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Germans (, ) are the natives or inhabitants of
Germany Germany (german: Deutschland, ), officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in . It is the in Europe after , and the most populous . Germany is situated between the and seas to the north, and the to the south; it covers an area of ...

Germany
, and sometimes more broadly any people who are of German descent or native speakers of the
German language German (: , ) is a mainly spoken in . It is the most widely spoken and or co-official language in , , , , and the province of . It is also a co-official language of and , as well as a in , . German is most similar to other languages wit ...

German language
. The
constitution of Germany The Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany (german: Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland) is the constitution A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the le ...
defines a German as a German citizen. During the 19th and much of the 20th century, discussions on German identity were dominated by concepts of a common language, culture, descent and history.. "German identity developed through a long historical process that led, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to the definition of the German nation as both a community of descent (Volksgemeinschaft) and shared culture and experience. Today, the German language is the primary though not exclusive criterion of German identity." Today, the German language is widely seen as the primary though not exclusive criterion of German identity. Estimates on the total number of Germans in the world range from 100 to 150 million, and most of them live in Germany.. "The Germans live in Central Europe, mostly in Germany... Estimates of the total number of Germans in the world range from 100 million to 150 million, depending on how German is defined, but it is probably more appropriate to accept the lower figure." The history of Germans as an ethnic group began with the separation of a distinct
Kingdom of Germany The Kingdom of Germany or German Kingdom ( la, regnum Teutonicorum "kingdom of the Germans", "German kingdom", "kingdom of Germany") was the mostly Germanic-speaking East Frankish kingdom, which was formed by the Treaty of Verdun The Treaty ...
from the eastern part of the
Frankish Empire Francia, also called the Kingdom of the Franks ( la, Regnum Francorum), Frankish Kingdom, Frankland or Frankish Empire, was the largest in . It was ruled by the during and the . After the in 843, became the predecessor of France, and b ...

Frankish Empire
under the
Ottonian dynasty The Ottonian dynasty (german: Ottonen) was a Saxons, Saxon dynasty of List of German monarchs, German monarchs (919–1024), named after three of its kings and Holy Roman Emperors named Otto, especially its first Emperor Otto I, Holy Roman Emper ...
in the 10th century, forming the core of the
Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Romanum Imperium; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western Europe, Western, Central Europe, Central and Southern Europe that developed during the Early Middle Age ...
. In subsequent centuries the German population grew considerably and a substantial number of Germans migrated to
Eastern Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines, a current Chinese airline based in Shanghai *Eastern Air, former name of Zambia Skyways *Eastern Air Lines, a defunct American airline that operated from 1926 to 1991 *Eastern Air Lin ...

Eastern
and
Northern Europe Northern Europe is the northern region of Europe. Narrower definitions may describe Northern Europe as being roughly north of the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, which is about 54th parallel north, 54°N, or may be based on other geographic ...
. Following the
Reformation The Reformation (alternatively named the Protestant Reformation or the European Reformation) was a major movement within Western Christianity in 16th-century Europe that posed a religious and political challenge to the Catholic Church and in ...

Reformation
in the 16th century, the German lands became divided into
Roman Catholic Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus Romulus was the legendary founder and first king of Rome , established_title = ...

Roman Catholic
and
Protestant Protestantism is a form of that originated with the 16th-century , a movement against what its followers perceived to be in the . Protestants originating in the Reformation reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of , but disagree among themselves ...
states. The 19th century saw the dismemberment of the Holy Roman Empire and the growth of
German nationalism German nationalism () is an ideological notion that promotes the unity of Germans The Germans (german: Deutsche) are a Germanic peoples, Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe.. "Germans are a Germanic (or Teutonic) people that are ...
, with the state of
Prussia Prussia, , Old Prussian Distribution of the Baltic tribes, circa 1200 CE (boundaries are approximate). Old Prussian was a Western Baltic language belonging to the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages The Indo-Europ ...

Prussia
incorporating most of the Germans into the
German Empire The German Empire or the Imperial State of Germany,, officially '.Herbert Tuttle Herbert Tuttle (1846–1894) was an American historian. Biography Herbert Tuttle was born in Bennington, Vermont Bennington is a New England town, town ...
, while a substantial number of Germans also inhabited
Austria-Hungary Austria-Hungary, often referred to as the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Dual Monarchy, was a and in between 1867 and 1918. It was formed with the and was dissolved following its defeat in the . At its core was the which was a between th ...

Austria-Hungary
. During this time a large number of Germans emigrated to the
New World The "New World" is a term for the majority of Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbour and support life. 29.2% of Earth's surface is land consisting of continents and islands. The rem ...
, particularly to the United States, Canada and Brazil, as well as establishing prominent communities in
New Zealand New Zealand ( mi, Aotearoa ) is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It consists of two main landmasses—the North Island () and the South Island ()—and more than 700 List of islands of New Zealand, smaller islands, coveri ...
and
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...
. The
Russian Empire The Russian Empire, . commonly referred to as Imperial Russia, was a historical that extended across and from 1721, succeeding the following the that ended the . The Empire lasted until the was proclaimed by the that took power after the ...
also contained a substantial German population. In the aftermath of
World War I World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war engaged in by all or most of the principal nations of the world". The term is usually reserved for ...

