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German Law Research

A Note on the New Format...

Guten Tag, and thank you for visiting!

If you have visited this guide before, you can see that it has undergone a complete update and redesign. The entire content of the guide is now on a single page, which optimizes its use on mobile devices.  Materials will continue to be migrated over from the old guide during the next few months.

Due to the new single-page design of the guide, certain lists of materials and more in-depth research instructions have been migrated to PDFs that you can download.  

If you are looking at this guide in a web browser a hyperlinked content outline is available on the left side of guide. You can also use CTRL+F to find the specific words or phrases in the guide that you are looking for.

You are welcome to contact the author of the guide, FCIL Librarian Jennifer Allison, with questions or comments.

German Law Research: Willkommen!

This guide provides information about researching German law. It lists and discusses books, other print materials, subscription databases, and free internet resources.  

The primary focus of this guide is on English-language materials. However, German-language materials are also included. 

The law library subscribes to two German legal databases: Beck-Online and Makrolog Recht für Deutschland. This guide provides English-language navigation tips and information about both of these databases.  

This guide was created and is maintained by Jennifer Allison, FCIL Librarian at the Harvard Law School Library.

(Photo Credit: "Two Churches: Cologne, Germany." Michael Rastetter, Creative Commons License, https://flic.kr/p/q5jYgX)

The Harvard Library Catalog: HOLLIS

Information about all the Harvard libraries' print and electronic materials can be found in the HOLLIS online library catalog (http://hollis.harvard.edu).

This guide includes links to HOLLIS searches by subject, when appropriate.  In general, our libraries' catalogers use the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) system. This provides a controlled vocabulary of subject-specific search terms that return related items regardless of the language they're published in.

In this guide, links to HOLLIS LCSH searches are in the following format:

HOLLIS Subject Search = Legal Status, Laws, etc. - Germany

To run that search in HOLLIS, simply click the link. You can then use the "Refine my Results" links on the right side of the HOLLIS search results screen to narrow down the list.

Getting Started with German Law Research

German legal research is easier if you read German; however, there are still plenty of English-language resources available. Good practices of legal research apply regardless of jurisdiction:

1.  First, learn about the German legal system, including full and abbreviated names of legal bodies and institutions, and the process by which laws are enacted and published.  

2.  Next, review relevant secondary sources. They provide citations to primary law and help you understand the topic.  

3.  Finally, review applicable primary sources, including constitutional provisions, statutes, case law, and regulations.

Dictionaries and Language Resources

Click the PDF icon below to view a list of select print and online dictionaries and other resources that will help you decipher the German in legal texts.

Database Access and Use: Beck-Online

Beck-Online is a subscription database with legislation, judicial opinions, and secondary materials (including statutory commentaries, journals, and practice-oriented materials). 

Beck-Online's user interface, search functions, and materials are all in German, but an English-language user guide is available (click Hilfe in the upper-right corner of the screen, and then click Brief User Guide in the menu on the left).

ACCESS: Beck-Online is available to users with an HUID credentials.  To access it, use the link in the Beck-Online Hollis record.

 

Beck-Online Quick Reference Guide (in English)

Click the PDF icon below to view a Beck-Online quick reference guide in English.

Database Access and Use: Makrolog Recht für Deutschland

Makrolog Recht für Deutschland provides access to current and historical federal and state gazettes as scanned PDF page images of the original documents

Access: Makrolog Recht für Deutschland is available to users with an HUID credentials. To access it, use the link in the Makrolog Recht für Deutschland Hollis catalog record.

 

Although the documents themselves are in German, certain aspects of the user interface (including the search and browse functions) have English-language labels, and the table of contents for each gazette issue includes English translations. An option to toggle between English and German is at the top of every screen.

The HLSL Makrolog subscription includes access to Federal Gazettes (Verkündungsblätter Bund in the German version) and State Gazettes (Verkündungsblätter Länder in the German version).  

