A short history of Germany

Germany's struggle for a unified identity has a long history marked by numerous politically and religiously motivated wars. Only in 1871, did the loose confederation of separate states and territories with an ever-changing set of allies and enemies become unified by Prussia's military power rather than a sense of belonging. The new nation was consumed by a thirst for power and expansion which directly lead to the outbreak of World War I, defeat for both Germany and Austria and a disastrous peace agreement. The result was a Germany ruled by civil unrest and a desire for revenge. An easy target for Adolph Hitler to prey on. He was able to turn general social disaffection into the focused lunacy of the Third Reich and World War II.

At a loss as to what to do and with the intention of preventing Germany from being in command of comparable economic and military power, the allied forces divided the country in two hostile states; the parts held by the Western powers were developed into the Federal Republic of Germany, while the eastern zone occupied by the Soviets became the German Democratic Republic. Berlin, the capital and an obvious bone of contention, was divided by along the same lines.

The contest between the two states was fierce albeit unequal: The German Democratic Republic was forced to adopt the Communist system at odds with the national character and was never able to break free from being a satellite state of the Soviet Union. The Federal Republic considered itself to be the natural successor to the old Reich and was able to build and sustain a democratic society. Its economy boomed if only with considerable financial help from the USA.

Eventually the German Democratic Republic fell so far behind that emigration became a severe issue between the two countries. In 1961 the GDR authorities came up with the smart idea of walling in their population and built an electrified barbed-wire frontier ironically dubbed the 'iron curtain'. The Berlin Wall cemented the partition of Germany's capital. The strict separation of the two German states symbolized the differences and tensions between the USA and the USSR - the Cold War.

In 1989 the tensions became too much and the unstoppable momentum of events in the wake of the 'Wende' (change) took its course. A peaceful revolution toppled the German Democratic Republic's Communist regime leading to the downfall of the Berlin Wall celebrated in the most exciting party the city had ever seen: East Germans were welcomed with flowers and 'begruessungsgeld', a welcome gift of money to introduce them to capitalist joys like shopping, dining out and so on. The Wall was brought down by a singing and dancing crowd. It was eventually taken down by both official staff and the human 'woodpeckers' alike.

In less than a year Germany was reunified on paper if not yet in the minds of its population. The unification process lead to a myriad of economic, political and social problems and tensions which are to this day far from solved.

The German Reichstag, almost destroyed by a fire deliberately set by Nazi troops in 1933, has been recently renovated. Its renovation beagn after Germany's reunion and the building is topped by a marvellous dome of glass. This dome has become an international symbol for a unified Germany.

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