German Empire of

large Reichswapppen
flag of the German Reich until 1919: Black-and-white-red
Deutsches Reich 1914

the German empire designates to 18. January 1871 by proclaiming the Prussian king William I. in Versailles to the German emperor justified and to 9. November 1918 by the resignation of William II. extinct constitutional monarchy of the German Reich. The official state designation was German Reich.

The name German Reich remained existing also after 1918.


the French-German war of 1870 - 1871 and the associated defeat of France against Prussia and with itallied South German states were trips for the establishment of the “second German empire”, which took up the tradition of a powerful and united German Reich nearly seventy years after the end of the holy Roman realm of German nation again.


the German history 19. Century was up to then coined/shaped of constant political and territorial changes, which began after the end of the holy Roman realm of German nation in the year 1806. That realm, already since the dreissigjährigen war in the fall understood, broke by the Napoleoni wars and the establishment supported by France of the Rhine federation.

In the future, affected by the model of the French revolution and the wars of liberation against Napoleon in Germany the national state movement strengthened with the conception of the nation as basis of the state formation. Particularly from civil side these opinions were represented; as largeGerman solution becamea Germany including Austria, when smallGerman solution marks a Germany without Austria.

After however Napoleon was defeated, the German princes had only small interest in a central power, which would cut its autonomy. On the Viennese congress became 1815 therefore only that German federation based, a loose union of the areas, which had belonged 1806 ago to the German Reich.

Nationalnational and civil - democratic movements led in the year 1848 to numerous collections in completely Europe, among which also the March revolution in Germany ranks. Delegate developed of the again Friedrich William IV. offered Frankfurt national assembly to the Prussian king. the German emperor crown on (in the context of a smallGerman solution). This leaned failed however off and thus the attempt, Germany on constitutional basis to one.

The German federation existed after the March revolution further, however under Austrian guidance.In the year 1864 it arrived at greater importance, than from the Schleswig Holsteini question the GermanDanish war caught fire, in which Prussia and Austria due to a Bundesexekution side by side fought. By the controversy over Schleswig-Holstein the German war of Prussia broke 1866 off against Austria, intogether with some north Germans states and with Italy against Austria and South German states fought to Prussia. After the defeat of Austria the north Germans federation under Prussian guidance was created. The South German states (except Austria) locked protection and Trutzbündnisse with Prussia.

Released by disputes between Prussiaand France around the Spanish succession broke 1870 off the French-German war . The South German states followed Prussia. The Prussian Prime Minister Bismarck used this to drive over the coronation/culmination of the Prussian king to the German emperor in front and so also the South German states inFrame a smallGerman solution of the Prussian crown to subordinate. The three wars between 1864 and 1871 are called also German agreement wars.

establishment of realm

after success that Prussia and their allied one against France became to 18. January 1871 king William I. ofPrussia from the German federal princes to the German emperor in the mirror hall lock of the Versailles proclaims. This provocation of the German side was Mitauslöser for the French-German hereditary enmity, which should affect the foreign policy of the empire later strongly.

Proclamation of the German empire in the mirror hall of lock Versailles

thoseEmperor choice did not come off without difficulties, there William I. hesitated to assume the emperor crown in the face of the difficulties of the forthcoming realm agreement. So it is to have been necessary to win the Bavarian king by a substantial bribery sum for the agreement.

At the 3. March came it thenthe first realm tag elections (see realm tag choice 1871). The first constituent realm tag meeting found in the Prussian Lower House in Berlin explained as the realm capital to 21. March instead of. The realm condition stepped to 16. April into force.

The peace from Frankfurt terminated officially the French-German war. The signing found to10. May instead of. The realm monetary law standardized the German currencies, which became Mark as uniform currency introduced to the realm.

The realm agreement came off thus not, how from democrats and many civil ones expects, by the will of the people, but was rather on the skillful policy of Bismarckto lead back.

