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German Empire

ch Army and the British Army put up a strong resistance to defend Paris at the First Battle of the Marne resulting in the German Army retreating.

The aftermath of the First Battle of the Marne was a long-held stalemate between the German Army and the Allies in dug-in trench warfare. Further German attempts to break through deeper into France failed at the two battles of Ypres (1st/2nd) with huge casualties. German Chief of Staff Erich von Falkenhayn decided to break away from the Schlieffen Plan and instead focus on a war of attrition against France. Falkenhayn targeted the ancient city of Verdun because it had been one of the last cities to hold out against the German Army in 1870, and Falkenhayn knew that as a matter of national pride the French would do anything to ensure that it was not taken. He expected that with proper tactics, French losses would be greater than those of the Germans and that continued French commitment of troops to Verdun would "bleed the French Army white" and then allow the German army to take France easily. In 1916, the Battle of Verdun began, with the French positions under constant shelling and poison gas attack and taking large casualties under the assault of overwhelmingly large German forces. However, Falkenhayn's prediction of a greater ratio of French killed proved to be wrong. Falkenhayn was replaced by Erich Ludendorff, and with no success in sight, the German Army pulled out of Verdun in December 1916 and the battle ended.

Eastern Front

Front line at the time of cease-fire and at the time of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.

While the Russian Army faltered and the German and Austro-Hungarian armies thereafter steadily advanced eastward. The Germans benefited from political instability in Russia and its population's desire to end the war. In 1917 the German government allowed Russia's communist Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin to travel through Germany from Switzerland into Russia. Germany believed that if Lenin could create further political unrest, Russia would no longer be able to continue its war with Germany, allowing the German Army to focus on the Western Front.

In March 1917, the Tsar was ousted from the Russian throne, and in November a Bolshevik government came to power under the leadership of Lenin. Facing political opposition to the Bolsheviks, he decided to end Russia's campaign against Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria in order to redirect Bolshevik energy to eliminating internal dissent. In 1918, by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the Bolshevik government gave Germany and the Ottoman Empire enormous territorial and economic concessions in exchange for an end to war on the Eastern Front. All of the modern-day Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) were given over to the German occupation authority Ober Ost, along with Belarus and Ukraine. Thus Germany had at last achieved its long-wanted dominance of "Mitteleuropa" (Central Europe) and could now focus fully on defeating the Allies on the Western Front. In practice, however, the forces needed to garrison and secure the new territories were a drain on the German war effort.


Germany quickly lost almost all its colonies. However, in German East Africa, an impressive guerrilla campaign was waged by the colonial army leader there, General Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck. Using Germans and native Askaris, Lettow-Vorbeck launched multiple guerrilla raids against British forces in Kenya and Rhodesia. He also invaded Portuguese Mozambique to gain his forces supplies and to pick up more Askari recruits. His force was still active at war's end.[74]


Defeating Russia in 1917 enabled Germany to transfer hundreds of thousands of combat troops from the east to the Western Front, giving it a numerical advantage over the Allies. By retraining the soldiers in new stormtrooper tactics, the Germans expected to unfreeze the battlefield and win a decisive victory before the army of the United States, which had now entered the war on the side of Britain and France, arrived in strength.[75] However, the repeated German offensives in the autumn of 1917 and the spring of 1918 all failed, as the Allies fell back and regrouped and the Germans lacked the reserves needed to consolidate their gains. Meanwhile soldiers had become radicalised by the Russian Revolution and were less willing to continue fighting. The war effort sparked civil unrest in Germany, while the troops, who had been constantly in the field without relief, grew exhausted and lost all hope of victory. In the summer of 1918, with the Americans arriving at the rate of 10,000 a day and the German reserves spent, it was only a matter of time before multiple Allied offensives destroyed the German army.[76]

Home front

The concept of "total war", meant that supplies had to be redirected towards the armed forces and, with German commerce being stopped by the Allied naval blockade, German civilians were forced to live in increasingly meagre conditions. First food prices were controlled, then rationing was introduced. During the war about 750,000 German civilians died from malnutrition.[77]

A memorial to soldiers killed in World War I.

Towards the end of the war conditions deteriorated rapidly on the home front, with severe food shortages reported in all urban areas. The causes included the transfer of many farmers and food workers into the military, combined with the overburdened railway system, shortages of coal, and the British blockade. The winter of 1916–1917 was known as the "turnip winter", because the people had to survive on a vegetable more commonly reserved for livestock, as a substitute for potatoes and meat, which were increasingly scarce. Thousands of soup kitchens were opened to feed the hungry, who grumbled that the farmers were keeping the food for themselves. Even the army had to cut the soldiers' rations.[78] The morale of both civilians and soldiers continued to sink.

