Germany Facts
Germany Facts

65 Interesting Facts about Germany

By Jill Bartholomew, Junior Writer
Published January 30, 2017
  • The name “Germany” comes from the Latin Germania, the Roman name for the lands north of the Alps, where the Barbarian tribes lived. The French, Spanish, and Turkish call it Allemagne, Alemania, and Almanya, respectively, after the Alemanni tribe. Italians call the country Germania, but the German language in Italian is called Tedesco.[28]
  • Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany.[6]
  • Berlin’s Zoologischer Garten is the largest zoo in the world both in terms of number of species (1,500) and animal population (14,000). Germany boasts more than 400 registered zoos.[12]
  • Over 1,500 kinds of sausages are made in Germany.[12]
  • Over 300 kinds of bread are made in Germany.[5]
  • German is the official language of five countries: Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein.[16]
  • Interesting German History Facts
    Goethe is just one of the many intellectual giants that called Germany home
  • Germany is sometimes known as Das Land der Dichter und Denker (The Land of Poets and Thinkers). Bach, Beethoven, and Goethe were all German, as well as Handel, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Wagner, and Strauss. Some of the world’s greatest philosophers were also German, including Goethe, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Heidegger.[9]
  • The German shepherd is the second most popular breed of dog in the United States.[2]
  • The German hard rock band Rammstein, known for its hit “Du Hast,” spent a night in a Massachusetts jail for a liquid-ejecting dildo stunt during one of their U.S. concerts in June 1998.[13]
  • In Bavaria, beer is officially defined as staple food, like bread, and not as alcohol.[23]
  • Frankfurters, the German version of a hot dog, are called wieners or Vienna sausages in the U.S, and wienerwurst in Germany are known as Frankfurters in Austria.[13]
  • Some of the stranger names for German places are Fucking (a small town in Austria), Kissing (a stop on the train line between Munich and Augsburg), Assmanhausen (a town on the Rhine River in the Rheingau), Titting (a village in Bavaria), Wank (a mountain in the Bavarian Alps), and Suckfüll (a shop in Munich that sells household items).[13]
  • German leader Adolf Hitler took an incredible 74 different types of medication, including crystal methamphetamine, according to a report compiled by American intelligence officials.[20]
  • Germany is one of the world’s largest car producers, selling more than 3 million in 2014. In 2014, the top-selling car brands were Volkswagen, Mercedes, Audi, and BMW. The Volkswagen Golf remains one of the best-selling car models in the world with 520,958 sold in 2014.[4]
  • Germans count the minutes to the next hour rather than after, so if you ask a German the time and are told halb drei (“three thirty”), the time is actually “two thirty” in English.[5]
  • An appeal to fear never finds an echo in German hearts.

    - Otto von Bismarck

  • With more than 1,300 breweries producing over 5,000 brands of beer, Germany is the second largest beer consumer per capita in the world, after the Czech Republic.[16]
  • Most taxis in Germany are Mercedes, and the Daimler AG upscale brand accounts for 60% of them.[3]
  • Berlin is the third biggest gay city in Europe, after London and Amsterdam, with an estimated 300,000 gay and lesbian residents.[10]
  • When John F. Kennedy visited Berlin in June, 1963, he infamously said, “Ich bin ein Berliner,” which also happens to translate in German as “I am a jelly donut.”[28]
  • Germans have come up with some of the world’s most famous inventions, including the lightbulb, the automated calculator, and the automobile. Germans can also take credit for the discovery of insulin as well as the invention of the clarinet, the pocket watch, television (partially), paraffin, gasoline and Diesel engines, the automobile engine, the differential gear, the motorcycle, the jet engine, the LCD screen, and the personal cassette player (later named the Walkman by Sony).[9]
  • German athletes have won a total of 1,681 Olympic medals—summer and winter combined, from 1896 to 2014—more than any other country except for the U.S.[14]
  • Fun Germany Fact
    Bierleichen literally means “beer corpses"
  • Bierleichen (literally “beer corpses”) are the names given to those especially drunk Germans who have passed out on tables, in halls, on the grass in a park, or any other public place after too many rounds of beer.[9]
  • One out of every six American citizens claim at least partial German ancestry and they make up the largest ancestry group, according to the 2010 U.S. census. Famous Americans with German descent include Sandra Bullock, Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman, Jessica Biel, David Letterman, Henry J. Heinz, Oscar Mayer, John Steinbeck, and Walt Disney.[24]
  • Spuks (spooks) are nifty little German devices that attach to the bottom of the toilet seat. If a stehpinkler (standing urinator) lifts the seat, it will verbally chastise him to get him to sit down and not be so messy. Some even chastise in the voice of former chancellor Gerhard Schroder, and others offer humorous advice.[7]
  • Football (soccer) is Germany’s most popular sport, and it is the current holder of the World Cup soccer title won in 2014. The German Football Association has over 6 million registered members (about 8% of the population) in some 26,000 clubs, more than any other country.[11]
  • Watching the slapstick 1963 British comedy sketch “Dinner for One” starring Freddie Frinton and May Warden is an essential part of the German New Year’s Celebration, and half of Germany stops to watch the 11-minute sketch comedy to ring in each new year.[29]
  • Trabant, the name given to East Germany’s response to Audi and Mercedes Benz, literally means “satellite.” It was intended to be a tribute to the first-ever satellite, the Soviet’s Sputnik, which went into space in 1957.[5]
  • Germany has over 150 castles. Walt Disney modeled the castles in the film Sleeping Beauty and later in Disneyland and Disneyworld on Bavaria’s “Mad” King Ludwig II’s Neuschwanstein Castle, which may be Germany’s most famous.[12]
  • Interesting German Castle Facts
    Walt Disney modeled the castle in the film Sleeping Beauty on Germany's famous Neuschwanstein Castle (bluejayphoto / Getty Images)

