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This article is about the origin story of the flag of Nazi-Germany. For the heraldic term "Blutfahne" as used in medieval context, see Blutbanner.
Adolf Hitler reviewing SA members in 1935. He is accompanied by the symbolic Blutfahne, carried by its assigned official bearer Jakob Grimminger.

The flag of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945 had a red field with white disk at the center containing a large "upright" Swastika, a symbol believed to be of Sanskrit origin and still used throughout India and many Asian countries, to represent sacred places, sacred sentences in text and engravings. Nazi legends exist, or were created, to explain why the swastika was adopted by the National Socialist German Workers' Party (the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP in German) also known as the Nazis as 'their' symbol. Many of these are based on the anthropologically incorrect Aryan, white supremacist, nationalist beliefs common among far-right Germans and other caucasians of the time.

One reason given for the design of this flag is the Nazi origin legend of the Blutfahne, or "blood-flag". Various sources cite different individuals and versions of the myth.[1] However, some authors, including neo-nazis use the term Blutfahne to refer to the Nazi flag, generally.

Nazi Blutfahne Legend[edit]

According to the historical Nazi party legend, their flag was based on an original Blutfahne. One version states that this Blutfahne originally was a white flag with a swastika in the center that was carried during Hitler's failed attempt to force the government in Munich, Germany on the night of the eighth of November 1923 and during a march by the Nazis on the ninth to the city's Feldherrnhalle. The march was an attempt get the support of the local citizens that would swell the numbers of the somewhat small Nazi party who hopefully would support them in overthrowing the Weimar Republic. These events are known as the Beer Hall Putsch. The flag was carried by a group of Nazi party security guards called the 5th Sturmabteilung, or SA, also known as brown shirts. They were stopped by the Munich police and, according to legend, the flag finally lay on the sidewalk in front of the Feldherrnhalle, soaked in the blood of Nazi party members who'd fallen on the flag after the Munich police were ordered to open fire on the armed group (primarily the blood of Nazi Andreas Bauriedl, who was killed). There are variations regarding what happened to this flag next. One version says the wounded flag-bearer Heinrich Trambauer retrieved the blood-soaked flag, then went to a friend's house, where he decided to hide it in his jacket. Then some time later he gave it to one Karl Eggers. Another says it was picked up by Munich "Green" Police, who returned it to the Nazis. The Nazis then displayed it in Munich with a wreath hung at the top. Whether it was the bloodied flag displayed remains questionable.

The legend goes on to say that the flag was given to Adolf Hitler after his release from Landsberg prison (after serving only nine months of a five-year prison sentence for treason because, of his role in the events in Munich, while other Nazi participants remained in jail). This legend claims Karl Eggers gave the blood-stained flag to Hitler. At some time later it was attached to a new staff with a decorative finial and silver sleeve with the names of 16 Nazis that died that night.[2] This flag was then no longer attached to a staff through its original sewn-in sleeve, but by red, white and black intertwined cords which ran through the sleeve to attach it to the staff.


Details as to why this original Blutfahne was not the dark brown color of dried human blood or how it came to have a perfect circle, entirely white at its center with a perfect representation of the later Nazi German government's preferred version of a swastika symbol are not accounted for by the Nazi Party legends. That Hitler would later return to Landsberg prison to kill or have killed fellow participants and long-standing leaders in the Nazi party in the Night of the Long Knives is also left out of the Nazi Party "Blutfahne" mythology.

Storage and uses[edit]

The legendary Nazi Party "Blutfahne" flag was to be treated as a sacred object by members of the Nazi Party. One use of the flag was made by Adolf Hitler at the annual Nuremberg rallies, in which he touched other Nazi flags and banners while holding the flag, and referred to this as based on the tradition of Fahnenweihe, or consecration of those flags. When not on parade or used in gatherings of Nazi Party members, the Blutfahne was kept in the basement flag museum at the headquarters of the Nazi Party in Munich (the Brown House). Legend has it that the flag had a small tear in it, caused during the Beer Hall Putsch violence that was not repaired. No evidence of this appears in historical photos.


This sacred symbol of the Nazi party was reportedly last seen in public at the Volkssturm induction ceremony on 18 October 1944 conducted by Heinrich Himmler and attended by Keitel, Guderian, Lammers, Bormann, Fiehler, Schepmann and Kraus. (Although some claim it was at Gauleiter Adolf Wagner's funeral six months previously).

Many, in every one of the nations of the Allies as well as Axis nations, speculate that the symbolic flag was destroyed in the bombing of Munich, or claim to know of a "collector" who owns it, or has fragments of it. Certainly the original Blutfahne, if indeed still extant, would have a value of well over one million Euros. Others claim there were more than one official Blutfahne and they were Nazi flags made for the purpose.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Davis, Brian L. (1975). Flags and Standards of the Third Reich: Army, Navy and Air Force 1933–1945. London: Macdonald and Jane’s. ISBN 978-1-356-04879-3. 
  • Orth, R: „Von einem verantwortungslosen Kameraden zum geistigen Krüppel geschlagen.“ Der Fall des Hitler-Putschisten Heinrich Trambauer. in: Historische Mitteilungen der Ranke-Gesellschaft 25 (2012), p. 208–236.


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