Revolt and demise

Many Germans wanted an end to the war and increasing numbers began to associate with the political left, such as the Social Democratic Party and the more radical Independent Social Democratic Party, which demanded an end to the war. The entry of the U.S. into the war in April 1917 changed the long-run balance of power in favour of the Allies.

The end of October 1918, in Kiel, in northern Germany, saw the beginning of the German Revolution of 1918–1919. Units of the German Navy refused to set sail for a last, large-scale operation in a war which they saw as good as lost, initiating the uprising. On 3 November, the revolt spread to other cities and states of the country, in many of which workers' and soldiers' councils were established. Meanwhile, Hindenburg and the senior generals lost confidence in the Kaiser and his government.

  • Ravenstein's Atlas of the German Empire,
  • Administrative subdivision and census results (1900/1910), (German)

External links

  • Vizetelly, Henry. Berlin Under the New Empire: Its Institutions, Inhabitants, Industry, Monuments, Museums, Social Life, Manners, and Amusements (2 vol. London, 1879) online volume 2

Primary sources

  • Berghahn, Volker Rolf. "Structure and Agency in Wilhelmine Germany: The history of the German Empire, Past, present and Future," in Annika Mombauer and Wilhelm Deist, eds. The Kaiser: New Research on Wilhelm II's Role in Imperial Germany (2003) pp 281–93, historiography
  • Chickering, Roger, ed. Imperial Germany: A Historiographical Companion (1996), 552pp; 18 essays by specialists
  • Dickinson, Edward Ross. "The German Empire: an Empire?" History Workshop Journal Issue 66, (Autumn 2008) online in Project MUSE, with guide to recent scholarship
  • Eley, Geoff, and James Retallack, "Introduction" in Geoff Eley and James Retallack, eds. Wilhelminism and Its Legacies: German Modernities, Imperialism, and the Meanings of Reform, 1890-1930 (2004) online
  • Jefferies, Matthew. Contesting the German Empire 1871 - 1918 (2008) excerpt and text search
  • Müller, Sven Oliver, and Cornelius Torp, ed. Imperial Germany Revisited: Continuing Debates and New Perspectives (2011)
  • Reagin, Nancy R. "Recent Work on German National Identity: Regional? Imperial? Gendered? Imaginary?" Central European History (2004) v 37, pp 273–289 doi:10.1163/156916104323121483


