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The Reichsstatthalter ("Reich Lieutenant", "Reich Governor") was a title used in the German Empire and later the Third Reich.

Statthalter des Reiches (1879–1918)

The office of Statthalter des Reiches (otherwise known as Reichsstatthalter) was instituted in 1879 by the German Empire for the areas of Alsace (Elsaß) and Lorraine (Lothringen) that France had ceded to Germany following the Franco-Prussian War. It was a form of governorship intended to exist while Alsace-Lorraine became a federal state of the Empire. It was abolished when Alsace-Lorraine was, in turn, ceded back to France after Germany lost World War I.

1 October 1879 – 17 June 1885 Edwin von Manteuffel (1809–1885)
17 June 1885 – 5 October 1885 an acting official
5 October 1885 – 1894 Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingfürst (1819–1901)
October 1894 – 31 October 1907 Hermann zu Hohenlohe-Langenburg (1832–1913)
1 November 1907 – 1914 Karl von Wedel (1842–1919)
1 May 1914 – 1918 Nikolaus von Dallwitz (1855–1919)
14 October – 21 November 1918 Rudolf Schwander (1868–1950)

Third Reich

During the Third Reich, the Nazis created the office of Reichsstatthalter (Reich Governor or Reich Deputy) to gain direct control over the federal states (i.e., the states other than Prussia) after winning the general elections of 1933. Their independent state governments and parliaments were successively abolished, and the Reich government took over direct control in a process called Gleichschaltung ("coordination").

Two weeks after the passage of the Enabling Act of 1933, which effectively made Adolf Hitler the dictator of Germany, the Nazi government issued the Second Law for Synchronization of the States with the Reich (Zweites Gesetz zur Gleichschaltung der Länder mit dem Reich) on 7 April 1933. This law deployed one Reich Governor in each state. The Reich Governors were given the task of overseeing the fulfillment of Hitler's political guidelines in the states. Indeed, the law required them to carry out "the general policy of the Chancellor." In practice, they acted as proconsuls with complete authority over the state governments. The deputies' main authorities lay in:

  • appointing and dismissing the state prime minister
  • dissolving the state parliament and calling new elections
  • issuing and announcing state laws
  • appointing and dismissing important state agents and judges
  • granting amnesty

In Prussia, the largest of the German states, where the government had been taken over by the Reich government a year earlier in the Preußenschlag, Hitler took direct control. However, he passed his authority to Hermann Göring, who had been installed as Prussian prime minister without an election. The Prussian provinces were administered by an Oberpräsident, usually the local Gauleiter.

Law for the Reconstruction of the Reich (1934)

The Law for the Reconstruction of the Reich (Gesetz über den Neuaufbau des Reiches) passed on 30 January 1934; formally de-federalized the Reich for the first time in its history. However, Germany had effectively become a highly centralized state with the passage of the Enabling Act and the posting of the Reich Governors. The states' powers were transferred to the Reich, and their parliaments were abolished. The Reich Governors were made responsible to the Reich Minister of the Interior, Wilhelm Frick. For all intents and purposes, the states were reduced to provinces.

Reich Governors Law (1935)

The Reich Governors Law (Reichsstatthaltergesetz) of 30 January 1935 named the Reich Governors the constant representatives of the Reich government, appointed to watch over the execution of the political guidelines issued by the Führer und Reichskanzler (Hitler). They received the authority to "inform" the provincial authorities about the guidelines and the measures to fulfill them. The Reichsstatthalter were now also empowered to take over all functions of state government, and also appointed the mayors of all towns and cities with populations fewer than 100,000.


After the Anschluss ("union") with Germany, Austria's last pre-war Kanzler became also its first Reichsstatthalter: 15 March 1938 – 30 April 1939 Arthur Seyss-Inquart (b. 1892 – d. 1946; NSDAP; also Führer der Österreichischen Landesregierung), be it most of his term besides an Reichskommissar für die Wiedervereiningung Österreichs mit dem Deutschen Reich 'Reich Commissioner for Reunification of Austria with the German Reich' (23 April 1938 – 31 March 1940 Josef Bürckel, b. 1895 – d. 1944, NSDAP); next each constitutive Land (some differences in borders- thus Burgenland was partitioned away) got its own Reichsstatthalter, generally the last Premier.

Reichsstatthalters of Germany
Statthalter district Seat Incumbent
(1940-45 Baden-Alsace, Baden-Elsaß)
Karlsruhe Robert Heinrich Wagner
Bavaria (Bayern) Munich Franz Ritter von Epp
Braunschweig/Anhalt Dessau 1933–1935 Wilhelm Friedrich Loeper
1935–1937 Fritz Sauckel
1937–1945 Rudolf Jordan
Hamburg Hamburg Karl Kaufmann
Hesse (Hessen) Darmstadt Jakob Sprenger
Lippe/Schaumburg-Lippe Detmold Alfred Meyer
(1934-37 Mecklenburg/Lübeck)
(1937-45 Mecklenburg)
Schwerin Friedrich Hildebrandt
Oldenburg/Bremen Oldenburg 1933-42 Carl Röver
1942-45 Paul Wegener
Prussia (Preußen) Berlin 1933-35 Adolf Hitler
1935-45 Hermann Göring (acting)
Saxony (Sachsen) Dresden Martin Mutschmann
Thuringia (Thüringen) Weimar Fritz Sauckel
Württemberg Stuttgart Wilhelm Murr
Reichsstatthalters of areas annexed between 1939 and 1941
Statthalter district Seat Incumbent
Danzig-West Prussia (Danzig-Westpreußen) Danzig 1939-45 Albert Forster
Carinthia (Kärnten) Klagenfurt 1 April 1940 - 27 November 1941 Wladimir von Pawlowski
1941-45 Friedrich Rainer (from April 1941, Head of the Civil Government of Lower Carinthia and Upper Carniola; from 10 September 1943, also Special Commissioner for the Adriatisches Küstenland, i.e. the North Adriatic Littoral
Lower Danube (Niederdonau) Vienna 1 April 1940 - 8 May 1945 Hugo Jury
Upper Danube (Oberdonau), i.e. Ober-österreich Linz 1 April 1940 - 5 May 1945 August Eigruber
Salzburg Salzburg 1 April 1940 - 29 November 1941 Friedrich Rainer (cfr. Carinthia)
29 November 1941 - 4 May 1945 Gustav Adolf Scheel
Styria (Steiermark) Graz 1940-45 Siegfried Uiberreither
Sudetenland (in Czechoslovakia) Reichenberg 1939-45 Konrad Henlein
Tyrol-Vorarlberg (Tirol-Vorarlberg) Innsbruck 1 April 1940 - 3 May 1945 Franz Hofer (from 10 September 1943, also Special Commissioner for the Alpenvorland 'Alpine Foothills', i.e. Italian South Tyrol- Belluno, Bozen (Bolzano) and Trentino when integrated into Tyrol)
Wartheland (in Poland) Posen 1939-45 Arthur Greiser
Westmark (Rhineland-Palatinate, the Saar, and Lorraine) Saarbrücken 1941-44 Josef Bürckel
1944-45 Willi Stöhr
Greater Vienna (Groß-Wien) Vienna 1 April 1940 - 10 August 1940 Josef Bürckel, the previous Reichskommissar
10 August 1940 - 12 April 1945 Baldur von Schirach

Sources and references