  • In 1888, Germany had three emperors: Wilhelm I, Frederick III, and Wilhelm II. Frederick III died from cancer of the larynx at age 56, having ruled for just 99 days.[5]
  • In 2012, Forbes magazine ranked German Chancellor Angela Merkel as the world’s second most powerful person and the highest-ranked female ever. Mattel, Inc. has even produced a Barbie Doll modeled after her.[9]
  • The world’s narrowest street is in Reutlingen. It is called Spreuerhofstraße and is one foot (31 cm) wide at its narrowest point.[5]
  • The longest word currently in use in the German language is Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften, which means “Insurance companies providing everyday protection.”[21]
  • German biologist Ernst Haeckel first coined the term “ecology” in 1866.[5]
  • The German Chancellor’s office in Berlin is known locally as “the Washing Machine.”[5]
  • Interesting German Beer Fact
    Munich’s Oktoberfest dates back to 1810 and has only been cancelled 24 times, mostly due to cholera outbreaks and war
  • Munich’s Oktoberfest is the world’s biggest folk and beer festival. It officially starts the last week of September and lasts to the first Sunday in October. It dates back to 1810 when Crown Prince Ludwig threw a party to celebrate his wedding to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12.[15]
  • Over 800 million currywurst are eaten in Germany each year. It is a sausage served with a spicy, curry ketchup and is a street food started in Berlin that has become a cult classic in Germany. About 7 million currywurst are eaten in Berlin each year.[5]
  • Germany was the first country in Europe to adopt Daylight Saving Time (DST), also known as “Summer time,” in 1916 during World War I.[17]
  • In Germany, “quark” does not refer to a concept in quantum physics but means “curd.” It is a sort of cheese made from skim milk and has the consistency of a thick yogurt. It is used to make desserts such as cheesecake.[18]
  • Bavaria has the oldest brewery in Germany still in operation—the Weihenstephan Brewery in Freising. Founded in A.D. 1040 by Benedictine monks, it may be the oldest in the world.[13]
  • Oktoberfest has been cancelled an amazing 24 times, mostly due to cholera outbreaks and war. There was no Oktoberfest during either World War, and in 1923–1924, inflation put a hold on the festivities.[23]
  • St. Boniface is said to have introduced the use of evergreens and the fir tree to Germany in the 8th century, and our modern concept of the Christmas tree (Tannenbaum) tradition began there sometime around 1550. By the 19th century, the Christmas tree custom had spread from Germany throughout most of Europe and beyond.[22]
  • The Cathedral in Cologne, Germany, was the highest building in the world from to 1880 to 1884 when the Washington Monument was completed.[13]
  • Germany’s most famous cake is the schwarzwälder kirschtorte (Black Forest cake) which is a three-layer chocolate sponge cake filled with cream and cherries marinated in cherry schnapps. With over 14,000 distilleries, Germany’s Black Forest has the world’s highest density of spirit distilleries in the world.[15]
  • The German Autobahn is the world’s oldest motorway network. The first section was completed in 1932. It is also the only one in Europe with no general speed limit, as well as one of the densest and longest systems in the world with 7456 miles (12,000 km) of roadways for a country of 137,847 square miles (357,021 square km).[16]
  • Interesting Autobahn Fact
    Germans love their fast cars (Meinzahn / Getty Images)

