Stalin's instigation, the Western powers approved this in the Potsdam Agreement, as did the expulsion of the Germans from Central and Eastern Europe that had begun . The Republic of Austria was restored within the borders of 1938 and also divided into four zones of occupation . In 1946/1947 the Saarland was spun off from the occupied territory and placed under direct French administration.

In the beginning, the Four Powers strove for a common occupation policy. There was agreement on demilitarization , denazification and smashing of the cartels ; Even when asked what was meant by democracy , differences between the Soviet Union and the Western powers became apparent, which intensified with the beginning of the Cold War . In the three western zones, the western allies placed the coal and steel industry , which is important for reconstruction, under the Ruhr statute . With the currency reform in June 1948 and the simultaneous abolition of price fixing and management, the economic director of the western zones, Ludwig Erhard, set a particularly psychologically significant economic turning point; With the currency reform that followed a few days later in the Soviet-occupied zone of Germany and the Berlin blockade by the USSR, the division between East and West deepened.

Federal Republic of Germany and GDR (1949–1990)

Germany in accordance with the three-state theory advocated by the Soviet Union and the GDR from 1958 onwards , which has not caught on: the Federal Republic, West Berlin and the GDR

The Federal Republic of Germany was founded on May 23, 1949 in the three western zones of occupation and the Basic Law came into force as a provisional constitution, the preamble of which contained a reunification requirement for a transitional period ; Bonn became the seat of government. The German Democratic Republic (GDR) was founded in the Soviet occupation zone on October 7, 1949 . Both sub-states saw each other as part of the continuity of an all-German state and did not recognize the other . Both remained under the control of the occupying powers . With their integration into the opposing military alliances of NATO and the Warsaw Treaty , they obtained their formal independence in 1955 (see Paris Treaties , USSR declaration of sovereignty for the GDR ). The prerequisite for this was that in July 1951 the three Western powers decided to formally end the state of war with Germany; the Soviet Union did not declare this until January 1955, with other states in Eastern Europe following. The Allies remained responsible for Germany as a whole and their rights in Berlin.

While a state-controlled planned economy was established in the GDR , the Federal Republic opted for the so-called social market economy with little state influence. The Soviet occupying power ensured difficult starting conditions in the area of ​​the GDR with high reparation demands (especially dismantling ), while in the Federal Republic with foreign help ( Marshall Plan ) an " economic miracle " started, which led to sustained high growth rates, full employment and prosperity.

The Berlin Wall on Bethaniendamm in Berlin-Kreuzberg (West Berlin), 1986
Bornholmer Strasse in West Berlin on November 10, 1989. One day after the fall of the Berlin Wall , a trellis gave visitors from the GDR a first reception.

The Iron Curtain through Central Europe also divided Germany; The continued emigration of especially young and highly qualified people led the GDR to increasingly cordon off the inner-German border until it was completely closed in 1961 by the building of the Berlin Wall under the long-standing SED General Secretary Walter Ulbricht , which made even family contacts between West and East Germany very difficult. Anyone who tried to flee the republic anyway was forcibly stopped (see shooting orders , border and wall deaths ).

In foreign policy, the longtime chancellor sat Konrad Adenauer for some sovereign Federal Republic of the Western integration through and participation in the economic integration of Western Europe, of the Coal and Steel Community began 1952nd The 1963 Élysée Treaty established Franco-German friendship as the engine of European integration . In September 1950, the GDR became a full member of the Eastern Council for Mutual Economic Aid (Comecon).

In the interior of the GDR, socialism was made binding by the state party SED and mass organizations such as the FDJ ; There were no longer any free elections, and the uprising of June 17, 1953 was suppressed. Dissenting opinions were persecuted through censorship and extensive surveillance by the State Security secret police ; on the other hand, protests formed in a dissident and civil rights movement that radicalized itself through the expatriation of Wolf Biermann in 1976. In the Federal Republic of Germany, which was liberalizing itself through westernization , there were increasing demands for social change and for coming to terms with the past , since the Nazi elites had largely remained unmolested - especially by the West German student movement of the 1960s . An extra-parliamentary opposition arose against the grand coalition formed in 1966 with its emergency laws . The social-liberal coalition under Willy Brandt built the welfare state and social freedoms from 1969; the " New Ostpolitik " aimed at détente with Eastern Europe brought Brandt the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971 and criticism from the conservative side.

In 1973 the Federal Republic and GDR became member states of the UN . In addition to increasing supply problems ( shortage economy ), the planned economy of the GDR had to struggle with demographic development, which Erich Honecker, who ruled from 1971 to 1989, countered with massive family support. The women's and family policy in the GDR , as well as the social equality and security achieved, are considered to have been partially successful. The 1970s were marked in the Federal Republic by rising indebtedness and unemployment after the oil crisis and the terror of the radical left Red Army faction . Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (SPD) lost support in his party because of his support for the NATO double resolution - attacked by the peace movement, part of the emerging New Social Movements - and was replaced in 1982 by Helmut Kohl (CDU), who in 1989 had the chance to reunify Germany seized.

The dissatisfaction of the GDR population had grown in the constant comparison of systems supported by western television . At the end of the 1980s, with Mikhail Gorbachev's reform policy in the Soviet Union , a protest movement also formed in the GDR, which in autumn 1989 put the political leadership under pressure in the ailing GDR through an exit movement over the broken iron process and through mass demonstrations (“ We are the people ”) and led to Honecker's resignation. On November 9, 1989, the GDR leadership's granting of freedom of movement led to a mass rush and the opening of the border crossing points of the Berlin Wall . Starting with his ten-point program at the end of November, Kohl steered the development towards national unity (“ We are one people ”) while maintaining the military and political ties to the West. In the first free election of the People's Chamber on March 18, 1990 , the party alliance "Alliance for Germany" led by the Eastern CDU won , which relied on rapid reunification. This was negotiated in the next few months in the Unification Treaty and with the representatives of the Allies as part of the " two-plus-four talks ".

Reunified Germany (since 1990)

Germany's external borders since reunification in 1990; the national borders show the status after June 29, 1993.

The German reunification was completed on October 3, 1990 with the accession of the GDR to the Federal Republic of Germany; this day of German unity became a national holiday . The Two Plus Four Treaty, which came into force in 1991, finally settled the German question : the Four Powers gave up their sovereign powers, their troops left the country by the end of 1994, and the reunified Germany received full state sovereignty . It committed itself to disarmament to a maximum of 370,000 soldiers. With the German-Polish border treaty signed in Warsaw on November 14, 1990 , Germany recognized the Oder-Neisse border ; the territory to the east of it became finally Polish under international law. This was complemented by a policy of reconciliation with the eastern neighbors, first with Poland in 1991 , then with the Czech Republic in 1997 . In terms of foreign policy, the government under Chancellor Kohl advocated deeper integration with the formation of the European Union , the subsequent eastward expansion of the EU and the introduction of the euro .

Socio-economic data from the 1990s: severe population loss and mass unemployment in the new federal states

The Bundestag made Berlin the capital in 1991 , and the government and parliament moved into it in 1999 (see Reichstag building and government district ). After a brief boom in reunification, the 1990s were characterized by economic stagnation, mass unemployment and a “ reform backlog ”. The new federal states in particular did not develop as quickly as hoped after the introduction of the market economy (“ blooming landscapes ”). From 1991 to 1993 there was a wave of riots against asylum seekers . It was not until the 2000s that the new federal states stabilized socially and economically.

In the 1998 federal election , Kohl's black-yellow coalition lost its majority in the Bundestag, the previous opposition parties SPD and Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen formed the first red-green coalition under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder , which implemented far-reaching changes in social, pension and health policy. Ecology was given greater weight, for example with the start of the nuclear phase-out . The socio-political liberalizations included the civil partnership law and a new citizenship law . The first combat deployment of German soldiers since the Second World War - in the Kosovo War in 1999  - marked a turning point in foreign policy. After 9/11 , Schröder promised the USA "unlimited solidarity"; Germany took part in the war in Afghanistan , but not in the Iraq war , which made the "peace chancellor" Schröder popular.

Schröder's second term in office from 2002 was characterized by Agenda 2010 and the related labor market reforms of the Hartz concept . Social benefits for the unemployed were reduced and linked to individual support measures, which those affected perceived as unfair. This led to nationwide protests and indirectly to an early federal election in 2005 , whereupon Angela Merkel (CDU) became Federal Chancellor. Your grand coalition faced the collapse of banks during the world financial crisis and the Great Recession that followed . After overcoming this, Germany experienced a sustained economic boom and a sustained decline in unemployment. Since then, the euro crisis (from 2010) and the refugee crisis in Europe from 2015 have been the most important political challenges, and the economic boom has made it much easier to cope with them. However, both events also led to considerable social discord and to a strengthening of EU-skeptical and Islamophobic movements ( Pegida , Alternative für Deutschland ).


Founding of the state

Reichstag building in Berlin, seat of the German Bundestag ; in front of it the flag of the unit , which has been waving continuously since October 3rd, 1990

According to the prevailing doctrine and established case law of the Federal Constitutional Court, the Federal Republic of Germany, as a state and subject to international law, is identical to the German Reich and its predecessor, the North German Confederation , and has thus been in state continuity since 1867 (see legal situation in Germany after 1945 ). The historically different constitutions provide information about the self-image of the respective state. After Germany was occupied by the Four Powers , the victorious powers of World War II, in 1945 , the Basic Law of the Federal Republic that had emerged in West Germany was promulgated on May 23, 1949 and put into effect the following day. Its scope was restricted by the division of Germany and, until 1955, by the occupation statute. In the eastern part of Germany, the GDR was founded as a separate state in 1949 and received a constitution that was replaced in 1968 and revised in 1974. The Basic Law lost its provisional character with reunification , when the GDR entered its area of ​​application on October 3, 1990. With the end of the four-power responsibility , the united Germany achieved full sovereignty.

National territory

The national territory of the Federal Republic (Bundesgebiet) results from the totality of the national territories of their countries. The sovereign territory was expanded twice through accession in accordance with Article 23 sentence 2 of the old version of the Basic Law : in 1957 by the Saarland , in 1990 by the accession area of the GDR and Berlin ( eastern part of Berlin and western Staaken ).

The exclusive economic zone in the North and Baltic Seas does not belong to the national territory . The course of the state border is now defined up to parts of Lake Constance .

The only existing condominium in Germany is the joint German-Luxembourgish territory , which is formed by the rivers Mosel , Sauer and Our on the border between the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the Federal Republic of Germany (with the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland ). It goes back to the Vienna Congress Act of June 9, 1815, the regulations of which were confirmed in a border treaty in 1984. The area is the only municipality-free area in the states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland.

The German-Dutch border issue in the area of ​​the Ems - Dollart area (→  Ems Dollart Region ) is still controversial , because both neighboring states maintain their incompatible legal positions on the course of the border. Within Germany, the course of the state borders between Schleswig-Holstein , Lower Saxony and possibly Hamburg in the area of ​​the Lower Elbe has not been conclusively clarified. For this area, the federal states have regulated administrative and judicial responsibilities through administrative agreements and international treaties , but this does not clarify territorial sovereignty . Exclusive parts of the national territory are the Baden-Württemberg Büsingen am Hochrhein , which is surrounded by Switzerland and belongs to the Swiss customs area, as well as some small North Rhine-Westphalian areas that are separated from the main area of ​​Germany by the Belgian Vennbahn route , which is a few meters wide .

Political system

The Basic Law (GG) is the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany. The head of state is the Federal President with primarily representative tasks. He is elected by the Federal Assembly. In terms of protocol , he is followed by the President of the German Bundestag , the Federal Chancellor , the current President of the Bundesrat , who represents the Federal President, and the President of the Federal Constitutional Court . The seat of the constitutional body of the federal government is the federal capital Berlin ( Section 3 (3) Berlin-Bonn Act ).

Article 20 GG stipulates - secured by the eternity clause - that Germany must be organized as a democratic , social constitutional state and federally . The system of government is a parliamentary democracy . The federal state is divided into two levels in the political system : the federal level , which represents the entire state of Germany externally, and the federal state level, which exists in each of the 16 federal states . Each level has its own state organs of the executive (executive power), legislative (legislative power) and judiciary (judicial power). The states in turn determine the order of their cities and municipalities; for example, five countries are subdivided into a total of 22 administrative districts. The countries have given themselves their own constitutions ; they are basically of state quality, but they are limited subjects of international law who may only enter into their own treaties with other states with the consent of the federal government ( Article 32.3, Article 24.1 GG). The Federal Republic can be viewed as the constitutional link between its federal states and only thereby acquires the character of a state, i.e. it is a federal state in the true sense of the word.

Triangle with the federal government at the top, including in layers the federal states, optional administrative districts, (rural) districts, optional municipal associations and municipalities.  The strict stratification is broken through by city-states and district-free cities, which perform tasks of several strata.Bund Bundesländer/Flächenländer Bundesländer/Stadtstaaten (Regierungsbezirke) (Land-)Kreise Gemeindeverbände (Gemeindeverbandsangehörige/Kreisangehörige Gemeinden) (Gemeindeverbandsfreie) Kreisangehörige Gemeinden Kreisfreie Städte
Vertical state structure of Germany

The federal legislative organs are the German Bundestag , the Bundesrat and, in the event of a defense , the Joint Committee . Federal laws are passed by the Bundestag with a simple majority . They take effect if the Federal Council has not lodged an objection or has approved ( Art. 77 GG). An amendment to the Basic Law is only possible with a two-thirds majority of the members of the Bundestag and the Bundesrat ( Article 79, Paragraph 2 of the Basic Law). In the federal states, the state parliaments decide on the laws of their state. Although the deputies under the Basic Law is not subject to directives are ( Art. 38 GG), dominate in the practice of law preliminary rounds in major parties who participate in the political process ( Art. 21 GG).

The jurisdiction to legislate lies with the federal states, unless the federal government has legislative power ( Art. 70 to 72 GG) - namely an exclusive or, in certain cases, competing legislation .

The executive is formed at the federal level by the federal government, which consists of the Federal Chancellor as head of government and the federal ministers . All federal ministries have an official seat in Berlin and one in the federal city of Bonn ; some have their first place of work in Bonn. At the state level, the minister-presidents , in the city-states of Hamburg and Bremen, the presidents of the Senate, and in Berlin, the governing mayor directs the executive. The states are also parliamentary democracies and their heads of government are elected by the state parliaments , citizenships and the Berlin House of Representatives. The federal and state administrations are each headed by the relevant ministers .

