Territorial evolution of Germany

The territorial changes of Germany include all changes in the borders and territory of Germany from its formation in 1871 to the present. Modern Germany was formed in 1871 when Otto von Bismarck unified most of the German states, with the notable exception of Austria, into the German Empire.[1] After the First World War, Germany lost about 10% of its territory to its neighbours and the Weimar Republic was formed. This republic included territories to the east of today's German borders.

German Empire (1871–1918)

The period of Nazi rule from the early 1930s through the end of the Second World War brought significant territorial losses for the country. Nazi Germany initially expanded the country's territory dramatically and conquered most of Europe, though not all areas were added to Germany officially. The Nazis' fortunes changed after the failure of the invasion of Soviet Union. The Nazi regime eventually collapsed, and the Allies occupied Germany.

The former eastern territories of Germany were ceded to Poland and the Soviet Union and the Oder and Neisse Rivers became Germany's new eastern boundary. This territory became Poland's so-called "Recovered Territories", while approximately one-third of East Prussia became the Russian Federation's Kaliningrad Oblast; virtually the entire German population in these areas was expelled or fled. In the west, the Saar area formed a French-controlled protectorate with limited autonomy, but its own citizenship laws.

With the onset of the Cold War, the western part of Germany was unified as the Trizone, becoming the Federal Republic of Germany in May 1949 ("West Germany"). Western-occupied West Berlin declared its accession to the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949 but was denied by the occupying powers. The Soviet zone, including the Soviet sector of Berlin, became the communist German Democratic Republic ("East Germany") in October the same year.[1] Effective 1 January 1957 the Saar Protectorate declared its accession to the Federal Republic of Germany, as provided by its Grundgesetz (constitution) article no. 23 ("Little Reunification"). Following the end of the Cold War, East Germany, including East Berlin, and West Berlin used the same West German constitutional clause and declared their accession to the Federal Republic of Germany effective 3 October 1990 an event referred to as German reunification.[1]

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