Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)

Germany (Deutschland)

Capital : Berlin

Bayern (Bavaria), Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg, Nordrhein Westfalen, Sachsen-Anhalt, Thüringen, Sachsen, Nieder Sachsen, Rheinland-Pfalz (Rheinland Palatinate), Saarland, Baden-Würtenburg, Zugspitze, Hamburg, Hesse(n)

Size: 138 000 sq m Popn: 80 569 000


The area that is now Germany was inhabited by Celtic peoples until a series of military campaigns brought it within the Roman Empire in the C1st BC. As the West Germanic peoples moved out of Scandinavia, they put pressure on the borders of the Empire but it was the arrival of the Huns from Asia after about 370 AD that drove them out of their settlements and into Italy, Spain and Greece. After the fall of Rome, the Franks emerged under Clovis to become the most powerful of the barbarians it left behind. He conquered the Alemanni in 496 and controlled most of Western Europe by the C6th. After their king, Charles Martel, defeated a Muslim army at Poitiers in 732, the Franks were seen as defenders of Christendom.

Charlemagne (Charles the Great) was crowned as Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day 800. After his death, the territories were divided by dissent amongst his sons. The division into West and East Franks brought the East Frankish crown to Henry, Duke of the Saxons, in 918, although his actual power did not extend beyond Franconia and south-east Saxony. His son, Otto I, gained control of the German duchies, defeated the Magyars and conquered the kingdom of Italy. These conquests were recognised by his imperial coronation in Rome in 962. The Ottonian Empire was pre-eminent until the death of Frederick II in 1250 by which date England was establishing the Angevin Empire under Henry II and the Western Franks were steadily regaining influence. In 1266-8, Pope Clement IV asked Charles of Anjou, brother of Louis IX of France, to expel the Germans from Italy. German colonization eastwards, stopped after the Slav revolt in 983, began again in 1125. The foundation of Lübeck and spread of the Hanseatic League merchants' and Teutonic Knights' influence increased German power. At this time, many other states and kingdoms were also expanding and there were long conflicts with Prussia (conquered by the Teutonic Knights in 1266), Poland and Lithuania (controlling much of what is now Russia and The Ukraine). During the C12th, there was eastwards expansion (Drang nach Osten) into the lands between the Oder and Elbe rivers, and in 1257, Frederick Barbarossa annexed Silesia from Poland.

After 1400, many of the powerful eastern states collapsed and Germany and Italy remained fragmented. In Germany, dynastic alliances combined the Habsburg lands with Luxembourg (1437) and Burgundy (1477). These, along with the lands of the Spanish royal family, were all inherited by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1519-58) giving him the largest territory of a Christian ruler since Charlemagne. During the Reformation of the church in the C16th, much of northern Germany became Lutheran following the teachings of Martin Luther (1483-1546) who was confronted by Charles V at the diet of Worms. The Holy Roman Empire was not strong enough to impose a state religion and there was also some Calvinist influence. A counter-reformation attempted to return to Catholicism by expelling Protestants (Austria and Styria) and there were military struggles between Catholics and Protestants within the Empire. The Protestant princes were only saved by the intervention of Gustavus Adolphus, king of Lutheran Sweden, but later the war was joined by Spain (Imperial) and France (anti-Imperial) which led to a conflict not settled until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Germany was divided into 234 territorial units, 51 free cities and a large quantity of estates of Imperial knights. These included the Electors, spiritual and secular leaders who had the right to elect the new Emperor (in practice it was usually a hereditary, Habsburg title). In 1697, the Elector of Saxony became king of Poland and in 1714, the Elector of Hanover became joint ruler of England with his wife (William and Mary). The heavy loss of life during the Thirty Years' War led to economic and cultural decline, with the Hanseatic League dissolving in 1669. Joseph II, Emperor of Austria, tried to unify Germany but was prevented by the rise of Brandenburg-Prussia, now powerful enough to block other states' expansion but not to carry out any itself. It reached its height under Frederick II (1740-86).

