"Doch als die schwarz-rot-goldene Fahn, / Der altgermanische Plunder..."

"Doch als die schwarz-rot-goldene Fahn, / Der altgermanische Plunder, / Aufs neue erschien, da schwand mein Wahn / Und die süßen Märchenwunder. / Ich kannte die Farben in diesem Panier / Und ihre Vorbedeutung: / Von deutscher Freiheit brachten sie mir / Die schlimmste Hiobszeitung.“ ("But when the black-red-golden flag / the Old Germanic rubbish / appeared anew / my delusions waned / and the sweetest fairy tale wonders / I knew the colours of this banner / and their boding: / of German freedom they brought me / Job’s worst message" Heinrich Heine: "Michel nach dem März")

9 March 1848: Today, 165 years ago, the Federal Convention of the German Confederation, the archconservative organ of the German principalities of the restauration period between 1815 and 1848, decided on Black, Red and Gold to be the German national colours.

The gesture was probably an idea to mollify the unrest on the eve of Revolutions of 1848 in the German states, the March Revolution that was about to begin.

Legend has it that Black, Red and Gold derives from the uniforms of the Freikorps fighting Napoleon in the Wars of Liberation. Their ragtag uniforms had eventually all been dyed black, their lapels red with brass (golden) buttons on the tunics.

After the war and the restauration, the Burschenschaften (a type of student fraternities) demanding a unified German state took Black, Red and Gold as their colours, including, alongside of liberal ideas, hyper-Germanness and national chauvinism especially against the French and Jews.

When the Revolution of 1848 had failed, Black, Red and Gold was stacked into the wardrobe of history until the Weimar Republic adopted them as the national colours again between 1919 and 1933, "Black, Red and Mustard" to the various right-wing factions including the Nazis, despite their Burschenschaften-heritage.

The picture above shows the German National Convention in session in St. Paul's Church in Frankfurt am Main, decked in lack, Red and Gold, May 1848.

More on: