The public debate about the formulation of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany, 1948-1949
Four years after the end of the National Socialist dictatorship and a disastrous major war, basic rights and democratic government were enshrined in the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany in May 1949. Thus parliamentary democracy was formally and institutionally reintroduced to Western Germany at the Bund level. Successful implantation of democracy, however, requires not only constitutional arrangements but also, and perhaps more importantly, participation on the part of the people in the democratic process. Through analysis of the public involvement in the Basic Law's formulation and the impact of the public debate on the deliberations of the Parliamentary Council between September 1948 and May 1949, the degree of participation of Germans in the three Western zones of occupation, upon which the new West German state could subsequently build, is explored. Initial answers are suggested in chapter II and then developed in subsequent chapters as various contentious topics debated by the Parliamentary Council are examined. Anti-parliamentarianism, the search for a new symbol, newspaper perceptions as a reflection of the reality of interaction between occupier and occupied in the constitution's formulation, and the public debate about the nature and status of the second chamber, about the relationship between God and the Basic Law, and about full equality for women are analysed. The nature and extent of the public debate 1948-1949 make clear that the German population of the Western zones had already begun to think and function in a democratic fashion on the Bund level. This thesis suggests that the creation of an institutional framework, such as the Basic Law, should not be overemphasized at the expense of the developing democratic culture in post-war Western Germany. Without the gradual democratization of the population already well underway when the provisional constitution came into force on 23 May 1949, it is unlikely that the Federal Republic of Germany could have established itself so successfully so quickly.