District-free city

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A district-free city ( referred to as Stadtkreis in Baden-Württemberg ; formerly also known as a district- direct city in Bavaria ) is a local authority . In addition to the own and transferred sphere of activity of a municipality and a district, it also handles the tasks of the lower state administrative authority on behalf of the state in its own responsibility. To put it simply, an independent city does not belong to a district, but fulfills its tasks itself.

The opposite is the district church .

In the area of ​​general and internal administration, the urban area of ​​an independent city in Germany is thus state-free ( full communalization ). The mayor of an independent city is at least at the same hierarchical level as a district administrator . There are cities with a comparable status in many other countries.

As a rule, these are large cities - i.e. cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants - or larger medium-sized cities . However, in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia there are also large cities that are not district-free, and in contrast, in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate and Thuringia there are independent cities that have fewer than 60,000 inhabitants. Occasionally one also comes across the special case that municipalities belonging to a district “only” take on part of the tasks of a district (for example the large district towns ).

The smallest independent city in Germany is Zweibrücken in Rhineland-Palatinate with around 34,000 inhabitants (end of 2017), the largest is the Bavarian capital Munich with more than 1.45 million inhabitants (end of 2017). Berlin and Hamburg are larger, but special cases of independent cities, so-called city - states . The state of Bremen , on the other hand, consists of two independent cities, namely the municipality of Bremen and the municipality of Bremerhaven located approx. 60 km to the north .

Independent cities and immediate cities have a comparable legal status. In Prussia, until the city ​​order of 1808, cities that had no council based on a council constitution but were directly subordinate to the sovereign, who was also the city lord, were called immediate cities.


Triangle with the federal government at the top, including in layers the federal states, optional administrative districts, (rural) districts, optional municipal associations and municipalities.  The strict stratification is broken up by city-states and district-free cities, which perform tasks of several strata.Bund Bundesländer/Flächenländer Bundesländer/Stadtstaaten (Regierungsbezirke) (Land-)Kreise Gemeindeverbände (Gemeindeverbandsangehörige/Kreisangehörige Gemeinden) (Gemeindeverbandsfreie) Kreisangehörige Gemeinden Kreisfreie Städte
Vertical state structure of Germany
Counties in Germany. Independent cities marked in yellow.
Political division of Germany into states , administrative districts , (rural) districts and independent cities

In the Federal Republic of Germany only two independent cities were initially established: Wolfsburg on October 1, 1951 and Leverkusen on April 1, 1955. In contrast, the urban district of Konstanz voluntarily incorporated into the district of the same name on October 1, 1953 . In the course of the regional reforms in the 1970s, many independent cities were either incorporated into the neighboring districts, for example Cuxhaven , Freising , Fulda , Gladbeck , Hildesheim , Neu-Ulm , Siegen and Witten , or united with a neighboring city, for example Rheydt , Wanne -Eickel and Wattenscheid . A new approach was tried out in Saarland. On January 1, 1974, the state capital of Saarbrücken was incorporated into a new surrounding area, which also included the previous district of Saarbrücken . This was the hour of birth of the Saarbrücken City Association , the first new kind of municipal association in Germany. On January 1, 2008, this city association was renamed the Saarbrücken Regional Association .

In Lower Saxony you went a slightly different way than in the Saarland: The state capital Hanover was in the newly created on 1 November 2001 Region Hannover incorporated but retained most part its status as an independent city. To find them according to Section 15, Paragraph 2 of the Lower Saxony Municipal Constitutional Law applies the regulations applicable to independent cities, unless otherwise stipulated by law. This makes the Hanover region the second special kind of local authority association in Germany. Like the Saarbrücken Regional Association, it is also a member of the German District Association .

A regional model is also being tested in North Rhine-Westphalia . On October 21, 2009, the Aachen city region was formed as the third special kind of municipal association in Germany as the legal successor to the Aachen district. It also includes the city of Aachen , which in accordance with the Aachen Law of 2008 largely continues to have the legal status of an independent city, but is often no longer listed as such in district statistics for systematic reasons.

After the reunification of Germany there were plans in the eastern states for the reorganization of municipalities and districts. While in Brandenburg the cities of Eisenhüttenstadt and Schwedt / Oder were incorporated into the new districts surrounding them on December 6, 1993, in Saxony and Thuringia the opposite route was taken and two cities were released from the district to which they previously belonged: Hoyerswerda became the 1 January 1996, Eisenach as of January 1, 1998 independent. The cities of Görlitz , Hoyerswerda, Plauen and Zwickau lost their district freedom on August 1, 2008 on the occasion of the district reform in Saxony . The country Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has in September 2011, all county-level cities except Rostock and Schwerin incorporated into the surrounding new circles.

