Sunday, January 6, 2013

Another German Flag Dispute

No, I am not referring to the flag dispute in the Weimar Republic where right wingers regarded Black-White-Red as the legitimate flag of the Reich and insulted the coulors of the Republic as Black-Red-Mustard referring to the dark yellow instead of a golden shade.


I will inform you about the latest flag dispute being one of those typical querelles d'Allemand. It was started by a publisher in Karlsruhe stating that Germany's correct colours are defined in our Basic Law (GrundgesetzArticle 22 as Black-Red-Gold. However, these are not the RAL colours Jet black-Traffic red-Mellon yellow (RAL 9005, 3020, and 1028) the Federal Government fixed as corporate design in 1999. Hence, the publisher sent a letter to our Federal President complaining and demanding that our constitution be followed.

Let us go back in history. The German colours according to most historians date from the liberation wars against Napoleon's occupation where in their beginning the Freichor Lützower Jäger did not wear uniform uniforms. The easiest way to achieve uniformity was to dye all cloths black. But soldiers like decorations so they added to their black outfit red colored sleeves and collars. The buttons of their uniforms were made from brass looking golden. When starting their studies after the Napoleonic Wars the guys being poor continued wearing their uniforms. Quite naturally the colours of their original fraternities (Urburschenschaften) became Black-Red-Gold.

People on their way to the Hambach castle in 1832 on a German stamp.
Behind the German colours flies the Polish flag.
At that time many Germans supported the Polish fight against their Russian occupants.
This is why following the Restoration Johann Philipp Abresch for the first time carried a flag with the coulors Black-Red-Gold - highly symbolically woven by virgins - in front of those people demonstrating for freedom from princely bondage at the Hambach castle in 1832. The original flag now is on display at the Hambacher Schloss as a national shrine. In that flag the presently disputed band is interweaved with golden threads whereas the red field carries the embroidered inscription Deutschlands Wiedergeburt (Germany's Rebirth). Few of the participants were still alive when 39 years later the 2nd Reich was born. Bismarck's Reich showed the colours Black-White-Red corresponding to a rather undemocratic rule.

The famous French historian Jules Michelet explained the origin of the German colours differently when he wrote on the occasion of the commemorative ceremony for the victims of the 1848 revolution in Paris's Madeleine Cathedral: Au bas, une chose retenait mes regards, tous les drapeaux des nations ... Jamais je n'avais vu le grand drapeau du Saint-Empire, de ma chère Allemagne noir, rouge et l'or, le sait drapeau de Luther, Kant, Fichte, Schelling et Beethoven. Je fus attendri et ravi ...

Well, except for Fichte: Luther could not have cared less about the colours of the old Reich and whether Kant, Schelling, and Beethoven even were aware of them is doubtful.

Invitation and instruction for patriotic Freiburgers
to make their flags
This latest flag dispute would not have found my full attention except for the fact that a personal flag dispute started a few weeks ago when a reader of my web pages about Freiburg's history criticized that I had written Abresch's flag has codified the German colours. Such a statement I did not make explicitly but you may like to read it between my lines. Well, the guy is right with respect to the order of the colours: When in 1848 the revolutionaries hoisted the colors of freedom they often choose an order different from the one on Abresch's flag.

The flag carried by the freedom fighters at Freiburg's Predigertor (Gate of the Dominicans) on 24 April, 1848, had neither been made Black-Red-Gold as mentioned in the text of an instruction issued in Freiburg one month earlier nor in the inverse sequence Gold-Red-Black as recommended according to the sketch given in the instruction. The flag displayed shows Red-Gold-Black.

Fighting at the Predigertor in April 1848
And look at the flag carried by Hecker's men during their battle against government forces at Kandern on April 20, 1848, showing Black-Gold-Red.

Death of General Gagern (in the back) at the Kandern skirmish
The 48ers were fighting for a right cause but frequently under a false flag.

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