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An introduction to legal research in the jurisdiction of Germany
Last Updated: Jan 24, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
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Last updated:

Katherine Read, June 2014


About the author

This guide was updated by Katherine Read, Principal Library Assistant at the IALS Library.

Click here for Katherine's full profile and contact details.

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    The Institute Library has substantial collections of the law of the countries of Western Europe, and Germany is well represented. The legal system is more complicated than that of France, in that Germany is a Federal Republic, and there are legislatures for each of the states (Länder). The number of these increased from eleven to sixteen on reunification with the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) in October 1990. As will be seen, the collections are mainly confined to federal law. Although we do have a small collection of older GDR material, it is not discussed here.

    Where appropriate, Internet sources are given at the end of the relevant section. Fuller details of these sources can be found by using the Eagle-i search engine  which is also accessible from the IALS Home Page.

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    Primary sources: codes and statutes

    IALS holds an unbroken run of the older Reichsgesetzblatt from 1899 to 1945. This is held in the closed basement.

    Its successor, the Bundesgesetzblatt, is published in two parts, Teil I containing laws and ministerial orders, and Teil II international agreements. There is a good annual cumulative index or Fundstellennachweis to each part. The printed volumes are not held at IALS but there is now free public access online to the Bundesgesetzblatt with the Fundstellennachweis. Coverage starts in 1949 but this does not allow any printing, text searching or downloading. An enhanced paid subscription service is available but IALS does not subscribe to this.

    Our main source for up to date texts of the Codes is Beck Online, which is provided as part of the Electronic Law Library. It includes comprehensive access to legislation in force (including Sartorius Plus and Schönfelder Plus), and Das Deutsche Bundesrecht (NOMOS).

    Sartorius Plus covers constitutional and administrative statutes, international agreements and European law.

    Schönfelder Plus  is a collection of German Statutes on civil, criminal and procedural law

     IALS also  has the current edition of Staudinger, J. von. Kommentar zum Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuch mit Einführungsgesetz und Nebensgesetzen available on Juris

    Offsite access to Beck Online and Juris is available to IALS  and UOL staff and registered students.

     IALS also  has the current edition of Staudinger, J. von. Kommentar zum Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuch mit Einführungsgesetz und Nebensgesetzen available on Juris

    Hein's Constitutions of the World provides full text access to the current and historic  versions of the German Constitution in English. This includes the Constitutions of the previous GDR and the German Reich. It is accompanied by references to a selection of historical commentaries and articles, many of which are in full text, and links to further internet sources. Offsite access to Hein  is available to IALS  and UOL staff and registered students.

    Free Internet/Electronic Sources of legislation

    Gesetze im Internet is the official public information site to make German legislation accessible to the public. It includes a section in English translation.

    Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany is available to download from the German Bundestag web site. It is in English, amended to  2010 and free of charge. There are also several other English language documents available to download. These include documents relating to the role of and services offered by the German Bundestag. 

    Parlamentsspiegel is the shared information system of the regional Länder in Germany. It allows a search for local legislation within the "Gesetzeblätter".

     Please see also the Centre for German Legal Information for access to full text German legislation in English. Titles of Acts are given in both languages. A fuller description of this resource is given at the end of this guide (English language internet resources).

    Bilaterale Investitionsschutz- und Investitionsförderverträge / Bilateral Treaties on Investment Protection and Promotion. This site provides a listing in both German and English of German bilateral investment treaties (BITS). Treaties published in the Bundesgesetzblatt are available in full text as a photographic image of the page. These are in German only. The site also offers case summaries of German arbitration cases in German and English.

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    Law reports

    Similar to other Civil law jurisdictions, it is not usually possible to search for German cases by party names. Further details relating to  the subject area, date of the decision and the type of Court are required.  Judgments are usually only available in German.

    The Institute possesses an extensive collection of German law reports, totalling 42 titles of which eight are current. These include the official reports of decisions of the Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof) in both civil and criminal cases (BGHZ and BGHSt), and those of the Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) (BVerfGE). Other series are devoted to special courts.

    Entscheidungen des Bundesverwaltungsgerichts (BVerwGE), 1954- (administrative)

    Entscheidungen des Bundesarbeitsgerichts (BAGE), 1954- (industrial)

    Sammlung der Entscheidungen des Bundesfinanzhofs (BFHE), 1956- (finance)

    Entscheidungen des Bundessozialgerichts (BSGE), 1955- (social insurance)

    In addition to series of law reports in the usual sense, decisions also appear in both general and specialized legal periodicals. Among the former are Neue Juristische Wochenschrift and Monatsschrift für deutsches Recht , and the latter Gewerblicher Rechtsschutz und Urheberrecht (intellectual property), Die Offentliche Verwaltung  (public administrative law) and Die Aktiengesellschaft (company law). Neue Justiz , focuses on the development of law and administration of justice in the new federal Länder, which were originally East Germany prior to reunification. 

