Bremen (state)

Bremen (German: [ˈbʁeːmən] (listen)), officially the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen (German: Freie Hansestadt Bremen; Low German: Free Hansestadt Bremen), is the smallest and least populous of Germany's 16 states. It is informally called Land Bremen ("State of Bremen"), although the term is sometimes used in official contexts. The state consists of the city of Bremen and its seaport exclave, Bremerhaven, surrounded by the larger state of Lower Saxony in northern Germany.

Free Hanseatic City of Bremen
Freie Hansestadt Bremen (German)
Free Hansestadt Bremen (Low German)
Coordinates: 53°20′50″N 8°35′29″E
  BodyBürgerschaft of Bremen
  Senate President and MayorAndreas Bovenschulte (SPD)
  Governing partiesSPD / Alliance 90/The Greens / The Left
  Bundesrat votes3 (of 69)
  Bundestag seats5 (of 736)
  City419.38 km2 (161.92 sq mi)
  Density1,600/km2 (4,200/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
  Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
ISO 3166 codeDE-HB
Vehicle registration
  • HB (1906–1947; again since 1956)
  • BM (1947)
  • AE (1947–1956)
GRP (nominal)€34 billion (2019)[2]
GRP per capita€49,000 (2019)
NUTS RegionDE5
HDI (2018)0.959[3]
very high · 4th of 16


The state of Bremen consists of two non-contiguous territories. These enclaves contain Bremen, officially the 'City' (Stadtgemeinde Bremen) which is the state capital, and the city of Bremerhaven (Stadt Bremerhaven). Both are located on the River Weser; Bremerhaven ("Bremen's harbour") is further downstream on the mouth of the Weser with open access to the North Sea. Both enclaves are completely surrounded by the neighbouring State of Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen). The highest point in the state is in Friedehorst Park (32.5m).

The territory of Bremen in the 14th and 18th centuries
The territory of Bremen since 1800


When the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved in 1806, the Free Imperial City of Bremen (as of 1646, after earlier privileges of autonomy of 1186) was not mediatised (incorporated into the enlarged territory of one of the surrounding monarchies) but became a sovereign state officially titled the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen. Her currency was the Bremen thaler (until 1873). In 1811, the First French Empire annexed the city-state in an effort to enforce Napoleon's Berlin Decree, closing the European continent to British trade.

At the Congress of Vienna of 1815, Bremen's emissary, and later burgomaster, Johann Smidt, lobbied successfully to have the city's independence confirmed as one of the 39 sovereign states within the new German Confederation.

In 1827, Bremen bought land at the mouth of the Weser from the Kingdom of Hanover, in order to build a new seaport, Bremerhaven. This ensured that Bremen remained Germany's main port of embarkation for emigrants to the Americas, and later that it developed as an entrepôt for Germany's late developing colonial trade.

In 1867, the year following Prussia's defeat of Austria and its annexation of Hanover, Bremen joined the North German Confederation that became the German Empire in 1871, as one of its 26 constituent states.

As an international port and industrial centre, Bremen had a strong left and liberal tradition. In January 1913, at the last elections to the Imperial Reichstag in Berlin, the Social Democrats (SPD) secured over half the vote, or 53.4%. Left Liberals (Linksliberale) took another 41.4%. Only 5.1% went to the Conservatives.[4] During the Weimar Republic, there were seven elections to the Burgerschaft, the Bremen parliament. At the November 1932 German federal election, the last broadly free election during this time, the Social Democrats won 31.2% of the vote, and the Communists (KPD) 16.8%, compared to 20.8% for the Nazis.[5][6]

When, after the heavily compromised national elections of March 1933, the Nazis still achieved only a third of the popular vote in Bremen (32.7%),[5] the regime dissolved the Bürgerschaft and its executive Senate. Bremen remained for the next twelve years under the direct authority of a Reichsstatthalter (Reich Governor). During these years, Bremen's small Jewish community (1,438 people registered at the beginning of 1933)[7] was destroyed through coerced emigration and deportation to death camps in the occupied east.

Allied bombing destroyed the majority of the historical Hanseatic city as well as 60% of the built-up area of Bremen during World War II. The British 3rd Infantry Division under General Lashmer Whistler captured Bremen in late April 1945. The British handed it over to the Americans; Bremen became an American-controlled port for the supply of the US zones of occupation in west Berlin and southern Germany.

Bremen was reestablished as a state in 1947 and, from 1949, was again known as the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, becoming a Land or state of the new Federal Republic of Germany, informally referred to as "West Germany" until 1990.

