Germany

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The Federal Republic of Germany is a country in Europe.[1] Germany is Europe's economic powerhouse, with a GDP of $3.31 trillion.[2] Germany has a 2010 estimated population of 81,702,329.[3]

Geschichte[edit]

Heiliges Römisches Reich[edit]

This agglomeration which was called and which still calls itself the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.
Voltaire
The Pope is ready to make some more emperors. Of the "Roman Empire". The Holy Roman Empire. It's actually Germany but don't worry about it.
—bill wurtz[4]
The arms of the Holy Roman Empire. Now is that complicated, or what?


After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, a new one was made out of papal hubris when the Pope, who had apparently been drinking too much German beer and mistaken Aachen for Rome, crowned a Germanic king Holy Roman Emperor. The fact that the Roman Empire still very much existed at that point in the East didn't seem to bother either the Pope or the new Emperor. (Probably because the Orthodox Christian Eastern Roman Empire was a direct rival to the papacy in Rome.) Irony not existing in medieval Europe, the Catholic German Imperial State Holy Roman Empire held land the former Roman Empire never held, and basically dug the grave of the latter empire.

This "empire" lasted for roughly a thousand years before the last emperor, under pressure from Napoleon, abdicated the Imperial throne in 1806. This later became a major Nazi talking point, as the Nazis wanted to repeat this success.

Renaissance[edit]

Germany made more beer. The Germans drank said beer. Many cities got filthily rich and became quasi-independent city states. The oldest non-religious buildings of note date to this era.

Around the same time, some guy nailed something to a door. Afterwards, about a third of them died in the Thirty Years War.

Reformation[edit]

Before the Reformation Germany was close to 100% Catholic, like its neighbor, Poland, still is today. Today it is about 30% Catholic[5] with most of that in the southern half of the country, closest to Austria and Italy. Another 30% or so of Germans are some variety of Protestant and are more common in Northern Germany, the part closest to Scandinavia. This is not a coincidence.

Zeitalter der Industrialisierung[edit]

The old national flag (1866-1918).

Germany first started to become united by the process of nationalism in the nineteenth century when it was the cultural center of Europe, producing several notable philosophers, scientists and artists, such as Immanuel Kant, Carl Friedrich Gauss and Richard Wagner, all three of whom allegedly enjoyed consuming the beer at Oktoberfest in München (Munich) and a little playful banter with the original St. Pauli Girl.

Also important during this period was the rise of Prussia, which took over the vacuum left by the declining Holy Roman Empire in North Germany, and expanded quite quickly, due to some improbable victories over the Austrians in the mid-18th century.

Earlier revolutionary upheavals in France had influenced many in Germany as well, but the revolutionary causes were intertwined with nationalism because of Germany's split nature. Though attempts at revolution failed, the strong nationalist and patriotic sentiments would come to influence Germany for some time.

Thus German unification, although desired by many middle-class liberals, only became a reality through Prussian military might, more specifically its victories over Denmark, Austria, and France, so as a result, the empire was fairly authoritarian in nature. It also had quite a few ethnic minorities within its borders, which created tension. Germany also joined in on the whole "colonialism" thing during this era, but due to being late to the game (Britain and France had already claimed most of Africa, for example), the pickings were slim. Still, the Germans were able to sneak in some genocide against the Herero people in what is now Namibia.

Zwanzigstes Jahrhundert[edit]

After losing World War I, and suffering reparation payments that while being perceived as humiliating and excessive did not hurt the economy all that much, Germany spent most of the 1920s somewhat recovering before the Depression brought it under the sway of the totalitarian Nazi Party. The main reason why the 1929 depression hit so hard is that German companies refinanced long term investments through short term loans. A good idea in good economic times; a horrible one in a crisis. To add insult to injury, the German government tried to keep a balanced budget throughout the crisis and did not even try any sort of stimulus, instead arguing that getting rid of reparation obligations (which happened in 1932) was more important. Soon after taking power, the Nazis pursued an aggressive foreign policy and built the 100 000 man military[6] they found to a sizable invasion force, all obviously in preparation for war, which was mostly ignored by Britain and France who had been hard hit by the economic crisis. After a number of provocations were answered with yet mere appeasement (including giving up on Czechoslovakia without shooting one shot in anger in 1938), Hitler finally got the war he wanted when he invaded Poland in 1939. At first the Nazis managed to conquer most of their neighbors, but the combined might of the allied forces finally crushed Germany at the end of World War II and partitioned it between the United States, France, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union. The first three sectors recombined to form West Germany, while the Soviet-occupied portion was known as East Germany, and the country remained divided during the Cold War. A sizable portion of German land in the East was given to Poland. This was to compensate Poland for the loss of Polish land in the east of the country, which ended up in the Soviet Union (first it was illegally seized by the USSR at the start of WW2, then taken by the Germans when they invaded the USSR, then re-taken by the USSR from the Germans). A smaller piece of German land, centered around Königsberg/Kaliningrad, was annexed outright by the Soviet Union and still remains part of Russia to this day.