  • Berghahn, Volker Rolf. Modern Germany: society, economy, and politics in the twentieth century (1987) ACLS E-book
  • Berghahn, Volker Rolf. Imperial Germany, 1871–1914: Economy, Society, Culture, and Politics (2nd ed. 2005)
  • Blackbourn, David. The Long Nineteenth Century: A History of Germany, 1780–1918 (1998) excerpt and text search
  • Blackbourn, David, and Geoff Eley. The Peculiarities of German History: Bourgeois Society and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Germany (1984) online edition ISBN 0-19-873058-6
  • Blanke, Richard. Prussian Poland in the German Empire (1981)
  • Brandenburg, Erich. Die Reichsgründung (2 vols, 1923, online: vol. 1 vol. 2)
  • Cecil, Lamar. Wilhelm II: Prince and Emperor, 1859–1900 (1989) online edition; vol2: Wilhelm II: Emperor and Exile, 1900–1941 (1996) online edition
  • Chickering, Roger. Imperial Germany and the Great War, 1914-1918 (2nd ed. 2004) excerpt and text search
  • Clark, Christopher. Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947 (2006), the standard scholarly survey
  • Dawson, William Harbutt. The Evolution of Modern Germany (1908), 503pp covers 1871-1906 with focus on social and economic history & colonies online free
  • Dawson, William Harbutt. Germany at Home (1908) 275 pp; popular description of social life in villages and cities online
  • Dawson, William Harbutt. Bismarck and state socialism; an exposition of the social and economic legislation of Germany since 1870 (1890) 175 pp online
  • Dawson, William Harbutt. Municipal life and government in Germany (1914); 507pp describes the workings of local government and the famous bureaucracy online
  • Dawson, William Harbutt. Germany and the Germans (1894) 387pp; politics and parties, Volume 2 online
  • Feuchtwanger, Ed (2002). Imperial Germany 1850-1918. Routledge.  
  • Fischer, Fritz. From Kaiserreich to Third Reich: Elements of Continuity in German History, 1871–1945. (1986). ISBN 0-04-943043-2.
  • Hayes, Carlton J. H. "The History of German Socialism Reconsidered," American Historical Review (1917) 23#1 pp. 62–101 online
  • Holborn, Hajo. A History of Modern Germany: 1840–1945 (1969), pp 173–532
  • Jefferies, Mattew. Imperial Culture in Germany, 1871–1918. (Palgrave, 2003) ISBN 1-4039-0421-9.
  • Kennedy, Paul. The Rise of the Anglo-German Antagonism, 1860–1914 (2nd ed. 1988) ISBN 1-57392-301-X
  • Kitchen, Martin (2011). A History of Modern Germany: 1800 to the Present. John Wiley & Sons.  
  • Koch, Hannsjoachim W. A constitutional history of Germany in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (1984).
  • Kurlander, Eric. The Price of Exclusion: Ethnicity, National Identity, and the Decline of German Liberalism, 1898–1933 (2007).
  • Milward, Alan S. and S. B. Saul. The Development of the Economies of Continental Europe: 1850-1914 (1977) pp 17–70
  • Mommsen, Wolfgang. Imperial Germany 1867–1918: Politics, Culture, and Society in an Authoritarian State. (1995). ISBN 0-340-64534-2.
  • Nipperdey, Thomas. Germany from Napoleon to Bismarck (1996) dense coverage of chief topics
  • Reagin, Nancy. "The Imagined Hausfrau: National Identity, Domesticity, and Colonialism in Imperial Germany," Journal of Modern History (2001) 72#1 pp. 54–86 in JSTOR
  • Retallack, James. Germany In The Age of Kaiser Wilhelm II, (1996) ISBN 0-312-16031-3.
  • Retallack, James. Imperial Germany 1871-1918 (2008)
  • Ritter, Gerhard. The Sword and the Scepter; the Problem of Militarism in Germany. (4 vol University of Miami Press 1969–73)
  • Richie, Alexandra. Faust's Metropolis: A History of Berlin (1998), 1139pp by scholar; pp 188–233
  • Scheck, Raffael. "Lecture Notes, Germany and Europe, 1871–1945" (2008) full text online, a brief textbook by a leading scholar
  • Schollgen, Gregor. Escape into War? The Foreign Policy of Imperial Germany. (Berg, 1990) ISBN 0-85496-275-1.
  • Smith, Woodruff D. The German Colonial Empire (1978)
  • Stürmer, Michael. The German Empire, 1870–1918. (Random House, 2000). ISBN 0-679-64090-8.
  • Stern, Fritz. Gold and Iron: Bismark, Bleichroder, and the Building of the German Empire (1979) Bismark worked closely with this leading banker and financier excerpt and text search
  • Steinberg, Jonathan. Bismarck: A Life (2011), a recent scholarly biography; emphasis on Bismarck's personality
  • Taylor, A.J.P. Bismarck: The Man and the Statesman (1967) online edition
  • Wehler, Hans-Ulrich. The German Empire, 1871–1918. (Berg, 1985). ISBN 0-907582-22-2
  • Wildenthal, Lora. German Women for Empire, 1884–1945 (2001)