The Federal Chancellor is elected by the Bundestag with a majority of its members on the proposal of the Federal President ( Art. 63 GG); his term of office ends with the election period of the Bundestag ( Art. 69 (2) GG). Before this expires, the Federal Chancellor can only leave office against his will if the Bundestag elects a successor with a majority of its members ( Art. 67 GG, so-called constructive vote of no confidence ). The Federal Ministers are appointed on the proposal of the Federal Chancellor ( Article 64, Paragraph 1 of the Basic Law); they and the Federal Chancellor form the Federal Government ( Article 62 of the Basic Law), the authority of which is the Federal Chancellor to issue guidelines ( Article 65, first sentence, of the Basic Law). The leadership role in the German "Chancellor Democracy" falls to the Federal Chancellor. The Chancellor also nominates the German candidate for the office of EU Commissioner .

The exercise of state powers and the implementation of federal laws is fundamentally the responsibility of the federal states, unless the Basic Law makes or allows any deviating regulation ( Art. 30 , Art. 83 GG).

State budget

Federal budget 2011. The individual plans for social spending and federal debt alone devour more than half of the annual finances.

The state budget showed in 2018 revenue through taxes, other levies and fees 1,543.56 billion euros to and spending by 1485.55 billion euros. This enabled the Federal Republic of Germany to reduce its national debt in 2018. Of the revenue, 776.3 billion euros was tax revenue from the federal, state, local and EU governments . Due to an increasing number of employees subject to social security contributions and rising wages, important tax revenues such as income tax and sales tax are steadily increasing.

According to the report by the Deutsche Bundesbank, Germany's national debt in 2018 was 2069 billion euros. With a gross domestic product of 3,386 billion euros for 2018, the national debt ratio thus corresponded to around 61 percent of the gross domestic product . In 2005 the national debt of the Federal Republic of Germany amounted to 1,541 billion euros.

The Federal Republic, whose government bonds are called federal bonds , receives the best possible creditworthiness from the three major rating agencies Standard & Poor’s , Moody’s and Fitch . The demand for securities that are considered safe investments has significantly lowered interest rates in recent years and in some cases even led to negative interest rates , which is one of the main reasons for Germany's budget surplus.

In addition to various transaction taxes (eg VAT ), the state generates much of its revenue from taxes on income and earnings: These include income tax , corporation tax and business tax . If products or services are subject to sales tax, the tax rate in Germany is 19 (general rate) or 7 percent (reduced rate, e.g. groceries). In colloquial terms and in EU law , sales tax is also called value-added tax . According to an OECD study from 2014, Germans have the highest tax burden worldwide , even ahead of the Scandinavian welfare states , due to the high taxes and other charges such as social security contributions . According to a study published by the UN , Germany is one of the countries most willing to finance public goods through taxes . The federal government can sometimes borrow long-term loans (up to ten years) at negative interest rates.

Party landscape

Second votes in the federal elections since 1949 and federal governments

According to Article 21 of the Basic Law, parties participate in the formation of the political will of the people. The spectrum of parties is shaped by the parties represented in the Bundestag; the popular parties , the SPD and the Union parties (in the CDU and CSU parliamentary group ) have belonged to it since its inception . Of the other parties are there after the federal election in 2017 also the Left and Green as well as the AFD and the FDP represented; the latter two parties failed in 2013 when they passed the five percent hurdle .

All the parties mentioned are represented in the political groups in the European Parliament . Almost all influential parties are supported by youth organizations ; other political preparatory organizations include, for example, student representatives , student associations , women’s and senior citizens’ organizations, business associations, municipal organizations and international associations. Party-affiliated foundations help determine the political discourse - legally independent of the parties.

European politics

Germany is a founding member of the Council of Europe and the European Communities , which initially grew together through primarily economic integration in the 1990s to form the political European Union (EU). The Federal Republic of Germany joined the European Monetary Union in 1990 and is part of the European internal market . The euro was introduced as a means of payment in 2002 and has replaced the German mark in the Federal Republic of Germany . Germany is also part of the Schengen area and is part of the judicial and police cooperation with the help of Europol and Eurojust . The EU's common foreign and security policy helps determine German foreign policy. Article 23 of the Basic Law sets the legal framework for German European policy in the EU .

The European Patent Office (Munich) and several EU institutions have their headquarters in Germany: the European Central Bank in Frankfurt am Main, the EU Insurance Supervisory Authority also in Frankfurt and the European Aviation Safety Agency in Cologne.

Political indices

Political indices issued by non-governmental organizations
Name of the index Index value Worldwide rank Interpretation aid year
Fragile States Index 23.2 out of 120 166 of 178 Stability of the country: sustainable
0 = very sustainable / 120 = very alarming
Democracy index 8.67 out of 10 14 of 167 Full democracy
0 = authoritarian regime / 10 = full democracy
Freedom in the World Index 94 of 100 - Freedom status: free
0 = not free / 100 = free
Freedom of the press ranking 15.24 out of 100 13 of 180 Satisfactory situation for freedom of the press
0 = good situation / 100 = very serious situation
Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 80 out of 100 9 of 180 0 = very corrupt / 100 = very clean 2020

Foreign and Security Policy

Plenary Chamber of the European Parliament in Brussels. Germany is one of 27 member states of the European Union .
The Federal Republic is a founding member of the G8 and G20 ( G8 summit in Heiligendamm , 2007).

The guidelines of German foreign policy are ties to the West and European integration. In terms of security policy , membership in the transatlantic defense alliance NATO has been central since 1955.

During the Cold War , the scope of West German foreign policy was limited. Reunification was one of the most important goals . Military operations abroad were out of the question. According to the Basic Law, the Bundeswehr is not allowed to take part in wars of aggression ; its only task is to defend the country and the alliance. The “New Ostpolitik ” initiated by the social-liberal coalition from 1969 onwards under the motto change through rapprochement , which important allies were initially skeptical about, was able to set its own accents and was continued by Helmut Kohl's liberal-conservative government from 1982 onwards. Since reunification, Germany has had greater responsibility internationally; Since 1991, the Bundeswehr has been taking part in peacekeeping and peace enforcement missions outside Germany and the territory of NATO allies ( out-of-area missions) under the supervision of the Bundestag and together with allied armies . Gerhard Schröder's federal government rejected the Iraq war in 2003 and thus opposed its important ally, the USA.

Traditionally, Germany and France play a leading role in the European Union. Germany is pressing ahead with efforts to go beyond economic and monetary union to create a uniform, effective European foreign and security policy. Further foreign policy goals are the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol on climate protection and the worldwide recognition of the International Criminal Court . Germany has a particular interest in a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict , which it supports primarily through informal contact opportunities between the parties involved. Together with its allies Great Britain and France, the Federal Republic is trying to persuade Iran to renounce the continuation of its nuclear energy program .

On July 13, 2016, the Federal Government adopted the new White Paper on Security Policy and the Future of the Bundeswehr as Germany's top security policy document.


The national emblem of the Bundeswehr: The Iron Cross . It goes back to the Wars of
Liberation from 1813 to 1815.