After the establishment of realm an economic recovery took place already briefly, the founder years in such a way specified. Afterwards an economic depression followed, the founder crisis.

the condition of the German Reich of 1871

the second German Reich was a Federal State, that from voluntary unionthe national princes developed. Its condition was an extension north Germans of the federation, as it had developed after the war 1866. Strongest country was Prussia with approximately two thirds of the population. The condition of the German Reich of 1871 stressed the monarchische element. The emperor, that at the same timealso king from Prussia was, could the realm chancellor off appoint and set. Beyond that it could close international contracts, determined over war and peace and had the supreme command over the military. In times of peace was the monarchs of the South German states (esp. Bavaria and Württemberg) the supreme command reserve.

Population density
the 25 Federal States of the realm

of the emperors called up besides the Upper House of Parliament and Reichstag, which it could dissolve together with the Upper House of Parliament. Under the emperor stood the realm chancellor, who was with two short exceptions also Prussian Prime Minister and minister of foreign affairs. As ministers of foreign affairshad it the Prussian voices in the Upper House of Parliament.
The highest organ was the Upper House of Parliament, which consisted of 58 representatives of the 25 countries. Prussia had there only 17 voices, possessed however due to the check minority of 14 voices “in fact” a right of veto. ThoseState parliaments were determined however in large parts of Germany (as in Prussia and Saxonia) according to a three-class right to vote. Reichstag its representatives by a general right to vote were determined (one selected after the Mehrheitswahlrecht; if it came in the first ballot to no absolute majority, a ballot found betweenthe first two candidates instead of) and that, had only a weak position represented the federal element; in addition it came that the constituencies were not again divided from 1870 to the First World War. This led to the fact that clearly over-represents the rural circles with its more conservative voiceswere. Only the budget grant, railway, post office, tariff and economic policy as well as general legislation fell into its sovereignty range. In particular of the foreign policy it was impossible. He was selected every three years, starting from 1888 every five years. In it the realm laws were decided, however required themalways the agreement by the Upper House of Parliament.

The realm condition planned a balanced balance of power between emperors and realm chancellors, with which a Kaisertum legitimized by Gottesgnadentum should be ensured on the one hand as well as on the other hand one by the citizens legitimized agency.

This by Reichstag did not represent democratic element was howeverstrongly developed. To the realm tag elections only men were starting from 25 years entitled to vote, the realm chancellor as an exclusive responsible person Minister not by the parliament were selected, but by the emperor used until 1918. The policy was never specified crucially of Reichstag, but until 1888 strongly by realm chancellor Bismarck,according to it rather of William II determines. However tendencies always settled within the citizens of the German Reich, on the realm chancellors and/or in the realm tag elections. Emperors reacted.

those contained

the fundamental rights contrary to later German conditions or also for American conditionCondition no general part, which specified the fundamental rights of humans. The cause for it was pragmatic nature: Bismarck had to receive the agreement of the princes for agreement, as long as the national enthusiasm for the victory in the French-German war worked. The princes - also his own king WilliamI. - were much less inspired by the idea of a national agreement as the citizens. In this situation a principle debate to lead, could have endangered success, particularly since the princes had completely different conceptions of fundamental rights than their subjects.

Therefore Bismarck remained for few,as a fast agreement to obtain (“setting we the child into the saddle, to ride will already learn it. ”) Will be difficult for personal it the renouncement of a fundamental right debate hardly, since it was convinced monarchist and had begun as an Prime Minister, around the rights of the crown approximatelyto strengthen the parliament.

Missing fixing of the fundamental rights does not have to lead also inevitably to the authority state, as the example of England shows, where also without preamble the rights of humans were protected. Did not turn around also the Weimar Republic their fundamental right definition anything against the restaurativen and/or. totalitarianForces used:

condition practice

in practice became extremely complicated the government of the realm. Constantly extended Reichstag his authority, but in the long run Prussia remained due to its predominance clay-indicating. The realm chancellor could govern only if he at the same time Prussian Prime Minister and minister of foreign affairswas. When an Prime Minister of Prussia again was he only chairman of a collegial cabinet, in which the king appointed and dismissed the Ministers. A privileged position took the military. There was a Prussian war Minister, these was responsible however only for administrative matters of the army. The actual upperwronglyover the army had the Prussian general staff, which was subordinate directly to the king. The navy however was affair of realm and was subordinate to the emperor, which concerned the authority. Financing and administration been subordinate the undersecretary of state and thus the realm chancellor; however the undersecretary of state had the right, directly to the emperorto report.

