Rethem received city rights in 1353 from Otto and Wilhelm, Dukes of Lüneburg. The lion is the arms of the Welfen dynasty, from which the Dukes of Lüneburg descended. The oldest seal of the city showed the lion in a city gate. Since the 15th century the lion appeares on a shield on the seals and all othe images. Until the late 17th century the lion faced the other direction, probably to distinguish the arms from the arms of Bleckede and Fallersleben, both of which show the same lion. In the late 18th century the lion is shown as in the present arms.
In the Kaffee Hag albums of the early 20th century the old version of the arms was shown:
Seal from around 1900
The arms by Hupp in the Kaffee Hag albums +/- 1925
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Literature: Stadler, 1964-1971, 8 volumes; Kaffee Hag picture albums, 1920s.