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Sep 24, 2017 | 13:10 GMT

1 min read

Germany, Then and Now: A Visual Anthology

West Berliners crowd in front of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 11, 1989, as they watch East German border guards demolish a section of it.
(GERARD MALIE/AFP/Getty Images)
Editor's Note

For the past two centuries, Germany has been at the center of European geopolitics. Located at the heart of the Continent, the country was a key participant in the successive wars that shaped Europe between 1870 and 1945. In the decades that followed, it retained its seemingly inevitable role as a political and ideological battleground throughout the Cold War. After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, a strong, unified and democratic Germany rose from the rubble to become the dominant political and economic force within the European Union. To this day, it remains one of the world's largest economic engines, pumping massive amounts of exports into the global marketplace.

But the next German government to emerge from the country's Sept. 24 elections will have to grapple with several weighty issues. The European Union is slowly emerging from a decade of crisis, and member states are starting to look for ways to build the bloc's resilience through reform. As a Continental leader, Germany will be front and center in those negotiations, saddling Berlin with the unenviable task of having to balance between its domestic interests and its need to keep Europe united.

 
Neuschwanstein Castle, built by Bavaria's "Mad King Ludwig," is among the region's biggest tourist attractions and major landmarks.

Neuschwanstein Castle, built by Bavaria's "Mad King Ludwig," is among the region's biggest tourist attractions and major landmarks. The lands that make up modern Germany weren't united until the late 19th century. Today, keeping them together requires a federal system that grants the country's diverse states a measure of autonomy with the intention of preventing some -- such as the wealthy Bavaria, which has flirted with the idea of independence before -- from trying to strike out on their own.

(SEAN GALLUP/Getty Images)
Kaiser Wilhelm II (L), the emperor of Germany and king of Prussia, sits in the field during army maneuvers with Gen. Helmuth von Moltke, circa 1914.

Kaiser Wilhelm II (L), the emperor of Germany and king of Prussia, sits in a field during military maneuvers with Gen. Helmuth von Moltke, circa 1914. In 1907, Russia, France and the United Kingdom formed an alliance that collectively could have destroyed Germany. Berlin had little choice but to launch a war of its own in hopes of picking off one member as it kept the others at bay.

(General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)
A Russian soldier argues with a German woman in Berlin over a bicycle he wished to buy from her.

A Russian soldier argues with a German woman in Berlin over a bicycle he wanted to buy from her. World War II left the defeated Germany occupied and divided, creating a dilemma for the United States and its allies as they realized that they would need to rearm West Germany in order to contain the Soviet Union.

(Keystone/Getty Images)
West Berliners crowd in front of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 11, 1989, as they watch East German border guards demolish a section of it.

West Berliners crowd in front of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 11, 1989, as they watch East German border guards demolish a section of it. Reunited, Germany threatened to unseat France as Europe's leading power, thanks to the size of its population and economy as well as to the quality of its educational system and infrastructure.

(GERARD MALIE/AFP/Getty Images)
The symbol of the euro, the currency of the eurozone, stands illuminated in Frankfurt on Jan. 21, 2015.

The symbol of the euro, the currency of the eurozone, stands illuminated in Frankfurt on Jan. 21, 2015. The free trade zone at the foundation of the European Union underpins Germany's export-based economy as well.

(HANNELORE FOERSTER/Getty Images)
On Feb. 12, 2015, the Elbe River flows past Dresden's illuminated city center, much of which was obliterated by Allied bombing raids on Feb. 13, 1945 .

The Elbe River flows past Dresden's illuminated city center, much of which was obliterated by Allied bombing raids on Feb. 13, 1945. Though stronger regional powers blocked the military and political reach of the Electorate of Brandenburg, which later became the Kingdom of Prussia, its position astride the Oder and Elbe rivers -- and the proximity of its capital, Berlin, to these waterways and their tributaries -- extended its economic reach from Hamburg to Prague.

(SEAN GALLUP/Getty Images)
Brand new Volkswagen Passat and Golf 7 cars stand stored in a tower at the Volkswagen Autostadt complex in Wolfsburg, Germany.

New Volkswagen Passat and Golf 7 cars stand stored in a tower at the Volkswagen Autostadt complex in Wolfsburg, Germany. Hypercompetitive German industries have gradually weakened the economies of other eurozone members.

(ALEXANDER KOERNER/Getty Images)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel waits for delegates at a conference on Aug. 28, 2014, in Berlin.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel waits for delegates at a conference on Aug. 28, 2014, in Berlin. Should the chancellor fail to form a coalition with the country's smaller parties after the Sept. 24 elections, the CDU may have no choice but to try to revisit the possibility of striking a grand bargain with the center-left Social Democratic Party. And though the two parties have managed to work together in the past, neither is eager to find itself in the same coalition after the elections have ended.

(JOCHEN ZICK-POOL/ Getty Images)
German voters cast their ballots for federal elections at a culture center in Halle on Sept. 22, 2013.

German voters cast their ballots for federal elections at a cultural center in Halle on Sept. 22, 2013. Though the 2017 campaign season has been fairly uneventful, its outcome could have a considerable impact at home and abroad.

(JENS SCHLUETER/Getty Images)
In Berlin, a Muslim woman pushes a pram past campaign billboards that show German Social Democrat candidate Martin Schulz (L), Christian Democratic Union candidate and current Chancellor Angela Merkel (C), and Greens Party co-lead candidate Katrin Goering-Eckardt on Sept. 8, 2017.

In Berlin, a Muslim woman pushes a pram past campaign billboards that show German Social Democrat candidate Martin Schulz (L), Christian Democratic Union (CDU) candidate and current Chancellor Angela Merkel (C), and Greens Party co-lead candidate Katrin Goering-Eckardt on Sept. 8, 2017. According to recent opinion polls, the conservative CDU party will likely take first place in the elections, but it will still need allies to form a ruling coalition.

(SEAN GALLUP/Getty Images)

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