|Flag of the German Empire|
Germany or officially the Deutsches Kaiserreich (German: German Empire) is a country in Central Europe. Its borders are shared to the north by the North Sea, Denmark, and the Baltic Sea; to the east by Poland, Lithuania, and the United Baltic Duchy; to the south by Austria-Hungary and Switzerland; and to the west by the Commune of France, Flanders-Wallonia, and the Netherlands. Through colonial possessions, Germany also borders Spain, National France, Liberia, Abyssinia, Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, Oman, South Africa, Portugal, Siam, the Qing Empire (which includes the Allgemeine Ostasien-Gesellschaft), the League of Eight Provinces, the Fengtian Republic and Australasia.
The German Empire is a semi-constitutional monarchy composed of twenty-eight states, ruled by the Hohenzollern dynasty. Germany is currently the most powerful country in the world with its influence stretching across the globe. The state of Germany was proclaimed on January 18, 1871, in the Hall of Mirrors of Palace of Versailles in the aftermath of the 1871 Franco-Prussian War. As the main victor of the Weltkrieg, Germany controls a vast overseas empire with colonial holdings in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. Germany also leads Mitteleuropa, the military alliance and economic union with several Eastern European nations.
Under the pressure of Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck (the "Iron Chancellor") Germany was finally united: The German Empire was proclaimed in the palace of Louis XIV, Versailles, on January 18, 1871. Wilhelm I, the ruling Kaiser at the time, died on March 9, 1888; his son and heir, Friedrich III, died also only 99 days later, due to incurable throat cancer. Friedrich's son, Wilhelm II, subsequently acceded to the throne. Considering Bismarck's foreign policy as too soft, the Kaiser dismissed the Iron Chancellor in 1890, replacing him with more malleable replacements.
A Place in the Sun
Wilhelm II was obsessed with his colonial ambitions and began a naval rivalry with Britain on the advice of Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, leading to an increasing isolation of a belligerent Germany. Europe came close to war for the first time in 1911 with the Agadir Crisis, when Wilhelm II claimed Morocco. This crisis, adding to the Kaiser's reputation as an irresponsible firebrand, was defused without a war breaking out - but the outbreak had been merely delayed for a few years. However, as history was soon to show, Wilhelm II's gamble would pay off, he would achieve all his aims and more, and even many of his sharpest critics would be forced to admit as much.
Archduke Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was assassinated in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, by a Serbian revolutionary. One month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia in retaliation, and Germany rallied to her side; soon, the German Empire found itself at war against France, Britain, and Russia. Quickly invading Belgium and Luxembourg, the German advance was stopped at the Marne and in Poland, creating the stalemate that would define the war.
In 1917, Russia collapsed into Revolution and thousands of soldiers were transferred from the Eastern Front to the West. The situation at the home front had become bleak; hunger, deprivation, and anger over the war led to a Socialist uprising in November 1918 that quickly spread and eventually required front line units to be fully suppressed, leading to the signing of the Enabling Act by an intimidated Reichstag.
But finally, in March 1919, after four and a half years of attrition warfare, the German offensive on the Western Front finally succeeded in overrunning the Entente defenses. As their army collapsed, the exhausted French government surrendered and allowed the German army to occupy their nation. However, the French Civil War prevented the Germans from fully realizing their territorial demands.
The debate around a possible intervention in this new war also ended with the still-powerful Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) pressuring the weak Reichskanzler, Michaelis, into only allowing Ludendorff continued war-time privileges until the end of this renewed conflict. Enraged, Ludendorff ordered the Kaiser to dismiss the Reichstag, the Bundesrat, and Michaelis and make Paul von Hindenburg new Reichskanzler, thus beginning the Ludendorff dictatorship. Only the Progressive People's Party (FVP) and the SPD protested this obvious coup d'etat, while the Kaiser willingly obliged.
The Ludendorff dictatorship
Following their stunning victory against France, German troops were rapidly deployed to secure the occupation of Italy and the Ottoman Empire's southern fronts. A ceasefire was signed in November, but the war with Britain and the remaining Entente forces did not truly end until 1921 when the Peace with Honour was secured.
