Germany gained importance as the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, which was the first Reich, a word translated as empire. It was started by Charlemagne who became the first Holy Roman Emperor in 800 AD, and it lasted until 1806, the time of the Napoleonic Wars.The second Reich was started with a treaty in 1871 in Versailles. The biggest state in the new German Empire was Prussia. The Kings of Prussia were also "German Emperors", but they did not call themselves "Emperors of Germany". There were many other kingdoms, duchies and republics in the Empire, but not Austria. Germany stayed an empire for another 50 years.The treaty of unification was made after Germany won the Franco-Prussian War with France in 1871. In World War I, Germany joined Austria-Hungary, and again declared war on France. The war became slow in the west and was fought in trenches, holes soldiers dug in the ground to protect themselves. Many men were killed on both sides. In the east the soldiers fought battles and the Germans won in the east. The war ended in 1918 because the Germans could not win in the west, and Germany's emperor had to give up his power. Germany became more strict, and France took Alsace from Germany. After a revolution, the Second Reich ended and the democratic Weimar Republic began.After the war, there were a lot of problems with money in Germany because of the Peace Treaty of Versailles and the worldwide Great Depression.The Third Reich was Nazi Germany; it lasted 12 years, from 1933 to 1945. It started after Adolf Hitler became the head of government. On 23 March 1933, the Reichstag (parliament) passed the Enabling Act, which let Hitler's government make decrees independently of the Reichstag and the presidency. This gave him total control of the country and the government. Hitler in effect became a dictator.Hitler wanted to unify all Germans in one state, and did this by making places in Austria and Czechoslovakia where Germans lived part of the German Republic. However, Hitler started to abuse his power and declared himself "Führer" (leader). Hitler then started to claim nearby countries to be part of Germany, and took them over, beginning with Poland, and including parts of Russia, and the Baltic states. The invasion of Poland started World War II on 1 September 1939. In the beginning, Germany was winning, and quickly got control of most of Europe and a large part of the Soviet Union. After the Battle of Kursk, the German Eastern Front began a slow retreat until war's end. One reason was that Hitler refused to listen to his generals. On 8 May 1945, Germany gave up after Berlin was captured and Hitler had killed himself a week earlier. Because of the war, Germany lost a lot of German land east of the Oder-Neiße line, and for 45 years, Germany was split into West Germany and East Germany.After the end of socialist rule in Germany in 1990, East Germany joined West Germany. The new Germany is a part of the European Union.
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