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Germany Information - Page 2
Germany has been inhabited since early times. Early settlements have been excavated in areas around Dresden and Leipzig.

The first mention of German tribes was documented by the Romans. The tribes fought the Romans pushing towards the borders of the Empire. By the fifth century AD the major German tribes (Franks, Burgundians, Lombards, Ostrogoths, Vandals and Visigoths) were overrunning the Western Roman Empire.

In the late fifth century, Clovis, the Frankish King, established a large kingdom. Charlemagne, King of the Franks and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, expanded the Empire in the eighth century. After Charlemagne's death, the [Carolingian] Empire was divided - two of the regions eventually emerged as France and Germany. At the end of the thirteenth century a member of the Habsburg family became emperor leading to the family's association with Germany as well as other European countries.

Northern cities of medieval Germany were successful mercantile centres. A number of German cities were members of the Hanseatic League, an association of traders providing mutual help and protection. Dating back to the thirteenth century, the League flourished until the seventeenth century.

The Reformation, led by Martin Luther in the sixteenth century, called for the reform of the church. Religious unrest and conflict between Catholics and Protestants led to wars between 1618 and 1648. This period was known as the Thirty Years' War.

During the Napoleonic Wars, which followed the French Revolution (1787-1799), the French defeated the armies of Germany and Prussia. In 1815 the Prussian Marshall Blucher joined the Duke of Wellington and the British army to triumph over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.

In 1871 King William of Prussia was crowned Emperor of Germany; Berlin became the capital. Throughout William's reign, Otto von Bismarck, known as the Iron Chancellor, changed the confederation of German states into a powerful empire.

Germany's overseas territories included parts of East Africa (Burundi, Rwanda, Tanganyika now part of Tanzania), West Africa (Cameroon, Togo), South West Africa (Namibia) and territories in the Pacific (Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Caroline Islands: FSM, Palau, and the Solomon Islands).

The First World War began in 1914 and continued until 1918. Germany was defeated; colonies were lost, the army reduced and substantial reparations had to be paid to the Allies. The Emperor abdicated and the German Republic, known as the Weimar Republic, established.

In 1921 Adolf Hitler formed the National Socialist movement, an anti-Jewish political party widely known as the Nazis. By the end of the 1920s Hitler had gained in popularity; he became Germany's Chancellor in 1933.

1938 saw Germany annex Austria. In the same year, Britain, France, Italy and Germany signed the Munich Agreement forcing Czechoslovakia to surrender the Sudetenland to Hitler.

The Second World War started in 1939. Hitler attacked Poland; Britain and France declared war on Germany, followed by Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The United States joined the War after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour in Hawaii.

At the end of the Second World War, in 1945, Berlin was divided into zones administered by Britain, France, the USA and the USSR. In 1949 the country separated into the German Democratic Republic, known as the DDR (East Germany), and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). The city of Berlin was divided between the East and the West within the German Democratic Republic.

In 1952 West Germany joined with Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France and Italy to form the European Coal and Steel Community and later the European Community: "to substitute for age-old rivalries the merging of essential interest".

The construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 divided the West German and East German zones of the city. The Wall remained until 1989; Germany was reunited in 1990.

Germany is a powerful and technologically advanced country. Its early industrialisation was based on its coal and iron resources. As a member of the European Coal and Steel Community and a founder member of the European Community Germany has a strong position in Europe.

Major industries are coal, iron, steel, cement, machinery, machine tools, vehicles, shipbuilding, electronics, chemicals, textiles, food and beverages.

Agricultural produce includes wheat, barley, potatoes, sugar beets, fruit, cabbages and milk. Poultry, pigs and cattle are reared. The main fishing ports are in Bremen, Bremerhaven and Cuxhaven. Rainbow trout is caught in the rivers.

The services sector, for example, banking, insurance and tourism, is Germany's largest employer.

In October 2008 governments in Europe acted quickly to recapitalize their banking systems hit by the global financial crisis. Germany's government adopted a large billion dollar stabilization package, after bailing out lender Hypo Real Estate. (2008)

Germany has an impressive list of musicians: Bach, Handel, Beethoven and Wagner. There is also a strong tradition in fine art with artists such as Albrecht Durer and the Holbein family.

The Bauhaus, a famous German art school set up in 1919 under Walter Gropius, united fine art and art and crafts with the aim of art and industry working hand in hand.

Goethe (1749-1832) is the most famous German author. Other well known authors are Schiller, the dramatist, and the Brothers Grimm who wrote fairy stories.

A number of German authors have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. In 1929 Thomas Mann won the prize for the novel "Buddenbrooks", Hermann Hesse (born in Calw, Germany but with Swiss citizenship from 1923) took the prize in 1946, and Gunter Grass was the 1999 winner.

Well known German philosophers are Leibniz, Kant, Hegel and Nietzsche. The list of great thinkers continues with the authors of the Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Germany has a world class sports' record with many Olympic Medal Winners. Germans also excel at football, probably the country's most popular spectator sport. [West] Germany won the Football World Cup in 1954, 1974 and 1990.

Famous German tennis players include Boris Becker and Steffi Graf. Michael Schumacher, the Formula One racing driver is another household name. Other popular sports are skiing and cycling.

The Federal Republic of Germany celebrates the major Christian festivals and New Year. The 3rd of October is a national holiday marking the reunification of Germany.

St Nicholas Day on 6 December is a traditional celebration. Children leave a shoe in front of the fireplace to find it filled with edible treats in the morning.

Festivals include the world famous Berlin Film Festival and the Bach and Wagner Festivals.

News from Germany is available from Newslink.

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