What Do the Colors of the German Flag Mean?

By Joseph Kiprop on July 17 2019 in Politics

The flag of Germany.
The flag of Germany.

The German flag is a horizontal tricolor of black, red, and gold. It was designed and first hoisted in 1919 when Germany was known as the Weimar Republic.

The national colors of Germany have varied over time. Black, white, red and black, red, and gold have served as traditional German colors at different points in the country's history. The horizontal tricolor flag used today dates back to as early as 1778 and was popularized by the German Confederation in 1848. However, when the confederation failed, the flag was no longer used. When the Prussian king united Germany and became emperor in 1871, he adopted a black, white and red flag for the German Empire. This tricolor, which came to be known as imperial colors, served until the defeat of the Second Reich during the First World War.

History of the Flag of Germany

In 1919, the black, red and gold flag (a color scheme known as the "republican colors") was adopted by the newly formed Weimar Republic. At this time, the country had been using the red, white, and black color scheme on the flag (known as the imperial colors). The switch from the republican colors to the imperial colors was controversial to many in the Weimer Republic at the time. When the Weimar Republic collapsed in 1933, and the Nazi Party was elected, the flag of Germany was reverted back to the red, white, and black design of former years. The official flag of the Nazi Party, which featured a black swastika, was also simultaneously used to represent the country at this time.

When the Nazi Party gained full control of Germany, they discontinued the use of the red, white and black flag in favor of the flag of the Nazi party, which featured a black swastika. This flag was used to represent Germany until the end of World War II, which saw a ban on all Nazi symbols, including the flag. This ban on Nazi symbolism continues in many countries to this day, including Germany, where it is most strictly enforced.

Throughout the time of a divided Germany, a time spanning the years 1949 to 1989, East Germany and West Germany used different flags. Although there was some hesitancy to accept a national flag before eventual reunification, West Germany adopted the black, red and gold flag of Germany that we know today. As East Germany was under Soviet rule, the flag did not yet represent them, although they used a flag that was similar. From the year 1959 onwards, East Germany used a flag that incorporated the black, red, and gold background with the Coat of Arms of East Germany on the flag. Use of this flag was banned in West Germany, as it was seen as a symbol against unification.

Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the black, red and gold flag has officially stood for all of Germany.

The Symbolism of the Germany Flag

The colors of the flag of Germany somewhat resemble the colors used in the Roman Empire, which were just black and gold. Germans associate the colors of the modern flag with freedom and unity since they were adopted by the first attempt in the united German republic. In the Weimar Republic, following the First World War, the colors black, red, and gold represented the colors of the centrist, republican and democratic political parties. which had formed a coalition to avoid ascension to power by war-mongering or pacifist extremists.

Types of German Flags

  • Civil flag: also the national flag of Germany, consisting of only black-red-gold, and is used as the federal flag, as well as by non-federal state governments to show affiliation.
  • Government flag: used by the federal government, it is similar to the civil flag but includes the Federal Shield, which is similar to the coat of arms.
  • German war flags: since the military is a branch of the federal government, the government flag is used as the war flag on land. The German naval jack is a swallow-tailed government flag.

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