The national flag of Germany consists of three horizontal bands of equal size in black, red, and gold in descending order. It is one of the world’s most recognizable flags and has been in continuous official use since 1949.
As with most national flags, there is a great deal of history associated with the flag of Germany. Just as the borders and identity of Germany have changed over the years, the flag has also changed.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the design of the German flag, its colors, and the meaning associated with it.
Colors and the Meaning of the German Flag
The colors of the German flag are black, red, and gold. There are various explanations for the things these colors symbolize, though they are commonly said to represent freedom and unity.
The first use of these colors in a flag dates back to 1815 by the Urburschenschaft (a student fraternity) of Jena, when they were associated with the idea of German nationalism and a unified German state. The colors also represented the Centrist, Democratic and Republican parties during the Weimar Republic.
Another interpretation of the colors of the German flag by student soldiers that were fighting against French occupation in the early 19th century was: “From the blackness of servitude, through the bloody battles, to the golden light of freedom.”
The German national flag is notably a tricolor, much like the flags of France, Italy, Russia, Romania, and the Netherlands. The use of the tricolor design was introduced in the 16th century and is a symbol of republicanism and liberty.
Germany Flag Map
History of the German Flag
Before Germany was a unified nation, the three colors of its flag were used by the Lützow Free Corps, a volunteer force that fought with the Prussian Army during the Napoleonic wars from 1813-1815.
This volunteer force did not have a lot of money, and this led to the use of mostly black uniforms because it was the easiest color to dye. The force also used brass buttons and red trim. The colors of the uniforms later became a symbol of republicanism and German nationalism and were used unofficially for decades.
During the years of the North German Confederation and the German Empire, from 1867 until 1918, a black, white, and red tricolor flag was used. The absence of gold from this flag made it clear that the monarchy of Austria was not part of the German state.
The black, white, and red flag remained the flag of Germany until the end of World War I in 1918. In its 1919 constitution, the Weimar Republic instated the black, red, and gold tricolor as the national German flag. This lasted until the Nazi Party came into power in 1933.
Under the rule of the Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler, Germany used the same black, white, and red flag of the German Empire. After the end of World War II in 1945, this flag was banned by the Allied Control Council of Germany.
Flags of East Germany and West Germany
After World War II, the portion of Germany that had been administered by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France separated from the portion that was under the control of the Soviet Union. The resulting split into East and West Germany also brought about changes in flags.
Although there were multiple proposals for the flag design of West Germany, it was ultimately decided to re-adopt the black, red, and gold tricolor of the past to show a connection with the previous Weimar Republic.
The flag used by East Germany from 1949-1959 was identical to the flag used by West Germany. In 1959, the East German coat of arms, a hammer and compass, was added to the center of the flag.
After the reunification of Germany, this flag could often be found with the emblem cut out of the center.
German Flag FAQs
What colors are on the German flag?
The colors on the German flag are black, red, and gold. They appear in equally sized horizontal bands.
What do the colors on the German flag mean?
The history of the colors on the German flag date back to at least the Napoleonic Wars of 1813, when they were used by a volunteer force of the Prussian Army.
In a broad sense, they represent unity and freedom. They have also been described as representing a continuity between the Weimar Republic and present-day Germany.
What does the German flag represent?
As with the national colors of Germany, the German flag represents unity and freedom. Since the flag has been used during different periods of time since Germany became a country, it also represents the political state of the country.
The black, red, and gold tricolor was banned during the rule of the Nazi Party and a different flag was used in East Germany from 1959-1989.
How old is the German flag?
The modern German flag was first seen in 1849 during the German Confederation, though it wasn’t officially adopted until 1919 by the Weimar Republic. It has been in continuous use since its adoption by West Germany in 1949.
When was the German flag changed?
The flag of Germany has changed several times throughout history. During the years of the German Empire, from 1867-1918, the black, white, and red tricolor flag was used. During the rule of the Nazi Party from 1933-1945, Nazi symbols were favored. East Germany also had its own flag from 1959-1989.
The modern-day German national flag has been in use since West Germany adopted it as the national flag in 1949.
What is Germany’s coat of arms?
The coat of arms of Germany features a black eagle on a golden background. The eagle has a red beak, a red tongue, red feet. Today, it is known as the Bundesadler in German, which translates to “Federal Eagle.”
It is the oldest national symbol in Europe and bears similarities to the medieval coat of arms used by the Holy Roman Empire in the 13th and 14th centuries.
The design of the current coat of arms was done by Karl-Tobias Schwab and was first introduced in 1928. It was adopted by the Weimar Republic in 1950.
Neighboring Countries of Germany
Germany is located in Western Europe, with coasts on the North Sea and Baltic Sea. It shares borders with nine other European nations: Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Poland.
German is an official language in four of these bordering countries: Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, and Luxembourg.
Main Characteristics of Germany
Germany is the most populous country in the European Union and the second-most populous in Europe, with more than 84 million inhabitants. It consists of 16 states and has an area of 357,022 square kilometers.
Berlin is the largest city and capital of Germany, and is the most populous city in the European Union. Other important German cities include Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart. The country has the largest economy in the European Union and has the world’s fourth-largest economy after the USA, China, and Japan.
Germany is the second most popular immigration destination in the world after the United States. In 2016, more than 22% of the country’s population was of immigrant or partially immigrant descent, which exceeds 18 million people.
The official language of the country is German, and most of the country’s citizens report being able to speak at least one other language.
Related: Germany Population by States
|Highest point||Zugspitze (2,962 m)|
|Population (2022 estimate)||84,314,273|
|Total area||357,022 km2 (137,847 mi2)|