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In Germany and Austria, a guild is the professional representation of the interests of people who work in a professional group of the craft . It is organized on a local or regional level, mostly for a city or a district . In it, self- employed craftsmen of the same or similar craft come together to promote their common business interests. Guilds are the successors of the guilds .


Seal of the General Trade Guild of Ebersbach i. S.

After the establishment of the German Empire (1871), numerous guilds emerged in Germany. After the seizure of the Nazi regime , they were - as in 1935 - into line: they were dependent part of the associations RIV ( Empire Guild Association ).

Membership in a German guild is voluntary; however, membership in the Chamber of Crafts is compulsory for craftsmen . There are currently around 7,000 different guilds in Germany.

The main tasks of the guild according to the handicrafts code (law on the order of the handicrafts) are:

  • Promote the common commercial interests of its members
  • Cultivating the community spirit and professional honor as well as promoting a good relationship between masters, journeymen and apprentices
  • Formation of examination committees and acceptance of journeyman's examinations in accordance with Section 33 of the Crafts Code on behalf of the Chamber of Crafts.
  • Promotion of the craftsmanship of masters and journeymen (e.g. through technical schools or courses)
  • Preparation of expert reports and information on matters relating to the trades organized in it
  • Mediation in disputes between members and their clients.

The legal form of the guild is that of a corporation under public law . They are under the legal supervision of the respective chambers of crafts .

The guilds of a city or county, or within another approved by the competent Chamber range form the Kreishandwerkerschaft . Guilds that do not set up their own office can transfer the management of the respective responsible district craftsmen.

The chief executive officer of the guild is the head master , whose deputy is the deputy. Chief master. Another important function in the guild and its board of directors is the education officer (formerly the apprentice warden). It acts as a problem-solving link between the apprentices / trainees and the training companies of a trade. A guild forms numerous committees, such as B. the journeyman's examination committee, which regulates the entire journeyman's examination system in the respective guild area, or the vocational training committee, which has a say in the policy on educational issues of a certain trade. There is also an advisory board, which is to serve as a competent point of contact for all technical questions, an economic committee and various (dispute) arbitration committees.

The guilds of one or more federal states and a craft can join together to form state guild associations; at their head is the state guild master. These associations are legal persons under private law and usually have the legal form of a registered association . The umbrella organizations of the guilds at federal level are the federal guild associations or central specialist associations, which can be formed by merging guilds and possibly existing state guild associations. The Entrepreneurs 'Association of German Crafts (UDH), as an amalgamation of the central specialist associations, is the nationwide employers' association of the craft in Germany (see also German Chamber of Crafts ).


Guild is in Austria a different name for the specialized sections of the division trades and crafts of the Chambers of Commerce . In Austria, membership in the relevant specialist group (guild) is compulsory . Here, too, the legal form of the guild is that of a corporation under public law .

See also

Web links

Commons : Guilds  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Saxon Guild Act of 1780  - Sources and full texts


  1. Law on the Ordinance of the Crafts (Handwerksordnung) from 1953 (PDF; 222 kB)