Principality of Birkenfeld

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Map ( Richard Andree , 1881)
Coat of arms of the Principality of Birkenfeld

As Principality Birkenfeld , from 1919 part of the country Birkenfeld , which was linksrheinische exclave of the Grand Duchy and later Free State of Oldenburg in the near area designated. The capital was Birkenfeld . The administration was headed by a district president appointed by the Oldenburg state government.


Congress of Vienna

Principality of Birkenfeld (pink) and other territories on the left bank of the Rhine ceded by Prussia at the Congress of Vienna

On the basis of Article 49 of the Vienna Congress Act , the King of Prussia was obliged with regard to his territorial expansion on the Saar , an area of ​​the former Saar Department of the First French Republic (until 1804) or the First Empire (until 1814) with 69,000 inhabitants as compensation to Saxe-Coburg -Saalfeld , Oldenburg , Hessen-Homburg , Mecklenburg-Strelitz and the Counts of Pappenheim . While the latter two were compensated in a different way, the rule of Meisenheim is actually in Hessen-Homburg , parts of the cantons Baumholder , Kusel , Ottweiler and Birkenfeld (summarized as the Principality of Lichtenberg ) and to the Duke of Saxony-Coburg-Saalfeld , then the remaining parts of the cantons of Birkenfeld and the canton of Herrstein as well as parts of the cantons of Wadern , Hermeskeil , St. Wendel , Baumholder and Rhaunen were handed over to Grand Duke of Oldenburg . These areas were then merged to form the Principality of Birkenfeld. Oldenburg should be compensated for the repealed Weser tariff.

Territorial basis

Before the French conquest, the area of ​​the later Principality of Birkenfeld belonged to seven different lords: Baden about half (almost the entire district court of Birkenfeld and the southern half of the district court of Oberstein), Pfalz-Zweibrücken about a quarter (the mayorries of Nohfelden and Achtelsbach as a whole, Birkenfeld and Neunkirchen to a small extent), the Count of Limburg-Styrum to about a tenth (a large part of the Oberstein mayor's office), about a twentieth each to the Rhine Count of Salm (parts of the Oberstein District Court) and the Count of Salm-Kyrburg (parts the mayor Fischbach), other splinters the princes of Oettingen-Wallerstein (only Eiweiler in the mayor of Neunkirchen) and Kurtrier ( Imsbach and parts of the mayor's offices of Herrstein and Neunkirchen). During the French rule, the area belonged to the Saar department.

Foundation problems

The decision to hand over the area to Oldenburg was made by the Territorial Commission of the European Great Powers in Frankfurt when they carried out the land distribution decided in Vienna.

Duke Peter Friedrich Ludwig von Holstein-Oldenburg originally expected a significant increase in the area of ​​the North Sea with 160,000 inhabitants and was so angry about the allocation of the small, remote area that he renounced the Grand Duke title granted him in Vienna and the small area far away from the home country did not want to accept.

Only after the territorial division had become more concrete was the Legation Secretary Ludwig Starklof sent to the Nahe in 1816 at the insistence of the Oldenburg officials to examine the assigned area.

Oldenburg along the Nahe

On April 16, 1817, the area came under the name of "Principality of Birkenfeld" in the possession of the Oldenburg family. The seat of government and royal seat was Birkenfeld, which was only a few kilometers away from the geographical center of the country near Niederbrombach .

A college of five lawyers acted as government. The area was divided into the offices of Birkenfeld, Nohfelden and Oberstein, each of which was occupied by an official and an official assessor as administrators. These offices were subdivided into mayor's offices, whose mayors were state officials, following the example of the French (Napoleonic) administration that had been replaced. There was initially no parliamentary representation of the residents. Only after 1848 was a parliamentary level created with the provincial council, but it only had an advisory function.

Administration, judiciary and police, postal / transport, church

In the Principality of Birkenfeld remained Civil Code , the French Code of Civil Law which applied during the previous membership of the territory to France, as so-called " Rhenish law " continues in force. This was replaced on January 1, 1900 by the civil code .

