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Centred vs. Offset Disc and Swastika 1933-1945 (Germany)

Last modified: 2020-07-26 by pete loeser
Keywords: swastika | hakenkreuz |
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[Civil Flag 1935-1945 (Third Reich, Germany)] 3:5 [Civil Ensign 1935-1945 (Third Reich, Germany)] 3:5 
Images by Mark Sensen and António Martins

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Centred vs. Offset Disc and Swastika

According to the construction sheet sent a while ago to the FOTW list, the width of the flag is 200 and the distance between the hoist and the disc's edge is 45. The disc itself is 90 in diameter, while the hoist height is 120. The swastika itself is inscribed in a square measuring 60 in each side, and its other relevant measures are 12, 36 and 24 (thickness, outer part of each arm and inner part of each arm).
António Martins, 29 May 1999

As to the German Swastika flag, precise data is given in the German Flaggenbuch 1939 and in the VO of 30 December 1933. When the flag is used at sea, the dimensions of the flag is 200 x 120. The white disk is 15 from the top and bottom and 45 from the hoist (diameter is thus 90 and the disk is 65 from the fly). The swastika is 60 on each side, divided 36, 12 and 12). On land, the dimensions are the same except that the disk with the swastika is centered. Flaggenbuch 1939 shows only the offcenter version, but I haven't been able to find the amendment to the usage of the flag on land. In particular the flag law of 15 September 1935 did not do that. It is in any event that the variation (centered and offcenter) existed at least until 1935 and that both were regarded as the Swastika flag at that time. To the best of my memory, land based flags were (often? always?) centered, but I am not certain that I consciously looked in 1944-1945.
Norman Martin, 9 Jun 1999

To help as far as possible, let me give all the information I have on this question:

  1. The use of the Swastika flag was authorized initially by the ordinance of 22 April 1933 (in the centered version).
  2. It was amended by specifically providing for the off center version by the ordinance of 20 December 1933 providing for the off center version for use at sea only.
  3. The German Government's publication Die Flaggen des deutschen Reiches 1934 edition illustrates both, referring to the centered version as the Swastika flag anf the off-center version as the Swastika flag on merchant ships.
  4. The national flag law of 15 September 1935 provided that the Reichs-und Nationalflagge (lit. Imperial and National flag) is the Swastika flag. It is also the merchant flag. The law does not include a description of the flag.
  5. The ordinance of 5 November formally describes the jack (with the description in effect specifying the off-center Swastika flag) and the merchant flag with Iron Cross (with the description in effect specifying the off-center Swastika flag with an Iron Cross), but not the Swastika flag as such. I don't know of any law or ordinance which specifies the abolition of the centered flag (this of course doesn't necessarily mean that there isn't one)
  6. The Flaggenbuch 1939 of the German Navy shows only the off-center version which it calls the national and merchant flag, and also the jack.
  7. Örtzenscher Taschenkalender of 1 October 1940, an authoritative manual on administrative matters for officers illustrates only the off-center version which it calls the Reichs- und Nationalflagge.
  8. The illustrations of ships that I have all show the off-center version.
  9. An illustration from 1939 showing German troops marching into the newly annexed Memel shows a centered flag flying from the town hall.
  10. Of two 1945 placards for the Volkssturm, one shows an off-center and one a centered flag.
  11. Smith 1975 shows only the off-center version (which he specifies as 1935-1945!)
  12. Crampton 1990 shows only the centered flag.
  13. The 12cm x 20cm flag I picked up in 1945 (I think, but I am not sure, at the Munich Garrison Headquarters of the German Army) is the centered flag.
  14. I think most or all of the flags I ran into in Bavaria in 1945 were centered.
Norman Martin, 11 Jun 1999

It is clear that only the centered version was used on land 1933-35. It is also clear that [the] centered version was used (at least de facto) on land 1935-45. What is not clear on the information available to me was whether this was authorized after 1935 and also whether the use of the off-centered version on land was authorized and to what degree each was used on land after 1935. The only version used or authorized at sea at any time 1933-45 was the off-centered version.
Norman Martin, 14 Sep 1999

Whilst on land the centred Hakenkreuzflagge was used, at sea it was the off-centred version, but there is another difference: the flag on land had the cross on both sides rotating anticlockwise, while the ensign had it printed through (for practical reasons), thus rotating to the pole/mast.
Ralf Stelter, 15 Jan 2001

This page contains several mistakes, explained in Flaggenkurier 13 (Dreyhaupt 2001 [drh01]?).
Andreas Herzfeld, 24 Feb 2002

The Nazis had two flags, one with a centered white circle, used mostly in land, and the other one with an offset circle, used in the fleets. Why was it offset?
Bruno Bernardo, 21 Nov 2006

Probably for visibility; flags at sea flap around more and displacing the emblem towards the hoist makes it more visible. See how the French flag is modified for use at sea, for example.
Albert S. Kirsch, 21 Nov 2006

The flag with an off-centred roundel was certainly the regulated nationalflag, merchant flag and naval jack, and the Third Reich are known to have used the swastika flag both centred and off-set, but are you sure that the centred version was actually an official variant (at least in 1939) since the otherwise precise Flaggenbuch doesn't show it?
Christopher Southworth, 21 Nov 2006

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