Census in Germany

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Most recent census:
  2005 or after

A census in Germany (German: Volkszählung) was held every five years from 1875 to 1910. After the World Wars, only few full population censuses were held, the last in 1987.[1] Germany, which since has relied on population samples, participated in the EU-wide census in 2011.[2]

Early history[edit]

Nuremberg in 1471[3] held a census, to be prepared in case of a siege. Brandenburg-Prussia in 1683 began to count its rural population. The first systematic population survey on the European continent was taken in 1719 in the Mark Brandenburg of the Kingdom of Prussia, in order to prepare the first general census of 1725.

In the Habsburg ruled Austrian part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, a population count had been introduced in 1754, but due to resistance by nobility and clerics, no full census was held after 1769. A century and many political changes later, census resumed in 1869, and were held also in 1880, 1890, 1900, 1910, in the same years as the German Empire census. Between the wars, census were held in 1920, 1923, 1934 and 1939, to be resumed in 1951 with a ten year occurrence.

For 1806, a population of 24,241,000 for several Imperial Circles is quoted in the "Statistik des deutschen Reiches",[4] even though the old Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation had fallen apart, and a new German Empire did not exist yet as a political entity. By 1821, the population within the newly founded German Confederation had grown to over 30 million.[5]

1834 - 1867 German Zollverein[edit]

Zollverein and German Unification

When the German Confederation had been founded in 1815, some states had been anxious to prove they had a small population in order to contribute fewer soldiers to the Federal Army. On the other hand, when the first custom union between southern states were formed, they wanted to show they had a large population in order to claim a larger share of the custom revenue.[6] The German Customs Union, the Zollverein, conducted population counts from 1834 to 1867, every three years on December 3, in order to share its revenue among the member states accordingly. The date of December 3 was chosen as most people of the „Zollabrechnungsbevölkerung“, the custom accounting population, were expected to be at home then. The Eastern parts of Prussia remained outside of the Confederation for most of the time, but the whole of Prussia was part of the Zollverein. While most states joined the Zollverein sooner or later, the Austrian Empire never did until the German Confederation and the Zollverein broke up in the civil war of 1866. The Zollverein regrouped and held another census in 1867, but the census of 1870 was postponed due to the ongoing Franco-German War and the foundation of the German Empire.

Date Area in km² Population Pop. per km² Area changes
3 December 1834 420,301 23,478,120 56
3 December 1837 439,420 26,008,973 59 since 1835 including Land Baden and Herzogtum Nassau, since 1836 including Freie Stadt Frankfurt
3 December 1840 439,420 27142,116 62
3 December 1843 447,507 28,498,136 64 since 1841 including Herzogtum Braunschweig, since 1842 including Luxembourg
3 December 1846 447,507 29,461,381 66
3 December 1849 447,507 29.800,063 67
3 December 1852 447,507 30,492,792 68
3 December 1855 492,621 32,721,344 66 since 1854 including Königreich Hannover, Großherzogtum Oldenburg and Schaumburg-Lippe
3 December 1858 492,621 33,542,352 68
3 December 1861 492,621 34,670,277 70
3 December 1864 492,621 35,886,302 73
3 December 1867 510,628 37,512,005 73 since 1867 including Fürstentum Lübeck, Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz

1871 - 1945 German Reich[edit]

Starting in 1871, the census resumed in the newly united German Empire, continuing every five years from 1875 to 1910. The first large-scale census in the German Empire took place in 1895 (see German census of 1895).

The last pre-war census was held on 1 December 1910, the 1915 census was canceled, but two war censuses were held on 5 December 1916 and 1917 to organize the sharing of food. Due to allied blockades preventing the import of food, the civil population suffered malnutrition and starvation. On 8 October 1919 and 16 June 1925, regular census resumed in the areas which had remained with Germany after the Treaty of Versailles.