World War I
, Austria-Hungary and the German Empire were partitioned, resulting in many Germans becoming ethnic minorities in newly established countries. In the chaotic years that followed,
Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was the dictator , the Kingdom of Italy, Italian dictator from 1922 to 1943 and Adolf Hitler, the Nazi Germany, German dictator from 1933 to 1945 A di ...

Adolf Hitler
became the dictator of
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945, was ...

Nazi Germany
and embarked on a genocidal campaign to unify all Germans under his leadership. This endeavour resulted in
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved —including all of the great powers—forming two opposing s: the and the . In a total war directly involving m ...
and the
Holocaust The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, was the genocide Genocide is the intentional action to destroy a people—usually defined as an ethnic, national, racial, or religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural syst ...

Holocaust
. In the aftermath of Germany's defeat in the war, the country was occupied and partitioned, while millions of Germans were expelled from Eastern Europe. In 1990, the states of
West 250px, A compass rose with west highlighted in black West or Occident is one of the four cardinal directions or points of the compass The points of the compass are the vectors by which planet-based directions are conventionally defined. A co ...
and
East Germany East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic (GDR; german: Deutsche Demokratische Republik, , DDR, ), was a state that existed from 1949 to 1990 in eastern Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines, a current ...
were reunified. In modern times, remembrance of the Holocaust has become an integral part of German identity ('' Erinnerungskultur''). Owing to their long history of political fragmentation, the Germans are culturally diverse and often have strong regional identities. The arts and sciences are an integral part of German culture, and the Germans have produced a large number of prominent personalities in a number of disciplines.


Names

The German
endonym An endonym (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 milli ...
'' Deutsche'' is derived from the
High German The High German dialects (german: hochdeutsche Mundarten), or simply High German (; not to be confused with Standard High German which is imprecisely also called ''High German''), comprise the varieties Variety may refer to: Science and tec ...
term '' diutisc'', which means "ethnic" or "relating to the people". This name was used for
Germanic peoples The Germanic peoples were a historical group of people living in Central Europe and Scandinavia. Since the 19th century, they have traditionally been defined by the use of ancient and early medieval Germanic languages and are thus equated at lea ...

Germanic peoples
in Central Europe since the 8th century, during which a distinct German ethnic identity began to emerge among them. The English term ''
Germans Germans (, ) are the natives or inhabitants of Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , languages_type = Official language , languages = German lan ...
'' is derived from the ethnonym ''
Germani The historical Germanic peoples (from lat, Germani) are a category of ancient northern European tribes, first mentioned by Graeco-Roman authors. They are also associated with Germanic languages The Germanic languages are a branch of the ...
'', which was used for Germanic peoples in ancient times. Since the early modern period, it has been the most common name for the Germans in English. The term "Germans" may also be applied to any citizen, native or inhabitant of Germany, a person of German descent, or member of the Germanic peoples, regardless of whether they are of German ethnicity.


History


Ancient history

The German ethnicity emerged among early Germanic peoples of
Central Europe Central Europe is an area of Europe between Western Europe and Eastern Europe, based on a common History, historical, Society, social and cultural identity. The Thirty Years' War between Catholic Church, Catholicism and Protestantism was a signifi ...

Central Europe
, particularly the
Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of whose name was first mentioned in 3rd-century Roman sources, and associated with tribes between the and the , on the edge of the . Later the term was associated with Germanic dynasties within the ...

Franks
,
Frisians The Frisians are a Germanic ethnic group indigenous to the coastal regions of the Netherlands and northwestern Germany. They inhabit an area known as Frisia Frisia (, ; ; ) is a cultural region in Germany and the Netherlands, along the sout ...

Frisians
,
Saxons The Saxons ( la, Saxones, german: Sachsen, ang, Seaxan, osx, Sahson, nds, Sassen, nl, Saksen) were a group of early Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic languag ...

