German Basic Law

What are my rights?

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The Basic Law or "Grundgesetz" is the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany. It includes the most fundamental rights that determine the way society is organised in Germany. No other law may contradict the Basic Law. For instance, the Asylum Act or the Criminal Law may not contain any ordinances which conflict with the Basic Law. The Basic Law is the most prominent body of law in Germany, hence stands above all others.

The Basic Law consists of 146 sections, i.e. "articles". The first 19 articles of the Basic Law contain the so-called "fundamental rights", i.e. the most significant human rights vis-à-vis the state, designed to protect the individual from arbitrary conduct, injustice and violence from the state. Some of these fundamental rights, also referred to as "human rights", apply to everyone in Germany, regardless of residence status. The Basic Law also includes a set of other rights, referred to as "civil rights", which only applies to people who have German citizenship.

Established in West Germany in 1949, The Basic Law has been applying to all of Germany since the reunification of 1990. Many of the principles included are consequences of violations of human rights during the National Socialist dictatorship between 1933 and 1945. Fundamental rights have been given a central position in the Basic Law to ensure the atrocities of Nazi times cannot happen again.

The Federal Constitutional Court is in charge of monitoring and assuring compliance with the Basic Law. The government cannot simply amend the Basic Law.

What are the German Fundamental Rights?

Article 1: Human Dignity

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Article 2: Personal Freedoms

Article 3: Equality before the law

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Article 4: Freedom of belief

Article 5: Freedom of expression and freedom of the press

Article 6: Marriage and family

Article 7: School

Article 8: Freedom of assembly

Article 9: Freedom of association

Article 10: Privacy of correspondence

Article 11: Freedom of movement

Article 12: Occupational freedom

Article 12 a: Military service

Article 13: Inviolability of the home

Article 14: Property

Article 15: Land

Article 16: Citizenship

Article 16a: Right of asylum

Article 17: Right of petition

Article 18: Forfeiture of fundamental rights

Article 19: Restriction of fundamental rights


Fundamental rights are the most significant rights to which people in Germany are entitled. It is crucial to know your rights to be able to protect yourself.