Sunday, June 25, 2006

Black - Red - Gold

My younger brother just came back to Germany from a vacation in Sweden. He also said, he almost didn't recognize Germany! Within only a couple of weeks, German flags appeared everywhere. Flags are hanging out of windows, on street lamps, trees, and cars. (The latter apparently breaks off easily -- I have seen them frequently flying around on the Autobahn.) Yesterday, we drove through Frankfurt after the soccer game was over, and everywhere people were waving flags. Some wore them as skirts, some as capes, some knotted them around their dogs. I saw many people having flags painted to their cheeks.

In the stores you can literally buy everything in the national colors: T-shirts, bags, hats, caps, shoes, scarves. But we are lacking behind of the US - I haven't yet seen cookies in black-red-gold...

Temporarily the German flags were sold out. But Taiwan quickly delivered more...

To me this is really stunning. If you didn't grow up in Germany, it might be hard to believe, but before this summer, you could hardly find a national flag anywhere. I remember a comment on my post Excuse me

The one thing I noticed in West Germany and West Berlin in the 1980's, was that the German national flag was almost nowhere to be seen. [...] In other countries like America, England, France, etc ... the national flags were everywhere.

Indeed, if you had been driving around with a national flag on your car, you probably would have been stopped by the police and been asked if you have a problem. The national flag has been displayed so rarely, many people apparently didn't know which side is the upper one, some others bought Belgian flags instead.

Two days ago, I found in the Frankfurt Rundschau the article I had been waiting for. The delegate from the PDS (the former communist party) Julia Bonk call the flags a 'nationalist's symbol introduced through the back door' which 'causes suppression of those in our country who think different'.

Yesterday, we took off the flowers and balloons from the car and Stefan bought a flag to attach to his window. (At least he tried. He then noticed that he forgot his purse.) Some days ago, I just had to get a flag and walk through the streets with it. I admit I was kind of afraid someone would start accusing me to be a Nazi. Instead, I got smiles and cheers, people waved at me from cars and houses. A small child pointed at my flag and said: Daddy, what is that. And daddy said proudly: It's the German flag. It's black-red-gold.

I don't particularly like the colours of the German flag (I actually find the US flag much nicer), but it's great to see Germany in such a good mood.


  1. I've had a number of discussions with friends about this phenomenon, I haven't seen it myself yet, but I'll be back home for the finals and as things look now there is a realistic chance that black - Red - Gold will still be relevant then.

    It is disconcerting and strange to see this kind of mass hysteria, coupled to the national colors, even if it is completely positive and friendly.

    In the end I guess it is another piece of normalcy for Germany.

  2. Hi fh,

    true, it's strange. I don't think the flags will vanish after the finals. I doubt people will throw them away. Here in Frankfurt, I wouldn't call it hysteria. At least I have the impression the games run very civilized. Best, B.

  3. There is an nice post here on the anomalous nature of German nationalism and the World Cup. You might find it interesting.

    The games may run civilized outside the field, but not so much within it -witness Portugal-Holland!

  4. I see it a bit different than most people. Germans did not start being patriotic or nationalistic because of their World Cup. They were such all the time. They just don't feel shy to show it.

    Why do I think Germans are nationalistic? Ask any Polish male who was married to a German woman, had children and divorced her, what were his chances of getting the right to child care - practically zero. As another example, not anyone can be a policeman in Germany - you have to be born in Germany, not just have German citizenship. Is it logical? no. Is it nationalistic? hell yes!

  5. Dear Roman,

    thank your for sharing your impression as seen from our eastern neighbours. However, I have the feeling that your judgment may be tainted a bit by negative personal experiences. I cannot say anything about the sad stories of divorced polish men separated from their children in Germany (Was that before the membership of Poland in the EU? I would hope the situation has improved since).

    But concerning the conditions to become member of the police, what you say is not true in general. For example, here in Hesse (OK, you have to keep in mind that police law is not federal law, but the domain of the Länder), you can be a Polizeibeamter without beeing German, or even a EU citizen (see this report or this, both in German). This regulation was introduced nearly ten years ago to improve communication between the police force and immigrants, especially from the balkan, and Turkey, which make a great share of non-German residents in the Frankfurt area.

    I do not know how these issues are handled in other countries - that would be interesting to know - but I do not think that they can be used to make a point that Germans are nationalistic - at least not more than other nations.

    Best regards,


  6. Hi Roman,

    unfortunately, chances of fathers to get the child care instead of mothers are tiny, regardless of the fathers citizenship. Otherwise I agree with Stefan, it doesn't seem to me that it is a typically German issue. However, I agree that in some regards Germans ARE nationalistic - especially with regard to their citizenship. Best, B.

  7. Those are not my experiences (the divorce thing). But:

    1. I heard a story about a Polish family living in Germany; their kid went to German grammar school, where she didn't admit she was Polish - other kids would ridicule her
    2. the "Polish thief" stereotype is abundant in Germany
    3. when I stayed in DESY, Hamburg for a 1,5 month, we were supposed to rent appartments/rooms in the vicinity of DESY; the best offers were for Western Europe people only, Poles and other EE's got the second choice.

    I think that Germans are still somewhat chauvinistic towards people esst of Oder (except for the Russians, which they admire/fear).

  8. Dear Roman,

    the "Polish thief" stereotype is abundant in Germany

    I have to admit, you have a point there. But also here, the situation is much better now than it was in the 1990s, and I think it is still improving, especially with the EU.

    Germans are still somewhat chauvinistic towards people east of Oder

    There may be some truth, but again, things are improving, at least in my impression.

    Best, Stefan

  9. By the way:

    here is a portrait of Julia Bonk (in German), from the German weekly Der Spiegel.

  10. >>I don't particularly like the colours of the German flag (I actually find the US flag much nicer), but it's great to see Germany in such a good mood.

    Maybe you'll like the colours better when using the correct ones?
    Try 0xFFCC00, not 0xFFFF00... ;)


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