Originally compiled by Paul Norman, Summer 1990.
Updated by Katherine Read, Academic Services, 2002, 2007 and 2009/2010


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 very small collection of 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.

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 subscription service is available but IALS does not subscribe to this.

There exists a loose-leaf collection, not in IALS, of statutes published by Nomos entitled Das deutsche Bundesrecht , in over 30 binders, updated monthly.

The situation with respect to Codes is slightly different from that for France. Our main source for up to date texts is the loose-leaf compilation of the major statutes entitled

Schönfelder: Deutsche Gesetze: Sammlung des Zivil-, Straf- und Verfahrensrechts (German statutes: collection of civil, criminal and procedural law)

and its companion volume

Sartorius: Verfassungs- und Verwaltungsgesetze (constitutional and administrative statutes). Vol.I: Constitutional and administrative statutes; vol.II: International agreements, European law.

Each is published by C.H. Beck, and is updated at least one a year. The major codes have useful chronological tables of amendments with indications of articles affected.

Annotated versions of the codes are noted under the heading Treatises below.

Internet/Electronic Sources of legislation

Recht für Deutschland provides full text of the Bundesgesetzblatt, regional legislation and to the Gesetzblatt for the previous DDR. It is not freely available but users can order individual documents from the sources covered.

Gesetze im WWW offers quick access to a wide range of full text legislation in the original language with easy reference to recent amendments (to at least Dec 2008).

Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany. This is available to download from the German Bundestag web site. It is in English, amended to June 2008 and free of charge.

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 treaties and is up to date to November 2008. Treaties published in the Bundesgesetzblatt are available in full text as a photographic image of the page. These are in German only.

Beck Online is available to academic users as part of the Electronic Law Library. It includes comprehensive access to legislation in force (including Sartorius Plus and Schönfelder Plus), commentary on the Bürgerliche Gesetzbuch and also the current edition  of

Staudinger, J. von. Kommentar zum Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuch.

Offsite access is possible for IALS staff and registered students

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Law reports

The Institute possesses an extensive collection of German law reports, totalling 42 titles of which twelve 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).

The selected civil decisions of the supreme courts of the Länder 1965 - 1994 are published in Entscheidungen der Oberlandesgerichte in Zivilsachen (OLGZ). This was superseded in 1995 by Praxis der Freiwilligen Gerichtsbarkeit.

Other series are devoted to special courts:

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

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

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

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

The following specialized series is in loose-leaf format:

Schulze, E. Rechtsprechung zum Urheberrecht , 1954-

This set is in two series, 1954-1980 (13 binders) and 1980- (3 binders), and publishes decisions of the general courts, both federal and state, in copyright matters. A small selection of foreign judgments is also included.

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) 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.

Internet Sources of 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.

· The Supreme Court

· The Constitutional Court

· The Administrative Court

· The Social [Insurance] Court

· The Financial Court

Digests of case law

A near approximation to a digest in the common law sense is provided by the Fundhefte published annually by C.H. Beck. There are currently four series:

Fundheft für Arbeits- und Sozialrecht , 1945/53 - 2001 (labour and social insurance law)

Fundheft für Öffentliches Recht , 1948/51- (IALS 1959- ) (public law)

Steuerrecht-Fundstellen , 1991- (formerly Fundheft für Steuerrecht IALS 1958- 1990) (tax law)

Fundheft für Zivilrecht , 1945/52- (IALS 1956/58- ) (civil law)

Arrangement is sometimes according to hierarchical subject headings, sometimes by statute and section number, notably the articles of the Civil Code in the Civil Law set. References to cases are brief; those to periodical articles and books just the respective titles. There are indexes arranged by court and date of decision but not, as usual in continental systems, by names of parties.

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" Great commentaries"        

A prominent feature of German legal literature is the importance of in-depth scholarly commentaries on the codes and other major statutes. Such works are of high authority and are frequently referred to in court decisions.

The Institute has many of these publications, usually on standing order as the current editions are often issued in paper parts. In most cases we also have previous editions. The list includes notably:

Civil Code

Das   Bürgerliche Gesetzbuch 12th ed. 1974-2000  Walter de Gruyter. (not continued)

Erman, W.   Handkommentar zum Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuch, 12th edition, 2008. Otto Schmidt.

Münchener Kommentar zum BGB.  3rd edition, 1992-1999. Beck.

Staudinger, J. von Kommentar zum Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuch. 13th edition, 2005. Walter de Gruyter. (The current edition of this publication is available to academic users as part of the Beck Online subscription )

Civil Procedure

Stein-Jonas, Kommentar zur Zivilprozessordnung. 21st edition, 1993 edited by Bork, R. (not continued)

Commercial Code

Staub, H. Handelsgesetzbuch. Großkommentar. 4th edition, 1983-1995 de Gruyter.  (not continued)

Company laws

Aktiengesetz. Großkommentar. 3rd edition, 1992- .  Walter de Gruyter.

