Constitution of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg

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State flag in accordance with Article 5 of the Hamburg Constitution

The Constitution of Hamburg on June 6, 1952, the valid constitution of the country's Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg . As a state constitution, it forms the legal basis for the German city-state . It came into force on July 1, 1952 and replaced the provisional constitution of the Hanseatic City of Hamburg of May 15, 1946 . The constitution is essentially based on the original version from 1952, but has been amended several times since then. The current version results from the last amendment of October 2, 2019 (HmbGVBl. P. 333).


De Erste
Receß - First Recess from Laurentius Day 1410.

The constitution of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg of September 28, 1860 is the first constitution of the country to bear this name. Nevertheless, a number of written legal norms can be found in the history of Hamburg that increasingly regulated the structure, cooperation, rights and obligations of the state organs in the old city republic, displaced customary law and are regarded as the first constitutions or at least constitutional documents.

After the creation of the Count's New Town and the for this by Adolf III. granted privileges, the establishment of a council and the introduction of Luebian (or similar) law in the 12th century, the first city charter of the combined old and new town (around 1220) and the expanded Ordeelbook (judgment book 1270), the right of Hamburg is recognized in 1292, itself To make laws. Further legal documents are being drawn up and regulations are now being read out publicly at the Burspraken before a document is issued for the first recess . It was distributed to every Hamburg parish on August 10, 1410. It is a contract concluded after previous disputes between the council and the citizenry, in which it grants the citizens more rights of co-determination. This recess, which only remains in effect until 1417, is considered to be one of the first constitutional documents.

This is followed by other recesses up to the fourth, the Long Recess , which falls during the Reformation with the introduction of the Protestant faith in Hamburg. On February 16, 1529, the council and the citizenry agreed on this recess, which in 132 systematically structured articles should regulate a balanced relationship between the distribution of power between the council and the newly formed bourgeois colleges and, in addition to the provisions on the establishment of the state organs, also contained provisions on economy and trade . A previous constitutional crisis, triggered by the question of whether the highest state power rests with the council or the citizenry, is ended after long negotiations with the main recession of October 15, 1712. The new constitution goes back to the traditional tradition and stipulates that the legislative powers are entitled to the council and the citizenry in joint cooperation. With an interruption during the French period in Hamburg , this constitution was reinstated in 1814, despite the first votes in favor of a fundamental reform. A constituent assembly ( Hamburger Konstituante ) won in the course of the March Revolution in 1848 and a draft of a democratic constitution passed there on July 11, 1849 failed. Instead, the Council sets up a so-called Nine Commission for revision. It was not until August 11, 1859 that the council and the hereditary citizenship approved the constitution. After replacing the old citizenship with a citizenship elected for the first time, this comes into force in 1860.

The separation of powers between the council (now called the Senate) and the Supreme Court, the representative system , a stronger participation of the citizens in the self-completion of the Senate, the separation of the state and the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the equality of Jews and Catholics, freedom of the press, association and assembly rights now anchored - but not an equal right to vote, which is also required . The constitution of 1860 was later revised again and replaced by the revised version on October 13, 1879. An electoral change in the constitution made in 1906 to prevent the Social Democrats from holding further seats in the citizenry became known as electoral theft.

After the end of the First World War, the “Law on Provisional State Power”, which was passed by the first citizens elected on the basis of democratic principles, came into being on March 26, 1919, which had the function of a transitional constitution; subsequently the “Constitution of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg” of January 9, 1921 drawn up by the citizenship. With the beginning of the National Socialist era, the Gleichschaltunggsgesetze and the dissolution of the previous constitutional organs, the constitution lost its real meaning. Modified by the Greater Hamburg Law of January 26, 1937 and the associated changes in territory, it was finally eliminated with the “Law on the Constitution and Administration of the Hanseatic City of Hamburg” of December 9, 1937 (HVVG).

