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European Kingdoms

Central Europe

 

Germany

Modern Germany can trace its political origins back to Brandenburg in the north, although its people can trace their ethnic origins back to the early Germanic homeland in southern Scandinavia. The Brandenburg margraviate - and the later electorate - emerged in the form of the North March (or Nordmark), a border zone which had been created by eastwards expansion under the Germanic Roman emperors.

This and other new regions quickly became formalised as margraviates as they secured the hinterland between the German empire to the west and the Poles and Pomeranians to the east. The North March itself became Brandenburg in the twelfth century and was later especially important as an elector, from the fourteenth century onwards, even providing several emperors of its own.

When the Hohenzollerns took over in 1415 they quickly benefited from the Protestant Revolution and the loss to the Teutonic Knights of their eastern lands. In 1701 the combined Hohenzollern lands were elevated to a kingdom and then became the dominant German state in 1866. Within the decade the kingdom was able to formalise its dominance of Germany by founding the German empire.

Despite this, and aspirations to become a world empire on a par with the nineteenth century United Kingdom, it never quite managed to harness the same extensive resources and markets. When it supported Austria-Hungary in 1914 to trigger the First World War it was eventually brought tumbling to earth.

The victorious allies ensured that the empire was replaced with a republic, the Weimar republic. Massive war reparations and general worldwide political instability, however, meant that it never managed to secure a stable footing. Its fall and the rise of the Nazi 'Third Reich' paved the way for the Second World War. Following subsequent defeat, division (into West Germany and East Germany), and reunification, modern Germany is still largely led from the Brandenburg capital at Berlin.

Germany

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The History of the Franks, Volume II, Gregory of Tours (O M Dalton, Trans, 1967), from From Roman Provinces to Medieval Kingdoms, Thomas F X Noble, from The Last Kaiser: William the Impetuous, Giles Macdonogh (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001), from Germany - The Tides of Power, Michael Balfour (Routledge, 2004), from The First World War, John Keegan (Vintage Books, 2000), from A History of Poland from its Foundation, M Ross, and from External Links: the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, and from Encyclopaedia.com, and Royal Musings, and The German emperor as shown in his public utterances, Christian Gauss, and The road to World War Two (Reuters), and Cranach Digital Archive (in German and English), and Encyclopaedia Britannica (1911 Edition).)

Weimar Republic (Germany)
AD 1918 - 1933

The margraviate of Brandenburg had emerged in the twelfth century from the North March, a border zone which had been created by eastwards expansion under the Germanic Roman emperors. When the Hohenzollerns took over in 1415 they quickly benefited from gaining the lands of the Teutonic Knights.

In 1701 they formed the kingdom of Prussia which became the dominant German state in 1866. In less than a decade the kingdom was able to formalise its dominance of Germany by founding the German empire.

Having led the First World War in Europe, by 1918 imperial Germany was finding that even previously neutral countries around the world were taking an official stance - and every one of them was against Germany. Imperial troops were able to complete their conquest of the Baltic Provinces by taking Estonia even as Germany's diplomatic and social situation was worsening.

In late 1918 it lost its main ally, the empire of Austria-Hungary, on 3 November. William II, at the Western Front with his troops from 29 October following riots in Berlin, was forced to abdicate on 9 November 1918, signalling the end of the House of Hohenzollern in power. The next day he fled to neutral Holland to spend the remainder of his life as a gentleman farmer on a private estate, under loose house arrest by the Dutch government.

FeatureThe empire was terminated with this defeat (see feature link for more background on this period). The war officially ended on 11 November 1918, and the allies moved quickly to strip Germany of its overseas territories. In China, Germany lost Tsingtao Fortress which housed the headquarters of the German East Asia Squadron. German-leased territories in China's Shandong Province were also taken, as were the Marianas, Caroline, and Marshall Islands in the Pacific, all of which were formerly part of German New Guinea.

Germany became a republic with a new government. This was proclaimed on 9 November 1918, but it remained without a president until 1919. Germany fared badly from the armistice of 1918 and the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. It was faced with massive repayments in war reparations which it could never hope to meet. Unemployment was rampant. Inflation was sky high.

