Black, Red, and Yellow Flag: Germany Flag History, Symbolism, Meaning

Written by Hannah Ward
Published: December 8, 2022
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Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is the second most populous country in Europe. Germany has a long and divided history and only became fully united in 1990. However, the red, black, and yellow flag of Germany is one of the most widely recognized flags in the world. Read on to learn all about its history, meaning, and symbolism.

Founding of Germany

Germany as a region dates back to the Roman era. The Industrial Revolution led to the main growth of the country. It accelerated the economy and led to the rapid growth of many cities. Later, the Chancellor Otto von Bismarck unified the country in 1871. This formed the German Empire (also known as the Second Reich). The unification brought together many different German-speaking kingdoms, cities, and duchies. The German Empire became one of the most dominant forces in Europe, colonializing parts of Africa, Asia, and the Pacific.

Following its defeat in World War I, the German Empire was partially occupied, lost some of its territory, and was stripped of its colonies. Several decades were marred with war and unrest and even after the war, Germany became divided again.

Following the end of World War II, Germany’s territories were occupied by different countries. The western regions were controlled by the UK, France, and the US. Meanwhile, the rest of the country was controlled by the Soviet Union. Germany then divided into two countries in 1949. The western regions joined together to form West Germany (the Federal Republic of Germany). The Soviet region became East Germany (the German Democratic Republic). This division was exacerbated by the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and East Germany joined West Germany to form the modern-day country.

Characteristics of Germany

Despite having a highly tumultuous past, Germany is a well-developed country with a strong economy. Although German is the main language, there are several other native minority languages which are protected by a European Charter.

The country itself it also incredibly diverse with many different habitats. It has vast mountain ranges – including part of the Alps – as well as rolling plains and forested hills. Around 47% of the country is agricultural land, with its agricultural sector being one of the largest in Europe.

Germany is also home to around 48,000 species of animals. Wolves were extinct in the country until they were reintroduced following the reunification of the country. Although most lived in the east, there are now approximately 130 packs spread across the county. Wolves are a protected animal in Germany, even in areas where there are human settlements.

History and Symbolism of the Flag of Germany

German flag
The current flag of Germany is a symbol of the constitutional order of the country.

©Osman Bugra Nuvasil/Shutterstock.com

The current flag of Germany is distinctive, with three equal horizontal stripes of black, red, and yellow. This current design was officially adopted in 1919. However, we have to go a little further back to understand when it originated. During the 1848-1849 German Revolution, this flag symbolized the movement against the Conservative Order.

There is debate as to the origins of the colors on the flag, with some believing they are derived from the uniforms of the Lützow Free Corps. Others believe they are derived from the black eagle, which has a red beak and yellow-brown claws. This bird was on the flag of the Holy Roman Empire.

Regardless of its origins, the current flag has long been in use in Germany. It was also the official flag of West Germany starting in 1949. Interestingly, the flag of East Germany used the same colors and a similar design.

The current flag of Germany is a symbol of the constitutional order of the country. It is protected against defamation, with punishments including a fine or imprisonment of up to five years.

Previous Flags of Germany

With the exception of the time under the Nazi regime, the previous flag of Germany was very similar to the current flag. It consisted of horizontal black, white, and red stripes. This was the flag of the North German Confederation and the German Empire between 1867 and 1918.

Flag Flying Days

Flag flying days are days when the national flag is flown from all public buildings. This means the flag staff should neither be empty nor flying any other corporate flags. Germany has the following flag flying days:

  • January 27th – Commemoration Day for the Victims of National Socialism (anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
  • May 1st – Day of Labour
  • May 9th – Europe Day
  • May 23rd – Constitution Day
  • June 17th – Anniversary of the 1953 uprising in East Germany and East Berlin
  • July 20th – Anniversary of the July 20th plot
  • October 3rd – Day of German unity (anniversary of the German reunification)
  • 2nd Sunday before Advent – People’s Mourning Day (in memory of all killed during wartime)

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German flag
The flag of Germany has three horizontal stripes with black, red, and yellow.
© H.studio/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

I have been writing professionally for several years with a focus on animals and wildlife. I love spending time in the outdoors and when not writing I can be found on the farm surrounded by horses, dogs, sheep, and pigs.

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Sources
  1. Britannica, Available here: https://www.britannica.com/topic/flag-of-Germany
  2. Britannica, Available here: https://www.britannica.com/topic/flag-of-Germany
  3. Britannica, Available here: https://www.britannica.com/place/Germany