Germanic tribes occupied the area that the Romans would go on to call Germania. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the world center of power moved to Germany, where it stayed until the 1800s.
The 1900s give us some of the worst facts about Germany. The horror of the Holocaust still shocks us today, and Germany suffered heavy losses in both World War 1 and World War 2. Many Germans were killed, and many atrocities were committed by Germany under the power of Hitler and the Nazi Party.
Here are 29 Interesting Facts about Germany you might not know.
29 Interesting Facts about Germany
Germany was divided into East Germany and West Germany after World War 2. In the 1990s, Germany was reunified. Germany is the 5th largest economy in the world, the most populous country in Europe, and plays a central role in the European Union.
1. Over 80 million People Live in Germany
In an effort to increase Europe’s role in the global economy and further distance itself from communism, Germany played an important role in forming the European Union, or EU. Indeed it was Germany that introduced the European currency, the Euro.
The European Union grew out of trade unions that were established in the 1950s. The goal of the European Union is to facilitate the free movement of goods and people throughout Europe. By creating a more fluid economy between the different European states, the European Union hopes to provide Europe with a larger role in the global economy.
Germany plays a central role in the European Union today. As the most populous country in Europe, and Europe’s economic powerhouse, many EU decisions impact life in Germany. Similarly, many decisions in Germany impact life throughout the rest of the European Union.
2. Germans Didn’t Name Germany; Romans Did in 100 AD
Fossils discovered in the Neander valley in Germany give us the first evidence of non-modern humans. These Neanderthals were a different type of human than we are and lived in Europe and Asia approximately 40,000-60,000 years ago. Neanderthals share many traits with modern humans but are considered a different species.
Tribes of people occupied the area now known as Germany for thousands of years. These tribes came into conflict with the Roman Empire. It was the Romans who first described this area as Germania, and the inhabitants of the region became known as Germans.
The Germanic tribes that lived in this area gained power over time and eventually took land from the Roman Empire as it declined from 200 – 400 AD.
Germanic tribes grew to become kingdoms and went on to assume an important role in the Holy Roman Empire as the center of influence moved from Rome to Germany. The Holy Roman Empire comprised of German princes and popes existed from 800 AD to the 1800s in some form or another.
The Holy Roman Empire in Germany finally broke apart in the war between two kingdoms in Germany: the Austrian Monarchy and the Kingdom of Prussia.
3. Germany is Going Green
As part of its move towards the future, the current German government has enacted many laws and practices to encourage the use of renewable energy. Germany is proving its new role as a global citizen by leading the way in using environmentally friendly ways of generating energy. Germany is going green!
As a result of Germany’s efforts, their greenhouse gas emissions are falling. The final goal of the German plan for renewable energy is to eliminate reliance on coal and other non-renewable sources of energy. Germany is pursuing this goal through renewable energy, greater energy efficiency, and more sustainable growth.
4. Adolf Hitler and Germany Killed Over 10 Million Civilians
The Nazi Party came to power in 1933 when Hitler was made Chancellor of Germany. The economic conditions in Germany and the harsh conditions of the Treaty of Versailles, whether real or imagined, led Germans towards totalitarianism.
Hitler was given power over all of Germany. He even had the soldiers in the German army declare their allegiance to him personally instead of to Germany. Germany created a bureaucracy of war and terror. Hitler and the Nazi Party committed what many consider the greatest crime of the 1900s: the Holocaust.
The Nazi’s crimes began as segregation against Jews, other minorities, and political dissidents, and ended in an effort to kill all the Jews in Europe. Over six million Jews, and over 10 million civilians in total, were killed as a result of the actions of Hitler, the Nazi Party, and the people of Germany who ran a bureaucratic killing machine.
5. More than 2 Million German Soldiers Died in World War 1
Germany continued to consolidate power and, by 1900, the policies of Otto von Bismarck had expanded German influence and territory across Europe. Bismarck served under Wilhem I. After Wilhem II took power, he took a more aggressive approach to expand the power of Germany. This would lead to conflicts within Europe, and eventually war.
The crown prince of Austria, a country that bordered Germany, was assassinated in 1914. This led to a series of events that resulted in World War 1. It was a bloody conflict and ushered in the era of modern warfare. Roughly two million soldiers lost their lives during World War 1.
Germany lost World War 1 to the Allied Powers that included the United States, France, and Great Britain. In 1918, the German Revolution occurred. Wilhem II and the remaining German princes gave up power, and Germany became a republic. The German people were ready for a change after suffering heavy losses in a war that was fought for a monarchy.
6. More than 5 Million German Soldiers Died in World War 2
Germany was part of the Axis Powers during World War 2. They invaded countries across Europe. Germany occupied France, Austria, Belgium, and most of continental Europe.
Mussolini’s fascist Italy was also part of the Axis powers and controlled additional parts of Europe, as well as parts of North Africa. It seemed that the Axis Powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan were destined to win the war.
