The Federal Constitutional Court after the National Socialist era

Employees (IfZ):  Dr. Eva Balz,  Dr. Frieder Günther

How did the Federal Constitutional Court contribute to the constitutionalization and democratization of politics and society in the 1950s and 1960s? What continuities and changes, as viewed through the lens of intellectual history, were expressed in its jurisprudence? To what degree did the court present a self-conception that corresponded with German legal and political tradition and to what extent did it intentionally distance itself from German history – and from the twelve years of National Socialist rule in particular? What judges were part of the court and what were their biographical backgrounds? To what degree did they connect their judicial work on the Federal Constitutional Court with their previous influences and professional experience, and to what extent did they break with their pasts? What was the nature of the court’s collaboration with other top-level federal institutions and what was cooperation like within the court, where victims and former officials of National Socialist Germany crossed paths? Can we confirm Michael Stolleis’ thesis that it was in particular “the double foundation of the court in the experiential worlds of exile and other forms of suffering under National Socialism, alongside that of administrative and legal careers in line with twentieth-century German normality” that contributed to its high standing as an engine behind the success of a liberal polity founded in the rule of law?

This research project seeks to address these questions, thereby providing a significant contribution towards determining the place of the Federal Constitutional Court within the German history of the twentieth century. The project is supported by the Federal Constitutional Court and has been carried out at the Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History since January 2021.

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