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German Democratic Republic 1949-1990 (Germany)

GDR, Deutsche Demokratische Republik, DDR

Last modified: 2021-02-20 by pete loeser
Keywords: deutsche demokratische republik | ddr |
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[State Flag 1959-1990 (East Germany)] 3:5  Image by Jaume Ollé
Flag adopted 1 October 1959, abolished 3 October 1990 (civil ensign 1973-1990)

Flags on this page:

Other DDR-pages: See also:


After the German defeat in World War Two, for a number of years there was no central German government, although state governments were fairly rapidly created (each of these adopted flags). In 1946, the Allied Control Council adopted a merchant flag, a swallow tailed version of the international signal flag C (illustrated in Smith 1975, p. 122). After republics were formed in east and west Germany and the use of their black-red-gold flags was authorized, this flag was used less and less and it was finally abandoned in 1952. The German Communists (officially the Socialist Unity Party), sponsored by the Soviet occupation authorities, formed the German Democratic Republic.
Norman Martin, Feb 1998

From Myers 2001: "In 1949, two new German states arose and immediately laid claim to the same territory and to the best of the German political and cultural heritage. That shared heritage was subject to competing interpretations by the two regimes as they sought to shape public memory and identity in their quest for legitimation. By the late 1950s, the battles to reinterpret German national symbols frequently took place on the streets of Berlin, focal point of the contested German-German border, and in the arenas of international athletic competitions...Unwilling to signal the permanent division of Germany, the founders of the Federal Republic had declared that while Berlin remained the capital of "Germany," Bonn would serve as a provisional seat of government for the Federal Republic. Thus, both states acknowledged Berlin as the German capital, but had vastly different interpretations of the city's meanings for German national identity. Nevertheless, in a rare spirit of cooperation, the officials of East and West Berlin agreed in 1956 to work together to restore the Brandenburg Gate. This cooperation disintegrated in 1958, however, when East Berlin's magistrates decided to restore the Quadriga statue without the Iron Cross on the goddess's staff. In the West, this act served as evidence of the Communists' disregard for the national heritage, whereas the uproar in the West further convinced the Communists that militarism was alive and well on the other side of the German-German border.

As tensions rose between the two Germanies, it became ever more important for the Communists to distance themselves from the Federal Republic. By 1959, the GDR's leaders found it awkward to continue to share the tricolor flag with the Federal Republic. For West German leaders, the tricolor represented the liberal ideals of the nineteenth century, while for East German leaders it stood for the German revolutionary tradition. Finally, the East German regime sought to make visible its interpretation of the flag by superimposing on it the Communists' state seal. This act led to street scuffles in Berlin, and to West German diplomatic maneuvers aimed at prohibiting the "desecrated" flag from flying at international sports events. Each side claimed a Cold War victory whenever its position on the flag issue prevailed. Instead of uniting the two Germanies, the use and interpretation of national symbols drove them further apart."
Pascal Vagnat, 8 Nov 2001

State Flag 1949-1959

[State Flag 1949-1959 (East Germany)] 3:5  Image by António Martins
Colours adopted 1949, flag adopted 26 Sep 1955, abolished 1 Oct 1959

Identical with the black-red-gold national flag of the Weimar Republic. Because it was also adopted by the Federal Republic, it was only in use from 1949 to 1959.
Norman Martin, February 1998

The first constitution of the German Democratic Republic (adopted when the GDR was founded) did not mention a flag, just that the national colours were black-red-gold. On 26 Sep 1955 the first flag law was adopted, which described the flag as black-red-gold in equal stripes. Source: Schurdel 1995.
Mark Sensen, 21 Jun 2000

According to Rabbow 1970 the black-red-gold flag of the German Democratic Republic was adopted 19 Mar 1949. On 26 Sep 1955 the flag, which was identical to the flag of the German Federal Republic, was reaffirmed (Law on State Coat of Arms and State flag). On 1 October 1959 the GDR government put the Arms on the state flag.
Jarig Bakker, 21 Jun 2000

State Flag 1959-1990 and Civil Ensign 1973-1990
Staatsflagge und Handelsflagge

[State Flag 1959-1990 (East Germany)] 3:5  Image by Jaume Ollé
Flag adopted 1 Oct 1959, abolished 3 Oct 1990 (civil ensign 1973-1990)

This flag was adopted on 1 Oct 1959, and continued in use as the flag of East Germany until the reunification of the Germanies on 3 Oct 1990 - one year after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Ratio 3:5. The coat of arms shows a hammer and compass in a ring of rye, symbolising the working class, intelligentsia, and farmers.
Carl-Heinz Dirks, 12 Dec 1997

The black-red-gold with the arms (hammer and compass on a red disk surrounded by a wreath of two ears of wheat) in the center slightly overlapping the red stripe. In use as state flag 1959-1990, as merchant flag 1973-1990.
Norman Martin, Feb 1998

The coat of arms was added on 1 Oct 1959. At the beginning this flag was called Spalterflagge. Source: Schurdel 1995.
Mark Sensen, 21 Jun 2000

Spalterflagge was by no means an official, but a highly pejorative Western German term, as Spalter means trying to divide something apart bad-willingly.
Stephan E, 6 Jan 2005