However, the economic and social problems it had caused continued. The population had been pushed to the brink of starvation by the British blockade, which had only truly ended in 1918, and the economy was in a similarly dire state. Demobilization had created a great mass of unemployed men, straining the urban economy, trade with the USA and other neutral countries was only slowly beginning to pick back up, and the eastern puppets were often in chaos.
The Reichskanzler and the dictator quickly began a series of reform projects to alleviate these problems. The most successful of these was a tax reform spearheaded by Zentrum politician Matthias Erzberger. The reform, which plainly took further power from the constituent countries of the Empire, led to the departure of the Bavarian' Zentrum, who formed the Bayerische Volkspartei (BVP). On the other side of the coin, the failed resettlement policies, characterized by the Polish Frontier Strip debacle, failed to help the struggling Junkers and disrupted economic ties with Poland, hindering the economic integration of the eastern puppet states into Mitteleuropa.
With the Reichstag still infinitely suspended, newspaper agitation became the modus operandi of the non-parliamentary opposition, leading to a country increasingly divided between supporters and enemies of the regime; the SPD, exempt from the complete ban on all Socialist party activities, followed a strategy of publicly pushing the boundaries of what was legal, therefore rebranding itself as the only true opposition.
The Kaiser increasingly withdrew from public life, leading to rumors about increasing alienation from his most powerful subordinate. And finally, in 1923, disaster struck; the Osthilfeskandal brought together Social Democrats and Liberals with the Kaiser and even Reichskanzler von Hindenburg. Ludendorff found himself banished to his estate and elections were called for the first time in a decade.
The Golden Age of Tirpitz
After a week of feverish campaigning known as Tage der Schreihälse (German: Days of the Squallers), on July 24th, 1923, Ludendorff's DVLP emerged victorious with a vote share of 32%, a harsh blow to Opposition dreams. However, the Kaiser finally picked a new Reichskanzler that proved he would be able to use the calls for reform for his own ends: Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz.
Tirpitz embarked on a program of economic liberalization. Coming after a period of stagnant internal growth, this coincided with the profits of long-term investments in Mitteleuropa finally arriving; the result was an economic boom that would last for the duration of von Tirpitz' chancellorship, cementing his immense popularity and reputation as "The Second Bismarck".
However, this concentration on stimulating the private economy left right-wing elements dissatisfied. On May 14th, 1924, several DVLP Reichstag members formed a new party, the Alldeutsche Verband (German: Pan-German Union). With a program of state-controlled economics and Germanic nationalism, this new party seemed to have little chance of success. That changed a year later when the charismatic fighter pilot Hermann Göring became party chairman and led the party to an 8% victory in the elections of 1928.
Tirpitz ended his agenda of foreign withdrawal in 1925 with the well-executed occupation of British colonial possessions following the outbreak of the British Revolution and an alliance with the Zhili Clique of China the next year. With Mittelafrika seizing the English Colonial Holdings and the Allgemeine Ostasien-Gesellschaft, the German dream of a "Place in the Sun" was finally fulfilled.
In Europe, Tirpitz did not have similar success; with the Union of Britain and the Socialist Republic of Italy now firmly established as allies of the Commune of France, he failed in preventing a new German-hostile bloc from forming. A symptom of this failure was the rise in Syndicalist terror, culminating in the assassination of Reichsbank president Karl von Helferrich on August 28th, 1928.
On June 6th, 1930, Reichskanzler von Tirpitz died suddenly during a visit to Hamburg. His death caught the DVLP flat-footed; No other politician was even close to being a possible successor. After von Tirpitz' burial parade through Berlin became the largest mass gathering Germany had ever seen, the media magnate Alfred Hugenberg won the party-internal chairman elections against Ulrich von Hessel.
But even though Hugenberg immediately started a massive campaign to promote himself as the only possible successor of Germany's Second-Greatest Chancellor, the Kaiser did not choose Hugenberg as new Reichskanzler. Instead, after an uncharacteristically long waiting period, Franz von Papen, chairman of the German-conservative party (DKP) - only notable for copying the DVLP program as closely as possible - became Reichskanzler out of the blue on August 3rd.
