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Civil Ensign 1919-1933 (Germany)

handelsflagge

Last modified: 2013-11-20 by pete loeser
Keywords: ensign: civil | canton (germany) |
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Civil Ensign 1919-1933
Handelsflagge

[Civil Ensign 1919-1933 (Germany)] 2:3 Image by Marcus Schmöger, 22 February 2002

The black-white-red tricolour with the national flag in the canton. The usage was suspended for two years, but became permanent with the 1921 Ordinance on Flags. This flag was in use until early 1933 (de facto 31st January, de jure April). In 1919 the black-red-gold flag was adopted [as national flag] but as a compromise the black-white-red remained as merchant flag with a canton bearing the black-red-gold (and the war flag was the same plus an Iron Cross in the middle). The Nazis eliminated the red-black-gold in 1933 but continued to use the black-white-red (without the canton) as national and merchant flag until 15th September 1935.
Norman Martin, 1998

From my observations only the small black stripe was fimbriated white on its fly side.
Carsten Linke, 4 October 1996

The civil ensign was black-white-red —like the old civil ensign of 1867—, but added a black-red-gold canton. This canton was divided from the black stripe by a thin white line of 2 cm width. The canton —including the white line— was defined as being as long as the black stripe was high; the canton having a proportion of 2:3, the whole flag also having a proportion of 2:3. The image in Znamierowski 1999 [zna99] has too small a canton.
Although the civil ensign had been already mentioned in the constitution (11 August 1919), the actual introduction came only with the regulation of 11 April 1921, finally in force 1 January 1922. Only this regulation defined the exact shape of the flag, especially the size of the black-red-gold canton, which had been debated after 1919. So up to 1922 the old civil ensign —plain black-white-red— was the legal one. I have no information whether, and how frequently, the new civil ensign was used before that date.
The second flag regulation of 5 May 1926 brought about an extension of the use of the civil ensign. Now this flag should be used by the embassies and consulates —in Europe only in harbours— together with the national flag or the state flag. This flag ambiguity in foreign affairs brought about much criticism, finally leading to the demission of the Luther government.
Sources:

  • Valentin and Neubecker 1928 [vne28]
  • Dreyhaupt 2000 [drh00]
  • Reichsministerium des Innern 1926 [rmi26]
  • Reichsministerium des Innern 1928 [rmi28]
  • Reichsministerium des Innern 1930 [rmi30]
  • Hecker and Hoog 1978 [hec78]
  • Znamierowski 1999 [zna99]
  • Smith 1975 [smi75g]
  • Schultz 1925 [slz25]
  • Bundesministerium der Verteidigung 1963 [usy63]
  • Neubecker 1929 [neu29]
  • Neubecker 1931 [neu31d]
  • Reintanz 1981 [rnz81]
Marcus Schmöger, 22 February 2002


Use of the Imperial Civil Flag and Ensign 1919-1921
Alte Handelsflagge

[German Empire 1870-1919 (Germany)] 2:3 Image by António Martins
Flag adopted 16th April 1871, gradually abandoned since 1919, abolished 31st December 1921

The black-white-red flag (...) continued in use until after the fall of the monarchy. During the National Assembly that established the Weimar [Republic] there was nearly as much support for continuing it as for establishing the black-red-gold flag which eventually was established by the adoption of the Constitution 11 August 1918 (in effect 14 August). The provision of the Flag Ordinance of 11 April 1921 however allowed the use of the old flags, presumably including this one, until the end of the year. In short, one could regard the black-white-red flag to have been de facto replaced with the earliest use of the black-red-gold (or red) flags late in 1918, or by the Weimar Constitution (and first Flag Ordinance) in 1919 or by the final date of the Flag Ordinance of 1921. (It was readopted by the Nazi government in 1933, but again abolished by the flag law in 1935.)
Sources: my series [of contributions to FOTW] on the flags of the German Empire of 1998, much material from the article I wrote with Rüdiger Dreyhaupt (Martin and Dreyhaupt 1999 [mdh99]) and some other material.
Norman Martin, 26 January 2001

Although the civil ensign had been already mentioned in the constitution (11 August 1919), the actual introduction came only with the regulation of 11 April 1921, finally in force 1 January 1922. Only this regulation defined the exact shape of the flag, especially the size of the black-red-gold canton, which had been debated after 1919. So up to 1922 the old civil ensign —plain black-white-red— was the legal one. I have no information whether, and how frequently, the new civil ensign was used before that date.
Marcus Schmöger, 22 February 2002


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