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Subnational Flags (Germany)

Last modified: 2020-03-12 by klaus-michael schneider
Keywords: germany | subnational | state | land | federal state | bundesland | higher communal association | hoeherer kommunalverband | county | kreis | landkreis | municipal association | amt | city | stadt | municipality | gemeinde |
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[Germany] 3:5 image by António Martins-Tuválkin On this page: On other pages: Other subnational flags: See also:


Introduction to Civic Flags

Many civic flags in Germany are either striped flags bearing the arms, or banners of the arms. The specifications leave room for interpretation, a likely description would be "the flag has stripes of colours x and y and bears the arms". Usually nothing is said about the format of the flag, or the size and positioning of the arms.
Stefan Schwoon, 29 Jan 2001

I know of no common size [for the arms on German civic flags]. Gunnar Staack's article German City Flags also says that size and position of arms are not standardised. Not even in Bavaria, which has the strictest regulations of all German states concerning flags, as evidenced by the variations at Marcus Schmöger's Erding website.
Stefan Schwoon, 1 Feb 2001

I have some problems with Stadler 1964-1971's flag descriptions:
     As I said, Stadler 1964-1971 was largely written before the municipal reform which changed many entities - most county arms were changed, and a good number of city arms, too. My guess would be that a change of arms might coincide with a change of the flag. So before using Stadler 1964-1971 for flag images one should make sure that at least the arms have not changed (which is in general easier to verify than verifying the flag).
     Sometimes Stadler 1964-1971 is inaccurate, e.g. in the case of Ludwigshafen where it says, "the flag is red-yellow-red", when the proportions of the stripes are in fact 1:3:1. I believe that these inaccuracies are exceptions, however.
     I know a couple of flags which are described in Stadler 1964-1971 with just their colours (e.g. "the flag is red-yellow"), and I happen to know that they have flags that bear the arms. I have three possible explanations for this:
          1. The flag was changed.
          2. Both variants (with and without the arms) are used.
          3. Stadler did not know or did not care (see the inaccuracies above).
     Ergo, in the case of Wolfsburg, I could imagine that the flag is used with the arms.
     In short, I am a bit concerned about the accuracy when using Stadler 1964-1971 as a source. The flag descriptions he gives are not outright wrong, only a bit insecure. That is why I frequently prefer to give just the quote from Stadler 1964-1971, not an image.
Stefan Schwoon, 23 Feb 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

Municipal Associations
Ämter, Gemeindeverwaltungsverbände, Samtgemeinden, Verbandsgemeinden, Verwaltungsgemeinschaften and Verwaltungsverbände

An Amt is a level of administration between counties and municipalities which can comprise a varying number of municipalities. Ämter were eliminated in North Rhine-Westphalia by the municipal reform, but they still exist in Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and Brandenburg (see the discussion about the flags of Biesenthal and the Amt Biesenthal-Barnim).
Stefan Schwoon, 29 June 2001

In some states there is an additional level of administration between the municipalities and the counties; these bodies have varying names and competences. Some have their own parliament (e.g. the Samtgemeinden in Lower Saxony), others execute the decisions of the municipalities they are composed of (e.g. the ämter in Schleswig-Holstein). As with the Kreisfreie Städte there are amtsfreie Gemeinden (or their equivalents) which do not belong to such an intermediate body.
Stefan Schwoon, 16 Oct 2001

These Samtgemeinden / Ämter / Verwaltungsgemeinschaften are usually included in the level of the municipality, though. In some of the Länder they can have their own symbols, in others (e.g. Bavaria) they usually do not have symbols of their own.
Marcus Schmöger, 17 October 2001

Ämter are usually very rural entities, not metropolitan. It is difficult to provide a good translation (perhaps "municipal association"), as there are several designations (with somewhat differing functions) even in German, differing from Land to Land (Amt, Gemeindeverwaltungsverband, Samtgemeinde, Verbandsgemeinde, Verwaltungsgemeinschaft, Verwaltungsverband).
M. Schmöger, 18 Feb 2004

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