Religion in Bremen – 31 December 2018[8]
religion percent
Others or none
EKD Protestants
Roman Catholics


Political system

The legislature of the state of Bremen is the 83-member Bürgerschaft (citizens' assembly), elected by the citizens in the two cities of Bremen and Bremerhaven.

The executive is constituted by the Senate of Bremen, elected by the Bürgerschaft. The Senate is chaired by the President of the senate (Senatspräsident), who is also one of the mayors of the city of Bremen (Bürgermeister) and is elected directly by the Bürgerschaft. The Senate selects of its members as a second mayor who serves as deputy of the president. In contrast to the Federal Chancellor of Germany or other German states, the President of the Senate has no authority to override senators on policy, which is decided upon by the senate collectively. Since 1945, the Senate has continuously been dominated by the Social Democratic Party.

On a municipal level, the two cities in the state are administered separately:

  • The administration of the city of Bremen is headed by the two mayors and controlled by the portion of the Bürgerschaft elected in the city of Bremen (68 members).
  • Bremerhaven, on the other hand, has a municipal assembly distinct from the state legislature and an administration under a distinct head mayor (Oberbürgermeister) and a distinct second mayor.

Political majorities

In post-war Bremen, the port, shipyards and related industries sustained a large and unionised working class. As before 1933, this translated into support for the Social Democrats, considered Bremen's natural governing party. However, in the 1980s mechanisation of the port and closure of the city's leading shipbuilder induced an employment crisis and shook the confidence of the party's traditional voter base. The SPD, which had still polled 51% in 1987, lost its effective majority.[9] The once dominant left-liberal vote split, and coalition government became the norm.

The 2019 Bremen state election was held on 26 May 2019 to elect the members of the Bürgerschaft of Bremen, as well as the city councils of Bremen and Bremerhaven. The election took place on the same day as the 2019 European Parliament election.[10][11][12] The Christian Democratic Union (CDU), for the first time, became the largest party in the Bürgerschaft, while the Social Democratic Party (SPD) fell to second place. The Greens and The Left made small gains. After the election, the SPD, Greens, and Left agreed to form a coalition government. Carsten Sieling resigned as mayor and was replaced by fellow SPD member Andreas Bovenschulte.[13][14]

Summary of the 26 May 2019 election results for the Bürgerschaft of Bremen
Party Votes  % +/- Seats Total
+/- Seats %
Bremen Bremerhaven
Christian Democratic Union (CDU) 391,709 26.7 4.3 20 4 24 4 28.6
Social Democratic Party (SPD) 366,375 24.9 7.9 19 4 23 7 27.4
Alliance 90/The Greens (Grüne) 256,181 17.4 2.3 13 3 16 2 19.0
The Left (Linke) 166,378 11.3 1.8 9 1 10 2 11.9
Alternative for Germany (AfD) 89,939 6.1 0.6 4 1 5 1 6.0
Free Democratic Party (FDP) 87,420 5.9 0.7 4 1 5 1 6.0
Citizens in Rage (BiW) 35,808 2.4 0.8 0 1 1 0 1.2
Die PARTEI (PARTEI) 24,433 1.7 0.2 0 0 0 ±0 0
Free Voters (FW) 14,205 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 ±0 0
Pirate Party Germany (Piraten) 14,143 1.0 0.5 0 0 0 ±0 0
Others 22,915 1.6 0 0 0 ±0 0
Total 1,469,506 100.0 69 15 84 1
Voter turnout 64.1 13.9
Popular Vote
Bürgerschaft seats

Coat of arms

The coat of arms and flag of Bremen state include:


Bremen's post-World War II economy boomed in line with the West German Wirtschaftswunder of the 1950s and 60s. This saw the growth, and permanent settlement, in Bremen of a large migrant worker population, drawn largely from Turkey and southern Europe.

Some of the city's heavier industries failed to recover from the oil-price-shock recession of the early 1970s. Specialist construction yards, ship outfitters and parts suppliers remain, but AG Weser (which employed 16,000 workers at its peak) and Bremer Vulcan, Bremen's major shipbuilders, closed in 1983 and 1997 respectively. Further job losses were caused by the restructuring and increasing mechanisation of harbour-related activities and other industrial sectors. Semi and unskilled harbour workers found it very difficult to re-enter the labour market, and unemployment—for a period in the 1980s almost double the West German average—remained comparatively high.

