Regierungsbezirke serve as regional mid-level local government units in four of Germany's sixteen federal states: Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, and North Rhine-Westphalia. Each of the nineteen Regierungsbezirke features a non-legislative governing body called a Regierungspräsidium or Bezirksregierung (district government) headed by a Regierungspräsident (district president), concerned mostly with administrative decisions on a local level for districts within its jurisdiction.
Regierungsbezirk is a German term variously translated into English as "governmental district", "administrative district" or "province", with the first two being the closest literal translations.
The first Regierungsbezirke were established in the Kingdom of Bavaria and the Kingdom of Prussia in 1808. During the course of the Prussian reforms between 1808 and 1816, Prussia subdivided its provinces into 25 Regierungsbezirke, eventually featuring 37 such districts within 12 provinces. By 1871, at the time of German unification, the concept of Regierungsbezirke had been adopted by most States of the German Empire. Similar entities were initially established in other states under different names, including Kreishauptmannschaft in Saxony, Kreis in Bavaria and Württemberg (not to be confused with the present-day Kreis or Landkreis districts), and province in Hesse. The names of these equivalent administrative divisions were standardized to Regierungsbezirk in Nazi Germany, but after World War II these naming reforms were reverted.
In 1946, Lower Saxony was founded by the merger of the three former Free States of Brunswick, Oldenburg, Schaumburg-Lippe, and the former Prussian province of Hanover. Brunswick and Oldenburg became Verwaltungsbezirke (roughly administrative regions of extended competence) alongside six less autonomous Prussian-style Regierungsbezirke comprising the Province of Hanover and Schaumburg-Lippe. These differences in autonomy and size were levelled on 1 January 1978, when four Regierungsbezirke replaced the two Verwaltungsbezirke and the six Regierungsbezirke: Brunswick and Oldenburg, Aurich, Hanover (remaining mostly the same), Hildesheim, Lüneburg, Osnabrück and Stade.
In 1990, following the reunification of Germany, the territory of the former East Germany was organized into Berlin and five re-established new federal states. Four of the new states: Berlin, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and Thuringia decided not to implement Regierungsbezirke, while Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt established three each.
The Regierungsbezirke in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in modern Germany are in direct continuation of those created in the Prussian Rhine and Westphalia provinces in 1816. Regierungsbezirke never existed in Bremen, Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, and Saarland.
During the 2000s, four German states discontinued the use of Regierungsbezirke:
On 1 January 2000, Rhineland-Palatinate disbanded its three Regierungsbezirke: Koblenz, Rheinhessen-Pfalz and Trier – the employees and assets of the three Bezirksregierungen were converted into three public authorities responsible for the whole state, each covering a part of the former responsibilities of the Bezirksregierung.
On 1 January 2004, Saxony-Anhalt disbanded its three Regierungsbezirke: Dessau, Halle and Magdeburg. The responsibilities are now covered by a Landesverwaltungsamt with three offices at the former seats of the Bezirksregierungen.
On 1 August 2008, Saxony restructured its districts (Landkreise) and changed the name of its Regierungsbezirke to Direktionsbezirke. This was necessary because one of the new districts did not fit with the borders of the old Regierungsbezirke and some responsibilities are now covered by the districts. The Direktionsbezirke are still named Chemnitz, Dresden and Leipzig. As of 1 March 2012, the Direktionsbezirke were merged into one Landesdirektion.
Currently, only four German states out of 16 in total are divided into Regierungsbezirke; all others are directly divided into districts without mid-level agencies. Those four states are divided into a total of 19 Regierungsbezirke, ranging in population from 5,255,000 (Düsseldorf) to 1,065,000 (Gießen):
Media related to Regierungsbezirk at Wikimedia CommonsArnsberg (region)
Arnsberg is one of the five Regierungsbezirks of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, located in the south-east of the country. It covers the Sauerland hills as well as the east part of the Ruhr area.
The region was founded in 1815 as a subdivision of the Prussian Province of Westphalia.Cologne (region)
Cologne is one of the five governmental districts of the German Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia. It is located in the south-west of that state and covers the hills of the Eifel as well as the Bergisches Land.
It was created in 1815, when Prussia reorganised its internal administration. In 1972 the Regierungsbezirk Aachen was incorporated.Darmstadt (region)
Darmstadt is one of the three Regierungsbezirke of Hesse, Germany, located in the south of the state.Detmold (region)
Detmold (German pronunciation: [ˈdɛtmɔlt]) is one of the five Regierungsbezirks of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, located in the north-east of the state. It is congruent with the administratively not existent area of Ostwestfalen-Lippe (OWL) (East Westphalia-Lippe).