Historical overview

The historical overview shows the designation for the independent cities in the countries of the German Reich in 1938.

country designation Remarks
Stop Urban district
to bathe - The seven city districts belonged to the administrative districts of the same name, Baden-Baden to the administrative district of Rastatt. They weren't a circle.
Bavaria City in the immediate vicinity The name means city ​​in the immediate vicinity of the administrative district, i.e. directly subordinate to the administrative district . Only the immediate cities with more than 20,000 inhabitants and the city of Rosenheim were urban districts.
Braunschweig - The city of Braunschweig formed an urban district that belonged to the Braunschweig district. On April 1, 1925, the city of Braunschweig left the Braunschweig district.
Bremen city
Hamburg city
Hesse Urban district
lip -
Mecklenburg Independent municipality Neubrandenburg was an independent city district, but not a city district.
Oldenburg city
Prussia Urban district The generic term for all urban and rural districts is district .
Saarland Urban district The generic term for all urban and rural districts is district .
Saxony District-free city
Schaumburg-Lippe -
Thuringia Urban district Zella-Mehlis was an independent city, but not an urban district.
Württemberg Urban district The city ​​of Stuttgart did not belong to any Oberamt, from 1934 a district. Seven other city districts belonged to the districts of the same name, Schwenningen to the Rottweil district. These were not circle-free.

With effect from January 1, 1939, the name Stadtkreis was defined uniformly for the German Reich . Only in Mecklenburg was it called an independent city district .

Historical development


When Prussia was divided into districts in 1816 , the provincial capitals of Breslau , Gdansk , Cologne , Königsberg , Magdeburg , Münster , Posen , Potsdam and Stettin were placed under the direct control of the provincial government as immediate cities, but not the provincial capital Coblenz , which only achieved this status in 1887. Aachen , Düsseldorf , Erfurt , Halle , Minden and Trier also became independent. Minden lost its district freedom in 1817, as did Düsseldorf and Erfurt in 1820, which were reintegrated into the respective districts.

After the annexation of the Kingdom of Hanover , the Electorate of Hesse-Kassel , the Duchy of Nassau and the Free City of Frankfurt in 1866, the former capitals of these states, Hanover , Kassel , Wiesbaden and Frankfurt am Main , were taken over as immediate cities .

Due to the strong growth of the cities as a result of industrialization, the call to the Prussian government for a reorganization of the districts and the formation of immediate cities became louder. Were Barmen and Elberfeld (both today Wuppertal ) have been characterized, which were 1,861 Immediatstädte on June 1, even on an exceptional basis, the government in 1872 had formally approve the formation of new Immediatstädten. Erfurt (January 1, 1872), Düsseldorf (April 20, 1872) and Krefeld (October 14, 1872) were the first cities to benefit from this new regulation. On July 1, 1873, Görlitz , and in 1874, Duisburg (on January 28), Elbing , Liegnitz (on January 1) and Stralsund became new immediate cities. From April 1, 1887, the previous immediate cities received the new designation city ​​districts .

From 1875 a population of more than 30,000 was a prerequisite for the formation of immediate cities. In some cases, such as Hamborn , on May 1, 1911, a municipality that had grown rapidly to more than 100,000 inhabitants became an urban district. On August 1, 1929, this was combined with Duisburg to form the Duisburg-Hamborn district.


Originally, only the three district capitals Dresden , Leipzig and Chemnitz were excluded from the division into administrative authorities as immediate cities. However, when the city of Plauen grew into a large city with over 100,000 inhabitants around 1904, the Saxon government had to react and in 1907 also granted the fourth largest Saxon city of Plauen and the fifth largest Saxon city of Zwickau the privilege of district freedom.

The social democratic government in office since 1919 was much more open to the cities' desire for district freedom and granted it to the cities of Bautzen , Freiberg , Meißen and Zittau in 1922 , and then to many other cities in 1924 (including Döbeln , Freital , Mittweida , Pirna and Riesa ) the privilege of freedom of circle. The city of Radebeul was raised to the status of a district in 1935 as the last Saxon city after it had reached the required number of 30,000 inhabitants through the merger with the city of Kötzschenbroda.

The cities of Görlitz (district from 1873 to 2008) and Hoyerswerda (district from 1996 to 2008) belonged to the Prussian province of Lower Silesia until 1945 .


In Bavaria, all mediatized free imperial cities were first placed directly in the district, as were the former residential cities and the bishops' seats. Therefore, until 1972 there were a particularly large number of medium- sized and even small towns in the immediate vicinity . The cities circled in 1972, with their replacement legal status as large district towns, continue to have a historically determined status that is often not assigned to other cities of their size.

