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Article 2012.04.01 State sym­bols

National symbols (from the Greek symbolon = token, insignia, means of identification) play a role on more than just special ceremonial occasions.

We also encounter them in our everyday lives – when flags are displayed at public buildings, for instance, and of course when the national anthem is played at international sporting events.

No state can dispense with symbols. First of all, they serve practical purposes: Borders are marked by national emblems, official buildings are identified by official signs, and treaties, laws or documents are authenticated by official seals. In this respect symbols are tokens of state sovereignty and authority.

But they also have an intangible significance: The choice of symbols serving as flags and coats of arms and the designation of holidays or days of remembrance to be publicly observed say something about the state’s perception of itself, about certain ideas and basic convictions that unite the polity. The historical and political identity of the state and its citizens is concentrated in its symbols. In addition to their representative function, symbols thus also serve an integrative function: They are a vivid outward expression of the desire for and commitment to political unity.

The German national symbols above all include

  • the federal flag,
  • the federal coat of arms, and
  • the national anthem.

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