After its establishment in 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany was initially not allowed to set up its own armed forces due to the occupation statute. However, under the influence of the Korean War and the Sovietization of Eastern Europe, the Federal Republic was allowed, in the context of rearmament , to set up the paramilitary Federal Border Guard as border police, and from 1955 full-fledged armed forces to join NATO . The establishment of this Bundeswehr as a prerequisite for accession was thus an important contribution to the ties to the West and thus to the international recognition of the Federal Republic, but domestically under the influence of the Second World War it was highly controversial . After reunification in 1990, parts of the National People's Army (NVA) of the GDR were incorporated into these armed forces. From 1956 to 2011, in accordance with Art. 12a of the Basic Law, general military service was applied to all men over the age of 18 in the Federal Republic of Germany . The military service was suspended in 2011 and by the voluntary military service replaced. Since 2001 women have also had unrestricted access to service in the armed forces. Their share is 12.4 percent of the soldiers (as of 2020). Around 3,100 German soldiers were deployed abroad in mid-2019.

The Bundeswehr is divided into the armed forces of the army , air force and navy as well as the supporting organizational areas of the armed forces base , the central medical service and the cyber and information space . After the end of the Cold War , the total strength of the Bundeswehr was gradually reduced from around 500,000 by 2015 to less than 180,000 soldiers, after the two-plus-four treaty stipulated a maximum peacetime strength of 370,000 German soldiers under international law. The suspension of compulsory military service in 2011 was also associated with a comprehensive reform of the Bundeswehr, which primarily meant setting a maximum personnel strength of 185,000 soldiers and 55,000 civilian employees. In addition, the number of pieces of heavy equipment ( battle tanks , artillery ) was significantly reduced. The background to these structural changes was the Bundeswehr's focus on participating in international UN and NATO missions since the mid-1990s, for which fewer military personnel and, above all, lighter and faster relocatable material were required. With the Crimean crisis and the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine in 2014, the Bundeswehr's main focus changed back to national and alliance defense within the framework of NATO and the EU. In this context, an increase in personnel to 203,000 soldiers and 66,000 civilian employees is planned by the year 2025.

The Bundeswehr is the first army of a German nation-state to be a parliamentary army , and its operations are decided solely by the Bundestag on the proposal of the Federal Government. The commander-in-chief (“ holder of command and command ”) is the respective Federal Minister of Defense in peacetime ; in the event of a defense , this function is transferred to the Federal Chancellor . The Bundeswehr's understanding of tradition distances itself from both the Wehrmacht of the Nazi era and the NVA. It refers to the Prussian army reform around 1810, the wars of liberation against Napoleon, the military resistance against National Socialism and their own history (see traditional decree ). The model of the “ citizen in uniform ” applies to the soldiers . As the most important military ceremony which is considered big tattoo ; The swearing-in and vows of soldiers , which are often carried out outside of military facilities, have a public impact .

The Federal Republic of Germany will spend 45.2 billion euros on the Bundeswehr in 2020. This makes Germany one of the ten countries in the world with the highest defense budgets ; German spending, with a share of around 1.3 percent of the gross domestic product, is below the average of the NATO member states (1.6%). An increase in the budget to a range of 1.5 percent of gross domestic product by 2025 is planned.

Police and intelligence services

Police helicopter in use for the Federal Police (border guard)

Due to federalism in Germany , the federal states and thus in particular the state police and state criminal investigation offices are responsible for the internal security of the Federal Republic . Within the police, a further distinction is often made between protection police , riot police , criminal police , special units (such as the Special Operations Command (SEK) or the Mobile Operations Command (MEK)) and the regulatory authorities . In order to maintain public order, these are additionally supported by public order offices in some municipalities .

Nevertheless, there are also several organizations at the federal level to protect public safety. This includes in particular the Federal Police (formerly the Federal Border Police ), which takes on tasks such as border protection , railway police and counter-terrorism and also maintains the GSG 9 special unit , as well as the Federal Criminal Police Office , which, among other things, prosecutes particularly serious crimes. Both are directly subordinate to the Federal Ministry of the Interior . In addition, there are the enforcement authorities of the Federal Customs Administration (such as the Customs Investigation Service , the Customs Criminal Police Office and the Central Customs Support Group ), which are responsible for enforcing fiscal, commercial and labor law and are subordinate to the Federal Ministry of Finance .

There are also three federal intelligence services in Germany : The civilian Federal Intelligence Service (BND) as a foreign intelligence service collects and evaluates civil and military information about other countries. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), the Military Counter-Intelligence Service (MAD) for the division of the Federal Ministry of Defense (BMVg) and in each of the federal states a state authority for the protection of the constitution are responsible for tasks related to the protection of the constitution and counter-espionage . The intelligence services in Germany do not have enforcement powers due to the separation requirement .

Police violence

Germany is criticized by international organizations like Amnesty International for the insubordinate use of police force . The UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment has already noticed the police violence in Germany negatively through numerous reports .

Only a few criminal charges against police officers in Germany ultimately lead to charges. The UN Human Rights Council advises Germany to set up independent complaint bodies against police violence, which, unlike in other European countries, do not yet exist in Germany.


Total recorded cases of theft in the years 1987-2019 as a frequency number (per 100,000 inhabitants)

Germany is one of the safest countries in the world. As in all affluent countries in the western world , there was an increase in crime from the early 1960s to the early 1990s and has since declined , particularly in violent crime and theft .

The homicide rate per year is used as an index for comparing the propensity to violence over long periods of time and over long spatial distances. In 2018, Germany had 0.9 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, which corresponds to the average in Western Europe. The average for all of Europe was 2.8 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, the global average was 5.8. East Asian countries have an average of 0.5, Singapore only 0.2 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

Detailed, area-wide data have been recorded in the police crime statistics since 1953 (until 1990 only for the old federal states) . The total number of crimes peaked in 1993. By 2019, the rate had fallen by 21 percent. The theft rate fell 57 percent from 1993 to 2019. However, the peak in reported violent crimes was not reached in the 1990s, but in 2007. The decline here was 18 percent by 2019. It is assumed that there will be an increasing willingness to report or a decreasing number of unreported cases, especially in the case of violence against women .


First Senate of the Federal Constitutional Court in the composition that existed until June 15, 1989 with President Roman Herzog . The eagle relief in the courtroom was created by Hans Kindermann in 1969 .


German law belongs to the continental legal system and has developed over most of its existence without the order of a German nation-state. It is therefore based on the historically transmitted German law , which goes back to Germanic tribal laws and medieval legal collections such as the Sachsenspiegel , and the reception of Roman law from the 12th century, which was considered superior due to its accuracy and universality. Except for a few legal enactments such as the Constitutio Criminalis Carolina in 1532, the Holy Roman Empire was characterized by particular rights . It was only in the course of the 19th century that legal harmonization began and a General German Commercial Code was introduced in the German Confederation in 1861 and, in the German Empire, among other things, the Imperial Court of Justice in 1877 and the Imperial Justice Acts in 1879. In 1900 the civil code came into force.

Dictatorship and the post-war period

The Nazis perverted the right to violence reign, for which the terrorist judgments of the people's court , the Nuremberg Laws and numerous other acts are that only through Allied occupation law , a non-German legal sources were canceled again. Even if the occupation law for its part was repealed in five federal laws and its provisions were largely incorporated into German law, the German administration of justice is still endeavoring to restore the law that was torn by the unjust Nazi state . For example, the criminal definition of murder from the time of National Socialism is controversial among German judicial officers. The tightened version of § 175 in the Third Reich also led to extensive persecution of homosexuality in the Federal Republic ; it was only reformed in 1969 and deleted from the penal code in 1994.

