Monday, July 27, 2009

Collector Basics - The Nurnberg Badge of 1929

As far as Hitler was concerned, a Nazi member who had a Coburg
Badge and a Nurnberg Partei Tag (Party Day) 1929 Badge had it all. They were the top two badges anyone could wear on their uniforms.

The Coburg Badge is covered elsewhere. But what made this little
1929 Party Day Badge so special?

In 1928, the Nazi Party was “going to hell in a handbasket". The Party was in a steep decline . . . it took a spectacular beating at the pulls that year. Things were so bad that there was no rally in 1928, . . there really wasn't much to celebrate. The Weimar Republic, which Hitler had criticized so blatantly, was whipping the Nazis badly in one political victory after another. Hitler had ranted about the occupation of the Ruhr — the French left it and the Weimar officials got the credit. Hitler raged about law and order. lt was restored, temporarily, and the Weimar officials took the bows. Hitler screamed about inflation. The Weimar leaders got the currency fairly stable.

A forecaster in 1928 would have had to have predicted nothing but
gloom — and doom — for the Nazi Party, if he had read the results of
the voting in 1928.

The Social Democrats increased their vote from 7.8 million to 9 million, whereas the extreme right wing German National Party dropped from 6,2 million to 4.3 million. The Nazis? They managed to put together only 810,000 votes, giving them only 12 of the 491 seats in the Reichstag.

lt is almost impossible to believe that before 5 years had passed they had all of the seats in the Reichstag. But this was not 1933. This was 1928, and things were very bad.

But closer analysis reveals that this defeat, which was dragging down all right wingers, was by far the best thing that could happen to Hitler, considering the circumstances. As right wingers lost more and more positions and power through the elections, they began to search around for
another cause around which to rally.

And so by 1929, things began to change in favor of Hitler. Germany's big industry began to support him. Alfred Hugenberg, a millionaire, led the pack. But he was more than just a rich man. Hugenberg owned a huge propaganda empire that he had bought with his profits from inflation, which included a chain of newspapers, news agencies, and the leading film company in Germany. lt became largely through Hugenberg's propaganda machine that Hitler managed to gain power.

Following Hugenberg's lead were other important groups, not the least of which were the Stahlhelm, the Pan-German League, Alberg Voegler, president of the United Steel Corporation, and finally Hjalmar Schacht, president of the German Reichsbank.

So the things that whipped Hitler in 1928 backlashed in his favor in 1929.

And thus the Nazis deduced they could hold their rally after all. And they did. lt was held in August. And it beat all spectacles until that time.

There were 34 new standards, 60,000 men, 2000 Hitler Youth. The City of Nuremberg had completed a statue in honor of the dead of World War I in 1927; little did the city fathers know it would be used by the Nazis as the centerpiece of their rallies from thenceforth.

On August 2, 1929, the Nazi Party convened its rally and began the next cycle of its tumultuous life that was to collapse in ruins only sixteen summers later.

At 11 am on that day in the Kulturuereinshaus, Gregor Strasser convened the congress. Julius Streicher welcomed the delegates and Adolf Wagner read Hitler's opening statement as Hitler sat passively by — it rehashed all of the old lines, including the injustice shown to German soldiers by the home front during the first War, the Versailles Treaty injustices, and finally turned his tirade against the Communists and, of course, the Jews.

Gottfried Feder spoke during the afternoon, discussing the Young Plan which required Germany to pay reparations for 59 years. Historians have always felt this was an oppressive idea, even though the reparations were less than those imposed under the previous Dawes Plan, but they
were cannon fodder for the Nazis and were used to great advantage.

The highlight of August 3 was a fireworks display at night, preceded by a huge torchlight parade. . Nurenberg was seeing the first of the pageantry that it would watch in amazement over the next years. The most spectacular display featured a swastika surrounded by a circle of green leaves and topped with a huge eagle. This appeared as five bands accompanied the crowd in singing the national anthem.

The following day the spectators and participants took part in a memorial celebration for the dead of World War l. In front of the aforementioned War Memorial, a stone coffin was topped by a helmet and covered with hundreds of wreaths. Hitler arrived with dozens of flags and there
General von Epp made a short speech. Then the highest leaders of the Party and the standard bearers made their way onto the huge field while the band played a march. As new standards passed, Hitler touched each with the "Blood Flag" of the 1923 Putsch. This segment of the rally concluded with the huge crowd chanting in unison "Deutchland Erwache"
(Germany Awake!) which was to become its rallying cry for the years to follow.

This day was the occasion for Hitler`s major speech and though it sounds tired today, in 1929 he made it sound energetic as he recounted the history of the Party.

What made the spectacle impressive was the number of participants from all over Germany and even from other countries: Delegates marched from northen Germany and the middle and southern provinces . . . it took delegates from the south more than an hour just to march by! Many Hitler Youth marched. Delegates came from North and South America, Sudentenland, South Africa, Sweden and Austria.