Overview of the Federal Government (Bundesregierung)

Like the United States, Germany's federal government is comprised of three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial.

Executive Branch

Germany's federal government is headed by the Federal President (Bundespräsident [male] or Bundespräsidentin [female]), who is elected by the Federal Convention, which consists of members of the Germany's federal and state parliaments. The President's main constitutional duty is to act as head of state. 

The Federal Cabinet (Bundesregierung) conducts the federal government's business. It is led by the Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzler [male] or Bundeskanzlerin [female]) and his or her selected Federal Ministers. The organization comprising the Cabinet, Chancellor, and other executive functionaries is referred to as the Federal Chancellery (Bundeskanzleramt).

More information about the German federal executive branch is available through the federal government's English-language websites.

Legislative Branch

The German legislature is a parliament with two chambers, the Bundestag and the Bundesrat.

In the Bundestag, each member is elected either directly or through party-specific voting in the German states. The Bundestag election process is described in detail here.  The Bundestag elects the federal chancellor, who must be a member of Bundestag's majority party. It also enacts federal legislation and oversees the federal government.

Members of the Bundesrat are representatives from each of the sixteen German states (Länder). Its main role is to ensure that states' interests are protected in any federal governing activities and processes.  

The Dokumentations- und Informationssystem für Parlamentarische Vorgänge (DIP) website provides documents and materials related to the proceedings in both houses of parliament, including deliberation proceedings (Beratungsabläufe) and activities (Aktivitäten) and documentary records of parliamentary sessions.  The active document database covers the German parliament's three most recent election periods (Wahlperiode). There is a separate database with coverage back to 1949.  This website and all of its materials is only in German.

The German Parliament's website includes a series of brief illustrated descriptions of what the Parliament is and what it does in simplified German called "leichte Sprache" (easy speech). These can be a great introduction to German-language terms that describe politics and government for German learners. Visit http://www.bundestag.de/leichte_sprache/was_macht_der_bundestag/.​

Judicial Branch

Germany's judicial branch is comprised of four levels of courts. An English-language court hierarchy diagram is available at http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/cooperation/cepej/profiles/CourtSystemGermany.pdf.  A more extensive German-language diagram is available at http://ec.europa.eu/justice_home/judicialatlascivil/html/pdf/org_justice_ger_de.pdf

Local Courts
The local court (Amtsgericht) is the court of first-instance for lower-stakes civil and criminal matters.

Regional Courts
The regional court (Landgericht) is the court of first-instance for certain higher-stakes civil and criminal cases. It also serves as the first appellate level for cases that began in the Local Court.

Higher Regional Courts
Each state has its own higher regional court (Oberlandesgericht) that hears appeals from the lower courts in its state.

Federal Supreme Courts
The highest level of the German court system is comprised of five courts:

Each subject-specific court is at the top of its own subject-specific hierarchy. For example, administrative proceedings begin in an administrative court (Verwaltungsgericht), and then progress to an appellate-level administrative court (Oberverwaltungsgericht or Verwaltungsgerichthof). The Federal Administrative Court is the court of last resort for administrative appeals.

Federal Constitutional Court

The Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) determines the constitutionality of government actions.  

Photo: "Bundestag" by Herman. Flickr Creative Commons License - https://flic.kr/p/7Wdkns.

Bundesanzeiger (Journal of the Federal Government)

The Bundesanzeiger is a publication of the Federal Justice Ministry (Bundesministerium der Justiz). It includes information about activities and operations of the federal government, such as the following:

  • Regulatory announcements, including administrative guidelines and other public notices
  • Information about business entities (such as registration and reporting of financial data)
  • Information about criminal investigations and arrests by federal prosecutors' offices

Coverage of the Bundesanzeiger (date: 2002-present) is available for free online through its official publisher, the Bundesanzeiger Verlag: http://www.bundesanzeiger.de. This site is in German only.  The law school library has older issues of the Bundesanzeiger in microfiche.