Further reading

  1. ^ Meyer, H.J. (1894). Meyers Konversations-Lexikon (in German). Volume 4 (5th ed.). Bibliographisches Institut. Deutschland. 
  2. ^ Statement of Abdication of Wilhelm II
  3. ^ "German Empire: administrative subdivision and municipalities, 1900 to 1910" (in German). Retrieved 25 April 2007. 
  4. ^ "Population statistics of the German Empire, 1871" (in German). Retrieved 25 April 2007. 
  5. ^ Harper's magazine, Volume 63. Pp. 593.
  6. ^ Kitchen 2011, p. 108.
  7. ^ "German constitution of 1871" (in Deutsch). 16 March 2011. Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  8. ^ Harper's magazine, Volume 63. Pp. 593. The term "Reich" does not specifically connote an empire, as has been commonly assumed by English-speaking people, but the term "Kaiserreich" literally denotes an empire – particularly a hereditary empire led by a literal emperor, although "Reich" has been used in German to denote the Roman Empire because it has a weak hereditary tradition. In the case of the German Empire, the official name in German was Deutsches Reich, which is properly translated as "German Realm", because the head of state in the constitution of the German Empire was officially a "presidency" of a confederation of German states led by the King of Prussia, who would assume "the title of German Emperor" as referring to the German people, but was not emperor of Germany as in an emperor of a state.
  9. ^ World Book, Inc. The World Book dictionary, Volume 1. World Book, Inc., 2003. p. 572. States that Deutsches Reich translates as "German Realm" and was a former official name of Germany.
  10. ^ Joseph Whitaker. Whitaker's almanack, 1991. J Whitaker & Sons, 1990. Pp. 765. Refers to the term Deutsches Reich being translated into English as "German Realm", up to and including the Nazi period.
  11. ^ Philip G. Dwyer, Modern Prussian History, 1830–1947 (2005) p 2
  12. ^ J. H. Clapham, The Economic Development of France and Germany 1815–1914 (1936)
  13. ^ "Nobel Prizes by Country - Evolution of National Science Nobel Prize Shares in the 20th Century, by Citizenship (Juergen Schmidhuber, 2010)". Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  14. ^ Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000 (1987)
  15. ^  
  16. ^ Case, Nelson (1902). European Constitutional History. Cincinnati: Jennings & Pye. p. 139.  
  17. ^ Case 1902, pp. 139–140
  18. ^ a b Case 1902, p. 140
  19. ^ Edmond Taylor, The fossil monarchies: the collapse of the old order, 1905–1922 (1967) p 206
  20. ^ a b E. P. Hennock, The Origin of the Welfare State in England and Germany, 1850–1914: Social Policies Compared (2007)
  21. ^ The Slavic speakers included Polish, Masurian, Kashubian, Sorbian and Czech were located in the east; Polish mainly in the Prussian provinces of Posen, West Prussia and Silesia (Upper Silesia). Small islands also existed in Recklinghausen (Westphalia) with 13.8% of the population and in the Kreis of Kalau (Brandenburg) (5.5%) and in parts of East Prussia and Pomerania. Czech was spoken predominantly in the south of the Silesia, Masurian in the south of East Prussia, Kashubian in the north of West Prussia and Sorbian in the Lusatian regions of Prussia (Brandenburg and Silesia) and the Kingdom of Saxony.
  22. ^ "Fremdsprachige Minderheiten im Deutschen Reich" (in German). Retrieved 20 January 2010. 
  23. ^ Kersbergen, Kees van; Vis, Barbara (2013). Comparative Welfare State Politics: Development, Opportunities, and Reform. Cambridge UP. p. 38. 
  24. ^ Moore, Robert Laurence; Vaudagna, Maurizio (2003). The American Century in Europe. Cornell University Press. p. 226. 
  25. ^ Richard E. Frankel, "From the Beer Halls to the Halls of Power: The Cult of Bismarck and the Legitimization of a New German Right, 1898–1945," German Studies Review, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Oct., 2003), pp. 543–560 in JSTOR
  26. ^ Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire: 1875–1914 (1987), p. 312.
  27. ^ Fitzpatrick, Matthew (2007). "A Fall from Grace? National Unity and the Search for Naval Power and Colonial Possessions 1848–1884". German History 25 (2): 135–161.  
  28. ^ Ciarlo, David (2008). "Globalizing German Colonialism". German History 26 (2): 285–298.  
  29. ^ L. Gann and Peter Duignan, The Rulers of German Africa, 1884–1914 (1977) focuses on political and economic history; Michael Perraudin and Jürgen Zimmerer, eds. German Colonialism and National Identity (2010) focuses on cultural impact in Africa and Germany.
  30. ^ Dedering, Tilman (1993). "The German‐Herero war of 1904: Revisionism of Genocide or Imaginary Historiography?". Journal of Southern African Studies 19 (1): 80–88.  
  31. ^ Allan Mitchell, Great Train Race: Railways and the Franco-German Rivalry, 1815–1914 (2000)
  32. ^ Edgar Feuchtwanger, Imperial Germany, 1850-1918 (2006), Table 1
  33. ^ Jochen Streb, et al. "Technological and geographical knowledge spillover in the German empire 1877–1918," Economic History Review, May 2006, Vol. 59 Issue 2, pp 347–373
  34. ^ Stephen Broadberry, and Kevin H. O'Rourke. The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Europe (2 vol. 2010)