Basic data
Title: Constitution of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg
Short title: Hamburg Constitution
Previous title: Provisional constitution of the Hanseatic City of Hamburg
Abbreviation: HmbVerf
Type: State Law
Scope: Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg
Legal matter: Constitutional law
References : BS Hbg I 100-a
Original version from: May 15, 1946
( Hmb GVBl. P. 51)
Entry into force on: May 15, 1946
Last revision from: June 6, 1952
(HmbGVBl. P. 117)
Entry into force of the
new version on:
July 1, 1952
Last change by: Art. 1 AA of July 8, 2009
(HmbGVBl. P. 221)
Effective date of the
last change:
July 15, 2009
(Art. 54 sentence 1 HmbVerf)
Please note the note on the applicable legal version.

After the Second World War there was a slow return to a parliamentary-democratic order. Hamburg found itself in an unconstitutional state after the old constitution of 1921 was not put back into force. Finally, in 1946, under British administration, a kind of transitional constitution was passed that was supposed to regulate the most important matters of the city. This “Provisional Constitution of the Hanseatic City of Hamburg” of May 15, 1946 and the old constitution of 1921, some of which were taken literally in many articles, served as the basis. After several drafts drawn up from 1948 onwards and lengthy deliberations, the last version presented by the Senate passed the citizenship in June 1952.

It is noticeable that the constitution lacks a section of fundamental rights. The reason for this is that the constitution was only created after the German Basic Law of May 23, 1949 and not as in most of the other (old West German) countries before. So one could do without a catalog of basic rights (as in the Lower Saxony and Baden-Wuerttemberg constitution ), since the basic rights of the German constitution applied equally to Hamburg. The Hamburg constitution therefore largely has the character of the statute of an organization. Nevertheless, it also defines national goals, in particular environmental protection (in the 5th paragraph of the preamble, amended in 1986) and the promotion of equality between men and women, in particular through equal representation in public bodies (Article 3, Paragraph 2, amended in 1996).

In 1996 the most extensive changes to date were made, in which a number of special features of Hamburg, which can already be found in the older constitutions, were abolished (see also section: Constitutional amendments).


The constitution is divided into 77 articles (one without content for editorial reasons), preceded by a preamble . This introduction was supplemented by a resolution of the Hamburg citizenship on February 12, 2020 with the sentence "In particular, the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg takes its responsibility for limiting global warming." And reads after it comes into force on February 29, 2020:

“As a world port city, the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg has to fulfill a special task towards the German people assigned to it by history and location. In the spirit of peace she wants to be a mediator between all continents and peoples of the world. By promoting and steering, it enables its economy to fulfill these tasks and to meet the economic needs of all. Freedom of competition and cooperative self-help should also serve this goal. Everyone has a moral duty to work for the good of the whole. The general public helps the economically weak in cases of need and strives to promote the advancement of the able. The labor force is under the protection of the state. In order to achieve political, social and economic equality, political democracy combines with the ideas of economic democracy. The natural foundations of life are under the special protection of the state. In particular, the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg takes its responsibility for limiting global warming seriously. In this spirit, the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg gives itself this constitution through its citizenship. "

- Hamburg constitution

The state constitution is divided into the following sections:

the state foundations (I),
the organizational sections on citizenship and senate (II and III),
the state functions of legislation and administration (IV and V),
the case law (VI),
budget and finance (VII) and
the final and transitional provisions (VIII).

Constitutional bodies

Hamburg's constitutional bodies are

Constitutional amendments

With the last change, Article 50 was supplemented by the law of June 1, 2015 (HmbGVBl. P. 102). In the course of the Olympic application process for the Olympic Games 2024, citizens should be given the opportunity to hold a citizenship referendum. The addition of Paragraph 4b to Art. 50 made it possible for the citizens of Hamburg to vote for the first time on a subject of “fundamental importance to the city as a whole” (see Paragraph 4b).

The thirteenth constitutional amendment took place on July 19, 2012 and anchored a debt brake in the Hamburg constitution.

On July 8, 2009, the twelfth constitutional amendment changed a number of electoral regulations. In this way, the legislature complied with the requirements of a referendum accepted by the citizens .