The 64 ecclesiastical principalities were secularised in 1803 and 45 free cities became part of larger units. In 1806, the French emperor, Napoleon, simplified the divisions even further leading to the end of the old Reich and Francis II of Austria gave up the title of Holy Roman Emperor, by then almost meaningless. Napoleon united western Germany into the Confederation of the Rhine, introducing his revolutionary ideas and reforms which were subsequently adopted in Prussia. In 1848, there were revolts in most German states and a National Assembly met to draw up a constitution that it was hoped would result in unification. This was soon divided by different opinions as to which territories should be included and Germany reverted to an Austro-Prussian hegemony. By the 1850s, Prussia was economically stronger and began to challenge Austria's political leadership under Otto von Bismarck, who managed to defeat Austria at Sadowa in 1866 and exclude her from Germany. The Prussian-controlled North German Confederation was formed in 1867 and after Prussia defeated France at Sedan in 1870, southern Germany joined the new Reich out of economic necessity. After successful wars with Austria and France, the new chancellor, Bismarck, formed the German Empire with William I of Prussia as Emperor.

Nationalistic feeling increased throughout Europe during the C19th, partly as a result of French, Habsburg and Turkish Imperialism, and was among the causes of the First World War of 1914-18. Germany and other Central Powers were at war with Britain, France and Russia. In 1918, the monarchy was overthrown and the social democrats seized power, establishing the democratic Weimar Republic. The Treaty of Versailles between Germany and the Allies in 1919 increased the size of some states and created others. Germany was disarmed but was still unrivalled in population and industrial strength. There was a period of civil unrest, and rampant inflation in 1922-3. The country joined the League of Nations in 1926, at the same time signing a non-aggression pact with the USSR. In 1929-33, the economic crisis brought the country near to revolution and both Nazis (extreme right) and Communists (extreme left) became more powerful. The Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler (originally Schickelgruber), became Chancellor in 1933, promising economic and political recovery from the depression of the 20s and 30s.

The Nazis solve the problem of unemployment with a huge rearmament programme. They suspended the democratic constitution and destroyed all opposition. Germany reoccupied the Rhineland in 1936 but France and Britain were distracted by the civil war in Spain and did not respond. Germany continued her military expansion and Britain finally declared war in September 1939. In 1940, Germany, Italy and Japan formed an alliance known as the Axis and attacked and occupied neighbouring countries. The Second World War (1939-45) ended in victory for the Allies (UK and Commonwealth, France 1939-40, the USSR and USA from 1941, and China). Germany was divided, within its 1937 frontiers, into American, Russian, British and French occupation zones. Political frontiers were established at the Yalta and Potsdam conferences and in 1949 two new German states were formed, the communist German Democratic Republic (DDR) in the east and the capitalist German Federal Republic (BRD) in the west, sharing the capital, Berlin, which was landlocked in the DDR, between them.

In West Germany, the Allied powers instituted policies of demilitarization, decentralization and democratization, and a new, provisional constitution was drawn up. The Soviet Union blockaded West Berlin in 1948-9 but the Allied airlift of supplies allowed its survival and it became a constituent Land in the Federal Republic. The Christian Democratic Union (CDU), under leader Konrad Adenauer and economics minister Ludwig Erhard, established the 'social market economy', combining free market forces with strategic state intervention on the grounds of social justice. Aid under the Marshall Plan and the large workforce, including many refugees from East Germany, led to fast reconstruction and growth during the 50s and 60s. West Germany gained full sovereignty in 1954, joined NATO in 1955 and was a founding member of the EEC in 1957. Good relations with France led to the Saarland, given to France after the economic union of 1947, being returned to Germany in 1957.

In East Germany, a communist regime on the Soviet model was quickly established, industry was nationalized, agricultural collectives formed and a one-party political system was created. The five L¬ nder, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia, were dissolved in 1952 and the Chamber of States gave local authority to 15 Bezirke (administrative districts). After food shortages, there was opposition to the sovietization, leading to demonstrations and an uprising in 1953 which was suppressed by Soviet troops. It became a sovereign state in 1954 but was only recognised by communist powers at first.

East Germany built the Berlin Wall in 1961 to prevent refugees from escaping to the West, creating a political crisis that brought the mayor of West Berlin, Willy Brandt, to prominence. He was to become the East German chancellor and introduced the Ostpolitik foreign policy which tried to improve relations between the two Germanies by reconciliation with Eastern Europe. During the 1960s, living standards in the East improved and the Stalinist Socialist Unity Party (SED) leader, Walter Ulbricht, was replaced by Erich Honecker whose more pragmatic approach led to improved diplomatic and economic relations with the West. West Germany normalized relations with Poland and the USSR in 1972 and recognized the Oder-Neisse border line. In 1972, the two Germanies signed a treaty which acknowledged the East's separate existence and allowed them both to join the UN in 1973.