The Allied Forces fighting the Axis Powers gathered all their troops for a massive invasion in 1944, D-Day. This was the beginning of the end for Germany and the Axis Powers, as the tide started to turn in favor of the Allied Powers in World War 2.
Germany and the Axis Powers had a strong start to the war, but they were overcome in the end. After D-Day, Germany was fighting a war on two fronts: they were fighting with the United States and Britain on the Western Front, and fighting with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR, on the Eastern Front. When Germany lost World War 2, it lost to both the Soviets and to the Western Powers.
7. When Germany Was Divided in 1948, an Entire City Was Split in Half
Relations broke down between the Soviets and Western Powers at the end of World War 2, leading to what would be called the Cold War. It happened so fast, that the occupying forces in Germany never left. The Soviets and the Western Powers continued to occupy Germany and the city of Berlin after World War 2 ended.
Eventually, an agreement was reached that would define life in Germany for the next 50 years. The agreement involved splitting Germany into two parts. One part was capitalist West Germany, which was supported by the Western Powers of the United Kingdom, the United States, France, and other countries.
The other part was East Germany, which was supported by the USSR. The USSR also retained additional European territory it had acquired during World War 2 and made those countries states in the USSR.
The main city in Germany, Berlin, was split in half too. It sounds absurd to split a city in half, and it made life difficult for people living in Berlin, especially for families who had relatives in both halves of the city.
The city was divided into East and West Berlin. As the Cold War continued, a wall was built between the two halves of the city to prevent travel and was known as the Berlin Wall. All across Europe, the dividing line between the USSR and capitalist Europe was referred to as the Iron Curtain.
8. X-Rays, The Printing Press, and Einstein all Came from Germany
An amazing number of innovations and inventions come from Germany. While not exactly an invention, Martin Luther innovated Christianity when he started the Protestant Reformation in Germany in the 1500s. This would eventually lead to the great variety of Christian sects that exist in the world today and remain separate from the Catholic Church.
An amazing number of technological innovations and inventions came from Germany. Gutenberg built his printing press in Germany, and many point to this as being part of what accelerated the Reformation. More recently, in the 1800s and 1900s, X-Rays were discovered in Germany, and the internal combustion engine was invented there.
During the early 1900s, Albert Einstein, who was born in Germany, lived in Germany when he elaborated his theory of relativity to include gravity. Einstein became a United States Citizen in 1940 after immigrating to the United States in 1933 when Hitler took power in Germany.
During World War 2, the German war machine produced many innovations, including the first space rocket, and magnetic tape for recording sound.
9. The Treaty of Versailles Ordered Germany to Pay $440 Billion in Reparations
The Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919 by the newly formed League of Nations and placed a set of strict conditions on Germany. These conditions included disarmament and reparations that were to be paid to the countries in Europe which Germany had invaded.
Some people say the conditions of the treaty were too harsh and crippled the German economy. The equivalent value of the reparations demanded of Germany at the time is $440 billion USD today – ouch!
Other scholars have said that the conditions of the treaty were not harsh enough to cause Germany to restructure itself in a way that would result in long-term peace. Germany never got the scolding it needed: it should’ve been $1 trillion in reparations.
Whether or not the economic troubles of Germany during the 1920s and 1930s can be directly attributed to conditions of the treaty, the Great Depression crushed any growth that was occurring in the German economy after World War 1.
10. Germany Has the 5th Largest Economy in the World
When Germany was rebuilt after World War 2, West Germany slowly grew its economy to become one of the largest in Europe. East Germany was initially boosted by the rapid industrialization of the USSR under Stalin.
However, over time, the flaws in the Soviet system led to the decline of the East German and Soviet economies. By the 1980s, East Germans lived significantly poorer lives than their counterparts in West Germany.
During this time, many East Germans risked their lives to flee to West Germany for better living conditions. To do so, they had to be smuggled past intense border fortifications, including the Berlin Wall.
West Germany and East Germany were reunited on Oct. 3, 1990, followed by the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The German economy has continued to grow and is now generally considered the 5th largest economy in the world. As a result of reunification, Germany is now the most populous country in Europe.
The legacy of the Soviet era still has an impact on people’s lives in Germany. The Soviet occupation changed Germany forever. People in East Germany are still, on average, poorer than those in West Germany.
As a federal republic, Germany has been practicing a policy of sending tax revenues from former West Germany to former East Germany. It is to help rebuild the economies in those German states. This plan is set to continue until nearly 2020 – 25 years after reunification.
11. Germany is the home of Christmas.
Many of the traditional ways we celebrate Christmas originated in Germany. Christmas markets were first held in towns across Germany and have a mix of stalls selling Christmas decorations and other items, music, mulled wine, and a generally merry feel. Today Christmas markets based on this concept can be found all over the world.
12. Germans Love Bread
Germany has over 300 different types of bread and 1200 types of rolls. Bread is served at virtually every meal occasion in Germany. Germany is best known for its dark bread like Pumpernickel. Pretzels are a chewy German pastry with a salty crust.
