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Flag of Germany

German Confederation (only 1848)

German Empire (1871-1918)

Weimar Republic (1919-1933)

Third Reich 1933-1935

Third Reich 1933-1945
(Civil Ensign)

Occupied Germany

Federal Republic of Germany
(West Germany)


German Democratic Republic (1959-1990)
(East Germany)


Flag Ratio: 3:5

The Civil flag and ensign of Germany is made up of three equal horizontal bands coloured black (top), red and gold. There are two main theories on 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 movement try to transform the loosely-knit Confederation into a more unified 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.

Prussia however, the most influential German state, resisted this movement, though it would work 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, with monarchists and the Nazis in favour of re-adopting the black-white-red flag. When the Nazis came to power in 1933 they did just that, 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.

After the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, Germany was occupied by the Allies and ceased to exist as a sovereign nation. 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 flag of Germany.

After the Allied occupation, the black-red-gold flag was once again adopted as the federal flag for the Federal Republic of (West-)Germany on May 9, 1949 which it has remained to this day. The German Democratic Republic (East-Germany) had initially used the same flag, but on October 1, 1959 it introduced a communist emblem to the centre of the flag, which remained until East Germany was reunited with the Federal Republic in 1990.

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