That evening the participants met again in the Kulturuereinshaus and heard Alfred Rosenberg lash out against his favorite foe — Communism, to the roars of the crowd.

One of the most prophetic speeches came from Konstantin Hierl, who virtually proclaimed that the Nazis would cause the state to be ready — and willing — to resort to war, if necessary, once the Nazis had achieved power. This was strong talk at a time when the whole world was making an attempt to recover from the "War to End All Wars", but Hierl left no one in doubt when he said "As long as free nations exist that are willing to work toward their political goals, only war will be able to achieve the ultimate political aim."

Hitler closed the congress with a final address on the evening of August 5, when he spoke on the deterioration of German national power and said Germany’s leaders to date had turned a great nation into nothing more than a stale tourist country.

As he called his country to his version of greatness, which banished the weak, the political opposition, and the Jews from any role in society and included the resort to war if necessary to obtain what was rightfully Germany's, Hitler watched with pride as the audience roared its approval, One can assume that in his own mind he had no doubt that he had taken the first step toward superstardom. Little did he know this was his first giant step toward infamy.

And that brings us to the badge.

The badge measures 21mm wide by 48mm high and was worn on the left breast. The Nurnberg Watchtower is featured on the top, with the word NURNBERG in capital letters beneath the tower. An eagle stands on a helmet in the center of the badge. surrounded by the wording
19I4-1919 NSDAP PARTEITAG 1929.

lt was produced in bronze, zinc (silver) and gold.

Additionally, there was a non-portable award measuring 35mm wide by 80mm high in bronze, silver and gold. It was given to individuals who participated in events at the rally.

There are, in this writers opinion, fewer fakes of this badge on tables at shows than of many others. True, 60,000 were awarded, which would make them rather plentiful (as compared t0, say, the 436 Coburg Badges).

Collectors should remember that the Germans were fanatics for detail . Look for the highest quality you can find, Look for high relief of the details and unblemished backgrounds in the badges.

Mickey Huffman, Hitler's Favorite Political badges and decorations, vol.1, The Promethian Press, 1990

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

The "Party Day of Peace"

An Award for the Rally that never was.

Pictured with this article is one of the more unusual award medallions prepared by theThird Reich. It was never given to anyone. It celebrated a non-event.

This slver medallion weighs 7 ounces and is 9.5 cm in diameter. (Don't confuse this piece with the ''tinnys'' of similar design). It was found in a black, hinged case with gray velveteen interior and labeled ''Carl Poellath, Schrobenhausen''. Professor Klein's (the designer) trademark ''RK'' can be seen on the medallion just above the ankle of the reclining female fgure. This piece is now in my collection.

The story of the Nazi Party Rallies in Nuremberg has captured the imagination of all who witnessed them, and generations later, of those who read about them and experienced contemporarily footage including the classic ''Triumph of the Will''.

Each year in Nuremberg, for about ten days, tens of thousands of Nazi Party faithful gathered for a combination sports fest, Heer and Luftwaffe maneuvers and motivationional session, all rolled into one. The blood-red, white and black flags by the thousands, the martial music, the uniforms of practically everyone involved, left all present in a grand state of euphoria precisely the effect desired by Hitler and his comrades. Nine hundred and fifty thousand of Hitler's followers attended the 1938 Party Rally. They expected almost two million for 1939, the rally titled ''The Party Day of Peace''. It was scheduled to begin on September the second, and was to be a truly grand rally. By early August 2,500 participants had set out on an ''Adolf Hitler March'' to attend the rally. All summer thousands of laborers worked on the grounds, finishing a new concert hall and completing a wide avenue linking the Luitpold Arena and the Marzfeld to the great stadium.

Five large restaurants had been set up to feed the workers. According to the VOLKISCHERBEOBACHTER of August 15, 1939, a special force of 26,000 SS men had been delegated to keep order, help with traffic, and keep everyone in line.

More than a thouand streecar conductors were yanked from their jobs in Vienna, Hamburg, Berlin and Breslau to run the special streetcar lines in Nurmberg - they even went underground near the rally area. Four hundred flags were made, each bearing the heraldic figure of the city of Greater Germany.

In late August, special camp for a least 350,000 visitors were set up. Workers built a special train station and opened twenty-eight special post offices.

It could all have been happening on the moon, because just a little more than 500 kilomiters away World War II was about to start on September first.

In Nuremberg, however, everything was ready. But with only 6 day to go, the German news bureau abruptly announced: ''According to the press office of the NSDAP, the planned party rally from September 2 to 11 this year will not take place. Whether the meeting will be held later depends on political circumstances.

They folded the flags, struck the tents and as the streetcars stood silent Hitler crashed across the border into Poland. So much for the "Day of Peace".

