Berlin (AP) - Pictures of angry demonstrators waving black-white-red flags in front of the Reichstag building shocked the republic and went around the world.

Reich flags and Reich war flags also waved in Stuttgart at rallies against the state corona measures.

Among those who have these flags are many Reich citizens who do not recognize the system of the Federal Republic, as well as right-wing radicals.

The Bremen interior authorities decided last week to ban the flags from the public.

According to the Bremen decree, “their use in public regularly represents a lasting impairment of the requirements for an orderly civic coexistence and thus a danger to public order”.

The police in the state of Bremen can now confiscate the flags and ask the owners to pay a fine of up to 1000 euros.

There are similar considerations in Thuringia.

Baden-Württemberg's Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann (Greens) also considers a ban to be “appropriate”.

The Amadeu Antonio Foundation, which is committed to the fight against right-wing extremism, racism and anti-Semitism, also finds the flag problematic.

According to their experts, neo-Nazis like to use it as a "replacement flag" for the national war flag of the Nazi regime with a swastika, which is banned nationwide.

However, spokeswoman Simone Rafael says: "Bans show limits to what is good, but do not solve problems."

She expects that the “right-wing alternative scene” would then look for a new flag or simply march with the black, red and gold flag of Germany.

Therefore it is more important to find out: "Why do people follow these delusional stories that Germany is occupied and not sovereign?"

And: «How do we get people back so that a conversation is possible again?

The black-white-red imperial flag was the flag of the German Empire between 1871 and 1919, and from 1892 it was also the official national flag of the German Empire.

The National Socialists took over the colors again from 1933.

In between - during the Weimar Republic - the colors of the German Empire were black, red and gold.

The right-wing opponents of democracy gathered under the black-white-red flag at that time, explains the Marburg historian Eckart Conze.

They were both supporters of the authoritarian empire and advocates of a new "leadership state".

Conze believes that today's right-wing radicals also follow their tradition.

The Reichskriegsflagge was the flag of the armed forces of the German Reich.

They are available in different variations.

It always shows the Iron Cross, the most important symbol of the Prussian military.

From 1935, the Reich War Flag was also used with a swastika in the middle.

This variant is banned nationwide in Germany.

Conze, who teaches modern and contemporary history at the University of Marburg, speaks out in favor of restricting the use of flags.

He says: "They have no place in public space because they stand for a radical rejection and fight against our free democracy and its values."

Since the 1990s, there have been repeated discussions about a ban, especially on the imperial war flag.

According to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, it can be ensured in certain cases, for example, “if the flag is the focal point of a specific threat”.

"This practice could certainly be extended to the black-white-red imperial flag," suggests the historian.

But he too points out the limits of possible restrictions: "You mustn't fool yourself: right-wing extremists and right-wing populist opponents of our democracy will find other symbols under which they can gather."

When right-wing extremists show the Reich war flag, this is an expression of a glorification of the German armed forces of both the German Empire and the Third Reich.

The porters played down both world wars and relativized German crimes during the Second World War.

Mathias Middelberg, domestic policy spokesman for the Union parliamentary group, has no problem with the flag itself, but finds it “unbearable when historical flags from the imperial era are misused for anti-democratic, extremist purposes”.

In his opinion, however, a general ban would be difficult: "Since the flags in themselves have no direct connection with National Socialism."

Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer (CSU) is open to tightening the law with the aim of restricting the display of the flag.

He is committed to a nationwide uniform regulation and wants to discuss the topic at the next conference of interior ministers of the federal and state governments.

The AfD does not believe in a ban.

The domestic politician and member of the Bundestag Martin Hess sees his feeling confirmed by the current debate on the flags "that government critics are being dealt with with unnecessary repression, while left-wing extremists often abuse the right to demonstrate unhindered for massive acts of violence."

The FDP internal politician Benjamin Strasser thinks little of flag bans for other reasons.

“The problem isn't the flags, it's the ones who carry them,” he says.

The security authorities would need better analytical skills in order to identify radicalization and mobilization.

This is the only way to prevent «neo-Nazis in wolf-in-sheep’s clothing fashion from posing as concerned citizens» and from reaching «normal people» with their messages.

Ute Vogt, domestic policy spokeswoman for the SPD parliamentary group, considers the existing option of withdrawing the flag based on the right of assembly to be sufficient.

The confrontation with right-wing extremism can only be won "with a clear stance for humanity and democracy".

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 200925-99-704404 / 3

Communication from the Bremen Senate

Protection of the Constitution brochure on right-wing extremist symbols