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Documents on the Foundation of the
Federal Republic of Germany in 1949


Adoption of Draft Constitution by the Council, May 8, 1949:
Statement by Secretary Acheson on May 11, 1949

I should like to say a few words on the approval by the Bonn Parliamentary Council of the draft German Constitution.

Parliamentary Council has labored diligently for eight months and to good effect. The members of the Council are to be congratulated upon the successful outcome of their work.

The basic law is being studied in detail, and the terms of approval will be communicated by the Military Governors after the necessary review has been completed.


Approval by Western Military Governors

Letter from the Three Western Military Governors to the President of the Parliamentary Council

12 May 1949

President of the Parliamentary Council


1. The Basic Law passed on 8 May by the Parliamentary Council has received our careful and interested attention. In our opinion it happily combines German democratic tradition with the concepts of representative government and a rule of law which the world has come to recognize as requisite to the life of a free people.

2. In approving this constitution for submis-sion to the German people for ratification in accordance with the provisions of Article 144 (1) we believe that you will understand that there are several reservations which we must make. In the first place, the powers vested in the Federation by the Basic Law, as well as the powers exercised by Laender and local governments are subject to the provisions of the Occupation Statute which we have already transmitted to you and which is promulgated as of this dates

3. In the second place, it should be understood that the police powers contained in Article 91 (2) may not be exercised until specifically approved by the Occupation Authorities. Likewise, the remaining police functions of the Federation shall be governed by our letter to you of 14 April 1949 on this subject.

4. A third reservation concerns the participation of Greater Berlin in the Federation. We interpret the effect of Articles 23 and 144 (2) of the Basic Law as constituting acceptance of our previous request that while Berlin may not be accorded voting membership in the Bundestag or Bundesrat nor be governed by the Federation she may, nevertheless, designate a small number of representatives to attend the meetings of those legislative bodies.

5. A fourth reservation relates to Articles 29 and 118 and the general question of the reorganization of Laender boundaries. Excepting in the case of Wuerttemberg-Baden and Hohenzollern our position on this question has not changed since we discussed the matter with you on 2 March. Unless the High Commissioners should unanimously agree to change this position, the powers set forth in these articles shall not be exercised and the boundaries of all of the Laender excepting Wuerttemberg-Baden and Hohenzollern shall remain as now fixed until the time of the peace treaty.

6. Fifthly, we consider that Article 84, paragraph 5 and Article 87, paragraph 3, give to the Federation very wide powers in the administrative field. The High Commissioners will have to give careful consideration to the exercise of such powers in order to insure that they do not lead to excessive concentration of authority.

7. At our meeting with you on 25 April we proposed to you a formula to interpret in Eng-lish the intention of Article 72 (2), 3. This formula which you accepted as conveying your meaning read as follows:

"...because the maintenance of legal or economic unity demands it in order to promote the economic interests of the Federation or to insure reasonable equality of economic oppor-tunity to all persons."

We wish you to know that the High Commissioner will interpret this article in accordance with this text.

8. In order to eliminate the possibility of future legal controversy, we would like to make it clear that when we approved constitutions for the Laender we provided that nothing con-tained in those constitutions could be interpreted as restricting the provisions of the Federal constitution. Conflict between Laender con-stitutions and the provisional Federal constitution must, therefore, be resolved in favor of the latter.

9. We should also like it to be clearly under-stood that upon the convening of the legislative bodies provided for in the Basic Law, and upon the election of the President and the election and appointment of the Chancellor and the Federal MInisters, respectively, in the manner provided for in the Basic Law, the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany will then be established and the Occupation Statute shall thereupon enter into force.

10. On the completion of their final task as laid down in Article 145, 1, the Parliamentary Council will be dissolved. We wish to take this occasion to compliment the members of the Parliamentary Council on their successful com-pletion of a difficult task performed under trying circumstances, on the manifest care and thoroughness with which they have done their work, and on their devotion to the democratic ideals toward the achievement of which we are all striving.

B. H. ROBERTSON General. Military Governor, British Zone
PIERRE KOENIG Général d'Armée. Military Governor, French Zone
LUCIUS D. CLAY General, U.S. Army. U.S. Zone

(Germany: The Story in Documents, 1947 - 1949. p. 279. Department of State, 1950)


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Updated: August 2001