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After Germany was united by Otto von Bismarck into the "Second German Reich", he determined German politics until 1890. Bismarck tried to foster alliances in Europe, on one hand to contain France, and on the other hand to consolidate Germany's influence in Europe. Sony VAIO VGN-CR305E/RC Battery

On the domestic front Bismarck tried to stem the rise of socialism by anti-socialist laws, combined with an introduction of health care and social security. At the same time Bismarck tried to reduce the political influence of the emancipated Catholic minority in the Kulturkampf, literally "culture struggle". Sony VAIO VGN-CR31S/D Battery

The Catholics only grew stronger, forming the Center (Zentrum) Party. Germany grew rapidly in industrial and economic power, matching Britain by 1900. Its highly professional army was the best in the world, but the navy could never catch up with Britain's Royal Navy.

In 1888, the young and ambitious Kaiser Wilhelm II became emperor. Sony VAIO VGN-CR323/W Battery

He could not abide advice, least of all from the most experienced politician and diplomat in Europe, so he fired Bismarck. The Kaiser opposed Bismarck's careful foreign policy and wanted Germany to pursue colonialist policies, as Britain and France had been doing for decades, as well as build a navy that could match the British. Sony VAIO VGN-CR33 Battery

The Kaiser promoted active colonization of Africa and Asia for those areas that were not already colonies of other European powers; his record was notoriously brutal and set the stage for genocide. The Kaiser took a mostly unilateral approach in Europe with as main ally the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Sony VAIO VGN-CR382 Battery

and an arms race with Britain, which eventually led to the situation in which the assassination of the Austrian-Hungarian crown prince could spark off World War I.

Age of Bismarck

Disputes between France and Prussia increased. In 1868, the Spanish queen Isabella II was expelled by a revolution, leaving that country's throne vacant. Sony VAIO VGN-CR490EBL Battery

When Prussia tried to put a Hohenzollern candidate, Prince Leopold, on the Spanish throne, the French angrily protested. In July 1870, France declared war on Prussia (the Franco-Prussian War). The debacle was swift. A succession of German victories in northeastern France followed, and one French army was besieged at Metz. Sony VAIO VGN-CR490EBN Battery

After a few weeks, the main army was finally forced to capitulate in the fortress of Sedan. French Emperor Napoleon III was taken prisoner and a republic hastily proclaimed in Paris. The new government, realising that a victorious Germany would demand territorial acquisitions, resolved to fight on. Sony VAIO VGN-CR490EBP Battery

They began to muster new armies, and the Germans settled down to a grim siege of Paris. The starving city surrendered in January 1871, and the Prussian army staged a victory parade in it. France was forced to pay indemnities of 5 billion francs and cede Alsace-Lorraine. It was a bitter peace that would leave the French thirsting for revenge. Sony VAIO VGN-CR490EBR Battery

During the Siege of Paris, the German princes assembled in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles and proclaimed the Prussian King Wilhelm I as the "German Emperor" on 18 January 1871. The German Empire was thus founded, with 25 states, three of which were Hanseatic free cities, and Bismarck, again, served as Chancellor. Sony VAIO VGN-CR490EBT Battery

It was dubbed the "Little German" solution, since Austria was not included. The new empire was characterised by a great enthusiasm and vigor. There was a rash of heroic artwork in imitation of Greek and Roman styles, and the nation possessed a vigorous, growing industrial economy, while it had always been rather poor in the past. Sony VAIO VGN-CR490EBW Battery

The change from the slower, more tranquil order of the old Germany was very sudden, and many, especially the nobility, resented being displaced by the new rich. And yet, the nobles clung stubbornly to power, and they, not the bourgeois, continued to be the model that everyone wanted to imitate. Sony VAIO VGN-CR50B/W Battery

In imperial Germany, possessing a collection of medals or wearing a uniform was valued more than the size of one's bank account, and Berlin never became a great cultural center as London, Paris, or Vienna were. The empire was distinctly authoritarian in tone, as the 1871 constitution gave the emperor exclusive power to appoint or dismiss the chancellor. Sony VAIO VGN-CR51B/W Battery

He also was supreme commander-in-chief of the armed forces and final arbiter of foreign policy. But freedom of speech, association, and religion were nonetheless guaranteed by the constitution.Bismarck's domestic policies as Chancellor of Germany were characterised by his fight against perceived enemies of the Protestant Prussian state. Sony VAIO VGN-CR520E/J Battery

In the so-called Kulturkampf (1872–1878), he tried to limit the influence of the Roman Catholic Church and of its political arm, the Catholic Centre Party, through various measures—like the introduction of civil marriage—but without much success. The Kulturkampf antagonised many Protestants as well as Catholics, Sony VAIO VGN-CR52B/W Battery

and was eventually abandoned. Millions of non-Germans subjects in the German Empire, like the Polish, Danish and French minorities, were discriminated against [3][4]and a policy of Germanisation was implemented. Sony VAIO VGN-CR590EBL Battery


Germany's middle-class, based in the cities, grew exponentially, although it never gained the political power it had in France, Britain or the United States. The Association of German Women's Organizations (BDF) was established in 1894 to encompass the proliferating women's organizations that had sprung up since the 1860s. Sony VAIO VGN-CR590EBN Battery

From the beginning the BDF was a bourgeois organization, its members working toward equality with men in such areas as education, financial opportunities, and political life. Working-class women were not welcome; they were organized by the Socialists.[70]

The rise of the Socialist Workers' Party (later known as the Social Democratic Party of Germany, SPD), Sony VAIO VGN-CR590EBP Battery

declared its aim to establish Peacefully a new socialist order through the transformation of existing political and social conditions. From 1878, Bismarck tried to repress the social democratic movement by outlawing the party's organisation, its assemblies and most of its newspapers. Sony VAIO VGN-CR590EBR Battery

