from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Districts or administrative districts in Germany, independent cities (called Stadtkreis in Baden-Württemberg) are marked in yellow.

A district (abbreviated Luke , distr , Lkrs or Landkrs. ) Or county (abbreviated Kr ) is under German municipal law , a community association and a local authority . He administers his area according to the principles of local self-government . Most countries use the term county . In North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein , however, the name is district . The Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany only knows the designation circle , z. B. in Art. 28 para. 1 sentence 2. There are no districts in the city-states of Berlin , Bremen and Hamburg .

District Administrator and District Council

Political organization of Germany

Organs of the circle are

  1. Kreistag , the people's representation of the district, which is elected every five (in Bavaria every six) years,
  2. District administrator , depending on the country as chairman of the district council or the district committee and head of the district administration
  3. District Committee (in some countries).


An authority (district office, district administration , district building , etc.) has been set up at its seat (in the district town ) to administer the district . The district administrator has his office here. In addition to the municipal tasks, the latter also performs tasks of the lower state administrative authority “as an extended arm of the state” ( lending body ). In the case of full communalization , these tasks are not carried out by the district administrator and district office as a lower state administrative authority, but as a task assigned by the district itself. He carries out general supervision and special supervision over the municipalities belonging to the district. For example, he can also be the head of the education authority or the district police authority. To cover their financial needs, the districts levy a district levy from the communities belonging to the district and, depending on the specific design in the individual countries, receive financial allocations as part of the municipal financial equalization scheme .


The district and the municipalities belonging to the district are in a close partnership. They share the execution of those tasks that are performed by an independent city alone. Due to the number of inhabitants and the associated differences in performance, larger municipalities belonging to the district also carry out tasks that the district performs for smaller municipalities. The district then takes on a task when the capacity of the community is insufficient or financial compensation is necessary to create equivalent living conditions in the district, but also when uniform handling across community boundaries is required.

It grants benefits in accordance with Book XII of the Social Code (social assistance) , organizes local public transport , sets up nature and landscape protection areas and maintains them. He takes care of the waste disposal . He is responsible for rescue services and fire and disaster control , health and food monitoring . Further tasks are the control of animal diseases and animal welfare , the driving license system , the vehicle registration as well as the construction and maintenance of the district roads . It is responsible for the vocational schools and the special schools . In some federal states he is responsible for the management of the real estate cadastre and in this context can carry out measurements on properties and buildings. He operates local family policy . For smaller communities he takes the youth care, care and education is true and Bauaufsichts authority.


All districts or districts in Germany are divided into several (district) communities . The number of municipalities per district and their administrative structure is very different and ranges from six ( unitary ) municipalities in the district of Ammerland ( Lower Saxony ) to 235 municipalities (in seven associated municipalities and one city) in the Eifel district of Bitburg-Prüm ( Rhineland-Palatinate ).

Special terms

Some municipalities belonging to a district may have special names that they have received due to their history or size, examples: city , market , town , mountain town, etc. Names of this type are often irrelevant under administrative law.

Some cities belonging to the district receive a special administrative status in different countries due to their population size, which is connected with the transfer of further tasks. This happens differently from country to country on application or ex officio as soon as the prescribed number of inhabitants is reached. The threshold is also set differently in the countries. In Baden-Württemberg it is 20,000, in Hesse 50,000, in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate 25,000 and 60,000 inhabitants respectively. These special status cities remain part of the district, but then have a special designation, e.g. B. Mittelstadt , Large District Town , Large Independent City , Medium District City or Large District City .

The title of "large district town", which exists in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Saxony, is given to large cities belonging to the district, which have a minimum number of inhabitants set by the respective federal state and which take on certain special administrative tasks that distinguish them from other cities in the district. This often applies to the district towns themselves, such as in Saxony, where all ten towns with a district seat are also large district towns. Furthermore, this often applies to former urban districts or former district towns that have lost their district seat as a result of the amalgamation of districts. Accordingly, there can be districts such as the Hohenlohekreis , in which Künzelsau as a district seat does not have the 20,000 inhabitants required in Baden-Württemberg to be a major district town. The only major district town in this district is Öhringen .

