The German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik or DDR) was formed in 1949 on the territory of the Soviet zone of occupation of Germany. Though formally an independent state it remained firmly under Soviet control until the late 1980s. Politically the DDR was a party-state on the Soviet model, with the Communist Party dominant over the formal institutions of government. Supposedly the ruling party was a union of the Communists and the Social Democrats: the Socialist Unity Party (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands or SED). In fact this union had been imposed on the Social Democratic Party and the Communists were dominant. To provide an appearance of political plurality other parties were permitted to exist but they were all subservient to the SED, being required to belong to an umbrella organization—the National Front of the DDR (Nationale Front der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik)—and to acknowledge the SED's "leading role." The National Front also included various "mass organizations" such as the Free German Trade Union movement and the Free German Youth movement.

Until 1960 the head of state was the President of the DDR but after the death of the incumbent in 1960 the presidency was abolished in favor of a collective State Council (Staatsrat der DDR). Usually its chairman performed head-of-state duties but real power was in the hands of the First Secretary (later General Secretary) of the SED. The General Secretary was also the Chairman of the National Defense Council, with control over the armed forces and police and unlimited power in times of national emergency or war. According to the DDR's constitution the legislature, called the People's Chamber (Volkskammer) was the highest organ of state power but in fact it was under the thumb of the SED, serving merely to rubber-stamp party decisions.

The DDR was often characterized as the most successful of the so-called people's republics in the USSR's European sphere of control. But though the country was relatively prosperous its centrally planned economy was not competitive with the market-oriented economies of Western Europe. Moreover, behind the facade of democracy the DDR was a single-party dictatorship and police state, perhaps the most hard-line of the satellite regimes. The State Security Service (Staatssicherheitsdienst or Stasi) was an all-pervasive watchdog over the population, enforcing the SEDs claim of supervision over all aspects of society—political, economic, social, cultural. A certain stability prevailed from 1961, when the Berlin Wall was erected, to the early 1980s. But as the decline of the USSR itself became more and more obvious the foundations of the party-state were progressivly undermined. The end came with the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, making it clear that the USSR would no longer intervene to "defend socialism" in the satellite states. This proved fatal to the DDR, which collapsed with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and merged with the Federal Republic of Germany the following year.


National Flag & Ensign 1949-59


National Flag 1959-90  •  Civil Ensign 1973-90


Civil Ensign 1959-73

When the DDR was established in 1949 it was anticipated that Germany would eventually be reunified. Accordingly the national flag adopted was the plain black-red-gold horizontal tricolor that had been the German national flag between 1919 and 1933. But with the advent of the Cold War it seemed unlikely that unification would happen any time soon, and the use of the same flag by both the West and East German polities became problematical. In 1959, therefore, the DDR added the state coat of arms to its flag. This was a typical specimen of socialist heraldry, combining symbols representing the proletariat and the peasantry. A civil ensign for merchant ships was adopted at the same time; this displayed the state arms in the upper hoist. But in 1973 this ensign was abolished and the national flag replaced it.




 Standard of the State Security Service  •  Staatssicherheitsdienst


Standard of the People's Police  •  Volkspolitzei


Service Flag of the Combat Groups of the Working Class  •  Kampfgruppen der Arbeiterklasse

The State Security Service or Stasi was embodied in the Ministry of State Security. It was the DDR's secret police and foreign intelligence organization: "the Shield and Sword of the Party." In its domestic role the Stasi was responsible for the political supervision and control of the population and to that end it operated a nationwide network of informants. The Stasi was by far the most feared and hated organ of the DDR government. The People's Police or VoPo performed normal police duties but also included paramilitary units called Alert Units (Volkspolizei-Bereitschaften). These battalion-size formations were equipped and trained as motorized infantry and were quartered in barracks throughout the DDR, ready to intervene in case of civil unrest or rebellion. The standard of the Stasi, displaying the badge of the Ministry of State Security on a red field, was seldom seen but every unit of the VoPo received a military-pattern standard. It displayed the police badge and motto—"For the Defense of the Workers' and Peasants' Power"—within a silver laurel wreath.

The Combat Groups of the Working Class or KdA was a paramilitary organization raised in 1953 in response to the worker uprising of that year. Officially it was a Party-affiliated “people’s militia” rather than a branch of the DDR armed forces and fell under the authority of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party. At its peak the KdA numbered over 200,000 personnel. Training was provided by the Volkspolizei—this to avoid having to count the KdA as part of the armed forces under international treaties. KdA units were based in the workplace: factories, public utilities, government administration offices, etc. Mostly they were given strictly local tasks, but there were a number of mobile units that could be deployed throughout the country. The KdA's flags and standards displayed its badge on a red field.

See here for more flags of the Stasi, VoPo and KdA




Customs Administration


Fishery Protection

Those government agencies (other than the armed forces and the police) that operated vessels and watercraft  had distinctive pennants. All displayed the state arms on a white field; the colored border identified the agency.




President of the DDR 1953-55


President of the DDR 1955-60


Chairman of the State Council 1960-90


Chairman of the National Defense Council 1973-90

Certain senior government officials had standards that were used as car flags and, with fringe added, on ceremonial occasions. There were several presidential standards in use up to 1960, when the office was abolished and replaced with a collective State Council. The 1950-53 presidential standard displayed the GDR's first state coat of arms. The 1953-55 presidential standard displayed the second version of the state arms, different from the final version in one detail only: the orientation of the compass. The standard of the Chairman of the National Defense Council bore the arms of the National People's Army ( Nationale Volksarmee).




Socialist Unity Party of Germany  •  Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands


Christian Democratic Union  •  Christlich Demokratischen Union


Liberal Democratic Party of Germany
Liberal-Demokratischen Partei Deutschlands


National Democratic Party of Germany
National-Demokratischen Partei Deutschlands


Democratic Peasants' Party of Germany
Demokratischen Bauernpartei Deutschlands

The flags of the DDR's political parties displayed the party logo on an appropriate background, for instance red for the Socialist Unity Party and green for the Democratic Peasant's Party. The umbrella organization for political parties and so-called mass organizations, the National Front, had no logo or flag.




Free German Trade Union  •  Freier Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund


Free German Youth  •  Freie Deutsche Jugend


People's Solidarity  •  Volkssolidarität

The so-called mass organizations belonged to the National Front and were represented in the People's Chamber. Their flags displayed the organizational logo. The same style of flag was used by many of the social organizations of the DDR that "coordinated" culture, sports, charitable activities, etc. For instance People's Solidarity was an organization focused on the welfare of senior citizens. All such organizations were closely supervised by the Socialist Unity Party to insure their ideological conformity.