Last modified: 2011-07-08 by german editorial team
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image by António Martins
Flag adopted 9 May 1949, as civil ensign 14 Aug 1950
Flags on this page:
As the western occupation zones moved to unity in the last years of the 1940s, it became obvious that the governmental entity which would develop would adopt the black-red-gold of the Weimar Republic and indeed, it was established as the National Flag on 9 May 1949, two weeks before the Federal Republic came into existence. Unlike
the Weimar period, there has been no serious opposition. Most of the 1949 flags are still in use.
Norman Martin, Feb 1998
The official name of the German flag is Bundesflagge (federal flag). However, this name is mainly used by authorities or in very official announcements. The name given on the page about names of flags, Schwarz-Rot-Gold (black-red-gold), is not very usual; it is more a poetic term. Most Germans simply call the flag Deutschlandfahne
Carsten Linke, 2 May 1996
Sport sailors in Germany call their national flag Adenauer (first chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany).
Jens Wessel, 3 Jan 2001
Identical [except proportions] with the National Flag of the Weimar
Republic. Adopted as Federal flag 9 May 1949 and usage extended to civil ensign 14 August 1950. Illustrated in Pedersen 1971 p. 30, Smith 1975, p. 227,
Crampton 1990i, p. 43, Album des Pavillons 1990, p. 17 and many other places.
Norman Martin, Feb 1998
Today the black-red-yellow tricolour is used as the national flag and the merchant ensign. The state flag and ensign are the same, but with the shield not really centred but placed toward the hoist. The naval ensign and jack are the same, but swallowtailed.
Pascal Vagnat, 4 Sep 1996
Image by Marcus Schmöger
Flag adopted 13th Nov 1996
Since 13th November 1996 also the hanging flag (Banner) is legally prescribed, although it was used long before. Legal prescription is the Anordnung über die deutschen Flaggen (Instruction on the German Flags) of 13th November 1996, published in the Bundesgesetzblatt I 1996, p. 1729.
The image I made is in proportion 5:2, as this is the most frequently found proportion for hanging flags in Germany. Sources: Laitenberger and Bassier 2000, Friedel 1968 and Bundesministerium des Innern 1956. See also Very long hanging flags.
Marcus Schmöger, 14 Mar 2001
#1 #2 Images by Thorsten, 5 Apr 2003
I would like to discuss the description of hanging German flags. I can't speak for all regions of Germany (e.g., the main contributor/editor of the Germany page seems to reside in Bavaria), but at least in the northeastern parts of the country (i.e. the former GDR including Berlin, the national capital), (true) vertical flags (i.e., flags hanging from a horizontal bar) are extremely rare.
However, it is very common to hoist very tall and narrow flags (the German term for this kind of flag is "Knatterfahne") on a regular flag pole. This particular kind of flag is so popular, that many government offices use it exclusively. I can only speculate as to the rationale. Real estate is in short supply in Germany and many office buildings have "their" flagpoles on very narrow sidewalks in front of the building. If "regular" flags of sufficient size would be flown, they might brush against trees, the next flag pole, or the building facade.
Two different variants are used. The most popular option is to "rotate" (and; slightly stretched) the flag. In other words, the black stripe of the German flag would run along the flagpole #1. In the less frequent variant, the stripes are still arranged horizontally, leading to "stripes" whose individual ratios are roughly 1:1! #2.
In addition to the national flag, govt. buildings usually also fly a (very tall and narrow) European Union flag. State office buildings also fly their state flag. Since my home state is Saxony-Anhalt, I have included the two variants of that flag (which can appear with or without the state CoA, so that there would actually be four variants.)
I noticed that the shade for the yellow stripe on the Saxony-Anhalt state flag is identical to the shade used for the German national flag. This choice seems unfortunate, as the the color is given explicitely as yellow and not gold. Whenever you see a Saxony-Anhalt flag flying next to the German black-red-gold, it is very obvious that the yellow in the Sax-Anh. flag is lighter. (I don't have any official specification, but the yellow from the Belgian national flag seems just about right.)
Perhaps ironically, a tall flag hoisted on a flag pole is given for a fringe political party, when such flags are actually very common, not just for EU, Germany, and states, but many flags hoisted in front of buildings, e.g., political flags, commercial flags etc.
Thorsten, 5 Apr 2003
I regard all these flags "true" vertical flags also, the only problem with all these flags are the proper English terms, as these types of flags (be it Hängefahne, Banner or Knatterfahne) are "very" uncommon in other countries.
Marcus E.V. Schmöger, 9 Apr 2003
Image by Marcus Schmöger, 16 Mar 2001
If used alone as coat-of-arms, this is the legally prescribed form. However the eagle is used in different forms (e.g. on flags, seals or in the Bundestag). The legal prescriptions are the Bekanntmachung betreffend das Bundeswappen und den Bundesadler (Proclamation on the Federal Coat-of-Arms and the Federal Eagle) of 20 January 1950, published in the Bundesgesetzblatt I 1950, p. 26 and the Bekanntmachung über die farbige Darstellung des Bundeswappens (Proclamation on the Coloured Representation of the Federal Coat-of-Arms) of 4 July 1952, published in the Bundesanzeiger no. 169, 2 September 1952. The latter contains a coloured table on which the coat-of-arms is depicted. Compare with the
'federal shield' or Bundesschild, also with the eagle in the presidential standard.
Source: Laitenberger and Bassier 2000.
Marcus Schmöger, 16 Mar 2001
The black-red-yellow tricolour flag has been used at least three timesin the history of Germany. It was adopted in 1848,and abolished in 1852; readopted as the flag of the WeimarRepublic on 11 August 1919, and abolished and replaced by the ThirdReich flag 12 March 1933. It was finally readopted as the modern German flag on 8 May 1949. It was used by the German Democratic Republic until 1959, but had added to it a coat of arms from 1959 to 1989, when the Germanies were reunited.
Mark Sensen, 1996
The black-red-gold is historically associated with "liberal" nationalism in Germany, rather than republicanism per se. It was first adopted by the Frankfurt Parliament in 1848 for the proposed united German Empire. That the 1870 German Empire went for a flag asserting north German traditions (the black and white of Prussia with the white and red of the Hanseatic League) was due to Bismarck wanting a Kleindeutschland [smaller Germany] solution - excluding the Austrian lands, rather than the Frankfurt liberals' Grossdeutschland [greater Germany] which would have included the Austrian lands within the old German Confederation.
Roy Stilling, 5 Oct 1996