Located in Central Europe, Germany's north coast extends from North Sea in the west, to a land boundary with Denmark, and then eastward to the Baltic Sea. To the east is Poland and the Czech Republic; to the south east is Austria; to the south lies Switzerland; to the south west is France; to the west is Belgium; and to the north west lies the Netherlands. Germany is also bordered by the micro nation state of Luxembourg.
European power struggles immersed Germany in two devastating World Wars in the first half of the 20th century and left the country occupied by the victorious allied powers of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union in 1945.
With the advent of the Cold War, two German states were formed in 1949: the western Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the eastern German Democratic Republic (GDR). The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War allowed for German unification in 1990.
As Europe's largest economy and second most populous nation (after Russia), Germany is a key member of the continent's economic, political, and defense organizations.
In terms of politics, the democratic FRG embedded itself in key Western economic and security organizations, the European Community, which later became the European Union. Germany was also a major player in the the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The communist GDR was on the front line of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact. Of course, unification saw GDR subsumed under the alliances of FRG. In terms of the economy, Germany has expended considerable funds to increase productivity in the former GDR and bring wages up to Western standards.
It should be noted that French-German cooperation in the 1990s was central to European economic integration, and in January 1999 Germany and 10 other European Union countries introduced a common European exchange currency, the euro.
Today, Germany is the fourth-largest economy in the world. More than in most other advanced economies, manufacturing and related services are still the core of the German economy. The country also is one of the most technologically advanced producers of steel, cement, chemicals, machinery, vehicles, electronics, and shipbuilding.