Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany

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The Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (German: Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland) is the constitutional[1] law of Germany. It was formally approved on 8 May 1949, and, with the signature of the Allies, came into effect on 23 May 1949, as the constitution of West Germany.

The German word Grundgesetz may be translated as either Basic Law or Fundamental Law (Grund is cognate with the English word ground). The term Verfassung (constitution) was not used, as the drafters regarded the Grundgesetz as a provisional constitution for the provisional West German state and would not prejudice the decisions of a future reunified Germany to adopt a constitution. Shortly after its adoption, the East German Soviet occupation zone was transformed into the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR) with its own constitution.

Germany reunified when the Communist regime in East Germany was toppled and the GDR peacefully joined the Federal Republic of Germany. Article 23 of the Basic Law was used in reunification when East Germany, which had been unitary since 1949, re-divided into its original länder, with Berlin as a new city-state (like Bremen and Hamburg). After reunification, the Basic Law remained in force, having proved itself as a stable foundation for the thriving democracy in West Germany that had emerged from the ruins of World War II. Some changes were made to the law in 1990, mostly pertaining to reunification, such as to the preamble. Additional major modifications of the Basic Law were made in 1994, 2002 and 2006.

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