Pertinent historical question: which country really rules the world? (part I)

By Ivan Simic

Since the formation of the first state, people around the world were trying to understand who is the most influential and the most powerful country in the world, country that make decisions on some of the most important issues related to our lives and our future.

For a long time, the answers for this question has been revolving around three countries; the United States, State of Israel and the United Kingdom. However, were the answers for this question correct? No, they were not. The only and true ruler of the world is Federal Republic of Germany, not the US, not the UK and certainly not Israel.

Many will question this, saying that Germany cannot rule the world, that Germany is just fourth largest economy in the world, behind United States, Japan and China, that Germany lost both World Wars, among many other things. Therefore how can Germany rule the world?

Historical Rise

Rise of Germany, Europe’s long lasting ruler, started with the Franks, a West Germanic tribal confederation first attested in the 3rd century. The Franks inhabited and ruled the territory called Francia also known as Frankish Empire, Kingdom of the Franks or Frankland from the 3rd to 10th century.

Under the Merovingian dynasty, the Franks founded one of the Germanic monarchies which replaced the Western Roman Empire from the 5th century. The Frankish state consolidated its hold over large parts of Western Europe by the end of the eighth century, developing into the Carolingian Empire and its successor states.

The first sign of Germany’s desire to dominate others was seen with Clovis I, the first King of Franks. Clovis I united all the Frankish tribes under one king and brought them Catholic Christianity (he opposed to the Arian Christianity common among the Germanic peoples at the time). It was in fact Clovis I, or better to say today Germans who expended Catholic Christianity and protected papacy.

Year 496, is one of the most important years in Catholic Church, a year when Clovis I converted to Catholic Christianity. Clovis I was the first to establish Frankish hegemony and was the one who expanded the Franks dominion over almost all of the old Roman province of Gaul (roughly modern France). He is considered to be the founder of the Merovingian dynasty which ruled the Franks for the next two centuries.

Period of Carolingian Empire (Carolingian Empire is term used to describe the Frankish Empire under Carolingian dynasty from 751 till 843), was one of the most important periods in European and world history. Since the fall of Rome, the Carolingian Empire was the largest western territory.

Carolingian dynasty is considered to be a founding father of France and Germany, and early sign of Holy Roman Empire. Charlemagne who founded the Carolingian Empire was King of the Franks, King of the Lombards, and Emperor of the Romans. Charlemagne is regarded not only as the founding father of both French and German monarchies, but also as the father of Europe.

Charles Martel, grandfather of Charlemagne, was a truly giant figure of the Middle Ages. He is best remembered for winning the Battle of Tours in 732, which has traditionally been characterized as an event that halted the Islamic expansionism in Europe that had conquered Iberia. Charles's victory has often been regarded as crucial for world history, since it preserved Western Europe from Muslim conquest and so called Islamization.

During their ruling, Charlemagne and Louis the Pious initiated the Carolingian Renaissance, a period of intellectual and cultural revival occurring in the late 8th and 9th centuries. The period of the Carolingian Renaissance provided a common language and writing style that allowed communication across most of Europe.

After Louis the Pious death, his sons (Charlemagne's grandsons) Lothair I, Charles the Bald and Louis the German divided Frankish lands. Lothair I received the central portion of the empire, what later became the Low Countries, Lorraine, Alsace, Burgundy, Provence, and the Kingdom of Italy. Charles the Bald was given the western lands, West Francia, that would later become France. Louis the German received the eastern lands, which would become Germany.

Period of East Francia later known as Kingdom of Germany was a period of the rise of Holy Roman Empire.

The Holy Roman Empire was a union of territories in Central Europe during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period under a Holy Roman Emperor from 962 till 1806. The first Holy Roman Emperor was Otto I the Great in 962. The Holy Roman Empire was ruled by the Germans since time immemorial. The number of the Holy Roman territories was amazingly large, rising to approximately 300.

The Empire's territorial level varied over its history, but at its peak it encompassed the Kingdom of Germany, the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Burgundy; territories embracing present-day Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, as well as significant parts of modern France, Italy, and present-day Poland.

The Napoleonic Wars resulted in the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, the most powerful and most influential Empire which lasted for more than 800 years. After the end of the Napoleonic Wars a new German union, the German Confederation was established in 1815. It lasted until 1866 when Prussia founded the North German Confederation, which in 1871 became a part of the German Empire.

