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History, facts and information about Berlin
Although the earliest traces of human habitation in Berlin region – carved bones and flints – are about 50,000 years old, 1237 is usually taken as the official date on which the town of Berlin was founded.
In 1701 the Elector Frederick III, lover of Baroque pomp and splendour, has crowned himself in Königsberg as the first King of Prussia [Frederick II]. So Berlin was the capital of Great Prussia from 1701 till 1871.
In 1871 the first German empire [Keiserreich] was proclaimed and Berlin, which then numbered 823,000 inhabitants, became the imperial capital and King William I – the first German Kaiser [emperor].
On November 9th 1918 the social democrat Phillip Schneidemann proclaims the republic from the parliament building Reichstag.
After surviving the first crisis years of the Weimar Republic Berlin becomes one of the economic, political, cultural and social centres of Europe and the film and press capital of Germany.
In January 1933 Adolf Hitler becomes Reichskanzler [chancellor], an event which the Storm Troopers [SA] celebrate with a torch procession through the Brandenburger Gate down to the chancellery. Berlin, despised by the Nazis as a refuge of democratic and intellectual forces, now becomes the very nerve centre of Nazi terror and its power apparatus.
Hitler appoints Albert Speer as a general superintendent for the reconstruction of Berlin, which by means of a massive building programme is to be turned into a pan-Germanic capital called „Germania“.
At the outbreak of WWII Berlin has 4,300,000 inhabitants, of whom 82,000 are of Jewish faith [160,000 in 1933]. Since 1941 mass deportations are made to the extermination camps of Eastern Europe, especially after the „Wannsee Conference“ of January 20th 1942 establishes plans for the „Final Solution to the Jewish Question“.
In April 1945 the Red Army begins the attack on Berlin. On April 30th Hitler commits suicide in the „Führerbunker“ under Potsdamer Platz.
In June 1946 Berlin is made the seat of the Allied Command Council. On July 4th British and American troops occupy their sectors, followed by the French on August 12th. From now on Berlin is divided into four sectors. Soon rifts appear in the alliance between the occupying powers; the post-war period is dominated by the propaganda and espionage.
To stop the flood of refugees to the West they start building the „Berlin Wall“ on August 13th 1961. East Berlin is divided from the West Berlin by a closely guarded concrete wall. To escape from East Germany can cost you life, but nevertheless some people make the attempts.
West Berlin is visited by all the major Western politicians who emphasise the unity of the city. In June 1963 the US President John F. Kennedy visits West Berlin. In front of the Schöneberg City Hall he declares, to the jubilation of the assembled population: “All free people, wherever they may live, are citizens of this city of West Berlin, and therefore, I, as a free man, am proud to be able to say: Ich bin ein Berliner!“
In June 1948 the Soviets introduce the blockade of West Berlin and supplies can reach the population only by means of the legendary „air-lift“.The blockade is lifted in May 1949.
The years until the Berlin Wall is built are overshadowed by an uprising on June 17th 1953, caused by the dissatisfaction of the population in East Berlin with the regime powered by the Soviet Union.
The two sectors of the city develop in completely different ways in the circumstances of the cold war.
In October 7th 1989 Michael Gorbachov visits German Democratic Republic to participate in the festivities dedicated to the 40th anniversary of the GDR. The famous sentence in his speech was: „Life punishes him, who comes too late“. And people understood him the way they wanted. On October 18th the Politbüro deposes the national and party leader Erich Honecker; Egon Kreuz becomes his successor. Unimpressed by this cosmetic operation, more than one million people demonstrate in Leipzig and East Berlin on November 4th 1989 demanding democratic reforms.
The old Politbüro steps down. On the 9th of November 1989, with no premonition of what is to follow, the new leadership of the GDR announces the opening of the borders with West Berlin and the Federal Republic. Now Germany is no longer a divided country. The separated families could unite again.
On June 20th 1991 Berlin becomes again the capital of the united Germany. Bonn ,the former capital of West Germany [Federal Republic of Germany, FRG], no longer is the capital.
Berlin played the most important role in the Prussian |German history and it was the capital for over 300 years:
1701-1871 – the capital of Great Prussia
1871-1918 – the capital of the united German empire [Keiserreich]
1918–1945 – the capital of the Weimar Republic [till the fall of the National-Socialist Third Reich]
1949-1989 – the capital of the German Democratic Republic [East Germany]
1991 till nowadays – the capital of Germany and Federal State
Berlin lies in the middle of the North German Plain, surrounded by the newly resurrected province of Brandenburg, at an average altitude of 35m|115 ft. It is situated approximately 95 km|59 miles from the river Oder and 75km|47 miles from the river Elbe. Berlin has the same latitude [52°31'] as London and sharesits longitude [13°25'] with Naples.It stretches out both north and south covering an area close to 40 km|25miles wide.