When it finally was allowed to run candidates the Social Democrats were stronger than ever.[71]

Bismark built on a tradition of welfare programs in Prussia and Saxony that began as early as in the 1840s. Sony VAIO VGN-CR590EBT Battery

In the 1880s he introduced old age pensions, accident insurance, medical care and unemployment insurance that formed the basis of the modern European welfare state. His paternalistic programs won the support of German industry because its goals were to win the support of the working classes for Sony VAIO VGN-CR590EBW Battery

the Empire and reduce the outflow of immigrants to America, where wages were higher but welfare did not exist.[72] Bismarck further won the support of both industry and skilled workers by his high tariff policies, which protected profits and wages from American competition, although they alienated the liberal intellectuals who wanted free trade.[73] Sony VAIO VGN-CR60B/L Battery


In 1871–1878 Bismarck launched the "Kulturkampf" in Prussia to reduce the power of the Catholic Church in public affairs, and keep the Poles under control. Thousands of priests and bishops were harassed or imprisoned, with large fines and closures of Catholic churches and schools. Sony VAIO VGN-CR60B/P Battery

The Kulturkampf did not extend to the other German states such as Bavaria. Bismarck sought to appeal to liberals and Protestants but he failed because the Catholics were unanimous in their resistance and organized themselves to fight back politically, using their strength in other states besides Prussia. Sony VAIO VGN-CR60B/R Battery

German nationalists feared the Polonization of the Prussian East. Bismarck saw the Kulturkampf as a means of stopping this trend, which was led by the Catholic clergy in West Prussia, Poznania and Silesia. The Poles were subjected to harassment in the fields of education, economic activity and the administration; Sony VAIO VGN-CR61B/L Battery

German was declared to be the only official language, but in practice the Poles only adhered more closely to their traditions.[74]

There was little or no violence, but the new Catholic Center Party won a fourth of the seats in the Reichstag (Imperial Parliament),Sony VAIO VGN-CR61B/N Battery

and its middle position on most issues allowed it to play a decisive role in the formation of majorities.[75]The culture war gave secularists and socialists an opportunity to attack all religions, an outcome that distressed the Protestants, including Bismarck, who was a devout pietistic Protestant. Sony VAIO VGN-CR61B/P Battery

The Catholic anti-liberalism was led by Pope Pius IX; his death in 1878 allowed Bismarck to open negotiations with Pope Leo XIII, and led to the abandonment of the Kulturkampf in stages in the early 1880s.[76]

Foreign policy

Bismarck's post-1871 foreign policy was conservative and basically aimed at security and preventing the dreaded scenario of a Franco-Russian alliance, Sony VAIO VGN-CR61B/R Battery

which would trap Germany between the two in a war.

The Three Emperor's League (Dreikaisersbund) was signed in 1872 by Russia, Austria and Germany. It stated that republicanism and socialism were common enemies and that the three powers would discuss any matters concerning foreign policy. Bismarck needed good relations with Russia in order to keep France isolated. Sony VAIO VGN-CR62B/L Battery

In 1877–1878, Russia fought a victorious war with the Ottoman Empire and attempted to impose the Treaty of San Stefano on it. This upset the British in particular, as they were long concerned with preserving the Ottoman Empire and preventing a Russian takeover of the Bosporous Straits. Sony VAIO VGN-CR62B/N Battery

Germany hosted the Congress of Berlin, whereby a more moderate peace settlement was agreed to. Afterwards, Russia turned its attention eastward to Asia and remained largely inactive in European politics for the next 25 years. Germany had no direct interest in the Balkans however, Sony VAIO VGN-CR62B/P Battery

which was largely an Austrian and Russian sphere of influence, although King Carol of Romania was a German prince.

In 1879, Bismarck formed a Dual Alliance of Germany and Austria-Hungary, with the aim of mutual military assistance in the case of an attack from Russia, Sony VAIO VGN-CR62B/R Battery

which was not satisfied with the agreement reached at the Congress of Berlin. The establishment of the Dual Alliance led Russia to take a more conciliatory stance, and in 1887, the so-called Reinsurance Treaty was signed between Germany and Russia: in it, the two powers agreed on mutual military support in the case that France attacked Germany, Sony VAIO VGN-CR70B/W Battery

or in case of an Austrian attack on Russia. In 1882, Italy joined the Dual Alliance to form a Triple Alliance. Italy wanted to defend its interests in North Africa against France's colonial policy. In return for German and Austrian support, Italy committed itself to assisting Germany in the case of a French military attack.[77] Sony VAIO VGN-CR71B/W Battery

For a long time, Bismarck had refused to give in widespread public demands to give Germany "a place in the sun", through the acquisition of overseas colonies. In 1880 Bismarck gave way, and a number of colonies were established overseas: in Africa, these were Togo, the Cameroons, German South-West Africa and German East Africa; Sony VAIO VGN-CR72B/W Battery

in Oceania, they were German New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago and the Marshall Islands. In fact, it was Bismarck himself who helped initiate the Berlin Conference of 1885. He did it to "establish international guidelines for the acquisition of African territory," (see Colonisation of Africa). Sony VAIO VGN-CR90HS Battery

This conference was an impetus for the "Scramble for Africa" and "New Imperialism".[78]

Bismarck dismissed by new Kaiser

In 1888, the old emperor William I died at the age of 90. His son Frederick III, the hope of German liberals, succeeded him, but was already stricken with throat cancer and died three months later. Frederick's son William II then became emperor at the age of 29. Sony VAIO VGN-CR90NS Battery

He was the antithesis of old, conservative Germans like Bismarck, addicted to the new imperialism that was taking place in Asia and Africa. He sought to make Germany a great world power with a navy to rival Britain's. Bismarck hoped to marginalise him just as he had marginalised his grandfather, but William II desired to be his own master. Sony VAIO VGN-CR90S Battery

Having a left arm withered by childhood polio, he was painfully insecure and desired above all to be loved by the people. Bismarck's schemes to dominate the emperor and hold onto his own power failed, and he was forced to resign in March 1890.

