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The term Oberliga was also used prior to the establishment of the Gauliga system in 1933 and again between the end of World War II and the formation of the Bundesliga in 1963 for first division leagues in Germany. Between 1978-94 the term Amateuroberliga was used for third tier leagues, which were then the highest level of amateur play in the country. The current usage of the designation Oberliga was introduced in 1994. In East Germany a separate league structure was in place from 1948-1990 and the top flight division there was known as the DDR-Oberliga.
From the end of the 2nd World War until the formation of the Bundesliga in 1963 there were five regional Oberligen:
Based on their on their performance in the final Oberliga season (1962-63), sixteen clubs from these five leagues formed the new nationwide first division Bundesliga, with the others going to the new second tier Regionalligen.
If the champion of an Oberliga is the B-team of a club which already has a team in the Regionalliga, or which has a team which will be relegated to the Regionalliga, the B-team cannot be promoted, and the next highest qualified team will be promoted instead.
There are twelve "Oberligen", based on states and regions of Germany.
From 1974 to 1994, the Oberligas, originally called 1st Amateurliga, were set right below the two 2nd Bundesligas, North and South. Originally there was 15 Amateurligas which were reduced to 8 Oberligas in 1978. From 1981 the 2nd Bundesliga was reduced to one single league. Because there always were more Oberliga champions then promtion spots, these clubs had to determind the promoted teams by the way of a promotion play-off to the 2nd Bundesliga, called "Aufstiegsrunde zur 2.Bundesliga".
The Oberliga Bayern was formed in 1945. In 1946/47, 1947/48 and from 1953/54 till 1962/63 it was split in a northern and a southern division. Since then it has played in the single division format. The league is also commonly referred to as the Bayernliga.Feeder Leagues to the Oberliga Bayern
The Oberliga Hessen was formed in 1945. In its first two seasons, 1945/46 and 1946/47 it played in two separate divisions, east and west. Since then it has been a single league and is the oldest Oberliga to operate continuously in this format.Feeder Leagues to the Oberliga Hessen
The Oberliga Südwest was formed in 1978 to provide a single-division 3rd tier league for the two states Saarland and Rheinland-Pfalz. Previously, the clubs that make up this Oberliga played in three separate leagues; the Amateurligas Südwest, Saarland, and Rheinland.Feeder Leagues to the Oberliga Südwest
The NOFV-Oberliga Nord was established in 1991 after the German reunification. It covers the northern part of former East Germany and the city of Berlin. In 1994 the NOFV-Oberliga Mitte ceased and its clubs were split between the other two NOFV-Oberligas.Feeder Leagues to the NOFV-Oberliga Nord
The NOFV-Oberliga Süd was established in 1991 after the reunification of the two German states. It covers the southern part of former East Germany. In 1994 the NOFV-Oberliga Mitte ceased and its clubs were split between the other two NOFV-Oberligas.Feeder Leagues to the NOFV-Oberliga Süd
Due to the Oberliga Nord being dissolved in 2008, the former Verbandsligas below it archived Oberliga status from the 2008-09 season and some have actually officially adopted the name:
The Oberliga HamburgFeeder leagues to the Oberliga Hamburg
The Oberliga BremenFeeder league to the Oberliga Bremen
The Oberliga Schleswig-HolsteinFeeder leagues to the Oberliga Schleswig-Holstein
The Oberliga Niedersachsen-WestFeeder leagues to the Oberliga Niedersachsen-West
The Oberliga Niedersachsen-OstFeeder leagues to the Oberliga Niedersachsen-Ost
The Oberliga Berlin was established in 1974 to accommodate the majority of clubs of the Regionalliga Berlin when this league ceased to exist. With the German reunion in 1991 the Oberliga Berlin ceased to exist and it's clubs were spread between the NOFV-Oberligas Nord and Mitte. The highest level of league play in Berlin is now the Verbandsliga Berlin.
The NOFV-Oberliga Mitte existed from the German reunion in 1991 till it's dissolution in 1994. It's clubs were moved to the NOFV Oberligas Nord and Süd.
The Oberliga Niedersachsen/Bremen existed from 1994 till 2004 as a replacement for the Oberliga Nord. With the reestablishment of the Oberliga Nord, the Oberliga Niedersachsen/Bremen ceased to exist.
The Oberliga Hamburg/Schleswig-Holstein existed from 1994 till 2004 as a replacement for the Oberliga Nord. With the reestablishment of the Oberliga Nord, the Oberliga Schleswig-Holstein/Hamburg ceased to exist.
The Oberliga Nordrhein was formed in 1978 as a merger of the Amateurligas Niederrhein and Mittelrhein. It was replaced by the Oberliga Nordrhein-Westfalen, which is a merger of the Oberligas Nordrhein and Westfalen.
The Oberliga Westfalen was formed in 1945. Until 1978 it was split into two separate groups, but has since operated as a single division. It wasreplaced by the Oberliga Nordrhein-Westfalen, which is a merger of the Oberligas Nordrhein and Westfalen.
The Oberliga Nord was formed in 1974 to form a highest playing level for the states of Niedersachsen, Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg and Bremen. As such it was a continuation of the old Regionalliga Nord which was superseded by the 2nd Bundesliga Nord in 1974. It stopped operating in 1994 when the Regionalliga Nord was reformed, now as the third tier of the German football league system. It was replaced by the Oberligas Schleswig-Holstein/Hamburg and Niedersachsen/Bremen. In 2004 the Oberliga Nord re-established to replace these two leagues. To add to the confusion, the Oberliga Nord again ceased to exist after the 2007/08 season with the establishment of the 3rd Liga and the introduction of a third Regionalliga (IV).
Source: The German football leagues: Bundesliga to Verbandsliga. Das deutsche Fussball-Archiv. Retrieved on 2008-02-09..