All flags tell a story and the modern flag of the German Federal Republic is no different. The present flag is a tricolour, a combination of three horizontal stripes, the top one red, the middle red and the bottom one gold: schartz, rot und geld.

Just as the modern shape and size of Germany has fanged over the years, so has the flag, although the black, red and gold flag has been used before, although supplanted at times by an imperial tricolour of black red and white and the Nazi era flag which was characterised by a Swastika.

German Flag

To fully explain the history of the German flag would take a chapter or two, because it is attached to the history of German itself.

Two of the present flag colours, the black and the gold, were used by the Holy Roman Empire that lasted more or less in the area we now know as modern Germany from the 10th Century A.D. right through to the beginning of the nineteenth century. The Holy Roman Emperor had his own banner which was a black eagle against a gold background. In fact, many other nascent states at the time adopted the eagle motif. The eagle had two heads at first, each head pointing in the two directions of the Holy Roman Empire. Today, the Bundesadler, the black eagle, is used on the German flag to represent the Federal government.

The use of red and white in the flag became important for a time, not just in what is now Germany, but in many places where the Holy Roman Empire had influence. It became a symbol of resistance in the Crusades.

Later, when the French occupied the Rhine, the French colours of red, white and blue became used until the Napoleonic wars when revolutionary German forces again adopted the black, red and gold colours, this time with additional meaning: the black was for servitude, red for blood spilled against Napoleon’s forces and gold for liberty.

In the twentieth century, after Germany’s many different and previously quarrelsome states had unified, the black, red and gold tricolour vied for popularity with the black, red and white alternative.

Hitler and the Nazi party’s accession to power changed the flag again to the Swastika. At the end of the Second World War and the division of what had been German territory, booth west and east adopted their own version of the flag. When unification took place after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, the united Federal Republic of Germany formally adopted the present flag recognised everywhere. It’s not to be confused with the Belgian flag which has a similar combination of black, gold and red, but vertical stripes. Now, that’s a different story altogether from the history of the German flag!