The 1930 census was delayed by the Depression until 1933, and another one was carried out in 1939, both were affected by the bias of the Nazi government. Initially planned for 1937, the 1939 census now also included the areas of Austria, Sudetenland and Memelland. About 750,000 counters covered 22 million households and roughly 80 million inhabitants. Made in atmosphere of terror, attacks on members of Polish minority, and demolishing of Polish shops and libraries, the census resulted in many Poles living in Germany giving their nationality as German out of fear of losing life or well-being of their families.[7] A digitized version of the racially biased "supplementary cards" of the Census of 17 May 1939, called the "German Minority Census," in which members of all households in which any member had one or more Jewish grandparents were required to be entered, is available on the internet on the website of the non-profit organization Tracing the Past in an expanded form, noting those people who later became Holocaust victims, and is searchable by name or street address. [8]

After another World War which resulted also in the death or dislocation of many million Germans, both citizens of Germany or ethnic Germans from other states, the occupying powers started to count the population in their zones, first the Soviets on 1 December 1945, then the French on 26 January 1946. On 29 October 1946, a census was held in all four zones.

Population of Germany by аge and sex (demographic pyramid) as of June, 16, 1933
Population of then-Germany (with Austria) by age and sex (demographic pyramid) as on May, 17, 1939
Population of then-Germany (without Saar) by аge and sex (demographic pyramid) as on October, 29, 1946. Many former German soldiers didn't participate
Population of Germany by аge and sex (demographic pyramid) as of December, 31, 1950
Date Area in km² Pop. Pop. per km² Area changes
1 December 1871 541.561 41.058.792 76
1 December 1875 539.829 42.727.360 79
1 December 1880 540.522 45.234.061 84
1 December 1885 540.597 46.855.704 87
1 December 1890 540.504 49.428.470 91
2 December 1895 540.658 52.279.901 97
1 December 1900 540.743 56.367.178 104
1 December 1905 540.778 60.641.489 112
1 December 1910 540.858 64.925.993 120
1 December 1916 540.858 62.272.185 115
5 December 1917 540.858 62.615.275 116
8 October 1919 474.304 60.898.584 128 since 1919 without Elsaß-Lothringen, Provinz Posen and Westpreußen
16 June 1925 468.718 62.410.619 133 since 1920 without Memelland, Nordschleswig, Ostbelgien and Saargebiet, since 1922 without Ostoberschlesien
16 June 1933 468.787 65.362.115 139
17 May 1939 583.370 79.375.281 136 since 1935 with Saargebiet, since 1938 with Ostmark and Sudetenland, since March 1939 with Memelland
27 May 1942 [9]
1 March 1943 [10]
29 October 1946 353.460 65.137.274 184 since 1945 without Ostgebiete des Deutschen Reiches, since 1946 without Saarland

Ethnic minorities in 1900[edit]

According to the census of 1900, among the total population of 56.367.178 there were 51.883.131 with German language as their first and only language, plus 252.918 bilingual Germans. The largest minority was the Polish, with 3.086.489 (not including 142.049 Masurians and 100.213 Cassubians).[11] The census results also listed the districts with a minority larger than 5%, including many districts in which German speakers were a minority.[12]

1949 - 1990 East Germany[edit]

The German Democratic Republic held four census during its existence from 1949 to 1990, of which only the 1964 results were published in full. Unlike most European countries, which saw a significant growth of their populations, the GDR suffered a drop. Until the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961, over three million[13] Germans had defected from the GDR to West Germany. As many young adults had chosen to leave, this also affected the numbers of babies born in the following decades.

Date Area in km² Pop. Pop. per km²
31 August 1950 107.862 18.388.172 170
31 December 1964 108.304 17.003.655 157
1 January 1971 108.178 17.068.318 158
31 December 1981 108.333 16.705.635 154

Since 1949 Federal Republic of Germany (formerly known as West Germany)[edit]

Date Area in km² Pop. Pop. per km² Area changes
13 September 1950 245.770 49.842.624 203 since 1949 without East Germany, East Berlin and Saarland, with West Berlin
25 September 1956 245.860 52.195.100 212
6 June 1961 248.456 56.174.826 226 since 1957 with Saarland
27 May 1970 248.469 60.650.584 244
25 May 1987 248.626 61.077.042 246
9 May 2011 357.168 80.200.000[14] 225 since 1990 with Ostdeutschland and Ost-Berlin

In the 1980s, attempts at introducing a census in West Germany sparked strong popular resentment since some felt that the questions to be asked were quite personal. Comparisons to Orwell's 1984 were drawn. Some campaigned for a boycott, or for intentional false statements. The Constitutional Court stopped the census in 1983, and required a revision of the process. The modified census was eventually held in 1987.