German Legislation: Statutes and Codes (Gesetze und Gesetzbücher)

Federal laws (Gesetz; Gesetze (pl.)) in Germany are enacted by the Parliament. They are published in chronological order in the Bundesgesetzblatt (Federal Gazette) and codified in the appropriate subject-specific statutory code.

Statutes and Codes (Gesetze und Gesetzbücher)

In German statutory research, you will encounter two terms: 

1. A Gesetz is a single law or act.

2. A Gesetzbuch is a book of laws, basically, a codification of a larger area of law, such as "civil law" or "criminal law." Gesetzbücher in German statutory law include the following:

  • Baugesetzbuch (BauGB) (Code of Construction/Building Laws)
  • Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB) (Code of Civil Laws)
  • Handelsgesetzbuch (HGB) (Code of Commercial Laws)
  • Sozialgesetzbuch (SGB) (Code of Social Laws)
  • Strafgesetzbuch (StGB) (Code of Criminal Laws)

Most other statutes merely have "Gesetz" in the title. Many have a "short name;" all have an abbreviation.  Examples: 

  • Bundesdatenschutzgesetz  (BDSG) (Federal Data Protection Act)
  • Gesetz über den Vollzug der Freiheitsstrafe und der freiheitsentziehenden Maßregeln der Besserung und Sicherung (Strafvollzugsgesetz) (StVollzG) (Criminal Punishment and Corrections Act)
  • Weingesetz (WeinG) (Wine Act)

The notable exception to the above are procedural codes:

  • Strafprozeßordnung (StPO) (Criminal Procedure Code)
  • Zivilprozeßordnung (ZPO) (Civil Procedure Code)
Note:
The name of every statute and code has an official abbreviated form (juristische Abkürzung), which may be used instead of the full name in legal citations. Beck has an abbreviation guide on its website (in German). Enter the name of the abbreviation in the search box, and click the Suchen button to see the full name of the law or code.

 

Free Online Access to Statutes: Gesetze-im-Internet

The freely-available website gesetze-im-internet.de, includes all currently in force statutes, codes, and ordinances. It is maintained jointly by Germany's Federal Justice Ministry and the publishers of the Juris legal database.  The user interface of this site is in German, however, English translations of selected statutes are available.

To browse an alphabetical listing of statutes, click the Gesetze/Verordnungen link.  To view a list of the most recently-enacted statutes, codes, and ordinances, click the Aktualitätendienst link. 

To search by title, click Titelsuche; to search by keyword, click Volltextsuche. On these search screens, "Und-Verknüpfung" acts like the Boolean AND connector; "Oder-Verknüpfung" acts as the OR connector.

For each act or code, the German-language statutory text is updated fairly regularly. There are English-language translations for selected statutes.  If there is one, it will be indicated by a British flag icon.

Other Free Online Sources for Statutory Research

Other online sources for statutes include https://www.buzer.de/ and https://dejure.org/. In addition to the statutory text, they also include some basic resources that are helpful for research.

The website for the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (Federal Center for Political Education) also includes selected statutes - http://www.bpb.de/nachschlagen/gesetze/.  

Legislation in Beck-Online

To view a statute, code, or ordinance in Beck-Online, type its name in the search box at the top of the screen, and then select it in the drop down menu. On the statute page, navigate through the statutory text using the table of contents in the left column. For each section, links to citing references (commentaries, case law, journal articles, and forms) are provided in the far right column (under "Siehe auch..." ("see also")).

Federal Gazette (Bundesgesetzblatt)

The German government publishes enacted laws in its federal gazette, the Bundesgesetzblatt.  Free online access is available through the following sources:

  • ALEX Database - Austrian National LibraryDeutsches Reichsgesetzblatt - date coverage: 1919-1945. ALEX also provides access to other historical gazettes from the region.
  • Bundesgesetzblatt (BGBl.) OnlineDate coverage:1949-present. There is a free version and a subscription version; the free version is not searchable.
  • Bundessteuerblatt OnlineThis is a subscription database with limited free coverage (the previous two years) for non-subscribers. To access, click Inhalt, and then click Einverstanden to access the usage agreement. The free content will be designated in the table of contents by the green text.