Saxons
,
Thuringii The Thuringii (Thervingi), Toringi or Teuriochaimai, were an early Germanic people that appeared during the late Migration Period The Migration Period or better known as the Barbarian Invasions (from the Roman and Greek perspective) was a per ...
,
Alemanni The Alemanni (also ''Alamanni''; ''Suebi'' "Swabians") were a confederation of Germanic tribes * * * on the Upper Rhine River. First mentioned by Cassius Dio in the context of the campaign of Caracalla Caracalla ( ; 4 April 188 – ...
and
Baiuvarii The Baiuvarii or Bavarians (german: Bajuwaren) were a Germanic people. The Baiuvarii had settled modern-day Bavaria Bavaria (; German language, German and Bavarian language, Bavarian: ''Bayern'' ), officially the Free State of Bavaria (German ...
.
Germanic culture Germanic culture is a term referring to the culture of Germanic peoples, and can be used to refer to a range of time periods and nationalities, but is most commonly used in either a historical or contemporary context to denote groups that derive fro ...
originated in parts of what is now
Northern Germany Northern Germany (german: Norddeutschland) is the region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomen ...
, and has been associated with the
Nordic Bronze Age The Nordic Bronze Age (also Northern Bronze Age, or Scandinavian Bronze Age) is a period of Scandinavian prehistory from c. 1700–500 BC. The Nordic Bronze Age emerged about 1700 BC as a continuation of the Battle Axe culture (the Scandinavian ...

Nordic Bronze Age
and the
Jastorf culture Archeological cultures of Central Europe in the Late Nordic group House Urns culture Oksywie culture late phase Jastorf culture Gubin, Poland, Gubin group of Jastorf Przeworsk culture Western Balt culture Eastern Balt forest zone cultures ...
, which flourished in Northern Germany and Scandinavia during the Bronze Age and early Iron Age. The Germanic peoples have inhabited Central Europe since at least the Iron Age. From their northern homeland, the Germanic peoples expanded southwards in a series of great migrations. Much of Central Europe was at that time inhabited by
Celts The Celts (, see pronunciation of ''Celt'' for different usages) are. "CELTS location: Greater Europe time period: Second millennium B.C.E. to present ancestry: Celtic a collection of Indo-European peoples The Indo-European languages ar ...

Celts
, who are associated with the
La Tène culture The La Tène culture (; ) was a culture. It developed and flourished during the late Iron Age (from about 450 BCE to the in the 1st century BCE), succeeding the early Iron Age without any definite cultural break, under considerable influen ...
. Since at least the 2nd century BC the Germanic peoples began displacing Celts. It is likely that many of these Celts were
Germanized Germanisation, or Germanization, is the spread of the German language The German language (, ) is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austri ...
by migrating Germanic peoples. The first information about the Germanic peoples is provided by the Roman general
Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of anc ...

Julius Caesar
, who campaigned in
Germania Germania ( , ), also called Magna Germania (English: ''Great Germania''), Germania Libera (English: ''Free Germania'') or Germanic Barbaricum Barbaricum (from the gr, Βαρβαρικόν, "foreign", "barbarian") is a geographical name used by ...

Germania
in the 1st century BC. Under Caesar's successor
Augustus Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles througho ...

Augustus
, the Romans sought to conquer the Germanic peoples and colonize Germania, but these efforts were significantly hampered by the victory of
Arminius Arminius (german: Hermann, ; 18/17 BC – 21 AD), was a Roman officer and later chieftain of the Germanic peoples, Germanic Cherusci tribe who is best known for commanding an alliance of Germanic tribes at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 ...

Arminius
at the
Battle of the Teutoburg Forest The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (, , or ), described as the Varian Disaster () by historians, took place in the in 9 CE, when an alliance of ed s and their ries, led by . The alliance was led by , a Germanic officer of Varus's auxilia. Ar ...

Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
in 9 AD, which is considered a defining moment in German history. The early Germanic peoples are famously described in ''
Germania Germania ( , ), also called Magna Germania (English: ''Great Germania''), Germania Libera (English: ''Free Germania'') or Germanic Barbaricum Barbaricum (from the gr, Βαρβαρικόν, "foreign", "barbarian") is a geographical name used by ...
'' by the 1st century Roman historian
Tacitus Publius Cornelius Tacitus ( , ; – ) was a Roman historian and politician. Tacitus is widely regarded as one of the greatest Roman historians by modern scholars. He lived in what has been called the Silver Age of Latin literature Classi ...

Tacitus
. At this time, the Germanic peoples were fragmented into a large number of tribes who were frequently in conflict with both the Roman Empire and one another. They are believed to have dominated an area stretching from the Rhine in the west to the
Vistula The Vistula (; pl, Wisła, , german: Weichsel) is the longest river in Poland and the 9th-longest river in Europe, at in length. The drainage basin, reaching into three other nations, covers , of which is in Poland. The Vistula rises at Bar ...

Vistula
in the east, and the
Danube The Danube ( ; ) is the in Europe, after the in . It flows through much of and , from the into the . Its longest headstream rises in , while the river carries its name from its source confluence in onwards. The Danube was once a long-s ...

Danube
in the south to
Scandinavia Scandinavia; : ''Skadesi-suolu''/''Skađsuâl''. ( ) is a in , with strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties. In English usage, ''Scandinavia'' can refer to , , and , sometimes more narrowly to the , or more broadly to include , th ...

