Certificate Ordinance No. 46

A State’s Birth Certificate

Two unadorned pages of plain German and English text. There are no sentences such as “and hereby do we found the State of North Rhine-Westphalia”. And yet, “Ordinance No. 46” of August 23rd, 1946 is the official charter of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The Second World War had only been over for 15 months, and most cities and many towns and villages still lay in ruins. Germany was occupied and divided into four zones. The British zone contained the regions from which the occupying power formed the new state – our state. With Ordinance No. 46, the British combined two former Prussian provinces: Westphalia, and the northern part of the Rhine Province. On January 21st, 1947, a third region was added, Lippe-Detmold. The borders of these regions can be seen on the large map table in the centre of the room.

It is frequently said that the foundation was a “forced marriage” carried out on British orders, but the truth is less clear. A discussion had already taken place in the 1920s regarding the reorganisation of the German Empire. It was then that the idea of uniting the northern part of the Rhine Province with Westphalia and Lippe was born. In the end, it was the British in 1946 who implemented this idea.

The British were focusing on the re-democratisation of the Germans. The first local elections took place on September 15th, 1946, and on October 2nd the British-appointed first state parliament began its work. The people first elected their own parliament on April 20th, 1947.