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Germany, country of central Europe that was divided into 2 nations after World War II. In 1990 the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) joined with the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) to form a single German state. Germany is bordered by Austria and Switzerland in the south; France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands in the west; the North and Baltic seas and Denmark in the north; and the Czech Republic and Poland in the east.

Land and climate

The northern part of Germany is a lowland area, while the south and central parts contain highlands. The western section has the Black and Bohemian forests. The eastern part is mostly flat, but it contains the Thuringian, the Bohemian, and the Oberfalz forests. Germany's climate is temperate with mild summers and cool winters and moderate precipitation in all seasons.


Essentially, the Germans are of 2 distinct types: the Nordic people, usually tall, fair-skinned, and blue-eyed, and the stockier Alpine type of the south, who are often dark-haired and brown-eyed. More than 80 percent of the German people live in urban areas; the area around the Rhine and Ruhr rivers is one of the most heavily populated sections of Europe. The language is German, divided into 2 distinct forms: High German, spoken in the north, and Low German, spoken in the south. In addition, there are numerous dialects confined to certain regions and cities.


Germany (at least the former western part) has one of the strongest economies in Europe. It is a world leader in manufacturing and heavy industry, due mainly to its large coal deposits, which provide the necessary energy for these enterprises. It is also a major producer of chemicals, for industrial use and for use in medicines, plastics, fertilizers, and synthetic fabrics. Its optics and electronics industries are world leaders in these technologies, and their products are noted for their quality and dependability. Its financial and banking network is one of the most powerful in the world. The smaller part that formerly made up East Germany suffered from 40 years of mismanagement under its communist government, and its economy lags far behind the highly developed west both in quantity and quality of its output. The new German government has made it clear it will raise the backward economy of the east to the level of the rest of the country. In the first five years of unification this has proved to be extremely difficult.


The Romans succeeded in conquering the west bank of the Rhine (1st century B.C.-1st century A.D.) but they could not bring the Teutonic tribes of the area into the empire. It was the Romans who named the tribes' land Germania. In A.D. 768, Charlemagne, the great Frankish ruler, came to power and united most of the territory of modern France and Germany into the Frankish empire. In 843, the empire was divided among Charlemagne's 3 grandsons, with the area east of the Rhine going to Louis the German. Louis's kingdom subsequently was divided into independent duchies, and efforts to create a single state remained unsuccessful until the 19th century. The modern state of Germany was first created in the late 19th century by Otto von Bismarck. In a successful series of wars, he brought much of Germany under Prussian domination, and in 1871 he saw King Wilhelm I of Prussia crowned kaiser (emperor) and hereditary monarch of the empire. In 1890, Kaiser Wilhelm II (grandson of Wilhelm I) dismissed Bismarck as chancellor and embarked on a policy of nationalistic expansionism that brought Germany repeated conflict with other European states. In 1914 the strains proved too much, and Europe plunged into World War I. Germany was defeated, and in 1919 it gave up both empire and king and became the Weimar Republic. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s the republic suffered severe economic crises and social unrest, partly due to the harsh treatment of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I. As a result, in 1933 Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany and set about establishing a dictatorship (the Third Reich) that fostered extreme military aggression, nationalism, and racial violence. Hitler's expansionism (reoccupation of the Rhineland in 1936, annexation of Austria in 1938, and the takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1939) alarmed other European powers. Finally, Germany's invasion of Poland in Sept. 1939 triggered World War II. In 1945, the Allies defeated the Third Reich, ending World War II in Europe. Germany was occupied by the 4 victorious powers (United States, Soviet Union, France, and England) and in 1949 was divided into 2 sectors: East Germany (which became a communist state under Soviet influence) and West Germany (which became a republic allied with the western democracies and the United States). West Germany flourished economically while East Germany stagnated. In 1990, following the collapse of the Soviet-led alliance of eastern European nations, Germany was reunified, this time as a republic firmly rooted in the democratic, free-enterprise European Economic Community. It is now the largest and most prosperous country in the community and a worldwide economic and industrial power. It is expected to play a major role in helping to shape the new political and economic relationships of post cold-war Europe.


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