What are the 27 constitutional amendments

Over sixty constitutional amendments

A look back at the continuous change: The publicist, lawyer and political scientist Albrecht von Lucke tells the story of the Basic Law in a different way - namely on the basis of the numerous changes to the legal text.


Hans Jessen: Mr. von Lucke, the Basic Law has been changed over 60 times in 70 years. Is that a lot or a little?
Albrecht von Lucke: That is a lot, but it also had to be so much. What we understand today as an established constitution was, in the beginning, not a finished constitution, but a legal provisional arrangement for a part of the state that was not yet sovereign. The Basic Law - as "basic law" - had to get over the great historical breaks of this country in constant update and thus actually become what it is today.
Today there are two readings in the appreciation or criticism of the Basic Law. A reading of the aesthetes who speak of a great history of decline: The beautiful, puristic articles of the old Basic Law have come to the dog through the countless changes that no longer speak the same, clear language.
In my opinion, however, the more coherent reading is the politically pragmatic one, according to which the Basic Law really needed to be expanded. Just because the Constitution has gone through the necessary changes, over the great debates of this country, is civic understanding
so congealed that today we as constitutional patriots - whether conservative, liberal or left-wing - are fully committed to the Basic Law.


Can the constitutional amendments be categorized? If so, what are they? Many of the changes involved financial issues. Tax revenue and distribution, as well as the organization of responsibilities between the federal and state governments, have been changed several times. Didn't these reforms significantly determine the character of the Basic Law?
As a matter of fact. We often tick off what is actually central, as it were, in passing: In the Basic Law, we are dealing with an enormous number of competence regulations. There must be constant specification of the responsibilities of the federal and state governments. That is why we have seen all sorts of federalism reforms over the years.
This also applies to the European level: How are competences transferred to Europe - to Brussels, to Strasbourg? These changes make up a large proportion of the amendments to the Basic Law. For political culture, however, they are far less relevant than the actual major turning points that have shaped entire decades.


The first major turning point, also in the amendment to the Basic Law, was rearmament?
Yes. The first major wave of changes began in the early 1950s.
The rearmament represented a question of a very fundamental nature: How will Germany become sovereign again? To what extent is Germany growing into the role of the sovereign state, which is suddenly supposed to be part of the Western alliance, also at will from the outside?
It was the time of the Korean War, and Asia was already at the center of US politics back then, and that's not just been the case since Obama or Trump. The Americans wanted Germany - to relieve them in Europe - as part of a military bulwark against communism. Chancellor Adenauer immediately took up this American interest. He enforced the course - rearmament, the Paris Treaties - domestically entirely on his own initiative, bypassing friends and foes.
This is the first major turning point. In 1949 Franz Josef Strauss said: “If you want to pick up a gun again, your hand should fall off.” A few years later, this man was Minister of Defense and even strove for nuclear weapons.
This first major turning point was also a break with the self-image that Germany would never have an army again.
This constitutional amendment represents a historical breach that is also culturally highly effective: In the course of rearmament and the regaining of (partial) national sovereignty, the first big wave of protest broke out. The amendment to the Basic Law immediately meant that another part of society, which was just as patriotic on the constitution, said: "Never again" or "without me" and later also "Fight atomic death" against nuclear weapons.
At that time, a large part of the war generation took to the streets, together with many later born, there was a real first big argument about the question: What constitution should this country have?