A late header from Sami Khedira settled a tight contest as both nations looked to put their World Cup semi-final heartache to one side.
The game burst into life inside four minutes as Dennis Aogo was lucky to escape with a yellow card after his lunging tackle left Diego Perez writhing in agony and Cacau also went into the book early for handling Diego Forlan's free-kick.
Germany soon gained a foothold in the game as the sharp-shooting Thomas Muller notched his fifth of the competition. Bastian Schweinsteiger's strike from 35-yards out was spilled by Uruguay stopper Fernando Muslera, leaving Muller to slot home from inside the penalty area.
Uruguay grabbed an equaliser against the run of play as Schweinsteiger was tackled by Perez in the centre of the park. The bulldozing anchorman found Luis Suarez and his pass was converted by Edinson Cavani as the Celeste drew level.
With the interval looming, Suarez was played clean through on goal by Forlan, but he dragged his shot wide of Hans-Jorg Butt's goal. Suarez went close again at the start of the second half, but Butt thwarted him at his near post.
Oscar Tabarez's side finally went in front thanks to a stunning volley from Forlan. Egidio Arevalo Rios' centre was perfect for the striker to coolly slam home off the greasy surface, but their lead was to last a little more than five minutes as Jerome Boateng's cross was bundled home by Marcell Jansen.
Germany should have grabbed the lead for a second time just moments later as Cacau, Mesut Ozil and Muller broke free. Ozil could have squared for Muller to tap-in, but he kept hold of the ball for too long, allowing the Uruguay defence to clear.
With half chances coming and going at both ends, the pendulum swung Germany's way as Khedira nodded home inside a crowded penalty area. Ozil's in swinging delivery bounced off Diego Godin, allowing Khedira to stoop and plant a looping header beyond the unfortunate Muslera.
At the death, Forlan almost snatched a last-gasp leveller, but his free-kick smashed against the bar and Germany held on to finish the competition in third place.