The highest court authority in the principality was the Birkenfeld Higher Court as the second instance, from which an appeal was made to the Oldenburg Higher Appeal Court. Lower courts were the local courts of Birkenfeld, Oberstein and Nohfelden. The police system was generally by the gendarmerie of the Principality of Birkenfeld as state police exercised, which was organizationally not affiliated to the Grand Ducal country Dragoon Corps (from 1867 Gendarmerie Corps), was not militarily organized and directly to the government in Birkenfeld shelter.

The highest administrative authority was the government of Birkenfeld, to which the state treasury and the levy system, the medical system, the gendarmerie, the forest and hunting system, the building industry, the cadastral system, the postal system, the indirect tax system and the land rabbinate were subordinate. Lower administrative authorities were the mayor's offices (see table below).

The country Oldenburg had at the time of the Holy Roman Empire an own post and kept them later in the provinces of Oldenburg and the Principality of Luebeck . In the Principality of Birkenfeld, on the basis of a contract dated August 4, 1817, the Thurn und Taxis house was entrusted with the supply of postal services. When the neighboring Principality of Lichtenberg was ceded to Prussia , the Principality of Birkenfeld was surrounded by Prussian territory and, after the contract with Thurn und Taxis had expired, was supplied with mail from Prussia on November 1, 1837 .

With the opening of the Nahe Valley Railway, the principality was connected to the railway network in 1859, eight years before the completion of the first railway line in the Oldenburg core area .

There were two higher authorities for church affairs: the consistory for the Protestant and a commission for the Catholic church system, under which there were 15 Protestant and 7 Catholic parishes. The state rabbi had his seat in Hoppstädten. In 1858, the population of the principality consisted of 25,858 Uniates, 764 Lutherans, 89 Reformed, 8027 Catholics, 27 other Christians and 722 Israelites. The originally separate Protestant churches (Reformed and Lutherans) of the principality united in 1843 to form a common Evangelical Church (Unierte).


Although Oldenburg, as a member of the German Confederation , was obliged to provide soldiers, all military service was initially waived in the Principality of Birkenfeld . When the July Revolution of 1830 threatened the possibility of a clash with France, the Bundestag reminded the federal states of their obligation to bring their troops to the established level because of the danger of war. Then Grand Duke Paul Friedrich August introduced compulsory military service in the principality. The Birkenfeld contingent of the Oldenburg infantry consisted of a nominal 384 soldiers. They were given their location in Birkenfeld as the second reserve company of the second regiment and in 1842 they moved into the newly built barracks near the government district.

All men capable of weapons became conscripted at the age of twenty. The service obligation was set for six years. Every year the sixth part, 64 men, of the team was drawn and drafted for one year of service; Of these, 32 men each served for six and eight months in peacetime. The rest were given leave of absence.

The troops caused a sensation in the German Confederation in 1848 when they refused to go to the Schleswig-Holstein War with the Oldenburg contingent . There was an open mutiny , and the population supported the soldiers with an address written on March 9, 1848 at a meeting in Niederbrombach to the Grand Duke to withdraw the marching orders.

Grand Duke Paul Friedrich August dissolved the reserve company in Birkenfeld. He formed a fifth light Oldenburg line battalion with a strength of 600 men and four companies and stationed it in Birkenfeld. This battalion had to be dissolved again in 1850 because the general state parliament refused to approve the reorganization.

The old reserve association from 1830 was restored, but the principality's conscripts were now hired as recruits in Oldenburg. After their first training they returned to Birkenfeld to do the rest of their service time in the local troops, the Birkenfeld department .

With the military convention concluded between Oldenburg and Prussia on July 15, 1867 , the principality lost its own military and the city of Birkenfeld its garrison. On November 1, 1867, the Birkenfeld troops were disbanded.

The principality has terms of recruiting the Landwehr District Saarlouis , soon after assigned to St. Wendel and the recruits the Rhine Prussian assigned regiments.

School system

The school system set up by Oldenburg officials was outstanding in the German states in terms of teacher / pupil quota, teaching content, teacher pay and school attendance between 1840 and 1848. Simultaneous schools and interdenominational religious instruction were a matter of course; other German states needed almost 100 years for this development. Between 1817 and 1848 alone, over 60 new school buildings were built in the principality. The school system was directed by a special school commission in which the two main denominations had their representatives. In 1855 there were two higher schools in the Principality of Birkenfeld: the “higher education institution” (Progymnasium) in Birkenfeld with five teachers and the “higher middle school” in Idar with four teachers. At the same time there were 82 elementary schools (Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and mixed) with 106 teachers and 7 teachers for needlework. The number of students was 5388 (4273 Protestant, 943 Catholic and 172 Jewish).

