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Frederick I Barbarossa , r. His grandson Frederick II r. Four years after his death, the empire broke up temporarily, and there followed a year interregnum. In , Rudolf of Habsburg was elected emperor, but neither he nor any of his immediate successors could weld the empire into a manageable unit. The Holy Roman Empire 's loose and cumbersome framework suffered from lack of strong national authority at the very time when powerful kingdoms were developing in England , France, and Spain. In the ensuing period, the Holy Roman emperors tended to ally themselves against the nobility and with the prosperous German cities and with such potent confederations of towns as the Hanseatic and Swabian leagues.

During the 15th century and part of the 16th, Germany was prosperous: commerce and banking flourished, and great works of art were produced.

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However, the already weak structure of the empire was further undermined by a great religious schism, the Reformation, which began with Martin Luther in and ended in the ruinous Thirty Years' War — 48 , which directly and indirectly through disease and famine may have taken the lives of up to two million people. Thereafter, Germany remained fragmented in more than principalities, bishoprics, and free cities. In the 18th century, Prussia rose to first rank among the German states, especially through the military brilliance of Frederick II "the Great," r.

During the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, German nationalism asserted itself for the first time since the Reformation. Although frustrated in the post-Napoleonic era, the nationalist and liberal movements were not eradicated, and they triumphed briefly in the Frankfurt parliament of Thereafter, a number of its leaders supported the conservative but dynamic Prussian chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. After a series of successful wars with Denmark , Austria the Seven Weeks' War, , and France the Franco-Prussian War , — 71 , Bismarck brought about the union of German states excluding Austria into the Second Empire, proclaimed in Germany quickly became the strongest military, industrial, and economic power on the Continent and joined other great powers in overseas expansion.

While Bismarck governed as chancellor, further wars were avoided and an elaborate system of alliances with other European powers was created. With the advent of Wilhelm II as German emperor r. Despite initial successes, the German armies — leagued with Austria- Hungary and Turkey against the United Kingdom , France, Russia, and eventually the United States — were defeated in As a consequence of the war, in which some 1,, Germans died, the victorious Allies through the Treaty of Versailles stripped Germany of its colonies and of the territories won in the Franco-Prussian War , demanded the nation's almost complete disarmament, and imposed stringent reparations requirements.

Germany became a republic, governed under the liberal Weimar constitution. The serious economic and social dislocations caused by the military defeat and by the subsequent economic depression, however, brought Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist Nazi Party to power in Hitler converted the republic into a dictatorship, consolidated Germany's position at home and abroad, and began a military expansion that by had brought a great part of Europe under German control, either by military occupation or by alliance, leading to World War II. Hitler's army then invaded Poland on 1 September, and France and Britain declared war on Germany two days later.

France surrendered on 22 June ; the British continued to fight.

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Hitler relied heavily on air power and bombed Britain continuously during — But by , German forces were on the defensive everywhere, thus marking the beginning of the end of the Nazi offensive thrusts. Finally, on 7 May , after Hitler had committed suicide, the Allies received Germany's unconditional surrender. It is estimated that more than 35 million persons were killed during World War II. Of this number, at least 11 million were civilians.

Among them were nearly 6 million Jews , mostly eastern Europeans, killed in a deliberate extermination by the Nazi regime known as the Holocaust; there were also about 5 million non-Jewish victims, including Gypsies, homosexuals, political dissidents, and the physically and mentally handicapped. Berlin was like-wise divided, and from April through May the USSR sought unsuccessfully to blockade the city's western sectors; not until the quadripartite agreement of was unimpeded access of the FRG to West Berlin firmly established.

That same year, the Saar territory, politically autonomous under the Versailles Treaty but economically tied to France after , became a German state after a free election and an agreement between France and the FRG. A treaty of cooperation between those two nations, signed on 22 January , provided for coordination of their policies in foreign affairs, defense, information, and cultural affairs.

The cost of this program of cooperation with the West was further alienation from the GDR and abandonment, for the foreseeable future, of the goal of German reunification. Many citizens, including a significant number of skilled and highly educated persons, had been covertly emigrating through Berlin in the West, and on 13 August , East Berlin was sealed off from West Berlin by a wall of concrete and barbed wire.

The Western Allies declared that they accepted neither the legality nor the potential practical consequences of the partition and reaffirmed their determination to ensure free access and the continuation of a free and viable Berlin. On 16 October , Adenauer resigned and was succeeded by former Finance Minister Ludwig Erhard , who is generally credited with stimulating the FRG's extraordinary postwar economic development — the so-called economic miracle.

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Three years later, Brandt became chancellor, and the CDU became an opposition party for the first time. One of Brandt's boldest steps was the development of an "Eastern policy" Ostpolitik , which sought improved relations with the Socialist bloc and resulted, initially, in the establishment of diplomatic ties with Romania and the former Yugoslavia. On 7 December , the FRG signed a treaty with Poland reaffirming the existing western Polish boundary of the Oder and western Neisse rivers and establishing a pact of friendship and cooperation between the two nations.

