German Population: Regional Distribution

Figure 1.--The worldwide German population totals about 170 million people. It rivals the Russians in terms of the largest Euopean national group. Interestingly only about half of the people of German ancestry live in Germany or neigboring Austria and Switzerland. The rest of the German population is scattered around the world.

The worldwide German population totals about 170 million people. It rivals the Russians in terms of the largest Euopean national group. Interestingly only about half of the people of German ancestry live in Germany or neigboring Austria and Switzerland. The rest of the German population is scattered around the world. The most important single country outside of Germany and it European neigbors is the United States. There are almost as many people of German ancestry in America as in Germany itself. A brief population survey gives us a break-down of where people of German ancestry live throughout the world.

German Speaking Nations: 90 million

The German speaking nations are those countries where German is the official (or one of the official) languages. Germany itself accounts for 78.5 million Germans, Austria 7.6 million and German speaking Switzerland (74 percent of the population) 4.9 million. Luxembourg has 0.4 million (68 percent of its population) people who speak a West Moselle Frankish dialect called Letzeburgesch. German has been one of the official languages of Belgium since 1963. An estimated 0.2 million German speakers live in the Eupen-St.Vith region. Finally, the tiny principality of Liechtenstein has 28,000 German speakers.

Europe: 5 million

There were once substantial German populations living in various other European countries. Many Germans migranted east during the Middle Ages, invited by the Tsar, kings, nd other nobels seeing the Germans as helping to increase the value of their lands. Emigrants left Germany and migrated to Southeastern Europe, North America, Russia, England, Scotland, and Ireland (17th century). This wave of emigration was caused by both economic hardships and religious persecutions. The Thirty Years' War was major cause as Germany was devestated. Many of these emigrants were Protestants from Southwestern Germany, primarily the Rheinland, Westfalen, Hessen, Baden, Württemberg, and Elsaß-Lothringen. These populations have since World War II been substantially reduced. Other areas of German settlement in Europe include the Alsace (Eisass) region of France with 1.5 million persons, Poland with 1.4 million Germans living in areas that were formally part of Germany, and Russia with 0.9 million surviving "ethnic" Germans or Volksdeutsche who Stalin mostly deported east after the German invasion (June 1941). The advancing German armies overran some Volksdeutsche in the western Ukraine, but the NKVD managed to deport most before the German armies arrived. Millions of Volga Germans had to leave their farms in Western and Central Russia. That includes a religious group, the Mennonites, who are of Dutch origin (many of them still have Dutch-sounding family names). The NKVD deported them to desolate areas in Siberia, Kazakhstan, Khirghistan and Uzbekistan. The South Tyrol region of northern Italy where German is an official language accounts for nearly 0.3 million persons. The ethnic Gemian Do-nauschwaben of Hungary number less than 0.1 million (down from 0.6 million in 1932). It is estimated that there are 0.2 million Germans in the Netherlands, less than 0.1 million in Romania (down from 0.8 million in 1939), 0.1 million in the Czech Republic (down from 3.1 million in 1932) as well as 0.1 million living in Spain. Some 48,000 Germans live in the "Nord Schleswig" area of Denmark and another 0.3 million are scattered throughout European states not already mentioned.

North America: 60 million

The largest population of people of German ancestry outside of Germany is the United States. The Germans constitute the largest immigrant group in America. Germans settled many areas of the United States. The Germans not only brought their customs with them (Christmas tree, Sunday afternoons with beer, music and dance, etc.), but also their skills and talents. The German influence on music in America is very important. Germans played major roles in many other areas, including the arts, industry, and science. Now the Germans themselves are totally Americanized and hardly speak German anymore. Germans have played a prominent role in American history. The two leading American World war II commanders (Nimitz and Eisenhower) were both of German ancestry. One of the best known German immigrant groups are the Mennoites who settled in southeastern Pennstlvania who incorrently became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. The U.S. Census in 1990 estimated that 58 million Americans were of German, Austrian or Swiss-German ancestry. This is 75 percent of the population of Germany itself. This figure also included persons only partially descended from these Germans, Austrians, and German-Swiss. Of course it does not include some descendents that reported other ancestries. While numerous, only a handfull of Americans of German ancestry can speak German or have any actual ties to Germany. Canada has a German population 1.8 million. Mexico has about 10,000 German speakers.

Latin America: 10 million

Germans began emigrating to Latin America after the wars of independence of the early-19th century and the various countries became independent. The agricultural colonisation movement, which involved mostly German- and Italian farmers began in the 1820s and continued on a modest scale well into the 20th century. Most of thevimmigrants came from rural areas. These were often small farmers and farm labourers who had suffered from advances in agricultural technology during the 19th century. At the same time, economic hardships, including unemployment and crop failures, promted emigration. Another factor was the desire to avoid wars and military conscription. Emigration began in increase dramatically (1870s). The development of steam ships significatly reduced the cost of passage making trans-Atlasntic migation more feasible. Most German emigrants went to the United States at this time, but a substantial number went to Brazil. Some government entities encouraged the poor to emigrate. Emigrants from rural areas arrived after the failed 1848 revolutions. Over 8.8 million Germans live in South America. Most German emigrants went to South America, especially Brazil. The Colon System in Brazil provided state-paid sea passages for families (1880s-20s). Immigrants were guaranteed a complex wage and piece work payment system. The immigrants partially replaced the slaves after abolition (1888). The German population is about 7 million, mostly located in the southern part of the country. About 1.2 million people of German ancestry live in Argentina. Chile has 0.2 million and Paraguay 0.2 million. In Central America and the Caribbean region we find 59,000 Germans and their descendants.

Africa: 1 million

Most Germans in Africa live in southern Africa. South Africa has narly 0.9 million persons of German or mixed German descent and in the former German African colony of Namibia we find 36,000 Germans.

Asia: 1 million

The largest number of ethnic Germans in Asia are tere because of Stalin's World War II deportations of an estimated 0.9 million ethnic Germans. The central Asian republic of Kazakhstan has 1.0 million ethnic Germans, Kyrghyzstan 0.1 million, and Uzbekistan 40,000.

Oceania: 0.6 million

Germany in the late 19th century began to build an overseas empire which included northeastern New Guina and several other islands in the Central Pacific. Early in World War I these uisland were seized by the Japanese and Commonwealth Forces. As aesult the German population in Oceania is now mimimal. The exceoption is Australia which has a German population of 0.6 million.


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Created: 12:21 AM 2/4/2010
Last updated: 6:23 PM 2/4/2010