Unlike the East's centrally planned model, West Germany adopted a "social market economy" (a capitalist economic system with a significant degree of state intervention), together with a democratic political framework. It became a prosperous nation and much wealthier than its neighbor. West Germans enjoyed a high standard of living, and even though the East German regime claimed (somewhat truthfully) that their state was the wealthiest in the socialist camp, East Germans did not care whether they were better off than Soviet citizens, as they could see they were worse of than West Germans (West German television could be seen in most of the East). Thus ordinary citizens in East Germany became disillusioned with their government and by 1989 there were mass demonstrations for regime change in most of the major East German cities, which contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9, 1989) and unification (October 3, 1990) of the two divided Germanies. Even though the East German state had little in the way of public support when it finally collapsed, the way reunification turned out left some easterners bitter, as unemployment - which was virtually non-existent in GDR times - soared to 20% in some regions and many factories (including those that had exported goods to the West in GDR times) closed overnight or were almost literally sold for scraps well beneath the value many Easterners had thought they had. In addition to that, many Easterners had problems adjusting to the new state and the new economic system and as such there is a small but notable group of people that long for the "good old days".

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall many feared that a newly reunited Germany would mirror the militaristic country that had existed prior to World War II. Most jokes centered around France's imminent unilateral surrender. However, Germany has thus far proved itself to be a vibrant member of the international community with strong commitments to beer, peace, beer, multilateralism, beer, and beer, as well as a prolific exporter of high-quality pornography. The German military however, whose purpose prior to the fall of the wall was primarily to get shot at until the Americans could arrive, has found itself involved in two major wars, 1999 against Serbia in Kosovo and 2001 in Afghanistan. Domestically, the German involvement in Afghanistan is highly controversial, especially (but not exclusively) among the German left and it is often pointed out that the war in Afghanistan has now seen German involvement for a longer period of time than both World Wars combined. Many of the other NATO countries are somewhat annoyed at this German reluctance to get involved in wars.

Eurokrise[edit]

As Germany is the biggest power in Europe both in terms of population and economic output, it has often had a leading role in the European Union (usually together with France and formerly Great Britain). This has proven true as well in the Euro-crisis and the German strict adherence to austerity amid the biggest economic crisis in the last eighty years has earned Angela Merkel some criticism to say the least. As can be expected some Greek protesters have gone so far as to draw pictures of Merkel with a Hitler mustache and the image of Germany abroad has suffered tremendously from the way the German government and press behave. The German emphasis of austerity is somewhat hypocritical, as Germany (and to a lesser degree France) almost constantly went above the 3% deficit threshold in the first years of the Euro, that was supposed to ensure the stability of the new currency. Of course back then Germany was in a crisis and now the situation is totally different.

Hauptstadt[edit]

Berlin is the capital of Germany. It was captured by the Russians in 1945, and briefly was divided into Russian, American, British, and French sectors. The American, British, and French parts were united and became West Berlin. The Russian partition became East Berlin. Since Berlin was deep in East German territory, when the Soviets locked down rail lines and formed a blockade, closing off access to West Berlin, the Allies responded with the Berlin Airlift, flying enough supplies in on a daily basis to keep the city running. The result was the abandoning of the blockade of the city by the Soviets and later the building of a fortified border.

Regierung[edit]

Germany's current government is a federal republic divided into 16 states or Bundesländer. The current head of state is President Joachim Gauck, following Christian "Who?" Wulff who has resigned after numerous scandals; the current head of government is Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel belongs to the center-right (by European standards) Christian Democratic Union, while Gauck is not affiliated with any party. However any real power resides with the chancellor and not the president.