With the tenth constitutional amendment (October 16, 2006), the tasks and functions of district offices and district assemblies, which were previously through simple legislation, e.g. B. were regulated in the District Administration Act, explicitly included in the Hamburg Constitution (Art. 4 para. 2).

Important changes were in 1971 (for the first time in a German state constitution) the anchoring of the function of the opposition as an essential component of parliamentary democracy, which has the constant task of publicly representing criticism of the government program and being the political alternative to the government majority. Furthermore, the incompatibility of the citizenship mandate and senatorial office was determined.

The most significant changes to date were made in 1996. Changes were made to over 50 articles and some historically grown peculiarities of the Hamburg constitution were eliminated. For example, the status of the citizenship deputies was changed, the citizens' committee and the right of veto of the Senate were abolished in the legislation, and changes to the rights of the committees of inquiry were made. The directive authority of the First Mayor , his direct election by the citizenship (these changes only came into effect with the following electoral term in 1997) and the people's legislation in Hamburg , which was already present in the constitution of 1921, were newly introduced .

Constitutional amendments can also be made through referendums. On December 16, 2008, Art. 50 was amended. Since then, referendums have been binding on the Hamburg citizenship and the Senate. Laws passed by the people can be changed, however, provided the voters do not demand a new referendum or do not reject the amending law in a new referendum. Referendums generally take place on the days of the general or Bundestag election (in the case of non-constitutional laws, on request of the initiators, on other days). Dynamic quorums apply, i.e. the voter turnout is used as the basis for calculation. In the case of simple laws, the majority of the votes cast applies. In the case of constitutional changes, however, two thirds of the voters who took part in the election must agree.

Change procedure

According to Art. 51, the constitution can only be changed by a law that expressly changes or supplements the wording of the constitution. These laws must be passed by the Hamburg Citizenship by means of two concurrent resolutions with a break of at least 13 days between them. This requires a majority of two thirds (with the presence of at least three quarters of the legal membership) of the MPs.

Low German version

The Citizens' Association of St. Georg from 1880 and the Hamburg State Center for Political Education published a translation of the Hamburg constitution into Low German made by Inge Foerster-Baldenius under the title "Constitution of Friee un Hansestadt Hamborg". The booklet consists of a 17 of 52 pages in Low German and also the High German wording. The Low German version of course had no legal force, and otherwise the entire publication corresponded to the text valid before 1996 and became obsolete in the year of publication due to the constitutional reform.


  • Jürgen Bolland : The Hamburg citizenship in old and new times. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the elected citizens on their behalf, written in the State Archives . The citizenship, Hamburg 1959, (appendix with all constitutions and constitutional law of the recesses).
  • Werner Thieme: Constitution of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. Comment. With an appendix of Hamburg constitutional laws . Harvestehuder Fachverlag, Hamburg 1998, ISBN 3-933375-00-2 .
  • Günter Hoog , Hamburg's constitution , Nomos Verlag, Baden-Baden 2004, ISBN 3-8329-0931-1
  • Klaus David, Lars Hellberg, Florian Schwill, Stephan Stüber, Constitution of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg , Commentary on the right to vote and the formation of popular will, on budgetary law and on the law of the Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information , Richard Boorberg Verlag, Stuttgart / Munich, 2020, ISBN 978 -3-415-06675-5 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Johann Gustav Gallois : Hamburg Chronicle from the oldest times to the present . tape 1 . Hamburg 1861, section II. The period from 1270 to the first Recesse of 1410, p. 345–350 ( digitized version [accessed on November 17, 2019] New High German translation of the recession from 1410).
  2. Hamburg Law and Ordinance Gazette: Hamburg Law and Ordinance Gazette, Part 1, p. 145ff and p. 148ff. February 28, 2020, accessed March 18, 2020 .
  3. ^ Citizens' Association of St. Georg from 1880 RV, State Center for Political Education, Hamburg (ed.): Constitution of de Friee and Hanseatic City of Hamborg . State Center for Political Education, Hamburg 1996.