This article goes over the history of Germany, from the region of Germania as described by Romans to the present day.
Recorded German history begins with the arrival of the Romans in the first century AD. At the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD, Germanic chieftains heavily defeated the Romans, and they were never able to fully conquer Germany. In the fourth and fifth centuries, Germanic "barbarians" terrorized the Roman Empire, and in 476, Odoacer, a Scirii chieftain, sacked and conquered Rome.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the western half was open for conquest. The Franks, under the Merovingian dynasty, took over northern Gaul in the fifth century. A hundred years later, they converted to Christianity and established the Carolingian dynasty. Under Charlemagne, they conquered most of Germany, Gaul, and northern Italy.
After Charlemagne's death, his empire was divided into three parts among his sons. West Francia evolved into modern day France, Middle Francia became Italy and Lotharingia, and East Francia became Germany. These large kingdoms also quickly broke up into feudal fiefdoms.
Holy Roman EmpireEdit
In 962, Otto II became the first Holy Roman Emperor. Although he had only limited authority, he was officially the King of Germany. In reality, most of Germany was ruled by independent dukes and lords. The trading cities of Lubeck and Hamburg grew rich, and formed the Hanseatic League. German Teutonic Knights attempted to conquer Poland, Lithuania, and [[Russia] for Christianity.
In the fifteenth century, Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the city-state of Mainz. This innovation allowed information to spread much more rapidly. Shortly thereafter, Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation, which became the religion of many German cities, particularly in the north.
Thirty Years' WarEdit
In 1618, religion tensions between Catholics and Protestants flared to the point of violence. For 30 years Germany was devastated by marauding mercenaries and severe famine. Only in 1648 was the Treaty of Westphalia signed, giving Protestant city-states more rights and finally ending the war.
Rise of PrussiaEdit
In the 17th century, a new state arose on the shores of the Baltic Sea. The Protestant, German nation Prussia began in modern-day Poland, but gained part of Germany with the annexation of Brandenburg, containing Berlin. In 1757 the Seven Years' War broke out, pitting France, Spain, and Austria against Great Britain and Prussia on the other. Under the visionary leadership of Frederick the Great, Prussia was able to defeat the larger armies it faced and gain the territory of Silesia.
Prussia also opposed France in the Napoleonic Wars. Although initially defeated, in the end Prussia won, and the rest of Germany was made into the German Confederation. Prussia and Austria competed for the control of this federation.
This competition erupted into war in 1866. Prussia was able to mobilize their military with their extensive railroad system, and caught Austria off guard. Prussian military superiority quickly won out and Austria sued for peace. The German Confederation was abolished, and the North German Confederation was established with Prussia at the helm.
The German nationEdit
In 1870, France declared war on Prussia. At the Battle of Sedan, France suffered a heavy defeat despite their superior firearms, and Prussian forces advanced on to Paris. The siege of Paris lasted several weeks, but rioting in the streets led to France's capitulation. Alsace-Lorraine was ceded to Prussia.
Immediately after this victory, Prussia became the German Empire under Kaiser Wilhelm I and Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who had orchestrated Prussia's rise to power. Germany quickly became one of the major European powers. At the Berlin Conference of 1885, Germany was granted Namibia, Tanzania, and Togo.
World War IEdit
On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was assassinated in Sarajevo by Serbian terrorists. Austria-Hungary immediately demanded heavy concessions. Serbia refused, and Austria-Hungary declared war. Germany came to Austria-Hungary's aid, and Russia entered the war on Serbia's side. This triggered the Triple Entente alliance between Russia, France, and the United Kingdom.
Germany quickly mobilized and invaded the neutral nation of Belgium to surprise the French. The Schlieffen Plan called for the quick defeat of France so that Germany could concentrate her armies on Russia in the east. At the First Battle of the Marne, the 75,000 man strong British Expeditionary Force stopped the German advance, and trench warfare began.