The currency was crashing. Civil disobedience and potential insurrection was rife (especially on the part of extremist fascist groups). Wracked with uncertainty and civil war at the start, the republic was never entirely stable. It fell in 1933, to be replaced by a Nazi government.

The deposed Kaiser Wilhelm II and successive claimants to the Hohenzollern imperial throne are shown below with a shaded background, while rival claimants and disqualifications are shown in green text. The imperial house has never relinquished its claim to the throne, although it does not actively pursue it.

Germany

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Last Kaiser: William the Impetuous, Giles Macdonogh (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001), from Germany - The Tides of Power, Michael Balfour (Routledge, 2004), from The First World War, John Keegan (Vintage Books, 2000), and from External Links: Royal Musings, and The German emperor as shown in his public utterances, Christian Gauss, and The road to World War Two (Reuters), and Archival Discovery Reveals a Ruined Berlin (Spiegel Online), and Encyclopaedia Britannica: Holocaust.)

1918 - 1933

William II

Deposed emperor of Germany (and into the Nazi period).

1918 - 1919

Germany's new government gets off to a shaky start when the German Revolution is triggered. It is triggered on 30 October 1918 by a confrontation between officers and crews on board the German fleet at Wilhelmshaven.

The country is already slipping into anarchy anyway, but the revolution quickly reaches Berlin in the form of a general strike. This has been called by the Spartacists and the 'Revolutionary Stewards', but it has widespread backing. The government quickly falls.

Spartacist Uprising of 1919
The Spartacist Uprising of radical socialists in 1919 was a general strike which began on 4 January and lasted for nine days as the last act of the German Revolution

1919

Following some violence, months of political and social chaos, and a degree of usurpation of the revolution's leadership by Friedrich Ebert (a former member of the failed 1918 government), a degree of peace returns.

With Ebert as its first president, Germany adopts the democratic 'Weimar Constitution' following the formal abolition of the German empire. This new Germany consists of the former German kingdoms and duchies, all of which have now been abolished, which include Baden, Bavaria, Hesse, Lippe, Saxony and Württemberg.

1919 - 1925

Friedrich Ebert

President of Weimar Germany. SPD. Died in office.

1921

The new Polish state ends the Russo-Polish War and confirms its borders. These new borders also include West Prussia which serves to cut off East Prussia from a Germany which has already lost Pomerania.

1923

Having joined the German Workers Party (DAP) in 1919, Adolf Hitler had become its leader in 1921. Now he attempts to seize power during a failed coup in Munich. He is imprisoned for five years (but is released in 1924), where he dictates the first volume of his autobiography and political manifesto, Mein Kampf ('My Struggle').

Post-war Austria
Austria in the period immediately following the declaration of the 1918 armistice struggled to find a new identity amid the collapse of the empire and its reformation into several independent sovereign states

1925

Hans Luther

Acting president of Weimar Germany (28 Feb-12 Mar).

1925

Walter Simons

Acting president of Weimar Germany (12 Mar-12 May).

1925 - 1934

Paul von Hindenburg

President of Weimar Germany (died in the Nazi period).

1933

The Third Reich is established under Adolf Hitler's dictatorial Nazi rule. The failed Weimar republic is swept away and the German constitution is suspended. Central Europe is rife with political activity and violence at this time, largely driven by the Nazis (or at least used for their own ends). Neighbouring Austria soon experiences its own unrest.

German Third Reich / Nazi Germany
AD 1933 - 1945
Incorporating the Allied Control Council (1945-1949)

The kingdom of Prussia was formed in 1701 out of several northern German territories. Having become a powerful player in European politics during the course of the eighteenth century, it secured the position of dominant German state in 1866.

In less than a decade the kingdom was able to formalise its dominance of the many princely states of Germany by founding the German empire. It led the First World War in Europe, but by 1918 imperial Germany was collapsing from within. Kaiser William II was forced to abdicate on 9 November 1918.

FeatureThe empire was terminated with this defeat (see feature link for more background on this period). Germany became a republic with a new government, proclaimed on 9 November 1918. The new state fared badly from the armistice of 1918 and the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. It was unstable and under intense internal and external pressures. Unemployment, inflation, a crashing currency, civil disobedience, and potential insurrection brought it down in 1933, to be replaced by a far-right Nazi government.

