The German postal company that now is also involved in logistics and courier services, Deutsche Post AG was refounded in 1995, taking over from a company of the same name that had a mail monopoly in Germany. Although the word Reichspost was used by Franz von Taxis as early as 1495, the German postal service in its current form was the Deutsche Reichspost, which was established in 1871 with the unification of Germany, and operated until the end of World War II.
Initially after the war, the various Allied-controlled postal authorities issued their own postage stamps and ran their own services. Subsequently four entities took over, the major ones being the Deutsche Bundespost (German Federal Post Office) that operated in West Germany and the Deutsche Post DDR in East Germany. Because of its different status, there was also a Deutsche Bundespost Berlin for West Berlin, and a separate postal authority for the Saar until 1956. In 1990 the Deutsche Bundespost took over having a monopoly on postal services until 1995 when it became Deutsche Post AG.
Prior to 1871, the various states in Germany operated their own postal services, with the people in Prussia and nearby places using those of the North German Confederation. King Wilhelm I of Prussia had, on January 18, 1871, been proclaimed emperor of Germany, and he started unifying the various agencies of the German states. The first German Imperial Parliament met in March 1871, and on May 4, 1871, the German Reichspost officially came into being. Wurttemberg was allowed to use its own stamps for a period, with stamps for official state business until 1923; and Bavaria was also allowed to issue its own postage stamps until 1920.
To show the unity of Germany, the first postage stamps issued by the Reichspost in 1872, “inscribed Deutsche Reichspost,” had the Imperial Eagle, and ranged in value from ¼ Groschen to 18 Kreuzers. Demand was such that some were reprinted by the Prussian State Printing Office in July 1872. In 1875 the old currency was replaced by the Pfennings and the Marks, and new stamps were issued. From 1900, stamps started showing “Germania,” a figure embodying the German spirit. In that year some larger stamps were also issued by the post office, featuring the General Post Office in Berlin, the unveiling of the Kaiser Wilhelm I Memorial in Berlin, and Wilhelm II speaking at the 25th anniversary of the founding of Germany in 1896.
In 1902 the stamps were designated “Deutsches Reich” and this continued until 1944, when a stamp showing Hitler had the caption “Gross Deutsches Reich.” From 1945, the Allied occupying powers issued their own stamps with “Deutsche Post,” and from 1951, the stamps of West Germany were designated “Deutsche Bundespost.” Those of West Berlin were inscribed “Deutsche Bundespost Berlin,” and those of East Germany had “Deutsche Demokratische Republik” or “DDR” on them. After the reunification of Germany, the stamps continued to have “Deutsche Bundespost” on them until May 1995, from when they were designated as “Deutschland.”
This change signified the creation of Deutsche Post AG, which maintains its headquarters in Bonn and has divided its operations into four sectors. One is in charge of mail delivery and handles about 70 million letters, with deliveries on every day except Sunday. It also has direct connections with most countries in the world for delivery of mail overseas and receipt of mail from these countries. The second sector of Deutsche Post, under the DHL brand, covers courier services, express, and parcel shipment around the world. The logistics section, also operating under DHL, handles long-term contracts with major companies; and the last sector of the business is financial services, with a retail banking network in Germany for about 14.5 million customers. Privatized in 2000, Deutsche Post claims to be the leading logistics provider in the world. It employs about 520,000 employees in almost every country in the world. It has revenue of $80.65 billion (2006).
- Jennifer Lach, “Deutsche Delivers,” American Demographics (v.22/2, 2000);
- Nils Machemehl, Deutsche Post, Logistics: Update. Equity Research Germany (Investment Research, 2005);
- John Parker, “Deutsche Post Hones Images,” Traffic World (v.261/10, 2000).
Formed in 1996 from the Deutsche Bundespost (German Federal Post Office), Deutsche Telekom is the largest telecommunications company in Germany and also in the European Union. When it was controlled by Deutsche Bundespost, the telephone service in Germany had been part of the state-owned monopoly that also controlled the postal services.
After the establishment of the first telephone services in the United States, it was not long before the first telephone network was established in Germany. In 1880 the first telephone exchange in Germany was built in Mulhouse, in Alsace, then a part of Germany but now a part of France. The builders wanted to get a government permit to start operations, but the authorities in Berlin did not want a telephone service in Mulhouse before there was one in the German capital, so Berlin quickly opened its exchange in January 1881, initially with eight subscribers. The exchange had capacity for 99 people, and they were dubbed by the press the “99 fools.” However, by May 1882, there were 699 subscribers, and the service grew rapidly after that, with the Berlin Boerse (stock exchange) having a large number of lines for its brokers to use.
The Reichspost—which also ran postal services— also continued with the telephone service, and by 1888 the Berlin Telephone Exchange was able to claim that it had more telephone connections than any city outside the United States. Two years later, a public “pay phone” was established in each of the 10,000 local post offices. The service became better during World War I with the increased use of military engineers, and was also adapted and improved after the war by the Inter-Allied Control Commission.
During the 1920s and 1930s, the telephone system continued to grow, with international calls possible, some by radio. It was even possible—at a cost—to telephone zeppelins such as the Hindenburg. During World War II, the Germans connected conquered territories in eastern Europe to their telephone network. However, much of the phone system in eastern Germany was destroyed in late 1944 and 1945, although many lines survived—a Soviet soldier was able to telephone the Berlin Bunker where an astonished Josef Goebbels answered the telephone.
After the war, the system was repaired and much of the network in Berlin and in many other cities were working reasonably well by the end of 1945. There were then two systems in operation, one covering West Germany and West Berlin, and the other for East Germany. There were also separate networks established by the Americans and the British, but these were quickly merged with the West German system. In spite of the Cold War, it remained possible to telephone from West Germany to East Germany and vice versa, but there were occasional technical difficulties. Nevertheless, the system did work well and with the unification of Germany on October 3, 1990, the two systems were both held under Deutsche Bundespost, although moves were already afoot to split the postal and telephone services of the company, as had happened in so many other countries in the world.
In 1996 Deutsche Telekom was privatized, but the German government has continued to hold a stake in it. The expectation was that the new company would be able to raise capital more easily and be more efficient. Instead, with privatization, the government was forced to break the telephone carrier’s monopoly; this led to some 1.5 million customers leaving them for rival companies in 2005 and 2006. As a result, Deutsche Telekom shed 30,000 workers as its stock price fell dramatically. At the height of the speculative fever, shares went as high as €100, but later fell to €12, and in August 2008 they were trading at €10.97.
- “Deutsche Telekom—Bad Connection,” Economist (v.387/8575, 2008);
- Christian Hilpert, Strategische Perspektiven die Deutsche Telekom im deregulierten Marktumfeld [Strategic Perspectives on the German Telecom Deregulated Market Environment] (VDM Verlag Dr. Müller, 2007);
- Gerhild H. M. Komander, 1881: Berlins erstes Telefonbuch (Story Verlag, 2006);
- Eli Noam, Telecommunications in Europe (Oxford University Press, 1992);
- “Research and Markets Ltd.; Germany Has Europe’s Largest Telecom Market, Supported by a Large and Affluent Population,” Computers, Networks & Communications (August 18, 2008).
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