Flag of the North German Confederation (1866–71) and the German Empire (1871–1918).
Following the dissolution of the German Confederation, Prussia formed its unofficial successor, the North German Confederation, in 1866 with the signing of the Confederation Treaty in August 1866 and then the ratification of the Constitution of 1867. This coalition consisted of Prussia, the largest member state, and 21 other north German states.
In use at the beginning of the Weimar Republic (1918–1919), by the foreign services (1922–33), and by the Nazi regime from March 1933 until August 1935.
The question regarding what flag should be adopted by the new confederation was first raised by the shipping sector and its desire to have an internationally recognisable identity.
Virtually all international shipping that belonged to the confederation originated from either Prussia or the three former Hanseatic city-states of Bremen, Hamburg, and Lübeck. Based on this, Adolf Soetbeer, secretary of the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce, suggested in the Bremer Handelsblatt on 22 September 1866 that any planned flag should combine the
colours of Prussia (black and white) with the
Hanseatic colours (red and white).
In the following year, the constitution of the North German Confederation was enacted, where a horizontal black-white-red tricolour was declared to be both the civil and war ensign. King Wilhelm I of Prussia was satisfied with the colour choice: the red and white were also taken to represent the Margraviate of Brandenburg, the Imperial elector state that was a predecessor of the Kingdom of Prussia. The absence of gold from the flag also made it clear that this German state did not include the "black and gold" monarchy of Austria. Following the Franco-Prussian War, the remaining southern German states allied with the North German Confederation, leading to the
unification of Germany and the elevation of the
Prussian monarch to Emperor of this new state in 1871.
In its constitution, the German Empire retained black-white-red as its national colours, with the tricolour previously used by the North German Confederation officially adopted as its flag in 1892.
The black-white-red tricolour remained the flag of Germany until the end of the German Empire in 1918, in the final days of World War I .
Weimar Republic was founded in August 1919. To form a continuity between the anti-autocratic movement of the 19th century and the new democratic republic, the old black-red-gold tricolour was designated as the national German flag in the Weimar Constitution in 1919. Only the tiny German principalities of Reuss-Greiz, Reuss-Gera, and Waldeck-Pyrmont and its republican successor had upheld the tradition and had always continued to use the German colours of black,
red, and gold in their flag. As a civil ensign, the black-white-red tricolour was retained, albeit with the new tricolour in the top left corner.
This change was not welcomed by many people in Germany, who saw this new flag as a symbol of humiliation following Germany's defeat in the First World War. In the Reichswehr, the old colours continued to be used in various forms.
Many conservatives wanted the old colours to return, while monarchists and the far right were far more vocal with their objections, referring to the new flag with various derogatory names. As a compromise, the old black-white-red flag was reintroduced in 1922 to represent German diplomatic missions abroad.
The symbols of Imperial Germany became symbols of monarchist and nationalist protest and were often used by monarchist and nationalist organisations (e.g. Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten). This included the Reichskriegsflagge (war flag of the Reich), which has been revived in the present for similar use. Many nationalist political parties during the Weimar period—such as the German National People's Party (see poster) and the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi Party) —used the imperial colours, a practice that has continued today with the National Democratic Party of Germany.
In the face of the increasingly violent conflicts between the communists and Nazis, the growing polarisation of the German population and a multitude of other factors, mainly the drastic economic sinking, extreme hyperinflation and corruption of the republic, the Weimar Republic collapsed in 1933 with the Nazi seizure of power (Machtergreifung) and the appointment of Adolf Hitler as German chancellor.
After the Nazi Party came to power on 30 January 1933, the black-red-gold flag was swiftly scrapped; a ruling on 12 March established two legal national flags: the reintroduced black-white-red imperial tricolour and the flag of the Nazi Party.
On 15 September 1935, one year after the death of Reich President Paul von Hindenburg and Hitler's elevation to the position of Führer , the dual flag arrangement was ended, with the exclusive use of the Nazi flag as the national flag of Germany.
This is one of my favourite flag, due to its elegance. Germany is the master at making epic flags.