The young Kaiser sought aggressively to increasing Germany's influence in the world (Weltpolitik). Sony VAIO VGN-CR92HS Battery

After the removal of Bismarck, foreign policy was in the hands of the erratic Kaiser, who played an increasingly reckless hand,[79] and the powerful foreign office, under the leadership of Friedrich von Holstein.[80] The foreign office argued that long-term coalition between France and Russia had to fall apart, secondly Russia and Britain would never get together; Sony VAIO VGN-CR92NS Battery

finally that Britain would eventually seek an alliance with Germany. Germany refused to renew its treaties with Russia. But Russia did form a closer relationship with France by the Dual Alliance of 1894, since both were worried about the possibilities of German aggression. Sony VAIO VGN-CR92S Battery

Furthermore, Anglo German relations cooled as Germany aggressively tried to build a new empire and engaged in a naval race with Britain; London refused to agree to the formal alliance that Germany sought. Berlin's analysis proved mistaken on every point, leading to Germany's increasing isolation and its dependence on the Triple Alliance, Sony VAIO VGN-G118CN Battery

which brought together Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy. The Triple Alliance was undermined by differences between Austria and Italy, and in 1915 Italy switched sides.[81]

Meanwhile the German Navy under Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz had ambitions to rival the great British Navy, Sony VAIO VGN-G118GN/B Battery

and dramatically expanded its fleet in the early 20th century to protect the colonies and exert power worldwide.[82] Tirpitz started a programme of warship construction in 1898. In 1890, Germany had gained the island of Heligoland in the North Sea from Britain in exchange for the African island of Zanzibar and proceeded to construct a great naval base there. Sony VAIO VGN-G118GN/T Battery

This posed a direct threat to British hegemony on the seas, with the result that negotiations for an alliance between Germany and Britain broke down. The British however kept well ahead in the naval race by the introduction of the highly advanced new Dreadnought battleship in 1907.[83] Sony VAIO VGN-G118TN/B Battery

In the First Moroccan Crisis of 1905, Germany nearly came to blows with Britain and France when the latter attempted to establish a protectorate over Morocco. The Germans were upset at having not been informed about French intentions, and declared their support for Moroccan independence. Sony VAIO VGN-G118TN/S Battery

William II made a highly provocative speech regarding this. The following year, a conference was held in which all of the European powers except Austria-Hungary (by now little more than a German satellite) sided with France. A compromise was brokered by the United States where the French relinquished some, but not all, control over Morocco.[84] Sony VAIO VGN-G11VN/T Battery

The Second Moroccan Crisis of 1911 saw another dispute over Morocco erupt when France tried to suppress a revolt there. Germany, still smarting from the previous quarrel, agreed to a settlement whereby the French ceded some territory in central Africa in exchange for Germany renouncing any right to intervene in Moroccan affairs. Sony VAIO VGN-G11VN/TC Battery

This confirmed French control over Morocco, which became a full protectorate of that country in 1912.


The economy continued to industrialize and urbanize, with heavy industry (coal and steel especially) becoming important in the Ruhr, and manufacturing growing in the cities, the Ruhr, and Silesia. Sony VAIO VGN-G11XN/B Battery

Perkins (1981) argues that more important than Bismarck's new tariff on imported grain was the introduction of the sugar beet as a main crop. Farmers quickly abandoned traditional, inefficient practices for modern new methods, including use of new fertilizers and new tools. Sony VAIO VGN-G1AAPS Battery

The knowledge and tools gained from the intensive farming of sugar and other root crops made Germany the most efficient agricultural producer in Europe by 1914. Even so farms were small in size, and women did much of the field work. An unintended consequence was the increased dependence on migratory, especially foreign, labor. Sony VAIO VGN-G1AAPSA Battery

Based on its leadership in chemical research in the universities and industrial laboratories, Germany became dominant in the world's chemical industry in the late 19th century. At first the production of dyes was critical.[86]

Germany became Europe's leading steel-producing nation in the 1890s thanks in large part to the protection from American and British competition afforded by tariffs and cartels. Sony VAIO VGN-G1AAPSB Battery

The leading firm was "Friedrich Krupp AG Hoesch-Krupp" run by the Krupp family[88] The merger of several major firms into the Vereinigte Stahlwerke (United Steel Works) in 1926 was modeled on the U.S. Steel corporation in the U.S. The new company emphasized rationalization of management structures and modernization of the technology; Sony VAIO VGN-G1AAPSC Battery

it employed a multi-divisional structure and used return-on-investment as its measure of success. By 1913 American and German exports dominated the world steel market, as Britain slipped to third place.[89]

In machinery, iron and steel and other industries, German firms avoided cut-throat competition and instead relied on trade associations. Sony VAIO VGN-G1ABNS Battery

Germany was a world leader because of its prevailing "corporatist mentality", its strong bureaucratic tradition, and the encouragement of the government. These associations regulate competition and allowed small firms to function in the shadow of much larger companies.[90]


In the course of ongoing imperialistic aspirations in all European great powers, a general tendency towards colonial imperialism also existed in the German states since ca. Sony VAIO VGN-G1KAP Battery

1848. As part of the "Weltpolitik" (global policy), the German Empire demanded its "Platz an der Sonne" (Place in the sun).[91] Bismark began the process, and by 1884 had acquired German New Guinea.[92] By the 1890s, German colonial expansion in Asia and the Pacific (Kiauchau in China, the Marianas, the Caroline Islands, Samoa) Sony VAIO VGN-G1KBN Battery

led to frictions with Britain, Russia, Japan and the United States. The construction of the Baghdad Railway, financed by German banks, was designed to eventually connect Germany with the Turkish Empire and the Persian Gulf, but it also collided with British and Russian geopolitical interests. Sony VAIO VGN-G1KBNA Battery

