By 1900, Germany's economy matched Britain's, allowing colonial expansion and a naval race. Germany led the Central Powers in the First World War (1914–1918) against France, Great Britain, Russia and (by 1917) the United States. Defeated and partly occupied, Germany was forced to pay war reparations by the Treaty of Versailles and was stripped of its colonies as well as Polish areas and Alsace-Lorraine. The German Revolution of 1918–19 deposed the emperor and the kings, leading to the establishment of the Weimar Republic, an unstable parliamentary democracy.
In the early 1930s, the worldwide Great Depression hit Germany hard, as unemployment soared and people lost confidence in the government. In 1933, theNazis under Adolf Hitler came to power and established a totalitarian regime. Political opponents were killed or imprisoned. Nazi Germany's aggressive foreign policy took control of Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia, and its invasion of Poland initiated the Second World War. After forming a pact with the Soviet Unionin 1939, Hitler and Stalin divided Eastern Europe. After a "phoney war" in spring 1940 the German blitzkrieg swept Scandinavia, the Low Countries and France, giving Germany control of nearly all of Western Europe. Only Britain stood opposed. Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, a reach too far. The systematic genocide program known as The Holocaust killed six million Jews in Germany and German-occupied areas, as well as five million Poles, Romanies, Russians, Soviets (Russian and non-Russian), and others. In 1941, however, the German invasion of the Soviet Union faltered, and after the United States entered the war, Britain became the base for massive Anglo-American bombings of German cities. Germany fought the war on multiple fronts through 1942–1943. Following the Allied invasion of Normandy (June 1944), the German army was pushed back on all fronts until the final collapse in May 1945.
Under occupation by the Allies, German territories were split off, denazification took place, and the Cold War resulted in the division of the country into democraticWest Germany and communist East Germany. Millions of ethnic Germans fled from Communist areas into West Germany, which experienced rapid economic expansion, and became the dominant economy in Western Europe. West Germany was rearmed in the 1950s under the auspices of NATO, but without access to nuclear weapons. The Franco-German friendship became the basis for the political integration of Western Europe in the European Union. In 1989, theBerlin Wall was destroyed, the Soviet Union collapsed and East Germany wasreunited with West Germany in 1990. In 1998–1999, Germany was one of the founding countries of the Eurozone. Germany remains one of the economic powerhouses of Europe, contributing about one quarter of the Eurozone's annualgross domestic product. In the early 2010s, Germany played a critical role in trying to resolve the escalating Euro crisis, especially regarding Greece and other Southern European nations.