The German constitution is called the Basic Law, because it was formulated for West Germany only, and the Germans intended to make a new constitution if the country was unified again. However, when reunification did happen, the Basic Law was simply extended to cover East Germany as well, with a few amendments.

The Basic Law (together with the Law on the Federal Constitutional Court) puts tighter restrictions on political parties than exist in many countries: the constitutional court of Germany is allowed to ban any "anti-constitutional" party. This provision has been used to ban both communist and neo-Nazi parties; recently, an attempt was made to ban the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD), but the attempt was derailed when it turned out that a significant number of the NPD brass were in fact government informants rather than actual party members. In considering the evidence presented against the NPD, the Court decided it was effectively impossible to distinguish between genuine party material and material influenced by outsiders,[7] and voted to dismiss the case without ruling on the ban.

Homeschooling is not permitted in Germany, except in a very limited number of circumstances, which causes all the raving loonies reporters over at WorldNetDaily to get their knickers in a twist whenever someone is prosecuted for doing it. The rationale for the law is that the state has a right to prevent the development of philosophically-motivated Parallelgesellschaften (parallel societies).

In a shining display of creativity[8], one of Germany's primary left-wing parties calls itself 'Die Linke', which literally translates to 'The Left'. Their previous name 'Die Linkspartei' (literally 'The Left-(wing) Party') wasn't a milestone of creativity either.

Deutsche Sprache[edit]

The German language is not the easiest language to learn. We at RationalWiki don't think you could find a better treatment of the difficulties of learning the German language than Mark Twain's essay, "The Awful German Language". It is quite humorous, but not an exaggeration.

Wirtschaft[edit]

Europe's largest economy is located in Germany and it weathered the troubles of the 2007-8 financial crisis better in comparison to other states. However, certain details reveal that this happened in part at the expense of the German working and middle classes, the European periphery and the prospective mid-term stability of the whole European economy.[9]

At the end of the last millennium the German Social Democrats, the equivalent of the UK Labour and US Democratic parties, came into power. They cut high-end income taxes by almost 10 per cent, started to dismantle the public benefit system and stripped away regulations for banks and employers to prove their centrist credentials. Neoliberal doctrine postulated that this would lead to a quick and broad improvement of sluggish economic numbers. When this failed to materialise the conservatives got voted back in and they doubled down on the neoliberal strategy.[10] Slowly employment numbers rose and corporate profits skyrocketed thanks to the export industry being able to reduce wage costs.[11] [12] Chancellor Merkel declared that all is well. When German wage dumping turned the 2007-8 banking crisis into a full blown currency crisis for the whole EU[13], Merkel responded by demanding all countries adopt wage deflation and create trade surpluses.[14]... Yeah, although Merkel has a PhD in physics arithmetic isn't one of her strengths.

The German job miracle is another point of contention: While there has been a drop in unemployment, this did not originate so much from miraculous systemic improvement.[15] The administrations under Chancellors Schröder and Merkel changed the method of counting the unemployment numbers so they appear lower as they are in reality[16]. In addition, the observed growth in employment can mainly be attributed to a growth in low-wage jobs and temp work, also for workers with higher qualifications[17] [18] leading to a decline in quality of life[19] [20].

Thanks to a push to destroy the public pension system a record number of retirees had to scrap the whole thing about retiring and returned to the labour market to make a living.[21]. So in essence, the German economic miracle is a result of messing with the accounting, a decreasing standard of living for the general population and depressed economies in neighbouring countries due to a balance of payment crisis induced by Germany and Greece letting the rich dodge domestic taxes.[22]

Autobahnen[edit]

German Autobahnen are legendary. Legend has it they were originally designed as part of the Blitzkrieg, neatly copied from ancient Roman road system designed to transport legions to the borders. Some few decades later invading neighbours wasn't a real option anymore so they were repurposed as an open racetrack. On most parts there is no speed limit; however, even in those instances, there is still a "recommended maximum speed" ("Richtgeschwindigkeit") of 130 km/h, which means that it's legally permitted to exceed that speed limit if all the conditions (weather, traffic etc.) are sufficient. Only in cases of accidents, exceeding the speed limit could have repercussions; even if someone who technically didn't cause the accident exceeded 130km/h, they can still be found partially liable unless they can prove that the accident would have still happened all the same even if they had remained below 130km/h. In practice this turns out as follows: Right lane is for trucks and women. 90km/h max. Middle lane is for normal cars, about 140km/h. Left lane is for BMW and Mercedes, about 220km/h although faster is allowed. Because anything over 130km/h is considered Guilty unless proven innocent, most Germans have dash-cams in their Audi TT or Porsche Carrera.