The relationship Upper House of Parliament to Reichstag was complicated still by the fact that due to the different right to vote for both parliaments also the social contrasts in the realm to carried there came; in the Upper House of Parliament rather the possessing classes were represented, in Reichstag rather the citizens and workers. Notenough with it, in Reichstag sat also the representatives of the national minorities (Poland, Dane, Native of Alsace and Lotharingian one); with increasing tensions of these humans to the German Reich the government on their dissenting votes could count nearly with security; in the Upper House of Parliament the minorities were not represented.

In practice spokethe government law collecting mains usually with the Upper House of Parliament off, before they were submitted Reichstag.

The strongest weapon of the government against Reichstag was the dissolution of realm tag, which the emperor could have freely. Already Bismarck made eager of it use. The pattern was always the same: Onetook (or created) a cause, which excited the patriotic mind - Kriegsgefahr, army collecting main, fleet collecting main, assassination attempt on the emperor etc. - heated with the instruments of power of the government the tendency, disparaged the opposition and hoped for favorable elections. Often, e.g. with the fleet collecting main 1898 was enough alsoalready the threat with new elections, in order to make gefügig Reichstag. In the background there was still the threat, the realm, to dissolve which was created by contract with the national princes, with whose assistance again and base with another condition again. The condition containedhowever no notice clause; such a procedure would have meant a coup d'etat. The first time came this threat under Bismarck 1890 into the play.

The strongest weapon of Reichstag against the government was the household, which had to be approved of Reichstag. Frequently the parties acted their agreement toHousehold against other concessions out.

Possibly still more with difficulty was the financing of the realm. Tariffs and - generally spoken - indirect taxes were entitled to the realm, the countries taxes on possession and income. The realm supplied surplus off to the countries (in the first years this cameactually also forwards!), Deficits were covered by so-called Matrikularbeiträge by the countries. With increasing expenditures of the realm the deficit became the rule. Naturally the countries resisted after forces rising Matrikularbeiträge. So wanted e.g. the emperor gladly a strong navy, was however as a kingof Prussia strictly against a contribution increase. A financial reform equaled the quadrature of the circle, since due to the different interests in both houses Reichstag rather for wealth taxes and the Upper House of Parliament was rather for indirect taxes. Only 1909 came it - after many futile approaches -a financial reform, which help the realm over indirect taxes (beer, liquor and tobacco) to to some extent sufficient incomes.

As long as Bismarck governed, all did not fall these complications so strongly important, there it owing to its personal authority and (almost) the unrestricted support by the old emperor also thereInfluence exercised, where it was formally not responsible. As however a William II. began to notice its rights fully the problems became clearly visible. In addition then still another third instance, the cabinets of the emperor (civilian clothes, army and navy) came, which did not occur in the condition,but due to their constant proximity to the emperor substantial influence won - even a as powerful man as Tirpitz had some trouble to succeed against it.

Industry, mines and huts
railway lines


Staatsoberhaupt of the German Reich was the emperor from the house Hohenzollern. He was at the same time king of Prussia.

During the existence of the German empire there were three emperors:

realm chancellor of the German Empire of

name assumption of office End of the term of office
prince Otto von Bismarck 21. March 1871 20. March 1890
count Leo von Caprivi 20. March 1890 26. October 1894
prince Chlodwig to Hohenlohe Schillingsfürst 29. October 1894 17. October 1900
prince Bernhard von Bülow 17. October 1900 14. July 1909
Theobald ofBethmann Hollweg 14. July 1909 13. July 1917
George Michaelis 14. July 1917 1. November 1917
George count von Hertling 1. November 1917 30. September 1918
prince Max von Baden 3. October 1918 9. November 1918

home policy

culture fight

major item: Culture fight
The “culture fight” led from 1871 to 1878 is mainly a political fight against the influence of the catholic church. It is propelled by realm chancellor Otto von Bismarck ranking among the protest anti-mash. Enterprises becomes the removal of the church influence at the numerous catholic institutes inRichly. Further is tried to control the church and its dignitaries nationally. This aggresive isolation politics against a third of the population left itself however not durably maintained.

