lora and Fauna
More than one-quarter of the land is still under forest cover, mostly in highland regions. Coniferous trees, especially pine and fir, constitute two-thirds of the timber stands. Deciduous species, which include birch, beech, chestnut, oak, and walnut, grow mainly in the warmer area of west central and southwest Germany. Vines flourish in the Rhine, Moselle, and Danube River valleys.
Wild fauna are limited in number and variety to such species as the red and roe deer, although wild boars inhabit some forested areas. Less common species found in remote areas include the bear, wolf, fox, wildcat, otter, and badger.
The harmful effect of pollutants on Germany's forests has become a major concern with the proliferation of exhaust fumes and industrial waste. Environmental damage is especially severe in the former East Germany.
Language and Religion
The official spoken and written language is modern German, or High German (Hochdeutsch), but the ordinary speech of most Germans is influenced by the many dialects found throughout the country. The regional origin of German speakers can usually be determined by their accent. The northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, which borders on Denmark, has a small Danish-speaking minority; in the east the state of Brandenburg has a small minority, the Sorbs or Wends, whose language is more Slavic than Germanic.
Since the Reformation Germany has been divided between a generally Protestant north and a Roman Catholic south and west. In 1990 the country was estimated to be 42% Protestant and 35% Catholic. Most Protestants belong to the Evangelical Church in Germany. In the former East Germany many people left their churches under Communist pressure; about half the population of eastern Germany has no religious affiliation (compared with 15% in the west).
The constitution guarantees freedom of religion. While Germany has no state church, both major denominations receive extensive government financial support. The most important privilege given to the churches is the church tax. This tax, which amounts to about 10% of an employee's income tax, is automatically withheld from paychecks. Because it is tied to the income tax, which rises with wage increases, this tax assures the churches of a steady, inflation-proof flow of funds. Germany's small Jewish community (40,000) also receives state support for its religious activities.
Demography and Immigration
The frequent and sudden changes that have characterized German history in the 20th century have had a significant impact on the country's population, birthrate, and demographic movements. Before World War II, Germany had a population of 75 million. After the war about 10 million Germans who lived in territories east of the Oder and Neisse rivers were expelled into the remaining territory of the Reich (the Soviet, American, British, and French occupation zones), in Europe's largest migration since the Middle Ages. The total German civilian and military war dead reduced the population to under 70 million, with about 50 million in the Western zones and 20 million in the Soviet zone. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s the West German population continued to grow, fueled by a rising birthrate, East German refugees, and approximately 4 million foreign workers and their families. After a decline in the 1970s and early '80s, the population rose again beginning in the late 1980s because of a further influx of refugees from the east. The current population total includes almost 6 million foreign residents.
The most significant and conspicuous minority group are the foreign workers. These workers were imported in the postwar period, when the low number of young men in the German population caused a severe labor shortage. They still account for about 8% of the workforce, and roughly 15% of the manual workforce. In 1993 the two largest "exporting" countries were Turkey (28%) and the former Yugoslavia (18%). Despite the fact that the number of foreign workers has declined in recent years, their higher birthrate and the arrival of family members has actually increased the total number of foreign residents. In some large cities such as Frankfurt, as many as half of all newborn children are from families of foreign workers.
Since the late 1980s, great numbers of immigrants fleeing political and economic oppression have settled in Germany. In 1992 alone almost a quarter of a million foreigners sought political asylum in the Federal Republic, three times the level of any other European country. This growing number of asylum-seekers, the poor economic situation in the former GDR, and a general shortage of affordable housing throughout the country, were factors in the outbreaks of violence against foreigners by neo-Nazis and others in the early 1990s. Responding to pressure from local and state governments, which bore the major burden of housing the asylum-seekers, parliament in May 1993 amended Germany's asylum law, making it easier for the authorities to exclude refugees from areas where there is no political oppression.
German cities with populations of more than 500,000, in order of size, are Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt am Main, Essen, Dortmund, Dusseldorf, Stuttgart, Bremen, Duisburg, Leipzig, Hannover, and Dresden.
Although East and West Germany are now formally united, it will take years, if not decades, to fully integrate eastern Germany into western Germany's social and economic system. Western Germany is a highly advanced postindustrial society. Most of its workforce is now in the service sector--technical, managerial, and administrative jobs predominate, and its economy is dependent on foreign trade. It is also a very mobile society; Western Germans are among the world's most well-traveled citizens. East Germany, on the other hand, was isolated from the world community for decades, its citizens forbidden to travel freely.
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