Germany's defeat in World War I led to the abdication of William II as German Emperor and King of Prussia, and the swift collapse of the Imperial regime. A German Republic was proclaimed in November 1918, and in August 1919 a republican constitution was drawn up in the city of Weimar. Among other things, it declared the black-red-gold flag of 1848 to be Germany's national flag, replacing the Imperial black-white-red flag. In December 1919, a decree of the Reich President established additional new flags: a naval ensign, a naval jack and a presidential flag. The ensign was similar to the Imperial naval ensign, but with a black-red-gold canton and the republican eagle. The jack was similar to the Imperial jack, but with a black-red-gold canton. In practice, these two flags were little used between 1919 and 1921, when a definitive presidential decree on the flags of the German Republic was promulgated. The 1919-21 jack, with the black-red-gold canton reduced in size, now became the naval ensign and jack. An ensign for naval reserve officers was also introduced: the merchant ensign with the addition of an Iron Cross to the small black-red-gold canton. The commissioning pennant and the rank flags of the Reichmarine (as the Navy was now titled) remained unchanged from the Imperial era, though the rank of Grand Admiral was abolished and there was no special flag for the admiral commanding the Navy. The commodore's broad pennant also served as the senior officer's pennant, depending on how it was displayed. Hoisted in the normal manner it denoted a commodore. Attached to a crosspiece and hoisted it denoted the senior officer present.

The disarmament provisions of the Treaty of Versailles severely restricted the size of the fleet. Germany was permitted to maintain in commission no more than six old pre-dreadnought battleships, six old light cruisers, twelve destroyers and twelve torpedo boats. Submarines and naval aircraft were prohibited. Replacement units were restricted to 10,000 tons displacement for armored ships, 6,000 tons for light cruisers, 600 tons for destroyers and 200 tons for torpedo boats. The Navy's personnel strength was fixed at 15,000 officers and men, all long-service professionals, with a prohibition on the buildup of a naval reserve. From the very beginning of the Weimar era, however, the Navy's leaders did all they could to evade these restrictions, particularly by continuing submarine development via secret agreements with foreign companies.

All Weimer-era flags were abolished by the Nazi government in 1933. However, the naval rank flags, which predated the Republic, were not changed.

Flag Proportions: the two naval ensigns and the 1919-21 jack were made in 3:5 proportions. The naval reserve ensign was made in 2:3 proportions, and the admirals' rank flags were made square.


NAVAL ENSIGN • Kriegsflagge  •  1919-21


NAVAL JACK • Kriegsschiffgösch  •  1919-21


NAVAL ENSIGN & JACK  •  1921-33
Kriegsflagge und Kriegsschiffgösch


Handelsflagge mit Eisernem Kreuz






ADMIRAL • Admiral

VICE-ADMIRAL • Vizeadmiral

REAR-ADMIRAL • Konteradmiral


COMMODORE • Kommodore
Also the Senior Officer Pennant, Depending on How Flown