Germany (officially: Republic of Germany) is a nation in central Europe.
Since World War I, the Weimar Republic, so-called due to the constitution being written in Weimar, sought better relations with the west. Once stable, the German President requested a temporary suspension of reparations due to the depression, and a plebescite on Danzig, which rejoined the Republic in 1933. In 1937, due to a fascist government uprising in Austria, Germany entered Austria with the goal of restoring order, spending four months in the action, when talks of union with Germany arose, which was forbidden by the Versailles Treaty. Successful negotiations with the Allied Powers allowed the union on promise that reparations, which had suspended 4 years prior, would resume on a modified level, which were finally repayed in 2004. A minor German-Polish War, urged on by France, Romania, and Italy, in 1938, led the militarily understaffed Germany to rearm and defeat the Polish in 1939. The Germans forced the Polish to cede Polish Silesia and the former Regierungsbezirk Danzig, reconnecting East Prussia to Germany Proper, in return for unrestricted Polish access to the sea.
Germany failed to see peace, since France, under a more restrictive dictatorship since the mid-1930's, saw this as a sign of rising German imperialism, and sought closer ties to Italy and Poland, and sought to strike in 1940, when most of Germany's troops were in the East. France made rapid gains on the Rhineland and Baden, with some Communist and Socialist members, along with some far-right party members welcoming the French. The British, having withdrawn from the continent after Chamberlain's government fell after his 1938 trip to France, meeting with Polish and German ambassadors, saw him return to Britain claiming 'Peace in Our Time' - a phrase that would haunt his re-election.
France's war with Germany started slowing until Spain joined on the side of the French, along with Italy and Portugal, and Japan in late 1940, when the French promised to allow the Japanese to keep any British colonies the Japanese captured after the war.
Denmark joined the German side, along with Norway and Sweden, facing off against Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy. Greece allied with the Germans when Bulgaria joined in the French Axis seeking more territory from Greece, and gaining aid from the USSR on promise of free travel through the straits. Britain joined when the French started air raids against British airfields near the channel to attempt to prevent them from aiding the Germans.
French aggression was not without its effects across the sea, as FDR's administration had openly sided with France's diplomatic efforts to contain Germany, with the French unprovoked attack helping Republican Wendell Willkie win election. Willkie promised aid to Germany and the UK, with Lend-Lease starting aid to the Germans and British. Americans entered the war after Pearl Harbor, landing in Europe and Africa in 1942.
In the course of the war, French swept through Belgium and the Netherlands and into western Germany, while Poland came from the east. France sought 'espace vital' or 'living space' while Poland, under Pilsudski, sought restoration of Polish Territory, which evolved into everything east of the Oder, including Silesia. Breslau, Berlin, Cologne, Straßburg, Munich, Hamburg, Dresden, and Dusseldorf experienced some of the worst fighting, while the government fought against sympathizers in the more extremist parties. By war's end, France had many of her cities in ruins and German troops overrunning the entire southeast, British in the north and west, and Americans in the southwest and north.
Postwar Germany adjusted its borders, restoring Alsace-Lorraine and Eupen-Malmédy, but re-iterated its Danish border, as the Danish had been a large help in keeping Lübeck and Schleswig out of French hands. In the east, Poland capitulated, while the Soviets started a war on the eastern front in 1943, which also brought Romania, Hungary, and Yugoslavia against the Russians. Turkey sought its European territory back, attacking defending American and British forces, which, tied down elsewhere, couldn't do more than hold the line in the Adriatic, before turning the tide in 1944.
Germany's post-war eastern border was restored with Posen, West Prussia, and Memel returned to Germany, its Polish population deported, and the Volga Germans and other ethnic Germans resettled into the territory. The post-war situation led to a Wirtschaftswunder with the Marshall Plan pumping rebuilding funds into Germany, along with the American troops spending money in local shops, spreading American culture as well, with American football gaining fans amongst German troops who had served alongside their American counterparts. American movies and television programs began running in German theaters in part due to the troops, and later due to rapid consumption of American culture by the German youth in the 50's and 60's.
The population boom meant that the German people needed little immigration from countries such as Turkey, while Nordic immigration filled what little need there was. With the fall of communism in the 1990s, the Germans felt they could retract their military expenditures until the 2008 terrorist attack in Breslau, forcing Germany to send its troops to Iran, in joint operation with the Americans and British, toppling the extremist regime. Germany also elected its first female President in 2006, Rebecca Augenstein.
German culture today is a continuation of centuries of tradition. It has been called Das Land der Dichter und Denker (the land of poets and thinkers). The federated states in Germany are in charge of cultural institutions. There are 320 subsidized theaters, hundreds of symphonic orchestras, thousands of museums, and over 31,000 libraries spread throughout Germany. There are over 98 million German museum visits every year; annually, 29 million go to theaters and operas; 5.2 million per year listen to the symphonic orchestras. The UNESCO incribed 38 properties in Germany on the World Heritage List.
