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Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany
The Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (German: Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland) is the constitution of modern Germany. It first came into effect in 1949 as the constitution of West Germany.
The German word Grundgesetz may be translated as either 'Basic Law' or 'Fundamental Law'. The usual word for 'constitution' in German is Verfassung but Grundgesetz was chosen for the title of the document adopted in 1949 in order to suggest that both the new constitution, and the West German state it created, were merely provisional and would serve only until the achievement of reunification. The belief at the time was that this would not take long; however, the emergence of the Cold War caused the division of Germany to last more than forty years.
In 1991 reunification came about in the form of East Germany joining the Federal Republic. Since this time the Basic Law has continued in force as the constitution of all of Germany. The Basic Law has not been renamed but some amendments with respect to reunification were made in 1991 and 1994.
The Basic Law was adopted in the aftermath of World War II while West Germany was still under allied occupation. Before the allied occupation the West German states, or Lšnder, were given constitutions. The new constitution for West Germany was originally to be drafted by a constituent assembly and submitted to a plebiscite for ratification. However, for the same reasons that the document was ultimately called a 'basic law' and not a 'constitution', the leaders of the Lšnder insisted that the drafting body be called the 'Parliamentary Council' and that plans for a referendum be abandoned.
When it met the Parliamentary Council consisted of delegates chosen by the governments of each Land. After being passed by the council and approved by the occupying powers the Basic Law was submitted to the governments of the Lšnder for ratification, it having been provided that the document would not come into effect until it had been ratified by at least two-thirds of the states. After meeting these requirements the enactment of the Basic Law was proclaimed on May 23, 1949.
- Full text:
- Constitution of the German Empire (1871-1919). Full text from Wikisource.
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