The subscription Makrolog Recht für Deutschland database provides access, in searchable PDF-scanned page image format, to these publications:

  • Bundesgesetzblatt I & II (1949-present)
  • The Bundesgesetzblatt's immediate historical predecessors, the Reichsgesetzblatt (1868-1945) and the DDR Gesetzblatt (1951-1990)
  • Bundessteuerblatt (federal gazette specifically devoted to federal tax statutes) (1951-present)​

English-Language Translations of German Statutes

For information about finding German statutes in English, click the link to the guide below.

Remember, consult translated statutes with caution. Not only is the German-language version of the statute always the only official version, but the English translation could be of a version that is several years old that does not include key recent amendments.

Case Law (Rechtsprechung)

Unlike in common law jurisdictions, the German judiciary does not operate under the principle of stare decisis in a strict, universal sense. Technically, lower courts are not bound to follow the decisions of higher courts, although in practice lower court judges tend to do so.

The only German court that issues truly binding decisions in the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht), which rules on the constitutionality of government actions, including enacting legislation.

As in many areas of German legal language, the names of the individual courts are often known by abbreviations, as follows:

  • AG: Amtsgericht (Local Court)
  • ArbG: Arbeitsgericht (Labor Court)
  • BAG: Bundesarbeitsgericht (Federal Labor Court)
  • BFH: Bundesfinanzhof (Federal Finance Court)
  • BGH: Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice)
  • BPG: Bundespatentgericht (Federal Patent Court)
  • BSG: Bundessozialgericht (Federal Social Court)
  • BVerwG: Bundesverwaltungsgericht (Federal Administrative Court)
  • BVerfG: Bundesverfassungsgericht(Federal Constitutional Court)
  • FG: Finanzgericht (Finance Court)
  • LAG: Landesarbeitsgericht (Regional Labor Court)
  • OLG: Oberlandesgericht (Highest Regional Court)
  • TruppDG: Truppendienstgericht (Military Court)
  • VG: Verwaltungsgericht (Administrative Court)
German Appellate Procedure Language Tip: 
At the end of a trial, the losing party can file an appeal (Einspruch einlegen). However, appeals processes in German courts have different names, depending on the circumstances. If the trial court that rendered the original decision was below the Landgericht in the court system, the losing party can appeal to the Landgericht for a Berufung, which is like a new trial on the merits and in which new evidence can be introduced. However, to appeal a decision of the Landgericht to a higher court, under the theory that it was wrong as a matter of law, the losing party can seek what is known as a Revision.

 

Finding and Accessing German Case Law

Some judicial opinions from German courts are freely available online, either through court websites or other sources.

Highest Federal Court Websites

Other Websites

Beck-Online

The Beck-Online subscription database also offers access to judicial decisions. On the Beck-Online homepage, click Rechtsprechung in the navigation box on the left. This will display the following search options:

  • Gericht (court)
  • AZ (Aktenzeichen) (case reference number)
  • Datum (date)

Beck-Online has an extensive system of citing references, so when you view a case you can see a list of sources that have cited it. This list is shown on the right side of the screen when you are viewing a decision, under the heading Siehe auch... (see also...).

Beck-Online also has a source called Leitsatzkartei, which is an index of judicial opinions and legal secondary sources.  Search for a topic by name in that source to view a list of related materials.

Print Sources

The law library's collection also has some German case law in print, including two well-known periodicals:

  • Deutsche Rechtsprechung is a current awareness journal of important new decisions from German courts, organized by subject and published every other month.  
  • Neue juristische Wochenschrift is an important current awareness journal for German law. It is published weekly and reprints judicial decisions from all levels of the German judiciary. The law library has an extensive print archive of this journal, which is also available through Beck-Online.

