Germany: Timeline

 

(before recorded history) Celtic people lived in what is now Germany.
1000 BC - 100 BC Scandinavian people gradually moved down from the north. They settled between the Elbe and Oder Rivers and started farming and raising animals. The Oder is the present eastern border of Germany with Poland, and the Elbe is farther west. Check this map for the area.
100 BC By now, there were four million people in the area. Land was hard to find so many tribes moved away. The Visigoths went to Spain, the Vandals to North Africa, and the Angles and Saxons to England. Others like the Teutons and Cimbri were wiped out.
12 BC - 16 AD The Roman Legions tried to take over Germany but failed, except for a small part of southwest Germany. Most of the area to the west became part of the Roman Empire, but the Germanic tribes of central Europe were not conquered and kept their own culture.
200 - 300 AD A tribe known as the Franks appeared in the northwest, in the lower and middle Rhine River valleys.
481-511 AD A Frankish king named Clovis established the first Merovignian dynasty. Before long this empire stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to Bavaria in the south and Thuringia in the east. (You can see where this is on an 1871 map of Germany.) Clovis converted to Christianity and sponsored missionaries in the east.
768 AD A royal official of the Merovignian dynasty, Charles Martel better known as Charlemagne, came to power and established a new line of Frankish kings.
800 AD Charlemagne was crowned by the Pope and became emperor of a revived Roman Empire. It stretched to include parts of Italy and Spain.
814 AD Charlemagne died and civil wars broke out.
870 AD Two Frankish kingdoms were created, one to the West (now France) and one to the east (Germany).
900 - 1500 AD

Germany was mostly broken up into smaller areas and ruled by princes and feudal lords. For almost all the time between 1438 and 1806, the Hapsburg dynasty ruled the Holy Roman Empire (or First Reich). It was dissolved in 1806.

1517 Martin Luther began a revolution known as the Reformation, protesting against the Catholic church. The growth of the Protestant church eventually changed Germany in a big way. The ruling family, the Hapsburgs, were Catholic.
1618-1648 The Thirty Years War was the result of all the conflicts over religion. Germany was still divided into small states.
1786 Prussia and Austria were the major German states.
1789-1813 The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars led to Germany being conquered by Napoleon. (The Holy Roman Empire had been dissolved in 1806.)
1813 Germany was again free and a treaty gave power back to the princes, creating a loose group of about three dozen states. There were many more attempts to make Germany one state.
1862 Otto von Bismarck, Chancellor of Prussia, led another unification move, which ended in 1871 when Kaiser Wilhelm I being crowned king of the new German Reich ('empire'). Bismarck's government created a parliament called the Reichstag elected by the people, but the king and his advisors kept most of the power. As the most important advisor, Bismarck manipulated political parties and managed foreign policy.
1870-1910 Steel production, industrial efforts, science and technology and a good university system were all part of this time of great growth in Germany. Writer Thomas Mann, composers Johannes Brahms and Richard Strauss, and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche helped maintain Germany's reputation as a major cultural center.
January 1871 Germany became one country, uniting many smaller states. See map.
1890 Kaiser Wilhelm II forced the Iron Chancellor, Bismarck, to retire. The Kaiser took over more control of the government, but caused bad feelings between Germany and other countries like Austria, Russia and England.
1914 Kaiser Wilhelm II helped to start World War I.
1918 Tired of war and ready for change, the German people took over the government. A people's republic was created, the war was ended and the Kaiser was exiled to The Netherlands.
1919 The Treaty of Versailles was signed, which took away much of Germany's land, people and natural resources and forced Germany to pay lots of money to those countries it had fought against. The German economy was a disaster and there was much unrest among its people.
1920s The German economy revived and culture flourished.
1930s The Depression threw Germany into chaos again.
1932

Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist Party took power. The Nazis were very patriotic and seemed to have answers to social and economic problems. Hitler rapidly formed a dictatorship called the Third Reich (the first two 'Reichs' were the Holy Roman Empire and the German Empire set up by Bismarck).

Hitler's government produced a remarkable recovery of the German economy. Propaganda portrayed the Nazis as heros, yet the Nazi party was extremely racist. With a ruthless secret police called the Gestapo and horrible prisons called concentration camps, the Nazis were trying to get rid of all Jewish people in Germany.

Sept. 1, 1939 Hitler invaded Poland, and Britain and France declared war on Germany.
1941-1945 The United States entered World War II on the side of the Allies (mainly Britain, France and Russia). Japan and Italy were allies of Germany. When the war ended in 1945, Germany was largely in ruins.
1945-1949 Most of eastern Germany was given to Poland and the USSR. The remainder was divided into four zones: Russian, British, French and American. The capital, Berlin, was divided up the same way.
1949

During the 'Cold War' the British, French and American parts of Germany were combined into the Federal Republic of Germany which became known as West Germany. The Russian part became the German Democratic Republic (GDR), known as East Germany. Berlin was divided into West Berlin and East Berlin.

1949-1963 West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer allied his country with the west, and avoided any connections with East Germany, the USSR and other Eastern countries. His conservative government also brought about tremendous economic recovery. Ten million German refugees returned to their homeland.
1969 The Social Democratic Party gained power, and Willy Brandt became Chancellor. With his Ostpolitik (literally 'east politics') or policy towards West Germany's eastern neighbors, he improved relations with East Germany and other eastern countries.
1970-present Germany's economy has been booming. They have won acceptance as a leading partner in the European Union and the Western Alliance. Parliamentary democracy has led to more freedom and renewed creativity in the arts.
1949-1989 While West Germany was recovering from World War II economically and socially, the Communist government in East Germany was very repressive. Soviet troops occupied the country. Economic and living conditions were horrible.
1961 Conditions in East Germany (GDR) were so awful that hundreds of thousands of the best workers were fleeing to West Germany for better jobs and living conditions. East German dictator Walter Ulbricht had the Berlin Wall erected to keep people from leaving, and armed guards were posted. In all, about 300 people lost their lives trying to flee East Germany over the Berlin Wall. Here's a picture of memorial crosses for them.
1989

In 1989 there were reforms in Poland, Hungary and the Soviet Union which encouraged more than 200,000 East Germans to leave their country and travel to West Germany through Czechoslovakia and Hungary. In East Germany there were many demonstrations by people demanding reforms. When the Soviet Union stopped supporting the East German government, it collapsed.

This painting by Birgit Kinder became a well-known symbol of the end of the Berlin Wall. It's an East German car, called a Trabant (or Trabi), breaking through to the West, and its license plate shows the date the wall began to come down.

Here's a view of the celebration when the Wall was opened and people could cross freely into West Berlin.

Oct. 3, 1990

East Germany and West Germany were unified under the West German constitution. For the first time since 1933, the German people lived together in freedom and unity.

Although the East German economy was in terrible shape, the West German economy was booming. Much progress has been made towards making things equal across the country.

  Much of this info came from A Brief History of Germany.