    A sample case reference from one of these journals is BVerfG, NJW 2014, 1581. The case was heard in the German Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht - BVerfG) and reported in Neue Juristische Wochenschrift (NJW) in 2014 (page 1581)

    Some of the Journal sources of law reports are also available electronically on Beck. Please refer to the main section on Journals for full details of the titles covered.

    Online Sources of German case law  

    The following sites either give full text reports/press releases of recent cases or refer users to other specific sites to obtain these reports. They also provide background information about the courts.

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    IALS Library holds a wide selection of German legal sources. A separate section of this guide considers English language sources.

    Major commentaries

    Staudinger, J. von Kommentar zum Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuch. 13th edition, 2006. Walter de Gruyter. (The current edition of this publication is available to academic users as part of the Beck Online subscription )

    Schönke, A. Strafgesetzbuch: Kommentar.  28th edition, 2010. Beck.

    Shorter commentaries      

    The series of Kurz-Kommentare (short commentaries), published by Beck,  reproduce the text of each section of a statute in bold type, followed by commentary and reference to literature and case law. IALS currently holds a wide selection of titles, many of which have been updated recently. These works are more substantial than the series title might suggest. Recent publications in this series and held at IALS include:

    Palandt. Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch 71st ed. 2012 Beck

    Baumbach, A. Zivilprozessordnung 67th ed. 2009 Beck

    Bumiller, U. Freiwillige Gerichtsbarkeit. 10th ed. 2011 Beck

    Knappmann, U. Versicherungsvertragsgesetz 26th ed. 1998 (not latest)

    Köhler, H. Wettbewerbsrecht 28th ed. 2010 Beck

    Tröndle, H., Strafgesetzbuch und Nebengesetze 56th ed., 2009 Beck

    Meyer-Gossner, L. Strafprozessordnung 51st ed. 2008 Beck

    Hüffer, U. Aktiengesetz. 8th ed. 2008 Beck

    Rabe, D. Seehandelsrecht 4th ed. 2000 Beck

    Hopt, K. Handelsgesetzbuch 35th ed. 2012 Beck

    Hueck, G. GmbH-Gesetz 19th ed. 2010 Beck

    Dieterich, T. Erfurter Kommentar zum Arbeitsrecht 9th ed. 2008 Beck

    Rosenberg, L ed. . Zivilprozessrecht. 17th ed. 2010 Beck

    Kreikebohm, R. et al. Kommentar zum Sozialrecht. 2009 Beck

    Köhler, H. & Bornkamm, J. Gesetz gegen den unlauteren Wettbewerb... 28th ed. 2010 Beck

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    The following printed titles are on current subscription. The list excludes international and comparative law journals. (currency checked May 2013)

    Die Aktiengesellschaft 1975, vol. 20-

    Archiv des öffentlichen Rechts1948, vol. 74-

    Archiv für die civilistische Praxis 1883, vol. 66-

     Archiv für Rechts- und Sozialphilosophie 1960, vol. 46-

     Archiv für Urheber und Medienrecht 2000, vol. 1-   – also its predecessor under various titles.

     GRUR: Gewerblicher Rechtsschutz und Urheberrecht 1969, vol. 71-

     GRUR Internationaler Teil 1960-

     Goltdammers Archiv für Strafrecht 1953-

     Jahrbuch des öffentlichen Rechts der Gegenwart 1959, vol. 8-

     Juristenzeitung 1951, vol. 6-

     Juristische Rundschau 1947-51; 1960-

     Juristische Schulung 1967, vol. 7-

     Monatsschrift für deutsches Recht, 1947, vol. 1- (some gaps 1950-59)

     Neue juristische Wochenschrift  1947-8 (1)-

     Neue Justiz (previously East German and now represents the new federal Länder) 1947, vol. 1-

     Die öffentliche Verwaltung 1965, vol. 18-

     Der Staat 1964, vol. 3-

     Das Standesamt 1968, vol. 21-

     Wirtschaft und Wettbewerb 1960, vol. 10-

     Zeitschrift für das gesamte Familienrecht

     Zeitschrift für das gesamte Handelsrecht und Wirtschaftsrecht 1961, vol. 124-

    Zeitschrift für die gesamte Strafrechtswissenschaft  1881, vol. 1- (lacks 1933-51)

     Zeitschrift für Rechtspolitik 1968, vol. 1-

     Zeitschrift für Unternehmens- und Gesellschaftsrecht 1980, vol. 9-

     Zeitschrift für Zivilprozess 1950, vol. 64-

    Electronic Subscriptions 

    Beck online provides full text access to two collections of German online journals, Neue Juristische Wochenschrift Group and Gewerblicher Rechtsschutz Plus. The details of the journal titles  are included in the help file which is part of  the Electronic Law Library.

    Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals (part of Hein) allows searching of  articles from Civil law jurisdictions including Germany. It can be searched using keywords in English or German. It does not provide full text access but some of the printed  journals are held at IALS.  It can be accessed onsite at IALS.

     Free Internet Journals

    JurPC: Internet Zeitschrift für Rechtsinformatik: A full text journal with an archive of full text German language articles from 1989-1996 and a current section for 1997 to the current year.

    Humboldt Forum Recht, produced by students and young lawyers under the guidance of professors at the Humboldt University, Berlin: includes full text articles/features, mainly in German but with occasional contributions in English.

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    English language works on German law

    A good introduction is provided by:

    Ardizzone, A. et al. ed. German tax and business law 2005 (London, Sweet & Maxwell)

    Beinert, D. et al. Mergers and acquisitions in Germany   2009 (München Beck)

    Bockstiegel, K. Arbitration in Germany. the model law in practice. 2007 (Kluwer)

    Bohlander, M. Principles of German criminal law. 2009 (Oxford Hart)

    Bohlander, M. Principles of German criminal procedure. 2012 (Oxford Hart)

    Crosby, M.B. The making of a German Constitution: a slow revolution. 2004 (Berg)

    Ebke, W.F. & Finkin, W. Introduction to German law 2nd ed. 2005

    Fisher, Howard D. The German legal system and legal language: a general survey together with notes and a German vocabulary 4th ed. 2009

    Foster, N. German legal system & laws 4th ed. 2010

    Geisler, M. & Boewe, M. The German Civil Aviation Act. 2009

    Heun, W.  The Constitution of Germany: a contextual analysis  2010

    Kommers, D. & Miller, R. The Constitutional jurisprudence of the Federal Republic of Germany. 3rd rev. ed. 2012 (Duke University Press)

    Lingemann, S. Employment and labor law in Germany. 2012 (Beck)

    Reimann, M. An introduction to German law. 2005

    Robbers, G. Introduction to German law. 2nd ed. 2006

    Scherer, P. & Zeller, Sven. Banking regulation in Germany. 2009 (German Law Publishers. GLP)

    Wegerich, T. & Freckman, A. The German legal system  3rd ed. 1999

    Wendler, M. Key aspects of German business law  2006

    Youngs, R. English, French and German comparative law. 2007

    Wirth, G. Corporate law in Germany   2nd ed. 2010

    Zimmerman, R. The new German law of obligations 2005

    The Civil, Commercial and Criminal Codes have both been issued in translation in recent years:

    Goren, S.L and Forrester, I.S. The German Commercial Code as amended to 28th Oct 1994 2nd rev ed. 1998.

    Meister, B. et al. The German limited liability company. 7th rev. ed. 2010  Beck

    Peltzer, M. German Commercial Code 2nd rev ed. 1993 (parallel German/English text)

    Bohlander, M. The German Criminal Code. a modern English translation. 2008 (Oxford Hart)

    Statutes on company law are available in parallel German/English text:

    Aufenanger, A. The German Trademark Act 3rd ed. 2006 Beck

    The German Stock Corporation Act 2000 (Beck/Kluwer)

    Müller, K. The German GmbH Law: a guide to the German limited liability company. 2nd ed. 2009. (Beck/Kluwer)

    A major loose-leaf work, first published in 1983 and still maintained, which includes an appendix of important statutes in translation, is:

    Rüster, B., ed. Business transactions in Germany. 4 vols. Bender.

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    Internet sources in English

    The Hauser Globalex site provides English language guides to a wide range of jurisdictions and subject areas covering foreign, international and comparative legal research and tools for building research collections in these areas.

    Guide to translations of German business and commercial laws (2012)

    Legal research in Germany between print and electronic media (2012)

    Centre for German Legal Information. This is a new gateway to German law in English. It brings together links to a wide variety of other websites and gives access to court reports, legislation, articles and other legal documents. The legislation can be navigated using either the German title or the English translation. It is comprehensive and currently freely accessible. It is administered by the German Federal Foreign Office.

    The German Law Journal  is an English language full text  journal which focuses on foreign, European and Civil law systems. It started in 2000

    Virtuelle Fachbibliothek Recht (Virtual Law Library).  This is a gateway to a wide variety of freely available legal internet sources. The background to the project is explained in English but the documents are mainly in German. It also gives access to the catalogues of the State Library of Berlin.

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    Help with abbreviations

    Kirchner: Abkürzungsverzeichnis der Rechtssprache ". 2nd ed. 2013 RF73 KIR.

    This gives an alphabetical listing of abbreviations and also arranges them in separate lists under the headings of Official Publications, Journals/Law Reports and Primary/Subsidiary Legislation.

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