  • German-born Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl, which chronicles her and her family’s hiding from the Nazis for several years in Amsterdam during World War II, has sold over 300 million copies and been translated into 67 languages worldwide. She actually wrote her diary in an autograph book.[1]
  • German filmmaker Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau made the first vampire horror film “Nosferatu” in 1922.[14]
  • The first Christkindlesmarkt (Christmas Market) in Germany was recorded in 1384 in Bautzen and mainly sold meat rather than handicrafts. Martin Luther gave the Christmas Market a boost when he suggested it was better to exchange gifts at Christmas than on saints’ days. Today, German Christmas markets attract a staggering 160 million visitors a year and bring in around 5 billion Euros in market-related revenues.[16]
  • The Mercedes name was introduced by the Daimler-Benz company in 1902 to honor the daughter of early Austrian automobile dealer, Emil Jelinek.[16]
  • The world’s tallest cathedral is in Ulm, Germany, with its spire of 528 feet (161 m).[15]
  • The Bible was the first book printed on Johannes Gutenberg’s revolutionary printing press in 1455 in Mainz, Germany. It took three years to complete, using 6 typesetters and 12 printers. Only 48 copies survive to this day.[19]
  • There is a story that the Beatles received a police warning for chasing a live pig named Bruno they had bought through the Hamburg Fish Market. The group arrived in Hamburg as amateur musicians in August 1960 and they left two years and five visits later as the “Fab Four.”[16]
  • German composer Ludwig van Beethoven composed his most stirring, magnificent pieces such as his Ninth Symphony after he had completely lost his hearing in 1819.[13]
  • Interesting Martin Luther Fact
    Famous German theologian Martin Luther met his wife Katharina von Bora while smuggling her and other nuns from a convent in a wagon filled with herring
  • German theologian Martin Luther met his wife Katherina von Bora while abetting her escape from a Cistercian convent, smuggling her and other nuns out in a wagon filled with herring barrels.[13]
  • The German Tennis Association is the largest in the world with over 2 million members belonging to some 10,200 clubs. Germany has produced some of the world’s most outstanding tennis players, including Boris Becker, who was the youngest winner ever of Wimbledon, in 1985, and Steffi Graf, who was ranked as the number one female tennis player in the world from 1987–1991.[11]
  • Citizens of Hamburg, Germany, are known as Hamburgers, but the famous fast food dates back to the 12th century when the Tatars (Mongolian and Turkish warriors) wedged pieces of beef between their saddles and horses’ backs, softening the meat until it was tender enough to be eaten raw.[23]
  • The Volkswagen, which was designed by Ferdinand Porsche, was never available to civilians during World War II; it was used by the military only.[19]
  • Zyklon-B, the gas used by the Nazis to kill over six million Jews during World War II, was first used as a pesticide; its poisonous constituent hydrogen cyanide was first used as a pesticide in California in the 1880s.[8]
  • The German town of Gegenbach is home to the world’s largest advent calendar. Each of the 24 windows in the town’s rathaus (town hall), built in the 18th century, mark one of the windows of an Advent calendar.[23]
  • During World War I, marketers changed the name of sauerkraut briefly to “Liberty Cabbage” because they were afraid that Americans would reject a product with a German name.[26]
  • The German word for pretzel is brezel, which could come from the Latin word for “bracelet” or “little arms.” The shape is meant to resemble the crossed arms of a person in prayer. In 17th-century Germany, children wore pretzel necklaces as symbols of good luck and prosperity in the New Year. German immigrants introduced the pretzel to America in Pennsylvania, where the first commercial pretzel bakery opened in 1861 in Lititz, near Philadelphia. Today, 80% of America’s pretzels are still made in Pennsylvania.[27]
  • The Pennsylvania Dutch dialect spoken by the Amish and Mennonite families in Pennsylvania is actually a dialect of German. When the Amish first settled in the United States, they were erroneously called Pennsylvania Dutch as well.[30]
  • Interesting German Fact
    Pillows are considered “passive weapons” in Germany
  • Pillows are considered to be “passive weapons” in Germany.[25]
  • In Germany, parents cannot give their infants a first name before getting approval from the local Standesamt (Office of Statistics).[25]
  • After World War I ended in 1919, Germany was held responsible for 132 billion gold marks, although this amount was later dropped to 50 billion. Germany made its last interest payment on this debt on October 3, 2010.[15]
  • Eau de cologne, or cologne, is a perfume originally made in Cologne, Germany. Originally called aqua mirabilis (miracle water), Italian John Maria Farina marketed it as a cure-all and perfume called Kölnisch Wasser (cologne water) in 1709. Napoleon outlawed the marketing of it as a medicine, but it continued to be sold as a perfume only. Today, cologne is considered a generic term for perfume.[15]