13. A German castle inspired Walt Disney
The 19th-century Neuschwanstein castle sits nestled on a hill just outside the enchanting town of Füssen, in Bavaria. It’s situated between the Ammergau and Allgäu Alps, near a beautiful alpine resort, especially popular for its water sports.
King Ludwig II commissioned the palace as a tribute to German composer Richard Wagner. The final result was incredibly opulent. In fact, it was used as the basis for Walt Disney‘s famed Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland.
14. Germany makes some of the most well-known and highest quality cars in the world
Audi, Mercedes Benz, Porsche, BMW, and Volkswagen are some of the biggest car brands in the world and are popular both in Germany and abroad. Germany has an enviable reputation when it comes to the manufacture of automobiles. Saying German Car is synonymous with quality, reliability and safety.
15. Beethoven was born in Germany.
Ludwig van Beethoven was a composer and pianist and one of the world’s best-known musicians. In addition to his general brilliance, some of his best works were completed after he had become almost completely deaf.
16. Germany has between 5,000 and 6,000 different beers.
Germany is known for producing some of the best beer in the world and this beverage is a critical part of German culture. Germany is the third-biggest beer-drinking country in the world after the Czech Republic and Austria and is known for brands like Becks and Stein.
17. Albert Einstein was born in Germany
The man whose name is synonymous with intelligence was born in Germany. The theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity was born in Ulm, Germany.
18. Germany has more than 41,000 kilometres of train tracks
The main railway network in Germany is called Deutsche Bahn. It covers more than 41,000 kilometres which means you can travel virtually all of Germany by train. And unsurprisingly those trains are almost always on time.
19. Martin Luther was born in Germany
Martin Luther was born in Germany. He is best known as the father of Protestant Christianity. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther is said to have nailed a list of 95 things he disagreed with about the Catholic Church. There are still roughly the same number of Protestants as Catholic churches in Germany today.
20. Oktoberfest receives over 6 million visitors a year.
Oktoberfest is one of the world’s most well-known festivals and probably the most famous beer event in the world. Despite its name, Oktoberfest takes place in late September. The festival is held in Munich, lasts 16 to 18 days and tends to receive over six million visitors. Many visitors to Oktoberfest choose to dress in traditional Bavarian clothing like dirndls.
21. The German Autobahn covers over 8,000 miles
Who wants to drive as fast as they can? Germany has wide roads that stretch for miles. The Autobahn is the German highway system and it covers over 8,000 miles. The autobahn began construction in the 1930s and it was the first high-speed, limited-access road in the world.
Today, there are parts of the autobahn that don’t have speed limits but there are also many sections that do have speed limits in place and of course fines for breaking those limits.
22. There are over 1500 types of sausages in Germany
Sausages or wurst are a big part of German food and they are one of the biggest producers and consumers of this meat. Whether it is Blutwurst, Weisswurst or Frankfurters there are over 1500 different types of sausages in Germany. Sausages in Germany tend to be served in one of three ways: boiled, raw or smoked, or scalded.
23. The Easter Bunny is from Germany
The first mention of the Easter Bunny was in books in Germany in the 15th century. Germany also produced the first edible Easter Bunny. It was made of pastry and sugar and was produced in the early 1800s. At this time children began to make small nests of grass so that the Easter Bunny could fill them with brightly colored eggs during the night.
24. Germany was the first country in the world to take up Daylight Savings Time
Germany was the first country in the world to take up Daylight Savings Time. This happened during the first World War when Germany realized that putting the clocks forward could save them energy and water.
The rest of Europe, the US, and Britain later did the same. However, Asia, Africa, and most of South and Central America don’t bother with daylight savings time.
25. Both Adidas and Puma started in Germany
These two iconic sporting goods brands were both started in Germany. Adidas was started from Adolf and Rudolph Dassler’s mother’s home in 1949. The three stripes logo was purchased by the brothers fro a Finnish company. These paid the equivalent of just over USD$1,900 and two bottles of whiskey for them.
Puma was formed by Rudolph Dassler after a dispute with his brother.
26. Berlin has an island of museums.
Located in Berlin, Museumsinsel or the Island of Museums consists of 5 museums which are housed in an 18th-century building. These museums feature some of the oldest and most impressive artworks from ancient Egypt, Berlin, and Byzantine times.
27. There are more than 27,000 castles in Germany.
In addition to Neuschwanstein Castle, there are believed to be approximately 25,000 castles in Germany. Many were built in the Middle Ages by European nobility. This also includes palaces.
Palaces were designed with a focus on decoration whereas Castles were built for defense – but both can be quite magnificent. Some of the most famous are Sanssouci Palace, Schwerin Palace, and Cochem Castle.
28. All education in Germany is Free
That includes secondary education and universities. And it applies even to international students!
29. Germany’s second most popular tourist attraction is a Model Railway
The second most popular paid tourist attraction in Germany after Neuschwanstein Castle is Miniatur Wonderland, the largest model railway in the world. This model railway was started only in 2004 in Hamburg and today it has more than 15 kilometres of train tracks, 389,000 lights, 263,000 figures and receives over 18 million visitors a year.