At a time when structural change in the economy has forced Bremen to spend more on social services. Suburbanisation has reduced population and tax revenue. Incorporating surrounding suburban municipalities, is not an option for Bremen as these belong to the state of Lower Saxony.[15]

With financial assistance from the European Union, and from the Federal Government, economic policy has focussed on supporting those established economic sectors that are based on advanced technology, such as aerospace and aircraft production, automobile production, maritime and logistics services, and on developing the education and business-park infrastructure for new science-based and digital enterprises. In this an important tole is accorded to the growing university sector. Further investment went into the revitalisation of the city centre but a culture-driven regeneration around entertainment and tourism was not very successful. Several experts described Bremen's service sector as underdeveloped, due to a lack of major company headquarters.[15]


At the turn of the new century, unemployment in Bremen stood at 13%, a rate matched in the Federal Republic only by the "new states" in former East Germany. By 2022, while reduced to 10.2% it was the highest among all 16 German states.[16]

Year[17] 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Unemployment rate in % 13.0 12.4 12.5 13.2 13.2 16.8 14.9 12.7 11.4 11.8 12.0 11.6 11.2 11.1 10.9 10.9 10.5 10.2 9.8 9.9 11.2 10.7


Despite historic job losses in the industrial sector, Bremen State has retained, and continues to develop, a broad manufacturing base:

  • Automotive with Mercedes-Benz factory, which is main manufacturing base of C-Class (12,500 employees). Automotive components from Hella and Lear. Assembly lines for powertrain and batteries are supplied from ThyssenKrupp Automation Engineering.
  • Aerospace with Airbus aircraft component factories (4,100 employees), rocket components Ariane (550 empl.) and spacecraft OHB (1,200 empl.)
  • Iron & Steel with large ArcelorMittal work (3,000 employees);
  • Electronic manufacturers for naval/marine Atlas Elektronik (1,400 employees) and defence Rheinmetall Defence Electronics (1,200 employees)
  • Shipbuilding represented Lürssen Bremen features the full spectrum of construction, production and assembly facilities for superyachts greater than 100 in length (1,200 employees).
  • Food manufacturing of coffee (Kraft, Jacobs, Melitta, Eduscho, Azul), chocolate (Hachez), beer (Beck's Brewery), cereal food (Kellogg's), fish (Frosta, Frozen Fish, Deutsche See), dairy products (DMK Deutsches Milchkontor), pet food (Vitacraft)


The University of Bremen is the largest university in Bremen. It is one of 11 institutions classed as an "Elite university" in Germany, and teaches approximately 23,500 people from 126 countries. Bremen also has a University of the Arts Bremen, a University of Applied Sciences with campuses in both Bremen city and Bremerhaven, and more recently the Jacobs University Bremen, an international research university located in Vegesack.

See also


  1. "Bevölkerung, Gebiet – Aktuelle Statistische Berichte – Bevölkerungsentwicklung im Land Bremen". Statistisches Landesamt Bremen (in German). September 2018.
  2. "Bruttoinlandsprodukt – in jeweiligen Preisen – in Deutschland 1991 bis 2019 nach Bundesländern (WZ 2008) – VGR dL". Archived from the original on 25 June 2020. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  3. "Sub-national HDI – Area Database – Global Data Lab". Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  4. "Reichstag 1867-1918 – Bremen". Retrieved 17 May 2021.
  5. "Reichstagswahlen 1919-1933 – Bremen". Retrieved 17 May 2021.
  6. Herbert Schwarzwälder (1983) Bremen in der Weimarer Republik (1918–1933) (Geschichte der Freien Hansestadt Bremen, Vol. 3), Christians, 1983, p. 609.
  7. Herbert Schwarzwälder (2003), Das Große Bremen-Lexikon. Edition Temmen, ISBN 3-86108-693-X, p. 442.
  8. Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland – Kirchemitgliederzahlen Stand 31. Dezember 2018 EKD, January 2020
  9. "Bürgerschaftswahlen Bremen seit 1945 – Ergebnisse in der Stadt Bremen". Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  10. "Bürgerschaftswahl 2019 in Bremen: Die wichtigsten Fakten im Überblick". (in German). 5 April 2019. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  11. "Bürgerschaftswahl 2019 in Bremen: Fragen und Antworten zur Wahl in Bremen". (in German). Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  12. "Bürgerschaftswahl 2019 – Wahlen zur Bremischen Bürgerschaft". (in German). Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  13. "Bremen: So tickt Andreas Bovenschulte (SPD)". Die Welt. 8 July 2019 via
  14. "Bremer SPD schließt Koalition mit CDU aus – buten un binnen". Archived from the original on 26 May 2019. Retrieved 25 July 2020.
  15. Plöger, Jörg (2007). Bremen: City Report (PDF). London: Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.
  16. "Arbeitslosenquote nach Bundesländern 2022". Statista (in German). Retrieved 4 December 2022.
  17. (Destatis), © Statistisches Bundesamt (13 November 2018). "Federal Statistical Office Germany – GENESIS-Online". Retrieved 13 November 2018.
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