At the heart of symbolism

The German flag


German civil flag German state flag

The flag and the coat of arms

The present flag of Germany was adopted by the Weimar Republic in 1919 and revived after the Third Reich in 1949. The Civil flag is composed of three horizontal equal stripes with the national colours of Germany: black, red and (golden) yellow 1. The same flag was adopted in both Federal and Democratic Republics.German Democratic Republic flag In 1959 however, the Democratic Republic added a coat of arms representing a hammer and a compass in a circle of ears of rye. The flag with the three colours has remained the emblem of the country after the reunification in 1990. The State flag and the flag of the presidency of the Federal Republic are adorned with a coat of arms containing an eagle on a golden shield.

The Parliament elected by universal suffrage during the revolution of 1848 had already tried to propose the unification of Germany under the three colour flag. However, the constant rivalries between Prussia and Austria resulted in war and the creation of the North German Confederation dominated by Prussia under Bismarck's rule. The Confederation adopted a flag associating black and white colours of the Prussian flag with the red of the Hanseatic League flag. It became the national emblem after the achievement of German unity in 1871 and the creation of the German Empire; it remained in use until the end of the First World War. The three colours black-white-red were taken over by the emblem of the Third Reich.

As often, the origins of the drawing of the flag and especially of its colours are multiple:

The drawing of the flag

The flags displaying three colours constitute the majority of the emblems of the countries (for more details, see the colours of the Olympic flag). And the easiest way to represent them consists in juxtaposing them either vertically or horizontally. The first tricolor flag of the European nations was the Dutch Republic one, freed from the Spanish domination for 80 years (1568-1648). Its flourishing economy, as its flag, have been able to serve as an example for other nations.

The three colours of the flag

No official text has decreed the national colours. For some, the colours of the German flag would find their origins in the popular movements. The colours black-red-gold adorned the black uniforms (with red facings and golden buttons) of the first German troops fighting against the Napoleonic France from 1813 to 1814. For others, these colours would have been borrowed from the coat of arms of the Holy Roman Germanic Empire, dating from the Middle-Ages; it was composed of a black eagle, with red beak and claws, on a (golden) yellow background. For some others, the black colour would represent freedom, red the unity of the country and (golden) yellow the personal freedom.

Anyhow, these colours quickly became the symbol of a quest for unity, justice and freedom in accordance with the motto of the country (Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit).

1 back In the heraldic language, the yellow colour only exists under the appearance of gold.

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