  • Important Dates[9][11][16][19]
    DateEvents
    800Charlemagne is crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III.
    843Breakup of Frankish empire; Germany emerges as separate entity.
    962German King Otto I is crowned emperor after gaining control of northern Italy; the beginning of what became known as Holy Roman Empire is centered in Germany.
    1212German boy proclaims himself a prophet and leads “Children’s Crusade” to conquer Jerusalem.
    1250Emperor Friedrich II Hohenstaufen dies. Empire collapses into independent princely territories.
    1348-1349One quarter of German population is wiped out by the Black Plague. 70% of Hamburg dies.
    1455Gutenberg Bible is first book printed on printing press.
    1517Martin Luther proclaims Ninety-Five Theses against traditional church practices; start of Protestant split from Catholicism.
    1618-1648Thirty Years’ War breaks out. Hapsburg emperors attempt to restore Catholic control and imperial authority against opposition of Protestant princes.
    1806Napoleon imposes French rule over much of Germany.
    1813Napoleon is defeated at the Battle of Leipzig.
    1871Otto von Bismarck unifies Germany under Prussian leadership. Reichstag is created but gives the Kaiser almost total power.
    1879Albert Einstein is born in Ulm.
    1886“Mad” King Ludwig II of Bavaria dies, leaving his famous Neuschwanstein Castle unfinished.
    1248–1286“Mad” King Ludwig II of Bavaria dies, leaving his famous Neuschwanstein Castle unfinished.
    1888Kaiser Wilhelm I reigns. He builds up German navy to compete with Britain. Germany sees rapid growth in economy.
    1914-1918World War I breaks out.
    1918Germany is defeated; signs armistice. Kaiser Wilhelm goes into exile.
    1919Germany signs the Treaty of Versailles, loses colonies and land to neighboring European countries, and pays massive reparations. The Weimar Republic begins.
    1923Adolf Hitler, head of the National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi) Party, leads an attempted coup in from a Munich beer hall.
    1924Hitler writes Mein Kampf (My Struggle) while in prison. France and Belgium occupy the Ruhr Valley over failed reparation payments. Germany faces hyperinflation and economic collapse.
    1929Global depression hits Germany hard.
    1932Volkswagen car is driven for the first time.
    1933Hitler becomes chancellor. Weimar Republic is abolished, and Germany becomes a one-party state. Systematic persecution of Jews begins to escalate.
    1934Hitler proclaims the Third Reich.
    1935Germany begins re-armament. Nuremberg Laws deprive German Jews of citizenship. First prototype for Volkswagen Beetle is designed by Ferdinand Porsche.
    1936Berlin Olympics take place. American Jessie Owens wins four gold medals.
    1938Germany annexes Austria and Sudetenland (Anschluss). Kristallnacht sees orchestrated attack on Jews and their properties and synagogues.
    1939German invasion of Poland triggers World War II.
    1939–1945World War II in Europe. Eleven million people are estimated to have been murdered in the Holocaust.
    1945German army is defeated. Hitler kills his mistress and himself. Allies divide Germany into occupation zones.
    1949Germany is divided into two states, East and West Germany.
    1954Germany wins the World Cup for the first time, 3-2 over Hungary.
    1955West Germany joins NATO; East Germany joins the Warsaw Pact.
    1957West Germany joins the European Economic Community.
    1961Berlin Wall is constructed almost overnight.
    1971West and East Germany join the United Nations.
    1972Palestinian terrorists kill Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics.
    1985Boris Becker becomes the first unseeded player and first German to win Wimbledon tennis championship.
    1989Mass exodus of East Germans as Soviet bloc countries relax travel restrictions. Berlin Wall is torn down.
    1991Reichstag names Berlin the official capital.
    1993Germany joins the European Union.
    1994A constitutional court rules that German troops can participate in UN peacekeeping operations outside of NATO. Russian and Allied troops leave Berlin.
    2001German troops are deployed to Afghanistan as part of the “Coalition of the Willing,” marks largest non-European deployment since 1940s.
    2002Euro replaces Deutsche Mark (DM).
    2005Angela Merkel of the CDU is elected chancellor; first woman to be elected to that position.
    2006FIFA World Cup allows host Germany to hoist its national flag.
    2008Angela Merkel makes historic address to Israeli Parliament (Knesset), first ever given to the Knesset by a German head of government.
    2010German cabinet approves controversial plan to extend the lifespan of nuclear reactors, reversing 2001 decision.
    2012Federal constitutional court gives German military the right to use weapons once again in event of an assault of “catastrophic nature.”
    2013Germany experiences it biggest surge in immigration in 20 years with more than 400,000 “permanent migrants” arriving.
References

