Patriotic or populist: Do German flags belong outside schools? | Germany's troubled relationship with its flag has hit the headlines again as conservative politicians debate putting the national color outside school

Patriotic or populist: Do German flags belong outside schools?

Patriotic or populist: Do German flags belong outside schools?

Patriotic or populist: Do German flags belong outside schools?

Patriotic or populist: Do German flags belong outside schools?

Patriotic or populist: Do German flags belong outside schools?

Patriotic or populist: Do German flags belong outside schools?
Patriotic or populist: Do German flags belong outside schools?
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Chancellor Angela Merkel's party will vote on whether all schools in Germany should fly the national flag outside their buildings, alongside the flag of the appropriate state and that of the European Union, following an initiative launched by one regional organization of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

The motion will be put before delegates at the CDU conference in Leipzig this weekend by the branch representing the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg. Several leading party members support the plan, and many expect the motion to be adopted into party policy.

The motion was initiated by the regional school students' association, the Schülerunion (SU), an independent conservative organization that has several thousand members across Germany.

Read more: More foreign teachers working in Germany

Reclaiming the national colors

"I think it's an important signal in times when our national flag is being appropriated and denigrated by left and right-wing radicals," Sven Fontaine, deputy chairman of the national SU, told DW. "Hate is once again being spread using our national colors. We're a country based on diversity, unity, justice, and freedom, not on hate."

Fontaine said the SU had been discussing the issue for several years and adopted it into the organization's policy in 2018. "It's important that it happens at schools because schools mediate our values," argued Fontaine, speaking from the middle of his own school day. "It's at schools where you take your first steps in your own political development: We see that today with Fridays for Future.

"If flags are flying outside schools, then you think about why those flags are there, and then you can bring the values they stand for into the lessons," he added.

Lots of soccer fans waving German flags in Berlin during the 2006 World Cup (AP)

German flags made a major comeback when Germany hosted the 2006 World Cup

The motion also enjoys the support of the CDU's youth wing, the Junge Union (JU), whose chairman Tilman Kuban told the RND newspaper network that flying flags outside schools "was also a clear signal that we won't allow the flag to be taken away by forces who don't share the values associated with it."

The idea was greeted skeptically by the CDU's coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD), though only on administrative grounds: "I'm happy to see every German flag being flown anywhere," Johannes Kahrs of the SPD. "But schools are administered by the states, and so this should be decided at local level."  

An old flag for new times

Merkel's conservatives have tried in recent years to rhetorically reclaim Germany's national colors — black, red, and gold — from far-right populists who have been resurging in German politics.

In 2015, when the national flags were flown prominently at anti-Islamization far-right PEGIDA demos, then CDU General-Secretary Peter Tauber called on the party not to leave Germany's colors to "those who spread hate and fear beneath our flag."

That was echoed by Fontaine. 

"We can see that Germans have a problem with national pride, partly because of our history, which it is always important to work through," he said. "But we should still fly our national colors, which before the dark past always stood for unity, justice, freedom, and human dignity."

Most government buildings in Germany fly the national flag alongside the EU flag, with state government buildings also flying their respective flags. But few private citizens fly national flags in Germany, except during major international soccer tournaments.

Germany's black-red-gold colors were first flown during the country's wars of liberation from Napoleon between 1813 and 1815 to signify unity among the various German states. The flag was became a subversive symbol of republicanism before being famously adopted by the German parliament in 1848 as a sop to revolutionaries. 

The flag became Germany's official colors in 1919 at the dawn of the Weimar Republic, was later replaced by a red, white and black swastika flag by the Nazi regime, and then re-instated when the two Germanys were founded in 1949.

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Guest Workers in Germany: "Germany Neglected My Parents"

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Why Berlin, Fürth and Darmstadt are among Germany's 'best performing' cities

Why Berlin, Fürth and Darmstadt are among Germany's 'best performing' cities

Which major city in Germany is the most dynamic and which has the best prospects for the future? A study takes a closer look and finds some surprising results.

Darmstadt is the German city that’s best prepared for the future, Berlin is the most dynamic and Munich is currently in the best position.  But Wolfsburg and Ingolstadt are feeling the effects of the German car industry crisis.

That’s the results from this year's city ranking by the Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft (German Economic Institute, IW) in cooperation with the magazine Wirtschaftswoche and the internet portal Immobilienscout24. 

The study compares the development of 71 German cities that are home to more than 100,000 people.

Researchers found the middle Franconian metropolitan region of Nuremberg, Erlangen and Fürth is developing well, while Leipzig and Jena in eastern Germany are also performing positively.

