The first people in Germany were there long before the Roman Empire moved into the area. After years of occupation by the Romans, around 9 AD, Germans pushed the Romans from most of the area. There were a few areas in the southern and western part of the country where they remained, but for the most part, Romans never moved beyond the Rhine.
During the 10th and 11th centuries, Germany was a feudal society and ruled by military nobility. Germany continued to grow in wealth and its population increased steadily until the 14th century. Despite the country’s prosperity, life was difficult for people living in the villages within the forests.
The Reformation came to Germany in 1517, when Martin Luther famously nailed his theses to the door of the Catholic Church. Germany was split
and the religious divisions eventually led to war within the country. Relative peace was eventually reached when the Diet of Augsburg met in 1555 and agreed states could decide their religions, and those unhappy were free to move.
The 17th century saw a breakdown of the peace between Catholics and Protestants. Both the Protestant military and the Catholic League were formed during this time. The Thirty Years War occurred during this time and the population was decimated. It took Germany years to recover from the event.
The 18th century saw the rise of Prussia in Germany, which eventually led to the division of part of Poland. By the beginning of the 19th century, some German states had joined with Napoleon, while the Prussians continued to battle against French forces. Following Napoleon’s defeat, the Congress of Vienna met to determine the fate of Europe. Prussia expanded its land holdings, increasing its population and natural resources. Germany also began to industrialize around this time.
World War I
Rebellions and reforms continued throughout the 19th century. The country entered into an alliance with Austria-Hungary, should either be attacked by Russia and there was a concerted effort to defeat the socialist movement spreading through the area. The early 20th century brought a great divide between European nations, with Britain, France, and Russia on one side, and Germany and Austria-Hungary on the other. War eventually erupted when the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. This was the beginning of the First World War, which lasted until 1918. Tensions continued to build, as Germany was belittled by other European nations in instances such as the signing of the Versailles Treaty. The treaty was resented by Germans, required Germany to pay reparations, and caused the country to lose a great deal of land and power. The Communist uprisings began shortly after in response to the discontent with the government.
Also around this time, the German Workers Party formed. This group believed the Treaty of Versailles had been an embarassment and that Germany could have won the war. The group was also racist and anti-Semitic. The group’s name was eventually changed to the National Socialist German Workers Party, or the Nazis. Adolf Hitler became leader of the group in 1921 and by 1928, they were the largest political party in Germany.
Upon gaining control, Hitler immediately began a tyrannical rule of the country, banning the Socialist Democratic Party and all other political parties, instituting the German Labour front, and arresting and sending to concentration camps anyone who disagreed with his regime. During this time, Nazis eliminated unemployment by reestablishing a military in the country and breaking the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler also had the government build roads and a stadium for the 1936 Olympics.
Hitler’s hatred of Jews played a major role in World War II. As German troops began invading various parts of Europe, his goal was to gain power, but also to exterminate all non-Aryan people. This resulted in the murder of at least six million Jews. His defeats on various fronts eventually led him to commit suicide in 1945, days before Germany surrendered in the war.
Following the war, Germany was divided into eastern and western sections. The Marshall Plan ensured U.S. support for West Germany, but East Germany was abused by the Russians. The division further continued with a separate currency and West Germany’s admission to NATO. East and West Germany remained divided, figuratively and literally by the Berlin Wall until 1989, when communism fell and the wall was torn down. Today, Germany is united and one of the world’s wealthiest countries.