Symbols of state

The federal flag and the federal eagle are permanent features of the Bundestag's debating chamber.

The federal flag and the federal eagle are permanent features of the Bundestag's debating chamber. (German Bundestag/ Studio Kohlmeier)

The symbols of a state or a nation are ever present: at official ceremonies, international sporting events, but also in everyday life - in public buildings, for instance. They are intended to cultivate the state's image and encourage people to identify with their state; they embody traditions, values and a feeling of national identity.

Federal flag in the Basic Law

The symbols of the German state include the federal flag and the national colours - black, red and gold. They also include the national anthem and the federal eagle. State memorial days and public holidays, capital cities, memorial sites, insignia, medals and seals are also important national symbols.

The only symbol of the German state anchored in the Basic Law is the federal flag. The use of national anthems and heraldic symbol is governed by means of regulations.

Symbols of national identity

Symbols have an important emblematic significance for a state. They express the sovereignty and authority of a state; they mark frontiers and identify official buildings. Stamps and seals lend authority to official documents like laws and certificates. Symbols of state also have a psychological and integrative function, since they express the common identity and community spirit of a state's citizens.

The choice of symbols is usually determined by historical factors and associated with certain basic beliefs in society.

Presence in everyday life

Symbols of state (Greek: sumbolon =  token) often underline the ceremonial character of special occasions. Flags are hoisted to honour a guest of state, for example. The national anthem is played at international sporting events.

Even in everyday life, national symbols are ever present. They can be found on coins, for example; they are used to direct internet users to the different language versions and are often also used in caricatures.