In history the Nahe River was a division line between two tiny principalities: Birkenfeld west of the Nahe, and Lichtenberg east of the river. The principality of Birkenfeld was annexed by Oldenburg in 1817; Lichtenberg became an exclave of Saxony-Coburg. The latter unit was bought by Prussia in 1834 and became the district of Sankt Wendel.
After the World War I the southern half of Sankt Wendel had to be ceded to the Saarland territory, and the small part remaining in Prussia was then officially called Restkreis Sankt Wendel ("remaining district of Sankt Wendel"). In 1937 the Oldenburgian district of Birkenfeld was merged with the remaining Sankt Wendel district to form the new Prussian district of Birkenfeld.
Following World War II 24 more villages were ceded to Saarland. It was not before 1970, that the district got its present borders.
The Nahe River runs through the district from south to north. The portions west of the river are located on the eastern slopes of the Hunsrück Mountains.
Coat of arms
The chequered red and white pattern was part of the arms of Counts of Sponheim, a medieval county of the region. The lion is the symbol of the Counts of Veldenz.
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