The Nazis pronounced the creation of the 'Third Reich', the 'third empire' of Germany, which claimed the first (Holy Roman) and second (Prussian-led German) empires as its forebears in order to attain a level of legitimacy. Established under Adolf Hitler's dictatorial rule, the failed Weimar republic was swept away and the German constitution suspended.

The Nazis then led the country inexorably into a devastating war which left much of its cities in ruins, especially Berlin where invading Soviet Union troops had to fight for each street corner and did so without mercy. Virtually a prisoner in his own wartime bunker in the city by this time, Adolf Hitler committed suicide. His named successor led the country briefly as a formal surrender was made and accepted, before the Nazi government was abolished and replaced by the Allied Control Council (shown below with details over a light green shaded background).

Until his death in 1941, Kaiser William II remained in exile in the Netherlands, living the life of a secluded gentleman farmer. His support of Nazi victories at the start of the Second World War exhibited a remarkable level of anti-Semitic and anti-England views.

He also refused to take any responsibility for his actions, with even the Freemasons being blamed for the start of both world wars. Maintaining his claim to the Hohenzollern imperial German throne, he died at the age of eighty-two having suffered a pulmonary embolism. He and successive claimants to the throne are shown here with a shaded background, while rival claimants and disqualifications are shown in green text.

Germany

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Last Kaiser: William the Impetuous, Giles Macdonogh (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001), from Germany - The Tides of Power, Michael Balfour (Routledge, 2004), from The First World War, John Keegan (Vintage Books, 2000), and from External Links: Royal Musings, and The German emperor as shown in his public utterances, Christian Gauss, and The road to World War Two (Reuters), and Archival Discovery Reveals a Ruined Berlin (Spiegel Online), and Holocaust (Encyclopaedia Britannica), and The Era of Partition (Encyclopaedia Britannica).)

1933 - 1941

William II

Deposed emperor of Germany (since 1918). Died.

1933 - 1934

Paul von Hindenburg

President of Germany (& Weimer Germany). Died aged 84.

1933

With Adolf Hitler already calling the political shots in Germany even as the aged President Hindenburg attempts to counter him or reign him in, the assault begins on Germany's Jewish Diaspora population.

Jews in Warsaw in 1941, probably in the ghetto
Photographed here in summer 1941 is a street armband seller and a group of Jewish locals, on 18 Zamenhofa Street, which is probably in Warsaw's ghetto

They are seen by Hitler as racial pollutants and are used by him and his followers as an excuse for all of the country's ills since the defeat of the First World War. The result is the Holocaust (or 'Catastrophe', the term preferred by modern Israel).

To Hitler it is the 'final solution' in which six million Jews (not to mention hundreds of thousands of other Europeans, mostly but not exclusively Balts and Slavs) are systematically exterminated, generally in organised camps which are set up in occupied Poland and other eastern territories after 1939.

Executions also take place in ad hoc arrangements such as mass shootings in front of hastily-dug trenches. Ashkenazi Jews, the predominant grouping in central and Eastern Europe, form by far the largest percentage of Jews killed.

The true horrors of the Holocaust, while gradually coming to light for politicians and military leaders during the course of the Second World War, are generally unknown by the world until the camps are liberated in 1945.

Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler at the height of his rule over Nazi Germany envisioned a 'Greater Germany' covering a vast swathe of Central Europe with 'living room' for Germans and a subservient Slavic population in the east to handle manual work

1934 - 1945

Adolf Hitler

Dictator. Austrian-born Nazi leader, or 'fuehrer'. Suicided.

1937 - 1938

For much of the Spanish Civil War both Hitler and Mussolini's Italy supply weapons and even aircraft to General Franco's forces. For Hitler, it proves to be a trial run for his 'blitzkrieg' tactics of 1940. Austria is forcibly annexed to Germany in 1938, as is Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland, while the Teutonic Knights are outlawed.

