Flag Controversy

   According to the Weimar Constitution,* Ger-many's official colors were black, red, and gold—the colors of the 1848 Frank-furt Parliament. The imperial emblem, dating from the formation of the North German Confederation in 1866, had been black, white, and red; black and white were Prussia s* colors, white and red were those of the Hanseatic cities. The change to black, red, and gold did not come easily; even in the halcyon days of the Weimar Coalition* debate raged over the flag. The DDP was divided on the issue; Hugo Preuss,* a determined republican, favored the Hohenzollern flag as a symbol of continuity (he also favored retention of the term Reich). Enough Democrats (including Preuss) were finally won over to ensure passage of the new colors. But the Constitution also permitted a black-white-red merchant en-sign that included the Weimar colors in the corner. On 27 September 1919 President Ebert* issued a decree standardizing this provision.
   The merchant ensign was a compromise designed to assuage supporters of the Kaiserreich. But monarchists were not mollified. The DNVP attacked the tricolor as symbolic of Catholic* clericalism (black), Marxist internationalism (red), and Jewish cosmopolitanism (yellow). On 5 May 1926 President Hinden-burg* issued an order expanding the late President s decree. Of key importance was the requirement that embassies and consulates outside of Europe and in European seaports fly the merchant ensign and the Weimar flag. According to Erich Eyck*, Hindenburg's action was inadmissible, for when "the Weimar constitution spoke of a 'merchant ensign,' it meant what the words say: the flag for merchant ships.
   Of equal import with the legality of Hindenburg s order was its political stupidity and Hans Luther s* folly in countersigning it. Few issues touched German sensibilities more than the national colors; indeed, the controversy kin-dled rumors of an effort to restore the Hohenzollerns. Luther s apparent indifference to the flag as a republican symbol was roundly denounced in the Reichstag* and led on 11 May to passage of a vote of no confidence (176 to 146), thus ending Luther s political career. Hindenburg was forgiven for per-mitting his private sympathies to influence his public acts. Moreover, his flag decree remained in effect.
   REFERENCES:Dorpalen, Hindenburg; Eyck, History of the Weimar Republic, vol. 2; Frye, Liberal Democrats.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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