The Nuremberg one sees on the films and in the pictures looks quite different today. The Luitpold hall and field were destroyed by Allied bombs; only the memorial to war dead survived and still looks almost exactly as it did when Hitler and his colleagues stood in front of its central flame and saluted. When you stand in the remaining field, as I did last year, you become disoriented, as most of the pictured landmarks are gone. The Luitpoldhain its most famous picture perhaps for the Standartenweihe) is only a smallish park, surrounded by shrubs and trees. In recent years, to help the confused visitor, a signboard has been erected near the site of the Luitpold hall (and those tall flags) explaining what happened there and orienting the viewer with a large map of the entire Party Rally area as it was in the 1930's.

The familiar Zeppelinwiese, of course, was changed at the end of the war. The long columns atop the stands were destroyed, along with the huge swastikas on top, leaving only the seating area and the reviewing stand. All are in poor condition. When I was there last year there were soft drink cans and trash lettering the stands. A schoolmaster stood where Hitler once reviewed his troops and instructed a class of about 30 high students, who were seated in the stands, on the history of the area. I stood for about 3o minutes listening in awe to his frankness. He pulled no punches. Where tanks had rumbled on the field fifty-five years earlier, several simi-trailers practiced parking between red pylons.

If you can and one of these medallions, obtain it if you can, as you will own a particularly unique item. It was designed by Professor Richard Klein and was produced in gold, silver and bronze and would have been awarded in the sports competition. As things turned out, it was never awarded to anyone.

Mickey Huffman, "The 'Party Day of Peace' ", Der Gauleiter, 1991

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Collecting Gau Badges

The Nazi Party administration was divided into four levels, Reich (National), Gau (State, Region or Province), Kreis (District) and so on through Orts, Zelle and Block. Every year each Gau would hold a ''Gautag'' or, you might say, Province Day. This was like a small version of the National Reichsparteitag. There were lots of speeches, parades, meetings and more speeches. To help pay the cost of holding the event, and to generally fatten the Party coffers, it was common practice to create a badge commemorating the day and sell them for a small amount to visitors. The badges were bought by virtually everyone attending and were worn during the day to show support for the party. At the end of the day many people kept the badges as a remembrance. Today collectors commonly refer to these type badges as tinnys.

Unlike the Reichsparteitag badges of which you can find only about 10 different, Gautag badges are varied and many. Some simple arithmetic will give you an idea. There were 43 Gau, and from 1933 to 1939 they each created a yearly Gautag badge, that would be 301 different badges. Some Gau created badges earlier than 1933 and some may have started later, I don't think there is any complete record. Suffice it to say there are several hundred different.

These badges offer some interesting collecting challcnges. A collector could decade to acquire one of each. This would be difficult because some would prove to be scarce or impossible to acquire and because of the lack of documentation he would never really know when he had them all. Another way of doing it would be to collect only certain Gaus or specific years, such as the last year of issue (which in most cases would be 1938 or 1939, as donation badges or all types were seldom struck during the war). One idea that I think would be interesting, would be to frame a large map of Germany showing all the Gaus and to get one badge from each Gau and affixit to the proper location on the map. Other collections could be built by acquiring only those made with certain design features (like eagles), only those made of tin, ceramic, plastic,l eather or whatever. The possibilities are endless.

Which ever way a collector decides to approach it building this type of collection can have several advantages. First: these badges are readily available and several different ones can usually be found at any militaria show. Second: there are so many different ones that the problem of not being able to add something new to the collection would not come up for quite a while. Third: most Gautag badges are relatively inexpensive. Unlike collecting medals or combat badges, which quickly requires you to spend hundreds or thousands for each new piece. Gautag badges are usually priced from ten dollars to less than one hundred dollars each, with (I would estimate) an average price of about twenty-five to fifty dollars. Finally when you get a good collection of Gautag badges you can start collecting Kreistag badges. I figure there should be at least 6,000 different ones of those.

Bob Treend, "Collecting Gau Badges", Der Gauleiter, 1991

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Hitler Head Medals

The first Hitler heads were what has been called "voting tokens". The earliest one bearing the date "Okt. 27, 1929". They were campaign tokens used by Hitler during his early political struggles to place before the people his likeness and the "hooked cross" symbol. The German word "hakenkreuz", swastika is a pure American indian word meaning "good fortune".

They were aluminum, had a 30mm diameter and the obverse bore a profile of Hitler facing left, as you look at the piece. Above is his name and below is "Der Fuhrer Aus Der Not" or "Leader of the Movement".

