Amt

Amt is a type of administrative division governing a group of municipalities, today only in Germany, but formerly also common in other countries of Northern Europe.[1] Its size and functions differ by country and the term is roughly equivalent to a US township or county or English shire district.

Current usage[edit]

Germany[edit]

Prevalence[edit]

The Amt (plural: Ämter) is unique to the German Bundesländer (federal states) of Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Brandenburg.

Other German states had this division in the past. Some states have similar administrative units called Samtgemeinde (Lower Saxony), Verbandsgemeinde (Rhineland-Palatinate) or Verwaltungsgemeinschaft (Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia).

Definition[edit]

An Amt, as well as the other above-mentioned units, is subordinate to a Kreis (district) and is a collection of municipalities. The amt is lower than district-level government but higher than municipal government, and may be described as a supra-municipality or "municipal confederation". Normally, it consists of very small municipalities (Gemeinden, plural of Gemeinde).

Larger municipalities do not belong to an Amt and are called amtsfreie Gemeinden (independent municipalities); some of these municipalities may also not depend from a Kreis (district) and are called kreisfreie Gemeinden, and when they do also not belong to any other Land they are also called Stadtstaaten (plural of Stadtstaat), i.e. city-states (Berlin and Hamburg).

These large municipalities (cities, in German Städte, plural of Stadt) may be further divided into local offices named Ortsämter (plural of Ortsamt), each of them possibly grouping several suburbs (or small townships in rural areas) of the municipality named Ortsteile (plural of Ortsteil), named from small villages or hamlets or localities. The Ortsteil (suburb or township) may have been a former parish, but today it is meant only for civil purpose and essentially used for planning within the municipality; the Ortsamt (sometimes just named informally but confusingly as an Amt, or informally translated as an "urban district") is used to offer decentralized services of the municipality within local administrative offices for the residents in neighbouring suburbs. The Ortsteil itself may also be confusingly translated as a "municipality", but it is incorrect because it belongs to a city which is the only effective municipality (Gemeinde).