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Memel District 1920-1939

Memelland, nowadays Klaipėda (Lithuania)

Last modified: 2013-12-09 by german editorial team
Keywords: prussia | memel | memelland | klaipėda | disc (red) | circle (black) | coat of arms | bordure (white) | tower | scaffolding | ship |
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[Memel 1920-1939 (Lithuania)]
by Jaume Ollé

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Memelland was a German territory until the end of the First World War. The name stemmed from the capital city, Memel, today called Klaipeda. By the Peace Treaty of Versailles (1919) the Memelland (a rather artificial name) was separated without referendum from the beaten German Empire and occupied by French troops. It got a status comparable to a free state under international observation. That was the time when on the 25th February 1920 a golden-yellow over red horizontally divided flag was created by virtue of an ambassadorial conference. In the upper corner, on a black-fringed red circle symbols out of the Memel city Arms were illustrated: a gate tower, wharf elements and a boat, all coloured in yellow. During the Ruhr crisis in 1923 Lithuanian volunteer irregulars occupied the Memelland, followed by the formal annexation of the Memelland by Lithuania. Hence the Memelland was part of the Lithuanian Republic, legally enjoying an autonomous status, but in fact under martial law. In 1939 Nazi Germany forced the return of the Memelland to Germany.

Norman Martin, 20 January 1998

I do not know if hoisting of the Memelland flag was allowed under Lithuanian occupation/supremacy. It is not probable that under the Nazi regime the 1920 flag could be re-used, since the Nazis suppressed all State flags like the Bavarian one to push only the Hakenkreuzflagge (swastika flag). From 1944 onwards the Baltic states were conquered by the Soviet troops. Stalin revived the three Baltic states Estonia, Lithuania (including the Memelland) and Latvia, but they became communist puppet states. It is very unlikely that the Memelland flag could be hoisted during this period or later again.

Dieter Linder, 5 April 1998

I recently found in a German ship amateurs' journal called Strandgut an article Die Handelsflotte des Freistaates Litauen [The merchant fleet of the Free State of Lithuania] by Theodor Dorgeist. He writes (in translation):

In order to keep the German shipping at Memel to stay there (after 1923), the Lithuanian government treated them very carefully, among other [things] the ships were allowed to fly the flag of the Memel District. But as the Lithuanian government strengthened their grip over the district, this changed. Not only became now Klaipeda the official name of the town, but the authorities' vessels got Lithuanian names and the Lithuanian flag, and the merchant ships soon had to follow this pattern.

Torsten Hagnéus, 26 December 2000


A yellow-red horizontal bicolor. In the upper hoist a dark red disk fimbriated black, in it the seal of the town consisting of a quay tower-gate. Below the gate a small mastless ship.

Norman Martin, 20 January 1998

A golden-yellow over red horizontally divided flag. In the upper corner, on a black-fringed red circle symbols out of the Memel city Arms were illustrated: a gate tower, wharf elements and a boat, all coloured in yellow.

Norman Martin, 20 January 1998

The Arms of the Memel District [Memelland] are the arms of Memel City. The Arms drawing stems from a City seal dated from the second half of the 13th century or from the 14th century. The seal shows in its center a gate-tower. Laterally, a rampart walk with crenels is outlined. Below the City walls is a ship hull. The seal symbolizes the fortifications of the City through the representation of the gate-tower, the lower [lateral] walls and the wooden scaffoldings, which had been built from the model of the so-called castle of Koggen and had the function of defense towers in this region, poor in building stone. After they had been replaced with stone towers, their meaning was no longer understood and they were considered as beacons (scaffoldings which had been erected on beaches as boundary marks). It was not understood why such beacons stood behind the wall crenels or upon them. The crenels were therefore removed and the City walls were transformed in wharf walls. The ship without mast in front of the gate-tower evidently represents a shipyard.

Carsten Linke, 12 July 1997, translated by Ivan Sache, 22 July 1997

Pilot Flag

[Pilot Flag (Memel 1920-1939)]
by Jaume Ollé

Source: Crux Australis no. 14.

Jaume Ollé (?), 17 May 1998

Mistakenly reported flag

[Flag of Lithuania Minor, mistakenly reported as Memel flag]
by Santiago Dotor

Horizontal green, white, red. Source: Crux Australis no. 14.

Jaume Ollé (?), 17 May 1998

These Landesfarben are weird. Normally —if not all the cases I have seen up to now— they are the livery colours — main metals and colours of the coat-of-arms. Where do these come from?

Santiago Dotor, 14 July 2000

Memel, not being either a state or a Prussian province —it was part of East Prussia province— did not have Landesfarben as far as I know.

Norman Martin, 14 July 2000

The flag reported here is actually the flag of Lithuania Minor.

Audrius Slapsinskas, 24 November 2003