Germany: An Overview | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 29.01.2009
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Germany

Germany: An Overview

As anyone who travels through Germany will soon find out, there is no such thing as a typical German. The nation is strongly influenced by regional history and culture.

Children waving flags on the Day of German Unity, which takes place every year on Oct. 3

The celebration of the Day of German Unity is for young as well as old

Germany is in the middle of Europe. It is bordered by Denmark to the north, and it also shares borders with the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, France, Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic and Poland. Its capital is Berlin.

River boats on the Danube

Boats cruise Germany's many rivers; here, the Danube

More than 82 million people live between the North and Baltic seas in the north, and the Alps in the south of Germany. A number of midsize mountain ranges traverse the country. Its most important rivers include the Rhine, the Danube, the Elbe and the Oder. There are lakes too -- mostly in the northeast, in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, but also in the foothills of the Alps.

The northern coasts are dotted with numerous islands, and the metropolises include Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, the Ruhr Valley, Cologne, and the Rhine-Main region around Frankfurt.

Consequences of World War II

At the end of World War II, the occupying powers divided Germany. On May 23, 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany was created along with its Basic Law, or constitution. Supported by the Allied Powers after the war, this western half of Germany experienced what is called the Wirtschaftswunder, or economic miracle. This was led foremost by the coal and steel industries of the Ruhr Valley.

The German flag flying in front of the Reichstag building

The nation's capital, Berlin, has a rich history

The eastern part of Germany -- which used to be called the German Democratic Republc, or GDR -- was created by the Soviet occupying forces and was tied what was then known as the East Bloc. The Berlin Wall was built to divide East and West Germany. Both halves of Germany were finally reunited on October 3, 1990, after the disintegration of the communist East Bloc, and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Those who wrote Germany’s new constitution took a lesson from history. They insisted that the principles of free democratic basic order, constitutional law, and the separation of powers be codified irrevocably in the German Basic Law. In the same vein, the basic and civil laws, as well as the federalist principle, are anchored in the constitution. The aim is to prohibit the misuse of power and erosion of rights by Germany’s rulers, and avoid another dictatorship.

Diverse cultural scene and a changing society

Germany today has very multifaceted art, music, theater and literary scenes. Old masters garner as much respect as young newcomers.

Children of different backgrounds in Berlin

Germany is increasingly multicultural

German society is constantly in flux, and the age demographics are changing. People are living longer and fewer babies are being born. At the same time, Germany has developed into a country of immigrants in the past 50 years. Some 10 percent of people living in Germany don’t have a German passport. Some 7 million are what is known as people with a “migration background,” which means they may have been born in Germany but their parents are foreign immigrants, or the children of immigrants.

Germany by numbers:

Population: 82 million

Area: 357,092 square kilometers

Capital: Berlin

Founded in: May 23, 1949

Key Industries: Automobiles, mechanical engineering, chemicals