Last modified: 2006-09-23 by jarig bakker
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image by António Martins
Flag adopted 9th May 1949, as civil ensign 14th Aug 1950
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,
Pascal Vagnat, 4 Sep 1996
Since 13th November 1996 also the hanging flag (Banner) is legally
prescribed, although it was used long before. Legal prescription is the
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:
and Bassier 2000, Friedel 1968 and Bundesministerium
des Innern 1956. See also Very long hanging
Marcus Schmöger, 14 Mar 2001
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
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
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
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 20th 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 4th July 1952,
published in the Bundesanzeiger no. 169, 2nd 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-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
When I was in the (American) Boy Scouts in Germany in the 1960s, our
summer camp near Giessen flew both US and German flags, and we were taught
when lowering the German flag to fold it so that only black was on the
outside. They never told us why, and we were all kids from military
families, so I guess we knew that was the kind of thing you didn't question.
Joe McMillan, 20 Aug 2003
A detailed account is given by Jörg Karaschewski on the following (German-language) page.