The largest colonial enterprises were in Africa,[93] where the harsh treatment of the Nama and Herero in what is now Namibia in 1906–07 led to charges of genocide against the Germans.[94]

World War I

Ethnic demands for nation states upset the balance between the empires that dominated Europe, leading to World War I, which started in August 1914. Sony VAIO VGN-G1LAP Battery

Germany stood behind its ally Austria in a confrontation with Serbia, but Serbia was under the protection of Russia, which was allied to France. Germany was the leader of the Central Powers, which included Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and later Bulgaria, arrayed against the Allies, which comprised chiefly Russia, France, Britain, and in 1915 Italy. Sony VAIO VGN-G1LBN Battery

The United States joined with the Allies in April 1917. Fighting was most ferocious on the stalemated Western Front. More wide open was the fighting on the Eastern Front, which Germany controlled by 1917 as Russia was forced out of the war.

British security issues

In explaining why neutral Britain went to war with Germany, Sony VAIO VGN-G218LN/T Battery

Kennedy (1980) recognized it was critical for war that Germany become economically more powerful than Britain, but he downplays the disputes over economic trade imperialism, the Baghdad Railway, confrontations in Central and Eastern Europe, high-charged political rhetoric and domestic pressure-groups. Sony VAIO VGN-G218N/B Battery

Germany's reliance time and again on sheer power, while Britain increasingly appealed to moral sensibilities, played a role, especially in seeing the invasion of Belgium as a necessary military tactic or a profound moral crime. The German invasion of Belgium was not important because the British decision had already been made and the British were more concerned with the fate of France (pp. 457–62). Sony VAIO VGN-G21XP/B Battery

Kennedy argues that by far the main reason was London's fear that a repeat of 1870—when Prussia and the German states smashed France—would mean Germany, with a powerful army and navy, would control the English Channel, and northwest France. British policy makers insisted that would be a catastrophe for British security.[95] Sony VAIO VGN-G2AANS Battery

Western Front

In the west, Germany sought a quick victory by encircling Paris using the Schlieffen Plan. But it failed due to Belgian resistance, Berlin's diversion of troops, and very stiff French resistance on the Marne, north of Paris. Sony VAIO VGN-G2AAPS Battery

The Western Front became an extremely bloody battleground until early 1918, with forces moving a few hundred yards at best. In the east there were decisive victories against the Russian army, the trapping and defeat of large parts of the Russian contingent at the Battle of Tannenberg, Sony VAIO VGN-G2AAPSA Battery

followed by huge Austrian and German successes led to a breakdown of Russian forces in 1917 and an imposed peace on the newly created USSR under Lenin. The British imposed a tight naval blockade in the North Sea which lasted until 1919, sharply reducing Germany's overseas access to raw materials and foodstuffs. Sony VAIO VGN-G2AAPSB Battery

Food scarcity became a serious problem by 1917.[96] The entry of the United States into the war in 1917 following Germany's declaration of unrestricted submarine warfare marked a decisive turning-point against Germany.[97]


By defeating Russia in 1917 Germany was able to bring hundreds of thousands of combat troops from the east to the Western Front, giving it a numerical advantage over the Allies. Sony VAIO VGN-G2AAPSC Battery

By retraining the soldiers in new storm-trooper tactics, the Germans expected to unfreeze the Battlefield and win a decisive victory before the American army arrived in strength.[98] However, the spring offensives all failed, as the Allies fell back and regrouped, and the Germans lacked the reserves necessary to consolidate their gains. Sony VAIO VGN-G2KAN Battery

In the summer, with the Americans arriving at 10,000 a day, and the German reserves exhausted, it was only a matter of time before multiple Allied offenses destroyed the German army.

Meanwhile, conditions deteriorated rapidly on the home front, with severe food shortages reported in all urban areas. Sony VAIO VGN-G2KANA Battery

The causes involved the transfer of so many farmers and food workers into the military, combined with the overburdened railroad system, shortages of coal, and the British blockade that cut off imports from abroad. The winter of 1916–1917 was known as the "turnip winter," Sony VAIO VGN-G2KBNA Battery

because that vegetable, usually fed to livestock, was used by people as a substitute for potatoes and meat, which were increasingly scarce. Thousands of soup kitchens were opened to feed the hungry people, who grumbled that the farmers were keeping the food for themselves. Even the army had to cut the rations for soldiers. Sony VAIO VGN-NR160E/S Battery

Morale of both civilians and soldiers continued to sink.

The end of October 1918, in Kiel, in northern Germany, saw the beginning of the German Revolution of 1918–19. Units of the German Navy refused to set sail for a last, large-scale operation in a war which they saw as good as lost, initiating the uprising.Sony VAIO VGN-NR160E/T Battery

On 3 November, the revolt spread to other cities and states of the country, in many of which workers' and soldiers' councils were established. Meanwhile, Hindenburg and the senior commanders had lost confidence in the Kaiser and his government.