Brandt resigned as chancellor in 1974, after it was revealed that his personal assistant had been an East German spy, and was replaced by former finance minister Helmut Schmidt who continued with Ostpolitik and was a leading advocate of European co-operation. There was a comfortable victory in 1980 for the Social Democratic Party (SPD)-Free Democratic Party (FDP) coalition. The left wing of the SPD and the liberal FDP were divided over economic policy and military affairs such as the proposal to station US nuclear missiles in West Germany. Schmidt tried to pursue a moderate course but the FDP left the coalition in 1982 and joined forces with the CDU under Dr Helmut Kohl to remove Schmidt with a 'positive vote of no confidence'. He retired from politics and the SPD, under Hans-Jochen VØ gel, lost heavily in the 1983 Bundestag elections. The new Kohl administration retained the FDP's Hans-Dietrich Genscher as foreign minister and closely followed the external policy of the Chancellor Schmidt. Internally, there was a freer market approach but problems of social unrest followed the rising unemployment of the early 1980s and there were violent protests against the installation of US nuclear missiles in 1983-4. Kohl survived a series of financial scandals over illegal party funding and after 1985, the economy recovered strongly. The CDU-CSU-FDP coalition was re-elected in the federal election of 1987. In 1988-9 after the death of the CSU's controversial Franz-Josef Strauss, support grew for the far-right Republican party and it gained 7% of the vote in the 1989 European Parliament elections.

In 1989-90, the events in East Germany and the rest of Eastern Europe led to half a million economic and political refugees arriving in the Federal Republic and the question of reunification (Wiedervereinigung) was reopened with the strong support of the CDU. In East Germany, Honecker had refused to follow the USSR's instructions to introduce reforms despite widespread pressure. After the suppression of a church and civil rights demonstration in Leipzig in 1989, New (Neue) Forum, an illegal dissident organization, was formed. In May 1989, Hungary opened its borders with Austria, and 30 000 East German citizens left for West Germany, many by that route. Honecker's illness further weakened his regime and when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev visited East Berlin in early October and expressed his wishes for reform, it encouraged the growing reform movement. A wave of demonstrations swept East Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig and smaller towns which Honecker at first ordered to be violently dispersed by riot police. Security chief Egon Krenz ordered moderation and in Dresden, the reformist Communist Party leader, Hans Modrow, marched with the demonstrators. The East German economy was being disrupted as increasing numbers (5000 to 11000 a day) left for West Germany and in mid October, Krenz replaced Honecker as head of state and party leader. He sanctioned wide reforms and effectively ended the SED monopoly of power. The Politburo was purged of conservatives and Modrow became prime minister of a new cabinet. New Forum was legalized, opposition parties were formed and the border with the West was opened, allowing free travel and the effective dismantling of the Berlin Wall.

In December, Chancellor Kohl announced a ten-point reunification plan which was rapidly achieved on many economic and administrative levels. The Communist Party had virtually ceased to exist as a power after the corruptions of Honecker's regime were revealed and Krenz was forced to resign. He was replaced by Gregor Gysi as SED leader and Manfred Gerlach as head of state. Honecker was put under house arrest to await trial and the Politburo was purged again. In February 1990, an interim SED-led 'government of national responsibility' was formed but political problems worsened and the economy deteriorated as huge numbers of people continued to leave. The East German elections of March 1990 were won by the centre-right Alliance for Germany, a three-party coalition led by the CDU and talks with West Germany produced an economic and monetary unification in July. Official reunification followed in October and Berlin became the capital although Bonn remained the seat of government. The first all-German elections since 1932 took place in December and the CDU, CSU and FDP formed a coalition government with only three former East German politicians. The former East German states returned to their position as L¬ nder.

The economy of the west continued to boom but unemployment rose fast in the east and many Ossis (easterners) began to feel like second-class citizens. Racist attacks on foreigners increased and public support for Kohl weakened, particularly after taxes were raised to finance the rebuilding of the east and the German contribution to the US-led coalition in the Gulf War against Iraq. In the spring 1991 state elections, the Wessis (westerners) expressed their annoyance against Kohl's failure to stick to his 1990 election promise not to raise taxes to finance the east. The ruling CDU suffered reverses and lost its Bundesrat majority to the SPD. Bjorn Engholm, minister-president of Schleswig-Holstein, was elected chairman of the SPD in place of VØ gel who continued as SPD leader within the Bundestag. In elections in Bremen in September 1991, a shift to the right was apparent with support emerging for the right-wing, xenophobic German People's Union (DVU). There was mounting pressure for the government to impose tighter restrictions on refugees and attacks on immigrants by Neo-Nazi groups have increased.

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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