The reverses differ a great deal, but almost without exception they exhort the people to vote for Hitler. Some of the pieces give dates of the elections, some give the list number, others just state that he is the man for the job. They are hard to find in excellent condition for many reasons. Their age and the presend and post-war unpopularity of Hitler. Being aluminum many collectors consider them worthless. How many exist is difficult to say, thousands were made, hundreds of the different types were passed out to people on street corners. How many threw then away immediatly, how many slipped them in a pocket to save?

Along with the voting tokens (these type of medals are called tinnys by collectors because so many were made of tin or other cheap materials) were "Gau Pieces". As Hitler gained popularity and momentum he had Gauleiters to help him. A Gau is a Nazi district or precinct in Germany. With the precinct leaders to help pass out the voting tokens he spread his policies throughout Germany. The Gau pieces were basically the same, with few different variations. The obverse has a profile of Hitler, with a flowing coat, coller turned up. Some state "Der Fuhrer Dankt" (The Leader's Thanks). Others say W.H.W. and a date. W.H.W. is for Winter Hilf Werk (Winter Help Work... A charity to help the poor in winter). The actual work done was in trying to get Hitler elected. These Gau pieces were presented to the party members who got the vote for Hitler. They were usually copper or brass and silver plated. Their diameter is 35mm., some were pin backed, others were more likened to a medal, being cased. Most of the Gau medals carried the name of the Gau and seem to be dated 1934 or 1935. So they had to have been presented after Hitler got into office. He was elected Reichskanzler in 1933.

The Gau pieces and W.H.W. pieces overlap the W.H.W. type of Hitler head and is greatly varied. They run from the Gau type to being a personal presentation piece in solid silver. As some of the Gualeiters were very big in the Nazi party. Goebbles was the Gauleiter of Berlin, you can see that when the time came to pass our medals, one had to take into consideration the importance of the individual.

When Hilter attained office the obvious next step in Hitler heads is the commercial type which run from stickpin to statues, from gold to glass. One of my favorites is the crystal intaglio. An intaglio is a reverse sculpture were the back has been scooped out so that the likeness is three dimension when viewed from the front. This particular piece is 37mm by 31mm and is 5mm thick. There is a small hole at the top through which a ring could be placed. It is a bust of Hitler, below is his name. These pieces were made of all the leaders of Nazi Gemany and were in different colors. I imagine they were worn as jewelry by the women supporters of Hitler.

The government made pieces also come at this time, they were pieces with Hitler and Hindenburg, Hitler with Mussolini, Hitler and Chamberlain, also commemorative pieces commemorating Hitler's election, meeting with heads of other countries, dates or importance in the Reich and notable occasions.

James G. Fitch, "Hitler Head Medals", Das Hakenkreuz, 1970

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

About Tinnies

The use of commemorative pins and badges by the Nazis was an adaptation, as the manufacture of small metal devices for use on walking sticks (Wanderstocke), on hats and on jackets predates the confederation of Germany itself. Many very old examples may yet be found. Quite naturally, these kinds of badges evolved just after the introduction of firearms in Europe as a prize for shooting contests. They had been used as souveniers long before the first Nazi, and were sold by inn-keepers in places like Berchtesgaden, Lourdes, St. Wolfgang, etc., to tourists and pilgrims.

Wanderstock badges are still extremely popular today throughout Continental Europe, and most arestill being made by firms that made pins and badges during the Nazi years. Dies for Nazi badges are still kept in storage in the die rooms of many of the old factories in East and West Germany and are highly prized by collectors. Centers for production of this type of insignia before, during and after the Nazi period were die making areas like Ludenscheid, Schrobenhausen, Munich, Dresden, Vienna, Leipsigand Berlin.

The badges utilized by the Nazi party and its various sections and dependent organizations had two principal purposes. The first purpose was commemorative. The badges were a symbol of achievement by the party, Whether or not the wearer felt any sense of achievement was not important so long as the wearer recognized that without the party there would be no event or achievement to symbolize with a badge. In this respect the badges fulfilled an important propaganda and organizational purpose.

The second purpose of many of the badges was to raise money. As far back as 1920 the Nazi party had charged an entrance fee of 1 Mark to attend ordinary beer hall meetings of less than 100 people. Most of the badges shown in this book were sold to raise money to offset their cost, and thus the cost of the propaganda.

Somehow, the name ''tinnies'' has been applied to these badges and pins by collectors in the United States, although the reason for the name is a mystery. They are not "tinnier'' than belt buckles, service theatre shields (Kuban shield, Narvik shield, etc.) or many other items of auxiliary insignia from any country. In fact, the name "tinnies'' is ridiculous since a goodly percentage of the pins and badges were not even made from metal. Some are beautifully made from glass or ceramic (particularly when the city or area involved was known for glass or ceramic crafts), some are embroidered, and some are made by the cloisonne or hard-fired glass technique. Those that were made from sheet metal were very often given an artistic finish.

