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Last Updated: Friday, 23 June 2006, 00:03 GMT 01:03 UK
Germany rolls out flag of pride
By Claire Heald
BBC News, Stuttgart

Germans are hoisting the flag just as crosses of St George have covered England. In a new spirit of patriotism, they are flying the black, red and gold.

Jochen Vollmer
Germany is rolling out the flag
World Cup preparations started early in Auyla Trettin's Stuttgart home.

Her Christmas gift was a huge Germany flag, to fly out of her window come June.

"It was a present from my father. He started to celebrate the World Cup six months ago," she explains.

Her slice of the national colours is one of the many examples which have appeared more and more as the tournament progresses.

The St George's crosses so frequently seen on cars in England come in black, gold and red here. Flags are hung out of windows and a huge range of merchandise, including German-coloured neck garlands, are sold on the streets.

It seems Germany is flying the flag more than at any point in modern times.

Once a symbol of student fraternities, the colours were adopted in 1848 by revolutionaries fighting for democratic reforms and the German unification - in a country that back then was made up of more than 30 independent states.

After World War I, after the Kaiser had fled the country, black-red-gold became the country's official flag for the first time, only to be dropped by Adolf Hitler in favour of the swastika.

Auyla Trettin
There's definitely a big change in Germany
Auyla Trettin

The flag was readopted by West Germany in 1949 - but Germans remained reserved about showing it off.

At this World Cup, the first in Germany since West and East were reunified in the 1990s, that attitude looks to have moved on.

It's in the same way that England has reclaimed the flag of St George, after its extreme right-wing associations, and following victories in the 2003 Rugby World Cup and last year's Ashes.

"There's definitely a big change in Germany ," says Auyla, who has black, red and gold roses in her hair.

"You can see it everywhere, there are a lot of commentators talking about it. Even the police - they are told they should be neutral and not fly it but some of them are," she says.

Her friend Bettina Lower adds: "It was impossible to show the flag in the last world championships (in 1974) because it was still the story of the war. Now it's easier."

That surprisingly slow take-up since the war is down to Germany's historic legacy as a "semi-sovereign state". Its nationhood has been constrained, explains Professor Stephen Padgett of the University of Strathclyde.

German post-war national interests were not overtly expressed until a change under the last Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. He was the first leader of that era whose youth was not dominated by the conflict.

Garlands in Germany colours
The country is taking the national colours to heart

Economic problems since reunification and "general angst" about projecting symbols of pride made it taboo to show them.

But at a street stall in one of the host cities, Stuttgart, there is a roaring trade in all sorts of paraphernalia in national colours. The home market is not as demanding as Croatian or Dutch souvenir hunters. But the team shirts, car flags and normal flags are selling well.

That can only be a good thing, according to Michael Faul, head of the UK's Flag Institute.

"Like the St George flag in England , the German flag is all over the place," he says. "It's just a bit of fun and exuberance.

"When it's positive patriotism, it's fine. It's if you say 'we support our team and hate everybody else', that it's dangerous," he adds.

"There was a niggle in German patriotism - if they show the flag will they be seen as Nazis? If they can overcome it and show they can be patriotic in a positive way, that will help lay this ghost of Nazism," says Mr Faul.

Anthony Albaque
I'm proud to support my country and everyone can support their flag - it's natural now
Anthony Albaque
Among the throng of Australian and Croatian supporters filling Stuttgart, Germans have come into town to sample the atmosphere and join what they are calling a World Cup party.

Carsten Theurich has bought a Germany shirt for his three-year-old son, Sixten, to show his pride in their three wins in the tournament's group stage.

"We can put the history behind us," he says. "We're the new Germany and we want to show the world we can make a great party."

Taxi driver Anthony Albaque has put the flag on his cab. He says: "On match day it's just beautiful here. I'm proud to support my country and everyone can support their flag - it's natural now."

He stresses other countries are no longer defined by their past wrongs.

Dressed from head to toe in his national colours, Jochen Vollmer says the new embrace shows Germany has welcomed the whole world here.

Sea change

"It's a great feeling because we don't say 'that's our flag and other flags are nothing'. We say 'we are German and proud and you can be proud of your country's flag'."

A sea change in feeling perhaps, but it is not the first time football has prompted this kind of shift.

Archive pictures of England v Germany at Wembley in 1966 show a strong display of German flags, Michael Faul says.

In the "miracle of Berne", when West Germany unexpectedly won the 1954 World Cup: "It was the first time since the war that the German people had something to be proud of," says Prof Padgett.

On the streets, German fans say the spirit feels the same as in 1954, when they beat Hungary in the final. And all they would like is to wave their flags through to another World Cup final victory.

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