fight against the social-democracy

the home policy of the second realm becomes approximately by the fight of the governmentthe social-democracy controls. Although he is actually a promoter of syndicates, Bismarck does not bear that the workers in socialist or communist combinations unite, since he sees a danger for monarchy and the stability of the realm. The social-democratic party and the trade unions fightit with all instruments of power, which are to it at the disposal (socialist law). Its successors take over this attitude, even if they find no more majority for the socialist law in Reichstag.

All pursuits to the defiance the Social Democrats maintained ground and become 1912 even strongest parliamentary group in Reichstag.

Which the ruling powers of the second realm could not understand - or it wanted - were that the social-democracy no revolutionary party separate a democratic party was, which fought with legal means for the interests of its voters.

Disparaging the social-democracy ('a gang humans, not worth the namesGerman too tragen' - ozone emperor Wilhem II) had their aftereffects into the Federal Republic.

introduction of the social security

major item: History of the social security in Germany
although with a word mentioned, does not apply for Bismarck in its memoirs this law work it today as one itslarge achievements. For the first time here accident insurance and old age pension insurance - although in modest extent - were specified legally. To decrease to the social-democracy voices the laws would not serve the tactical purpose however.

foreign policy

alliance politics of Bismarck

the foreign policy under Bismarck had the priorityTo isolate a goal France and not to specify the German Reich on a partner. For this reason Bismarck tried to take over the intermediary role between the European great powers (citizen of Berlin congress 1878).


to 7. October locks Bismarck with Austria Hungary the two-federation in such a way specified. ThoseMotivation for the first clear alliance since 1871 lies in the strained GermanRussian relationship and the danger of a communication between France and Russia, lying in it. With an attack on one of the two states the partner was obligated to the assistance.


around the danger of a French-RussianCommunication to avoid, takes the three-emperor politics to Bismarck and closes with Austria Hungary and Russia the three-emperor federation. Contentwise powers commit themselves to change the status quo on the Balkans only in arrangement and to protect in Kriegsfalle with a fourth power well-meaning neutrality.This regulation refers primarily to a new war between France and Germany as well as Great Britain and Russia. Since the tensions between Austria Hungary and Russia increase on the Balkans however soon again, the three-emperor politics fail.


the two-federation one extends with Italy to the three-federation.Background of this extension are the increasing tensions between France and Italy in Tunesien. Also the three-federation is a defensive alliance and relieved besides still Austria Hungary, since it came again and again about the process of the border with Italy to disputes.


due to the strong tensions betweenAustria Hungary and Russia the three-emperor contract is not extended. In order to bind Russia however further at Germany, Bismarck closes to 18. June 1887 the reinsurance agreement with Russia off. Both states commit themselves with an unprovoked attack on the part of a third power to well-meaning neutrality. Bismarck is lateraccused that Germany in this situation could not have fulfilled its contractual obligations with a war between Austria Hungary and Russia. This thesis is so not applicable however, since Germany saw the case of alliance in the two-federation also only with an unprovoked attack on the having castle he monarchy. ThisAustria Hungary in this form was also communicated. The reinsurance agreement becomes however counter cross-hatched by the foreign trade and economic policy opposite Russia. Rise of the tariffs and the prohibition Russian securities to beleihen caused a clear alienation between both states, with the result that itself France and Russiaapproximate.


Bismarck try to be received an alliance with Great Britain, fail however with this project. Around Russia of France to push aside it aims now at an extension of the reinsurance agreement, will however a short while before dismiss. The contract is not extended by its successor.

colonial policy

major item: German colonies

government epochs

term of office of William I.

In this year the German Reich overtrumps the France weakened by the war as industrial power. A general departure tendency is released by war success and establishment of realm, which contributes strongly to the economic recovery. The beginning of the year becomesrealm far the metric system of units imported. In Strasbourg becomes at the 1. May the emperor William university opens. To 7. September comes it to a three-emperor meeting. Emperor Wilhelm welcomes emperors Franz Joseph I. in Berlin. and Zar Alexander II.

