German Legal Research Guide
This in-depth guide will help researchers navigate the German legal materials.
The Georgetown Law Library has a strong collection of German legal materials and this in-depth guide is intended to help researchers navigate the collection. The majority of sources discussed in this guide are in German; English translations are included where available. Most German materials are located on the upper level of the Wolff Library [map] under call numbers starting KK.
If you have questions on researching German law, please feel free to contact the Wolff Library reference desk at 202-662-4195 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also chat with a librarian by clicking on the green bar above.
The German language is (in)famous for long and complicated words, and German legal terminology is certainly no exception. To make matters worse, German legal terms are often written shorthand as abbreviations. For example, VwVfG is the Verwaltungsverfahrensgesetz (law of administrative proceedings).
The following chart highlights some of the most common German legal terms, their abbreviations and common English equivalents. This is a representative list of the terms researchers most frequently see cited in the literature.
If the source listed below is available in the library, then the call number is given and a link to the record in the library catalog is provided. In cases where the library has several editions of a source, the link provided is to the record for the most recent edition.
See the Abbreviations and Legal Dictionaries sections below for additional information.
INTL KK985.51896.A6 P35 2006
INTL Media KK10 1949 Micro
|Federal Law Gazette|
|BGH||Bundesgerichtshof||Federal High Court|
|BGHSt||Entscheidungen des Bundesgerichtshofes in Strafsachen INTL KK7980.3 .B86||Decisions of the Federal High Court in Criminal Cases|
|BGHZ||Entscheidungen des Bundesgerichtshofes in Zivilsachen INTL KK44 .B86||Decisions of the Federal High Court in Civil Cases|
|BVerfGE||Entscheidungen des Bundesverfassungsgerichts
INTL KK5466.5 .B86
|Federal Constitutional Court Decisions|
|BVerwGE||Entscheidungen des Bundesverwaltungsgerichts||Federal Administrative Court Decisions|
|GG||Grundgesetz INTL KK4444.3 .J37 2004||Basic Law (English translation) INTL KK4444.3.A613 2002|
|GmbH||Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung||Private Limited Company|
INTL KK2045.51897.A6 H66 2006
|NJ||Neue Justiz||New Justice (legal journal)|
|NJW||Neue juristische Wochenschrift INTL KK6 .N48||New Legal Weekly Journal|
INTL KK7975.51871.A6 D73 2001
|Criminal Law Code (English translation)
INTL KK7975.51871 .A52 2002
- Fisher, The German Legal System and Legal Language : A General Survey Together wi th Notes and German Vocabulary (3rd edition) INTL KK147 .F57 2002
- Foster, German Legal System & Laws (3rd edition) INTL KK147 .F67 2002
- Freckman & Wegerich, The German Legal System INTL KK149 .F74 1999
- Kearley, Charles Szladits' Guide to Foreign Legal Materials : German INTL KK76 .S94 1990
- Reimann & Zekoll, Introduction to German Law (2nd edition) INTL KK147 .I58 2005
- Robbers, An Introduction to German Law INTL KK147 .R613 1998
- The Basic Law (Grundgesetz) : The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany
INTL KK4444.3.A613 2002 Translation of Germany's Grundgesetz consolidating the original text with all amendments up to and including the 50th amendment of May 2002.
- Constitutions of the Countries of the World - electronic access GULC only. Also available in print. (updated regularly) INTL K3157.A2 B54
- Eberle, Dignity and Liberty : Constitutional Visions in Germany and the United States INTL K627 .E238 2002
- Michalowski, German Constitutional Law : The Protection of Civil Liberties
INTL KK5132 .M53 1999
- Völkerrecht - Menschenrechte - Verfassungsfragen Deutschlands und Europas : Ausgewälhte Schriften INTL K3236 .F76 2004 Articles in German and English.
In addition to the resources below, consult the Foreign Law Guide, an online database of foreign law primary sources. The entry for Germany includes legal-historical background materials, a list of the primary sources for statutes, regulations, case law and other sources of law, individual laws listed by subject heading, Internet sources for German legal resources, and a good selection of English-language translations. German statutes are not available on Lexis or Westlaw.