The law library also has selected historical coverage of print case law reporters:

 

English Translations of German Court Cases

The Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) provides English-language translations of a limited number of its decisions through its website.

There are a few additional online sources for English-language translations of German court decisions, including the German Law Archive and the UT-Austin Foreign Law Translations (German Legal Materials) website.

The law library also has a few print sources in its collection that provide English translations of German judicial opinions, including Youngs' Sourcebook on German Law and the multi-volume Decisions of the Bundesverfassungsgericht reporter. 

Finding Journal Articles on German Law

Journal articles can be an excellent option for researching German law, especially current developments. There are many English-language journals that feature articles about German law.

One of the easiest ways to find relevant journals articles is to use an online index. Click the PDF icon below to view a list of recommended indexes for researching German legal topics.

General Treatises on German Law

Note that, in addition to the sources listed below, the law library has several volumes of the German Law Accessible series, published by Beck, which includes books discussing aspects of German law in English.

German Statutory Commentaries: An Important Secondary Source

Das Burgerliche Gesetzbuch (BGB)In German-language jurisdictions, statutory commentaries are an important legal research resource.

A statutory commentary is basically a hybrid primary/secondary source.

  • A commentary provides the statutory text in force at the time the commentary was written (primary material).
  • A commentary also provides interpretation and analysis of the statute by leading scholars (secondary material). This secondary material often cites relevant judicial decisions, other statutes, and other secondary sources.

In general, the title of a commentary will include the abbreviation of the statute. For example, Germany's civil code, which is called Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, is abbreviated "BGB." So commentaries on the civil code will have "BGB" in their title.

Accessing Statutory Commentaries in the Harvard Law Library Collection

The best source for finding materials in the Harvard libraries is the HOLLIS library catalog. In general, there are catalog records for all of our print commentaries, as well as records for those commentaries for which we have electronic access through Beck-Online.  However, this is not always a perfect system, and sometimes records for the Beck-Online electronic version are missing in HOLLIS.  So when you are looking for current commentaries, don't forget to check Beck-Online as well as HOLLIS.

Commentaries in Beck-Online

Electronic versions of selected statutory commentaries are available through Beck-Online. They are listed on the Beck-Online homepage in under the heading Kommentare/Handbücher/Lexika. They are sorted alphabetically by the name of the statute or code.

When you click the link to a commentary on the Beck-Online homepage, the commentary's table of contents (Inhaltsübersicht) will be displayed. There is also a fixed TOC on the left side of the screen.

In the commentary itself, when you browse to a section, the statutory text will be displayed in bold at the top of the screen. All commentary will be shown below that, in normal-weight font.

German Administrative Law (Verwaltungsrecht)

Administrative law (Verwaltungsrecht) in Germany falls under the broader category of "public law" (öffentliches Recht). 

HOLLIS Subject Search = Administrative Law - Germany

Administrative Regulations (Rechsverordnungen)

Normative instruments that are promulgated by an executive body rather than enacted by the legislature are called Rechtsverordnungen (regulations). They may also be referred to in German as "Gesetze im materiellen Sinn."

In general, they are included in statutory collections in many databases.

Note of linguistic confusion:
The German word for EU Regulation is "EU-Verordnung." This is confusing because an EU Regulation is a legislative, rather than administrative, instrument, enacted by the EU legislature.


Administrative Guidelines (Verwaltungsvorschriften)

Administrative guidelines (Verwaltungsvorschriften) are different from statutes (Gesetze) and regulations (Verordnungen) in that they direct agencies how to act, and are not binding on the general public.  

Verwaltungsvorschriten im Internet is a free database of federal administrative guidelines maintained by the German government in partnership with Juris. It is similar to the government's legislation site, gesetze-im-internet.de, but does not have any English-language content or translations.