The Kaiser and all German ruling princes abdicated. On 9 November 1918, the Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed a Republic. Sony VAIO VGN-NR160E/W Battery

On 11 November, the Compiègne armistice ending the war was signed. In accordance with the Social Democratic government by early 1919 the revolution was violently put down with the aid of the nascent Reichswehr and the Freikorps.[101]

1918 was also the year of the deadly 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic which struck hard at a population weakened by years of malnutrition. Sony VAIO VGN-NR180E/S Battery

Weimar Republic

On 28 June 1919 the Treaty of Versailles was signed. Germany was to cede Alsace-Lorraine, Eupen-Malmédy, North Schleswig, and theMemel area. All German colonies were to be handed over to the British and French. Sony VAIO VGN-NR180E/T Battery

Poland was restored and most of the provinces ofPosen and West Prussia, and some areas of Upper Silesia were reincorporated into the reformed country after plebiscites and independence uprisings. The left and right banks of the Rhine were to be permanently demilitarised. Sony VAIO VGN-NR290E/S Battery

The industrially importantSaarland was to be governed by the League of Nations for 15 years and its coalfields administered by France. At the end of that time a plebiscite was to determine the Saar's future status. To ensure execution of the treaty's terms, Allied troops would occupy the left (German) bank of the Rhine for a period of 5–15 years. Sony VAIO VGN-NR290E/T Battery

The German army was to be limited to 100,000 officers and men; the general staff was to be dissolved; vast quantities of war material were to be handed over and the manufacture of munitions rigidly curtailed. The navy was to be similarly reduced, and no military aircraft were allowed. Sony VAIO VGN-NR298E/S Battery

Germany and its allies were to accept the sole responsibility of the war, in accordance with the War Guilt Clause, and were to pay financial reparations for all loss and damage suffered by the Allies.

The humiliating peace terms provoked bitter indignation throughout Germany, and seriously weakened the new democratic regime. Sony VAIO VGN-NR460E/L Battery

The greatest enemies of democracy had already been constituted. In December 1918, the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) was founded, and in 1919 it tried and failed to overthrow the new republic. Adolf Hitler in 1919 took control of the new National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP), which failed in a coup in Munich in 1923. Sony VAIO VGN-NR460E/P Battery

Both parties, as well as parties supporting the republic, built militant auxiliaries that engaged in increasingly violent street battles; in both cases electoral support increased after 1929 as the Great Depression hit the economy hard, producing many unemployed men who became available for the paramilitary units. Sony VAIO VGN-NR498E/L Battery

The Nazis, with a mostly rural and lower middle class base, overthrew the Weimar regime and rules 1933–1945; the KPD with a mostly urban and working class base came to power (in the East) in 1945–1989. On 11 August 1919 the Weimar constitution came into effect, with Friedrich Ebert as first President. Sony VAIO VGN-NR498E/S Battery

On 30 December 1918, the Communist Party of Germany was founded by the Spartacus League, who had split from the Social Democratic Party during the war. It was headed by Rosa Luxemburgand Karl Liebknecht, and rejected the parliamentary system.Sony VAIO VGN-NR498E/T Battery

In 1920, about 300,000 members from the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany joined the party, transforming it into a mass organization. The Communist Party had a following of about 10 % of the electorate.[103]

In the first months of 1920, the Reichswehr was to be reduced to 100,000 men, in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles. Sony VAIO VGN-NR498E/W Battery

This included the dissolution of many Freikorps – units made up of volunteers. In an attempt at a coup d'état in March 1920, the Kapp Putsch, extreme right-wing politician Wolfgang Kapp let Freikorps soldiers march on Berlin and proclaimed himself Chancellor of the Reich. Sony VAIO VGN-NR50 Battery

After four days the coup d'état collapsed, due to popular opposition and lack of support by the civil servants and the officers. Other cities were shaken by strikes and rebellions, which were bloodily suppressed.

Faced with animosity from Britain and France and the retreat of American power from Europe, Sony VAIO VGN-NR50B Battery

in 1922 Germany was the first state to establish diplomatic relations with the new Soviet Union. Under the Treaty of Rapallo, Germany accorded the Soviet Union de jure recognition, and the two signatories mutually cancelled all pre-war debts and renounced war claims. Sony VAIO VGN-NR51 Battery

When Germany defaulted on its reparation payments, French and Belgian troops occupied the heavily industrialised Ruhr district (January 1923). The German government encouraged the population of the Ruhr to passive resistance: shops would not sell goods to the foreign soldiers, Sony VAIO VGN-NR51B Battery

coal-mines would not dig for the foreign troops, trams in which members of the occupation army had taken seat would be left abandoned in the middle of the street. The passive resistance proved effective, insofar as the occupation became a loss-making deal for the French government. Sony VAIO VGN-NR52 Battery

But the Ruhr fight also led to hyperinflation, and many who lost all their fortune would become bitter enemies of the Weimar Republic, and voters of the anti-democratic right. See 1920s German inflation.

In September 1923, the deteriorating economic conditions led Chancellor Gustav Stresemann to call an end to the passive resistance in the Ruhr. Sony VAIO VGN-NR52B Battery

In November, his government introduced a new currency, theRentenmark (later: Reichsmark), together with other measures to stop the hyperinflation. In the following six years the economic situation improved. In 1928, Germany's industrial production even regained the pre-war levels of 1913. Sony VAIO VGN-NR71B Battery

The national elections of 1924 led to a swing to the right. Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg waselected President in 1925.

In October 1925 the Treaty of Locarno was signed by Germany, France, Belgium, Britain and Italy; it recognised Germany's borders with France and Belgium. Sony VAIO VGN-NR71B2 Battery

Moreover, Britain, Italy and Belgium undertook to assist France in the case that German troops marched into the demilitarised Rheinland. Locarno paved the way for Germany's admission to the League of Nations in 1926.

The stock market crash of 1929 on Wall Street marked the beginning of the worldwide Great Depression, Sony VAIO VGN-NR72B Battery

which hit Germany as hard as any nation. In July 1931, the Darmstätter und Nationalbank – one of the biggest German banks – failed, and, in early 1932, the number of unemployed soared to more than 6,000,000.

On top of the collapsing economy came a political crisis due to the inabilitySony VAIO VGN-NS10E/S Battery

by the political parties represented in the Reichstag to build a governing majority in the facing of escalating extremism from the far right (the Nazis) and the far left (the Communists). In March 1930, President Hindenburg appointed Heinrich Brüning Chancellor. To push through his package of austerity measures against a majority of Social Democrats, Sony VAIO VGN-NS10J/S Battery

Communists and the NSDAP (Nazis), Brüning made use of emergency decrees and dissolved Parliament. In March and April 1932, Hindenburg was re-elected in the German presidential election of 1932.