With the Bavarian names it must be noted that until the end of 1938 today's administrative districts were referred to as districts and today's districts as districts. This system also included the name “urban districts” for today's independent cities.

Completely independent of the administrative districts (formerly: districts) and the administrative districts (formerly: districts) are the administrative districts of the same area as the administrative districts . These districts are not in a superordinate or subordinate relationship to the urban districts (urban districts), but follow the principle of separation of duties.

Remaining German states

In addition to the state capital Oldenburg (Oldb.) , The Grand Duchy of Oldenburg also granted the cities of Jever (1855), Varel (1858), Delmenhorst (1903) and Rüstringen (1911), which was united with Wilhelmshaven in 1937 , the privilege of district freedom.

The Free States of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Thuringia introduced the system of urban and rural districts common in Prussia when they were reorganized between the years 1920 to 1922. After the unification of the two Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz Free States in 1934, the two Strelitz towns of Neubrandenburg and Neustrelitz were taken over as urban districts, but the other Strelitz towns were incorporated into the Stargard district.

Baden , Hesse-Darmstadt and Württemberg knew until the administrative reform in 1938 with the exception of the Wuerttemberg state capital Stuttgart no city circles.

In the Free State of Braunschweig , the city of Braunschweig was not part of the Braunschweig district with regard to the municipal administration, but as part of the state administration it was subordinate to the Braunschweig district directorate . In the new town order of November 15, 1924, which came into force on April 1, 1925, the state capital Braunschweig was granted the status of a city and left the Braunschweig district .

In the Principality of Lippe , the previous offices were merged in 1879 to form the 5 administrative offices Detmold, Administrative Office Lipperode-Cappel , Blomberg, Brake and Schötmar. The towns of Detmold, Horn, Lage, Blomberg, the spots of Schwalenberg (in 1906 Schwalenberg was given the name town), Barntrup, Lemgo and Salzuflen were free of office. They did not belong to the previous offices. Likewise, they did not belong to the administrative offices. In the Free State of Lippe , Schötmar in 1921 and Oerlinghausen were granted freedom of office on April 1, 1926. The District Office Detmold was formed by the Lippe Municipal Constitutional Law of December 1, 1927, with effect from April 1, 1928 through the merger of the administrative offices of Detmold and Lipperode-Cappel . The other administrative offices became the district offices of Blomberg , Brake and Schötmar and thus comparable to rural districts. The cities of Detmold , Horn, Lage, Blomberg , Schwalenberg , Lemgo , Barntrup , Bad Salzuflen , Schötmar and Oerlinghausen remained vacant. Since they did not belong to the district offices, they corresponded to urban districts. With effect from April 1, 1932, the district offices of Detmold and Blomberg and the previously unofficial towns of Blomberg, Schwalenberg, Lage and Horn were merged to form the district of Detmold and the district offices of Brake and Schötmar and the previously unofficial towns of Barntrup, Schötmar and Oerlinghausen to form the Lemgo district. The independent cities of Detmold, Lemgo and Bad Salzuflen existed until 1934. On April 1, 1934, Detmold was incorporated into the Detmold district and Lemgo and Bad Salzuflen into the Lemgo district (see list of urban and urban districts in Germany ).

In Schaumburg-Lippe, when the country was divided into the 4 offices on January 15, 1816, Bückeburg, Arensburg, Stadthagen and Hagenburg, the royal seat of Bückeburg and Stadthagen as an independent city were not part of the offices of Bückeburg and Stadthagen. Even when the offices were merged into the two offices of Bückeburg-Arensburg and Stadthagen-Hagenburg on October 1, 1879, the two cities of Bückeburg and Stadthagen remained independent cities and did not belong to the offices. Even when the two offices were converted into the district administration districts of Bückeburg-Arensburg and Stadthagen-Hagenburg on December 31, 1884, the two cities of Bückeburg and Stadthagen remained independent cities that did not belong to the district administration districts. On March 25, 1899, the two independent cities of Bückeburg and Stadthagen became independent cities, and the two districts of Bückeburg-Arensburg and Stadthagen-Hagenburg became the two districts of Bückeburg and Stadthagen . On April 1, 1934, the two independent cities of Bückeburg, the district of Bückeburg and Stadthagen were incorporated into the district of Stadthagen (see Schaumburg-Lippe and the list of urban and urban districts in Germany ).