Asylum / Refugee Law in Germany

Important note from the guide author:
The purpose of this guide is to provide an overview of sources related to German asylum / refugee law for legal researchers. From time to time, I receive emails from asylum seekers in Germany asking me to help them with their claims.  I am not a licensed attorney in Germany, so, unfortunately, I cannot provide you with legal assistance or advice regarding your asylum claim. 

 

General Information: German Asylum and Refugee Law

One of the best basic explanations about German asylum and refugee law in English is the Law Library of Congress's Report on German Refugee Law and Policy, written by the LLOC's German law expert, Jenny Gesley.  

I created a short German Asylum and Refugee Law handout when I presented on the topic at the 2016 meeting of the American Association of Law Libraries. This handout provides an overview to the major German laws related to asylum and refugees, and includes links to many relevant additional sources.

The German government agencies that are responsible for refugees have created some helpful English-language websites:

Additional selected resources of note on this topic include the following:

German Asylum/Refugee Legislation

Unless otherwise indicated, links to the English versions of these acts from Gesetze-im-Internet are provided.

German Asylum/Refugee Case Law

The Germany page of the European Database of Asylum Law reports asylum-related cases from German courts.

Hollis Searches: Harvard Library Materials on German Asylum/Refugee Law

German Business and Commercial Law

German business and commercial law (Handelsrecht) is a distinct area of private law (Privatrecht) in the German legal system.  

The following sources can be consulted for a quick overview in English of German business and commercial law:

German Business and Commercial Law Statutes

A selection of German commercial law statutes is listed below. Links are to either the English (when available) or German version of the statute or code in the free online Gesetze im Internet database.

The Federal Ministry of Finance (Bundesfinanzministerium) also has a collection of translated commercial laws on its website.

Hollis Searches for German Business and Corporate Law Materials

Basic Law (Grundgesetz) of the Federal Republic of Germany

Germany's constitutional instrument is called the Grundgesetz (abbreviated GG). This is generally translated into "Basic Law" in English.

The Grundgesetz entered into force on May 23, 1949. Under its main principle of the inviolability of human dignity (Unantastbarkeit der Menschenwürde), it guarantees the protection of fundamental rights related to freedom (Freiheit) and equality (Gleichheit). The Grundgesetz also defines the structure of Germany's government and legal system.

The text of the Grundgesetz is available online, in English and in German, through Gesetze im Internet.  There is also an English-language translation of the Grundgesetz on the Federal Government website.

Vocabulary Tips

Note that the German word for "constitution" is "Verfassung." Accordingly, "constitutional law" is known in German as "Verfassungsrecht."

In the broader subject-specific breakdown of German law, constitutional law falls under "public law" ("öffentliches Recht") -- as opposed to "private law" ("Privatrecht" or "Zivilrecht") -- because is concerned with the legal relationship between individuals and the state.

Because the Basic Law defines the organizational structure of the federal government in Germany, constitutional law also falls under the category known as "state law" ("Staatsrecht") in the German legal literature. 

English-Language Constitutional Law Resources from the German Government

There are several German government websites that provide information in English about the Grundgesetz:

German Constitutional Law Research: Subscription Databases

HOLLIS Searches

Treatises on German Constitutional Law

Click the PDF icon below to view a list of selected German Constitutional Law literature in the HLS collection.

Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch)

The German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, abbreviated BGB) governs several areas of private law, including the following: 

  • Creation and enforcement of legal obligations under tort (Delikte)
  • Creation and enforcement of legal obligations under contract (Schuldverhältnisse)
  • Property law (Sachenrecht)
  • Family law (Familienrecht), including marriage law (Eherecht), parenting law (Elternrecht), and divorce (Ehescheidung)
  • Inheritance law (Erbrecht)

HOLLIS Subject Searches for Civil Law

Civil Procedure (Zivilprozessordnung)

The German Code of Civil Procedure (Zivilprozessordnung) defines procedural rules for civil trials (Verfahren) in Germany, including jurisdiction (Zuständigkeit), venue (Gerichtsstand), standing (Parteifähigkeit), litigation costs (Prozesskosten), evidence (Beweis), enforcement of judgments (Vollstreckung der Urteilen), and more. It also provides rules for arbitration proceedings (schiedsrichterliche Verfahren).