German Reich (Deutsches Reich) - German Empire was the official name for Germany from 1871 to 1945. During the German Reich, Germany was the most powerful industrial and military force in the world.

The history of Germany during the time of the German Reich is conventionally broken into three distinct periods:

1. the monarchy under Hohenzollern rule, known in English as the German Empire (1871-1918).

2. the democratic republic, known retrospectively as the Weimar Republic (1919-1933).

3. the totalitarian dictatorship commonly known as the Third Reich or Nazi Germany (1933-1945).

The German Empire, under the leadership of the Kingdom of Prussia and Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck (1st Chancellor of the German Empire) emerged as a nation and as a world super power. The foundations of economic strength at the turn of the century were steel and coal. By the year 1914, Germany had become the most powerful industrial nation.

Some key elements of the German Empire's authoritarian political structure were also the basis for conservative modernization in Imperial Japan under Meiji and the preservation of an authoritarian political structure under the Tsars in the Russian Empire.

World War I brought nothing but problems to the German Empire. The German Empire was a member of Central Powers that won many battles but eventually lost the war in 1918. German economy was in bad condition because of the war, as Germany was not prepared for the war which would last more than a few months. However, German territory itself remained relatively safe from widespread invasion for most of the war. Result of the war did not change Germany much; Germany was not pacified, conciliated nor permanently weakened.

In 1919, German Empire was replaced with the Weimer Republic, the democratic republic, named after the city of Weimar. The Weimer Republic was often seen only as a transformation period between the reign of the Emperor and Hitler's dictatorship. Its constitution was one of the most modern in the world and it represented a period of cultural innovation in Germany. Throughout its time, Weimar Republic faced many problems, but prosperities as well.

Main problems of the new Weimar Republic were inflation, polarization, political extremism, and poor international position. Treaty of Versailles made Germany to accept sole responsibility for causing the World War I, to make substantial territorial concessions and to pay reparations (132 billion gold marks in 1921) to certain countries that had formed the Entente powers. Nevertheless, the new Republic overcame many discriminatory regulations of the Treaty of Versailles, reformed the currency (the Rentenmark), unified tax politics and the railway system, and brought increased foreign investments and loans to the German market.

Weimar Republic established extraordinary relations with both the United States and the USSR, and was admitted to the League of Nations as a permanent member, which gave her a good international position and the ability to veto.

The Great Depression later harmed Germany as it did to the rest of the western world, which was subject to debt repayments for loans. Yet, Germany survived financial crises thanks to production of steel, large foreign investments and German industrial influence in the United States.

Nazi Germany or the Third Reich arose in the wake of the national shame, embarrassment, anger and resentment which resulted from the Treaty of Versailles. More or less everybody knows that Adolf Hitler was the ruler of Germany from 1933-1945 and leader of Nazi Party from 1921, and that Germany eventually lost the World War II.

In June 1933, the "Reinhardt Program" was introduced. It was an ambitious project for the development of infrastructure. It combined indirect motivations, such as: tax reductions, with direct public investment in waterways, railroads and highways. In addition, the German car industry experienced a boom and military spending in Germany exceeded 10% of GNP (higher than any other European country at the time).

By the late 1930s, the aims of German trade policy were to use economic and political power to make the countries of Southern Europe and the Balkans dependent on Germany. The German economy would draw its raw materials from that region, and the countries in question would receive German manufactured goods in exchange. Already in 1938, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece transacted 50% of all their foreign trade with Germany.

Nazi regime encouraged German businesses to form cartels, monopolies and oligopolies, whose interests were then protected by the state. As big business became organized, it developed an increasingly close partnership with Hitler and the Nazi government. The government pursued economic policies that maximized the profits of its business allies, and in exchange, business leaders supported the government's political and military goals. Those German businesses include; Krupp, Thyssen, IG Farben, Deutsche Bank, Siemens, Salzgitter, Munich Re, among others.

After the end of WWII, Germany was divided to four regions: West Germany, East Germany, Saar protectorate and Ruhr area. The Allies decided to abolish the German armed forces as well as all munitions factories and civilian industries that could support them. This included the destruction of all ship and aircraft manufacturing capability.

