Dive into German History: The Birth of the German Basic Law

The Rittersturz Conference in Koblenz 1948

The Minister President of Rhineland-Palatinate, Peter Altmeier (r), speaks the welcoming words at the opening of the Minister Presidents' Conference of the eleven German states in the three western zones at the Rittersturz Hotel in Koblenz on July 8, 1948. Seated next to him (l-r) are the Bavarian Minister President Hans Ehard, the acting Mayor of Berlin, Louise Schröder, and the Interior Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate, Jakob Steffan (concealed)., © picture-alliance / dpa | dpa

16.06.2023 - Article

75 years ago at the Rittersturz Conference in Koblenz, the merger of the three western occupation zones was decided, leading to the formation of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The Rittersturz Conference was a significant milestone on the path from Allied occupation to the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany. Held at the Hotel “Rittersturz” south of Koblenz from July 8th to 10th, 1948 the conference brought together the Minister Presidents of the states in the American, British, and French occupation zones. The discussions revolved around the “Frankfurt Documents,” which outlined the guidelines of the Western Allies for the reorganization of German affairs. The military governors of the American, British, and French occupation zones in Germany called upon the Minister Presidents to convene a constituent assembly and envisioned the transfer of state authority to the Germans, which was positively received by the Minister Presidents. However, many viewed the emerging solution of separate Western states as a threat to national unity.

The mandate of the military governors came at a time when tensions between the Western victors of World War II and their Soviet alliance partner were escalating. The United States responded to Stalin's expansion in Eastern and Central Europe with a policy of containment, including the merger of the occupation zones in the West into the “Trizone” – a unified economic area intended to become the nucleus of a democratic Germany. When the Deutsche Mark was introduced in the Trizone as part of the currency reform, the Soviet Military Administration blocked the transportation routes between the Trizone and Berlin on 4th June 1948 (Berlin Blockade).

Konrad Adenauer, first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1949 to 1963.
Konrad Adenauer, first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1949 to 1963.© picture-alliance / akg-images | akg-images

As a result of the Rittersturz Conference, the Basic Law came into effect in May 1949.

Less than three weeks after the second Rittersturz Conference, Konrad Adenauer was elected as the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bonn.

Top of page