about poverty in GermanyThe fourth-largest economy in the world and the most influential nation in the European Union, Germany plays an integral role in global politics. A parliamentary democracy based in Berlin, the country has experienced several regime changes within the 20th century alone. Despite a history of conflict, Germany has made much progress leading to exceptional growth, however, poverty in Germany still remains a challenge.

The History of Germany

In the early 1900s, the country had been unified under the banner of the German Empire. A decade later, it was one of the world’s leading economic and industrial powers, rivaled only by the United States and the British Empire. After its defeat in World War I, Germany was forced to pay humiliating reparations that indirectly led to the formation of the far-right Nazi Party.

Under Adolf Hitler’s reign, the Nazis consolidated control over Germany, engaged in vast human rights atrocities, and waged a global war against the Allied nations. Berlin was defeated for a second time, leading to a partition between East and West Germany, where the Soviets controlled the East and NATO controlled the West for the duration of the Cold War.

During this period, West Germany rebounded economically, becoming a global powerhouse. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 signaled the beginning of reunification and Germany’s newfound place in the modern world.

Despite an expansive social safety net, poverty continues to brew in Germany. In the mid-2010s, Angela Merkel, the country’s chancellor, agreed to admit into the country hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war.  A few years later, COVID-19 hit, throwing the nation yet another curveball. Through it all, Berlin has shown a keen ability to survive and adapt while maintaining openness and transparency, even as poverty alleviation remains a challenging goal.

5 Facts About Poverty in Germany

  1. In Germany, poverty is on the rise. Since reunification, poverty is increasing, with Berlin defining the poverty threshold as anything less than 60% of the average income. In 2013, that figure was 15.5% of the total population.  In the years since, it has increased to 15.9%. From an outsider’s perspective, this view of Germany seems contradictory. According to the World Bank, Germany’s poverty rate in 2016 — defined as $1.90 a day in 2011 — was 0%. This compared well with the United States, which had a poverty rate of 1% by the same metric.
  2. Germany retains a high standard of living. Pundits often overlook Germany’s high standard of living. This fact makes poverty comparisons confusing and difficult. Compared to most nations, Germany is fairly well off. The country’s GDP per capita adjusted for purchasing power parity was $53,694 in 2020, higher than the United Kingdom, France and Italy.
  3. Over the past few decades, growth has been slow and steady. Since reunification, German economic growth has been mostly constant. Barring the brief contractions of 2009 and 2020, the German economy has expanded consistently. In 2019, German GDP growth of 0.6% was faster than stagnant Japan but slower than other developed countries such as the United Kingdom and France.
  4. German inequality is serious but manageable. Compared to the United States, Germany has lower levels of income inequality. In the same vein, however, the situation in Germany has not significantly improved since the 1960s. Income inequality remains much the same as it was several decades ago. Despite significant investment in areas like universal healthcare and free college, the German government has thus far failed to reduce income inequality by large margins.
  5. Germany has a life expectancy well suited to a developed nation. Germany has one of the highest life expectancies in the world. At 81 years in 2019, it surpasses the United States, which had an average life expectancy of 79 years.

The overall outlook for Germany is mixed. Its long-term prospects remain uncertain, with a steady yet slow growth rate and hard-set levels of income inequality. Under the surface, poverty continues to brew. But, all is not lost. The country benefits from an extremely high life expectancy and average per capita GDP. Furthermore, Germans are innovative people, building one of the world’s most successful societies in the post-World War II period. With more adaptability and innovation, the possibilities of poverty reduction are limitless.

– Zachary Lee
Photo: Flickr

Holocaust Genocide

The Holocaust genocide, which occurred between 1933 and 1945, is the deadliest genocide in history. As part of Adolf Hitler’s Final Solution, the Holocaust genocide saw the slaughter of approximately six million Jewish people and five million Slavic, Roma and disabled people in concentration camps scattered throughout areas in Europe such as Germany and Poland. The Holocaust genocide can be further understood through history and facts.

Top 10 Facts about the Holocaust

  1. According to a broad definition, the Holocaust is considered to have started in 1933, when the Nazi party came to power in Germany and the exclusion of Jewish people and other groups considered “undesirable” from German society began. Mass killings began in 1941, during the height of World War II.
  2. The Nazi party systematically planned the mass slaughter of millions of people in order to construct solid cultural and societal norms through the enactment of the Nuremberg Laws, a set of rules that systematically removed Jewish people from society. For instance, Jewish Germans were prohibited from marrying non-Jewish Germans.
  3. The Nazi party forced Jewish people to wear a yellow Star of David badge in order to distinguish between Jewish people and other European people, which served as a systematic approach to isolate Jewish people from society. This practice was a part of Hitler’s use of media and propaganda in order to degrade the Jewish people.
  4. Kristallnacht, or the “Night of Broken Glass,” was a period of two days in November 1938 during which Nazi paramilitaries burned approximately 250 synagogues and destroyed thousands of Jewish-owned businesses, schools and homes.
  5. Jewish, Slavic, Roma and disabled people were forced to congregate in “ghettos” throughout Germany and Poland.
  6. Before the creation of extermination camps and gas chambers, Nazi Germans murdered the prisoners of concentration camps by shooting them. After experimentation, it was determined that gassing could murder more people at once and would be less costly. The most famous gas used in the gas chambers was called Zyklon B.
  7. In concentration camps, the prisoners were forced to complete excruciatingly difficult physical labor in the absence of adequate food, water or shelter. Nazi doctors also performed numerous experiments on the prisoners without their consent.
  8. Extermination camps served solely to murder large amounts of Jewish, Slavic, Roma and disabled peoples. The largest extermination camp was Auschwitz-Birkenau, which was located in Poland and responsible for killing approximately one million Jewish people.
  9. During the Holocaust genocide, millions of Jewish people sought refuge in the United States; however, strict immigration quotas in the United States had been enacted in 1924, and most Jewish people were barred from entering the United States.
  10. Many Jewish women created art while confined in the ghettos and concentration camps, and a great deal of the art depicts the hopelessness felt by the Jewish people throughout the period. For example, according to the Jewish Women’s Archive, Emmy Falck-Ettlinger, who lived through and survived the Holocaust genocide in the Gurs concentration camp in France, drew depictions of “emptiness and loneliness.”