Scandinavia
in the north. By the 3rd century, Germanic peoples were beginning to form into great coalitions, and had begun conquering and settling areas within the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
. During the 4th and 5th centuries, in what is known as the
Migration Period The Migration Period, also known as the Barbarian Invasions (from the Roman and Greek perspective), is a term sometimes used for the period in the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the ...
, Germanic peoples seized control of the decaying Roman Empire and established new kingdoms within it. Meanwhile, formerly Germanic areas in parts of
Eastern Europe Eastern Europe is the eastern region of . There is no consistent definition of the precise area it covers, partly because the term has a wide range of , geographical, ethnic, cultural, and connotations. , located in Eastern Europe, is both the ...

Eastern Europe
were settled by Slavs.


Medieval history

The beginnings of the German states can be traced back to the
Frankish Frankish may refer to: * Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples The historical Germanic peoples (from lat, Germani) are a category of ancient northern European tribes, first mentioned by Graeco-Roman author ...

Frankish
king
Clovis I Clovis ( la, Chlodovechus; reconstructed Frankish Frankish may refer to: * Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples The historical Germanic peoples (from lat, Germani) are a category of ancient northern E ...

Clovis I
, who established the kingdom of
Francia Francia, also called the Kingdom of the Franks ( la, Regnum Francorum), Frankish Kingdom, Frankland or Frankish Empire, was the largest in . It was ruled by the during and the . After the in 843, became the predecessor of France, and b ...

Francia
in the 5th century. In subsequent centuries the power of the Franks grew considerably. By the 8th century AD, the
West Germanic The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three branches of the Germanic languages, Germanic family of languages (the others being the North Germanic languages, North Germanic and the extinct East Germanic languages, East Germani ...
speaking populations of continental Europe were known as '' diutisc'', meaning "ethnic" or "relating to the people". The
endonym An endonym (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 milli ...
of the Germans is derived from this word. By the early 9th century AD, large parts of Europe had been united under the rule of the Frankish leader
Charlemagne Charlemagne ( , ) or Charles the Great ( la, Carolus Magnus; 2 April 748 – 28 January 814) was King of the Franks The Franks—Germanic-speaking peoples that invaded the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century—were first led by i ...

Charlemagne
, who expanded the
Frankish empire Francia, also called the Kingdom of the Franks ( la, Regnum Francorum), Frankish Kingdom, Frankland or Frankish Empire, was the largest in . It was ruled by the during and the . After the in 843, became the predecessor of France, and b ...

Frankish empire
in several directions including east of the Rhine, where he conquered
Saxons The Saxons ( la, Saxones, german: Sachsen, ang, Seaxan, osx, Sahson, nds, Sassen, nl, Saksen) were a group of early Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic languag ...

Saxons
and
Frisians The Frisians are a Germanic ethnic group indigenous to the coastal regions of the Netherlands and northwestern Germany. They inhabit an area known as Frisia Frisia (, ; ; ) is a cultural region in Germany and the Netherlands, along the sout ...

Frisians
, thus establishing the
Carolingian Empire The Carolingian Empire (800–888) was a large Frankish Frankish may refer to: * Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples The historical Germanic peoples (from lat, Germani) are a category of ancient nort ...
. Charlemagne was crowned emperor by
Pope Leo I Pope Leo I ( 400 – 10 November 461), also known as Leo the Great, was bishop of Rome A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authori ...

Pope Leo I
in 800. During the rule of Charlemagne's successors, this realm descended into civil war. The empire was partitioned at the
Treaty of Verdun The Treaty of Verdun, signed on 10 August 843, was the first of the treaties that divided the Carolingian Empire The Carolingian Empire (800–888) was a large Franks, Frankish-dominated empire in western and central Europe during the early Mi ...

Treaty of Verdun
(843), resulting in the eventual separation between the states of
West Francia In medieval history, West Francia (Medieval Latin: ) or the Kingdom of the West Franks () refers to the western part of the Francia, Frankish Empire established by Charlemagne. It represents the earliest stage of the Kingdom of France, lasting fro ...
,
Middle Francia Middle Francia or the first state of Lotharingia ( la, Francia media, links=no) was a short-lived Frankish Frankish may refer to: * Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples The historical Germanic peoples (f ...
and
East Francia East Francia (Medieval Latin Medieval Latin was the form of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Ro ...
. Beginning with
Henry the Fowler Henry the Fowler (german: Heinrich der Vogler or '; la, Henricus Auceps) (c. 876 – 2 July 936) was the from 912 and the from 919 until his death in 936. As the first non- king of East Francia, he established the of kings and s, and he is ...

Henry the Fowler
,
Saxon The Saxons ( la, Saxones, german: Sachsen, ang, Seaxan, osx, Sahson, nds, Sassen, nl, Saksen) were a group of early Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic languag ...

