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State Flag and Ensigns 1933-1935 (Germany)

Reichsdienstflagge, Seedienstflaggen der Küstenländer

Last modified: 2020-07-26 by pete loeser
Keywords: third reich | nationalsocialist | disc (white) | eagle (black) | coastal service flags |
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[State Flag and Ensign 1933-1935 (Germany)] 2:3 Image by Santiago Dotor and Dieter Linder
Flag adopted 1933, abolished 31 October 1935

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Description of Reich Service Flag 1933-1935

The black-white-red with a slightly increased circular white area with the national eagle displayed, thus very similar to the Imperial Foreign Office State Flag, except for the form of the eagle. This flag basically replaced both the previous state flag and state ensign and was in use 1933 to 1935.
Norman Martin, 1998

(The) German state flag and ensign introduced in 1933 [was] black-white-red with circular white cutout, slightly off-centred to the hoist, therein the German eagle.
Ralf Stelter, 7 February 2001

This was the Reichsdienstflagge, adopted 22 April 1933 and replaced by the swastika type in 1935. I have a black and white photocopy of it from the 1934 German Ministry of Interior publication on flags which I got from Dieter Linder a couple of years ago. The eagle seems to me extremely close or identical to that of the 1921 and current Presidential standard, similar to the 1933 presidential standard, which has one feather more, even though adopted by the same decree and both are referred to as the Reichsadler (but with the adjective schwebend added in the case of the presidential eagle.) It is quite different both from the eagle of the 1921 Dienstflaggen [service flags and ensigns] and any of the coats of arms.
Norman Martin, 7 and 8 February 2001

For the above image I have assumed that the white disc had a diameter 5/9ths of the hoist (as in the Imperial state ensign) and that the off-centering is 1/20th of the length.
Santiago Dotor, 9 February 2001

Coastal Sea Service Flags 1933-1935
Seedienstflaggen der Küstenländer

These local Reich Service flags (Seedienstflaggen) were used on public administrative buildings and vessels at sea for the coastal areas controlled by the emerging Third Reich from about 1933 to 1935, when they were all replaced by the Reichsdienstflagge in 1935.
Text from Historical Flags of Our Ancestors, 26 May 2011

It might be that such flags existed for all the sea going cities of old, but that would exclude Emden, which somehow had gotten to be part of the most easterly part of Germany, Prussia, by this time. If it turns out that these "State Sea Service Flags" were adopted locally, that explains why they were adopted against the trend of centralisation.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 26 May 2011

Coastal Sea Service Flag of Mecklenburg (Seedienstflagge Mecklenburg) 1933-1935

2:3 Image by Fornax

Coastal Sea Service Flag of Bremen (Seedienstflagge Bremen) 1933-1935

2:3 Image by Fornax

Coastal Sea Service Flag of Oldenburg (Seedienstflagge Oldenburg) 1933-1935

2:3 Image by Fornax

Coastal Sea Service Flag of Lübeck (Seedienstflagge Lübeck) 1934-1935

2:3 Image by Fornax

Coastal Sea Service Flag of Hamburg (Seedienstflagge Hamburg) 1934-1935

2:3 Image by Fornax

According to the German Vexillological Association the eagle emblems were shaped like shown in my versions, but there very well could have been "variants" of the eagle. (Note: See the Hamburg Coastal Sea Service Flag (variant) 1933/34–1935 - Seedienstflagge der Küstenländer Hamburg below.) My Source was: Flaggenkurier No. 16 (2002), color plate no. 366. The flag was used from 1934 to 1935.
Fornax, 11 September 2011

A. Relevant sources/regulations for the Seedienstflagge:

  1. Verordnung über die vorläufige Regelung der Flaggenführung, vom 31. März 1933. RGBl. I p. 179
  2. Zweite Verordnung über die vorläufige Regelung der Flaggenführung, vom 22. April 1933. RGBl. I p. 217
B. Relevant sources/regulations for the respective states:
  1. Bremen: Bekanntmachung, betreffend das Setzen der Hoheitszeichen auf bremischen Staatsfahrzeugen und Staatsgebäuden, die den Zwecken der Seeschiffahrt dienen, vom 4. August 1933. GBl. Bremen p. 82.
  2. Hamburg: I do not have the relevant regulations.
  3. Lübeck: Verordnung über die Flaggenführung auf den Staatsfahrzeugen und den den Zwecken der Schiffahrt dienenden Staatsgebäuden, vom 3. März 1934. GVBl. Lübeck p. 56f.
  4. Mecklenburg-Schwerin: Verordnung vom 7. Juli 1933 über das Setzen der Hoheitszeichen auf Staatsfahrzeugen und Staatsgebäuden, die den Zwecken der Seeschiffahrt dienen. RegBl. Mecklenburg-Schwerin p. 219
  5. Oldenburg: Bekanntmachung des Staatsministeriums, betreffend Abänderung der Bekanntmachung des Staatsministeriums für den Freistaat Oldenburg vom 3. Oktober 1919 über das Führen von Flaggen, vom 27. Oktober 1933. GBl. Oldenburg p. 622
Marcus Schmöger, 26 May 2011

