Bundesrepublik Deutschland 
Federal Republik of Germany, Bundespost, Deutsche Post


State in central Europe. Traditionally divided into numerous petty sovereignties, German unification began with the growth of Prussian power in the 19th century. French occupation during the Napoleonic Wars brought the dissolution of many of the smaller states and stimulated German nationalism, which looked more and more to Prussia for leadership. The German Confederation (1815-66) and North German Confederation (1867-71) paved the way for unification. The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 brought the German states (except Austria) together to defeat France, and the German victory saw the creation of the German Empire with the Prussian king as emperor. Germany quickly emerged as the dominant military power on the continent. In August 1914, after many years of tension, war between the major powers finally erupted, with the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary; later including Bulgaria and Turkey) pitted against the Allies (Britain, France and Russia, later joined by many other nations, including the United States and Japan). Both sides anticipated a short war and quick victory, but stalemates arose on all major fronts, and years of trench warfare ensued. D

During 1916-17, the Central Powers advanced in Russia, and the Russian front collapsed. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (March 3, 1918) gave Germany large areas of European Russia and much of the country's industry and mineral resources. The Central Powers were less successful elsewhere: during the fall of 1918, Turkey surrendered to advancing British and Arab forces, Bulgaria surrendered and Austria-Hungary collapsed. By this point, Germany itself was near economic collapse. The kaiser abdicated in November 1918, and a republic was established, soon after which Germany surrendered unconditionally. 

The Treaty of Versailles (1919) stripped Germany of its overseas empire and transferred German European territories to France, Belgium, Poland and, after plebiscites, to Denmark and Lithuania. The harshness of the treaty's terms and the economic dislocation following the war provided fertile ground for political extremism, which culminated in the naming of Adolph Hitler as chancellor in 1933. Hitler's National Socialist German Workers' Party quickly suppressed all political freedoms and began openly to re-arm Germany. 

In 1936, Germany remilitarized the Rhineland, and in 1938, Austria and the Sudetenland (German-speaking Czechoslovakia) were annexed. In 1939, Germany signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, and on Sept. 1, German forces invaded Poland, precipitating World War II. Through 1942, Germany enjoyed an almost unbroken string of military successes. The entry of the United States into the war, however, shifted the balance in favor of the Allies, and during 1944-45, Germany was on the retreat. 

In April 1945, soon after Hitler's suicide, Germany surrendered unconditionally. Germany lost all territory acquired after 1919, as well as much of that which had been left to it after its defeat in World War I. The country was divided into four zones of occupation, administered by the United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union. In 1949, the German Federal Republic was formed from the three western zones, and the German Democratic Republic was created out of the Soviet zone. The German Federal Republic became fully independent in 1955. 

During the 1950s and 1960s, West Germany underwent an economic boom and became one of the world's major industrial powers. During the 1970s, West Germany normalized relations with its communist neighbors and dramatically expanded its trade with Eastern Europe. Reunification of the two Germanys was always the highest priority of the West German government. 

With the fall of the East German communist regime in 1989, reunification proceeded rapidly, and by the end of 1990 the German Federal Republic and the German Democratic Republic had again become one nation.

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