Saxon
dynasties dominated the German lands, and under his son
Otto I Otto I (23 November 912 – 7 May 973), traditionally known as Otto the Great (german: Otto der Große, it, Ottone il Grande), was East Francian king from 936 and Holy Roman Emperor from 962 until his death in 973. He was the oldest son of Henr ...

Otto I
, Middle Francia and East Francia, which were mostly German, became part of the
Kingdom of Germany The Kingdom of Germany or German Kingdom ( la, regnum Teutonicorum "kingdom of the Germans", "German kingdom", "kingdom of Germany") was the mostly Germanic-speaking East Frankish kingdom, which was formed by the Treaty of Verdun The Treaty ...
, which constituted the core of the
Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Romanum Imperium; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western Europe, Western, Central Europe, Central and Southern Europe that developed during the Early Middle Age ...
. Leaders of the "
Stem duchies A stem duchy (german: Stammesherzogtum, from '' Stamm'', meaning "tribe", in reference to the Germanic tribes of the Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples The historical Germanic peoples (from lat, Germani ...
" which constituted it —
Bavaria Bavaria (; German language, German and Bavarian language, Bavarian: ''Bayern'' ), officially the Free State of Bavaria (German and Bavarian: ''Freistaat Bayern''; ), is a Landlocked country, landlocked Federated state, state (''States of Germany ...
,
Franconia Franconia (german: Franken, ; Franconian dialect: ''Franggn'' ; bar, Frankn) is a region of Germany, characterised by its culture and Franconian languages, Franconian dialect (German: ''Fränkisch''). The three Regierungsbezirk, administrative ...
,
Swabia upThe coat of arms of Baden-Württemberg: ''Or, three lions passant sable'', the arms of the Duchy of Swabia, in origin the coat of arms of the House of Hohenstaufen. Also used for Swabia (and for Württemberg-Baden during 1945–1952) are ...
, and
Saxony Saxony (german: Sachsen ; Upper Saxon German, Upper Saxon: ''Saggsn''; hsb, Sakska), officially the Free State of Saxony (german: Freistaat Sachsen, links=no ; Upper Saxon German, Upper Saxon: ''Freischdaad Saggsn''; hsb, Swobodny stat Saksk ...
continued to wield considerable power independent of the king. German kings were elected by members of the noble families, who often sought to have weak kings elected in order to preserve their own independence. This prevented an early unification of the Germans. A warrior nobility dominated the
feudal Feudalism, also known as the feudal system, was the combination of the legal, economic, military, and cultural customs that flourished in Medieval Europe In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discov ...
German society of the Middle Ages, while most of the German population consisted of peasants with few political rights. The church played an important role among Germans in the Middle Ages, and competed with the nobility for power. Between the 11th and 13th centuries, Germans actively participated in five
Crusades The Crusades were a series of religious wars initiated, supported, and sometimes directed by the Latin Church in the medieval period. The term refers especially to the Eastern Mediterranean campaigns in the period between 1095 and 1271 that h ...

Crusades
to "liberate" the
Holy Land The Holy Land (: , la, Terra Sancta; : or ) is an area roughly located between the and the Eastern Bank of the . Traditionally, it is synonymous both with the biblical and with the . The term "Holy Land" usually refers to a territory ro ...

Holy Land
. During the Middle Ages, German political power was imposed on populations in the east. This process was accompanied by the migration of Germans into conquered territories, in what is known as the
Ostsiedlung (, literally "East settling") is the term for the High Medieval The High Middle Ages, or High Medieval Period, was the period of European history that lasted from around AD 1000 to 1250. The High Middle Ages In the history of Eur ...

Ostsiedlung
. Over time, some Slavic populations were assimilated by Germans, resulting in many Germans acquiring substantial Slavic ancestry. From the 11th century, the German lands came under the domination of the Swabian
Hohenstaufen The Hohenstaufen (, , ), also called Staufer, was a noble dynasty of unclear origin that rose to rule the Duchy of Swabia The Duchy of Swabia ( German: ''Herzogtum Schwaben'') was one of the five stem duchies of the medieval German Kingdom. I ...

Hohenstaufen
family. The German population expanded significantly during this time. Trade increased and there was a specialization of the arts and crafts. From the 12th century, many Germans settled as merchants and craftsmen in the
Kingdom of Poland Historical political entities *Kingdom of Poland "Kingdom of Poland" ( Polish: ''Królestwo Polskie'', Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was orig ...
, were they came to constitute a significant proportion of the population in many urban centers such as
Gdańsk Gdańsk ( , also ; ; german: Danzig ; csb, Gduńsk; , ) is a city on the Baltic Sea, Baltic coast of northern Poland. With a population of 470,805, Gdańsk is the capital and largest city of the Pomeranian Voivodeship and the most prominent c ...

