Created on 22 February 1924, the Reichsbanner was a german political militia created by the cooperation of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands), the German Centrist Party (Deutsche Zentrumspartei), and the German Democratic Party (Deutsche Demokratische Partei).
It was meant as a self-protection group for political meetings which in the past had been disrupted by its political opponents from the far-left and far-right. It also saw itself also as a defender of the republic "as it stood" unlike most of the other paramilitary groups who advocated an eventual change of regime. At its height in 1932, it numbered roughly 3 million members after joining with youth groups and trade union as part of the Iron Front. It was eventually disbanded and declared illegal in March 1933 when the Nazi took power with its political founders being arrested.
The name of "[Empire/Realm] Banner Black-Red-Gold" was a reference to the republican flag as opposed to the black-white-red used by the monarchists and conservatives. A black eagle on red (unlike the contemporary black eagle on gold) bordered gold was used as a logo for the Reichsbanner on various items of uniform (pins, badges, belt buckles).
The Reichbanner was divided and sub-divided along territorial lines with each grouping being lead by a Leader ("führer")
- 1 leader + 8 men = 1 "group"
- 2-5 groups = 1 Zug [section]
- 2-3 zugen = 1 Kameradschaft [company]
- 2-5 kameradschaften = 1 Abteilung [department]
- 2-5 abteilungen = 1 Bezirk
- 2+ bezirk = 1 Gau
- 32 gau (the whole of Germany) = Bund
It also contained musical bands seen not only during parades but also at public speeches.
The exact rank insignias system is unclear although based on period pictures, it appear to have been based on a system of black-red-gold bars and chevrons on the arms which might have been loosely based on that of the reichwehr as used at the time of its creation.
The Bundesvorsitzende (Federal Chairman) Otto Horsing is shown to have worn a black eagle in a red circle on the lower arm below 2 black-red-gold bars and another unidentified members had the same eagle emblem over a black-red-gold chevron on the upper arm.