Criminal Code

Schönke, A. Strafgesetzbuch: Kommentar.  27th edition, 2006. Beck.

Shorter commentaries        

The massive scale of the major commentaries and long publication time scale prevents their being completely up to date, and so it is necessary to provide single-volume editions which are issued more frequently. 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 68th ed. 2009 Beck

Baumbach, A. Zivilprozessordnung 65th ed. 2007 Beck

Bumiller, U. Freiwillige Gerichtsbarkeit. 8th ed. 2006 Beck

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

Köhler, H. Wettbewerbsrecht 25th ed. 2007 Beck

Tröndle, H., Strafgesetzbuch und Nebengesetze 53rd ed., 2006 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 33rd ed. 2008 Beck

Hueck, G. GmbH-Gesetz 18th ed. 2006 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... 17th ed. 2010 Beck


Copies of un-annotated statutes are published by Beck in the paperback "dtv" series, and some of these have been acquired over the years, usually by gift.

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Collections of essays in honour of legal scholars figure largely in the literature. During the long period when the Index to foreign legal periodicals had its editorial home at the Institute, many of these were obtained on a complimentary basis. However, since the transfer of IFLP to the University of California at Berkeley, purchase of these important works has practically ceased.

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The following titles are on current subscription. The list excludes international and comparative law journals.

Die Aktiengesellschaft 1975 (20)-

Archiv des öffentlichen Rechts 1948(74)-

Archiv für die civilistische Praxis 1883(66)-

Archiv für Rechts- und Sozialphilosophie 1960(46)-

Archiv für Urheber und Medienrecht 2000 (1) – also its predecessor under various titles, 1962 (36)-1999 (139)

Deutsches Verwaltungsblatt 1960(75)-

Gewerblicher Rechtsschutz und Urheberrecht 1969(71)-

GRUR Internationaler Teil 1960-

Goltdammers Archiv für Strafrecht 1953-

Jahrbuch des öffentlichen Rechts der Gegenwart 1959(8)-

Juristenzeitung 1951(6)-

Juristische Rundschau 1947-51; 1960-

Juristische Schulung 1967(7)-

Monatsschrift für deutsches Recht (some gaps 1950-59)

Neue juristische Wochenschrift

Neue Justiz (previously East German and now represents the new federal Länder)

Die öffentliche Verwaltung 1965(18)-

Der Staat 1964(3)-

Das Standesamt 1968(21)-

Verwaltungsarchiv 1960(51)-

Wirtschaft und Wettbewerb 1960(10)-

Zeitschrift für das gesamte Familienrecht

Zeitschrift für das gesamte Handelsrecht und Wirtschaftsrecht 1961(124)-

Zeitschrift für die gesamte Strafrechtswissenschaft (lacks 1933-51)

Zeitschrift für Rechtspolitik

Zeitschrift für Unternehmens- und Gesellschaftsrecht 1980(9)-

Zeitschrift für Zivilprozess (lacks 1906-1937)


Internet Periodicals

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


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English language works on German law

A good introduction is provided by

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

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

Crosby, M.B. The making of a German Constitution: a slow revolution. 2008 (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 2nd ed. 1999

Foster, N. German legal system & laws 3rd ed. 2003

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

Reimann, M. An introduction to German law. 2005

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

Wegerich, T. & Freckman, A. The German legal system 2nd ed. 2004

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:

Forrester, I.S. and others The German Civil Code as amended to January 1 1975, with supplement to 1981.

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

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)

The German GmbH Law: a guide to the German limited liability company. 2006. (Beck/Kluwer)

Other translations in the Institute include:

Banks as financial advisers: a comparative study of English and German law. Kluwer 2001

German industrial property, copyright and antitrust laws, 3rd rev. looseleaf edition. VCH, 1996. (IIC Studies, 6)

German insurance laws : statutes and regulations concerning insurance supervision and insurance contracts. Versicherungswirtschaft, 1995

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

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


English language Internet sources

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 (2005)

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 Englise translation. It is comprehensive and currently freely accessible. It is administered by the German Federal Foreign Office.

Virtuelle Fachbibliothek Recht (Virtual Law Library).  This 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.

  A full length English language article about the development of this project is also freely accessible. It was originally published in the journal Legal Information Management.


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The Institute has a good general collection of German law, including a wide range of periodicals built up while the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals was published here. During 2007, with the  kind assistance of Mr Holger Knudsen, Librarian at the Max Planck Institute in Hamburg, we were able to review and update our collections of commentaries and English language works. Further new titles have been added since then

As ever, the maintenance of the present collection in up to date condition is in itself a heavy commitment, and excursions into more specialized areas of law cannot be contemplated without increases in both financial and personnel resources.


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