Civil Ensign 1959-1973

[Civil Ensign 1959-1973 (East Germany)] 3:5  Image by Jaume Ollé

Like the 1959 State Flag, except the arms are 1/3 the height of the flag and set near the upper hoist, overlapping the black and red stripes equally. In use 1959-1973.
Norman Martin, Feb 1998

Civil Ensign (variant with vertical stripes)

[Vertical stripes] 3:5  Image by Petr Holas, 15 Aug 2005

During the 10th IAAF World Championships in Athletics - Helsinki 2005 I saw on TV in graphical sumaries of records the flag of East Germany with vertical stripes next to the name of recordholder from former East Germany.
Petr Holas, 15 Aug 2005

Vertical Flag/Banner 1963-1990

[Vertical flag] 5:2  Image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 16 May 2010

The ratio is approx 5:2. The coat of arms is completely within the red stripe. The flag is horizontally divided into black over red over yellow.
Sources: I spotted this flag around Easter tide 1990 at checkpoint Selmsdorf near Lübeck. It was one of the last opportunities to see this flag. Checking my scans of old diapositives I realized, that this flag was in use at least since 1963, when I spotted the same version at Alexanderplatz in East Berlin. Furthermore a similar flag is depicted upon a stamp, when the 15 years anniversary of DDR was celebrated, which happened in 1964.
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 16 May 2010

Postal Flag 1955-1973

Except for minor details of the horn, identical with the 1919-1921 Postal Flag. In use 1955-1973. Illustrated Kannik 1957, p. 37.
Norman Martin, Feb 1998

Adopted 27 Oct 1955 and abolished 1 May 1973. Source: a paper by Emil Dreyer in the Reports of the 15th International Congress of Vexillology.
Norman Martin, 10 Dec 1999

The German Democratic Republic introduced a postal flag with the regulation of 27 Sep 1955 (in force 27 Oct 1955). The flag had three equally wide stripes (not a widened red stripe!) and post horn emblem similar, but not identical to the one used in the West German postal flag. The flag was abolished with the regulation of 23 Jan 1973 (in force 1 May 1973). Sources: Pfriem 1996, Dreyer 1999 and Hecker and Hoog 1978.
Marcus Schmöger, 29 Mar 2001

DDR Roundels 1955-1990

[DDR-Roundel 1955-59]     [DDR-Roundel 1959-90]
1955-1959     1959-1990
Images by Frank George Valoczy, 2 Jul 2003 - arms by Jaume Ollé

Over the past few days I have made some roundels which are not present on FOTW. They are on this URL.
Frank George Valoczy, 2 Jul 2003

The German Democratic Republic (G.D.R.) got her sovereignty in the airspace in 1955. The aircraft marking was a rhombus with flag colors from the national flag in vertical arrangement. The colors were separated by a white fimbration. The rhombus had around a wide white hemline. In 1958 the hemline was changed in black, the white fimbration continued. In 1959 the state coat of arms was put on. The fimbration was abolished, the hemline remained black.
Upps! There were twelve reallity variants of the aircraft markings.
Jens Pattke, 2 Jul 2003

DDR municipal flags

Were all municipal flags as well as regional flags officially "banned" in Eastern Germany (German Democratic Republic) between 1952-1990? There were indeed some Coat of Arms used, e.g. in the capital [East] Berlin, [which also had an official flag]. Were these Coat of Armes used inofficially or under some local legislation?
Kristian Söderberg, 1 Aug 2005

Let me list a few points I spotted back then (mainly southwest GDR 1981/2/3 and Berlin 1986):

  • The flag of the Sorbs was (is) ethnical, not regional
  • Souvenir pennants of towns showing their arms (including one with historical Berlin variants) were on sale
  • Souvenir sheets, stickers and the like showing town arms were also on sale
  • Books and press articles discussing town and village arms appeared.
I gather the use of old regional flags (after all, the symbols of old age regimes) was forbidden after the establishment of the "Bezirke" (government districs). Examples: Brandenburg, Saxony.
Never have I seen any town flag. (Flags seen were GDR; red ones; other socialist nations including North Korea; mass organizations such as FGDB and DFD, plus museum items of course and the occasional hand waver.)
Jan Mertens, 1 Aug 2005

I have a West German book (Diercke Lexikon Deutschland) from 1988 about all counties in Germany. It does not show flags, but the Coats of Arms of all counties, East Geman, too, including a description of them. It is not a 100 % proof, but it looks like, there were official CoA for the counties.
J. Patrick Fischer, 1 Aug 2005

     Some impressions I got from reading the books of Erwin Günther: Municipal coats-of-arms were not infrequently used, but basically on a semi-official basis only, i.e. their use was not much endorsed by the central authorities (official seals had to show the GDR arms, anyway).
     The same for flags, but because of the fact that municipal flags were not much used in Germany until around 1950, the municipal flags in the GDR were used rarely, and were pretty much unofficial. As the use of municipal flags was low anyway, there was no need for banning them (if anybody would have wanted this).
     Certainly the situation was different for regional flags (i.e. basically the flags of 1945-1952 Länder). Although their use was discouraged, I do not know of any legal prescription officially banning them.
M. Schmöger, 10 Sep 2005

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