110 Things to Know about Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl.” Huffington Post. Updated August 26, 2013. Updated August 26, 2013. Accessed February 1, 2015.

2AKC Dog Registration Statistics.” AKC. Updated 2013. Accessed February 3, 2015.

3Behrmann, Elisabeth, Cornelius Rahn, and Dorothee Tschampa. “Uber Struggles to Woo Germans Spoiled by Mercedes Taxis.” Bloomberg. November 30, 2014. Accessed February 1, 2015.

4Bekker, Henk. “2014 (Full Year) Europe: Car Sales by EU Country.” Car Sales Statistics. Updated January 21, 2015. Accessed February 2, 2015.

5Bridge, Adrian. “Twenty Things You Didn’t Know about Germany.” Telegraph. August 5, 2013. Accessed February 1, 2015.

6Dahmann, Klaus. “No Room for Holocaust Denial in Germany.” Deutsche Well. December 23, 2005.

7Friedman, Uri. “A Victory for the Right to Pee Standing Up.” Atlantic Monthly. January 23, 2015. Accessed January 31, 2015.

8Fulbrook, Mary. A Concise History of Germany. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

9Fuller, Barbara. Cultures of the World: Germany, 3rd ed. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2014.

10Garner, Simon. Berlin (Global Cities). London, UK: Evans Brothers, 2007.

11Germany (DK Eyewitness Travel). London, UK: Dorling Kindersley, 2014.

12Germany (Fodor’s Travel). New York, NY: Random House, 2012.

13Germany (Frommer’s Travel). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2012.

14Germany.” Olympic. 2014. Accessed February 1, 2015.

15Germany (The Green Guide).  Boulogne, France: Michelin, 2013.

16Germany (The Rough Guide). London, UK: Rough Guides, Inc., 2012.

17Handwerk, Brian. “Daylight Savings Time 2013: When Does it Start? And Why?National Geographic News. March 9, 2013. Accessed February 1, 2015.

18Hassani, Nadia. Spoonful of Germany: Culinary Delights of the German Regions in 170 Recipes. New York, NY: Hippocrene Books, 2007.

19Kitchen, Martin. Cambridge Illustrated History of Germany. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

20Macadam, Daniel. “Hitler was Secret Crystal Meth Addict—But He Did Have Two Balls, Claims New Documentary.” Express (UK). October 12, 2014. Accessed January 28, 2015.

21Martinez-Carter, Karina. “8 of Our Favorite Ridiculously Long German Words.” The Week. June 10, 2013. Accessed February 3, 2015.

22Miles, Clement A. Christmas in Ritual and Tradition, Christian and Pagan. Wildside Press: Rockville, MD, 2008.

23Munich, Bavaria, and the Black Forest. Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet, 2013.

24O’Connor Liz, Gus Lubin, and Dina Spector. “The Largest Ancestry Groups in the United States.” Business Insider. August 13, 2013. Accessed February 1, 2015.

25Puffin Book of 1000 Fun Facts. New Delhi, India: Puffin Books, 2013.

26Sauerkraut.” Online Etymology Dictionary. 2014. Accessed January 28, 2015.

27Settembre, Jeanette. “The Pretzel’s Twisted History Started with European Monks.” NY Daily News. December 11, 2013. Accessed February 2, 2015.

28Steves, Rick. Rick Steve’s Germany. Berkeley, CA: Avalon Travel, 2013.

29Stewart, Jude. “The Mystery of Dinner for One.” Slate. December 30, 2005. Accessed February 2, 2015.

30Thompson, Wayne C., Susan L. Thompson, and Juliet S. Thompson. Historical Dictionary of Germany. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1994.

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