Associations of municipalities below the district level

Not all communities have their own administration (“unitary community”). Many work together in administrative cooperations to carry out their administrative business . These have different names, characteristics and competencies depending on the federal state.

One district cities

Independent cities do not belong to any district. In Baden-Württemberg they are referred to as city ​​districts .

On July 4, 1964, the city of Göttingen was considerably enlarged by incorporating neighboring communities. However, these communities were particularly important to the survival of the district . So it was decided to incorporate Göttingen, which had become a large city, into the district, but to give it special rights as a city that was not a district.

On July 1, 1966, the city of Siegen was considerably enlarged by integrating neighboring communities. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia based itself on the example of Göttingen. The city was incorporated into the district of Siegen and received special rights that otherwise only independent cities are entitled to. On January 1, 1975, it was considerably enlarged and became a large city, but at this point in time several large cities were formed that belonged to districts or lost their district freedom. Since Siegen was no longer a special case, the city lost its special rights.

On January 1, 1974, the state capital of Saarbrücken was merged with the district of Saarbrücken to form a new administrative unit, the Saarbrücken City Association . However, the city did not receive any special rights.

On November 1, 2001, the state capital Hanover and the surrounding area were organizationally merged in the Hanover region . In it, the communities of the former district of Hanover and the city of Hanover were combined. Hanover retained many rights as an independent city.

On October 21, 2009, a similar merger between the independent city of Aachen and the district of the same name to form the city ​​region of Aachen was legally prescribed. The city of Aachen retained a number of rights as an independent city.


For the purpose of coordination and the representation of political interests, all 294 districts are united in 13 regional associations and at the federal level in the German District Association (DLT) . This represents 74% of the transport authorities, 68% of the population and 96% of the area of ​​Germany.


Administrative units on the scale of today's rural districts were the counties in the Middle Ages , which became more and more independent due to the inheritance of the count's office and were involved in often armed conflicts over territories and succession regulations. Since the 16th century, the many principalities and free cities of the Holy Roman Empire were largely grouped together in imperial circles that had the dimensions of today's German states.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, administrative units were formed in the Margraviate of Brandenburg and other parts of Prussia, which were referred to as district councils . Among other things, they served the self-administration of tax collection from the manorial nobility and the population of the "flat country". The aristocracy resident in the district elected a member of the district administrator from among their number, who was appointed or confirmed by the sovereign. In addition to collecting the taxes and forwarding them to the war and domain chambers, the district administrators were also responsible for organizing the supply and accommodation of units marching through and distributing the burdens as fairly as possible among all district residents. Gradually, the district administrators were also used by the sovereign higher authorities to mediate and enforce orders and regulations of the central administration and as a collection point for statistical information from the district. From 1816 to 1818, districts were established as the lower state administration in the Prussian provinces (see history of district formation in Germany ), in the then Electorate of Hesse (from Rinteln to today's northern districts of Frankfurt am Main) in 1821, in most of the German ones States, however, did not exist until the mid-19th century until 1886.

The quality of the district as a municipal district was based on the ideas of the Prussian statesman Freiherr vom Stein . Based on the model of the city ​​order of 1808, self-government should also be introduced in rural areas. His proposal was only implemented in Prussia under the influence of Rudolf von Gneist's ideas in the 1880s, when the first district ordinances were issued (see district reforms in Prussia ), e.g. B. for the Prussian Province of Hanover in 1885, the Province of Hesse-Nassau in 1886, the Province of Westphalia and the Rhine Province in 1887.

In the course of the century, most of the other German states adopted the principle of district division, but in some cases with different names, e.g. B. Amtshauptmannschaft (Saxony), District Office (Baden, Bavaria), Oberamt (Württemberg), District Office (Anhalt, Hesse, Thuringia), Office (Oldenburg) and District Directorate (Braunschweig). In Prussia only the districts used the name Landkreis, the district seat of which was in a corresponding city district, so that the same place name did not lead to confusion. With Section 1 (3) of the Third Ordinance on the Rebuilding of the Reich of November 28, 1938 (RGBl. I, p. 1675), these administrative districts were given the designation Landkreis with effect from January 1, 1939 .

