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Third Reich 1933-1945 (Germany)

Flags used 15th September 1935 - 8th May 1945

Last modified: 2002-10-19 by santiago dotor
Keywords: third reich | nationalsocialist | disc (white) | swastika (black) | cross: swastika (black) | hakenkreuz |
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[Third Reich 1933-1945 (Germany)] 3:5
by Mark Sensen and António Martins
Flag adopted March 1933 as co-national flag, September 1935 as national flag

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Introduction to 1935-1945 Flags

The second period of Nazi era flags starts late in the year 1935. The popular mythology ascribes this to an incident which occurred in New York on 26 July 1935 in which a group of (allegedly Communist) demonstrators attacked the German liner Bremen and threw its Swastika flag in the river. When the German charge d'affaires protested to the State Department, among the comments allegedly made, was that the national flag had not been interfered with, but only the party flag. Personally, I doubt the importance of the incident in German flag history and prefer the explanation which notes that by 1935, [President von] Hindenburg was dead, the Army had come to terms with the Nazis and the German Nationals [Party] had ceased to be an important political factor.

In any event, in 1935 the Nazis again changed almost all of the German flags, specifically:

  1. The swastika flag (Hakenkreuzfahne)
  2. The national war ensign (Reichskriegsflagge)
  3. The flag of the War Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces (Flagge der Reichskriegsminister und Oberbefehshaber der Wehrmacht)
  4. Standard of the Führer and National Chancellor (Standarte des Führers und Reichskanzlers)
  5. National service flag (Reichsdienstflagge)
  6. Merchant flag with the Iron Cross (Handelsflagge mit Eisernem Kreuz)
  7. Flag of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army (Flagge des Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres)
  8. Water Sports Flag (Wassersportflagge)
  9. Postal Flag (Schiffspostflagge, in 1936)
All of these flags continued in use until 1945, except as noted.

Norman Martin, January 1998

On the 5th October 1935 some flags were adopted:

Source: Verordnung über die Reichskriegsflagge, die Gösch der Kriegsmarine, die Handelsflagge mit dem Eisernen Kreuz und die Flagge des Reichskriegsministers und Oberbefehlshaber der Wehrmacht. Vom 5. Oktober 1935, Reichsgesetzblatt Teil I, Nr. 122, 7. November 1935, pages 1285-1286 with three plates in colour.

Pascal Vagnat, 14 June 1998

From Flagmaster no. 078:

The Nazi flag laws [were] the Law for the Protection of the National Symbols of 19 May 1933, and the Reich Flag Law [Reichsflaggengesetz] of 15th September 1935 (the Nuremberg Flag Law). (...) The Law for the Protection of the National Symbols had given powers to Goebbels as Reich Minister of Enlightenment and Propaganda to control flag usage, and the Reich Flag Law made the use of the national symbols more specific, established the swastika as the national flag and allowed for a new Reichskriegsflagge.

Mark Sensen, 14 January 1997

Civil Flag and Ensign 1935-1945 / Swastika Flag

National- und Handelsflagge / Hakenkreuzfahne, also Jack

[Civil Flag 1935-1945 (Third Reich, Germany)] 3:5      [Civil Ensign 1935-1945 (Third Reich, Germany)] 3:5
both by Mark Sensen and António Martins

This flag is unchanged from [the] 1933 swastika flag and became the national and merchant flag, replacing the black-white-red tricolor. The same pattern was also used as jack, replacing the 1933 jack. This can be found in countless books, the best for exactness being Flaggenbuch 1939, plate II under Deutsches Reich, which contains exact proportions. As the merchant flag and jack, the white disk was placed somewhat closer to the hoist.

Norman Martin, January 1998

Subnational Flags 1935-1945

Most subnational flags were abolished or abandoned in 1935 with the adoption of the November 1935 flag laws. I wonder if somebody could produce a more specific and detailed account of this abolition of subnational flags in 1935.

Santiago Dotor, 9 April 2001

I recall running into an authority with an explicit statement which I cannot locate now. For the rest, the Nazis (as opposed to some of their more traditionalist allies) were rigid centralists in their governmental views and as they worked themselves loose from their allies in the 1933-35 period, they altered the nature of Germany from a federal to an extremely centralist state.

The most significant legislation in this regard was the Gesetz über den Neuaufbau des Reichs [Law on the New Structure of the Reich] of 30 January 1934 which provided that the legislatures of the Länder were abolished, the sovereignty (Hoheits) rights of the Länder were transferred to the Reich (i.e. national) government, and the Land governments became subsidiary to the Reich government. On its face (and indeed according to the authoritative commentators) this made the Land governments simply parts of the Reich. When the new Reichsdienstflagge was adopted 31 October 1935, all Land offices would then fly instead of the Land flag, the new Reichsdienstflagge. Arguably, this might have already applied to the old service flag from 30 January 1934, but as far as I know it seems not to have done so.

The 15 September 1935 Reichsflaggengesetz did not explicitly mention Land flags (except perhaps by implication, as indicated).

Mattern and Neubecker 1985, p. 60, says that all Landesflaggen and Landesdienstflaggen (service flags) were forbidden in 1935 by the Zweite Verordnung zur Durchführung des Reichsflaggengesetzes [Second Ordinance for the Implementation of the Reich Law on Flags], art.2 (1), paragraphs 2 and 3. I do not have a date. The date of this ordinance would be close to that of the order establishing the 1935 Reichsdienstflagge.

Mattern and Neubecker 1988, p. 81, states that all Prussian provincial colors were forbidden in 1936. I do not have a law or a date on this either.

Norman Martin, 19 April 2001

While cities traditionally had the right to bear arms, municipalities in Prussia were not entitled to them until 1933. In the years thereafter, many municipalities in Prussia (...) adopted arms. A number of the newly adopted or changed arms of this time owed their symbolism to Nazi ideology. Therefore, after 1945, all civic arms in Germany were taken under scrutiny, and swastikas and other deprecated symbols had to be removed.

Stefan Schwoon, 29 June 2001

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