By examining the symbolism and the lettering on the badges illustrated, a collector can quickly identify them. With the help of the Abbreviation list on page 138 and the German-English Glossary on page 136,any interested person should be able to break the code. The obvious repetition in symbols or wording makes the badges easy to categorize by type.

The National Socialist People's Welfare Organization (Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt-NSV) is an excellent and well documented example which perfectly explains the process by which pins and badges were made, distributed, sold, and how the profit generated was used.

The NSV was organized in 1933 and replaced the former Social Welfare service which had been established by Bismarck and had long since lost the confidence of the people. The Nazis decided it was time to establish a new system, ''based on the traditional union between the people and their native land and on the hope that by uniting the people in one folk community where class distinctions play no part, it may be possible to find a solution to the social problem in a synthesis between people and State.''This concept was carried to action by making charity obligatory and by publicizing the fact that as long as one individual was suffering, everybody would have to suffer to some extent.

In practice this meant every working German would have to contribute not only a portion of what he earned, but also part of what he intended to eat and wear to the NSV for redistribution to others. The NSV was responsible for Winter Help Work (Winterhelfwerk-WHW) and Mother and Child (Mutter und Kind) organizations, and worked closely in the pursuit of its purpose with the Central Committee of the Evangelical Church for Internal Missions, the Catholic Charitable League, the German Red Cross, the Reich Midwives' Association, the Association of German Nurses, the National Socialist Nursing Sisterhood and other groups.

Starting with a few hundred workers on 3 May 1933, the NSV grew to a combined force of paid and volunteer workers numbering over 6,886,000 by April 1937. These workers were involved in the collection and dispersal of surplus of all types, projecting and organizing the efficient distribution of essentials like coal, wood and peat, preventing the taking of excess profits from the sale of limited resources like food and fuel (60categories) and the collection and accumulation of cash. Every month, under NSV control, every German housewife was required to buy 500 grams (about one pound) of some food commodity, according to her means, and donate it to WHW. All families were restricted to a one-course meal on Sunday evenings, traditionally the biggest meal of the week. The cash equivalent of the courses not eaten was donated to the WHW. Restaurants collected for many full course meals and donated the portion saved by serving simple single-course meals. This portion was stipulated in published WHW schedules. In addition WHW operated lotteries, and received a quota of all wild game shot in Germany.

Originally, the idea of WHW contribution badges was conceived to give employment to people who could hand-make the products and thus earn a living at a craft. This process continued until the demand exceeded the available supply and mechanization occurred. Strangely, these early hand-made badges are generally less expensive as collectors items today, than the mass-produced metal stampings made in later years.

In Reher's booklet he says, "whenever possible WHW places its orders for Collection Day badges in distressed areas (of Germany)".

"Street collections by members of various party organizations are held once a month and badges that have been manufactured in these distressed areas are then sold for the equivalent of two pence (US $.05) each. Several millions of these badges are sold. An average of one half-penny each is paid for their cost. The badges themselves vary in design and material from one month to another. They are made of lace, ivory, porcelain, amber and artificial flowers. As time went on the designs have become more and more artistic and are now objects of interest to collectors.

"No badges are sold when the Party and State chiefs make their annual collection on the Day of National Solidarity. This Solidarity Day is another exemplification of the community of feeling which now exists between the ruling authorities and the bulk of the population. A steady increase in the amounts collected on this day throughout the whole Reich is shown in the returns for the last three years. These were, respectively: 4,022,000 Marks for 1934, 4,085,000 for 1935, and 5,662,000 Marks for 1936. The amount of money collected on National Solidarity Day in 1937 was 8,071,180 marks.

"The word Thing is archaic German for "assembly", and the Nazis revived it and the concept of the Thingplatz or Thingstatte (meaning "festival arena") as a part of 20th century German culture. Local communities were encouraged to erect a Thingplatz and the Nazi party was responsible on a local level to see to it that entertainment and propaganda were dispensed there. Thing badges are occasionally encountered, although the Thingplatz system was not a huge success.

Readers of this book that do not speak German should realize that in the German language the word propaganda has none of the negative connotations associated with it in English. It means something which is done to publicize. In his foreward to the book ADOLF HITLER, Pictures of the Life of the Fuhrer, published in 1936, Joseph Goebbels wrote, "There have been many misunderstandings throughout the world and even today in Germany, about the definition of propaganda. As these misunderstandings are deeply rooted and based on prejudices, they are difficult to correct. This is inspite of the fact that since the end of the war (WWI) the German people have been victimized by intense foreign propaganda. In this short time propaganda has been shown to be a political tool of the first magnitude. We do not need more proof than to be aware that the Germany of the Kaiser collapsed under the attack of Marxist propaganda, and that the Marxist Democratic Regime could only be overthrown because the National Socialist propaganda proved to be of better quality and inspiration."

