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Georgetown Law Library

German Legal Research Guide

This in-depth guide will help researchers navigate the German legal materials.

The Basic Law, Germany's Federal Constitution

Table of Contents

Brief Overview

The Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (Das Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland - GG), also translated as the Fundamental Law, is Germany's federal constitution.  It was adopted in 1949 as a provisional constitution for the German states in the western zone of occupation administered by the United States, Great Britain, and France in the aftermath of World War II.

The drafters of the Basic Law assumed that it would function as an interim measure, to be replaced by a permanent constitution (verfassung) for the whole of Germany upon its eventual reunification.  When Germany finally did reunify in 1990, the states that comprised the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) acceded to the Federal Republic, as permitted under Article 23 of the Basic Law, and adopted the Basic Law as their governing document.

The Basic Law has been amended from time to time, both before and after German reunification, but it has never been replaced.  Thus what was intended to be an interim measure has become Germany's permanent constitution.
 

The Basic Law Online

Current and prior versions of the Basic Law are available online and in print, both in the original German and in English translation.

  • Gesetze im Internet (Law on the Internet)
    This German government website provides free online access to the current version of the Basic Law, as amended.
    • Grundgesetz (GG) - current version (as amended) in German
    • Basic Law - current version (as amended) in English translation
       
  • World Constitutions Illustrated (HeinOnline)
    This HeinOnline database provides access to the current and prior versions of the Basic Law; legislation that has amended the Basic Law; historical German constitutions, including those of East Germany and the Weimar Republic; links to commentaries and scholarly articles on German constitutional law selected by Hein's editors; a more comprehensive bibliography of German constitutional law; and links to other resources.
     

The Basic Law in Print

  • Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Kommentar, Call No. KK4444.3 .J37 2018
    Full text in German (current as of the date of publication), plus scholarly commentary in German.
     
  • Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany,
    Call No. KK4444.3 .A6 2010
    Full text in English (current as of the date of publication).
     
  • Constitutions of the Countries of the World, Call No. K3157.A2 B54
    This regularly updated loose-leaf collection contains current and historical constitutions from jurisdictions worldwide, including Germany, along with helpful commentaries and bibliographies.
     

Selected Secondary Sources in German

Selected Secondary Sources in English