1939

Having already seized Czechoslovakia's western border regions, Hitler authorises a full-blown invasion of the country on 15 March 1939. The subsequent Nazi invasion of Poland on 1 September is the trigger for the Second World War. With both France and Great Britain pledged to support Poland, they have no option but to declare war on 3 September.

1940

The German invasion of the Low Countries begins, using his new military doctrine called 'blitzkrieg'. Thanks to this, the Netherlands, Belgium, and then France are swiftly invaded and occupied. Later in the same year, the Baltic states - Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia - are also occupied, as are Denmark and Norway. Sweden retains its neutrality.

1941

Greece is occupied, but a pro-German coup in Iraq is suppressed. In December, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and the USA join the war on the allied side.

German troops enter Poland on 1 September 1939
Nazi-led German troops are shown here progressing in good order through a Polish town on the first day of the invasion, 1 September 1939

Initially this is against Japan, but Germany is soon included (not helped by its own ineffectual declaration of war against the USA). Portugal, while officially neutral, provides Great Britain with naval facilities in the Azores.

In possibly his greatest tactical blunder of the war, Hitler launches 'Operation Barbarossa' on 22 June 1941, this being the code name for the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union. The act opens what becomes known as the Eastern Front, into which millions of Axis troops are sucked, including large numbers of the Austrian military forces.

It diverts German attention away from operations in Western Europe (where Britain has been standing alone in open national opposition to Hitler with its refusal to surrender or be invaded) and in North Africa (where the British soon provide an implacable obstacle in head-on combat operations), and eventually leads to the tide turning against Germany.

1941 - 1951

Crown Prince Frederick William

Eldest son of William II. 'Little Willy'. Renounced throne 1918.

1942 - 1944

In 1942 Peru becomes the first South American nation to declare war against Germany, joined in August by Brazil. The sinking of a Mexican tanker also brings that country into the war on the allied side.

Benito Mussolini
Would-be creator of an Italian empire but largely possessing second-rate military forces, Benito Mussolini as 'Il Duce' became the country's dictatorial leader in the run-up to the Second World War

In April 1943, Bolivia joins the war on the allied side, while Colombia joins in July. In September, Germany takes control of Albania and the region of Istria, as well as northern Italy in the face of the allied invasion there and liberation as far as Rome.

In 1944, Finland is invaded, but the Finns manage to expel German forces from Northern Lapland in the Lapland War. Having already fought to defend its lands in the Continuation War of 1941-1942 against Soviet aggression, Finnish troops are now seasoned veterans.

1945

Ecuador, Paraguay, Turkey, Uruguay, and Venezuela belatedly join the allied side in the war in February, while Argentina joins in March, and Chile joins in April. In the same month, as Adolf Hitler celebrates his fifty-sixth birthday, the first Soviet artillery shells fall on Berlin.

Hitler subsequently commits suicide in his war bunker on 30 April as Soviet forces overrun Berlin. Nazi Germany surrenders unconditionally on 7 May to the allies at General Eisenhower's HQ at Rheims in France.

Berlin 1945
Poet Yevgeny Dolmatovski recites his works on Berlin's Pariser Platz just a few days after the German surrender - a remarkable poetry recital with the bullet-riddled Brandenburg Gate flanked by ruins and two tank barrels hovering above the heads of soldiers

1945

Karl Dönitz

German head of state (30 Apr-23 May only). Died 1980.

1945 - 1946

Following the Nazi surrender, Germany is occupied by the forces of the Soviet Union, the United States, Britain, and France until 1949. The government of stand-in president, Karl Dönitz, is abolished.

The victorious Soviets take East Prussia and annexe it directly to the state as the pocket enclave of Kaliningrad. The German population either flees or is expelled and is replaced by an imported Russian population.

In fact, the German defeat triggers mass reprisals against anything and anyone with German links, especially in the east. Much of the historic German-speaking population of Eastern Europe is expelled into Germany by the post-war authorities, creating one of the biggest population movements of the modern age.

This is alongside millions of other displaced persons trying to get back to their home countries through the chaos of the immediate post-war period.