The Regierungsbezirk was created in 1947 when the former state of Lippe was incorporated into North Rhine-Westphalia by merging the former Regierungsbezirk Minden with the territory of Lippe-Detmold. The Regierungsbezirk Minden dates back to 1815, when the municipality type Regierungsbezirk was created initially.Düsseldorf (region)
Düsseldorf is one of the five Regierungsbezirke of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, located in the north-west of the country. It covers the western part of the Ruhr Area, as well as the Niederrheinische Tiefebene, the lower Rhine area. It is the most populated of all German administrative areas of the kind. It is the only area in Germany where the traditional dialects are Low Franconian, rather than Low German or High German.
It was created as a subdivision of the Prussian Rhineland when Prussia reformed its internal administration in 1815. In 1822 the Regierungsbezirk Kleve was incorporated into Regierungbezirk Düsseldorf.
Its highest point is the Brodtberg (378 m).Freiburg (region)
Freiburg is one of the four Regierungsbezirke of Baden-Württemberg, Germany, located in the south-west of the country. It covers the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) hills as well as the Rhine valley. It is sub-divided into the three regions (Regionalverband) Hochrhein-Bodensee, Schwarzwald-Baar-Heuberg and Südlicher Oberrhein.Giessen (region)
Giessen (Gießen in German) is one of the three Regierungsbezirke of Hesse, Germany, located in the middle of the state. It was created from counties (kreise) of Giessen, Lahn-Dill, Limburg-Weilburg and Vogelsbergkreis in Darmstadt and Marburg-Biedenkopf of Kassel on 1 January 1981.Karlsruhe (region)
Karlsruhe is one of the four administrative regions (sing. Regierungsbezirk) of Baden-Württemberg, Germany, located in the north-west of the state. It is subdivided into the three regional associations (sing. Regionalverband): Mittlerer Oberrhein (Middle Upper Rhine), Rhein-Neckar (Rhine-Neckar) and Nordschwarzwald (Northern Black Forest).Kassel (region)
Kassel is one of the three Regierungsbezirke of Hesse, Germany, located in the north of the state. It was created in 1866 when Prussia annexed the area to form the new province Hesse-Nassau. Altogether it consists of 138 municipalities.Köslin (region)
The Region of Köslin was a Regierungsbezirk in the Prussian Province of Pomerania that existed from 1816 to 1945. The seat of government was located in the town of Köslin (Koszalin). Since World War II the area has been part of Poland, since 1999 divided between the West Pomeranian Voivodeship and the Pomeranian Voivodeship.Lower Franconia
Lower Franconia (German: Unterfranken, Austro-Bavarian: Untafrankn) is one of seven districts of Bavaria, Germany. The districts of Lower, Middle and Upper Franconia make up the region of Franconia.Münster (region)
Münster is one of the five Regierungsbezirke of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, located in the north of the state, and named after the capital city of Münster. It includes the area which in medieval times was known as the Dreingau.
Regierungsbezirk Münster mostly covers rural areas of Münsterland famous for their castles, e.g. Castle Nordkirchen and Castle Ahaus. The region offers more than a hundred castles, all linked up by the cycle path 100 Schlösser Route.
The three southern municipalities are part of the Ruhrgebiet, a densely populated region with much industry. Besides this the area is mostly as green as the rest of Münsterland and historically a part of the landscape.
The history of the Regierungsbezirk dates back to 1815, when it was one of the original 25 Regierungsbezirke created as a subdivision of the provinces of Prussia. The last reorganization of the districts was made in 1975, when the number of districts was reduced from ten to five, and the number of district-free cities from six to three.Province of Brandenburg
The Province of Brandenburg (German: Provinz Brandenburg) was a province of Prussia from 1815 to 1945. Brandenburg was established in 1815 from the Kingdom of Prussia's core territory, comprised the bulk of the historic Margraviate of Brandenburg (excluding Altmark) and the Lower Lusatia region, and became part of the German Empire in 1871. From 1918, Brandenburg was a province of the Free State of Prussia until it was dissolved in 1945 after World War II, and replaced with reduced territory as the State of Brandenburg in East Germany, which was later dissolved in 1952. Following the reunification of Germany in 1990, Brandenburg was re-established as a federal state of Germany, becoming one of the new states.
Brandenburg's provincial capital alternated between Potsdam, Berlin, and Charlottenburg during its existence.Province of Hanover
The Province of Hanover (German: Provinz Hannover) was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia and the Free State of Prussia from 1868 to 1946.
