Germany's defeat in World War I led to the collapse of the imperial regime and the proclamation of a republic in November 1918. Nine months later, in August 1919, the constitution of the German Republic was promulgated. Among its provisions was the adoption of the historic black-red-gold flag as Germany's national flag (Reichflagge), and a new coat of arms of with a black eagle on a gold shield. The flag, dating from the Napoleonic era, had long been associated with liberal political principles. During the Revolution of 1848 it was adopted as the national flag (Bundesflagge) of the German Confederation by the Nationalversammlung (National Assembly), Germany's first elected parliament. But the liberal Nationalversammlung was dissolved in 1852, when conservative forces spearheaded by Prussia succeeded in restoring the old princely Bundestag. The 1848 flag was never formally abolished, however, and many people came to regard it as the common German flag, symbolizing the hope of German unification at some point in the future. But unification, when it came, was a Prussian project, forged in war, and the flag of the new German Empire was black-white-red. This combination of black-white (the colors of Prussia) and white-red (the colors of Brandenburg), was said to have been devised by Bismarck to flatter the dynastic sensibilities of his royal master, King William I of Prussia, who somewhat grudgingly accepted the title of German Emperor in 1871.

Given the political divisions that fractured postwar Germany, the adoption of the black-red-gold flag was bound to cause controversy. Conservatives excoriated it as a symbol of German's defeat and of "the shame of Versailles," as a rising politician, Adolf Hitler, described the 1919 Peace Treaty. Perhaps for this reason, several of the flags adopted in 1922, when a definitive presidential decree on the flags of the German Republic was issued, were black-white-red with a small canton of the black-red-gold colors. Needless to say, such attempts at compromise satisfied no one, and Germany's "flag war" raged throughout the 1920s.

Note on Nomenclature: The 1918-33 German Republic is usually referred to in English as the Weimar Republic, after the city where its constitution was written. In German the republic was called the Deutsches Reich, just the same as the preceding German Empire. The German word Reich is commonly translated  to "empire" in English, with the odd result that the Weimar Republic appears to be termed an empire. Reich, however, is better translated as "realm" or "state," denoting nothing more than a national polity; an empire would be a Kaiserreich (imperial state). The federal states that made up the German Republic were collectively known as the Länder and most used the title Freistaat—in German, a synonym for "republic."

Flag Proportions: German flags of the Weimar era were usually made in 2:3 proportions

Other Flags of the Weimar Republic: See here for military flags and here for naval flags.



The national flag and civil ensign were adopted in 1919 and the flags for government authorities were adopted in 1922. The government ensign was modified in 1926 to add a small black-red-gold canton. Note that on the ensigns, the coat of arms was slightly offset toward the hoist. This was done to make the coat of arms more visible when the ensign was flying at sea. All these flags were abolished in 1933 when the Nazi Party came to power.


NATIONAL FLAG  •  Reichsflagge


CIVIL ENSIGN  •  Handelsflagge 


GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES FLAG  •  Dienstflagge der Reichsbehörden



1922-26                                   GOVERNMENT ENSIGN                              1926-33
Dienstflagge der Reichsbehörden zur See


The Länder of the German Republic mostly continued to use their simple, traditional two- or three-color Landesfarben (state colors) flags. The Prussian state flag and government ensign still displayed the black Prussian eagle, albeit stripped of its crown and other royal regalia. Those states with coastlines along the Baltic Sea and the North Sea usually had special ensigns for government vessels, some of which are illustrated below. Those shown for Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Lübeck were used on inland waterways only. In a few cases, e.g. Hesse and Bremen, two states had the same flag. But, since the flags of the Länder were used only within state borders, this caused no confusion. One other federal state, Waldeck, existed between 1918 and 1929. This small territory (area about 430 square miles, population about 50,000) was nominally autonomous but had been administered by Prussia since 1867. After a plebiscite it was annexed to Prussia in 1929, becoming part of the Prussian province of Hesse-Nassau. Waldeck’s Landesfarben flag was black-red-gold—identical to the national flag.

REPUBLIC OF PRUSSIA  •  Freistaat Preussen
State Flag & Civil Flag

REPUBLIC OF BAVARIA  •  Freistaat Bayern

REPUBLIC OF SAXONY  •  Freistaat Sachsen


Freier Volksstaat Württemberg


REPUBLIC OF BADEN  •  Freistaat Baden


STATE OF THURINGIA  •  Land Thüringen


PEOPLE'S STATE OF HESSE  •  Volksstaat Hessen



FREE AND HANSEATIC CITY OF HAMBURG  •  Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg
City Flag & State Ensign

REPUBLIC OF MECKLENBURG-SCHWERIN  •  Freistaat Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Civil Flag & State Ensign

Freistaat Oldenburg

Freistaat Braunschweig


STATE OF ANHALT  •  Land Anhalt


REPUBLIC OF LIPPE  •  Freistaat Lippe



FREE AND HANSEATIC CITY OF BREMEN  •  Freie und Hansestadt Bremen
City Flag & State Ensign

FREE AND HANSEATIC CITY OF LÜBECK  •  Freie und Hansestadt Lübeck
City Flag & State Ensign

Freistaat Mecklenburg-Strelitz

Freistaat Schaumburg-Lippe