Update (as of March 17th, 2020):
European nationals are currently facing significant restrictions when traveling to the United States. In light of the proclamation to suspend entry of certain immigrants who pose a risk of coronavirus transmission the ESTA procedure is currently not in use.
Please take note of further information published by the US government: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/faq?lang=en
The US Legislation has special provisions for German citizens wishing to travel to the USA. German citizens wishing to travel to the USA under the visa waiver program via plane or ship must apply for a permit well in advance.
Please familiarize yourself well in advance of any necessary procedures and be informed which documents you will have to present at the border crossing. Please note: questions with regard to US immigration can only be answered by the competent US consular authority.
German citizens who wish to enter the USA via land do not need to apply for the ESTA.
German citizens who wish to enter the USA under a different category such as student visa or business visa also do not need to apply for the ESTA.
Please note that only US authorities can issue binding and competent information. Rules and regulations on cross border travel in the USA can change any time without the knowledge of the German Foreign Missions.