Germany has established a high level of gender equality, promotes disability rights, and is legally and socially tolerant towards ethnic minorities. Germany has also changed its attitudes on immigration. Since the 1990s, the government and a majority of Germans have begun to acknowledge controlled immigration should be allowed based on qualification standards (having a college degree and a job waiting, for example). Germany has been named the worlds second most valued nation among 50 countries in 2010. A global opinion poll for the BBC revealed that Germany is recognized for having the most positive influence in the world in 2011.
German cinema has had a long history since Fritz Lang's Metropolis in 1927, a historic science-fiction film, along with Untergang (1947) (a war movie), Der Spion der mich geliebt (1964) (The Spy who loved me, a German take on the British Bond films, which became successful in its own right), Nibelungenlied (2005) (fantasy-mythology), and Das Vermächtnis der Tempelritter (National Treasure) (A German version of National Treasure describing a conspiracy to hide a treasure in the German alps).
Sports in Germany are dominated by Football (soccer) and American Football, which gained popularity after World War II when troops from both sides, facing long periods of time together, played in teams against each other and together during and after the war. Germany's football team won the FIFA world cup in 1954, 1974, 1978, 1986, and 1990, and the European football championship in 1972, 1980, and 1996. Germany's German Football League (GFL, American football league) fields 48 teams, such as the Berlin Adler, the Königsberg Knights, and the Munich Cowboys.
Germany has fielded the Olympics twice, in Berlin in 1936, and Munich in 1972. Germany is scheduled to host the games in 2016 in Danzig.
Christianity is the largest religion in Germany, with around 83% of the population as adherents (93.74 million), of which 36% are Catholic, 64% are Protestant, and less than 1% are of other Christian professions. The Catholic population are concentrated int eh south and west, and Protestants in the north and east, with a significant Catholic population also in Silesia and Posen. About 1.6% of the country's overall population declare themselves Orthodox Christians. Within the Protestants, Lutherans make up the majority at 86%, followed by Baptists and Methodists at 7% each (due to the influence of American chaplins in the country in the southwest and east), and then a number of others not exceeding 0.5% of the population.
Judaism is the second largest religion in Germany with an estimated 1.2 million adherents, followed by Buddhism with 273,000, Hinduism at 97,000, Islam at 42,000, and all other religious communities having fewer than 50,000 adherents. German Muslims lack full official state recognition of their religious community. Approximately 90% of the Buddhists in Germany are Asian immigrants.
Germans with no stated religious adherence make up 1.6% of the population, and in recent surveys are found to be less trusted than Muslims.
German is the official and predominant spoken language in Germany. Recognised native minority languages in Germany are Danish, Low German, Sorbian, Romany, and Frisian; they are officially protected by federal law. The most used immigrant languages are Polish, the Balkan languages, and Russian; 74% of German citizens claim to be able to communicate in at least one foreign language and 28% in at least two languages other than their own.
Standard German is a West Germanic language and is closely related to and classified alongside English, Low German, Dutch, and the Frisian languages. To a lesser extent, it is also related to the East (extinct) and North Germanic languages. Most German vocabulary is derived from the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family. Significant minorities of words are derived from Latin and Greek, with a smaller amount from French and most recently English (known as Denglisch). German is written using the Latin alphabet. German dialects, traditional local varieties traced back to the Germanic tribes, are distinguished from varieties of standard German by their lexicon, phonology, and syntax.
Over 99% of Germans age 15 and above are able to read and write. Responsibility for educational oversight in Germany lies primarily with the individual states. Since the mid 1960s, a reform movement has attempted to unify secondary education in a Gesamtschule (comprehensive school), while several East German states have attempted to simplify their school systems into two or three tiers.
Optional kindergarten education is provided for all children between three and six years old, after which school attendance is compulsory for at least nine years. Primary education usually lasts for four years and public schools are not stratified at this stage. In contrast, secondary education includes three traditional types of schools focused on different levels of academic ability: the Gymnasium enrolls the most gifted children and prepares students for university studies; the Realschule for intermediate students lasts six years; the Hauptschule prepares pupils for vocational education.
In the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) for 2008, six of the top 100 universities in the world are in Germany, and 18 of the top 200. Nearly all German universities are public institutions, charging tuition fees of €50–500 per semester for each student, and operate on a similar degree system to American institutions since the 1970s of an Associates, Bachelor, Master, and Doctorate degrees.
Germany has the world's oldest universal health care system, dating back to Otto von Bismarck's Social legislation in 1883. The population was covered by a fairly comprehensive health insurance plan provided by statute until the downturns of the 1970s forced the state to partially privatize health care in the 1980s with the option to use medical tax-free accounts instead of paying health care taxes, along with private catastrophic insurance, limited first to certain groups of people, but spread in popularity in the 90s and 2000s to a majority of the population. According to the World Health Organization, Germany's health care system was 57% government-funded and 43% privately funded as of 2005. In 2005, Germany spent 11% of its GDP on health care. Germany ranked 20th in the world in life expectancy with 77 years for men and 82 years for women, and it had a very low infant mortality rate (4 per 1,000 live births).
As of 2010, the principal cause of death was cardiovascular disease, at 41%, followed by malignant tumours, at 26%. As of 2008, about 82,000 Germans had been infected with HIV/AIDS and 26,000 had died from the disease (cumulatively, since 1982). According to a 2005 survey, 27% of German adults are smokers.