The NSDAP was the largest party in the national elections of 1932. Sony VAIO VGN-NS10L/S Battery

On 31 July 1932 the NSDAP had received 37.3% of the votes, and in the election on 6 November 1932 it received less, but still the largest share, 33.1, making it the biggest party in the Reichstag. The Communist KPD came third, with 15%. Together, the anti-democratic parties of far right and far left were now able to hold the majority of seats in Parliament, Sony VAIO VGN-NS110E/L Battery

but they were at sword's point with each other, fighting it out in the streets. The NSDAP was particularly successful among Protestants; among unemployed young voters; among the petite bourgeoisie (lower middle class) which had lost its assets in the hyperinflation of 1923; and among the rural population. Sony VAIO VGN-NS110E/S Battery

It was weakest in Catholic areas and in large cities. On 30 January 1933, pressured by former Chancellor Franz von Papen and other conservatives, President Hindenburg appointed Hitler Chancellor.

Science and culture

The Weimar years saw a flowering of German science and high culture, Sony VAIO VGN-NS110E/W Battery

before the Nazi regime resulted in a decline in the scientific and cultural life in Germany and forced many renowned scientists and writers to flee. German recipients dominated the Nobel prizes in science.[104] Germany dominated the world of physics before 1933, led by Hermann von Helmholtz, Sony VAIO VGN-NS115N/S Battery

Joseph von Fraunhofer, Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, Albert Einstein, Max Planck and Werner Heisenberg. Chemistry likewise was dominated by German professors and researchers at the great chemical companies such as BASF and Bayer and persons like Fritz Haber. Sony VAIO VGN-NS11ER/S Battery

Theoretical mathematicians included Carl Friedrich Gauss in the 19th century and David Hilbert in the 20th century. Carl Benz, the inventor of the automobile, was one of the pivotal figures of engineering.

Among the most important German writers were Thomas Mann (1875–1955), Sony VAIO VGN-NS11E/S Battery

Hermann Hesse (1877–1962) and Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956). The pessimistic historianOswald Spengler wrote The Decline of the West (198–23) on the inevitable decay of Western Civilization, and influenced intellectuals in Germany such as Martin Heidegger, Max Scheler, and the Frankfurt School, as well as intellectuals around the world.[105] Sony VAIO VGN-NS11J/S Battery

After 1933, Nazi proponents of "Aryan physics," led by the Nobel Prize-winners Johannes Stark and Philipp Lenard, attacked Einstein's theory of relativity as a degenerate example of Jewish materialism in the realm of science. Many scientists and humanists emigrated; Einstein moved permanently to the U.S. but some of the others returned after 1945. Sony VAIO VGN-NS11L/S Battery

The Nazi regime restored economic prosperity and ended mass unemployment using heavy spending on the military, while suppressing labor unions and strikes. The return of prosperity gave the Nazi Party enormous popularity, with only minor, isolated and subsequently unsuccessful cases of resistance among the German population over the 12 years of rule. Sony VAIO VGN-NS11MR/S Battery

The Gestapo(secret police) under Heinrich Himmler destroyed the political opposition and persecuted the Jews, trying to force them into exile, while taking their property. The Party took control of the courts, local government, and all civic organizations except the Protestant and Catholic churches. Sony VAIO VGN-NS11M/S Battery

All expressions of public opinion were controlled by Hitler's propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, who made effective use of film, mass rallies, and Hitler's hypnotic speaking. The Nazi state idolized Hitler as its Führer (leader), putting all powers in his hands. Sony VAIO VGN-NS11SR/S Battery

Nazi propaganda centered on Hitler and was quite effective in creating what historians called the "Hitler Myth"--that Hitler was all-wise and that any mistakes or failures by others would be corrected when brought to his attention.[108] In fact Hitler had a narrow range of interests and decision making was diffused among overlapping, Sony VAIO VGN-NS11S/S Battery

feuding power centers; on some issues he was passive, simply assenting to pressures from whomever had his ear. All top officials reported to Hitler and followed his basic policies, but they had considerable autonomy on a daily basis.[109]

Establishment of the Nazi regime

In order to secure a majority for his NSDAP in the Reichstag, Hitler called for new elections. Sony VAIO VGN-NS11ZR/S Battery

On the evening of 27 February 1933, a fire was set in the Reichstag building. Hitler swiftly blamed an alleged Communist uprising, and convinced President Hindenburg to sign the Reichstag Fire Decree. This decree, which would remain in force until 1945, repealed important political and human rights of the Weimar constitution. Sony VAIO VGN-NS11Z/S Battery

Communist agitation was banned, but at this time not the Communist Party itself.

Eleven thousand Communists and Socialists were arrested and brought into hastily prepared concentration camps such as Kemna concentration camp, where they were at the mercy of the Gestapo, Sony VAIO VGN-NS12M/S Battery

the newly established secret police force (9,000 were found guilty and most executed). Communist Reichstag deputies were taken into protective custody (despite their constitutional privileges).

