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The Basic Law
The "Basic Law" established Germany as a modern democracyImage: ullstein bild - Reuters

Postwar Germany turns 60

May 22, 2009

Germany's leaders have celebrated the 60th anniversary of the country's "Basic Law." President Horst Koehler lauded the post-World War II constitution for ensuring freedom and prosperity in a democratic system.


In an official state act at Berlin's Gendarmenmarkt Concert Hall on Friday, President Horst Koehler lauded 60 years of the German postwar constitution, saying it had turned Germany into a "mature democracy."

Koehler speaks at a podium flanked by a German flag
Koehler demanded a renewal of constitutional commitmentsImage: AP

He said the founding fathers of the Federal Republic of Germany "had drawn lessons from the collapse of the Weimar Republic. They also learned from the Nazi dictatorship by creating a constitution that laid solid foundations for a free and just society," he added.

The Weimar Republic (1919-1933) was Germany's first attempt at creating a democratic system.

Kohler said the postwar transformation of Western Germany into a country based on democracy and a free-market economy had made the Federal Republic a prosperous and peace-loving nation.

Germany had regained "the status of a respected nation," Koehler said in his speech before political leaders. "Today we have friends all over the world. We are admired for our economic achievements and political reliability – for always being prepared to help others and fostering peace in the world."

Koehler also described the then West German state as a country deeply rooted in freedom and respect for human dignity. These commitments helped eastern Germans overcome four decades of communism in 1990, he said.

Renewing commitments

Angela Merkel and Hörst Köhler with spouses posing for a group photo
The sun shone on Koehler (2nd from left) and Merkel as the party beganImage: AP

Koehler argued against complacency, saying that in view of the new challenges arising today, the commitments enshrined in the German constitution should be renewed.

"We should promise to ourselves that this country will never look away when people need us or are threatening to fall behind. Let's vow to pursue long-term policies that give future generations a chance to enjoy freedom as well."

The commemorative event marked the beginning of three days of celebrations.

Berlin's central Festival Mile is set to be reopened on Saturday – a reminder of the 2006 Soccer World Cup, when hundreds of thousands of fans partook of beer and bratwurst while watching the football matches on giant video screens.

This time around they'll have the opportunity to see a new German president elected in parliament on Saturday. German pop bands and theater groups will also be performing.

From the rubble

On May 23, 1949, political leaders in the western part of occupied Germany proclaimed the country's "Basic Law" - Germany's postwar constitution - which laid the foundation for West Germany to emerge from the rubble of World War II.

About four months later, on October 7, 1949, communist leaders in the Soviet-occupied zone of eastern Germany proclaimed their own state. The division of Germany continued until 1990, when the country was reunited in the wake of a peaceful popular uprising that brought an end to the communist regime.

Author: Uwe Hessler
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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