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During the first years after World War I, Kanzler Friedrich Höhne sought to reorder the relation of the German states with each other and the Kaiser in the wake of the devastation of the first World War, and to bring Germans closer to the Kaiser. With the aid of Kaiserin Maria Charlotte von Preußen, he successfully brought a close to the Kingdom of Prussia, instead making the provinces of the former Prussia into direct relationship with the other states and the federal, republican government of Germany. One of the concerns that had been growing for the last 30 years was the representation of German-speaking Germans in Bohemia and Moravia, in the so-called 'Sudetenlands' of Germany. Höhne redrew the map, annexing these territories onto the surrounding states, and providing for better Czech-language instruction in Bohemia and Moravia, earning their support in the 1922 elections for the FDP. The other states welcomed the changes, as it meant that one state (Prussia) would no longer dominate the federation. The only other large change was the 1898 change in bringing the numerous Thuringian states together, and the merging of several smaller states into the larger states.
Upon founding in 1871, the German Empire had 26 constituent states, of various government types, such as kingdoms, grand duchies, duchies, principalities, free Hanseatic cities, and one imperial territory. Alsace-Lorraine was reorganized as a self-ruling Reichsland in 1921, electing its own government the year prior. Saar and the Bavarian Palatinate were merged after World War I, and the former Provinces of Prussia established more state autonomy in Höhne's reforms, but it would not be until 1947, when after the French and Polish-Russian occupation of Germany, that the full extent of his reforms were realized. Each state reorganized along roughly similar lines, adopting the Regierungsbezirk/Bezirk/Kreis/Gemeinde division-scheme, a Postal Code, and gaining a bicameral legislature and an executive called the 'Landsgouverneur.' Reichsrat members were chosen by this Landsgouverneur upon the advice and consent of his legislature, and could not hold any other office while in the Reichsrat.
While not a state on its own, Berlin is semi-autonomous city within Brandenburg, acting as the federal capital of the German Empire. The other city-states, Bremen, Lübeck, and Hamburg, are also states in their own right, and are represented as such in the Reichsrat. Until 1965, they received 2 members in the Rat, versus 4 for the land-states; after Kanzler Gunther Schultz and Kaiser Wilhelm III reformed it to 4 for all members of the Reichsrat.
Unlike other federations, the German states retain the right to act on their own behalf at an international level. They retain the status of subjects of international law, independently from their status as members of a federation. This unique status is enshrined in Articles 23, 24, and 32 of the German Constitution.
Today, the Kaiser maintains quite a powerful status as the monarch of the German nation, but his power is not as great as it once was in 1871, due to numerous constitutional reforms and laws over the years. The Kaiser is not an inherited position, but an elected position, much like in the old Holy Roman Empire. The Kaiser is chosen from a pool of candidates of royal blood by the Reichsrat, and serves until resignation or death. There is no campaigning as in the United States, but the Kaiser candidates do make known their positions on issues for several years prior to their consideration for the monarchy.
Constituent states of the Empire
Before unification, German territory was made up of 26 constituent states, expanded to 38 with the integration of Luxembourg, Liechstenstein, and the Austrian Empire. These states consisted of kingdoms, grand duchies, duchies, principalities, free Hanseatic cities and one imperial territory. The Kingdom of Prussia was the largest of the constituent states, covering some 60 percent of the territory of the German Empire.
Several of these states had gained sovereignty following the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. Others were created as sovereign states after the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Territories were not necessarily contiguous - many existed in several parts, as a result of historical acquisition, or, in several cases, divisions of the ruling family trees. The Imperial reforms of 1898 and 1919 reduced the number of individual states, which was increased again with the dissolution of the Kingdom of Prussia and the integration of the Prussian Provinces as self-governing states.
Each component of the German Empire sent representatives to the Imperial Council (Bundesrat) and the Imperial Diet (Reichstag). Relations between the Imperial center and the Empire's components were somewhat fluid, and were developed on an ongoing basis. The extent to which the German Emperor could, for example, intervene on occasions of disputed or unclear succession was much debated on occasion - for example with the Lippe-Detmold inheritance crisis. The final unification of the Austrian and Prussian lines in 1933 ended the dual tension of the Hohenzollern and Habsburg monarchical traditions.