Despite the terror and unprecedented propaganda, the last free General Elections of 5 March 1933, Sony VAIO VGN-NS12M/W Battery

while resulting in 43.9% failed to bring the majority for the NSDAP that Hitler had hoped for. Together with theGerman National People's Party (DNVP), however, he was able to form a slim majority government. With accommodations to the Catholic Centre Party, Sony VAIO VGN-NS12S/S Battery

Hitler succeeded in convincing a required two-thirds of a rigged Parliament to pass the Enabling act of 1933 which gave his government full legislative power. Only the Social Democrats voted against the Act. The Enabling Act formed the basis for the dictatorship, dissolution of the Länder; Sony VAIO VGN-NS21M/P Battery

the trade unions and all political parties other than the Nazi Party were suppressed. A centralised totalitarian state was established, no longer based on the liberal Weimar constitution. Germany left the League of Nations. Sony VAIO VGN-NS21M/W Battery

The coalition parliament was rigged on this fateful 23 March 1933 by defining the absence of arrested and murdered deputies as voluntary and therefore cause for their exclusion as wilful absentees. Subsequently in July the Centre Party was voluntarily dissolved in a quid pro quo with the Pope under the anti-communistPope Pius XI for the Reichskonkordat; Sony VAIO VGN-NS21S/S Battery

and by these manoeuvres Hitler achieved movement of these Catholic voters into the Nazi party, and a long-awaited international diplomatic acceptance of his regime. It is interesting to note however that according to Professor Dick Geary the Nazis gained a larger share of their vote in Protestant than in Catholic areas of Germany in elections held between 1928 to November 1932[Sony VAIO VGN-NS21S/W Battery

The Communist Party was proscribed in April 1933. On the weekend of 30 June 1934, he gave order to the SS to seize Röhm and his lieutenants, and to execute them without trial (known as the Night of the Long Knives). Upon Hindenburg's death on 2 August 1934, Hitler's cabinet passed a law proclaiming the presidency vacant and transferred the role and powers of the head of state to Hitler as Führer und Reichskanzler (leader and chancellor). Sony VAIO VGN-NS21Z/S Battery

However, many leaders of the Nazi SA were disappointed. The Chief of Staff of the SA, Ernst Röhm, was pressin

g for the SA to be incorporated into the army. Hitler had long been at odds with Röhm and felt increasingly threatened by these plans and in the "Night of the Long Knives" in 1934 killed Röhm and the top SA leaders using their notorious homosexuality as an excuse.[111]Sony VAIO VGN-NS31M/P Battery

The SS became an independent organisation under the command of the Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler. He would become the supervisor of the Gestapo and of the concentration camps, soon also of the ordinary police. Hitler also established theWaffen-SS as a separate troop. Sony VAIO VGN-NS31M/W Battery


The regime showed particular hostility towards the Jews, which were the target of unending propaganda attacks. In 1933 all Jewish civil servants and academics were fired. In September 1935, the Reichstag passed the Nuremberg race laws. Sony VAIO VGN-NS31S/S Battery

Jews lost their German citizenship, and were banned from marrying non-Jewish Germans. About 500,000 individuals were affected by the new rules. About half of Germany's 500,000 Jews fled before 1939, after which escape became almost impossible.[112]


Hitler re-established the Luftwaffe (air force) and reintroduced universal military service. Sony VAIO VGN-NS31Z/P Battery

This was in breach of the Treaty of Versailles; Britain, France or Italy issued notes of protest. Hitler had the officers swear their personal allegiance to him.[113] In 1936 German troops marched into the demilitarised Rhineland. Britain and France did not intervene. The move strengthened Hitler's standing in Germany. Sony VAIO VGN-NS31Z/S Battery

His reputation swelled further with the 1936 Summer Olympics, which were held in the same year in Berlin, and which proved another great propaganda success for the regime as orchestrated by master propagandist Joseph Goebbels.[114]


Historians have paid special attention to the efforts by Nazi Germany to reverse the gains women made before 1933, Sony VAIO VGN-NS31Z/W Battery

especially in the relatively liberal Weimar Republic.[115] It appears the role of women in Nazi Germany changed according to circumstances. Theoretically the Nazis believed that women must be subservient to men, avoid careers, devote themselves to childbearing and child-rearing, Sony VAIO VGN-NS38M/P Battery

and be a helpmate of the traditional dominant father in the traditional family.[116] However, before 1933, women played important roles in the Nazi organization and were allowed some autonomy to mobilize other women. After Hitler came to power in 1933, the activist women were replaced by bureaucratic women who emphasized feminine virtues, Sony VAIO VGN-NS38M/W Battery

marriage, and childbirth. As Germany prepared for war, large numbers were incorporated into the public sector and with the need for full mobilization of factories by 1943, all women were required to register with the employment office. Hundreds of thousands of women served in the military as nurses, and support personnel, Sony VAIO VGN-NS130E/L Battery

and another hundred thousand served in the Luftwaffe helping to operate the anti—aircraft systems.[117] Women's wages remained unequal and women were denied positions of leadership or control.[118]

Foreign policy

Hitler's diplomatic strategy in the 1930s was to make seemingly reasonable demands, Sony VAIO VGN-NS130E/S Battery

threatening war if they were not met. When opponents tried to appease him, he accepted the gains that were offered, then went to the next target. That aggressive strategy worked as Germany pulled out of the League of Nations (1933), rejected the Versailles Treaty and began to re-arm (1935), won back the Saar (1935), remilitarized the Rhineland (1936), Sony VAIO VGN-NS130E/W Battery

formed an alliance ("axis") with Mussolini's Italy (1936), sent massive military aid to Franco in the Spanish Civil War (1936–39), seized Austria (1938), took over Czechoslovakia after the British and French appeasement of the Munich Agreement of 1938, formed a peace pact with Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union in August 1939, Sony VAIO VGN-NS140E/L Battery

and finally invaded Poland in September 1939. Britain and France declared war and World War II began – somewhat sooner than the Nazis expected or were ready for.