These 10 facts about the Holocaust genocide do not even begin to cover the disturbing and horrific details of the historical tragedy. It is incredibly important to study the circumstances in which the Holocaust genocide was developed and executed in order to prevent any group of people from being treated in such an inhumane manner in the future.

Emily Santora

Photo: Flickr


10. Vladimir Putin

Putin is the current president of Russia and has been in power since 1999. He spent four years as Prime Minister from 2008 to 2012, though most experts believe he was still calling the shots. Putin is a strong man and one of the cruelest dictators, ruling Russia with a fierce grip. His presidency has been lamented by human rights groups and Western governments. Putin maintains a terrible domestic civil rights policy and viciously puts down political dissent and free speech. Not to mention, under his command Russia has engaged in military action in Georgia, Chechnya, and most notably the invasion and annexation of Crimea, thus violating Ukrainian sovereignty.

9. Robert Mugabe

Now in his seventh term of office as president of Zimbabwe is Robert Mugabe. Many political scientists and experts have cited massive electoral fraud and rigging in Mugabe’s favor during the 2013 election. According to both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Mugabe’s government systematically violates the right to shelter, food, freedom of movement and political expression. In addition, Mugabe made all acts of homosexuality illegal in Zimbabwe.

8. Muammar Gaddafi

Self-proclaimed “Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution” of Libya for more than 50 years, Gaddafi was, at first, a widely supported leader after he led the September Revolution in 1969. However, as he consolidated power his regime became more authoritarian. His calls for Pan-Africanism were greatly overshadowed by his pitiful human rights record. During the Arab Spring, Gaddafi ordered his forces to fire on unarmed protesters calling for his resignation. The UN Human Rights Council called for an investigation into war crimes. Gaddafi was deposed and killed at the end of the Libyan Civil War.

7. Idi Amin

Amin’s paranoid administration was marred by rampant violence to his political enemies. UN observers estimate that 100,000 to 500,000 were persecuted and killed in Uganda under his reign. Amin’s victims were originally his direct political opponents and those who supported the regime that he fought to overtake. However, extrajudicial killings began to include academics, lawyers, foreign nationals and minority ethnic groups within the country.

6. Kim Jong Il

Kim Jong Il continued his father’s fearsome policy of official party indoctrination. North Korea currently ranks as one of the poorest nations on the planet, with millions facing starvation, disease and lack of basic human needs. Under Kim’s reign, North Korean military spending quadrupled, yet he refused foreign aid and did not invest in his country’s farms, thereby indirectly killing millions. Kim’s policy of mass internment through the use of labor camps and virtually no political debate makes him on of history’s worst despots.

5. Pol Pot

Pot was the dictator of Cambodia for 20 years from 1961 to 1983 as the leader of the Khmer Rouge government. His regime is characterized by the Cambodian genocide and the infamous “killing fields.” Pol Pot began a program of severe nationalization whereby he forced millions from urban areas into the countryside to farm and work on forced labor projects. Due to the forced labor, poor food and medical conditions, and the addition of massive amounts of state-sponsored killings, nearly 25 percent of Cambodia’s population died under Pol Pot’s rule.

4. Bashar al-Assad

As the current president of Syria, Assad’s authoritarian regime was called into question during the Arab Spring and cited for numerous civil rights violations including suppression of free speech, corruption and political freedom. Assad ordered massive crackdowns and thus triggered the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Government forces only grew more violent toward protesting Syrian citizens, and there have been allegations of chemical warfare. Assad has been accused of numerous human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

3. Joseph Stalin

Stalin was the second leader of the Soviet Union. Though part of the original seven Bolshevik leaders, Stalin quickly consolidated sole power and became a tyrant. In the 1930s he pursued a policy of political upheaval known as “the Great Purge.” From 1930 to 1934, millions of Soviet citizens were imprisoned, exiled or killed. Stalin also pursued a policy of massive economic reforms that led to the deaths of millions due to famine and forced labor in Gulag camps.

2. Mao Zedong

Zedong was the first chairman of the Communist Party of China, and in terms of numbers of deaths during his reign, he tops the list. Nearly 70 million Chinese died during his rule. Zedong systematically broke down Ancient Chinese culture and nearly ended political dissent and freedom in China. His revolutionary economic policies during “the Great Leap Forward” resulted in one of the worst famines in modern history. In addition, Mao also implemented forced labor and public executions.

1. Adolf Hitler

Hitler was the Fuhrer of Nazi Germany from 1934 to 1945. Hitler tops the list of cruelest dictators because of his disturbingly systematic genocidal policies. A total of 5.5 million Jews and other “unwanteds” were deliberately targeted and executed in sanctioned ghettos, work camps and extermination camps. Hilter’s foreign policy and unrelenting desire to give the German people “room to live” was the major cause of World War II. Hitler also put down political dissenters and enemies as well as banning non-government sanctioned art, film, literature and teaching methods.

Joe Kitaj

Sources: Forbes, List 25, The Atlantic
Photo: Flickr