In the GDR the law was guided by the one-party rule of the SED; the separation of powers and the independence of the courts, which were prescribed by the constitution , were circumvented in constitutional reality. In the administration of justice and legislation, the GDR endeavored over the course of its existence to distance itself from the bourgeois legal tradition that was founded in the Empire and continued in the Federal Republic and to create legal historical sources of its own. Unlike the Federal Republic of Germany, the GDR legally rejected both identity with and the legal successor to the German Reich . In the civil code of the GDR , which came into force in 1976, the "supply relationships" of the citizens were in the foreground. Questions of property were regulated under the clear auspices of the socialist planned economy, a definition of property no longer existed with the introduction of the civil code.

With the accession of the GDR , both the development and the continuation of GDR law ended. With the exception of old cases in the administration of justice, it no longer has any influence on contemporary German law.

The death penalty was abolished in Germany with Article 102 of the Basic Law when it was promulgated. In the GDR it was not abolished until 1987, a few years before its end.


The Federal Republic of Germany sees itself as a constitutional state ( Article 20 , Article 28, Paragraph 1, Sentence 1 of the Basic Law), which means that state activity can only be justified by law and is limited by law. The content of German laws is therefore usually the limit of their sphere of activity first, before law is established. For example, in Section 1 of the Criminal Code, all offenses are exempted from punishment that were not punishable by the law at the time of the offense. Anyone who is violated in their rights by public authority has the right to seek legal protection from the court ( Article 19 (4) of the Basic Law). The judges are not subject to any instructions in the case law and are independent of other powers of state or political nature.

The jurisdiction is essentially exercised by the courts of the federal states: In civil and criminal matters by the local courts , the regional courts and the higher regional courts ( ordinary jurisdiction ); as regards specialized jurisdiction, there are labor , administrative , social and financial jurisdictions . The Federal Patent Court exists for commercial legal protection . The highest federal courts of justice serve as appellate courts ( Art. 95 GG): The Federal Court of Justice as the highest civil and criminal court, the Federal Labor Court , the Federal Administrative Court , the Federal Social Court and the Federal Fiscal Court . About constitutional disputes the judge Constitutional Courts of the states and the Federal Constitutional Court ( Art. 93 GG), whose decisions can have the force of law and thus bind other courts (see. § 31 Federal Constitutional Court Act ).

European law and the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union are of increasing importance . As a result of Germany's longstanding contracts with the European Union and the legal activities based on them, German law is significantly influenced by Union law.



Container ship in the port of Hamburg . In terms of the value of goods, Germany was the third largest exporter and importer in the world in 2018 (see world trade ).

With a nominal gross domestic product of around 3.8 trillion US dollars in 2020, Germany is the largest economy in Europe and fourth largest in the world. In terms of nominal GDP per capita , Germany ranks 18th internationally and 8th in the European Union (as of 2019). In terms of the value of goods, the country was the third largest importer and exporter in the world in 2016. The United Nations Development Program ranks Germany among the countries with a very high level of human development. In 2018, it took 3rd place in the Global Competitiveness Index . Germany’s competitiveness is primarily fed by the large number of small and medium-sized enterprises ( Mittelstand ), which are among the world market leaders in specialized areas of industry.

Overall economic output is 2.1 percent in the primary economic sector ( agriculture ), 24.4 percent in the secondary (industry) and 73.5 percent in the tertiary (services). In 2014, Germany recorded an all-time high with an average of around 42.6 million employees subject to social security contributions. The average number of unemployed in 2014 was 2.898 million. According to Eurostat, Germany had the second lowest unemployment rate in the European Union in June 2019 at 3.1 percent . Entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship are an important factor in creating new jobs, and the annual KfW start-up monitor provides information about this.

  • European Union
  • EFTA countries with access to the European internal market with exceptions
  • DCFTA with restricted access
  • European Customs Union (EUCU)
  • Germany has a wide variety of raw material deposits and has a long mining tradition (including coal , precious salts , industrial minerals and building materials, as well as silver , iron and tin ). The industry is dependent on global raw material imports.

    The human potential with a good education and the culture of innovation are considered prerequisites for the success of the German economy and knowledge society . The automotive , commercial vehicle , electrotechnical , mechanical engineering and chemical industries are considered to be the most competitive sectors of German industry worldwide . Aerospace technology , the financial sector with the financial center Frankfurt am Main and the insurance industry , especially reinsurance, are also of global importance . The importance of the cultural and creative industries is increasing.

    As a member of the European Union , Germany belongs to the largest single market in the world with a total of around 500 million inhabitants and a nominal GDP of 17.6 trillion US dollars in 2011. Germany is also part of the euro zone , a currency union with 19 member countries and around 337 million inhabitants. Their currency is the euro , whose currency policy is controlled by the European Central Bank (ECB) and is the world's second most important reserve currency and the world's largest currency in circulation in terms of cash value.

    The income inequality in Germany in 2005 was slightly below the OECD average. In 2008, the median disposable income was 1,252 with a Gini index of 0.29. The distribution of wealth in Germany is concentrated with a Gini index of 0.78 significantly more than the distribution of income. According to Credit Suisse , private wealth totaled $ 12.4 trillion in 2016. On average, each adult person in Germany had assets of 185,175 US dollars in 2016 ( median assets: 42,833 US dollars). That is 27th place worldwide and less than in most of Germany's neighboring countries - one cause or consequence (depending on the interpretation) is a low proportion of property ownership. In 2016 there were 1,637,000 millionaires in Germany and a total of 114 billionaires (in US dollars) in 2017, the third highest number in the world.

    Foreign trade and economic development

    Frankfurt am Main is an international traffic and economic center as well as the seat of the European Central Bank .

    For decades, the German economy recorded more exports than any other country (“ world export champion ”). In the 2010s, Germany was consistently the country with the third highest export value in the world. In 2020 exports reached a total value of 1,205 billion euros, the value of imports totaled 1,025 billion euros - a surplus of the foreign trade balance of 180 billion euros. The current account surplus was the highest in the world in 2016 and amounted to over 7 percent of economic output, which has in some cases met with criticism from both at home and abroad.

    The most important trading partners (imports and exports) in 2020 were the People's Republic of China (213 billion euros in trade), the Netherlands (173 billion euros), the United States (172 billion euros), France (147 billion euros), Poland (123 Billion euros) and Italy (114 billion euros). The largest export markets were the USA, the PR China, France and the Netherlands. Germany conducted more than half of its foreign trade with the states of the European Union. The value of all exports of goods and services accounted for 47 percent of economic output in 2019, which is a high value among the larger economies. The country is therefore potentially susceptible to fluctuations in global trade, even if the upswing in recent years has primarily been consumption-driven.

    Germany was hit by the international financial crisis at the end of 2008 and 2009 , which led to a decline in gross domestic product of 5.6 percent in 2009. The German economy then grew significantly again by 4.1 and 3.7 percent (2010 and 2011) and more moderately in 2012 and 2013 with 0.5 percent each. In 2014 economic growth accelerated again to 1.9 percent and in 2015 and 2016 further to 1.7 and 1.9 percent respectively. For 2017 the growth was 2.2 percent.

    Between 2000 and 2011, the annual average inflation rate was a minimum of 0.3 percent (2009) and a maximum of 2.6 percent (2008). At the beginning of 2015, Germany recorded slight deflation for the first time since 2009 due to the low oil price (−0.3%).

