German Nation

By | October 13, 2021

German nation, the (linguistically, culturally or politically understood) nation of Germans, a term (nation)that cannot be clearly defined historically. Learn more about Germany and Europe, please click

The German nation since the 9th century

As a linguistic and political community, the German nation developed from the 9th to the 15th century (German history), although a “German” national consciousness only rudimentarily emerged in the 11th century and also remained overlaid by a (Roman) imperial consciousness.

In the High Middle Ages (as opposed to the Italian and Burgundian crowns) the term Reich of the Germans (Regnum Teutoni [cor] um or German Regnum) was used; since the 15th century the title of the Holy Roman Empire was given the addition of the German nation added. This German nation was visible in the imperial estates (electors, princes, imperial cities) of the Reichstag, in the imperial circles and in the imperial knighthood. Language and imperial borders did not coincide. German speakers outside and foreign speakers within the Reich could be found in almost all border areas. German or German-ruled countries (e.g. Prussia) were also outside the empire, and the Czech nation was included in the empire. In the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the northern Netherlands and the Swiss Confederation were legally separated from the Reich and thus finally from the German nation.

The German nation from 1806 to 1945

In the 18th century, in view of the weakness of the empire and the flourishing of the bourgeois movement, the problems of the German national existence became conscious. But it was only after the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire (1806) and the Wars of Liberation that the German nation became a political question: The German liberals demanded the unity of the German nation, which they believed had not been achieved in the German Confederation (1815). The movement culminated in the German Revolution of 1848/49.

The question of a German nation-state was decided militarily in the German War of 1866: the Austrian Germans were excluded under constitutional and international law. After the victory over France in the Franco-Prussian War, the German Empire became the German Empire on January 18, 1871 Founded under Prussian leadership – according to the wording of the Imperial Constitution of April 16, 1871, as an “eternal covenant” which the German princes entered into, but in terms of political intent and reality as a German nation-state. The modern national consciousness of the Germans living within the borders of 1871 was continuously shaped over the political cuts of 1918, 1933 and 1945. However, the equation of nationality and membership of a nation remained controversial after 1871 because people who did not belong to the German national faith (e.g. Poland) were included in the empire and because the Germans of Austria often clung to their membership of the German nation. National Socialism then led to a crisis in the understanding of the German nation.

The German nation since 1945

After the collapse of the German Reich (1945) and the assumption of supreme governmental power by the victorious powers, further developments in the four zones of occupation and in the sectors of Berlin with the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany and the GDR raised questions about the continued existence of the German state and the German state Nation.

In the GDR, an all-German state concept was initially adhered to (constitution of October 7, 1949); with the two-state theory (since 1955), the citizenship law of February 20, 1967 and the constitution of April 6, 1968 (preamble and Article 1), however, state independence was then propagated. Nevertheless, the state and SED leadership ultimately did not succeed in adopting the thesis postulated since 1970/71 (culminating in the constitutional amendment of October 7, 1974) of a “socialist nation” based solely on this state instead of the traditional notion of a unified one to anchor the German nation in the population.

Based on the will of the people “to preserve their national and state unity”, the commitment of the Basic Law resolved on May 8, 1949 by the Parliamentary Council, solemnly adopted and proclaimed on May 23, 1949, constituted the legally enduring (1945/49 -90) only actually impaired the existence of state unity and the continued existence of the German nation (preamble and Article 116 GG) the basis for the restoration of a unified German nation state in the course of the German-German unification process (accession of the GDR to the Federal Republic of Germany according to Article 23 GG with Effective October 3, 1990; German unification); In its Basic Treaty ruling (1973), the Federal Constitutional Court obliged the constitutional bodies to assume the existence of Germany as a whole with a German (all) people and a (all) German state power, as “anchored” in the Basic Law.

German Nation