This is a list of 100 famous Germans, including statesmen such as: Adenauer, Brandt, Merkel, and cultural figures such as Bach, Goethe and Gutenberg.
1. Konrad Adenauer (1876-1967) West Germany’s first chancellor after the Second World War (1949-63). He played a key role in the re-integration of Germany in European and international affairs. He forged closer ties with France, US and the European Community.
2. Martin Luther (1483-1546) Luther Sought to reform the Roman Catholic Church which he felt had been corrupted and lost its original focus. Considered the father of Protestantism for his reforming zeal.
3. Karl Marx (1818 – 1883) – German philosopher, exiled to Britain for his radical views. Karl Marx wrote Das Capital and The Communist Manifesto, which was hugely influential in shaping left-wing thought.
4. Sophie and Hans Scholl (1921/ 1918 -1943) – The Scholls opposed the Nazi ideology of Hitler’s Germany and distributed anti-Nazi propaganda to students in Munich. Both were executed for high treason.
5. Willy Brandt (1913-1992) German politician and statesman. Opposed to Hitler, he fled to Norway in 1933. After the war, he became Mayor of Berlin. As Chancellor of Germany, he made a famous gesture of reconciliation to victims of Nazi Germany in Warsaw. He sought rapprochement with the East and a united Europe.
6. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) German composer and musician. Considered one of greatest composers of all time. Bach composed some of the most loved choral and orchestral works.
7. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) Poet, playwright, author and statesman. Goethe was a prolific writer, notable works including: Faust, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship and Elective Affinities. Also a noted polymath, Goethe left a rich cultural legacy.
8. Johannes Gutenberg (1400-1468) Inventor of movable type printing in Europe. Gutenberg started a ‘printing revolution; which enabled the spread of printed works across Europe. Also produced the ‘Gutenberg Bible’.
9. Angela Merkel (1954 – ) Leader of Christian Democrat Union (CDU). Merkel has been chancellor of Germany since 2005. Merkel has also gained a position as de facto leader of the European Union and has made many decisions affecting European integration and the European financial crisis.
10. Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) Politician responsible for the creation of German Empire in 1871, and its first chancellor. Bismark is credited with uniting the states of Germany and pursuing a relative moderate foreign policy of keeping the peace.
Other Famous Germans
Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-born theoretical physicist who came up with the general theory of relativity, which played a key role in the nuclear age. Einstein also a noted humanitarian who promoted peace.
Beethoven (1770 – 1827) German composer born in Bonn, then capital of Electorate of Cologne. Beethoven was a musical genius who bridged classical and romantic periods. Beethoven wrote nine symphonies, five concertos for piano, numerous chamber music, and choral works, including Missa Solemnis).
Oskar Schindler (1908 – 1974) An ethnic German who joined the Abwehr and later Nazi party. He was a businessman who successfully protected over 1,000 Jews employed in his factory.
Mozart (1756 – 1791) Austrian classical composer. Mozart is considered one of greatest composers of all time, writing over 600 classical works.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906 – 1945 ) A Lutheran Pastor who was an influential critic of Hitler and Nazism, executed in 1945. He publically spoke against the Nazi policy of euthanasia and the murder of Jews.
Boris Becker (1967 – ) Born in Leimen, Germany. Becker was an outstanding tennis player, winning six grand slam singles titles and 49 career titles, including the youngest player (17) to win Wimbledon.
Martin Niemöller (1892 – 1984) Lutheran pastor and anti-nazi theologian. Born in Wiesbaden. He was a founder of the Confessional church which sought to reject the Nazification of churches.
Hildegard von Bingen (1097 – 1179) German writer, mystic, composer and polymath. Hildegard was considered one of the most educated and influential people of her generation, at a time when women rarely played any significant role in society.
Claus von Stauffenberg (1907 – 1944) An aristocratic German military officer born in Jettingen-Scheppach. Stauffenberg was a principal member of the resistance to Hitler within the Wehrmacht. He led the unsuccessful July 1944 bomb plot against Hitler.
Max Planck (1858 – 1947) German theoretical physicist who contributed to the development of Quantum Mechanics. Awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.
Bernhard Lichtenberg (1875 – 1943) A Roman Catholic Priest who condemned the Nazi policy towards Jews and the policy of euthanasia. For his criticism of Nazi policy, he was sent to Dachau concentration camp, where he died in transit.
Otto Hahn (1879-1968)German chemist born in Frankfurt. Hahn discovered nuclear fission (1939) and was a pioneering scientist in the field of radio-chemistry. Awarded Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1944)
Meister Eckhart (1260- 1327) German mystic, theologian and philosopher born in Gotha, Thuringia. Eckhart’s practical spiritual philosophy was popular and an indirect challenge to the teachings of the church.
George Frederick Handel (1685 – 1759) German-born composer who spent a lot of time in England. He wrote operas and oratorios. He was court composer for Prince George, the Elector of Hanover. Ironically, after living many years in London, Prince George became King George I of England and found his court composer was already there in London.
Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) Influential German philosopher born in Königsberg. Kant’s ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ sought to unite reason with experience and move philosophy on from the debate between rationalists and empiricists.
Felix Mendelssohn (1809 – 1847) Born in Hamburg. Mendelssohn was a German composer of the romantic period. Mendelssohn wrote symphonies, concerti, oratorios, piano music and chamber music.
Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883) German composer who wrote epic operas such as the Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung).
Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897) Born in Hamburg, Brahms was a German composer who spent most of his life in Austria.
Karl Benz (1844–1929), German inventor and entrepreneur. Benz developed the first practical petrol-powered car, gaining patent in 1879. Benz also became a successful manufacturer.
Rudolf Diesel (1858–1913) Born in Paris, to German parents, Diesel was the inventor of the diesel engine in the early 1890s. Diesel sought to build an engine which had much greater efficiency than the petrol engine.
Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992) German-American actress born in Schöneberg. Dietrich’s career spanned several decades from silent movies to becoming one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
Walter Hallstein (1901 – 1982) German diplomat and statesman born in Stuttgart. Hallstein was one of the key architects of the European Coal and Steel Community – the forerunner of the EEC.
- Helmut Kohl, West German chancellor from 1982-1998, important figure for Germany’s Reunification (born 1930)
- Samuel Hahnemann, physician (1755-1843)
- Adolph Kolping, priest (1813-1865)
- Robert Bosch, inventor and industrialist (1861-1942)
- Daniel Küblböck, singer (born 1985)
- Konrad Zuse, computer inventor (1910-1995)
- Josef Kentenich, priest (1885-1968)
- Albert Schweitzer, physician and philanthropist (1875-1965)
- Karlheinz Böhm, actor and charity activist (born 1928)
- Helmut Schmidt, West German chancellor from 1974-1982 (born 1918)
- Regine Hildebrandt, politician (1941-2001)
- Alice Schwarzer, feminist journalist (born 1942)
- Thomas Gottschalk, TV host (born 1950)
- Herbert Grönemeyer, musician (born 1956)
- Ludwig Erhard, West German chancellor, creator of the Wirtschaftswunder in the 1950s (1897-1977)
- Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, physicist (1845-1923)
- Günther Jauch, television celebrity and journalist (born 1956)
- Dieter Bohlen, television celebrity and music producer (born 1954)
- Jan Ullrich, athlete (cycling) (born 1973)
- Franz Beckenbauer, athlete (football), coach and organiser (born 1945)
- Nena, singer (born 1960)
- Hans-Dietrich Genscher, politician (born 1927)
- Heinz Rühmann, actor (1902-1994)
- Harald Schmidt, comedian (born 1957)
- Frederick II of Prussia (“Frederick the Great”) king (1712-1786)
- Patrick Lindner, singer (born 1960)
- Hartmut Engler, singer (born 1961)
- Robert Koch, physician (1843-1910)
- Joschka Fischer, Foreign Minister and Vice-Chancellor from 1998-2005 (born 1948)
- Karl May, writer (1842-1912)
- Loriot (Vicco von Bülow), satirist (born 1923)
- Albertus Magnus, scholar (1200-1280)
- Rudi Völler, athlete (football) (born 1960)
- Richard von Weizsäcker, Federal President from 1984-1994 (born 1920)
- Heinz Erhardt, comedian (1909-1979)
- Roy Black, singer and actor (1943-1991)
- Heinz-Harald Frentzen, racing driver (born 1967)
- Wolfgang Apel, animal rights activist (born 1951)
- Alexander von Humboldt, scientist (1769-1859)
- Peter Kraus, singer (born 1939)
- Wernher von Braun, rocket scientist (1912-1977)
- Dirk Nowitzki, athlete (basketball) (born 1978)
- Campino, singer (Die Toten Hosen) (born 1962)
- Franz Josef Strauß, politician (1915-1988)
- Sebastian Kneipp, physician (1821-1897)
- Friedrich Schiller, writer (1759-1805)
- Katarina Witt, athlete (figure skating) (born 1965)
- Fritz Walter, athlete (football), captain of 1954 world championship winners (1920-2002)
- Nicole, singer (born 1964)
- Friedrich von Bodelschwingh, priest (1831-1910)
- Otto Lilienthal, aviation pioneer (1848-1896)
- Marion Gräfin Dönhoff, editor (1909-2002)
- Thomas Mann, writer (1875-1955)
- Hermann Hesse, writer (1877-1962)
- Romy Schneider, actress (1938-1982)
- Sven Hannawald, athlete (ski jumping) (born 1974)
- Elisabeth of Bavaria (“Sissi”), royal consort (1837-1898)
- Willy Millowitsch, actor and comedian (1909-1999)
- Gerhard Schröder, Chancellor from 1998-2005 (born 1944)
- Joseph Beuys, artist (1921-1986)
- Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher (1844-1900)
- Rudi Dutschke, student leader in the 1960s (1940-1979)
- Karl Lehmann, priest (born 1936)
- Trümmerfrauen (“rubble women”), rebuilding Germany after the war
- Carl Friedrich Gauss, mathematician and physicist (1777-1855)
- Helmut Rahn, athlete (football), scorer of winning goal in 1954 (1929-2003)
- Albrecht Dürer, artist (1471-1528)
- Max Schmeling, athlete (boxing) (1905-2005)
- Frederick II, emperor (1194-1250)
- Reinhard Mey, singer-songwriter (born 1942)
- Heinrich Heine, writer (1797-1856)
- Georg Elser, Hitler assassin (1903-1945)
- Konrad Duden, linguist (1829-1911)
- James Last, composer (born 1929)
This list is partly inspired by a German TV programme Unsere Besten (“Our Best”) shown on German public television (ZDF) in November 2003, similar to the BBC series 100 Greatest Britons.
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Germany: Memories of a Nation at Amazon
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