After establishing the "Rome-Berlin axis" with Benito Mussolini, and signing the Anti-Comintern Pact with Japan –Sony VAIO VGN-NS140E/S Battery

which was joined by Italy a year later in 1937 – Hitler felt able to take the offensive in foreign policy. On 12 March 1938, German troops marched into Austria, where an attempted Nazi coup had been unsuccessful in 1934. When Hitler entered Vienna, he was greeted by loud cheers. Sony VAIO VGN-NS140E/W Battery

Four weeks later, 99% of Austrians voted in favour of the annexation (Anschluss) of their country to the German Reich. After Austria, Hitler turned to Czechoslovakia, where the 3.5 million-strong Sudeten German minority was demanding equal rights and self-government. Sony VAIO VGN-NS190J/L Battery

At theMunich Conference of September 1938, Hitler, the Italian leader Benito Mussolini, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier agreed upon the cession of Sudeten territory to the German Reich by Czechoslovakia. Hitler thereupon declared that all of German Reich's territorial claims had been fulfilled. Sony VAIO VGN-NS190J/S Battery

However, hardly six months after the Munich Agreement, in March 1939, Hitler used the smoldering quarrel between Slovaks and Czechs as a pretext for taking over the rest of Czechoslovakia as theProtectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. In the same month, he secured the return of Memel from Lithuania to Germany. Sony VAIO VGN-NS190J/W Battery

Chamberlain was forced to acknowledge that his policy of appeasement towards Hitler had failed.

In six years, the Nazi regime prepared the country for World War II. The Nazi leadership attempted to remove or subjugate the Jewish population of Nazi Germany and later in the occupied countries through forced deportation and, Sony VAIO VGN-NS235J/L Battery

ultimately, genocidenow known as the Holocaust. A similar policy applied to the various ethnic and national groups considered subhuman such asPoles, Roma or Russians. These groups were seen as threats to the purity of Germany's Aryan race. There were also many groups, Sony VAIO VGN-NS235J/P Battery

such as homosexuals, the mentally handicapped and those who were physically challenged from birth, which were singled out as being detrimental to Aryan purity.

After annexing the Sudetenland border country of Czechoslovakia (October 1938), and taking over the rest of the Czech lands as a protectorate (March 1939), Sony VAIO VGN-NS235J/S Battery

the German Reich and the Soviet Union invaded Poland on first September 1939 predominantly as part of the Wehrmacht operation codenamed Fall Weiss. The invasion of Poland began World War II.

World War II

At first Germany's military moves were brilliantly successful, Sony VAIO VGN-NS235J/W Battery

as in the "blitzkrieg" invasions of Poland (1939), Norway(1940), the Low Countries (1940), and above all the stunningly successful invasion and quick conquest of France in 1940. Hitler probably wanted peace with Britain in late 1940, but Winston Churchill, standing alone, was dogged in his defiance. Sony VAIO VGN-NS240E/L Battery

Churchill had major financial, military, and diplomatic help from President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the U.S., another implacable foe of Hitler. Hitler's emphasis on maintaining high living standards postponed the full mobilization of the national economy until 1942, years after the great rivals Britain, Russia, and the U.S. had fully mobilized. Sony VAIO VGN-NS290J/L Battery

Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 – weeks behind schedule – but swept forward until it reached the gates of Moscow. The tide turned in December 1941 when the invasion stalled in cold weather and the United States joined the war. After losing the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942–43, the Germans were on the defensive. Sony VAIO VGN-NS290J/S Battery

By late 1944, the United States, Canada, France and Great Britain were closing in on Germany in the West, while the Soviets were closing from the East. Nazi Germany collapsed when Berlin was taken by the Red Army on 2 May 1945, after a fight to the death in the city streets. Hitler committed suicide on 30 April 1945. Sony VAIO VGN-NS50B/L Battery

Final German surrender was signed on 8 May 1945.

By September 1945, the German Reich (which lasted only 12 years) and its Axis partners (Italy and Japan) had been defeated, chiefly by the forces of the Soviet Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Sony VAIO VGN-NS50B/W Battery

Much of Europe lay in ruins, over sixty million people had been killed (most of them civilians), including approximately six million Jews and five million non-Jews in what became known as the Holocaust. World War II resulted in the destruction of Germany's political and economic infrastructure and led directly to its partition, Sony VAIO VGN-NS51B/L Battery

considerable loss of territory (especially in the east), and historical legacy of guilt and shame.

Germany during the Cold War

As a consequence of the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945 and the onset of the Cold War in 1947, the country was split between the two global blocs in the East and West, a period known as the division of Germany. Sony VAIO VGN-NS51B/P Battery

Millions of refugees from Central and Eastern Europe moved west, most of them to West Germany. Two states emerged: West Germany was a parliamentary democracy, aNATO member, a founding member of what since became the European Union and one of the world's largest economies, Sony VAIO VGN-NS51B/W Battery

while East Germany was a totalitarian Communist dictatorship that was a satellite of Moscow. With the collapse of Communism in 1989,reunion on West Germany's terms followed.

No one doubted Germany's economic and engineering prowess; the question was how long bitter memories of the war would cause Europeans to distrust Germany, Sony VAIO VGN-NS52JB/L Battery

and whether Germany could demonstrate it had rejected totalitarianism and militarism and embraced democracy and human rights.

Post-war chaos

The total of German war dead was 8% to 10% out of a prewar population of 69,000,000, or between 5.5 million and seven million people. Sony VAIO VGN-NS52JB/P Battery

This included 4.5 million in the military, and between one and two million civilians. There was chaos as 11 million of foreign workers and POWs left, while 14 million of displaced refugees from the east and soldiers returned home.

At the Potsdam Conference, Germany was divided into four military occupation zones by the Allies and did not regain independence until 1949. Sony VAIO VGN-NS52JB/W Battery

The provinces east of the Oder and Neisse rivers (the Oder-Neisse line) were transferred to Poland, Lithuania[120] and Russia (Kaliningrad oblast), and the 6.7 million Germans living in Poland, and the 2.5 million in Czechoslovakia, were forced to move west; most had already left when the war ended.[121] Sony VAIO VGN-NS70B/W Battery

Denazification removed, imprisoned or executed most top officials of the old regime, but most middle and lower ranks of civilian officialdom were not seriously affected. In accordance with the Allied agreement made at the Yalta conference millions of POWs were used as forced labor by the Soviet Union and other European countries.[122] Sony VAIO VGN-NS71B/W Battery


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