    Automotive industry

    Germany is internationally known for the development and production of passenger cars with internal combustion engines. The automobile was invented by Carl Benz in Germany in 1886 , which laid the foundation for the development of what is currently the third largest automobile industry in the world. Today corporations like Volkswagen , Mercedes-Benz and BMW are an important part of the German economy. The German auto industry generated more than 400 billion euros in sales in 2017 with more than 800,000 employees in Germany, about seven percent of GDP can be attributed to it.

    Information technology and telecommunications

    The information and communication technology (ICT) is considered essential location factor . The digitization of the German economy is being promoted under the project name Industry 4.0 . The telecommunications company with the highest turnover in Germany is Deutsche Telekom . SAP , Software AG and DATEV are among the most important software manufacturers in the world with their headquarters in Germany. In the hardware sector, developments are particularly important, for example at Infineon and AGV . In addition to established companies in the ICT sector, innovative start-ups and e-ventures are gaining in importance in Germany.

    In 2017, 88 percent of the population had internet access ; around 87 percent were able to use a broadband connection .


    Primary energy consumption in Germany
    Energy source 1990
    mineral oil 35.1 35.3
    gas 15.5 25.0
    Renewable energy 1.3 14.7
    Brown coal 21.5 9.1
    Hard coal 15.5 8.8
    Nuclear energy 11.2 6.4
    Others 0.7

    In 2010 Germany was the fourth largest producer of primary energy in Europe and ranked 24th among the world's energy producers . In 2012, primary energy consumption in Germany was 13,757 PJ (2005: 14,238 PJ). Measured by this, the country is the second largest national energy consumer in Europe and the seventh largest in the world . The power supply was in 2012 by 1,059 companies ensures headquartered in Germany.

    In 2016, renewable energies provided 29.2 percent of gross electricity production , 13.4 percent of the final energy demand in the heating sector and 5.1 percent of fuels . As part of the energy transition, it is planned to increase the share of renewable energies in electricity consumption to 80 percent by 2050, to reduce primary energy consumption by 50 percent compared to 2008 and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95 percent compared to 1990 in line with EU targets . In total, at least 60 percent of energy consumption is to be covered by renewable energies in 2050.


    The world heritage sites in Germany are important destinations for cultural and nature tourists.

    In 2016, Germany was one of the seven most-visited countries in the world with over 35 million foreign overnight guests per year .

    Around 4,000 of the 11,116 municipalities in Germany are organized in tourism associations, 310 of which are recognized as spas , seaside resorts and health resorts . There are 6,135 museums , 366 theaters , 34 leisure and adventure parks , 45,000 tennis courts , 648 golf courses , 190,000 km of hiking trails , 40,000 km of long- distance cycle paths as well as holiday and themed roads .

    Business and congress tourism is of paramount importance ; Germany is the most important international trade fair location with several leading international trade fairs . The International Tourism Exchange Berlin is the world's leading tourism fair. In addition, there is the greatest concentration of festivals in Germany .


    Transport route bundling in the European corridor concept

    The Logistics Performance Index 2018 compiled by the World Bank shows Germany as the country with the best infrastructure in the world.

    Due to the dense population and central location in Europe, there is a very high volume of traffic in Germany. It is an important transit country , especially for goods traffic . The concept of the trans-European networks promotes Germany as a transfer area between the first European core economic area , the so-called blue banana , and the core economic area in East Central Europe . Important projects in these networks are the railway axes Lyon / Genoa – Rotterdam / Antwerp, POS (Paris – Eastern France – Southwest Germany), PBKA (Paris – Brussels – Cologne – Amsterdam), Berlin – Palermo and the main line for Europe . Furthermore, Germany is the western starting point of some pan-European transport corridors .

    Freight traffic has steadily shifted from rail to road over the past few decades. As a countermeasure, a motorway toll for trucks was introduced in 2005 . Nevertheless, carbon dioxide emissions from road freight transport in Germany rose by 20 percent between 1995 and 2017. In the rail transport sector, Deutsche Bahn has shut down unprofitable branch lines, freight and marshalling yards and discontinued long-distance passenger transport connections in recent years . The Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan 2030 applies to the period from 2016 to 2030.

    Road traffic

    Even the Romans laid cobbled streets in Germany, which fell into disrepair. The first highways were built in the 18th century. The invention of the automobile gave new impetus to road construction. The world's first autobahn, the AVUS , opened in Berlin in 1921. The road has been in the second half of the 20th century, the railway replaced as the main modes of transport. Germany has one of the densest road networks in the world. In 2012, the federal trunk road network comprised 12,845 kilometers of motorways and 40,711 kilometers of federal highways . Furthermore, the regional road network comprised 86,597 kilometers of state roads , 91,520 kilometers of district roads and the communal roads .

    On January 1, 2020, 47.7 million passenger cars were registered in Germany . The total number of vehicles and trailers totaled 65.8 million. From 1995 to 2017, the absolute carbon dioxide emissions from road freight transport in Germany rose by 20 percent.

    In order to reduce the dangers and stresses caused by road traffic, pedestrian zones , traffic-calmed zones and 30 km / h zones have been set up in many German cities . The number of fatalities in road traffic has continuously decreased since then; In 2015 there were 3,459 people, in 2019 it was 3,046. The bicycle plays an increasing role, its expansion is politically about by the Cycling Plan supported.

    Rail transport

    Regional and long-distance traffic in front of Cologne main station (from left to right DB Regio , National Express , ICE 3 of DB Long-Distance , DB Regio)

    Germany's rail network is around 38,500 kilometers long and is used by up to around 50,000 passenger and freight trains every day. As part of the railway reform , the state railways Deutsche Bundesbahn (West) and Deutsche Reichsbahn (East) were transferred to the private company Deutsche Bahn AG on January 1, 1994 . It organizes the majority of rail traffic in Germany. Around 350 other railway companies operate on the German railway network. While the state has withdrawn from operations, it finances most of the network maintenance and expansion as well as (through regionalization funds ) largely regional traffic.

    Regional ( Interregio-Express (IRE), Regionalbahn (RB), Regional-Express (RE) and S-Bahn (S)) and long-distance transport ( Intercity (IC), Eurocity (EC) and Intercity-Express (ICE)) travel largely according to the timetable . For long-distance trains , high-speed routes with a total length of around 2000 kilometers are available.

    Local transport

    Tram (tram) and bus in Jena am Paradies

    In 1881 Werner von Siemens opened the world's first electric tram in Lichterfelde near Berlin. In the first half of the 20th century, this mode of transport dominated local public transport in larger cities in Germany. After the Second World War, many were shut down, especially in West Germany, while others were converted into light rail vehicles with inner-city tunnels. They have been replaced by omnibus traffic, which is also available nationwide in the country and opens up almost every place. However, due to the population decline in rural areas, the bus networks were thinned out and often replaced by on- call bus systems. In the 20th century, subways were built in the largest cities and combined with S-Bahn trains to form a rapid transit network for the city and the surrounding area. The administrative processing is carried out by public transport authorities .

    Since the 1980s, cycle path networks have been created and expanded in cities and in the countryside, so that today the bicycle is once again playing an increasing role in local transport. In an international comparison, local public transport in the larger cities of Germany is characterized by high effectiveness and area coverage.

    air traffic

    Map of airports in Germany

    With around 700 airfields , Germany has one of the largest densities of runways in the world.

    The Frankfurt airport after passengers (2016: 60,770,000) of the largest in Germany, the fourth largest in Europe and in terms of cargo volume (2015: 2.1 million tonnes) is the largest airport in Europe . The largest German airline Lufthansa operates intercontinental hubs in Frankfurt and at the second largest German airport in Munich . The federal government and the states of Berlin and Brandenburg are the sole shareholders of Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH , which operates Berlin Brandenburg Airport “Willy Brandt”.