Shocked and outraged at this most likely personally motivated crossing, Hugenberg adopted a new party program for the DVLP to differentiate them from the DKP; a restoration of power to local nobles and constituent countries, similar to the particularist platform of Zentrum and BVP, but coupled with a return to state-controlled economics and agricultural subsidies for the East-Elbian Junkers.
This new platform proved futile when on July 16th, 1932, after 2 years of eventless business, as usual, von Papen's DKP won a landslide victory, taking 32% and the "new" DVLP sunk to an all-time low of 5%. The SPD stayed the second-largest party with 25%, as they had been for twenty years at this point.
The largest event since then was undefeated Weltkrieg hero Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck becoming honorary chairman for the desolate national-liberal party (NLP) in 1934. The Germans have lost any thirst for adventure; all they - and their politicians - hope for is an extension of the status quo for as long as possible. But the Kaiser is getting old, and so is the post-Weltkrieg order. And even if Germany has never been so powerful, neither has it ever had such heavy burdens.
Politics and Parties
However, since the days of the Ludendorff dictatorship, the Bundesrat has been disbanded. Germany has a vocal particularist community, which will not cease to push for reinstating the full federal structure. Another issue is the state-based electoral system for the Prussian Landtag, that secures a stable majority for conservative parties.
Despite its rather authoritarian nature, the German political system is very much designed in favor of multi-party coalitions, who secure a majority for the Kaiser's chancellor, therefore gaining a considerable amount of influence on the government's policies. The current coalition is composed out of the German-conservative party (DKP) and the Zentrumspartei (Zentrum).
The Deutsches Heer (German Army) is the second-largest army in the world, behind the Russian Republic. However, it has been plagued by hastily-suppressed scandals in last few years, indicating that military doctrine and training have not kept pace with the swollen military budget. Generalfeldmarschall August von Mackensen, the current head of the Deutsches Heer, has been adamant in insisting that there is no need for large-scale reforms: But he is old, and things may soon change.
Most of Germany's ground forces are centralized in Europe, in line with a defense plan created in the late 1920s by Reichskanzler Alfred von Tirpitz. Flanders-Wallonia and the currently mothballed Ludendorff Line in Elsass-Lothringen form the basis of defense in the west, while the many Eastern European satellites act as buffer states against Russia in the east. The security of the colonies, save for strategic garrisons in Morocco, Singapore, the Pacific islands, and West Africa, are entrusted to private militias raised and maintained by Mittelafrika and the Allgemeine Ostasien-Gesellschaft.
The Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial Navy) is the largest and arguably the most powerful navy in the world. Despite this, it's supremacy compared to other contemporary navies is not of the same scale as that of the British Royal Navy before the Weltkrieg. Boasting the largest, albeit dated, battleship fleet in the world, the Kaiserliche Marine is also one of the few navies in the world to possess aircraft carriers. With bases around the world, the Kaiserliche Marine is the German Empire's main method of enforcing the German interests abroad and maintaining security among the vulnerable sea lanes that transport goods to and from the colonies. The Kaiserliche Marine is currently headed by Admiral Ludwig von Reuter.
The Luftstreitkräfte (Air Defense Force) is headed by Generalfeldmarschall Manfred von Richthofen, the famous combat ace of the Weltkrieg. The largest air force in the world, the Luftstreitkräfte very much focuses on supporting army operations with a considerable fleet of tactical bombers. The force also maintains a presence abroad, most prominently at Tsingtau, where a large air contingent is located.
The German Empire is the leader of Mitteleuropa, an economic bloc established following their victory in the Weltkrieg in 1921. Mitteleuropa is comprised of Germany, its subjects and other German ally countries on the European continent.
Germany maintains cordial relations with its former Central Powers allies of Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria, who have not expressed an active interest in joining Mitteleuropa or the Reichspakt.
A staunch anti-syndicalist, Germany has declared its hostility against the Commune of France, the Socialist Republic of Italy, and the Union of Britain. Germany holds less than favorable views of its old Entente adversaries, directed primarily at the Dominion of Canada and the French National State.