Cadastral and infrastructure

The Oldenburg-Birkenfeld cadastre was based on modern legislation from the years 1824 and 1842. This cadastre was far superior to the Rhenish-Prussian and the Palatinate-Bavarian cadastre of the neighboring countries in terms of accuracy and marking .

The infrastructure was continuously improved through extensive road construction and targeted support for agriculture , forestry , arable farming and cattle breeding . In particular, the district president Laurenz Hannibal Fischer , who was later expelled from the population, stood out: he experimented with new cultivation methods and products and set up a test farm between Niederbrombach and Kronweiler , the Fischerhof named after him . Nevertheless, the consequences of the Little Ice Age (1816: year without summer ) led to several bad harvests, which considerably increased the pressure to emigrate from the area, especially in the early years of the Oldenburg rule.

Revolution year 1848

In the neighboring Coburg Principality of Lichtenberg , popular uprisings occurred as early as 1832 during the Hambach Festival , which led to the deployment of Prussian troops called for help , especially in St. Wendel . As a result, the Coburgs lost the last remains of trust among the population and then sold the area with the stubborn population south of the Nahe to Prussia.

In the Principality of Birkenfeld things remained quiet at the time. It was not until March 1848 that revolutionary uprisings broke out in the principality, the cause of which lay not least in the authoritarian behavior of District President Fischer, which was contrary to the mentality of the local population. Beyond the general annoyance with Fischer, there were two opposing currents in the principality: on the one hand the Oldenburg-loyal party of order with a focus in and around the residential city of Birkenfeld, on the other hand the Los-von-Oldenburg movement from the Idar and Oberstein area . The last group was formed by the Idar and Oberstein bourgeoisie (the gemstone dealers and manufacturers) as well as the local proletariat, since the long outdated small states represented a major obstacle for the supraregional to internationally oriented traders and the dependent workers in the jewelry industry. In the Principality of Birkenfeld, for example, the largest revolutionary demonstrations in the entire Grand Duchy of Oldenburg took place. B. in the centrally located Niederbrombach up to 4000 people appeared.

Ultimately, the demonstrators achieved the resignation of the unloved district president Fischer and the formation of a provincial council (after 1900: state committee) in the principality, which, however, only had an advisory role to the government in Birkenfeld. The formation of a state parliament in Oldenburg , which was also achieved, had no real impact in the Principality of Birkenfeld, as the Birkenfelds formed a minority there. Nevertheless, the Oldenburg state constitution of 1852, which followed the revolutionary turmoil, was comparatively liberal and progressive, as it was based on French law and guaranteed the equality of all people before the law. There was a relative freedom of the press, religious freedom and equality of the various religions (Protestant, Catholic and Jewish residents) was guaranteed. This made the Principality of Birkenfeld, besides Luxembourg, the only federal state that did not impede the integration of Jews into civil society by law. There was no politically motivated jurisprudence or repression in the principality.

The usual militarization of public life in Prussia with strict gendarmes and an all-dominating military was alien to the inhabitants of the Principality of Birkenfeld.

French occupation, the Birkenfeld republic and the rise of the NSDAP

Coat of arms of the Birkenfeld region

After signing the armistice at the end of the First World War, Grand Duke Friedrich August von Oldenburg renounced his crown and the government over Oldenburg. The Free State of Oldenburg took the place of the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg as a parliamentary democracy. The Oldenburg enclaves Lübeck and Birkenfeld were initially referred to as “province”, later as “part of the country”. The Birkenfeld area was occupied by French troops under Major Bastiani as military administrator. The French policy of occupation was not very considerate and the period of occupation was a time of want and need.

The occupation forces used various means of repression, e.g. B. the declaration of the state of siege against the population and supported separatist efforts of individuals. On July 14, 1919, on the French national holiday, the incumbent district president was deposed in Birkenfeld and the "Birkenfeld Republic" was proclaimed. Under massive pressure from the population, elections had to be held, which ended in a devastating defeat for the supporters of the Birkenfeld republic and thus sealed their fate. On November 7, 1919, the state committee (formerly provincial councilor) unanimously elected the Idar lawyer Walther Dörr , who had been a left-liberal member of the state parliament for several years in the Oldenburg state parliament.