    Germany does not have its own spaceport (or spaceport) for traffic beyond the Kármán Line (100 km) into space . The space operations of the German Aerospace Center therefore mostly use the CSG space port in French Guiana or the Russian-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome .


    The jetties at the port of Hamburg

    Due to the high share of foreign trade , Germany is particularly dependent on sea trade. It has a number of modern seaports , but also transacts a large proportion of its overseas trade through the ports of neighboring countries, especially the Netherlands . The three strongest seaports in Germany are Hamburg , Wilhelmshaven and the Bremen ports . The JadeWeserPort in Wilhelmshaven is the only deep water port in Germany. The most important Baltic ports are Rostock , Lübeck and Kiel . Rostock-Warnemünde is the most frequented cruise port in Germany.

    The most important shipping routes are the Lower Elbe and Lower Weser . The Kiel Canal is the world's busiest artificial shipping route, and the Kadetrinne is the busiest shipping route in the Baltic Sea off the German Baltic coast .

    There is a well-developed network of waterways for inland navigation . The most important navigable rivers are the Rhine , Main , Moselle , Weser and Elbe . Important inland canals are the Mittelland Canal , the Dortmund-Ems Canal , the Rhine-Herne Canal and the Elbe Lateral Canal . The Main-Danube Canal overcomes the main European watershed and thus enables a direct shipping route from the North and Baltic Seas to the Black Sea . The Duisburg-Ruhrorter Häfen complex is the most heavily handled inland port in Germany and is considered the largest inland port in Europe. The New Silk Road , an infrastructure project of the People's Republic of China, which aims to connect to old trade routes, also begins or ends there .


    JW von Goethe , 1786
    (preface from Faust )

    The German art and cultural history, whose roots go back to the time of the Celts , Teutons and Romans , has produced personalities that have shaped the style and epoch since the Middle Ages. German-speaking cultural workers pioneered new intellectual currents and developments in a wide variety of disciplines. Some of the most influential German artists are among the protagonists of Western civilization .

    Since Germany did not exist as a nation-state for a long time, German culture has defined itself for centuries primarily through the common language; Even after the founding of the empire in 1871, Germany was often understood as a cultural nation . The spread of mass media in the 20th century has given popular culture a high priority in German society. The spread of the Internet in the 21st century has led to a differentiation of the cultural landscape and changed the various niche cultures in their characteristics.

    The Goethe Institutes serve to spread the German language and culture around the world . With a total of 158 locations, including liaison offices, the institute was represented in 93 countries in 2013. According to a survey in 22 countries for the BBC in 2013, Germany enjoyed the highest international reputation among 16 countries examined for the sixth time in a row since 2008. On average, 59 percent of those surveyed rated Germany's influence and political activity as positive, 15 percent had a negative image.

    The Babelsberg film studio in Potsdam near Berlin is one of the most traditional and renowned film
    studios in the world.

    For special areas of German culture see

    For fine arts, games and sports in Germany, see Culture of Germany .


    In Germany, 352 newspapers , 27 weekly newspapers , 7 Sunday newspapers , 2,450 general- interest and 3,753 specialist magazines are published regularly. The large corporations Axel Springer SE , Bauer Media Group , Bertelsmann , Hubert Burda Media and the Funke Mediengruppe publish some of this media . There are 18 news agencies, of which the German Press Agency (dpa) and the RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND) are the most important. The national daily newspapers with the highest circulation (as of 2020) are the Bild (1.27 million editions), the Süddeutsche Zeitung (0.3 million editions), the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (0.2 million editions) and the Handelsblatt (Edition 0.14 million). The weekly newspaper with the highest circulation by far is Die Zeit (edition 0.55 million). There are also political magazines such as Der Spiegel and popular magazines such as Stern and Focus .

    On television there are public broadcasters such as ARD and ZDF and privately financed full programs, especially RTL , Sat.1 , Pro7 , RTL Zwei , Kabel eins and VOX . Many regional broadcasters and special interest programs have been added in recent years.

    Broadcasting in Germany is organized in two ways and, above all, regionally shaped. It is divided into public radio, which is financed by the radio license fee, and private radio providers, who obtain their income mainly from advertising. At the end of 2016, well over 300 broadcasters were registered, including around 290 commercial and more than 60 public broadcasting programs on ARD , mostly broadcast via VHF , but increasingly also via DAB . Two judgments of the Federal Constitutional Court from 1981 and 1986, which laid down the organization and the framework conditions, are of great importance for the development.

    The online media used most frequently are Spiegel Online (weekly reach: 15%), t-online (weekly reach: 14%) and the ARD news portals (weekly reach: 13%). Active and passive media use is around 9 hours a day (as of 2018).


    Kindergarten group in Ladenburg , Baden-Wuerttemberg

    According to the World Values ​​Survey , in Germany, which is based on the pluralistic tradition of the Enlightenment , secular - rational values ​​and personal self-development are valued. In the areas of education, work-life balance, employment, the environment, social relationships, housing, security and subjective well-being, the population cites satisfaction levels above the average of the developed industrial nations and is only below that for health. Overall, Germany was 7 out of 10 points on the OECD Better Life Index in 2015, above the OECD average (6.5; Greece 5.5, Switzerland 7.6).

    In the World Happiness Report 2018, the UN Germany was ranked 15 of 156 countries.


    Germany has a long tradition of social compensation promoted by law. According to the Gini index , the country is considered a society with low income inequality in an international comparison. The German state offers its residents extensive legal rights to family support and social security. The history of social security began in the German Empire. Subsequent governments have gradually expanded them and supplemented them with additional social transfer payments, as a result of which a large part of the state budget is now spent on social issues.

    The Federal Republic of Germany is a cooperative federal state with a social market economy ( Bundesrat building in Berlin).

    For employees there is a compulsory membership in the social security , which consists of five pillars: health , accident , pension , long-term care and unemployment insurance . Basic social security is primarily financed by contributions from the insured, and deficits are compensated for by taxpayers' money.

    In 2010, 830,000 millionaires (1% of the population) in Germany had total assets of 2,191 billion euros, while around 12.4 million people (15.3% of the population) lived in relative poverty or were considered to be at risk of poverty. In 2016, 19.7 percent of the population were at risk of poverty or social exclusion (EU: 23.5%).

    Domestic transfer payments include state financial equalization , which obliges federal states with high tax revenues to give part of their income to less well-off countries so that living conditions in Germany do not diverge too far. The solidarity surcharge levied on income tax is intended to alleviate the burden of division in the new federal states.

    The General Equal Treatment Act is intended to prevent discrimination based on gender , race , ethnic origin, religion or belief , disability , age or sexual identity (such as homosexuality ).

    Bless you

    The German health care system is highly developed, as the very low infant mortality rate of around 3.5 boys and 3.0 girls per 1,000 births and a high life expectancy , which in 2016 was 78.2 years for men and 83, 1 for women. In 2015, poor men had a life expectancy of 70.1 years, wealthy men 80.9 years (women: 76.9 and 85.3 years). In 2015, a study by the OECD found that patients in Germany had short waiting times, little personal expenditure and a lot of choice. Prevention, on the other hand, could be improved, which shows a high number of diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes . The quality is shown, among other things, by the fact that a stroke is often survived. The number of hospital stays and operations is in the top group internationally, but so is the cost of medication; In 2013, health expenditure accounted for 11 percent of GDP (OECD average: just under 9%).