German occupation troops leave the eastern sections of France. To 2. September is inaugurated solemnly the victory column in Berlin. King Viktor Emanuel II. from Italy visits to 23. September William I. To 22. October is signed the three-emperor agreement between the German Reich, Russia and Austria Hungary. The large collapse of the stock market in Berlin to 28. October causes oneheavy economic crisis in the realm. Beginning of the policy of customs protectionism: Import duties are raised on iron, grain, cattle and wood.

starting from that 1. January applies the realm condition in the realm country Elsass Lorraine. To 13. July commits associated to Kullmann an assassination attempt on realm chancellors Bismarck.

to 6. February is introduced the civil marriage.

Assassination attempt elections so mentioned.

After 632-jähriger construction period becomes the building Cologne cathedral to 15. October completes.

three-emperor year

three-emperor year

term of office of William II.

The civil law book is discharged. As modelamong other things the code serves civil.

Tirpitz undersecretary of state for the navy, of Bülow for the exterior becomes. Prince Hohenlohe remains still 3 years chancellors, is entmachtet however. With it the actual self rule of the emperor begins.

The civil law book is introduced to beginning of the year.

Spelling reform

the 40-jährige existence German empire becomes to 18. January celebrated.
To 31. May comes into force the Reich Insurance Code . It contains illness, accident, disablement and old-age pension.
At the 1. July runs in the gunboat Panther in the port of Agadir, Morocco.This event enters as Panthersprung after Agadir history and releases the second Morocco crisis . Only the Morocco Congo agreement, to 5. November is signed, terminates the crisis.
To 7. September is opened to that Hamburg Elbe tunnel.
To 10. December receives William Karl WernerVienna in Stockholm the Nobelpreis for physics.

realm day choice 1912 to 12. January: SPD strongest parliamentary group becomes first in Reichstag.
The British war Minister smelling pool of broadcasting corporations Burdon Haldane and realm chancellors Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg come at the 11. February in Berlin together over over the agreementto negotiate for the restriction of the fleet armament. The discussions end without result.
With the meeting emperor Wilhelm II. and Zar Nikolaus II. to 4. Both stress July the GermanRussian friendship.

With the declaration of war against Russia the German Reich at the 1 steps. August into the First World War .
At the 3. August is explained France the war.

First it comes to the January strikes and to a Osterbotschaft of the emperor, in which it announces reforms. The November revolution takes place. William II. must thereupon to resign.

arrangement of the German Reich

Federal State system of government Capital surface in km ²
Prussia with Lauenburg
Mecklenburg Schwerin
Hessen (- Darmstadt)
Saxonia Weimar (- iron oh),
since 1903 officially:Large ago
zogtum Saxonia

Mecklenburg Strelitz
Saxonia Meiningen
Saxonia Coburg and Gotha
Saxonia old person castle
forest-hit a corner
Schwarzburg Rudolstadt
black castle special living
Reuss recent line
foam castle lip
Reuss older line
Elsass Lorraine
Kingdom of
Kingdom of
Kingdom of
Kingdom of
Grand Duchy of
Grand Duchy of
Grand Duchy of
Grand Duchy of
Grand Duchy of

Grand Duchy of
Principality of
Principality of
Principality of
Principality of
Principality of
Principality of
Principality of
“realm country”
free city
free city
free city
Oldenburg (Oldb)

Old person castle
bath Arolsen
special living

entire 540,766

See also

Web on the left of


  • of deer fields, Heinrich/Nutzinger, William: The empire 1871-1918, 2.Auflage, Bamberg 1999, ISBN 3766146327
  • Nipperdey, Thomas: German history 1866-1918. Volume 2, power place before the democracy, publishing house C.H.Beck, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-406-34801-7
  • Ullrich, peoples: Thosenervous great power: Ascent and fall of the German empire 1871-1918, 5. Aufl., Frankfurt/Main, 2004 ISBN 3-596-11694-5
  • Klaus Hildebrand: The past realm - German foreign policy from Bismarck to Hitler, Stuttgart 1996.


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