The Struggle To Unify States in Germany

While many nations of today were formed in the course of independence movements German history is characterised by the struggle of unifying different states and peoples. It was not independence from an Empire that formed Germany, like the United States or other former colonial countries, but the process of implanting a central rule over the different states, which were only loosely connected for centuries.

When the Roman Empire broke down in 476 AD the Frankish kingdom became its most important successor. This kingdom formed the basis for the “Holy Roman Empire of German Nation”, which was built in the 10th century. However, the Empire did not have much in common with sovereign nations today as it was only a loose federation of states without central authorities.

Neither the absolutist governed subjects nor the different rulers had a sense of national consciousness or felt “German”. This changed when Napoleons troops raided over Europe and suppressed the population. A national sentiment emerged and lead to the “wars of liberation” which ended the French rule in German states in 1815. However, the hope of many people of the liberal and civic-democratic camp for a unified German state was disappointed, when European monarchs restored the political order prior to Napoleon and founded the “German Confederation”. The dissatisfaction among the people sparked the famous revolution of 1848/49. While the revolutionaries succeeded in repealing press censorship and achieved the so-called liberation of peasants, they failed in enforcing a German nation with one central government. The “German Confederation” was characterised by the struggle for power between Prussia and Austria – the two most influential German states. When Prussia fought wars against Austria and France, the Confederation was dissolved and in 1871 the “German Empire” was founded under the German Emperor Wilhelm I. and his famous Reich Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. The national union was widely appreciated by the people, but failed to enable more freedom for the subjects, which continued to be ruled by one powerful man – Bismarck – who dependent on the confidence of the Kaiser.

However, there is another chapter of German history, in which the people did succeed in unifying their country. When post-WW2 Germany was liberated by the Allies eastern parts of Germany came under the control of the Soviet Union, while western Germany was ruled by the United States, Great-Britain and France. Although the Allies expressed their intentions to treat Germany as a whole, the great ideological differences lead to the development of two different German states: the German Democratic Republic in the East (known as “DDR”) and the Federal Republic of Germany in the West (“BRD”).

The DDR as a communist state was part of the Eastern bloc and the Warsaw Pact, West Germany allied with the Western States and became part of NATO. Despite of the efforts of German politicians to overcome the German division, it was the peaceful revolution of 1989 which unified the country when hundreds of thousands East Germans went on the streets and protested against the one-party government of the SED and the deteriorating economy. 

Under pressure from the general public the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989 and one year later Germany was united again.

This excerpt from German history can only briefly summarize historical developments, but it might give an idea of how a nation can be built – as a result of aggressive politics and war as well as the engagement of the people.

by Schirin H. 


First of, I need to say that Germany never really was in a struggle for independence, but more a struggle for unification. Until 1871, Germany as we know it today was constituted by multiple kingdoms and sovereign states. After the war against France, everything was set for the unification of all these german states into the First German Empire, led by Emperor Wilhelm the first. This creation of an unified Germany created a new strong nation which would play a major in Europe from there on. Even after the loss of WWI, Germany stayed independent, having only to give up some smaller parts of its territory. But with the loss of WWII, this changed. Germany was split up into four different sectors which were attributed to the different allies ( US, UK, USSR, France). After the end of the Berlin Blockade in 1949, the three western sectors were again unified to form the the Federal Republic of Germany, which was again a sovereign state ( under some supervision in the beginning ). East Germany however stayed a satellite to the USSR until the fall of the wall in 1989, and the unification of West and East Germany. Germany is now a key player in most global organisation. It is part of the G7, NATO, the EU. Having lost WWII, Germany does not have a permanent seat in the Security Council of the UN.

After having struggled for more than 40 years to finally be unified and still dealing with the challenges that this poses, Germany does not really have an interior movement for independence. The only movement you might have to consider is the uproar from the extreme right, which wants its independence from the EU. But even that movement is limited. I believe Germany is happy to finally be a strong and unified country which plays a key roles in all aspects of the World.

by Emil A.


“Fragen an die deutsche Geschichte”, Bonn, 1980 (27.10.2017)