Of particular note are the drastically different conditions of roads and highways between West and East Germany. Because West German residents are still obliged to pay a toll ("Solidaritätszuschlag", "solidarity premium") for the ongoing reconstruction of former East Germany, you will find nothing but flawlessly paved roads and highways in the Eastern states of Germany but loads of poorly maintained and patched roads and highways, coupled with seemingly eternal construction sites, in the Western states.

Germany is also home to an automotive equivalent to Mecca in the form of the Nürburgring, and in particular its almost 23 km Nordschleife or "North Course." The "'Ring" or "Green Hell," as it is sometimes called, has hosted many memorable races and to this day hosts arguably the most challenging race in the world: the 24 Hours of Nurburgring. Unlike the NASCAR, the race involves more than 4 left turns and lasts for an entire 24 hours period (as befits the name). When not being used as a racetrack, the 'Ring is open to the public on various days wherein weekend warriors can pay a nominal fee to lap the Nordschleife at their leisure; unfortunately, this leads to anywhere between 3 and 12 deaths per given year. Additionally, the course is used by car manufacturers and independent builders the world over to test their high-performance cars; indeed, setting a Nürburgring lap time record earns bragging rights and market share even for weakly-built American cars, of which the record holder for fastest production car from a major manufacturer on the Green Hell has been the American-built Dodge Viper.

As soon as you get a company car anywhere in Europe, the first thing to do is to book a city trip on the opposite side of Germany.

Radfahren[edit]

Germans are much more likely to commute via bicycle than those in the USA. However, you will not see any dropped (ram's horn) handlebars on commuter bikes, and you will not see commuters wearing black bicycle shorts (or any other color of bicyle shorts). Why not? Because it is in line with the general German cultural value to not do something if it does not make sense. When you are riding in city traffic, you want 1) not to have to move your hands to reach the brake levers 2) ride with a comfortable "heads up" posture and 3) not incur the overhead of changing into bike shorts to start the commute, then change out of them at the end of a commute that will probably be less than 5 or 6 miles.

The commuter bikes that are used have the same general design that was in use during World War II, both in Germany as well as the USA. Of course, even though they look similar, today's version will have a lighter frame, more gears and better brakes.

Germans actually have real bike lanes-- not painted areas on the road surface. On many major streets this means that to cross a road as a pedestrian, you will first leave your sidewalk to cross a bike lane for bikes traveling in one direction. You had better pay attention here for bicycle traffic. There can be a lot of it. Then you will cross the street with automobile traffic, then you will cross another bike lane for bikes traveling the other direction, and finally you will reach the sidewalk for people walking the other direction.

Deutschehumoergezollwegischverflipperwaltsprachtegung[edit]

Contrary to popular belief, German humour does exist[23], and it is as diverse as you can expect it from a country of 82 million people.

It deals with many of the same topics that English humour does, but has its own characteristics.