Throughout the late s and early s, tensions over the Berlin division in particular and between the two Germanys generally eased markedly, as did, in consequence, the intensity of pressures from both Allied and Soviet sides over the issue of reunification.

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A basic treaty between the two Germanys was reached on 21 December and ratified by the Bundestag on 17 May ; under the treaty, the FRG recognized the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the GDR, and the two nations agreed to cooperate culturally and economically. Two years later, the GDR and FRG agreed on the establishment of permanent representative missions in each others' capitals. Relations with Czechoslovakia were normalized by a treaty initialed 20 June The early s brought an upsurge of terrorism on German soil, including the killing by Palestinians of Israeli athletes at the Summer Olympics in Munich.

The terrorist wave, which also enlisted a number of German radicals, continued into the mids but declined thereafter. Helmut Schmidt , Brandt's finance minister, was elected chancellor by the Bundestag on 16 May. Under Schmidt's pragmatic leadership, the FRG continued its efforts to normalize relations with Eastern Europe , while also emphasizing economic and political cooperation with its West European allies and with the United States. Schmidt remained chancellor until the fall of , when his governing coalition collapsed in a political party dispute.

General elections in March resulted in a victory for the CDU, whose leader, Helmut Kohl , retained the chancellorship he had assumed on an interim basis the previous October. The exodus of East Germans through Hungary in the summer of as well as mass demonstrations in several East German cities, especially Leipzig, led to the collapse of the German Democratic Republic in the fall of Chancellor Kohl outlined a point plan for peaceful reunification, including continued membership in NATO and free elections in March Following these elections, the two Germanys peacefully evolved into a single state.

Four-power control ended in and, by the end of , all former Soviet forces left the country, although British, French, and American forces remained for an interim period. Berlin became the new capital of Germany, although the shift from Bonn to Berlin took place over several years. Unification has been accompanied by disillusionment and dissatisfaction with politics and the economy. A falling GDP and rising unemployment have raised concerns that the costs of unification were underestimated.

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Some analysts predict that convergence of the two economies will not be complete for another 10 to 20 years. In the meantime, the financial drain imposed on Bonn by the east threatened to imperil Germany's other convergence project, European economic unification.

However, Germany and 11 other EU countries introduced a common European currency, the euro, in January By October , Chancellor Helmut Kohl had been in office for 14 years, becoming the longest-serving postwar German chancellor. In , German voters decided it was time for a change.

The new coalition inaugurated "Future Program " to tackle the country's economic woes and in June pushed through the most extensive reform package in German history, which included major cuts in state spending as well as tax cuts.

In April , the German government was transferred from Bonn back to its prewar seat in Berlin, where the Bundestag moved into the renovated and renamed building formerly known as the Reichstag. However, continuing dissatisfaction with the nation's budget deficit and other problems resulted in a disappointing showing for the Social Democrats in local elections in September In July government negotiators reached an agreement on the payment of compensation to persons subjected to forced and slave labor under the Nazi regime.

A total of dm10 billion was to be paid out under the auspices of a specially created foundation. In June , the government and representatives from the nuclear industry signed an agreement to phase out nuclear energy over the next 20 years. Parliamentary elections were held on 22 September Throughout , the United States and the United Kingdom were committing troops to the Persian Gulf region, and, in the event that Iraq would not disarm itself of any weapons of mass destruction it might possess, it was evident that the United States and the United Kingdom might use those troops to force a regime change in Iraq.

Stoiber was more popular with voters on matters of fighting unemployment 9. The UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution on 8 November , calling upon Iraq to disarm itself of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons or weapons capabilities, to allow the immediate return of UN and International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA weapons inspectors, and to comply with all UN resolutions regarding the country since the end of the Gulf War in The United States and the United Kingdom indicated that if Iraq would not comply with the resolution, "serious consequences" might result, meaning military action.

The other three permanent members of the Security Council , France, Russia, and China , expressed their reservations with that position. Germany became a two-year nonveto bearing member of the Security Council in January , and aligned itself with France, the most vocal opponent of war. The United States and the United Kingdom abandoned diplomatic efforts at conflict resolution in March, and on 19 March, the coalition went to war in Iraq. Once coalition forces defeated Iraq and plans for reconstruction of the country were being discussed in April, Germany stressed the need for a strong role to be played by the UN in a postwar Iraq.

Major challenges included the growing level of unemployment, high level of state deficit, and the slow economic growth. The high unemployment level became quite astonishing, because Germany's low unemployment rate was at one point the envy of the industrial world. By the end of over four million people were unemployed in Germany. The unemployment level in climbed to an even higher mark. The situation got worse in early , when Germany's Federal Labor Agency announced that on January more than five million Germans were unemployed, which was the highest number since , when the economic devastation of the Great Depression brought the Weimar Republic to an end.

The important unemployment level during the first three month of triggered a negative reaction, even from those who supported the government. In addition to the high rate of unemployment Germany also experienced growing state deficit, which meant that it spent more than it earned.

In comparison to the other Western European countries, from to the Western European economies, averaged together, grew by Although, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden reported that in May the German economy experienced some improvement by expanding at the greatest pace since , slightly rebounding from a contraction.