Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Flag of Germany
German Confederation (only 1848)
German Empire (1871-1918)
Weimar Republic (1919-1933)
Third Reich 1933-1935
(then forbidden by the Nazis as "reactionary")
Third Reich 1935-1945
(jointly with previous flag 1933-35)
(Flag of East Germany)
East Germany (1959-1990)
Federal Republic of Germany (since 1949)
(West Germany only 1949-1990)
There are two main theories about the exact origins of these colours. The first claims they go back to the uniforms of the Lützow Free Corps, comprised mostly of university students, that formed during the end of the struggle against the Napoleonic occupation of much of Germany; the other holds that they are derived from the similar colours of the Imperial coat of arms of the Holy Roman Empire. The first seems the more accepted theory nowadays and it may be that the second explanation simply provided the true origin with a more extensive historic background. In either case, these colours soon became to be regarded as the national colours of Germany during the period of the German Confederation in the first half of the 19th century. The revolutionary year of 1848 saw a nationalistic and liberal movement try to transform the loosely-knit Confederation into a more unified and free state. When the Frankfurt parliament convened on March 9, 1848, they declared them as official federal colours and adopted the black-red-gold (schwarz-rot-gold) flag.
However, Prussia, the most influential German state, resisted this movement, and worked to establish a unified Germany more favourable to Prussia's interests. An important step in this direction was the founding of the North German Confederation in 1867, which on June 25 of that year adopted a flag that blended the Prussian colours (black and white) and the colours of the Hanseatic League (red and white) into a new black-white-red (schwarz-weiß-rot) horizontal tricolour. This flag would also be the national flag for the subsequent German Empire from 1871 to 1918, which finally replaced the German Confederation.
Following Germany's defeat in World War I this Imperial flag fell into disuse and the new Weimar Republic officially reinstated the black-red-gold sequence on August 11, 1919. Throughout the days of the Weimar Republic there was a debate on which flag to use, causing strong controversy, with monarchists in favour of re-adopting the black-white-red flag. In 1926 the old black-white-red flag was allowed to use in the foreign service of Germany again. When the Nazis came to power in 1933 the black-red-gold flag was entirely replaced with the black-white-red, though they would eventually, on September 15, 1935, replace virtually all German governmental flags with designs based on the swastika flag that had been their party flag. It featured the same colours as the Imperial flag, but it was arranged as a red flag with a white disk in the centre containing a black swastika. The old black-white-red flag was then banned by the Nazis as "reactionary". (See flag of Nazi Germany.)
After the defeat of Germany in World War II, Germany was occupied by the Allies. The occupation government banished the existing national flags, and issued an order designating the international signal pennant representing the letter "C" (minus a triangular cutout) as the ship flag of Germany.
After the Allied occupation ended, the black-red-gold flag was once again adopted as the federal flag for West Germany on May 9, 1949 and became the flag for united Germany in 1990. East Germany had initially used the same flag, but on October 1, 1959 it introduced a communist emblem (a hammer (symbolizing the workers), and a pair of compasses (symbolizing the intellectuals) inside ears of grain (symbolizing the farmers)), to the centre of the flag, which remained almost until the territory of East Germany was annexed by the Federal Republic of Germany in 1990 (East Germany formally removed the emblem shortly before reunification). The flag of East Germany was banned, and any use of it considered a criminal offense, in West Germany during much of the Cold War.
Other sites dealing with the German flag:
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