This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

Flag Legislation (Germany)

Last modified: 2017-11-11 by klaus-michael schneider
Keywords: protocol | flagday | law |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors

Flag legislation in German Länder: See also:

Ruling on the Presentation of Armed Forces' Colours of 1964

Ruling on the presentation of armed forces colours for the Federal Army of 18 September 1964. Federal Law Gazette I, p. 817.

As an external sign of fulfilling of duties in the service for people and state I present army colours in the colours black-red-gold with the federal eagle for bataillons and equivalent units.

The army colour is the federal service flag in a square form (100 100 cm) made of heavy silk bunting. The federal eagle is embroidered. The flag field is edged by a black-red-gold cord and golden fringe.

(1) The flag field is fixed to a black carrying staff. A metal ring around the staff carries the designation of the military unit.
(2) The finial of the staff is formed as an oval wreath of oak leaves with the Iron Cross in the centre.

(1) The cravat in the colour of the army branch, edged with narrow golden stripes, is fixed to the staff.
(2) On the cravat the emblem of the service [army, navy or airforce] and the designation of the respective military unit is embroidered.

The Federal Minister of Defence is authorized to regulate the necessary implementation regulations to this instruction.

Bonn, 18 September 1964
The Federal President - Lübke
The Federal Chancellor - Ludwig Erhard
The Federal Minister of Defence - von Hassel

Marcus Schmöger, 25 Nov 2001

Flag Protocol

Basic Rules for the Usage of Flags

1. Meaning of the federal flag
The federal flag represents, like every other national flag, the actual state as a political unit. Therefore the national flag has to be held in high honour.

2. Who is entitled to use flags or banners?
Apart from the obligation to flag on regular general flag days, every national citizen is free to use the flags of the nation, of federal states or of cities, as long as they are no service flags. Furthermore banners in church-colors with or without emblem or combined with colors of associations may be flown. Every private citizen may use outside, or as a desk flag, flags or banners of friendly nations.

3. Time to use flags
Flags must be hoisted at daybreak and taken down at sunset. In special circumstances flags may be used after sunset as long as they are illuminated.

4. When should flags be used?
a) regular, general flag days (for officials, obligation to use flags)
- 1 Jan: New Year's Day
- 1 May: Labour Day
- 3 Oct: German National Holiday [German unification remembrance day]
- November: National Mourning Day (2nd Sunday before 1st Advent Sunday)

b) on special occasions:
- on state visits of heads of government and heads of state
- on visits of foreign industrial and mercantile delegations
- on mourning days of the Nation and of the federal states, as well as local mourning occasions
- at fairs and exhibitions
- on religious holidays
- at local festivals and jubilees
- at sporting exhibitions, especially those with an international character

5. Order in rank of the federal flag
In national flag displays, the federal service flag, the federal postal flag and the federal flag have the privileged position, when displayed beside other flags (e.g. of federal states, cities or associations).

In international flag displays, the national flags are ranked right to left according to the French alphabet. Next the federal service flag, then the federal postal flag or the federal flag; after these, flags of federal states, cities, associations, etcetera. Ranking is always from right to left (as viewed from outside the building). The same rules apply for indoor flag displays.

6. Mourning flag usage
Flags shall be firstly hoisted to the top of the flag pole, then slowly brought down to a "half-mast" position. The bottom side of the flag shall then be at half the height of the mast. Hanging flags, banners and tall format hoisting flags shall not half-masted. A mourning band shall be put on the pole-top of hanging flags, and one mourning band on both the left and right ends of banners' cross-beams, each as long as about one third of the flag's length. On tall format hoisting flags the mourning band shall be fastened to the top of the mast and its length shall not exceed the short side of the flag.

7. Draping with the federal flag
The federal flag or federal service flag must never be used to adorn the podium or desk of a speaker. In this case the federal flag must be displayed either behind the podium or to its right.

8. Usage of national colors.
The national colours shall not be used together with association or company emblems on a flag. Association or company flags shall be used in these cases.

9. Damaged and used up flags
Flags shall always be checked on their condition, which can be improved by periodical cleaning and resting. When they are no longer presentable they must not be used anymore and be replaced by new ones.
Dieter Reintjes, 6 Feb 2002

German federal regulations prescribe the following order (from the viewer's left), at least for federal installations (the German states have their own rules, but generally tend to follow the federal pattern):
- UN and/or other international or supra-national flag(s)
- EU flag
- National flag of a visiting international dignitary (with a rank of minister or above)
- (German) federal flag
- State flag
- Municipal flag

This strictly hierarchical order (from larger to smaller entities) appears to reflect Germany's anti-nationalist, pro-Euro-federalist, pro-UN post-war world view.
Thorsten, 8 Oct 2004


(See also: Flag Days of the World (main page)
27 Jan - Memorial Day for the Victims of National Socialism (half staff)
1 May - Day of Labour (Tag der Arbeit)
5 May - Europe Day
23 May - Constitution Day, 1949
17 Jun - Workers Day (originally an anniversary of protest on 17 June 1953 in East Germany, retained in the unified Germany, but now replaced with 3
     October: Day of German Unity)
20 Jul - Anniversary of the 20th of July, 1944 - failed coup d'etat aimed at ending Hitler's rule.
3 Oct - Reunification Day, 1990
(4 Oct - Day of German Unity (original Workers Day, an anniversary of protest on 17 June 1953 in East Germany, now replaced with 3 October)
c. 17 Nov - Memorial Day (Volkstrauertag) (varies - second Sunday before the start of the advent season) - on this day flags are displayed at half staff.

A detailed account is given by Jörg Karaschewski on this (German-language) page.

Folding the German flag

When I was in the German federal navy (Bundesmarine), in 1992/93, there was only one rule for folding the "Bundesdienstflagge der Seestreitkräfte". In the end, there should be only black in the outside. The reason was, you couldn't see the dirt on the black. Because of the swallowtail, we started to fold it in the middle
along the red stripe.
Another rule was how long the flag was allowed to use. When the eagle was hurt, you had to change it against a new one.
J. Patrick Fischer, 20 Aug 2003

When I was in the (American) Boy Scouts in Germany in the 1960s, our summer camp near Giessen flew both US and German flags, and we were taught when lowering the German flag to fold it so that only black was on the outside.  They never told us why, and we were all kids from military families, so I guess we knew that was the kind of thing you didn't question.
Joe McMillan, 20 Aug 2003