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Topics: EUROPE - Germany
In the first centuries the Merovingian kings of Gaul conquered many German tribes, these Colonists of Gaul were also focused in change the religion. The missionary activity funded monasteries at Würzburg, Regensburg, Reichenau, and other places. Many years later, from 772 to 814, the king Charlemagne extended his empire into northern Italy and the territories of all west of Germany, including Saxons and Bavarians. When Charlemagne was confirmed as emperor of Rome, the “Holy Roma Empire” was established. The years passed and the empire was divided into several parts because of the many fights between Charlemagne’s grandchildren, this division gave place to the beginning of the Frankish Kingdom under the government of Duke Henry of Saxony. The time between 1096 and 1291 was the age of the crusades and knightly religious orders were established: The Templars, the Knights of St. John and the Teutonic Order, many towns, castles, bishops’ palaces and monasteries were founded in this age. But from 1300 The Empire started to lose territory on all its frontiers. In the 15th century the king Maximilian I tried to reform the Empire but it was frustrated by the continued territorial fragmentation of the Empire.
In the 16th century began the Germany reformation under the philosophy of Martin Luther and his “95 theses” against the abuse of indulgences to the church. Luther translated the Bible establishing the basis of modern German. By 1555 the era of religious tensions seemed to end with the Peace of Augsburg. In the 17th century the Thirty Year’s War devastated Germany, and the religious tensions continued, and the conflict was widened into a European War by the intervention of King Christian IV of Denmark, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden and France under Cardinal Richelieu, the regent of the young Louis XIV. Germany became the main theatre of war and the scene of the final conflict between France and the Habsburgs for the predominance of Europe. The war resulted in large areas of Germany being laid waste, in a loss of something like a third of its population, and in a general impoverishment. Finally, the war ended with the Peace of Westphalia and the German territory was lost to France and Sweden; Netherlands also left the Holy Roman Empire. The Holy Roman Empire was formally dissolved on 6 August 1806 when the last Holy Roman Emperor Francis II resigned and the Confederation of the Rhine was established under Napoleon's protection. Later with the Wars of Liberation began the destruction of Napoleon’s army and Germany was liberated from French rule.
After the fall of Napoleon, European monarchs and statesmen convened in the Vienna in 1814 for the reorganization of European affairs. On the territory of the former "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation", the German Confederation (Deutscher Bund) was founded, a loose union of 39 states (35 ruling princes and 4 free cities) under Austrian leadership, with a Federal Diet (Bundestag) meeting in Frankfurt am Main. In 1867 the German Confederation was dissolved. In its place the North German Confederation (German Norddeutscher Bund) was established, under the leadership of Prussia. Austria was excluded, and would remain outside German affairs for most of the remaining 19th and the 20th centuries. The North German Confederation was a transitory group that existed from 1867 to 1871, between the dissolution of the German Confederation and the founding of the German Empire, led by Otto Von Bismarck who was declared chancellor. With it, Prussia established control over the 22 states of northern Germany and, via the Zollverein, southern Germany.
In 1871 The German Empire was funded with 25 states, three of which were Hanseatic free cities, and the Chancellor was Bismarck. It was dubbed the "Little German" solution, since Austria was not included. Bismarck's domestic policies as Chancellor of Germany were characterized by his fight against perceived enemies of the Protestant Prussian state. Other Bismarck's priority was to protect Germany's expanding power through a system of alliances and an attempt to contain crises until Germany was fully prepared to initiate them, then in 1879 Bismarck formed a Dual Alliance if Germany and Austria-Hungary, later Italy joined to the Dual Alliance to form a Triple Alliance against France colonial policy. In spite of Bismarck policies, the 29 year old Wilhelm II removed Bismarck of his chancellor position. In 1898 the Triple Alliance was dissolved by differences between Austria and Italy and Germany was increasingly isolated.
First World War
Imperialist power politics and the determined pursuit of national interests ultimately led to the outbreak in 1914 of the First World War, sparked by the assassination of the Austrian heir-apparent Franz Ferdinand and his wife. Germany fought on the side of Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire against Russia, France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan and several other smaller states. Fighting also spread to the Near East and the German colonies. 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. On November Kaiser Wilhelm II and all German ruling princes abdicated and the Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed a Republic who signed the end of the war at Compiègne. After First World War, Germany was obligated to cede many areas, allied troops occupied the left German Bank of the Rhine for a period of 5-15 years, and the German army was to be limited to 100,000 officers. Furthermore, Germany and its allies were to accept the sole responsibility of the war, 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.
In 1919, under the Weimar constitution, Friedrich Ebert was named as the first German President, but the Weimar republic was not accepted by the National Socialist German Workers' Party and German Communist Party. In 1923 began other the problems when Germany defaulted on its reparation payments French and Belgian troops occupied the heavily industrialized Ruhr district. The German government encouraged the population to passive resistance and later the occupation became a loss-making deal for French government. As consequence of this, many lost all their fortune and they would become bitter enemies of the Weimar Republic. Fortunately, in 1928 Germany’s industrial production improved. At this time, Hitler made his first appearance with storm troopers in Munich and after the national elections in 1932, the new president Hindenburg appointed him Chancellor.
With Hitler, the Communism was begun. He also formed a slim majority government and obtained the full legislative power with the Enabling Act of 1933, only the Social Democrats were against this act. The Enabling Act formed the basis for the dictatorship, dissolution of the trade unions and all political parties other than the Nazi party were suppressed. A centralized totalitarian state was established, no longer based on the liberal Weimar constitution. In 1938, Hitler entered into Austria and he was acclaimed, many Austrians voted for the annexation of their country to Germany.
Second World War
In 1939, after six years, The Nazi regime prepared the country for World War II. The Nazi leadership occupied countries through forced deportation and genocide, now knows as the Holocaust. By 1945, Germany and its partners (Italy and Japan) had been defeated, chiefly by the forces of the Soviet Union, the USA, Britain, and Canada. Many people had been killed between six million Jews and five million non-Jews, and much of Europe lay in ruins. World War II resulted in the destruction of Germany's political and economic infrastructure and led directly to its partition, considerable loss of territory, and historical legacy of guilt and shame. Germany was divided into four military occupation zones by the Allies; the three western zones would form the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) while part of the Soviet Zone became the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). The Germans were repatriated to the Eastern Europe (German exodus). In this process of expulsion, millions of Germans died.
After war, Germany population lived on near starvation levels. In the early 1950s, West Germany eventually came to enjoy prolonged economic growth. The recovery occurred largely because of the previously forbidden currency reform of June 1948 and from 1949 on partly by U.S. assistance through Marshall Plan loans. Across the border, East Germany soon became the richest, most advanced country in the Warsaw Pact, but many of its citizens looked to the West for political freedoms and economic prosperity. In 1970, West Germany under Brandt's Ostpolitik was intent on holding to its concept of "two German states in one German nation." Relations improved, and in 1973, East Germany and West Germany were admitted to the United Nations. German reunification happened in 1990 when East German authorities suddenly allowed East German citizens to enter West Berlin and West Germany. Hundreds of thousands of people took advantage of the opportunity; new crossing points were opened in the Berlin Wall and along the border with West Germany.
New Germany, France and other European countries formed the European Union. After all, Germany became into a country of remarkable diversity, with cultural differences, although Germans will never forget the dark past.