THE GERMAN FLAG
" Der einzelne ist doch nur etwas, indem er sich am großen Ganzen mitwirkend beteiligt,
für des Vaterlandes Einheit und Freiheit sein Bestes tut"
Hoffmann von Fallersleben
red, and gold flag was raised for the first time during the Hambach
Festival in 1832. It was a patriotic demonstration demanding democratic freedoms and national unity. Its colors go back to Major Ludwig Adolf Wilhelm von Lützow.
His Lützow Free Corps was a Prussian volunteer force during Liberation Wars (1813 - 1815). At first, the
colors had no special meaning but a practical purpose only. The volunteers' uniforms were black because they had to bring their own outfits to the Free Corps. An easy way to equalize the
corps' appearance was to color the warrior's
pants and shirts black. The golden brass buttons were easily available, and red was chosen as the color for the sleeves' badge. After the war, student unions, or Burschenschaften, across
German-speaking countries promoted the idea of a democratic national state, many of them using the colors black, red, and gold. The colors became a symbol of unity, democracy, and civil rights.
Flags that are composed of three stripes are called Tricolore. They have existed for many centuries but became popular during the French Revolution. Many liberation wars had been fought under a
Tricolore. For the first time, the German Tricolore held the status as official national flag due to the National Assembly's resolution (Frankfurt Parliament) on March 9, 1848. The arrangements
of the colors constitute an exception regarding the rules of heraldry, which says that red can't precede black if a metallic color such as gold is involved in the design. Hence, according to the
rules, the proper order would have been black, gold, and red. The German Revolution of 1848 failed, and so did democracy's symbol on German soil. The black, white, and red banner (Reich's Flag) replaced the former
flag. After World War I, the Weimar
Republic reestablished the symbolic
democratic colors again after a serious dispute over the national flag's colors. Due to the struggle with the radical left and radical right forces during the Weimar Republic existence, loyalists, veterans, and members of the moderate parties established
the so-called Reichsbanner association (Black-Red-Gold Banner of the Weimar Republic),
pointing out the values of democracy by using the national colors. In contrast, the Reich's Flag was supported by monarchists and right-wing parties who
openly opposed Germany's first democracy. After
the National Socialists had taken over the government, the flag was changed once again. The Swastika represented Germany for twelve dark years, and the democratic Reichsbanner association came
under heavy attack. In 1948, a few years after the inhuman activities during National Socialism, optimistic policymakers carried the black, red, and gold banner of democracy through proposals for a different version of the German flag
to connect to the values and ideals of the Weimar
Republic. The question of whether the German flag can be raised and waved with pride is needless to ask if one knows the meaning of its colors in contrast to
the Reich's Flag. The answer,
however, is important regarding German history: Absolutely!
Similar to the United States, there is a special code of treatment for the flag. The difference in Germany is that the code is anchored in law. Germans can be rightfully proud of the long-standing history of their black, red, and gold flag and what it stands for. Also, moderate forces support the official German Tricolor as a democratic symbol of identity and unification in daily life. For example, if you disparage a German flag, you are likely to face a financial penalty or jail time. This is also valid for German flags of private citizens. Also, the spreading of misinformation or right-wing propaganda in combination with codes of Nationalism is rightfully and fully indictable on German soil (Source: § 90a StGB).