On the Eastern Front, things fared much better. Although the Russian army mobilized much faster than expected, it was poorly led and demoralized. At the First Battle of Tannenberg nearly 100,000 Russian soldiers were captured. The Brusilov Offensive of 1916 was initially successful, but the Germans were able to beat it back. By 1917, Russia was in the midst of a revolution, and no longer a threat to Germany.
On the Western front, battle after bloody battle followed one another. The Germans introduced poison gas in 1915, which killed an estimated 100,000 soldiers over the course of the war. In 1916, the British began a massive offensive against the Germans. Half a million dead later, they had gained about .
In 1917, the United States joined the war. The fresh American troops, known as doughboys, quickly pushed back the Germans. The German spring offensive of 1918 was repelled and by the summer Allied troops were pushing into German proper. The mutiny of the navy and a communist revolt led to the surrender of Germany in 1918.
The Treaty of Versailles imposed heavy restrictions on Germany. Her army was limited to 100,000 men, the Ruhr area was not allowed to have troops, her navy was forcibly scrapped, and she had to pay massive war reparations.
The democratic Weimar Republic was established after World War I. The 1920s were a period of serious economic hardship for German. Hyperinflation made the German mark almost useless. However, this was a period of culture blossoming for Germany.
The Great Depression hit Germany hard. The Hindenburg government ceded power to Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party in 1933. The Nazis quickly began rearming, against the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, and the economy improved. In 1938, Germany and Austria formed a union known as the Anchluss. Immediately thereafter, Germany demanded the region of Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia. At the Munich Conference, Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, allowed Hitler to take Sudetenland, on the condition that Germany would take no more territory.
World War IIEdit
On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. France and the United Kingdom declared war on Germany, but took no major action. The conquest of Poland was complete within a month. For the rest of 1939, no major battles were fought.
In spring of 1940, Germany launched a huge, blitzkrieg offensive against France. The Maginot Line, constructed in the 1930s, was bypassed by way of the Ardennes. French resistance quickly crumbled, and the British were turned back at Dunkirk. Belgium and the Netherlands were also taken.
On June 22, 1941, Germany began Operation Barbarossa against her erstwhile ally, the Soviet Union. Although initially successful, by winter it had bogged down. The Germans were turned back at the Battle of Moscow, and the cities of Stalingrad and Leningrad refused to be taken.
In 1942, the skillful general Erwin Rommel was dispatched to North Africa to assist the Italians against the British. His early victories could not prevent Allied attacks on his supply lines in the Mediterranean, and at the Battle of El-Alamein his army was permanently defeated.
In 1943, the Allies began their invasion of Italy. The country quickly crumbled, and in 1944 it switched sides. German special forces freed Benito Mussolini from Allied prison, and established him as the puppet ruler of northern Italy.
On June 6, 1944, the Allies landed 144,000 troops on the beaches of Normandy. They quickly liberated France and moved towards Germany. In the fall of 1944, German forces made a dent in Allied lines at the Battle of the Bulge, but they were defeated once the Allies regained air superiority. On the Eastern Front, the Soviets had liberated most of Eastern Europe and were advanced quickly across Poland.
By April of 1945, Hitler was confined to the a bunker in Berlin, with Soviet forces advancing on the city. He committed suicide on April 22, and in May Germany signed an unconditional surrender.
After World War II, Germany was divided into a democratic West Germany and a communist East Germany. In 1949, East Germany cut off all supply routes to Berlin, which it completed surrounded, forcing the U.S. and the United Kingdom to airlift supplies in. This was so successful that East Germany had to back down. This incident marked the beginning of the Cold War.
The post-war economy of West Germany boomed. Large firms like Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, and Siemens raked in profits, and West Germany became a major industrial power and large exporter. However, the German military was voluntarily kept small.
In 1989, as the Soviet Union was collapsing, the Berlin Wall was torn down and East Berliners and West Berliners reunited for the first time in more than 30 years. In 1991, West Germany and East Germany reunified to form the Federal Republic of Germany. Although economically a burden, the reintegration of East Germany went smoothly politically.
Since then, Germany has continued to be an economic powerhouse, and is one of the major nations of the European Union. Germany helped bail out several European nations during the 2007 economic recession.