Gdańsk
. The late 13th century saw the election of
Rudolf I Rudolf I (1 May 1218 – 15 July 1291) was the first king of Germany King of the Romans ( la, Rex Romanorum; german: König der Römer) was the title used by the German king following his election An election is a formal group decisi ...
of the
House of Habsburg The House of Habsburg (), alternatively spelled Hapsburg in English (german: Haus Habsburg ; es, Casa de Habsburgo ; hu, Habsburg-család), also known as the House of Austria (german: link=no, Haus Österreich; es, link=no, Casa de Austria), ...
to the German throne, and the Habsburg family would continue to play an important role in German history for centuries afterwards. They competed for power in the German lands with several noble families, most notably the
Limburg-Luxemburg dynasty The Limburg-Luxemburg dynasty, one of several families from different periods known as the Luxembourg dynasty (french: Maison de Luxembourg; german: Haus Luxemburg) was a royal family A royal family is the immediate family of kings/ queens, ...
and the
House of Wittelsbach The House of Wittelsbach () is a Germany, German dynasty, with branches that have ruled over territories including Bavaria, the Palatinate, Holland and Zeeland, Sweden (with Denmark and Norway), Hungary (with Romania), Bohemia, the Electorate ...
. During the 13th century, the
Teutonic Knights The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem (official names: la, Ordo domus Sanctae Mariae Theutonicorum Hierosolymitanorum; german: Orden der Brüder vom Deutschen Haus der Heiligen Maria in Jerusalem), commonly known ...
began conquering the
Old Prussians Old Prussians, Baltic Prussians or simply Prussians (Old Prussian Distribution of the Baltic tribes, circa 1200 CE (boundaries are approximate). Old Prussian was a Western Baltic language belonging to the Balto-Slavic branch of the In ...
, and established what would eventually become the powerful German state of
Prussia Prussia, , Old Prussian Distribution of the Baltic tribes, circa 1200 CE (boundaries are approximate). Old Prussian was a Western Baltic language belonging to the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages The Indo-Europ ...

Prussia
. The German territories continued to grow in the late Middle Ages. Great urban centers increased in size and wealth and formed powerful leagues, such as the
Hanseatic League The Hanseatic League (; gml, Hanse, , ; german: label=German language, Modern German, Deutsche Hanse; nl, label=Dutch language, Dutch, De Hanze; la, Hansa Teutonica) was a Middle Ages, medieval commercial and defensive confederation of merchan ...
and the
Swabian League The Swabian League (''Schwäbischer Bund'') was a mutual defence and peace keeping association of Imperial State, Imperial Estates – free Imperial cities, prelates, principalities and knights – principally in the territory of the early medieva ...
, in order to protect their interests, often through supporting the German kings in their struggles with the nobility. These urban leagues significantly contributed to the development of German commerce and banking. German merchants of Hanseatic cities settled in cities throughout Northern Europe beyond the German lands.


Modern history

The introduction of printing by the German inventor
Johannes Gutenberg Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg (; – 3 February 1468) was a German inventor An invention is a unique or novel A novel is a relatively long work of narrative fiction, typically written in prose and published as a book. ...

Johannes Gutenberg
contributed to the formation of a new understanding of faith and reason. At this time, the German monk
Martin Luther Martin Luther (; ; 10 November 1483 – 18 February 1546) was a Germans, German professor of Christian theology, theology, priest, author, composer, former Order of Saint Augustine, Augustinian monk, and is best known as a seminal f ...

Martin Luther
pushed for reforms within the Catholic Church. Luther's efforts culminated in the
Protestant Reformation The Reformation (alternatively named the Protestant Reformation or the European Reformation) was a major movement within Western Christianity File:Petersdom von Engelsburg gesehen.jpg, 250px, St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, the larges ...

Protestant Reformation
. The resulting religious schism was a leading cause of the
Thirty Years' War The Thirty Years' War was a conflict fought largely within the Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Imperium Romanum; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western Europe, Western ...
, a conflict that tore apart the Holy Roman Empire and led to the death of millions of Germans. The terms of the
Peace of Westphalia The Peace of Westphalia (german: Westfälischer Friede, ) is the collective name for two peace treaties signed in October 1648 in the Westphalian cities of Osnabrück Osnabrück (; wep, Ossenbrügge; archaic ''Osnaburg'') is a city in the ...
(1648) ending the war, included a major reduction in the central authority of the Holy Roman Emperor. Among the most powerful German states to emerge in the aftermath was Protestant
Prussia Prussia, , Old Prussian Distribution of the Baltic tribes, circa 1200 CE (boundaries are approximate). Old Prussian was a Western Baltic language belonging to the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages The Indo-Europ ...