For 1991, a year in which also Austria held a census, a concurrent census in both West and East Germany had been planned,[15] but it was canceled due to reunification, and replaced by a "micro census" population sample among 1 percent of house holds. Due to reunification and immigration from former Eastern Bloc states and the war-torn Balkans, the population has grown to c. 82 million in the 1990s, but no census was held since 1987. The CIA Factbook[16] estimates the population at 82,329,758 (as of July 2009), and ranks Germany as 17th [17] in the world (including the EU as third).

Former population censuses in Germany were complete enumerations obtained direct from the entire population in personal interviews or by questionnaire. That method produces very accurate results, but involves much effort. For the 1987 population census, some 500 000 enumerators were required. For 2011, a change in methodology is planned, and the costs of the largely register-based census are expected to be only about one third of the expenditure of a traditional population census. Mainly the data already stored in the registers of the administrative authorities, in the population registers of the municipalities and the registers of the Federal Employment Agency will be used. Additional data, like information on education, training and occupation, will be collected by an interview-based sample survey. The data on buildings and dwellings, for which there are no registers in Germany, will be collected by mail from all owners.[18]

See also[edit]


  • Kaiserliches Statistisches Amt (Hrsg.): Statistisches Jahrbuch für das Deutsche Reich, 1880–1918
  • Statistisches Reichsamt (Hrsg.): Statistisches Jahrbuch für das Deutsche Reich, 1919-1941/42
  • Statistisches Bundesamt (Hrsg.): Statistisches Jahrbuch für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1952 ff.
  • Staatliche Zentralverwaltung für Statistik (Hrsg.): Statistisches Jahrbuch der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, 1955–1989


  1. ^ Germany needs a new census because present population and dwelling figures are based on updates of results from the latest population censuses. These were held in Germany in 1987 for the former territory of the Federal Republic and in 1981 for the former GDR. - Federal Statistical Office and the statistical Offices of the Länder [1]
  2. ^ In their coalition agreement of 11 November 2005, the governing parties in Germany had already decided on Germany’s participation in the Census of 2011. On 29 August 2006, the Federal Cabinet agreed in a decision of principle that the census to be conducted in Germany would be register-based. - Federal Statistical Office
  3. ^ Kersten Krüger: Historische Statistik, in: Formung der frühen Moderne - Ausgewählte Aufsätze, LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Münster, 2005 ISBN 3-8258-8873-8, ISBN 978-3-8258-8873-2 p. 272
  4. ^ Prof. Conrad Mannert: Statistik des deutschen Reiches, Bamberg and Würzburg, 1806, p. 48
  5. ^ Johann Daniel Albrecht Höck: Handbuch einer Statistik der deutschen Bundesstaaten, C. Cnobloch, 1821 p. 28
  6. ^ William Otto Henderson: The Zollverein Routledge, 1984 ISBN 0-7146-1322-3, ISBN 978-0-7146-1322-2 [2]
  7. ^ Polska i Polacy w propagandzie narodowego socjalizmu w Niemczech 1919-1945 Eugeniusz Cezary Król, page 216, Instytut Studiów Politycznych Polskiej Akademii Nauk, 2006
  8. ^ See the website of Tracing the Past, last referenced on 4. Nov. 2014.
  9. ^ [3], only in Lithuanian areas.
  10. ^ [4]
  11. ^ Statistik des Deutschen Reichs. Band 150: Die Volkszählung am 1. Dezember 1900 im Deutschen Reich. Berlin, 1903, according to Deutsche Verwaltungsgeschichte 1871 - 1990 © 2006 by Dr. Michael Rademacher M.A., http://www.verwaltungsgeschichte.de/fremdsprachen.html
  12. ^ http://www.verwaltungsgeschichte.de/fremdspr_krei.html
  13. ^ Mueller, Ulrich; Nauck, Bernhard & Andreas, Diekmann (April 2000). "30". Handbuch der Demographie: Anwendungen [Handbook of Demography: Applications] (in German) (1 ed.). Springer. p. 1221. ISBN 978-3-540-66108-5. 
  14. ^ http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/new-census-finds-smaller-population-and-fewer-foreigners-in-germany-a-903083.html
  15. ^ http://www.heise.de/newsticker/Vor-20-Jahren-10-Minuten-die-allen-helfen-Update--/meldung/90205
  16. ^ https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/gm.html
  17. ^ https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2119rank.html?countryName=Germany&countryCode=GM&regionCode=eu#GM
  18. ^ Federal Statistical Office

External links[edit]