Germany Symbols



Germany is a country with a deep, long-stretching cultural background, and history has linked it to many symbols and icons. Some have fallen out of favor in modern times, but many remain powerful symbols of Germany's cultural lineage. While only a few can be discussed in this space, there are many more out there.

One of the best known symbols of Germany is the black eagle that's on its crest of arms, known in Germany as the Bundesadler (or "federal eagle"). Germany and Austria actually share this symbol, both using it in their coat of arms and iconography. The eagle most likely descends conceptually from the two-headed eagle that was used to symbolize the Holy Roman Empire, a symbol that was also adopted by the Hapsburg nobles of Austria-Hungary. The thought is that the loss of a head was intended to represent that Germany was becoming truly independent and disconnected from Austria. In heraldry, the eagle was a symbol of strength, intelligence, and royalty, being thought of as the "king of the air". Interestingly, Germany's eagle might share a common heritage with the eagles of many other countries - Russia's white two-headed eagle was also a sign of Hapsburg connections, and the symbol spread to many other countries in much the same way.

The black, gold, and red flag of Germany is another powerful symbol. The exact origins of the colors are debated, although the most common theory says that they came about during the 1813 wars against Napoleon. The Lutzow Free Corps, a volunteer group of students who willingly fought together for Germany, dyed their disparate uniforms black to match each other, later adding gold buttons and red trim. Other theories tie the black and gold to Austria and the red to their oversight of Germany. In any case, the German flag has become a powerful natural symbol. While not always displayed, when it is used it is usually with import. One particularly resonant example of this comes from East Germany. A Communist symbol was added to the East German flag to differentiate it, but when Communism was beginning to fall and rebellion was becoming more common, many East Germans cut the symbol out of the center, leaving just the 'plain' German flag.

Sadly, many symbols that in the past were used in Germany have now been tainted by their association with the Third Reich. One of these is the Iron Cross, formerly used as a war medal and now mostly abandoned. The Iron Cross has its roots in the Teutonic Order, a group of religious crusaders who conquered Baltic land and founded the state of Prussia. When Prussia later guided German unification and became essentially part of Germany, the symbol remained a part of German culture. It was used as a medal of honor, with Iron Crosses of various types symbolizing exemplary military service. However, as Hitler adopted it as a symbol of his rule and used it on many Nazi images, the Cross now has a tarnished reputation.

Despite Hitler's acts, Germany's cultural lineage is still a strong and proud one, and its symbols and icons represent that. Even now, black, gold, and red are symbols of strength, unity, and a new hope for the future.