Northern Germany

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Northern Germany (colloquially often referred to as the north for short ) is a geographically not exactly defined area within the Federal Republic of Germany . Mostly one refers to areas that were originally shaped by the Low German language , colloquially called " Low German", and which are located in the North German lowlands .

In addition to the common language originally spoken here, North German identity relates to aspects of history, for example in connection with the Hanseatic League , to the mentality , to cultural and scenic similarities and often to the proximity to the sea, which is at least perceived as such. Within northern Germany, there are the subdivisions or transition areas to neighboring regions, the greater areas of Northwest Germany and Northeast Germany .

In addition to Bremen and Hamburg and the various regions of Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania , large parts of Lower Saxony and Westphalia as part of North Rhine-Westphalia as well as the Altmark and the Elbe - Havel angle in Saxony-Anhalt and northern Brandenburg with u. a. the Prignitz , the Uckermark and the Barnim are counted as part of Northern Germany.


middle Ages

For a long time, the areas of northern Germany were divided between different states . The exact areas and states involved depend on the definition of northern Germany used. One possibility of separating northern Germany from central Germany (and southern Germany) could be, for example, the language, another the affiliation to certain states or other units.

Many cities in northern Germany took part in the Hanseatic League, a city ​​association of the Middle Ages. However, the Hanseatic League also had members outside of the area that was then or now mostly understood as Northern Germany.

German Confederation

The German Confederation from 1815 to 1866. At times, in 1848/1849, the German Empire was a federal state in the making.

In the German Confederation (from 1815) there was a certain distinction between northern Germany and southern Germany in that the north was influenced or dominated by Prussia. In contrast, there were the states in southern Germany, above all the kingdoms of Bavaria and Württemberg as well as the Grand Duchy of Baden , and finally also the Empire of Austria . At that time, however, there was no clear distinction between which areas were considered "North German" and which were "Central German".

Clearly North German

The duchies of Holstein and Lauenburg were members of the German Confederation, the duchy of Schleswig was not. All three Elbe duchies had the Danish king as a duke and belonged to the entire Danish state .

The Erfurt Union, here in yellow, would have essentially become a north German federal state.

In the years from 1848 to 1851 the old order of the German Confederation was disrupted. An all-German Reich government replaced the old Bundestag. The constitution of the German Empire of March 1849 was recognized by 28 states in northern and central Germany as well as by Baden and finally also Württemberg.

Prussia or the Prussian king, however, rejected the imperial constitution. The king made his own attempt to unite Germany. His “ Erfurt Union ”, however, was only able to gain support from Hanover and Saxony at times . When the Union Parliament met in March 1850, both kingdoms had already renounced. Only Prussia, Baden and the small states in northern and central Germany were represented in parliament. At the end of 1850 Prussia had to give up the Union after it was put under pressure by Austria during the autumn crisis .

In the subsequent debates about federal reform , too , the idea of ​​dividing Germany into north and south came up again and again. For example, after the Italian War in 1859, Prussia suggested subordinating the federal army in the north to the Prussian king instead of appointing a general in the event of war . Austria and the middle states rejected such a division of the army because it would have prepared a general division of the German Confederation.

North German Confederation from 1867

North German Confederation from 1867. From 1871 it also included the southern German states of Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden and all of Hesse-Darmstadt.

The year 1866 marked a sharp turning point in the history of Germany: after the German War , the German Confederation was dissolved . In the Peace of Prague it was agreed that Prussia could found a federal state north of the river Main. Hence the Main Line , which is sometimes seen as the border between northern Germany and the rest of Germany or the northern border of southern Germany.

This federal state received its constitution on July 1, 1867, and in it the name North German Confederation. It had 22 northern and central German states north of the Main line as well as the Prussian area of ​​Hohenzollern in what is now Baden-Württemberg. The nationals of the member states became the nationals of the state, the "North Germans", as they were called in the constitution.

Development of the common state

The federal state has received new constitutions and names over the years: from 1871 the German Empire and from 1949 the Federal Republic of Germany. It is still the same state. Since then, there have been significant territorial changes with regard to Northern Germany:

The end of the First World War marked a turning point within the German state, insofar as the princes abdicated. The area changes in northern Germany were rather minor. In 1937, for example, the National Socialist regime combined some areas with the Greater Hamburg Law , especially in northern Germany. Especially after the Second World War, the structure of the member states changed: Prussia was dissolved, so that today's federal states such as Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony emerged on its former territory. These federal states were partly formed by amalgamating member states.

From 1949 to 1990, the northern German states of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt were located on the territory of the GDR . From 1952 to 1990 there were in place in these countries, however, districts , namely the districts of Rostock , Schwerin , Neubrandenburg , Magdeburg , Potsdam and Frankfurt (Oder) .