"But propaganda must be mastered perfectly. It is of no use to command a few smarties from time to time as needed. It requires as do all great arts, specially gifted people to found a school and attract many adherents. Wide spread misconceptions have to be recriminated so that nothing unethical or of low value is associated with propaganda. It is important to understand what propaganda stands for and how it draws people into the world of reality. In this respect propaganda is unlike advertising since propaganda allows people and events to speak for themselves. It is helpful, if the result is to be of any value, that events and people are represented and explained to the fullest."

And he was Minister of Propaganda....

Ray Cowdery, "Nazi Para-Military Organizations and their Badges", Northstar Commemoratives, 1985

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Coburg Badge

Ranking right up there with the Blood Order in important Third Reich political badges is the Coburg Badge... a simple looking badge in bronze with a little village on top of a wreath and a sword placed tip downward across the face of a swastika within the wreath. The wreath contains the words "MIT HITLER IN COBURG".

Be careful of the Coburg Badge! It withholds several secrets and because of some of those you might end up with a fake when you thought you bought a real one. Even the "authorities" have a little disagreement about this badge.

The first "mystery", and it is a minor one, is where the Coburg badge fits in the scheme of things within the hierarchy of Third Reich medals. David Littlejohn in his book ORDERS, DECORATIONS, MEDALS AND BADGES OF THE THIRD REICH, states categorically that it ranked "higher than the Blood Order". R. Kahl, in INSIGNIA, DECORATIONS AND BADGES OF THE THIRD REICH, makes the same statement.And it's true. All of us who have seen pictures of the Nazi leaders strutting down the Munich streets with their Blood Orders and their Blood Flag will continue to wonder how the Coburg Badge could rank higher, but it really did!

In November of 1936 Hitler gave new "orders" for the "Orders and Awards" of the Third Reich. According to ORDERS, EHRENZEICHEN UND TITEL, by Hanns Dombrowski, published in 1940, the NSDAP awards are listed in this order: 1. Coburg Badge; 2. Nurnberg Party Badge of 1929; 3. , SA Treffen at Brunswick; 4. Golden Party Badges under 100,000; 5. The Blood Order; followed by the Gaubadges and the Golden HJ Badge.

Hitler caused the Coburg Badge to be struck in 1932 to memorialize an event that took place ten years earlier, on Saturday, October 14, 1922, and to honor the participants.

One of the finest books, if not the finest, on the early Nazi years is I KNEW HITLER, by Kurt G.W. Ludecke. Ludecke was a sort of "public relations" man for Hitler... he later came to the U.S. as special envoy for Hitler in an effort to woo U.S. Germans to the Nazi cause and later escaped with his life during the Blood Purge of 1934.

On that day in 1922 Hitler was invited to "German Day" in Coburg and asked to bring a few friends. I have written before that Hitler, if nothing else, was an exceptional opportunist. He rented an entire train and filled it with 800 of his followers (virtually the whole Party) and even bought his own 42 piece band, planning to take the town by storm.

Ludecke is ecstatic when he writes about what happen in Coburg. Remember, in 1922 Hitler was a nobody on the German national scene; only his fanatical little band of followers thought anything would come of the "little man with the silly mustache. Most Germans had never even seen the swastika! According to Ludecke, "amassed burghers and wide-eyed Jews almost fell out of the express trains which passed them." Hiring the train was a huge bluff, the Nazi party had no money. Every man who climbed on the train bought one or more tickets, often with his last marks.

Coburg was a town which had long been dominated by Marxists. And the Marxists, of course, wanted no part of the Nazi "foreigners". When the Nazis arrived at Coburg, a uniformed policeman told them they could not march into the city with bands playing or flags flying. The words were music to the "opportunist" ears. Hitler pushed aside the policeman and they marched into the center of town, all flags flying, all instruments blaring. A crowd of thousands threatened to bar their way. No one was sure who these fanatics from Munich were. Suddenly some of the crowd (mostly Marxists) ,began to throw things and a furious fight ensued for perhaps 15 minutes. In time most of the crowd began to join the Nazis and before long they had won over the townspeople. Here, at last, they saw a savior" from the Communist repression. The town officials, of course, were not impressed or happy.

The next day as the Nazis triurnphantly boarded the train, Hitler was told the "Reds" would not run the train back to Munich. Again, Hitler saw an opportunity. He told the officials that he and his group would run the train themselves, but they would first kidnap every Communist they could find and would take them back to Munich on the commandeered train. What would then happen to the Communists was left to everyone's active imaginations. The Communists capitulated, the train ran. Hitler won!

And now to that badge and its secrets. No doubt that it is a heavy, solid bronze badge.