  35. ^ John J. Beer, The Emergence of the German Dye Industry (1959).
  36. ^ Werner Abelshauser, German History and Global Enterprise: BASF: The History of a Company (2004) covers 1865 to 2000;
  37. ^ Chandler (1990) p 474–5
  38. ^ Carsten Burhop, "Pharmaceutical Research in Wilhelmine Germany: the Case of E. Merck," Business History Review. Volume: 83. Issue: 3. 2009. pp 475+. in ProQuest
  39. ^ J.A.S. Grenville, Europe reshaped, 1848–1878 (2000) p 342
  40. ^ Marjorie Lamberti, "Religious conflicts and German national identity in Prussia, 1866–1914," in Philip G. Dwyer, ed. Modern Prussian History: 1830–1947 (2001) pp. 169–187
  41. ^ Lamberti, (2001) p 177
  42. ^ Ronald J. Ross, The failure of Bismarck's Kulturkampf: Catholicism and state power in imperial Germany, 1871–1887 (1998)
  43. ^ Hajo Holborn, A History of Modern Germany: 1840–1945 (1969), 258–260
  44. ^ Christopher Clark, Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947 (2006) pp 568–576
  45. ^ Hermann Beck, Origins of the Authoritarian Welfare State in Prussia, 1815–1870 (1995)
  46. ^ Elaine Glovka Spencer, "Rules of the Ruhr: Leadership and Authority in German Big Business Before 1914," Business History Review, Spring 1979, Vol. 53 Issue 1, pp 40–64; Ivo N. Lambi, "The Protectionist Interests of the German Iron and Steel Industry, 1873–1879," Journal of Economic History, March 1962, Vol. 22 Issue 1, pp 59–70
  47. ^ Timothy Baycroft and Mark Hewitson, What is a nation?: Europe 1789–1914 (2006) p 166
  48. ^ John J. Kulczycki, School Strikes in Prussian Poland, 1901–1907: The Struggle over Bilingual Education (Columbia University Press, 1981)
  49. ^ Martin Broszat: Zweihundert Jahre deutsche Polenpolitik. suhrkamp 1978, p. 144; ISBN 3-518-36574-6
  50. ^ Fritz Stern, Gold and iron: Bismarck, Bleichröder, and the building of the German empire (1977)
  51. ^ Richard S. Levy, The Downfall of the Anti-Semitic Political Parties in Imperial Germany (Yale University Press, 1975)
  52. ^ Kitchen, Martin (2000). Cambridge Illustrated History of Germany. Cambridge University Press. p. 214.  
  53. ^ a b c Kurtz, Harold (1970). The Second Reich: Kaiser Wilhelm II and his Germany. McGraw-Hill. p. 60.  
  54. ^  
  55. ^ a b Kurtz, Harold (1970) 63
  56. ^ Isabel V. Hull, The Entourage of Kaiser Wilhelm II, 1888–1918 (2004) p. 85
  57. ^ Kurtz, Harold (1970) 67
  58. ^ a b Kurtz, Harold (1970) 72
  59. ^ Geoffrey Cocks and Konrad H. Jarausch, eds. German Professions, 1800–1950 (1990)
  60. ^ Kurtz, Harold (1970) 76
  61. ^ Matthew Jefferies, Imperial Culture in Germany, 1871–1918 (2003).
  62. ^ Kurtz, Harold (1970) 56
  63. ^ Lamar Cecil, Wilhelm II: Emperor and Exile, 1900–1941 (1996) ch 9–13
  64. ^ "Wilhelm II (1859 - 1941)". BBC. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  65. ^ Stürmer, Michael (2000) 91
  66. ^ Louis, Ruanda-Urundi 1884–1919, p. 163
  67. ^ Austria's Werner Abelshauser, German History and Global Enterprise: BASF: The History of a Company (2004) covers 1865 to 2000;
  68. ^ Truth or conjecture?: German civilian war losses in the East, page 366, Stanisław Schimitzek Zachodnia Agencia Prasowa, 1966
  69. ^ To the Threshold of Power, 1922/33: Origins and Dynamics of the Fascist and Nationalist Socialist Dictatorships, page 151-152
  70. ^ Shatterzone of Empires: Coexistence and Violence in the German, Habsburg, Russian, and Ottoman Borderlands by Omer Bartov and Eric D. Weitz page 55 Indiana University Press 2013
  71. ^ Immanuel Geiss "Tzw. polski pas graniczny 1914-1918". Warszawa 1964
  72. ^ The Red Prince: The Secret Lives of a Habsburg Archduke, Timothy Snyder; "On the annexations and ethnic cleansing, see Geiss, Der Polnische Grenzstreifen"
  73. ^ Absolute Destruction: Military Culture And The Practices Of War In Imperial Germany, Isabel V. Hull, page 233, Cornell University Press, 2005
  74. ^ Edwin Hoyt, Colonel von Lettow-Vorbeck and Germany's East African Empire (1981)
  75. ^ Holger H. Herwig, The First World War: Germany and Austria–Hungary 1914–1918 (1996)
  76. ^ Rod Paschall, The defeat of imperial Germany, 1917–1918 (1994)
  77. ^  
  78. ^ Roger Chickering, Imperial Germany and the Great War, 1914–1918 (2004) p. 141–42
  79. ^ A. J. Ryder, The German Revolution of 1918: A Study of German Socialism in War and Revolt (2008)
  80. ^ Robert GL Waite, Vanguard of Nazism, WW Norton publisher
  81. ^ "A New Surge of Growth". Library of Congress.
  82. ^ Jürgen Kocka, "German History before Hitler: The Debate about the German 'Sonderweg.'" Journal of Contemporary History, Jan 1988, Vol. 23#1, pp 3–16 in JSTOR
  83. ^ Wehler, Deutsche Gesellschaftsgeschichte: Vom Beginn des Ersten Weltkrieges bis zur Gründung der Beiden Deutschen Staaten 1914–1949 (2003) is the fourth volume of his monumental history of German society. None of the series has yet been translated into English. A partial summary appears in Hans-Ulrich Wehler, The German Empire, 1871–1918 (1997)
  84. ^ Helmut Walser Smith, "When the Sonderweg Debate Left Us," German Studies Review, May 2008, Vol. 31#2 pp 225–240