Language and dialect area, cultural ties

Bilingual entrance sign in Westerland (standard German-North Frisian)

Historically and traditionally, the Low German language was spoken in northern Germany north of the Benrath Line and the Uerdinger Line , which is still widespread, especially in rural regions. About 15% of the population of Northern Germany have a command of the language at a native level. Under 20-year-olds only 0.8% state that they can speak Low German at this level. Regionally, the use of Low German is taken into account through the use of bilingual place name signs. The Standard German sat down in the most rural areas of northern Germany only because of the standard German school language in Prussian time through. Added to this were the migratory movements caused by industrialization and by refugees and displaced people after the Second World War . Large parts of the population of the northern German cities had already started to speak Standard German, the language of the Luther Bible , immediately after the Reformation .

The German now part of Schleswig is next to it also Danish and especially in Schleswig Nordfriesland yet Frisian spoken. Here, too, there are often bilingual place-name signs. Linguistic, historical and cultural contacts exist with the Netherlands , Denmark and other - mostly Protestant - neighbors of the North and Baltic Seas , such as Great Britain , the rest of Scandinavia and the Baltic States . In German usage, for example by Norddeutscher Rundfunk , Northern Germany is sometimes viewed as part of Northern Europe , while the remaining part of Germany is less questioned as part of Central Europe .

North German Lowlands

The term Northern Germany originally described the entire Northern German lowlands , including the Netherlands and the Baltic States. This refers to the Geest and marshland areas along the coasts of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea , the hilly landscape of the Baltic ridge , the ground moraines , terminal moraines , sand and glacial valleys , Bruche and Luche , which were shaped by the Vistula Ice Age . In terms of landscape, this is in contrast to the low mountain ranges of Germany, of which the Harz , Solling and Teutoburg Forest are occasionally counted as part of northern Germany, since there too, predominantly Low German dialects were widespread.

The low mountain ranges made contact between the settlements more difficult and united the cultural area in the north as opposed to the south; one of the southernmost west-east connections north of the low mountain range became an important trade route, the Hellweg , on which the B1 and partly the A2 runs today .

Further approaches

Countries on the coast

As a North German countries or north German coastal states those are countries which on the coast of the North Sea and / or the Baltic lie or a seaport feature. This definition applies to:

Lower Saxony as a transition area

Lower Saxony has various regions that are often viewed as atypical for northern Germany. Historically, Low German was not spoken in the Upper Harz or in the Bad Sachsa area . The Emsland , the Oldenburger Münsterland , the Untereichsfeld and some smaller regions are traditionally shaped by Roman Catholicism , in contrast to the rest of Northern Germany, which is evangelical-Lutheran or reformed. Southern Lower Saxony is not located in the north German lowlands, but in the low mountain range and is therefore often viewed more as a transition area to central Germany . In addition, after the Second World War, many refugees came to Lower Saxony from regions in which Central German dialects were spoken and which were not infrequently Roman Catholic. Since 1945, there were also many people from East Central German-speaking regions of the former GDR who settled in Lower Saxony in the following decades, where the important Helmstedt crossing point and the Friedland transit camp were also located.


From a geographical point of view, the countries or parts of them can be designated as Northern Germany, which are located in the area of ​​the North German Plain. It is noteworthy, however, that this level extends further and further south to the east, so that according to this definition, Leipzig in Saxony was also part of northern Germany. According to this definition, the following countries or parts of them would also be northern Germanyː

See also


  • Christoph Weinert u. Ingo Helm: The History of Northern Germany. Hoffmann & Campe, Hamburg 2005, 352 p. M. numerous Fig .; ISBN 3-455-09520-8 ; Book for the NDR television series
  • [Author collective]: DreiStromLand. Ems - Weser - Elbe. The large EWE media cassette about the country between the three rivers: all cities, municipalities and municipalities in words, pictures, maps and film. Bremen 2005; in this:
  • The large EWE manual for cities, communes and municipalities between the Ems, Weser and Elbe. Volumes 1-3, 376 + 344 + 240 pp. M. numerous Fig.
  • Margot Böse, Jürgen Ehlers, Frank Lehmkuhl: Germany's north - from ancient times to the present. Springer-Verlag, Berlin / Heidelberg 2018, ISBN 978-3-662-55372-5 .


  • Christoph Weinert and Ingo Helm: The History of Northern Germany. Scenic documentation of historical events in the area of ​​the NDR broadcasting area in 6 episodes. Germany 2005, 6 × 45 min. Produced by ecomedia, Hamburg. First broadcast December 2005 on NDR. 2 × DVD, total playing time 270 min.
  • DreiStromLand. The great EWE film chronicle about the country between the Ems, Weser and Elbe in the past and present. DVD 1: As it used to be, 120 min. Playing time; DVD 2: As it is today, playing time 150 min.

Individual evidence

  1. Quoted from Astrid Adler et al .: STATUS UND GEBRAUCH DES NIEDERDEUTSCHEN 2016, first results of a representative survey , p. 15, in: Institute for German Language , 2016, accessed on May 9, 2020.
  2. Güstrow is referred to as part of Northern Europe in the NDR article
  3. The fortress Dömitz is referred to in the article of the NDR as a fortress in Northern Europe