Colonies and Dependencies
- Main article: List of German possessions and colonies
The burgeoning German colonial empire was largely considered an afterthought during the Weltkrieg, with most of the colonial and dependent territories occupied by the Entente throughout the war. After 1921, the German Empire was able to expand its hold through much of the world, thanks in part to the collapse of the British Empire and French Empire.
In Europe, Germany controls Crete and Malta. In Africa, German dominion is centered on the Mittelafrika, with additional outposts in; Berbera, Djibouti, Madagascar, Mauritius Island, Reunion Island, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Morocco, the Suez Canal Zone, and Yemen. In the Far East, the Allgemeine Ostasien-Gesellschaft controls several coastal cities while Germany controls the holdings of; Indochina, Kiaochow Bay, Singapore, German Borneo, Ceylon, and Hainan. German colonies in Oceania include; Kaiser-Wilhelmsland, the Bismarck Archipelago, the German Solomon islands, Bougainville Island, Angenehm Island, the Marshall Islands, the Mariana Islands, the Caroline Islands, and German Samoa.
Women in Germany
While economic and social forces have ensured that women fill many jobs in the major cities, particularly in service industries and clerical work, the conservative Reich establishment has thus far prevented them from having a vote in Reichstag elections (although some of the more progressive states, such as Wurttemberg and Baden, have permitted female voting in Regional Assemblies). However, the long presence of female politicians in public life, not least of whom is Rosa Luxemburg, grandmother of German Socialism, has made Frauenwahlrecht (women's suffrage) a hot political issue.
Germany´s top author at the moment is Erich Paul Remark, whose anti-war book 'Durchbruch' (1929), followed by 'Der Weg vorwärts' (1931) have become immensely popular, despite opposition from the Großer Generalstab. He is currently working on his third book, set after the final armistice with Britain. Some rumors speak of an alternate history novel, "Führerreich", telling the story of a Germany which lost the Weltkrieg. Nobel Prize winner Thomas Mann is a well-known admirer of the Kaiser and has often been named a potential foreign minister due to his personal prestige. Ernst Jünger, who inaugurated the fashion of the "Weltkrieg diaries" (depictions of the war from the point-of-view of the soldiers), is currently a high-ranking official in the Mittelafrikan administration. German writers have also been involved in extreme politics: Bertolt Brecht's plays barely avoided censorship due to their celebration of syndicalist values, although this has been diluted somewhat in those plays which he has made with his far more conservative collaborator Oswald Spengler, while Alfred Rosenberg's nationalist read-through of German philosophy (Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche) has a limited but noticeable audience in Germany.
While Germany officially endorses classical music - especially Wagner, Bach, Brahms, Mozart, Händel and all German composers, it isn´t quite as popular as it once was. Even the Kaiser has begun worshipping Scott Joplin. The spouse of Kronprinz Wilhelm, Princess Cecilie, is a well-known friend of contemporary musicians. Prestigious composers amongst the likes of Siegfried Alkan, Bogislaw Hubermann, Wilhelm Kempff, Elly Ney, Wilhelm Furtwängler and Herbert von Karajan often perform small concerts for the royal family at Cecilienhof Palace.
Babelsberg studios, in Berlin's suburbs, are the greatest in Europe and rival even Hollywood in production, quality and number of films. German cinema has become a worldwide industry and the dream factory for the whole of Europe. Moreover, in large part due to the efforts of the now deceased Friedrich Murnau, it has managed to surpass its tentative roots as a mere government propaganda tool, and take a more artistic approach. Popular with the German public are the likes of Hans Albers and Marlene Dietrich, and the renowned comics of Ernst Lubitsch, though Fritz Lang's works are often considered too dark and realistic for viewer's tastes.
Painting, sculpture, architecture
The Dada wave has also spread to Germany, a divided country who enjoyed the favorable conclusion of the Weltkrieg while it suffered from the long war and blockade: Max Ernst and George Grosz's work, for instance, is characterized by the trauma of the war years. In urbanism, Walter Gropius and his young rival, Albert Speer, struggle for the attention of the German government, intent on majestic monuments in memory of the Weltkrieg. Arno Breker's statues, first conceived as a celebration of the German man, were censored due to their nudity, judged indecent by German authorities.