The first level of industry plan, signed by the Allies in March 29, 1946, stated that German heavy industry was to be lowered to 50% of its 1938 levels. German steel production capacity was set at about 5,800,000 tons of steel a year, equivalent to 25% of the prewar production level.

Germany was to be reduced to the standard of life it had known at the height of the Great Depression, car production was to be set to 10% of prewar levels, among others. In addition, the costs of the occupation were charged to the German people, about $2.4 billion per year. The first plan was subsequently followed by a number of new ones in order to destroy German industry for the next century.

From May 1945 until September 1947 the US, UK, and France exported German coal for $10.50/ton, while the world price floated closer to $25-$30 per ton. During this period, the Allies took roughly $200,000,000 out of the German economy from this source alone. Germany received many offers from Western European nations to trade food for desperately needed coal and steel, however, the Allies disallowed the Germans to trade.

Allies also confiscated large amounts of German intellectual property. The US and the UK pursued a dynamic program to harvest all technological and scientific experience, as well as all patents in Germany. The so called intellectual reparations taken by the US and the UK amounted close to $10 billion.

Additionally, the Ruhr Agreement was imposed on the Germany as a condition for permitting them to establish the Federal Republic of Germany. By controlling the production and distribution of coal and steel, the International Authority for the Ruhr in effect controlled the entire West German economy. French were very interested in Ruhr area since their first occupation of Ruhr in January 1923, as a reprisal after Germany failed to fulfill reparation payments demanded by the Versailles Treaty. French aimed at dismantling German heavy industry, to place the coal rich Ruhr area and Rhineland under French control (or at a minimum internationalize them), and also to join the coal rich Saarland with the iron rich province of Lorraine. Consequently, in 1947, France removed the Saar from Germany and turned it into a protectorate under French economic control.

In 1951, West Germany agreed to join the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). This meant that some of the economic restrictions on production capacity and on actual production that were imposed by the International Authority for the Ruhr were lifted, and that its role was taken over by the ECSC. The area returned to German administration in January 1, 1957, but France retained the right to mine from its coal mines until 1981.

Failure to win the war did not affect Germany that much, as Germany managed to secure its local industry and foreign business investments. For Hitler was important to secure private investments of its countryman and financiers, since he personally believed in private capital. One of such cases was the Lex Krupp, a document signed into law on November 12, 1943 by Adolf Hitler to avoid inheritance law and ensure that the Krupp family enterprise remain intact.

Despite all oppressions against Germany and German people, West Germany, soon benefiting from the currency reform of 1948 and the Allied Marshall Plan, saw the fastest period of growth in European history from the early 1950s. This period soon became known as the "economic miracle" or Wirtschaftswunder. Industrial production increased by 35%. Agricultural production substantially surpassed pre-war levels. The poverty and starvation of the immediate postwar years disappeared, and Western Europe and especially West Germany embarked upon an unprecedented two decades of growth that saw standards of living increase dramatically.

After everything that happened to Germany, in 1955, West Germany joined NATO. A major reason for Germany's entry into the alliance was that without German manpower, it would have been impossible to field enough conventional forces to resist a Soviet invasion.

On October 3, 1990, German Democratic Republic (East Germany) joined the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), making today’s Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland).

Germany rapidly prospered after WWII, regaining its position as the strongest European country and economy.

Today, despite all wars, reparation payments, destruction of land, exploitation of industry, Germany is stranding strong. Germany is a federal parliamentary republic of sixteen states. Germany is a member of the United Nations, NATO, G8, the OECD, IMF, among others. It is a major economic power with the world's fourth largest economy by nominal GDP. It is the largest exporter and second largest importer of goods in the world. Germany has a high standard of living and comprehensive system of social security.

Germany’s economy has enormous impact on our lives as we speak. If we look around us, we will find that the German products are dominating our lifestyle. Companies likeDHL, T-Mobile, Adidas, Puma, Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Hugo Boss, Henkel, Bayer, among others are key factors in today life.

It is not a secret that Germany is most influential and most powerful country in Europe since the 3rd century, and now European Union. However, how did Germany managed to set influence on and in the United States of America.

For the past century, German influence in United States was seen trough wealthy individuals, Government officials and companies like Krupp, Thyssen, IG Farben, Deutsche Bank, Siemens, Salzgitter, Munich Re and one political party; The Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU).

To be continued...

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Author`s name Ivan Simic