German municipal code from 1935

The German municipal code of 1935 introduced the term “Stadtkreis” anew. In the “First Ordinance for the Implementation of the German Municipal Code” of March 23, 1935, all urban districts were listed, sorted by country. In 1942 there was a supplement to this. It must be taken into account that these urban districts, with the exception of those in the state of Prussia, are not urban districts in the current sense. They were more likely to be compared with “district towns with special status”, such as large district towns .

German Democratic Republic

While urban districts were still established in the GDR in the first years of the Soviet occupation (for example Schönebeck (Elbe) in 1946), the administrative reforms carried out in 1950 and 1952 eliminated the majority of the historically grown urban districts.

However, new urban districts were also formed in the GDR. For example, Johanngeorgenstadt was a district from 1951 to 1957; because the uranium mining had increased the number of inhabitants to over 40,000. After 1957 it sank again. It was a similar experience for Schneeberg , which formed a district from 1951 to 1958. The newly built Stalinstadt (today Eisenhüttenstadt ) was elevated to a district by the GDR government in 1953. Schwedt (Oder) (1961) and Suhl (1967) were also among the cities that became urban districts because of their political and economic importance. The Halle-Neustadt housing estate was declared an independent urban district on May 12, 1967, detached from Halle (Saale) , but reintegrated into the city of Halle on May 6, 1990.

According to the provisions of the “Law on the Self-Administration of Municipalities and Districts in the GDR (Municipal Constitution)” of May 17, 1990, municipalities that are not part of the district are for the first time no longer referred to as “urban districts”, but solely as “urban districts”.


Also, Poland is among the countries, in which a distinction between counties and urban districts. Some cities were raised to the status of a city district in the German Empire ( Bromberg 1875, Graudenz and Thorn 1900) or a statutory city during their membership of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy ( e.g. Bielitz ). Other cities were only declared urban districts by the newly founded Polish Republic after 1918, such as Gniezno (1925), Inowrocław (1925) and Kalisz (1929).

United States

In the United States there is also the concept of an independent city under the designation independent city . Since 1871, all major cities in Virginia have been independent by law, but there are also independent cities in other states , such as Baltimore in Maryland or St. Louis in Missouri .

A similar situation is in the in the US somewhat more common construct of the consolidated city-county where the spatial delineation matches, but City (city) and county (county) as legally structured separate institutions exist. As a result, additional cities may occasionally exist within the "consolidated" county , for example in Duval County (Florida).

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Immediatstadt  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. NKomVG
  2. Example from the official statistics of North Rhine-Westphalia ( Memento of the original from April 20, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.it.nrw.de
  3. Statistical Yearbook 1938
  4. ↑ City Chronicle Braunschweig
  5. Statistical Yearbook 1941/42
  6. Evidence on territorial.de
  7. Dirk Götschmann : The district direct city in the Kingdom of Bavaria , Journal for Bavarian State History, Volume 73 (201), page 497ff
  8. para. 16 Becker, In Becker / Heckmann / Kempen / Manssen: Public Law in Bavaria
  9. ↑ City Chronicle Braunschweig
  10. Outline of German administrative history 1815-1945, Reieh B: ed. by Thomas Klein, Volume 16: Central Germany (Smaller Countries), Marburg 1981
  11. Office and responsibility. Carrier of the local self-government in the area of ​​activity of the Braunschweig landscape. Ed. von Brage bei der Wieden and Henning Steinführer. Braunschweig 2015, p. 571
  12. ^ Administrative division of the state of Braunschweig Lower Saxony State Archives, Wolfenbüttel location
  13. ^ Stephanie Reekers: The regional development of the districts and communities of Westphalia 1817-1967. Aschendorff, Münster Westfalen 1977, ISBN 3-402-05875-8 , p. 349
  14. ^ Stephanie Reekers: The regional development of the districts and municipalities of Westphalia 1817-1967 p. 350
  15. ^ Stephanie Reekers: The regional development of the districts and communities of Westphalia 1817-1967 p. 351 f.
  16. ^ Stephanie Reekers: The regional development of the district and municipalities of Westphalia 1817-1967 p. 353 f.
  17. Stephanie Reekers: The regional development of the districts and communities of Westphalia 1817-1967 p. 354 f.
  18. Stephanie Reekers: The regional development of the districts and communities of Westphalia 1817-1967 p. 184
  19. Stephanie Reekers: The regional development of the districts and communities of Westphalia 1817-1967 p. 184
  20. Stephanie Reekers: The regional development of the districts and communities of Westphalia 1817-1967 p. 184
  21. ^ Administrative division of Schaumburg-Lippe, Lower Saxony State Archives
  22. Law on the self-administration of municipalities and districts in the GDR (municipal constitution) of May 17, 1990