Prussia
, under the rule of the
House of Hohenzollern The House of Hohenzollern (, also , , german: Haus Hohenzollern, ro, Casa de Hohenzollern) is a German royal whose members were variously s, , s and of , , , the , and . The family came from the area around the town of in during the late 11 ...
. In the 18th century, German culture was significantly influenced by the
Enlightenment Enlightenment, enlighten or enlightened may refer to: Age of Enlightenment * Age of Enlightenment, period in Western intellectual history from the late 17th to late 18th century, centered in France but also encompassing: ** Midlands Enlightenment ...
. After centuries of political fragmentation, a sense of German unity began to emerge in the 18th century. The Holy Roman Empire continued to decline until being dissolved altogether by
Napoleon Napoléon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader. He rose to prominence during the French Revolution The French Revolution ( ) refers to the period that began with the Estates General o ...

Napoleon
in 1806. In central Europe, the Napoleonic wars ushered in great social, political and economic changes, and catalyzed a national awakening among the Germans. By the late 18th century, German intellectuals such as Johann Gottfried Herder articulated the concept of a German identity rooted in language, and this notion helped spark the German nationalism, German nationalist movement, which sought to unify the Germans into a single nation state. Eventually, shared ancestry, culture and language (though not religion) came to define German nationalism. The Napoleonic Wars ended with the Congress of Vienna (1815), and left most of the German states loosely united under the German Confederation. The confederation came to be dominated by the Catholic Austrian Empire, to the dismay of many German nationalists, who saw the German Confederation as an inadequate answer to the German Question. Throughout the 19th century, Prussia continued to grow in power. Revolutions of 1848, In 1848, German revolutionaries set up the temporary Frankfurt Parliament, but failed in their aim of forming a united German homeland. The Prussians proposed an Erfurt Union of the German states, but this effort was torpedoed by the Austrians through the Punctation of Olmütz (1850), recreating the German Confederation. In response, Prussia sought to use the Zollverein customs union to increase its power among the German states. Under the leadership of Otto von Bismarck, Prussia expanded its sphere of influence and together with its German allies defeated Denmark in the Second Schleswig War and soon after Austrian Empire, Austria in the Austro-Prussian War, subsequently establishing the North German Confederation. In 1871, the Prussian coalition decisively defeated the Second French Empire in the Franco-Prussian War, annexing the German speaking region of Alsace-Lorraine. After taking Paris, Prussia and their allies Proclamation of the German Empire, proclaimed the formation of a united
German Empire The German Empire or the Imperial State of Germany,, officially '.Herbert Tuttle Herbert Tuttle (1846–1894) was an American historian. Biography Herbert Tuttle was born in Bennington, Vermont Bennington is a New England town, town ...
. In the years following unification, German society was radically changed by numerous processes, including industrialization, rationalization, secularization and the rise of capitalism. German power increased considerably and numerous overseas colonies were established. During this time, the German population grew considerably, and many emigrated to other countries (mainly North America), contributing to the growth of the German diaspora. Competition for colonies between the Great Powers contributed to the outbreak of
World War I World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war engaged in by all or most of the principal nations of the world". The term is usually reserved for ...

World War I
, in which the German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires formed the Central Powers, an alliance that was ultimately defeated, with none of the empires comprising it surviving the aftermath of the war. Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires were both dissolved and partitioned, resulting in millions of Germans becoming ethnic minorities in other countries. The monarchichal rulers of the German states, including the German emperor Wilhelm II, were overthrown in the November Revolution of 1918, November Revolution which led to the establishment of the Weimar Republic. The Germans of the Cisleithania, Austrian side of the Austria-Hungary, Dual Monarchy proclaimed the Republic of German-Austria, and sought to be incorporated into the German state, but this was forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles and Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (1919), Treaty of Saint-Germain. What many Germans saw as the "humiliation of Versailles", continuing traditions of authoritarian and antisemitic ideologies, and the Great Depression all contributed to the rise of Austrian-born
Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was the dictator , the Kingdom of Italy, Italian dictator from 1922 to 1943 and Adolf Hitler, the Nazi Germany, German dictator from 1933 to 1945 A di ...

Adolf Hitler
and the Nazis, who after coming to power democratically in the early 1930s, abolished the Weimar Republic and formed the totalitarian Nazi Germany, Third Reich. In his quest to subjugate Europe, six million Jews were murdered in the
Holocaust The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, was the genocide Genocide is the intentional action to destroy a people—usually defined as an ethnic, national, racial, or religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural syst ...

Holocaust
. WWII resulted in widespread destruction and the deaths of tens of millions of soldiers and civilians, while the German state was partitioned. About 12 million Germans Flight and expulsion of Germans (1944–1950), had to flee or were expelled from Eastern Europe. Significant damage was also done to the German reputation and identity, which became far less nationalistic than it previously was. The German states of West Germany and
East Germany East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic (GDR; german: Deutsche Demokratische Republik, , DDR, ), was a state that existed from 1949 to 1990 in eastern Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines, a current ...
became focal points of the Cold War, but were reunified in 1990. Although there were fears that the reunified Germany might resume nationalist politics, the country is today widely regarded as a "stablizing actor in the heart of Europe" and a "promoter of democratic integration".


