Postal codes in Germany

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Germany introduced postal codes on July 25, 1941, in the form of a two-digit system that was applied initially for the parcel service and later for all mail deliveries. This system was replaced in 1962 in West Germany by a four-digit system; three years later East Germany followed with its own four-digit system. Whereas the Federal Republic introduced a system with space left for the East German postal system after a possible reunification, such as by omitting all codes starting with '1' (except 1000 for West Berlin) and '9', the German Democratic Republic had a system that used all codes starting from '1' to '9' just for East Germany.

Today, German postal codes are numeric, consisting of five digits since 1993. Between 1990 and 1993 the old four-digit codes in the former West were prefixed with the letter "W", and in the former East with the letter "O" (for "Ost", which means "east" in German). Even though the western system had kept some number ranges free specifically for later integration of the East should reunification come, it was decided that the time was right to create an entirely new system in the 1990s, in which larger towns and cities would be divided into multiple postal code areas (the old system had made inconsistent use of additional numbers after the city's name for this), and companies receiving a lot of mail (such as mail-order businesses) could get a private code assigned. This resulted in a system where one could no longer identify the size of the city by the number of zeros in its postal code (such as 2000 for Hamburg or 8000 for Munich).

Post office boxes are arranged in racks containing several dozens of them. Each rack is identified by an individual postal code.

The 1993 system has geographic zones on the first (Postleitzonen) and on the second level (Postleitregion), e.g., 1 is North East Germany, and 10 is a zone in the inner city of Berlin.

German Postleitzahl map of the first two digits. The green lines mark state borders, which do not always correspond with postal code areas.
P. O. box racks in a German post office. The top number is the postal code (PLZ=Postleitzahl) for the individual rack.

As of 31 December, 2007, the zones have the following area and population:

Leitzone Area (km²) Population Region covered Large cities
0 37,187.8 6,819,607 Saxony, southern parts of Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg, eastern parts of Thuringia Dresden, Leipzig, Halle, Chemnitz, Cottbus, Jena
1 47,642.4 7,034,541 Berlin, largest parts of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, small parts of Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt Berlin, Potsdam, Frankfurt (Oder), Rostock, Schwerin
2 44,207.4 8,691,409 Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, northern parts of Lower Saxony, Bremen, small parts of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania Hamburg, Lübeck, Kiel, Bremen, Bremerhaven, Oldenburg
3 45,488.1 9,012,212 southern parts of Lower Saxony, eastern parts of Westphalia, northern parts of Hesse, Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt Hanover, Bielefeld, Kassel, Fulda, Gießen, Göttingen, Brunswick, Magdeburg
4 20,212.3 10,331,535 north-western parts of North Rhine-Westphalia, south-western parts of Lower Saxony Düsseldorf, Dortmund, Essen, Duisburg, Münster, Osnabrück
5 28,834.5 9,233,815 south-western parts of North Rhine-Westphalia, largest parts of Rhineland-Palatinate, small parts of Hesse Cologne, Bonn, Aachen, Mainz, Koblenz, Trier
6 17,247.9 7,540,503 southern parts of Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, small parts of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg Frankfurt (Main), Wiesbaden, Darmstadt, Saarbrücken, Heidelberg, Mannheim, Aschaffenburg
7 27,864.2 8,715,898 largest parts of Baden-Württemberg, small parts of Rhineland-Palatinate Stuttgart, Tübingen, Freiburg, Konstanz, Baden-Baden
8 36,427.2 7,675,001 southern parts of Bavaria, south-eastern parts of Baden-Württemberg Munich, Rosenheim, Augsburg, Ulm, Ingolstadt
9 47,803.7 7,163,416 northern parts of Bavaria (Franconia), largest parts of Thuringia, small parts of Baden-Württemberg Nuremberg, Würzburg, Erfurt, Weimar, Eisenach, Bamberg, Bayreuth

There are only three states (Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein and Saarland), in addition to the city states, that lie completely within one postal zone, while three states (Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Baden-Wurttemberg) cover four postal zones.

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