1945

The 'Allied Control Council' (ACC) or 'Allied Control Authority' (otherwise referred to as the 'Four Powers' or 'Vier Mächte') is established in 1945 as the governing body for the allied occupation zones across the entirety of Germany until 1949.

The 'Berlin Airlift' operation of 1948-1949
The 'Berlin Airlift' or 'Berlin Blockade' crisis between 1948-1949 was a result of competing occupation policies and rising tensions between western powers and the Soviet Union

The council's territory is later divided into four official zones under the terms of the Potsdam Agreement of 1 August 1945. Its members are the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, and France, with its headquarters in Schöneberg.

1948 - 1949

The Soviet Union withdraws from the ACC in 1948. Its forces enable and then lift the blockade of Berlin (which starts on 24 June 1948 and ends on 11 May 1949). During this time the allied forces counter the blockade by air, with the 'Berlin Airlift' making a total of 278,228 supply flights.

Those sectors of Germany which have been joint-controlled by the United States (southern Germany), Britain (northern Germany), and France (western Germany), are merged on 7 October 1949 to form the 'Federal Republic of Germany' in West Germany, while the Soviet zone establishes the German Democratic Republic in East Germany.

Federal Republic of Germany / West Germany
AD 1949 - 1990

The kingdom of Prussia became a powerful player in European politics during the course of the eighteenth century. In 1871 it was able to formalise its surging dominance of the princely states of Germany by founding the German empire. The First World War in Europe, though, left it collapsing from within. Kaiser William II was forced to abdicate on 9 November 1918, leaving the Weimar republic (barely) in control. The was unstable and under intense internal and external pressures, making it relatively easy to topple.

In 1933 it was replaced by a far-right Nazi government which proclaimed the creation of the 'Third Reich'. The Nazis then led the country inexorably into a devastating war which left much of its cities in ruins, especially Berlin where invading Soviet Union troops had to fight for each street corner and did so without mercy. The 'Allied Control Council' (ACC) was established in 1945 by the allied powers to take joint control of the defeated and chaotic country.

The Soviet denial of western access to Berlin in 1948 was intended to force the political integration of all four occupied zones under terms which it found favourable. Instead the 'Berlin Airlift' confounded its hopes and led directly to the western powers establishing their own unified - but western - Germany. In response, the USSR was left with its only option being to create a rival, East German state. The 'Federal Republic of Germany' ('Bundesrepublik Deutschland'), more commonly known as West Germany, came into being in May 1949.

This period witnessed the height of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the western nations, and also the slow decline of Soviet Russia from the 1970s onwards. The transformational period of the late 1980s eventually led to the USSR's collapse, and a subsequent domino effect of change. The dramatic fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was the trigger for German reunification, which took place on 3 October 1990. So began the period which can be classed as modern Germany.

Having combined the posts of president and chancellor in1934, in his will Adolf Hitler had divided the posts again. This division was retained by West Germany in its 'Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany', but now the chancellor held true power, with the presidential post being largely ceremonial.

The Hohenzollern family lived on after the fall of the German empire in 1918 without renouncing their claim to the throne. All six of William II's sons swore not to succeed him to the German Imperial throne, however. The royal house has since been led by the hereditary claimant, with a branch of the family being heirs to the throne of Romania. Successive claimants to the Hohenzollern imperial throne are shown with a shaded background, while rival claimants and disqualifications (where these exist) are shown in green text.

Germany

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Tom Horne, from The First World War, John Keegan (Vintage Books, 2000), from A History of Poland from its Foundation, M Ross, from The History of the Baltic Countries, Zigmantas Kiaupa, Ain Mäesalu, Ago Pajur, & Gvido Straube (Eds, Estonia 2008), from The Last Kaiser: William the Impetuous, Giles Macdonogh (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001), from Germany - The Tides of Power, Michael Balfour (Routledge, 2004), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia.com, and Cranach Digital Archive (in German and English), and Special Collections (University of Arizona), and Encyclopaedia Britannica (1911 Edition), and Royal Musings, and The road to World War Two (Reuters), and Romanian Royal Family, and Bundesministerium der Justiz.)

1949 - 1951

Crown Prince Frederick William

Retained hereditary claim from Nazi Germany in 1941.