Prussian Coastal Sea Service Flag 1934-1935
Seedienstflagge Prussia

2:3 Image by Fornax

I have consulted an historical atlas and found out that the only coastal states after 1871 had been Oldenburg, the hansa cities of Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck and Mecklenburg. The rest of the coast was Prussian territory, therefore any other coastal city was indeed excluded from using a local Seedienstflagge.
The Seedienstflagge might be a so-called "Reservatsrecht" (Reserve legal), an unofficial name, but well-known, that had been granted to certain German states after the unification of 1871 Those rights mainly had been granted to the bigger Southern Kingdoms in Germany and usually coped with mail, telegraph and railway services.
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 30 May 2011

Some Discussion about the Prussian Coastal Sea Service Flags 1934-1935

     With the rather small number of flags we originally knew about, I assumed they were related to the German cities. If we've now reached the conclusion that there are six such flags that distinction no longer matters, as together they would represent the entire German sea coast anyway. But it might, of course, be that these flags were the successors of flags used in the separate cities. At some point after the creation of a German nation state, these local service flags would then have taken a form derived from a newly adopted reich service flag.
     You can't research this by using the term, unless we decide on a single translation for Seedienstflagge, which might explain the lack of quick reactions. But if the number of states is limited to 6, we have:

  1. State Ensign 1926-1933 (Germany) and apparently derived from that:
    1. Mecklenburg-Schwerin State Ensign 1921-1935 while not including:
      1. Oldenburg State Ensign 1926-1935
  2. State ensign 1921-1926 and apparently derived from that:
    1. Hamburgian State Ensign (Seedienstflagge) 1921-1933/35
    2. Bremen State Ensign 1921-1935.
    3. Lubeck State Ensign 1921-1934.
    4. Mistakenly reported State Ensign 1921-c.1926 while not including the:
      1. Prussia State Flag and Ensign 1922-1935.
  3. State Flag 1893-1919 apparently derived from that:
    1. Hamburgian State Ensign (Seedienstflagge) 1893-1921
    2. Prussia State Ensign 1895-1918
    3. Mecklenburg-Schwerin State Ensign 1893-1921
    4. Bremen State Ensign 1893-1921
    5. Lubeck State Ensign 1895-1921
    6. Oldenburg State Ensign 1893-1921
     Variations for specific services are mentioned; one might check whether each has its set of derived flags. We also have the image by Michael for a possible Hamburg 1933-1935, with a description that didn't make it here. I write "apparently," as either some of the years are wrong, or some relations must be the other way around, judging by their ages.
     We do not always mention who adopted these flags, but if they were adopted by the states themselves, this might be the answer to Klaus-Michael Schneider's question of why the German nation created separate state service ensigns in 1933, while in general it was moving towards centralisation. That would be because the nation didn't adopt them, but that the states did, continuing a tradition that had existed for forty years. The details, and the time before 1893, would depend on the exact functions of those individual flags. They might determine whether flags with this function existed between 1871 and 1893, or even before the creation of the Second Reich. Having said that: For how many of the sea coast states did such a 1933 derived flag exist?
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg 3 June 2011

      To answer your question, it's fairly sure. The states having special "Seedienstflaggen" after 1871 were (ordered from West to East): Oldenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Lübeck, Mecklenburg (-Schwerin). Although Mecklenburg-Strelitz had a small access to Lübeck Bay at Dassow (without any important harbour, however). These states had own "Seedienstflaggen." All the rest of the coast line belonged to Prussia, which also had an own "Seedienstflagge," however, it was completely different from Reichsseedienstflagge.
     The pattern of 1933 was introduced in the Reich in order to abolish black-red-golden from the sheets. These colours had been mocked by German conservatives as "gymnasticsflag" (Turnerflagge). As HOOG in "Hamburgs Verfassung" mentions both former patterns in Hamburg, but not the 1933 pattern, it could be that pattern might have been proposed for Hamburg, but without execution. As long as I have no proof, I prefer to consider that image as a proposal (or non-existing).
     Since all those flags had not been introduced before 1893, I presume that they were not part of the "Reservatrechte" according to the Constitution of 1871.
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 3 June 2011

Hamburg Coastal Sea Service Flag (variant) 1933/34–1935
Seedienstflagge der Küstenländer Hamburg

2:3 Canton Detail
Images by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 11 August 2011

I have discovered a variant of the Seedienstflagge Hamburg (1933/34–1935) at the Hamburg Museum. The ratio is approximately 3:5. It is a black over white over dark red horizontal tricolour. Slightly shifted to the hoist a white oval (not a disc) is exceeding onto the other stripes. The oval contains a black eagle armed and tongued dark red. In the canton is a red square with a white bordure. Within the square is the pattern of the Admiralty flag. The biggest surprise is, that it is the present pattern. There exist two flags in the museum’s magazine. Source: photo taken from filing card no. 1987, 116a+b of Hamburgmuseum. At least the existence of that flag has been proven now. But I didn’t yet find the legislation. The flag in the museum differs in details from the images within written sources as follows:

  1. Oval shaped instead of disc shaped.
  2. The Eagle is different, with bigger claws and adapted to smaller width of the oval.
  3. Not a full canton, but square.
  4. A different pattern within the square.
  5. It is a dark red, even darker than claimed by Peter-Hans v.d. Muizenburg.
Please note that the filing card gave no exact date, just probably 1933 or 1934.
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 11 August 2011

I meanwhile contacted the flagmaker in Bonn. All books with the patterns of flags were gone, lost because of Allied bombing attacks somewhere between 1939 and 1945. The filing card says explicitely, that both flags were "new/unused." They had been made of synthetic fibre, which was common for flags to be used at sea.
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 22 August 2011

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