The Bundesgesetzblatt is the official federal law gazette of Germany. It contains valid laws, ordinances, decisions of the federal constitutional court and ministerial notices. Published in two parts. Pt. 1 (Teil 1) contains statutes, regulations, ordinances, codes and administrative regulations. Pt. 2 (Teil 2) contains treaties and other international agreements as well as agreements between the Federal Government and the German Democratic Republic, and customs regulations.
- Bundesgesetzblatt [online]
Teil 1 and Teil 2 are available from 1951-present. Browseable by date only. Text in German.
- Bundesgesetzblatt [microform] INTL Media KK10 1949 Micro
This is the most current copy in the library.
- Bundesgesetzblatt [print] INTL KK10 1949 Library has volumes for the years 1949 - 1984. For more recent volumes, use the microfiche set.
Commercial Codes & Commentaries
Commentaries or Kommentare are detailed scholarly analyses of German codes. They are often quite voluminous and are frequently cited in the literature as "doctrine" in the civil law tradition.
The commentaries listed below are updated on a regular basis (looseleafs). Many more commentaries are published as single volumes, e.g. Bundesverfassungsgerichtsgesetz : Kommentar INTL KK5464.51951 .L43 2006 (on the constitutional court) or Kommentar zum Deutschen Corporate Governance Kodex INTL KK2432 .K65 2003. You can search for additional commentaries in the library catalog by keyword searching, using a combination of the term "Kommentar" and the name of the law.
- Deutsche Gesetze : Sammlung des Zivil-, Straf- und Verfahrensrechts (commonly referred to as "Schönfelder") (updated regularly) INTL KK36 .G47 1989 Includes civil and criminal laws and a subject index.
- Verfassungs- und Verwaltungsgesetze der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (commonly referred to as "Sartorius") (updated regularly) INTL KK4420 .A25 1988 Includes frequently-consulted constitutional and administrative laws.
- Münchener Kommentar zum Aktiengesetz (updated regularly) INTL KK2452.51965 .A75
- Münchener Kommentar zum Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuch (updated regularly)
INTL KK985.51978.A7 M86 2000
- Umweltrecht : Kommentar (updated regularly) INTL KK6242.A42 G47 1991
Zivilprozess-ordnung, mit Gerichts Verfassungestez und anderen Nebengesetzen: INTL KK3815.51877.A6 A4 2004
Jan Albers and Peter Hartmann have introduced this important German commentary on the Code of Civil Procedure. Commentaries usually contain annotations after the text of the code section, and references to decisions. Heavily used by lawyers, practioners and scholars. *Text in German*
Statutes Online (German Language)
For additional codes and other laws online, see the Bundesministerium der Justiz - Gesetze / Verordnungen alphabetisch sortiert.
- Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (Civil Code)
- Handelsgesetzbuch (Commercial Code)
- Strafgesetzbuch (Criminal Code)
- Strafprozessordnung (Criminal Procedure)
- Zivilprozessordnung (Civil Procedure)
Some German laws are translated into English. Note that English translations are never official (cite officially to the Bundesgesetzblatt) and they may not reflect recent changes in the law. This is true of online translations, too. Below are listed selected translations online and in print.
Remember that online translations are never official and may become out-of-date quickly. The sites below contain large collections of translated laws. For thorough look at the topic of translated German business laws, see the GlobaLex guide German Business and Commercial Laws: Guide to Translations into English and Select Auxiliary Sources by Martina Kammer and Anne Scharrenberg.
- German Criminal Code
- German Law Archive: Statutes
An extensive collection of German statutes in English translation, covering areas such as constitutional law, civil code, commercial law, environmental and many others.
Translations in Print
- Business Transactions in Germany (updated regularly) INTL KK2057 .B87 1983 This five-volume set includes a separate volume for translations of statutes and code sections.