During the Austro-Prussian War, the Kingdom of Hanover had attempted to maintain a neutral position, along with some other member states of the German Confederation. After Hanover voted in favour of mobilising confederation troops against Prussia on 14 June 1866, Prussia saw this as a just cause for declaring war; the Kingdom of Hanover was soon dissolved and annexed by Prussia. The private wealth of the dethroned House of Hanover was then used by Otto von Bismarck to finance his continuing efforts against Ludwig II of Bavaria.
In 1946, the British military administration recreated the State of Hanover based on the former Kingdom of Hanover; but within the year, at the instigation of the German leadership, it was merged into the new state (Bundesland) of Lower Saxony—along with the states of Oldenburg, Brunswick, and Schaumburg-Lippe—with the city of Hanover as the capital of this new state.Province of Saxony
The Province of Saxony (German: Provinz Sachsen), also known as Prussian Saxony (Preußische Sachsen) was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia and later the Free State of Prussia from 1816 until 1945. Its capital was Magdeburg.
It was formed by the merger of various territories ceded or returned to Prussia in 1815 by the Congress of Vienna: most of the former northern territories of the Kingdom of Saxony (the remainder of which became part of Brandenburg or Silesia), the former French Principality of Erfurt, the Duchy of Magdeburg, the Altmark, the Principality of Halberstadt, and some other districts.
The province was bounded by the Electorate of Hesse (the province of Hesse-Nassau after 1866), the Kingdom of Hanover (the province of Hanover after 1866) and the Duchy of Brunswick to the west, Hanover (again) to the north, Brandenburg to the north and west, Silesia to the south-east, and the rump kingdom of Saxony and the small Ernestine duchies to the south. Its shape was very irregular and it entirely surrounded enclaves of Brunswick and some of the Ernestine duchies. It also possessed several exclaves, and was almost entirely bisected by the Duchy of Anhalt save for a small corridor of land around Aschersleben (which itself bisected Anhalt). The river Havel ran along the north-eastern border with Brandenburg north of Plaue but did not follow the border exactly.
The majority of the population was Protestant, with a Catholic minority (about 8% as of 1905) considered part of the diocese of Paderborn. The province sent 20 members to the Reichstag and 38 delegates to the Prussian House of Representatives (Abgeordnetenhaus).Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia
Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia (German: Reichsgau Danzig-Westpreussen) was a Nazi German province created on 8 October 1939 from annexed territory of the Free City of Danzig, the Greater Pomeranian Voivodship (Polish Corridor), and the Regierungsbezirk West Prussia of Gau East Prussia.
Before 2 November 1939, the Reichsgau was called Reichsgau West Prussia. Though the name resembled that of the pre-1920 Prussian province of West Prussia, the territory was not identical. Unlike the former Prussian province, the Reichsgau included the Bromberg (Bydgoszcz) region in the south and lacked the Deutsch-Krone (Wałcz) region in the west.
The province's capital was Danzig (Gdańsk), and its population without the city was (in 1939) 1,487,452. The province's area was 26,056 km2, 21,237 km2 of which was annexed Danzig and Pomerelian territory. During the Reichsgau's short existence, Poles and Jews in that area were subjected by Nazi Germany to extermination as "subhumans".Reichsgau Wartheland
The Reichsgau Wartheland (initially Reichsgau Posen, also: Warthegau) was a Nazi German Reichsgau formed from parts of Polish territory annexed in 1939 during World War II. It comprised the region of Greater Poland and adjacent areas. Parts of Warthegau matched the similarly named pre-Versailles Prussian province of Posen. The name was initially derived from the capital city, Posen (Poznań), and later from the main river, Warthe (Warta).
During the Partitions of Poland from 1793, the bulk of the area had been annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia until 1807 as South Prussia. From 1815 to 1849, the territory was within the autonomous Grand Duchy of Posen, which was the Province of Posen until Poland was re-established in 1918–1919 following World War I. The area is currently the Greater Poland Voivodeship.Stralsund (region)
The Region of Stralsund (German: Regierungsbezirk Stralsund, i.e. "government region of Stralsund") belonged to the Prussian Province of Pomerania and existed from 1818 to 1932.Tübingen (region)
Tübingen is one of the four Administrative Regions (Regierungsbezirke) of Baden-Württemberg, Germany, located in the south-east of the country. It covers most of the German shore of Lake Constance (Bodensee), and also the beginning of the Danube River valley. It is sub-divided into the three regions (Regionalverband): Neckar-Alb, Donau-Iller and Bodensee-Oberschwaben. Donau-Iller also includes three districts and one city of Bavaria.
Designations for types of administrative territorial entities
1 Used by ten or more countries or having derived terms. Historical derivations in italics.