Ltc. John Angolia in his book FOR FUHRER AND FATHERLAND.. POLITICAL AND CIVIL AWARDS OF THE THIRD REICH says it was made of "massive bronze and was slightly convex, while later versions were thinner and flat." Forman's GUIDE TO THIRD REICH GERMAN AWARDS AND THEIR VALVES only mentions one version of the bronze medal (presumably the "massive convex" one mentioned by Angolia.) Littlejohn does not mention a "thinner" badge at all. HOWever, all authorities refer to another Coburg badge made of silver with a red swastika. Littlejohn says it's authentic; Forman gives it a price of $2000 and Angolia states it was probably a private purchase.

Forman lists the price of the bronze Coburg badge at $1,250. I have seen them on tables of reputable dealers for somewhat less than that. The problem, of course, is knowing if they are real. The fakes I have seen have "villages" on top that simply do not match the real ones. I saw one recently that was "thin" all right. It resembled a large, cheap tinnie. The asking price was $400. I passed.

Robert McCarthy, who has a fine example of a real Coburg badge, mentions that you should look for a small RZM on the lower reverse of the badge. Steve Wolfe says that the thinner version does exist, but without the RZM and that there is very little difference between the two versions.

Even thought "thinner" badges were apparently manufactured, my "authority quotient" would feel more comfortable with the heavier "massive" bronze medal, and with the RZM mark.There were only 436 of these badges awarded which makes originals fairly rare.

Mickey Huffman, "The Curious Case of the Coburg Badge", Der Gauleiter, 1989

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Braunschweig Badge

One of the more "common" badges of the political genre of the Third Reich is the SA TREFFEN BADGE for Braunschweig. Yet it was one of the most honored... a "Party Decoration" ranked right up there with the Blood Order and the Coburg Badge. But whereas the Coburg Badge had only 400 issued, there were over 100,000 Braunschweig badges awarded. Where did they all go?

They are not where you think they are! More on that statement later.

What happened in Braunschweig to make Hitler value the date so much? It was this: On October 18,1931, the SA in public gave its unqualified support to Hitler, and despite earlier revolts by certain elements in the previous months, never again wavered from that loyalty (the Rohm bloody weekend notwithstanding).

For a time in 1930, it looked highly unlikely that there would be an SA rally in Braunschweig to pay homage to Hitler.

With industrialists money he had acquired in 1929, Hitler re-equipped and enlarged his SA. He bought the famous Brown House in Munich on the Briennerstrasse, which he had redesigned as Party Headquarters. Inside it was stunningly impressive, at least by Nazi standards. The conference room was garish red leather and the black and red entrance

The hall was highlighted with swastikas. Needless to say, the SA man from the country who stumbled into "his" Party Headquarters came away very impressed! But also possibly very depressed, because many of the SA were in dire straits.

While Hitler was decorating the Brown House, the situation was changing rapidly. On March 27, 1930 the Muller coalition resigned and Henrich Bruning, head of the Catholic Centre Party, succeeded him and promised to cure the economic problems of inflation and unemployment, but the Nazis and Communists voted against it in the Reichstag. When his partners refused to vote with him, he dissolved the Reichstag and called for new elections for September 14th.

Ernst Rohm, Hitler's long-time ally, was in Bolivia assisting that country in training its army. The SA, back in Germany, was exhausted from non-stop campaigning and "getting nowhere fast", to use a current descriptive phrase. The SA men were unpaid, hungry, many beginning to literally starve. So the districts under Oberster SA-Fuhrer Ost, Walther Stennes, went on strike. Hitler raced from Munich to Berlin, because if the revolt continued, or spread, all would be lost in the September elections. Hitler went from group to group, begging, pleading, even sobbing... men were angry, frustrated and, hard to believe today, one SA-Fuhrer actually grabbed Hitler and shook him!

But Hitler quieted the men. He determined Rohm was the one man who could corral the uneasy SA and decided to call him back.

In the meantime, he quietly took a step (totally unnoticed by the outside world) which assured his ultimate control of the SA. He named himself Oberster SA-Fuhrer on September 2, with second in command to be the Stabschef answerable only to him.

Meanwhile there were the elections. Thirty million Germans went to the polls in September, 1930 and startled the world by making the Nazis the second largest party in the Reichstag with 107 seats. A total of 6,409,000 votes were cast for the Nazis. This was heady stuff for Hitler, who was pursuing his personal goal with a vengeance. The SA was venting its fury... it wanted a bloody revolution, fiot legal maneuvering, and it wanted the revolution now. Under those circumstances Rohm returned as Chief of Staff of the SA on January 5,1931, answerable only to Hitler.

Stennes wasn't through; he continued to fight for economic aid to the SA men in Group Ost, but it was a losing battle... he read in the paper that he had been deposed.

Hitler knew he needed Rohm and Rohm knew he needed Hitler. Goebbles and Goring felt threatened by Rohm's position next to Hitler and cleverly acquired some "love letters" the homosexual Rohm had written, and had them published in the newspapers. Rohm could have been impaled by the events, but he wasn't. Hitler came to his rescue with a statement that included these words, "the SA is not a moral institution for the education of well-to-do-daughters, but an association of rough fighters".