- Commercial Laws of the World : Germany (updated regularly) INTL K1004.15 1976
- The German Civil Code : (as amended to January 1, 1992) INTL KK985.51896 .A52 1994
- The German Penal Code : as amended as of December 19, 2001
INTL KK7975.51871 .A52 2002
- Handelsgesetzbuch : deutsch-englische Textausgabe mit einer englischen Einleitung (German Commercial Code) INTL KK2045.51897 .A52 2003
- Insolvency Code : Act Introducing the Insolvency Code : German-English Edition with an Introduction to the German Law INTL KK4290.A271994 A4 1997
- Civil procedure : Germany (updated regularly) INTL K2205 .I57 1994
- Family and succession law : Germany (updated regularly) INTL K670 .F355 1997
- Data protection laws of the world : Germany (updated regularly) INTL K3264.C65 D38 1998
Since Germany is a civil law country, case law is not as important as it is in the United States. Germany does not have a comprehensive reporter system similar to the federal and regional reporters of the U.S. The most important German courts are the Bundesverfassungsgericht (the Federal Constitutional Court) and the Bundesgerichtshof (High Court), hearing civil and criminal matters. Decisions from these courts are available in print and recently online. Researchers are likely to find decisions from the highest German courts; locating lower court decisions is often difficult to impossible.
Court Decisions in German
- Entscheidungen des Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court) Decisions are available in two places, online (beginning in 1998 to the present) and between (1951-2010) online and in print (1952 - current). INTL KK5466.5 .B86 The Federal Constitutional Court is the highest court of the Federal Republic of Germany and has jurisdiction over constitutional disputes between the German states.
- Entscheidungen des Bundesgerichtshofes in Zivilsachen (Federal Supreme Civil Court) Decisions are available online (beginning in 2000) and in print (1951 - current) INTL KK44 .B86
- Entscheidungen des Bundesgerichtshofes in Strafsachen (Federal Supreme Criminal Court) Decisions are available online (beginning in 2000) and in print (1951 - current) INTL KK7980.3 .B86
- Bundesverwaltungsgericht (Federal Administrative Court) Decisions are available online (beginning in 2002). The Wolff library does not have print copies of the decisions of the Bundesverwaltungsgericht.
German cases in English translation are much harder to find than German statutes in translation. In addition to the sources listed below, journals articles may reprint portions of key cases or discuss them in depth. General online searching may occasionally prove successful in locating translations of a few well-known cases. German case law is not available in Lexis or Westlaw.
- German Legal Materials (Institute for Transnational Law - U. of Texas at Austin)
A collection of translated German decisions in the areas of constitutional, administrative, tort, contract and restitution law.
- Decisions of the Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court) Federal Republic of Germany INTL KK5466.5 .B863 1992
Want to find out if you can get electronic access to a journal article through the library? Check the E-Journal Finder! From the library homepage, it's the first link under Quick Links. The E-Journal Finder even tells you if a journal is available on Lexis and Westlaw. To use the E-Journal Finder, type in the name of the journal, and see what sources will give you full-text electronic access. If we don't have the journal electronically, check the library catalog for a print version or request the article through interlibrary loan.
Indexes & Periodicals Databases
Periodical literature is a good way to obtain background information, locate the text of a law, a citation, or locate information about a subject. To obtain the best results, use periodical indexes to locate relevant citations.
Below are listed a few of the most commonly used journal indexes. See our journal indexes page for a complete list. If you are new to using indexes to find articles, have a look at these two guides: Locating Journal Articles: Foreign & International and Using Articles for Legal and Non-Legal Research.
Full text of articles are available in the Cambridge, Oxford and Kluwer databases listed below.
- Cambridge University Press Journals
- Index to Legal Periodicals and Books
- Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals
- Kluwer Law International Journals
- Legal Journals Index
- Oxford University Press Journals
Selected German-Language Periodicals
Current editions of these journals are located at the Wolff circulation desk. Older editions are on the 4th floor of the Wolff Library.
- Gewerblicher Rechtsschutz und Urheberrecht (GRUR) INTL K7 .E651 Intellectual property.
- Monatsschrift für deutsches Recht INTL K13 .O45 General legal periodical on German law.
- Neue juristische Wochenschrift : NJW INTL KK6 .N48 General legal periodical.
- Neue Zeitschrift für Arbeitsrecht INTL K14 .E291 Labor law.
- NVwZ : Neue Zeitschrift für Verwaltungsrecht INTL K14 .V85 Administrative law.
- Rabels Zeitschrift für ausländisches und internationales Privatrecht
INTL K18 .A24 Comparative law.
- Rechtstheorie INTL K18 .E282 Jurisprudence.
- WIRO : Wirtschaft und Recht in Osteuropa INTL K27 .I74 Economic law in Eastern Europe.