The capital is most dynamic city of Germany, according to a study. Photo: DPA

Three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the capital took first place in terms of dynamism. 

According to the study, Berlin has upped its pace significantly, particularly when it comes to the labour and real estate markets. Between 2012 and 2017, around 250,000 more people moved to Berlin than left.

Munich ranked second in the list of 'dynamic' cities, followed by Fürth, also in Bavaria.

Yet Ingolstadt and Wolfsburg – still among the top 10 last year - crashed to 39th and 49th place respectively when it came to the dynamic ranking.

The two car cities also lost ground in the 'current situation' ranking – albeit not so dramatically. Ingolstadt ranked fourth (previous year: second) and Wolfsburg seventh (in the previous year it was fifth). One major reason for this was that the tax revenue of the two municipalities has deteriorated significantly compared with 2012, the year of the boom in the automotive industry.

Munich is the German city that's performing best right now, taking the top spot in the overall ranking for the seventh year in a row. The unique combination of high-performance science and a competitive economy "works like turbo for the greater Munich area," explained Hanno Kempermann of IW Consult. 

The study says Munich is the best performing city in Germany right now. Photo: DPA

The Bavarian capital is followed by Erlangen and Stuttgart. Among the top 10 are the banking metropolis of Frankfurt as well as Hamburg, Regensburg, Würzburg and Ulm. At the bottom end of the table are Bremerhaven (69th place) and the Ruhr cities of Herne (70th place) and Gelsenkirchen (71st place).

For years, major cities in the Ruhr region have been at the bottom of the city rankings. Nevertheless, Kempermann said there were opportunities for the region. Among the plus points are comparatively inexpensive housing, cultural openness, dense population, universities and research institutes, as well as airports.

According to the analysis, Darmstadt is the German city that's best equipped for the future.

"The city in southern Hesse is home to a large number of successful and highly innovative companies," argues Kempermann. These include, among others, the pharmaceutical and chemical group Merck.

Munich, Erlangen, Stuttgart and Jena follow in second place.

According to the study, a new economic powerhouse is emerging in central Franconia around the cities of Erlangen, Nuremberg and Fürth.

The region has experienced some difficulties with big firms, such as Grundig or Quelle leaving, but its commitment to future technologies has helped it cope with change.

For the annual city ranking, the company IW Consult of the employer-oriented Institute of the German Economy compares the current situation, rates of change of certain indicators (dynamics) as well as future perspectives of cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants.

Factors such as economic structure, the labour market, real estate, research strength, future industries and quality of life were analyzed.

However, other studies have arrived at different results. Research recently conducted by the Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI) and the private bank Berenberg claimed Berlin has the best prospects for the future – although the study only considered the 30 largest German cities.

The capital city scored with a comparatively high percentage increase in population and the highest growth in the number of people employed.

'I am Anastasia': Germany's first transgender commander makes film debut

'I am Anastasia': Germany's first transgender commander makes film debut

"I am Anastasia," a documentary film about the German military's first transgender commander premiered in theaters on Thursday.

The film follows Lieutenant Colonel Anastasia Biefang as she tells the story about how she came to realize she was transgender and came out to her colleagues at the height of her career when she was 40-years-old.

It also depicts the reactions within the Bundeswehr when she took command of the information technology battalion in the eastern town of Storkow in 2017 after she transitioned.

"I decided to immerse myself unbiased [in the battalion] and decided that everyone was unbiased towards me too," she says in the film's trailer.

Read more: Transgender troops — how open is Germany's army?

Anastasia Biefang (Imago Images/H. Galuschka)

'Everyone has an opinion about me without knowing me,' Biefang said in an interview ahead of the film premier

'Wow! They're just a person'

In an interview on German public broadcaster ARD's political TV talkshow "Maischberger" on Wednesday ahead of the premier, Biefang described the moment she came out to her colleagues at a regular briefing meeting.

"Yes my hair is going to get a bit longer over the next few months," Biefang recalled saying.

To her surprise, the decision to come out to her colleagues in the German military did not have a negative impact on her career — but she notes that it took time for the around 700 soldiers under her command to get to know her.

Most of the prejudices broke down when people in the battalion realized: "Wow! They're just a person," she said.

"I deliberately chose to become visible with the subject. I wanted to pull my head out of the sand and say: 'Hey, there are transgender people in the Bundeswehr, too,'" Biefang said.

"I am Anastasia" opened in theaters across Germany on November 21, with showings in Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg, Dresden and Leipzig.

Every evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

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