See also

German name Country Region
Elsass-Lothringen France The partly German-speaking départements of Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin (Alsace region) and Moselle (northeastern part of the Lorraine region)
The Eupen und Malmédy area
(intentionally spelled with é only then)
Belgium Eupen and Malmedy, two towns, and the municipalities of Amel, Büllingen, Burg-Reuland, Bütgenbach, Kelmis, Lontzen, Raeren, Waimes and St. Vith, part of the province of Liège, on the German border
Nordschleswig Denmark South Jutland County (excluding towns of Taps, Hejle and Vejstrup), and the towns of Hviding, Roager and Spandet
Hultschiner Ländchen Czech Republic Hlučín Region, on the border to Poland in Silesia, from which most of Germans were deported following WWII.
Central and eastern Pommern, Schlesien, Ostbrandenburg, Ermland, Masuren, Westpreußen, Southern Ostpreußen
Also Posen (Wartheland).
Poland the northern and western parts of the country, including Pomerania, Silesia, Lubusz Land, Warmia and Masuria, from all of which Germans were deported following WWII.
Northern Ostpreußen with Königsberg Russia Kaliningrad Oblast exclave on the Baltic, from which Germans were deported following WWII.
Memelland with Memel (city) Lithuania Klaipėda Region, including the Baltic coastal city of Klaipėda, from which Germans were deported following WWII.
Wylerberg Netherlands Duivelsberg, an uninhabited hill (as well as some nearby slivers of land) annexed by the Netherlands after WWII.

In addition to present-day Germany, large parts of what comprised the German Empire now belong to several other modern European countries:

Territorial legacy

The historiographical concept of a German Sonderweg has had a turbulent history. Nineteenth century scholars who emphasized a separate German path to modernity saw it as a positive factor that differentiated Germany from the "western path" typified by Great Britain. They stressed the strong bureaucratic state, reforms initiated by Bismarck and other strong leaders, the Prussian service ethos, the high culture of philosophy and music, and Germany's pioneering of a social welfare state. In the 1950s, historians in West Germany argued that the Sonderweg lead Germany to the disaster of 1933–1945. The special circumstances of German historical structures and experiences, were interpreted as preconditions that, while not directly causing National Socialism, did hamper the development of a liberal democracy and facilitate the rise of fascism. The Sonderweg paradigm has provided the impetus for at least three strands of research in German historiography: the "long nineteenth century", the history of the bourgeoisie, and comparisons with the West. After 1990, increased attention to cultural dimensions and to comparative and relational history moved German historiography to different topics, with much less attention paid to the Sonderweg. While some historians have abandoned the Sonderweg thesis, they have not provided a generally accepted alternative interpretation.[84]