    The health system includes service providers such as doctors, pharmacists, nursing staff, the state ( federal , state and local governments ), health , accident, long-term care and pension insurance, the associations of statutory health insurance physicians , employers 'and employees' associations, other interest groups and patients , partly represented by associations and self-help organizations . Hospitals are often run by non-profit organizations, but are increasingly being privatized. Other care services are largely provided privately by freelancers (resident doctors and pharmacists and companies, for example in the pharmaceutical and medical technology industries). As a service provider, the state only participates in a subordinate role with health authorities, municipal hospitals and university clinics.

    The majority of the population belongs to the statutory health insurance (GKV), the contributions of which are mainly based on the income level. Family members without their own income are often included in the insurance free of charge. The entitlement to benefits is independent of the contribution amount. Around 10.8 percent of those insured had private health insurance in 2017 .


    The University of Heidelberg is the symbol of the University of Heidelberg , the oldest university , founded in 1386. It is since 2007 part of the Excellence Initiative .

    Today's German education system has its roots, among other things, in the Humboldtian educational ideal , which was once exemplary worldwide, and the Prussian educational reforms . Its design is the responsibility of the federal states (“ cultural sovereignty ”), but is coordinated by nationwide conferences of the ministers of education , which also set common educational standards . Depending on the federal state, there are pre-school periods and there is a nine to thirteen year school attendance . Attending general education schools lasts at least nine years. After that, secondary schools or vocational schools can be attended. Most of the German federal states have a structured school system with Hauptschule , Realschule and Gymnasium , but there are tendencies towards more comprehensive schools and all-day schools . The higher education entrance qualification is acquired after twelve or thirteen years of school, depending on the federal state.

    Virtually all young adults attend secondary education after school. Apprentices in companies usually attend vocational school one or two days a week , which is known worldwide as a successful dual training model . The academic equivalent is the dual study program . Students can choose between university and application-oriented universities ( technical colleges ). The quota of university graduates has risen steadily since the 1970s.

    Professional training also plays a major role. The Federal Employment Agency provides training vouchers for the unemployed . Before their vocational training, young people can also complete so-called voluntary services, such as a voluntary social year or a voluntary ecological year . Other popular transition activities are voluntary military service and stays abroad, for example in the form of work & travel or youth exchanges .

    When it comes to school performance examinations, Germany often scores only mediocre or even below average in a global comparison. Germany was able to improve in the last PISA studies : In the 2015 PISA ranking, German students achieved 16th place out of 72 in mathematics, 15th place in natural sciences and 10th place in reading comprehension. The performance of German students was above the OECD average in all three categories . However, in the PISA studies, the OECD criticizes German education policy , since the school successes of children with socially disadvantaged or educationally disadvantaged parents and with a migrant background in particular are below average. Contrary to the reform efforts of the last decades, it is statistically significantly less likely that working-class children will achieve the Abitur (general higher education entrance qualification) or a university degree than children from the middle or upper classes . In addition, there would be a lack of individual differentiation and support for both high-performing and low-performing students. Spending on education (4.6% of gross domestic product) is below the OECD average. The school support for primary school age is considered to be in need of improvement, especially with regard to childcare options and targeted support for weaker pupils.

    In 2011, around 2.3 million (4%) of the working age population were considered fully and 7.5 million functionally illiterate .


    Albert Einstein (1921), physicist and Nobel Prize carrier

    Germany is an internationally important technology and science location. German-speaking researchers have been instrumental in establishing empirical sciences since the industrial revolution. In particular, the economic performance of various industries and the transfer of knowledge into practice were driven by the creative work of engineers. Around 8 percent of all patents registered under the PCT worldwide in 2016 came from Germany; this put Germany in fourth place behind the USA, Japan and China.

    In Germany universities , technical universities and technical colleges are institutions for research and scientific teaching. The (technical) universities are entitled to doctoral and habilitation procedures . Both procedures should prove education and contain scientific knowledge. With the introduction of international qualifications as part of the Bologna Process , the previous separation of qualifications between technical colleges and universities is being weakened in the academic education sector . Individual higher education institutions do not provide training in the tertiary education sector at all, but are set up for postgraduate education or exclusively for doctorates and habilitation. Most German universities are publicly funded, but their research is financed through third-party funds ( German Research Foundation , foundations , companies and others).

    In addition to the universities, there are a large number of research organizations that are active throughout Germany and beyond. In Germany, on the one hand, a system of division of labor among the universities and, on the other hand, a system between universities and non-university research institutions was created. The Max Planck Society is committed to basic research . It runs 79 institutes in Germany and has an annual budget of 1.8 billion euros. The Helmholtz Association is the largest scientific society in Germany and operates 15 so-called large-scale research centers that work interdisciplinary on scientific complexes. The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is the largest organization for applied research . It takes up the results of basic research in its 56 institutes and tries to develop them economically. It provides the economy with the service of contract research. It achieved worldwide fame through the development of the MP3 audio format. It is one of the most important patent applicants and owners in Germany. The Leibniz Association is an association of independent research institutions that work in both basic and applied research.

    European Space Flight Control Center (ESOC), ESA control room in Darmstadt . Germany makes the largest contribution to the European space program .

    In 2017, a steadily increasing budget of over 54 billion euros in federal and state funding was distributed to universities and colleges in Germany. Non-university institutes such as the Fraunhofer Society, Helmholtz Association, Leibniz Association, Max Planck Society and the Academies of Sciences received a further 10 billion euros.

    Numerous researchers from all areas of modern science come from Germany. More than 100 Nobel Prize winners are assigned to the country. With their theories, Albert Einstein and Max Planck established important pillars of theoretical physics on which Werner Heisenberg and Max Born , for example , were able to build on. Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen , the first Nobel laureate in physics, discovered and examined the X-rays named after him , which still play an important role in medical diagnostics and materials testing, among other things. Heinrich Hertz wrote important works on electromagnetic radiation, which are decisive for today's telecommunications technology . The developments by Karl von Drais , Nikolaus Otto , Rudolf Diesel , Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz have revolutionized transport, and the Bunsen burners and zeppelins named after their inventors are well-known around the world. The German Aerospace made decisive pioneering work in the field of space travel and space research and has today with the German Center for Aerospace (DLR) is a powerful space agency, also Germany is the most to the European Space Agency contributing (ESA) member country.

    Chemical research was influenced by, among others, Carl Wilhelm Scheele , Otto Hahn and Justus von Liebig . With their successful inventions, names such as Johannes Gutenberg , Werner von Siemens , Wernher von Braun , Konrad Zuse and Philipp Reis are part of the general technological education. Many important mathematicians were born in Germany, such as Adam Ries , Friedrich Bessel , Richard Dedekind , Carl Friedrich Gauß , David Hilbert , Emmy Noether , Bernhard Riemann , Karl Weierstraß and Johannes Müller (Regiomontanus) . Other important German researchers and scientists are the astronomer Johannes Kepler , the archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann , the biologist Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard , the polymath Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz , the natural scientist Alexander von Humboldt , the religious researcher Max Müller , the historian Theodor Mommsen , and the sociologist Max Weber and the medical researcher Robert Koch .

    See also

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    Coordinates: 51 °  N , 10 °  E