Already during the Ruhrkampf in 1923 a new attempt at separation followed and the formation of a " Rhenish Republic ", which in the Birkenfeld part of the country was mainly carried out by strangers under the protection of the French troops who declared an intensified state of siege. Those responsible up to now, including the District President Dörr, were expelled from the country on October 24, 1923. In Idar, on November 11, 1923, angry citizens stormed the Idar town hall, which was occupied by the separatists, and there were dead and injured on both sides. The French military government then intensified the state of siege, but ultimately had to give up all support efforts for France-friendly secession efforts. The occupation troops did not withdraw until 1930.

At that time, the NSDAP was already forming in the Birkenfeld region behind Herbert Wild , an Idar gemstone merchant who joined the party in 1928 . Apart from the predominantly social democratic or communist Oberstein and the Catholic communities in the north and west of the territory, which are close to the Center Party, the NSDAP found overwhelming support. The polarization of the political landscape initially led to bloody clashes among supporters of the various parties (1928 in Niederwörresbach and Oberstein ). Since the local police forces from the gendarmerie and municipal police were insufficient to guarantee public safety and order, the Idar-Oberstein district department of the Oldenburg order police was formed in 1931 , which was only dissolved again in 1935. It consisted of around 15 officers led by a police officer. The NSDAP won clear majorities and during his election to Germany, Adolf Hitler spoke to a huge crowd on May 20, 1932 in Idar on the Klotz sports field. In the elections to the Oldenburg state parliament, the NSDAP won so clearly that it could form the government on its own. In Idar alone, the NSDAP received 70 percent of the votes cast. The incumbent District President Dörr was pushed out of office with flimsy justifications and NSDAP District Leader Herbert Wild took over the office of District President, for which the law even had to be changed afterwards because Wild was not a fully qualified lawyer - as required by law.

Transition to Prussia and reorganization after the Second World War

The National Socialists restructured Germany. With the Greater Hamburg Law , the Oldenburg region of Birkenfeld was dissolved with effect from April 1, 1937, and became part of the Rhenish administrative district of Koblenz as the "District of Birkenfeld" . Today, the former offices of Birkenfeld and Oberstein belong to the Birkenfeld district in Rhineland-Palatinate , with the exception of Kirnsulzbach, which is incorporated into Kirn. Most of the municipalities of the former Nohfelden office are now part of the Saarland .

District President from 1817 to 1937

Municipalities of the Principality of Birkenfeld according to the administrative structure of 1817

Office Birkenfeld

Mayor's office Birkenfeld

Mayor's office Leisel

Niederbrombach mayor's office


Nohfelden office

Mayor's office in Achtelsbach

Mayor's office Neunkirchen

Mayor's office Nohfelden

Office Oberstein

Fischbach Mayor's Office

Herrstein Mayor's Office

Oberstein Mayor's Office


See also


  • Heinrich Baldes: The centenary history of the Principality of Birkenfeld: for the centenary in 1917 . Fillmann, Birkenfeld 1921 ( online edition at dilibri ).
  • H. Peter Brandt: Monumental and social reminiscences in the former Oldenburg region of Birkenfeld . In: Jörgen Welp (Red.): Dedicated to the well-being of Oldenburg: Aspects of the cultural and social work of the House of Oldenburg, 1773–1918 (= publications of the Oldenburg landscape . Vol. 9). Published by the Oldenburg landscape, Isensee, Oldenburg 2004, ISBN 3-89995-142-5 , p. 61 ff.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Heinrich Baldes: The hundred-year history of the Principality of Birkenfeld: for the celebration of the century 1917, Birkenfeld 1921, p. 15ff.
  2. ^ Union certificate for the two Protestant churches in the Principality of Birkenfeld. Birkenfeld, 1843. Available from Google Books
  3. Ursula Homann: Jews in Rhineland-Palatinate , Tribüne , Journal for Understanding Judaism, Volume 39, Issue 153, 1st Quarter 2000.
  4. Kurt Hoppstädter: Territorial- und Verwaltungsgeschichte des Kreis St. Wendel, in: Der Landkreis St. Wendel, Past and Present, 1968, p. 113.