Bäume Wald 145x96

Germany and its Forests

Germany is one of the most densely forested countries in the EU. Approximately one third of its total area is covered with woods. Reason enough to take a closer look at Germany, its forests and the Germans’ relationship to their forests.

For thousands of years, forests were considered dark and dangerous. Especially in the Middle Ages, the forest was conceived as a home of demons, ghosts, witches, and mythical creatures. Legends and fairy tales took their origins in the woods.

In addition, people feared robbers hiding behind the trees ready to attack and rob them. This image of the dark forest remained a long-time popular belief. Moreover, at the time, forest air was considered harmful, unhealthy, and humid.

The Germanic tribes however worshipped trees as the residences of gods. E.g., the lime tree was dedicated to Freya, the goddess of love, and the oak to Donar or Thor, the god of thunder.

The Poetic Edda, a collection of Northern Germanic mythology speaks of a world tree named Yggdrasil which functions as the axis of the world and connects heaven, earth, and the underworld while its crown supports the sky.

Until today, some old or especially large trees are believed to have souls. In many cultures the planting of trees is accompanied by religious or mythical ceremonies. Christmas trees and maypoles are remnants of the time when trees played an important role in people's magical-religious lives and beliefs.

A local example of the Germans' special relationship with trees is Waltraut vom Mühlwald, a Douglas fir in Freiburg's city forest. A measurement yielded a record height of 67.10 meters. Waltraut is therefore probably the tallest tree and the largest living creature in Germany. Throughout Germany, there are numerous popular, famous, and record-breaking trees.

When Christianity gradually replaced the cult of gods, the tree cult was no longer desirable, and Christian missionaries were determined to put an end to it. They believed that the trees represented idols, which according to the bible were forbidden.

But the Germans, heirs of the Germanic tree worshippers, did not give up their love for the woods. According to Roman historian Tacitus, the Germans were hearty, nature-loving natives who lived in the forest and in harmony with nature.

In German Romanticism, i.a. in the works of Eichendorff, Heine and Novalis, the longing for “Waldeinsamkeit” (forest solitude) was often seen as an escape from political realities and an expression of the desire for an idealized, unspoiled nature that remained unaffected by the conflicts and intrigues of people. Thus, the forest was stylized as an identity-forming symbol.

The Nazis later misused the Germans' love for their forests for their propaganda. The "Germanic race" in their narrative originated from the German soil and were the descendants of the forest people of the Germanic tribes - the Jews, on the other hand, were juxtaposedly portrayed as a nomadic and desert people, another seemingly “natural” argument for divisive Nazi politics.

In modern times, the forest is not only a place of longing and recreation for many Germans, but also an important economic factor.

The forestry and timber industry contributes about 3% to the gross domestic product, provides jobs for more than 1 million employees and has an annual turnover of more than 100 billion euros.

Germany has the largest stock of wood in the EU. Its forests are used as a habitat for animals and as suppliers of raw materials for the construction and energy industries.

In addition, the woods are popular recreational areas in Germany. Native forests can be explored along some 62,000 kilometers of trails. Their use as recreational areas is even stipulated by law. Section 14 of the Federal Forest Act states: "Entering the forest for the purpose of recreation is expressly permitted in Germany".


1:1. This is how we work together. You decide upon a competent partner; he/she will then remain your point of contact. > more