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Imperial/Realm Banner Black-Red-Gold (Germany)

Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold 1924-1933

Last modified: 2016-10-22 by pete loeser
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[Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold] Image by Marc Pasquin, 21 Sep 2006

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Introduction: Imperial/Realm Banner Black-Red-Gold 1924-1933
Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold

     One of the last political militias (created 22 February 1924) and some might say, one that was created in answer to those that came before. The Reichsbanner was created by the cooperation of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands), the German Centrist Party (Deutsche Zentrumspartei), and the German Democratic Party (Deutsche Demokratische Partei) in association with some trade unions.
     It was meant as a self-protection group for political meetings, but saw itself also as defender of the republic "as it stood" unlike most of their counterparts who advocated an eventual change of regime. It also seems to have contained a large number of musical bands seen not only during parades but also at public speeches. At its height in 1932, it numbered roughly 3 million members. It was eventualy disbanded in March 1933 at the same time as its political founders were declared illegal.
     The name of "Imperial/Realm Banner Black-Red-Gold" was a reference to the republican flag as opposed to the black-white-red used by the monarchists and conservatives. A black eagle on red (unlike the contemporary black eagle on gold) seems to have been the logo of the Reichsbanner based on various items of uniform I could find (pins, badges, belt buckles).
     That being said, it might have just been the "standard" way of displaying it since some black and white pictures and one reproduction used now by the German Social-Democrats shows the eagle on gold.
     The later could be an "updated" version however. The Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold shown above is based on 2 near-identical ones found on 3 different enameled object: a uniform belt buckle, a member's tin pin  and a lady member's pin.
     The flag included is from the Orstverein Laubach [Laubach local chapter] and is representative of those used by units of the Reichsbanner. While there are many variations, the flags all follow this pattern: black-red-gold equal horizontal triband, Reichsbanner (or the full name) in gold in the black band, a black eagle in the red band (with or without a red field container) and the unit's name in black written in the golden band. Most used a fraktur-like script. Some eagles were heraldic in design while other were almost cartoonish and one I found carried on his breast a shield that repeated the triband while all others were shieldless. All this probably point to local manufacture rather then a centralised one.
     In addition to these, vexillum-type hanging banners could also seen in some parade pictures. These seem to defy any standard design but even then, they appear to have used some sort of Black-Red-Gold combination. One such banner for example had a pentagonal plain black field (with 2 parallel sides), red eagle-and-circle and golden writting. Another was a swallowtail with a black border, red inverted swallowtail field containing a black eagle and some gold writting & decoration.
     Finaly, One photograph shows the youth wing of the Reichsbanner carrying small burgee-type flags at the top of long poles. They all appear to be plain black with an eagle and some writting near the hoist. I have no idea if these represented Youth units or had another significance and were simply carried by them during a rally.
Marc Pasquin, 21 Sep 2006

Imperial/Realm Banner Black-Red-Gold (variant)
Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold

Image from Flag Forum, 19 Jul 2008

A different layout of the Reichsbanner Schwatz-Rot-Gold banner can be seen in a photo on the Flag Forum. As you can see the layout of the banner of Ortsgruppe Isartal is very diffent from the example currently included on FOTW.
Marcus Wendel, 19 Jul 2008

When making the image to be included with my report, I chose one randomly. From what I have seen, almost all were different in some ways the only thing being constant were:
     - black, red, gold horizontal stripes
     - the phrase Reichsbanner Schwatz-Rot-Gold on the black stripe
     - a black eagle of some sort in the center
     - the name of the Orstgruppe on the gold stripes
Marc Pasquin, 19 Jul 2008

Imperial/Realm Banner Black-Red-Gold Coat-of-Arms
Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold-der-Wappen

[Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold Arms] Image by Marc Pasquin, 21 Sep 2006

Imperial/Realm Banner Black-Red-Gold/Stockheim Group
Reichbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold/Ortsgruppe Stockheim

[Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold] Image sent by Oliver Wolters, 30 Jun 2004

     The flag that I'm sending to you is the pennant of the so-called Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold, a socialdemocratic based paramilitary fighting alliance founded in the Weimar Republic on February 24 1924 in Magdeburg.
     The flag I'm sending to you was used by the Ortsgruppe Stockheim (Location Group Stockheim), but I actually don't know which Stockheim is meant. Other local groups of the Reichsbanner supposably have used similar flags, only with other Ortsgruppe-signs on it.
     The Reichsbanner joined together with the labour union ADGB and other organisations in the Eiserne Front (Iron Front) and was disorganised in 1933 after the Nazis came to power.
     Pictures of the real Flag (actually, a reprint of it) could be found at the homepage of the German Parliament, the Bundestag, where an exhibition about the history of the Eiserne Front at the Paul-Löbe-Haus was reported (but not anymore).
     Another review about that exhibition and a better fotograph can be found at, an Internet-Newspaper.
     The graphic was made by me and can freely be used on your site, any other FOTW-Mirrors and other sites, I'd feel proud if you put it in the FOTW database, if you'd like I'll also send you the original Photoshop file.
Oliver Wolters, 30 Jun 2004

The description "socialdemocratic based" could be, unless familiar with the circumstances, misleading as suggesting that this organization was solely a socialdemocratic matter. This is the case insofar it were Social Democrats who initiated the founding and the movement was dominated by them (around 90%), but from the beginning members of the liberal DDP (Deutsche Demokratische Partei) and the conservative Zentrum partei were part of membership and leadership. Politically the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold can be classed as center-left, for it were mainly right-wing Social Democrats and left-wing liberals and conservatives who joined this organization. Oliver Wolters was referring to these social democratic predominances, as he wrote to me.
Martin Karner, 6 Jul 2004

The Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) also founded the organisation Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold (National/Imperial/Realm Banner Black-Red-Gold) as an organisation to support the democratic republic. There is some information about the flag (or banner) used by its local organisation Historischer Verein für Mittelbaden e.V./Mitgliedergruppe Schiltach in Schiltach.
Elias Granqvist, 27 March 2012

Imperial/Realm Banner Black-Red-Gold (variant)
Reichbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold/Ortsgruppe

[Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold] Image by Marc Pasquin, 31 August 2016

Yet another flag used by the reichsbanner although this one appears to be inspired by german regimental colours of the period. The original can be seen here. The text reads einigkeit und recht und freiheit (Unity and justice and freedom), the first line of the third stanza of the national anthem. One puzzling bit is the presence of crossed torches in the 4 corners.
Marc Pasquin, 31 August 2016

Three other interesting flags shown in the same photo gallery:
  1. An erroneous red-black-gold tricolor (gold looks more like yellow) seen on the television on 2008-06-21 (Image)
  2. Erfurt, on 1990-02-20: among numerous national flags, with or without the CoA, a red-black-gold tricolor charged with an early version of Thuringian CoA - possibly an early version of the state flag (Image)
  3. A football fans' flag, photographed among numerous national flags in 2006 (Image)
Tomislav Todorovic, 1 September 2016

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