Hans-Ulrich Wehler, a leader of the Bielefeld School of social history, places the origins of Germany's path to disaster in the 1860s–1870s, when economic modernization took place, but political modernization did not happen and the old Prussian rural elite remained in firm control of the army, diplomacy and the civil service. Traditional, aristocratic, premodern society battled an emerging capitalist, bourgeois, modernizing society. Recognizing the importance of modernizing forces in industry and the economy and in the cultural realm, Wehler argues that reactionary traditionalism dominated the political hierarchy of power in Germany, as well as social mentalities and in class relations (Klassenhabitus). The catastrophic German politics between 1914 and 1945 are interpreted in terms of a delayed modernization of its political structures. At the core of Wehler's interpretation is his treatment of "the middle class" and "revolution," each of which was instrumental in shaping the 20th century. Wehler's examination of Nazi rule is shaped by his concept of "charismatic domination," which focuses heavily on Adolf Hitler.[83]

Many historians have emphasized the central importance of a German Sonderweg or "special path" (or "exceptionalism") as the root of Nazism and the German catastrophe in the 20th century. According to the historiography by Kocka (1988), the process of nation-building from above had very grievous long-term implications. In terms of parliamentary democracy, Parliament was kept weak, the parties were fragmented, and there was a high level of mutual distrust. The Nazis built on the illiberal, anti-pluralist elements of Weimar's political culture. The Junker elites (the large landowners in the east) and senior civil servants used their great power and influence well into the twentieth century to frustrate any movement toward democracy. They played an especially negative role in the crisis of 1930–1933. Bismarck's emphasis on military force amplified the voice of the officer corps, which combined advanced modernization of military technology with reactionary politics. The rising upper-middle-class elites, in the business, financial, and professional worlds, tended to accept the values of the old traditional elites. The German Empire was for Hans-Ulrich Wehler a strange mixture of highly successful capitalist industrialization and socio-economic modernization on the one hand, and of surviving pre-industrial institutions, power relations and traditional cultures on the other. Wehler argues that it produced a high degree of internal tension, which led on the one hand to the suppression of socialists, Catholics, and reformers, and on the other hand to a highly aggressive foreign policy. For these reasons Fritz Fischer and his students emphasized Germany’s primary guilt for causing World War I.[82]


In the field of economics, the "Kaiserzeit" laid the foundation of Germany's status as one of the world's leading economic powers. The iron and coal industries of the Ruhr, the Saar and Upper Silesia especially contributed to that process. The first motorcar was built by Karl Benz in 1886. The enormous growth of industrial production and industrial potential also led to a rapid urbanisation of Germany, which turned the Germans into a nation of city dwellers. More than 5 million people left Germany for the United States during the 19th century.[81]

The era of the German Empire is well remembered in Germany as one of great cultural and intellectual vigour. Thomas Mann published his novel Buddenbrooks in 1901. Theodor Mommsen received the Nobel prize for literature a year later for his Roman history. Painters like the groups Der Blaue Reiter and Die Brücke made a significant contribution to modern art. The AEG turbine building in Berlin by Peter Behrens from 1909 can be regarded as a milestone in classic modern architecture and an outstanding example of emerging functionalism. The social, economic, and scientific successes of this Gründerzeit, or founding epoch, have sometimes led the Wilhelmine era to be regarded as a golden age.

Under Bismarck, a united German state had finally been achieved, but it remained a Prussian-dominated state and did not include German Austria as Pan-German nationalists had desired. The influence of Prussian militarism, the Empire’s colonial efforts and its vigorous, competitive industrial prowess all gained it the dislike and envy of other nations. The German Empire enacted a number of progressive reforms, such as Europe's first social welfare system (still in place today) and freedom of press. There was also a modern system for electing the federal parliament, the Reichstag, in which every adult man had one vote. This enabled the Socialists and the Catholic Centre Party to play considerable roles in the empire's political life despite the continued hostility of Prussian aristocrats.

The defeat and aftermath of World War I and the penalties imposed by the Treaty of Versailles shaped the positive memory of the Empire, especially among Germans who distrusted and despised the Weimar Republic. Conservatives, liberals, socialists, nationalists, Catholics, and Protestants all had their own interpretations, which led to a fractious political and social climate in Germany in the aftermath of the empire's collapse.



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