Language

German language, German is the native language of most Germans. It is the key marker of German ethnic identity. German is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language closely related to Frisian language, Frisian, English language, English and Dutch language, Dutch. The main dialects of German are
High German The High German dialects (german: hochdeutsche Mundarten), or simply High German (; not to be confused with Standard High German which is imprecisely also called ''High German''), comprise the varieties Variety may refer to: Science and tec ...
and Low German. Standard literary German is based on High German, and is the first or second language of most Germans, but notably not the Volga Germans.


Culture

The Germans are marked by great regional diversity, which makes identifying a single German culture quite difficult. The arts and sciences have for centuries been an important part of German identity. The Age of Enlightenment and the Romantic era saw a notable flourishing of German culture. Germans of this period who contributed significantly to the arts and sciences include the writers Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, Johann Gottfried Herder, Friedrich Hölderlin, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Heinrich Heine, Novalis and the Brothers Grimm, the philosopher Immanuel Kant, the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, the painter Caspar David Friedrich, and the composers Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn, Johannes Brahms, Franz Schubert, Richard Strauss and Richard Wagner. Popular German dishes include brown bread and stew. Germans consume a high amount alcohol, particularly beer, compared to other European peoples. Obesity is relatively widespread among Germans. Carnival is an important part of German culture, particularly in Southern Germany. An important German festival is the Oktoberfest. A steadily shrinking majority of Germans are Christians. About a third are Roman Catholics, while one third adheres to Protestantism. Another third does not profess any religion. Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter are celebrated by many Germans. The number of Muslims is growing. There is also a notable Jewish community, which was decimated in the Holocaust. Remembering the Holocaust is an important part of German culture.


Geographic distribution

It is estimated that there are between 100 and 150 million Germans today, most of whom live in Germany, where they constitute the majority of the population. There are also sizable populations of Germans in Austria, Switzerland, the United States, Brazil, France, Kazakhstan, Russia, Argentina, Canada, Poland, Italy, Hungary, Australia, South Africa, Chile, Paraguay, and Namibia.. "Of the 100 million German speakers worldwide, about three quarters (76 million) live in Germany, where they account for 92 percent of the population. Populations of Germans live elsewhere in Central and Western Europe, with the largest communities in Austria (7.6 million), Switzerland (4.2 million), France (1.2 million), Kazakhstan (900,000), Russia (840,000), Poland (700,000), Italy (280,000), and Hungary (250,000). Some 1.6 million U.S. citizens speak German as their first language, the largest number of German speakers overseas.". "The Germans live in Central Europe, mostly in Germany... The largest populations outside of these countries are found in the United States (5 million), Brazil (3 million), the former Soviet Union (2 million), Argentina (500,000), Canada (450,000), Spain (170,000), Australia (110,000), the United Kingdom (100,000), and South Africa (75,000). " German-speaking peoples such as the Austrians and the German-speaking Swiss are sometimes referred to by scholars as Germans, although most of them do not identify as such.Austrians:


Identity

A German ethnic identity emerged among Germanic peoples of Central Europe in the 8th century.. "Germans are a Germanic (or Teutonic) people that are indigenous to Central Europe... Germanic tribes have inhabited Central Europe since at least Roman times, but it was not until the early Middle Ages that a distinct German ethnic identity began to emerge." These peoples came to be referred to by the High German term ''diutisc'', which means "ethnic" or "relating to the people". The German endonym '' Deutsche'' is derived from this word. In subsequent centuries, the German lands were relatively decentralized, leading to the maintenance of a number of strong regional identities. The German nationalist movement emerged among German intellectuals in the late 18th century. They saw the Germans as a people united by language and advocated the unification of all Germans into a single nation state, which was partially achieved in 1871. By the late 19th and early 20th century, German identity came to be defined by a shared descent, culture, and history. ''Völkisch'' elements identified Germanness with "a shared Christian heritage" and "biological essence", to the exclusion of the notable Jewish minority. After the Holocaust and the downfall of Nazism, "any confident sense of Germanness had become suspect, if not impossible". East Germany and West Germany both sought to build up an identity on historical or ideological lines, distancing themselves both from the Nazi past and each other. After German reunification in 1990, the political discourse was characterized by the idea of a "shared, ethnoculturally defined Germanness", and the general climate became increasingly xenophobic during the 1990s. Today, discussion on Germanness may stress various aspects, such as commitment to pluralism and the German constitution (constitutional patriotism), or the notion of a ''Kulturnation'' (nation sharing a common culture). The German language remains the primary criterion of modern German identity.


See also

* Ethnic groups in Europe * Die Deutschen, ZDF's documentary television series * Anti-German sentiment * Persecution of Germans


Notes


References


Bibliography

* * * *


Further reading

* * * * * * *


External links

{{Authority control German people, Ethnic groups in Germany Germanic ethnic groups