National minorities
"Ossi(e)s" (People from East Germany, the former GDR), "Ostfriesen" (East Frisians, who are portrayed as naive and/or stupid), Bayern (Bavarians) and so forth.
National stereotypes
For example, Dutch drivers who block the Autobahn with their caravans.
"What happens when Dutch people fail the driving test for the third time? They get yellow number plates".[24]
Gender jokes
About stupid women and primitive men.
Mothers-in-law
Government and politicians
Both in the form of simple jokes and elaborate political cabaret.
"Beamtenwitze"
Jokes about state officials being insanely lazy.
Two state officials meet in the corridor. One of them asks "Can't sleep as well, eh?"
Why are civil servants not allowed one hour breaks? Because it takes too much time to retrain them.
"Blondinenwitze"
Jokes about blond women, who are said to be supernaturally stupid.
"What's a blond woman with dyed hair? Artificial intelligence."
"Bauernregeln"
"Peasants' (or farmers') rules". While there are, of course, lots of serious rules that may or may not be correct, there are at least as many nonsensical variants such as this:
"Kräht der Hahn hoch auf dem Mist, dann ändert sichs Wetter oder es bleibt wie's ist" means "When the rooster crows on the dungheap, then the weather will change or stay as it is."
Absurd humour
"Nachts ist es kälter als draußen" means "At night, it is colder than outside". Yes, that is the actual translation, and no, it doesn't make any sense in German, either. This example is often used when something completely meaningless is said by accident as a follow-up by the same person (English example: "Do you want some butter on your bed? [Pause] ...yeah, and at night, it is colder than outside...").
Nazi jokes
Which may or may not be perceived as offensive, depending on to whom you are talking.
The East German Trabant car, notorious for its under-powered engine and cheap construction[25]
"What's the best feature of a Trabant? There's a heater at the back to keep your hands warm when you're pushing it."
"How do you double the value of a Trabant? Fill up the tank!"
Manta Jokes[26]
Opel Manta drivers are quite often characterized as rednecks, not too dissimilar from American muscle car owners, notably of the Pontiac Trans Am.
Sarcastic humor
For some reason Germans tend to love sarcasm and use it all the time. They think it's funny.
"What's the most attractive thing about nihilism? Nothing!"

The main difference between German humour and its English counterpart is that German humour contains fewer plays on words. Since German is a language with strict rules, it doesn't allow as much freedom to re-arrange sentences[citation needed] and it doesn't contain nearly as many double meanings as the English language does. Puns, however, are often considered "elegant" in Germany, possibly because in the German language there are fewer possibilities for play with words. Many Germans also say they "like British humour" by which they usually mean Rowan Atkinson in his Mr Bean days and Monty Python.

Siehe auch[edit]

Fußnoten[edit]

  1. Modern-day Germany's unofficial name was previously used for West Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. East Germany was the German Democratic Republic, which like present-day North Korea didn't know what "democratic" means.
  2. http://www.google.com.au/publicdata/explore?ds=d5bncppjof8f9_&met_y=ny_gdp_mktp_cd&idim=country:DEU&dl=en&hl=en&q=gdp+of+germany
  3. http://www.google.com.au/publicdata/explore?ds=d5bncppjof8f9_&met_y=sp_pop_totl&idim=country:DEU&dl=en&hl=en&q=population+of+germany
  4. history of the entire world, i guess
  5. https://www.german-way.com/history-and-culture/germany/religion-in-germany/
  6. The Treaty of Versailles imposed 100.000 as an upper limit of the German army. The leaders of the German army were no fools, however. They selected those 100.000 carefully, training most of them to be officers and rotated quickly, so that when Hitler took over, he found a very well trained and competent officer corps in place.
  7. Rather like the situation with the Conservapedia sysops.
  8. Kreativität? SCHTONK!
  9. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmfhDEaw3l8
  10. http://www.sozialpolitik-aktuell.de/tl_files/sozialpolitik-aktuell/_Kontrovers/Mindestlohn/Dostal%202012%20Minimum%20wage%201t700394.pdf
  11. http://www.nachdenkseiten.de/upload/pdf/kt_050827.pdf
  12. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703578104575397342677852482.html
  13. http://seekerblog.com/2012/01/17/euro-crisis-german-unit-labor-cost-repression-is-the-primary-cause-of-periphery-stress/
  14. http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/05/lake-wobegon-europe/
  15. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/business/global/the-trade-off-that-created-germanys-job-miracle.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
  16. http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-02-28/europe/31105427_1_unemployment-rate-monthly-report-numbers
  17. http://www.wsws.org/articles/2012/mar2012/germ-m22.shtml
  18. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/08/us-germany-jobs-idUSTRE8170P120120208
  19. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/low-paid-workers-struggle-despite-germany-s-booming-economy-a-832724.html
  20. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/19/business/global/many-germans-scrambling-as-economic-miracle-rolls-past.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
  21. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/sharp-increase-in-the-number-of-pensioners-working-in-germany-a-852461.html
  22. http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2011/07/11/110711ta_talk_surowiecki
  23. There's even a Wikipedia article about it!
  24. All vehicles registered in the Netherlands have yellow number plates at the front and rear.
  25. Wikipedia entry on the TrabantWikipedia's W.svg
  26. Of the Opel variety, not the sea creature.