An English translation of the Code of Civil Procedure, as amended through 2013, is available at https://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_zpo/index.html.  

The International Encyclopedia of Laws (IEL), published by Kluwer, includes a chapter on German civil procedure. The library subscribes to the electronic version of IEL, which can be accessed through its HOLLIS record.

HOLLIS Subject Searches for Civil Procedure

Data Protection Law (Datenschutzrecht)

The German federal data protection law is the Bundesdatenschutzgesetz.

The text of this statute is available through the Gesetze-im-Internet website in both English (https://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_bdsg/index.html) and German (https://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/bdsg_1990/index.html).

Data protection is also regulated by the European Union, under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). For more information about the GDPR, visit the EU's official website for it: https://www.eugdpr.org/.

HOLLIS Subject Searches for Data Protection Law

Selected Sources for German and EU Data Protection Law Research

Click the PDF icon below to view a short guide to selected sources on German and EU data protection law in the law school library.

Notary Law (Notarrecht)

A "notary" in civil law countries like Germany is not the same as a "notary public" in the United States.  

Details about German Notaries

In Germany, a notary (Notar/Notarin) is a highly-qualified individual who has been trained as an attorney.  A German notary provides advice to clients on legal transactions, as well as drafting, authenticating, and registering legal instruments like wills, deeds, corporate registration applications, trusts, etc.  A notary can also serve as a mediator for legal disputes. 

There are actually two types of notaries in Germany.  In the majority of German states, a notary holds the title "Nurnotar" ("notary alone").  In these states, the notary works only as a civil servant and not as an attorney.  A Nurnotar must undergo a very strict screening and examination process to ensure that he or she is qualified and well-suited for notarial service.

In some German states, mainly those in the northwest of the country and Berlin, it is possible to be an "Anwaltsnotar" ("attorney-notary").  An Anwaltsnotar is required to carefully avoid any conflict of interest, and can only perform notarial functions for legal matters in which he or she does not represent of the parties as an attorney.

Under German federal law, the work of notaries is regulated by the Bundesnotarordnung (BNotO) (Federal Notarial Code) and the Beurkundungsgesetz (BeurkG) (Notarization Act).

More Information about German Notaries in English

In 2015, HLS LLM student Claudius Eschwey wrote his LLM thesis on this topic, entitled "The German Law Civil Notary in Law of Succession: An Option for the U.S.?" This thesis is available in print in the law library, see http://id.lib.harvard.edu/aleph/014417601/catalog.

HOLLIS Search for Notary Law

Historic Research in German Law

The Harvard Library has an extensive collection of historic materials for German legal research. 

Below are links to PDFs of short guides to assist you with historic German law research in the collections of the Harvard Library. In addition to a general historical research guide, there are also guide for specific time periods, including the Holy Roman Empire, Prussia in the eighteenth century, and the former East Germany (German Democratic Republic (GDR) / Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR)).

Note:
Materials in the Harvard Law School Library's collection that were published before 1850 are available through Historical and Special Collections (HSC). To view these items, you must contact HSC to set up an appointment. Visit https://hls.harvard.edu/library/historical-special-collections/planning-your-visit/ for more information.

 

Membership in International Organizations

All resources are in English unless otherwise stated.

Helpful Websites for German Law Research

Getting Help from a Research Librarian

For help, visit the HLSL Ask a Librarian website: http://asklib.law.harvard.edu.  

This site includes links to all of our research guides, contact information for the research librarians (phone, text, email, chat), and a schedule of our training classes.  

To request a research consult with the library's German-speaking librarian, please email Jennifer.