How do you get a zip code

The post code: What exactly the five digits mean

Deutsche Post introduced the five-digit postcode 25 years ago. The individual digits describe the exact region in which letters or parcels are to land. But there are also strange exceptions.

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Until 1941 there were no postcodes in Germany. But during the Second World War the number of letters and parcels increased significantly: The soldiers at the front sent field mail to their relatives at home. At the same time, however, the experienced postal workers were no longer on duty because they were drafted by the Wehrmacht.

The temporary workers often had problems because they did not know exactly where certain cities and regions were. To make matters worse, the Wehrmacht had occupied territories and new places had been added.

The postcodes initially for parcels should simplify delivery. From 1944, the two-digit codes also applied to letters - until the 1960s. Then the postal authorities in West and East Germany each introduced four-digit postcodes.

Duplicate places after reunification

But after reunification there was a problem: 800 places in East and West shared a sequence of digits. 5300 stood for both Bonn and Weimar. So a new, uniform system had to be found.

The five-digit postcode was valid from July 1, 1993. The comic figure Rolf, consisting of a hand with five fingers, advertised the new numbers - with the slogan "Five is Trümpf".

Swiss Post also emphasized that the conversion of the system made it possible to sort letters automatically; previously they were mostly assigned by hand.

Two digits indicate the region

The arrangement of the five digits is not random. But how are they actually composed and what do they say? The first two digits stand for an exact geographical assignment, they are also called the routing region.

That can be broken down even more precisely. The first number is the postcode: Germany is divided into a total of ten such zones. For example, the 0 and 1 are reserved for East Germany, the 7 applies primarily in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria has the 8 and 9, Hesse has the 3 and 6.

The assignments are not based on federal states, but on the commercial airport from which the mail is usually delivered.

The second number describes the specific area within the postcode. For example, the numbers 60 apply to Frankfurt am Main Mitte, 65 belongs to Wiesbaden and 69 to Heidelberg.

What the last three digits reveal

The three remaining digits precisely delimit the living area of ​​the recipient. Within each routing region, between 20 and 200 numbers are provided for the so-called routing areas.

That means: Every municipality gets such a number range. These municipalities do not necessarily correspond to the political municipalities, the area can cross district and state borders.

The postman can immediately identify the type of recipient based on the postcode: is it a major customer, a PO box or a delivery district? The lowest numbers within the municipalities always apply to PO boxes, the highest to delivery districts, i.e. for residential buildings and offices.

In between there are major customers with their own postcodes. In Munich, for example, postcodes from 80001 mark the postboxes. BMW uses the 80788 for itself, the city administration has the 80313. The normal letter post is divided into the postcodes between 80331 and 85540.

Bundestag, Zugspitze and a tree with its own zip code

A corporation or institution only gets its own postcode if it either receives a lot of mail, has a certain function or is in an unusual location.

A letter or parcel with the postcode 11011 ends up in the Bundestag. The kiosk and the weather station on the Zugspitze have the zip code 82475. The Frankfurt Messeturm also has a personal identification number with the 60308.

There is even a tree with its own zip code: the groom's oak in Eutin receives 30 to 40 letters a week. The tree is an old-fashioned dating app: the postman puts the marriage requests in a knothole, anyone can read them - and maybe find a partner.

29,000 postcodes and a few breakdowns

There are a total of 29,000 postcodes in Germany, 100,000 are theoretically possible. 16,500 belong to PO boxes, 3,100 to bulk recipients, 8,200 are postcodes for home delivery. There are also 800 campaign postcodes, for example for postal votes.

When the ingenious postcodes were reassigned, there were a few strange mishaps. The village of Billmutshauen on the former German-German border got the postcode 98663, although nobody has lived there since the late 1970s. At the same time, the Post completely forgot a region.

The Reinhardswald estate in the Hessian district of Kassel measures 185 square kilometers. The only two residents who run a restaurant there nevertheless had to do without a postcode for a long time. They have only been available by post on 34346 since 2015.