Up until the first half of the 20th century there were around 1,000 districts or corresponding administrative units at the lower level in the German Reich ; In principle, their size should be such that the district administrator could go there and back to the most distant municipality in his district in one day and there was still enough time for him to do his official business. However, the size of the districts was quite different from country to country. The areas in the sparsely populated north and east of Germany (Prussia, Mecklenburg, Saxony) tended to be significantly larger than in the more densely populated south and west. Due to savings measures in the wake of the Great Depression of 1929, the number of German districts decreased noticeably when a number of smaller administrative districts were dissolved.

In its judgment against the introduction of five great districts in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in 2007, the state constitutional court was also guided by the travel times: Districts must be designed in such a way that district council members are able to volunteer in the district council and in its committees. It is doubtful whether the MPs in the largest of the new great districts will be able to obtain their own knowledge of the conditions in remote areas in a reasonable time in order to decide whether a road should be built or a school or a museum should be built or closed.

Since the territorial reform in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in September 2011, of the 294 district seats in Germany (including the special forms in Saarbrücken, Hanover, Aachen), 78 go back to a district administration established in the old Prussian area before 1866 and 80 to Bavarian district offices.

Historical overview

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

country designation Remarks
Stop district
to bathe District 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 District Office
Braunschweig circle The city of Braunschweig formed an urban district that belonged to the Braunschweig district.
Bremen district
Hamburg - This administrative level was referred to as land rulership . The last one was dissolved in 1938.
The Prussian communities that were not independent were combined in the Hamburg district for one year.
Hesse circle
lip circle
Mecklenburg circle
Oldenburg Office
Prussia district The generic term for all urban and rural districts is district .
Saarland district The generic term for all urban and rural districts is district .
Saxony Office governance
Schaumburg-Lippe circle
Thuringia district
Württemberg circle Until 1934, the term Oberamt was used for this administrative level . The Oberamt in Stuttgart was called the Amtsoberamt .
Seven city districts belonged to the districts of the same name, Schwenningen to the Rottweil district. These were not circle-free.


The largest district in Germany in terms of area is the Mecklenburg Lake District in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania with an area of ​​5470.35 km². That is more than double the area of ​​the Saarland , which is only 2569.69 km² in size. The smallest district in terms of area is the Main-Taunus-Kreis in Hesse with an area of ​​222.39 km², so it is smaller in area than the directly adjacent independent city of Frankfurt am Main , which is 248.31 km² in size, and slightly larger than that Berlin's largest district in terms of area Treptow-Köpenick with 168.42 km².

The most populous and least populous districts in Germany were on December 31, 2016:

space Most populous counties Districts with the poorest population
1 Region Hannover ( NI ), local association of a special kind ,
1.2 million inhabitants
Lüchow-Dannenberg district (NI)
50,000 inhabitants
2 Recklinghausen district ( NW )
615,000 inhabitants
District of Sonneberg ( TH )
58,000 inhabitants
3 Rhein-Sieg district (NW) Wittmund District (NI)
4th City region Aachen (NW), local association of a special kind District Vulkaneifel ( RP )
5 Rhine-Neckar District ( BW ) District of Cochem-Zell (RP)
6th District of Ludwigsburg (BW) District Hildburghausen (TH)
7th Esslingen district (BW) District of Lichtenfels ( BY )
8th District of Mettmann (NW) District of Kronach (BY)
9 Rhein-Erft district (NW) District of Sömmerda (TH)
10 District Wesel (NW) District of Kusel (RP)

See also

Web links

Commons : Landkreise Deutschlands  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Landkreis  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. RGBl. I p. 1675 Third ordinance on the new building of the Reich §1 (3)
  2. ^ Judgment of the State Constitutional Court of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania of July 26, 2007 - LVerfG 9-17 / 06 -
  3. 1 in Baden-Württemberg, 14 in Brandenburg, 2 in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, 30 in North Rhine-Westphalia, 11 in Rhineland-Palatinate, 5 in Saarland, 2 in the Free State of Saxony, 9 in Saxony-Anhalt, 4 in Thuringia
  4. 71 in the Free State of Bavaria, 8 in Rhineland-Palatinate, 1 in Saarland
  5. Statistical Yearbook 1938