- Zeitschrift für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht INTL K30 .E42 Public international law.
- Zeitschrift für Luft- und Weltraumrecht INTL K30 .E4731 Air and space law.
- Zeitschrift für Rechtspolitik INTL KK6 .Z4 Law and politics.
- Zeitschrift für Unternehmens- und Gesellschaftsrecht INTL K30 .E479 Corporate law.
If you need to consult a general German-English dictionary, two choices are Collins and Oxford-Duden. An excellent general German-German dictionary is Wahrig. Below is a selection of German dictionaries on law and related topics.
- Creifelds Rechtswörterbuch INTL REF KK56 .R43 2002
- Wörterbuch der Rechts- und Wirtschaftssprache INTL REF KK56.R64 2000
- Wörterbuch für Recht, Wirtschaft und Politik INTL K52.G4 D54 2000
German abbreviations can be a challenge to decipher. The chart at the beginning of the guide lists some of the most common abbreviations. The sources below provide lists of abbreviations and the corresponding meaning. Next, use the library's catalog to see if the source is available in the library or consult with a reference librarian.
- List of Abbreviations (Uni. of Texas at Austin)
A short list of abbreviations, with some citation information.
- German Legal Abbreviations (in German)
A more extensive online list of abbreviations.
- Abkürzungsverzeichnis der Rechtssprache (5th edition) INTL REF KK82.2 K57 2003
A comprehensive print source for abbreviations.
- Kirchner Abkürzungsverzeichnis der Rechtssprache (4th edition) INTL REF KK82.2 .K57 1993
Consult The Bluebook KF245 .U5 2005, Rule 20 (R20) and Table 2 (T.2) - Germany, Federal Republic of - for assistance with citing to German law. Rule 20 provides the general guidelines for citing to foreign law and Table 2 provides details specific to German legal materials. The Bluebook provides guidance for citing to German cases, constitution, codes, statutes and decrees, legislative materials, German Länder materials and electronic sources.
In additions to consulting the two major sets on trial proceedings and judgments on the third floor of the Wolff Library, researchers can find various books on the subject. There are also several excellent online resources which are highlighted below.
Trial Proceedings and Judgments
- Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg, 14 November 1945-1 October 1946 INTL KZ1176 .T73 1947 Forty-two volume set.
- Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression INTL KZ1176 .U54 1946 Eight volume set.
- Inside the Nuremberg Trial : A Prosecutor's Comprehensive Account
INTL KZ1176 .S68 1999
- Judgment on Nuremberg; American Attitudes Toward the Major German War-Crime Trials INTL KZ1176.5 .B67 1970
- The Nuremberg Interviews INTL KZ1176 .G65 2004
- The Nuremberg Trial and International Law INTL KJC510.A15 L39 no. 42
- The Nuremberg War Crimes Trial, 1945-46 : A Documentary History
Williams D804.G42 N87 1997
- War crimes : The Legacy of Nuremberg INTL KZ1176 .W37 1999
- Witnesses to Nuremberg : An Oral History of American Participants at the War Crimes Trials INTL KZ1176 .S73 1998
- Avalon Project: The Nuremberg War Crimes Trials (Yale Law School)
- Donovan Nuremberg Trials Collection (Cornell Law Library)
- Nuremberg Trials Project A Digital Document Collection (Harvard Law School Library)
- Bibliographies: The Nuremberg Trials (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)
- Famous World Trials: Nuremberg Trials (U. of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law)
Want more information about German law research? These other research guides may help.
- Germain's Transnational Law Research: A Guide for Attorneys: Germany (updated regularly) INTL REF K85 .G47 1991
- Introduction to German Legal Research (Harvard)
- German Business and Commercial Laws: Guide to Translations into English and Select Auxiliary Sources (GlobaLex)
- Library Research Guide: Germany (Institute of Advance Legal Studies)
Content and Links Revised April 2007 (aeb)
Links Updated September 2013 (mms)
© Georgetown University Law Library. These guides may be used for educational purposes, as long as proper credit is given. These guides may not be sold. Requests to republish or adapt a guide should be directed to the Head of Reference. Proper credit includes the statement: Written by, or adapted from, Georgetown Law Library (current as of .....).