The Federal Republic of Germany listen? is one of the world's leading industrialised countries, located in the heart of Europe. It is bordered to the north by the North Sea, Denmark, and the Baltic Sea, to the south by Austria and Switzerland, to the west by France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, and to the east by Poland and the Czech Republic.
The medieval empire—known for much of its existence as the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation—stemmed from a division of the Carolingian Empire in 843, which was founded by Charlemagne on 25 December 800, and existed in varying forms until 1806, its territory stretching from the river Eider in the north to the mediterranean coast in the south. During these almost thousand years, the Germans expanded their influence successfully with the help of the Catholic Church, the Teutonic Order and the Hanseatic League. In 1530, the attempt of the Protestant Reformation of Catholicism turned out to have failed, and a separate Protestant church was acknowledged as new state religion in many states of Germany. This led to inter-German strife, the Thirty Years War (1618) and finally the Peace of Westphalia (1648), that resulted in a drastically enfeebled and politically disunited Germany, unable to resist the stroke of the Napoleonic Wars, during which the imperium was overrun and dissolved (1806). The lasting effect of the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire came to be the division between Austria, formerly the leading state of Germany, from the more western and northern parts.
In the light of a series of revolutionary movements in Europe, which in France successfully established a republic, intellectuals and common people started the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states. The monarchs initially yielded to the revolutionaries' liberal demands and an intellectual National Assembly was elected to draw up a constitution for the new Germany, completed in 1849. However, the Prussian king Frederick William IV, who was offered to become Emperor but lose power, rejected crown and constitution. This prompted violent rollbacks by the monarchs, and the demise of the national assembly along with most merits of the revolution.
Although not one of the main causes, the assassination of Austria's crown prince triggered World War I on 28 July 1914, which saw Germany as part of the unsuccessful Central Powers in the second-bloodiest conflict of all time against the Allied Powers. In November 1918, the German Revolution broke out (starting with a mutiny at Kiel), and Emperor William II and all German ruling princes abdicated. An armistice was signed on 11 November putting an end to the war. Germany was forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, whose unexpectedly high demands and humiliating aspects were perceived as a continuation of the war with other means in Germany.
After the German Revolution on November 1918, a Republic was proclaimed. That year, the German Communist Party was established, and on January 1919 the German Workers Party, later known as the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). On 11 August 1919, the Weimar Constitution came into effect. The democracy was made unpopular in part because of the economic hardship due to both the world wide Great Depression and the harsh peace conditions dictated by the Treaty of Versailles. A series of dramatic events marked the end of the Weimar Republic. On 30 January 1933, President von Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany. On February 27th, the Reichstag was set on fire. Basic rights were abrogated under an emergency decree. An Enabling Act gave Hitler's government full legislative power. A centralised totalitarian state was established, no longer based on the rule of law.
The new regime quickly dissolved all trade unions, made Germany a one-party state, and repressed all opposition. From 1933 onwards, 412 concentration camps were set up for groups and people perceived as threats. Open persecution of Jews began, culminating in Kristallnacht on 9 November 1938. In 1934, the Nazi Party was purged of internal opposition during the Night of the Long Knives. In 1935 the Nuremberg race laws came into force: Jews were deprived of their German citizenship, banned from marrying Germans, and locked out from most of society. In 1936, German troops entered the demilitarised Rhineland, violating the Versailles Treaty, in an attempt to rebuild national self-esteem. Emboldened, Hitler followed from 1938 onwards a policy of expansionism. It started with the annexation of Austria and the Sudetes region in Czechoslovakia. In 1939, Bohemia and Moravia were annexed and a Slovakian independent state was created. To avoid a two-front war, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was concluded with the Soviet Union. Then Germany launched a Blitzkrieg against Poland, beginning World War II.
The war resulted in territorial losses and the expulsion of millions from Silesia, Prussia and Pomerania, as well as from Bohemia and Moravia. Germany and Berlin were occupied and partitioned by the Allies, with West Germany and West Berlin being controlled by the Western allies and East Germany and East Berlin by the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union cut off supplies to West Berlin, Western forces airlifted food and supplies. West Germany benefitted from the American Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Europe after the war and was a founding state of the European Union. Its economy bloomed and democracy was stabilised by successive governments in Bonn.
The Soviet-supported East Germany, by contrast, became one of the most repressive of the communist satellite states of the Warsaw Pact. The flight of growing numbers of East Germans to freedom via West Berlin led on 13 August 1961, to East Germany erecting the Berlin Wall and a fortified border to West Germany.
During the summer of 1989, following growing unrest, large numbers of East German citizens took refuge in West German embassies in Central and Eastern European countries in the hope of emigrating to the West. The East German government's confusion grew and on 9 November 1989, East German authorities unexpectedly allowed East German citizens to enter West Berlin and West Germany. Hundreds of thousands of people took advantage of the opportunity; new crossing points were opened in the Berlin Wall and along the border with West Germany. This led to the acceleration of the process of reforms in East Germany that ended with the reunification of East and West Germany that came into force on 3 October 1990.