Germans (German: Deutsche, pronounced [ˈdɔɪ̯t͡ʃə] (listen)) are the natives or inhabitants of Germany, and sometimes more broadly any people who are of German descent or native speakers of the German language. The constitution of Germany defines a German as a German citizen. During the 19th and much of the 20th century, discussions on German identity were dominated by concepts of a common language, culture, descent and history. Today, the German language is widely seen as the primary though not exclusive criterion of German identity. Estimates on the total number of Germans in the world range from 100 to 150 million, and most of them live in Germany.
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The history of Germans as an ethnic group began with the separation of a distinct Kingdom of Germany from the eastern part of the Frankish Empire under the Ottonian dynasty in the 10th century, forming the core of the Holy Roman Empire. In subsequent centuries the political power and population of this empire grew considerably. It expanded eastwards, and eventually a substantial number of Germans migrated further eastwards into Eastern Europe. The empire itself was politically divided between many small princedoms, cities and bishoprics. Following the Reformation in the 16th century, many of these states found themselves in bitter conflict concerning the rise of protestantism. The 19th century saw the dismemberment of the Holy Roman Empire and the growth of German nationalism. The kingdom of Prussia incorporated most of the Germans into its German Empire in 1871, while a substantial number of Germans also inhabited the multiethnic kingdom of Austria-Hungary. During this time a large number of Germans emigrated to the New World, particularly to the United States, Canada and Brazil, as well as establishing prominent communities in New Zealand and Australia. The Russian Empire also contained a substantial German population.
In the aftermath of World War I, Austria-Hungary and the German Empire were partitioned, resulting in many Germans becoming ethnic minorities in newly established countries. In the chaotic years that followed, Adolf Hitler became the dictator of Nazi Germany and embarked on a genocidal campaign to unify all Germans under his leadership. This endeavour resulted in World War II and the Holocaust. In the aftermath of Germany's defeat in the war, the country was occupied and partitioned. Millions of Germans were expelled from Eastern Europe. In 1990, the states of West and East Germany were reunified. In modern times, remembrance of the Holocaust has become an integral part of German identity (Erinnerungskultur).
Owing to their long history of political fragmentation, the Germans are culturally diverse and often have strong regional identities. The arts and sciences are an integral part of German culture, and the Germans have produced a large number of prominent personalities in a number of disciplines.