1949 - 1959

Theodor Heuss

First president of the FRG (from 12 Sep). FDP. Retired.

1950

Having settled into office, the new government now faces up to its recent immigration problem. By this time it is home to about four and-a-half million refugee ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe, especially Poland, and Czechoslovakia, but also smaller groups such as the Baltic-Germans of Estonia.

Post-war Berlin ruins
A divided Berlin of the 1950s still heavily featured great swathes of wartime damage, although West Berlin was quicker to recover as West Germany itself quickly modernised

It also has a million-and-a-half refugees from East Germany who had managed to flee west prior to the USSR-driven establishment of the two-country post-war solution for Germany (and many continue to come, mainly farmers who refuse to collectivise).

The presence of so many refugees places a heavy social burden on West Germany, but they are surprisingly easy to assimilate. Many are skilled, enterprising, and adaptable, and their labour proves an important contributor to West Germany's remarkable and rapid economic recovery.

1951

Prince William

Eldest son. Disqualified by making a morganatic marriage.

1951 - 1990

Prince Louis Ferdinand

Brother. Born 1907. Continued into modern Germany (1994).

1955

The USSR forms the Warsaw Pact in direct response to the admission of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) into Nato whilst itself being barred from joining. Those states which are involved in the founding of this eastern alliance are Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Russia.

1959 - 1969

Heinrich Lübke

President of the FRG (13 Sep-30 Jun). CDU. Resigned.

1961

The Berlin Crisis of 1961 begins when the USSR demands the withdrawal of all armed forces in the city. The desire is to remove all allied troops, but all it does is firm up US resolve to defend West Berlin. The resultant political stalemate sees the East German government close off East Berlin on 13 August, the day after it begins building a physical dividing wall.

Building the Berlin Wall in 1961
The communist government of East Germany began building the Berlin Wall on 12 August 1961, and it remained in place until late 1989

1969 - 1974

Gustav Heinemann

President of the FRG (1 Jul-30 Jun). SPD.

1970

Former German eastern territories of the pre-war period, including Hinterpommern (eastern Pomeriana), do not officially become Polish territory until Chancellor Willi Brand's Social Democratic government of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) now recognises the loss (Willi Brand's 1970 Warsaw speech to the Polish people is available online).

The Soviet-dominated East German government which is not recognised by the former western allies - Britain, France, and the United States - has already recognised Poland's hegemony of Pommern (under duress in 1949 when the Soviet Union had first established the German Democratic Republic, better known as East Germany).

1971 - 1972

In 1971 the Soviet Union joins the United States, United Kingdom, and France in a 'Four Power Agreement' which normalises Berlin's status and opens the way for an easing of the lot of West Berliners. In the following year the Brandt-Scheel cabinet in West Germany and the East German authorities conclude the 'Basic Treaty' which normalises relations between the two German states.

This period, though, sees the East German authorities concentrate resources on the export market. Internal infrastructure is neglected, with railways, roads, and buildings gradually deteriorating while West Germans thrive.

Berlin of the 1970s
East Germany of the 1970s saw a period of gradual decline as the reality of a cash-strapped, Soviet-dominated governmental structure became apparent, while West Germans were doing very well

1974 - 1979

Walter Scheel

President of the FRG (1 Jul-30 Jun). FDP.

1979 - 1984

Karl Carstens

President of the FRG (1 Jul-30 Jun). CDU.

1981

Erich Honecker's East German government has been faced with mounting internal dissention. so the official visit by West German Chancellor Schmidt (the first such cross-border visit) makes it possible to ease conditions. Visits from east to west are made easier for the population. In return West Germany guarantees several large western bank loans to East Germany.

1984 - 1990

Richard von Weizsäcker

President. Remained in post into modern FDR (1994). CDU.

1989 - 1990

With the weakening of the Soviet Union and increased calls for reform, the Berlin Wall is pulled down by the people of both halves of the divided city. The East German border guards take no action to stop them, probably being as relieved as anyone to see the wall gone. The following year, with the consent of the USSR and President Gorbachev, the two Germanies are reunited, on 3 October 1990.

