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A Brief History of German Kriegsmarine Flags

Over the years, Germany has undergone various regime changes that brought about different flag designs to display its might. All of Germany’s unified armed forces use the Bundeswehr, but it was not always the case. The first-ever German navy goes back to 1948 when the Frankfurt Parliament commissioned Reichsflotte (the Imperial Fleet). They were the first to use red, black, and gold as their naval flag colors.

Between 1909 and 1939, all German warships bore the German War Ensign and Naval Jack flag. From 1935 to 1945, the German War Ensign of the Third Reich was used by all military forces and warships alike. This flag had replaced the center cross with a swastika and had changed color distribution to meet the needs of that time better.

All the German military flags (known as Fahnen) were in square shapes and were meant to be carried by foot soldiers when displayed.

The German Kriegsmarine, as the German naval forces were called at that time, usually had flags of the following dimensions:

·       Flag Length: 171 cm

·       Flag Width: 102 cm

·       Flag proportions: 3:5

·       Frame Length: 186 cm

·       Frame Width 127 cm

·       Frame Height: 9 cm

·       Total weight (flag and frame): 59 kgs

In battle, while the army had come to the harbor, the national flag was used as Jack, i.e., a white disk on a field of red with an off-centered swastika (Hakenkreuz). On the mainmast, the old Imperial War Flag was perched on many occasions, usually on an anniversary or commemoration of a battle that Nazi Germany had won. The flag hosted the Imperial eagle seal in the off-center over a black cross, and a black, white, and red paint would cover the uppermost left corner of the flag, with the Admiral cross in its center. Although it is not unique to Germany, the Imperial flag can be found all over Europe and even in the United States. You can even find a kriegsmarine flag for sale.

The German naval command and rank flags bore a resemblance to the Prussian Navy days with a heavy ensemble of black and white on the flag design. Even though before 1936, the flag of a Grand Admiral was very identical to that of the Imperial Navy, it was later changed by Erich Raeder, the then Commander in Chief of the Kriegsmarine.

The Kriegsmarine flag of Commander-in-Chief had two crossed admiral swords with an eloquent Admiral cross in the middle. The Grand Admiral flag differed in that it had two Großadmiral batons instead of swords, with the Wehrmacht eagle in the center. The Inspector Admiral had a flag identical to Grand Admiral one, except the borders were a light blue color covering all four corners. The frame was one-fifth of the width of the inner flag.

The Vizeadmiral flag would be a signature Admiral flag with a black dot on the top left of the map, whereas the Admiral Commanding the Kriegsmarine would be given a flag with Admiral cross, centered with the royal crown. The Wehrmacht eagle would be replaced with the royal crown symbol, laced with purple color for these rank flags. 

Some of the signal flags used by the German Kriegsmarine include Anton, Casar, Dora, Emil, Gustav, Ida, Marie, Ose, Quelle, Richard, and Ubel, etc.

All Kriegsmarine flags were marked with the national eagle or the swastika during the Nazi period, so its use is controversial in the modern-day. The German National War Flag is banned for use in Germany and many countries of the world.

Even though Germany allows the use of the Prussian flag, but due to the country’s history, it is often considered offensive because the Neo-Nazi agenda often misconstrue it. Hence, making it controversial in itself. Because they were all Nazi-era flags, they were trendy souvenirs in the USA, although many of them got destroyed after World War II.

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