Constitution of the German Democratic Republic (1949)


Five months after the adoption of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic, the constitution of the GDR came into force. Its authors, like those of the Basic Law of the FRG, had a united, albeit socialist, Germany in mind. Although this first GDR constitution contained basic rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, it also laid the foundation for the socialist dictatorship that defined the GDR's political system for decades to come.



The German People, imbued with the desire to safeguard human liberty and rights, to reshape collective and economic life in accordance with the principles of social justice, to serve social progress, and to promote a secure peace and amity with all peoples, have adopted this constitution.

A. Fundamentals of State Authority

Article 1

Germany is an indivisible democratic republic, the foundations of which are the German Länder. The (German Democratic) Republic decides on all issues which are essential to the existence and development of the German people as a whole, all other issues being decided upon by independent action of the Länder (states).
As a rule, decisions of the Republic are carried out by the Länder.
There is only one German nationality.

Article 2

The colors of the German Democratic Republic are black, red and gold.
The capital of the republic is Berlin.

Article 3

All state authority emanates from the people.
Every citizen has the right and the duty to take part in the formation of the political life of his Gemeinde (community), Kreis (county), Land (state) and of the German Democratic Republic.
The right of co-determination takes the form of: voting in popular initiative and referendums; exercising the right to vote and standing for election; entering upon public offices in general administration and in the administration of justice.
Every citizen has the right to submit petitions to the popular representative body.
State authority must serve the welfare of the people, liberty, peace and the progress of democracy.
Those active in public service are servants of the community as a whole and not of any one party. Their activity is supervised by the popular representative body.

Article 4

All measures taken by state authority must be compatible with the principles which the Constitution has declared to be contained in state authority. Pursuant to Article 66 of this Constitution, the popular representative body is to decide on the constitutionality of such measures. Everyone has the right and the duty to resist measures contradicting enactments of the popular representative body.

Every citizen is in duty bound to act in accordance with the Constitution and to defend it against all enemies.

Article 5

The generally recognized rules of international law are binding upon state authority and every citizen. It is the duty of state authority to maintain and cultivate amicable relations with all peoples. No citizen may participate in belligerent actions designed to oppress any people.


Source: Constitution of the German Democratic Republic (October 7, 1949), reprinted in Louis L. Snyder, ed., Documents in German History. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press 1958, pp. 540-41.

Constitution of the German Democratic Republic (1949), published in: German History Intersections, <> [November 29, 2023].