Berlin lies in the traditional area between a temperate, ocean influenced climate and a continental one. During the summer months maximum daily temperatures reach on average 22-23°C|72°-73°F, with summer heat waves producing temperatures of over 30°C|86°F. In winter the temperature rises maximum on average to 2-3°C|36-37°F.
The city and state parliament is the House of Representatives, which currently has 141 seats. Berlin's executive body is the Senate of Berlin. The Senate of Berlin consists of the Governing Mayor and up to eight senators holding ministerial positions, one of them holding the official title “Mayor” as deputy to the Governing Mayor. The Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) took control of the city government after the 2001 state election and won another term in the 2006 state election.
The Governing Mayor is simultaneously Lord Mayor of the city and Prime Minister of the Federal State. The office of Berlin's Governing Mayor is in the Rotes Rathaus [Red City Hall]. Since 2001 this office has been held by Klaus Wowereit of the SPD. The city's government is based on a coalition between the Social Democratic Party and The Left Party.
The annual state budget of Berlin in 2006 exceeded € 20.5 [$ 26.7] billion, with a budget deficit of € 1.8 [$ 2.3] bln. Mainly due to reunification-related expenditures, Berlin as a German state has accumulated more debt than any other city in Germany, with the most current estimate being € 61 [$ 79] bln in June 2007. Due to increasing growth rates, tax revenues and realized city assets in 2007, the city state estimates a budget surplus in 2008|2009 for the first time since the German reunification in 1990.
Berlin is subdivided into twelve boroughs [districts], but before Berlin's 2001 administrative reform there were 23. Each borough is subdivided into a number of localities, which represent the traditional urbanized areas that inhabitants identify with. Some of these have been rearranged several times over the years. At present the city of Berlin consists of 95 such localities. The localities often consist of a number of city neighborhoods [usually called Kiez in the Berlin dialect] representing small residential areas.
Each borough is governed by a Borough Council consisting of five Councilors and a Borough Mayor. The Borough Council is elected by the Borough Assembly. The boroughs of Berlin are not independent municipalities. The power of borough governments is limited and subordinate to the Senate of Berlin. The borough mayors form the Council of Mayors, led by the city's Governing Mayor, which advises the Senate.
The localities have no government bodies of their own, even though most of the localities have historic roots in older municipalities that predate the formation of Greater Berlin on 1 October 1920. The subsequent position of locality representative was discontinued in favor of borough mayors.
Berlin is a center for national and international immigration since the Edict of Potsdam in 1685. The Edict guaranteed religious freedom and a tax-free status to French Calvinists for ten years. The Greater Berlin Act in 1920 incorporated many suburbs and surrounding cities of Berlin. It formed most of the territory that comprises modern Berlin. The act increased the area of Berlin from 66 square kilometers [25.5 sq mi] to 883 square kilometers [341 sq mi] and the population from 1.9 million to 4 million. Active immigration and asylum politics in West Berlin have initiated waves of immigrants in the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1990s the Aussiedlergesetze made immigration from the former Soviet Union possible. The current decade experiences a continual increasing influx from various Western countries and especially young EU-Europeans are settling in the city.
The largest religious groupings are No religion 60%, Evangelical 23% [757,000], Roman Catholic 9% [312,000], Muslim 6% [213,000], Jewish 0.4% [12,000].
As of September 2006, Berlin has 3,402,312 registered inhabitants in an area of 891.82 square kilometers [344.31 sq mi]. The urban area comprises about 3.7 million people while the metropolitan area of the Berlin-Brandenburg region is home to about 4.3 million in an area of 5,370 square kilometers [2,073 sq mi]and the Larger Urban Zone of about 4.9 million people.
The population density of the city state Berlin amounts to 3,815 inhabitants per square kilometer [9,870sq mi].
463,723 [13.9%] residents are of foreign nationality, coming from 183 different countries. The largest groups by nationality are citizens from Turkey [116,665], Poland [42,889], Serbia and Montenegro [24,337], Lebanon [17,806], Russia [14,065], Italy [14,026], United States [12,735], France [11,776], Vietnam [11,513], Croatia [11,378], Bosnia and Herzegovina [10,463], Greece [10,102], UK [9,396], Ukraine [8,667], Austria [8,409], Spain [5,962], Iran [5,882],Thailand [5,876], the People's Republic of China [5,620].
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Berlin has continental climate which means it can be very hot during the summer. And for those heading to Hamburg: Be sure to take an umbrella with you ;-)
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