Modern Germany
AD 1990 - Present Day
Incorporating Heads of State (1990-2022)

Today's Germany is officially known as the 'Federal Republic of Germany', a Central European state which ranks amongst the most powerful on the entire European continent. It operates through a federal parliamentary system which, to an extent, preserves some of the internal boundaries of the former independent German kingdoms and principalities. In fact, those sixteen constituent states still retain some sovereignty of their own.

With a capital in Berlin (restored to prominence in 1994 at the expense of Bonn), Germany is neighboured by Poland and Czechia to the east, Austria to the south-east and south, Switzerland to the south, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands to the west, and Denmark to the north.

Modern Germany descends from a broad swathe of Central European territory which was known as Germania during the Roman empire period. Its current political foundation arose thanks to the Carolingian empire of the Franks. The subsequent formation of the Holy Roman empire under purely German leaders saw its borders crystallised, especially on the frequently-fluid eastern side. Following the empire's termination in 1806, the northern German kingdom of Prussia quickly became the dominant force in German politics. It formed a pan-'German Empire' in 1871 and led its vassal states into the First World War in 1914.

Defeat in 1918 led to the unstable Weimar republic being formed, which was helpless to prevent the rise of Nazism and the triggering of the Second World War in 1939. Defeated again by 1945, Germany was occupied by the allies until the slow collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s.

The dramatic fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was the trigger for German reunification, which took place on 3 October 1990. This was not a merger of the two Germanies but a continuation of the former Federal Republic of Germany in West Germany. It retained its political and administrative formation and simply absorbed the former German Democratic Republic of the east. Since then the country has been one of Europe's strongest economic and political performers.

The Hohenzollern family lived on after the fall of Prussia in 1918. They never renounced their claim to the Prussian throne, although all six of Kaiser William II's sons swore not to succeed him to the German imperial throne. The royal house is now led by the hereditary claimant, and a branch of the family is heir to the throne of Romania. Successive claimants to the Hohenzollern imperial throne are shown with a shaded background, while rival claimants and disqualifications (where these exist) are shown in green text.

Germany

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Tom Horne, from The First World War, John Keegan (Vintage Books, 2000), from A History of Poland from its Foundation, M Ross, from The History of the Baltic Countries, Zigmantas Kiaupa, Ain Mäesalu, Ago Pajur, & Gvido Straube (Eds, Estonia 2008), from The Campaigns of Napoleon, David Chandler (Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd, London, 1996), from The Last Kaiser: William the Impetuous, Giles Macdonogh (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001), from Germany - The Tides of Power, Michael Balfour (Routledge, 2004), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia.com, and Cranach Digital Archive (in German and English), and Special Collections (University of Arizona), and Encyclopaedia Britannica (1911 Edition), and Royal Musings, and The road to World War Two (Reuters), and The Saxon Royal Succession (Eurohistory), and Romanian Royal Family, and Bundesministerium der Justiz, and Angela Merkel bows out (The Guardian).)

1990 - 1994

Prince Louis Ferdinand

Hohenzollern heir since West Germany period (1951).

1990 - 1994

Richard von Weizsäcker

President of the FDR since 1984. CDU.

1990

The newly reunified Germany concentrates heavily on improving the infrastructure in its five recreated eastern states within the former East Germany. Environmental pollution is cleaned up and the states see a market economy being introduced. The work takes its toll on Germany's economic success, however. By the end of the decade it is heading towards a short recession (in 2003).

Fall of the Berlin Wall
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was a popular move which was generally people-driven and spontaneous, following the general collapse of the Soviet empire which backed East Germany's police state

1994

Prince Frederick William V

Son. Disqualified through two morganatic marriages.

1994

Prince Michael

Brother. Disqualified through morganatic marriage.

1994

Prince Louis Ferdinand

Brother & next in line. Born 1944, died of injuries in 1977.

1994 - Present

Prince George Frederick

Son. Born 1976.

1994 - 1999

Roman Herzog

President of the FRG (1 Jul-30 Jun). CDU.

1994

After naming Berlin in 1991 as the new capital of the reunified Germany, the capital is now moved there from the West German government centre of power in Bonn. Bonn retains a degree of its status by becoming a federal city and retaining some offices in the new governmental structure. In the same year the last Russian and allied post-war occupation troops leave Berlin.

1999 - 2004

Johannes Rau

President of the FRG (1 Jul-30 Jun). SPD.

2004 - 2010

Horst Köhler

President of the FRG (1 Jul-31 May). CDU. Resigned.

2005

German politics engenders unexpected federal elections, leading to a temporary stalemate when no clear winner is announced. After almost a month of negotiations, Angela Merkel of the CDU becomes the country's first female chancellor, replacing the long-serving Gerhard Schröder. She will retain the post for sixteen years.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Sworn in no less than four times during her sixteen year stint as German chancellor, Angela Merkel became a standard bearer for a consensual way of doing politics

2007

On 30 December 2007, the sixtieth anniversary of his abdication, the former King Michael of Romania signs a document entitled Fundamental Rules of the Royal Family of Romania. With this act he specifies that his daughter, Princess Margarita, is the heir to the Romanian throne with the titles 'Crown Princess of Romania' and 'Custodian of the Romanian Crown'.

Michael also requests of the Romanian parliament that, should the monarchy ever be restored, the Salic Law of succession which prevents female succession be abolished. This act effectively bars Prince Frederick of the German Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen family, of which Michael is a part, from inheriting the title.

2010

Jens Böhrnsen

Acting president of the FRG (31 May-30 Jun). SPD.

2010 - 2012

Christian Wulff

President of the FRG (30 Jun-17 Feb). CDU. Resigned.

2011

George Frederick, son of Prince Louis Ferdinand, great-grandson of Kaiser William II, heir to the Prussian throne, and the current head of the House of Hohenzollern, is married on Saturday 27 August.

FeatureHis bride is Princess Sophie von Isenburg, who is just a year younger than the prince himself. The ceremony takes place in the Church of Peace in Sanssouci in Potsdam (see feature link for other German churches). The marriage, and the possibility of future issue, places in doubt Prince Christian-Sigismund's position as heir.

Prince George Frederick of Prussia and Sophie
The marriage between Prince George Frederick of Prussia and Princess Sophie of Isenburg would, within two years, produce an heir and a 'spare' at the same time, with the birth of twins

2012

Horst Seehofer

Acting president of the FRG (17 Feb-18 Mar). CSU.

2012 - 2017

Joachim Gauck

President of the FRG (18 Mar-18 Mar). No party.

2017 - On

Frank-Walter Steinmeier

President of the FRG (19 Mar-On). SPD.

Prince Christian-Sigismund

Uncle of George. Heir until 2013. Born 1946.

2013

The marriage between George Frederick and Sophie von Isenburg produces the promised heir, plus a spare in the form of his twin. Carl Friedrich Franz Alexander is the elder by a few minutes and becomes heir to the Hohenzollern titles. Louis Ferdinand Christian Albrecht is the younger, while, Prince Christian-Sigismund is relegated to third in line to the succession.

2015

In mid-October Hungary fences off its border with Croatia in an attempt to halt the flow of refugees heading into Europe from the military conflict zones in Syria and Afghanistan. The effort pushes the flow westwards so that it cuts directly through tiny Slovenia. In November it too is forced to fence off the migration path on the Croatian border.

Hungary's 2015 border fence
In 2015 Hungary's government announced that its new anti-immigration border fence was ninety-nine per cent complete, having directly accused neighbouring Croatia of purposefully directing refugees towards the Hungarian border

The Balkans migration trail subsequently sees a large drop in numbers, with smugglers and other routes becoming preferred instead. Germany voluntarily takes a large number of migrants, although the decision backfires somewhat in subsequent years.

2021

The end of Angela Merkel's sixteen year period in office as German chancellor is marked on 2 December. Merkel is awarded a military tattoo in her honour, the highest tribute which can be paid to a civilian.

The event involves Beethoven, a romantic chanson, and an East German pop hit, all played with clockwork precision by the Bundeswehr military band. Olaf Scholz takes over her office a week later.

Prince Carl Friedrich Franz Alexander

Son of George Frederick and heir. Born 2013.

 
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