And so, on to Braunschweig. There, just 10 months after Rohm's return, Hitler received the salute of more than 100,000 loyal followers. He seemed to sense that this was the "true beginning" of his awesome power.

Braunschweig (Brunswick) was a town of 100,000, about 40 miles east of Hannover (about 150 miles west of Berlin). Today it has a population of about 275,000 and is just inside the West German border. One of the most famous pictures from the pre-war era is on the front cover of one volume of the TimeLife series on World War II, this one titled "The Nazis", and shows Hitler taking the salute of the marching SA troops in Braunschweig.

And now we come to the strange case of the badge itself. It comes in two variations (Type A and Type B). Type A measures 37mm by 50mm; Type B measures 37mm by 52mm. The badge consists of an eagle standing on a wreath which encirces a swastika and the words "SA TREFFEN BRAUNSCHWEIG 17/18 OKTOBER 1931".

Both badges were originally available as tinnies or "donation badges" sold at the rally...that's how the SA raised money. Then, when Hitler named the badge as one of the top "Party Decorations" of pride. Type B was recast as a solid badge.

But what happened to all these badges? The ones you usually see on dealer's tables are unfortunately not original. The original badge was finely detailed, even as a tinnie. I have discussed these badges with noted collectors at length. One internationally recognized German collector knows of only five (!) of the Type A in private collections and has never (repeat NEVER) seen a real Type A badge on a table at any show, anywhere!

Type B, the oval badge, is occasionally seen, usually the solid version, but usually not real. All one has to do is compare an original with its fine detail to the badges you find on tables at shows to see the difference. Examine the photos closely; the Type B is real. The Type A shown is an exact duplicate of one featured in a very well known book on badges of the Third Reich, but it is not real. I haven't handled the one that is in the book, but you can draw your own conclusions.

Furthermore, if you get copies of two of the most popular books on Third Reich badges now in print and compare the photos of the Type A badges in the two books... they don't match!

The prices of these badges on collector'stables at shows give them away. You can buy a Type A for, perhaps $50.00 and a Type B for about $90.00, but you are probably not buying the real thing.

Type B badges with hollow reverses were made in Silver/Zinc, (German Silver) and Aluminum. "Orden & Ehrenzeichen" lists the silver badges at about $500.00 and the rest at about $150.00. type B was made in Zinc and Aluminum with solid backs and are listed for about $150.00. Type A, with hollow back (which again is almost impossible to find) is listed at about $350.00.

And so the "common" SA Treffen badge IS not so common after all... is it?

* * *

Mickey Huffman is a contributing columnist to DG. He has written articles on the Golden Party Badge, The Blood Order, the Gestapo Warrant Discs, the Coburg Badge and the Nuremberg 1929 Badge. He is president of the North Texas Militaria Collector's Association.Bibliography for the article included "The SA, An Historical Perspective", by Jill Halcomb.

Mickey Huffman, "What Happened In Braunschewig?And What Happened to Their Badge", Der Gauleiter, 1990

Note from German Militaria Collectibles: The photos shown above were scanned from a copy of Der Gaulieiter. Unfortunately, the original photos are not available and this is the best I could get them to come out.... If you wish more info on these badges, you can find some, including photos, on the internet. Bob

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Introduction to Medals and Badges

The Third Reich came into being on 30th January 1933, with Hitler's accension to power, and ended with the defeat of Germany in May 1945.

The number of new decorations, medals and badges of honour created during those twelve years may well appear prodigious, but it must be borne in mind that in the matter of national honours, the Nazis were obliged to start virtually from scratch.

The previous government, the ill-starred Weimar Republic, had at least in theory abolished all titles of nobility and awards of honour, although in practice the proscription was not absolute. The Order of St. John of Jerusalem (the Johanniter Orden) was permitted as was the civil grade of the Pour Ie Merite, at least to fill a vacancy in the permitted membership of 30. The decorations of the German Red Cross were not effected since awards in this case were made by the President of the German Red Cross and not the government. The various German states (Lander) still enjoyed a degree of autonomy under the Weimar Republic and could make awards of such things as Life-saving and Miner's or Fire Brigade medals within their own province. They even continued to do so for a short period under the 3rd Reich until the rigorous application of the Nazi "Gleichschaltung" policy swept away all such provincial awards and centralized them in the national government* .

This work deals only with official awards made at national (Reich) level. For this reason the long service awards of the National Food Estate Organization (Reichsniihrstand) have not been included. Although the organization itself was a national one, the awards were made on a regional basis. Also some interesting medallions awarded in connection with the battle of Stalingrad have been excluded as they were instituted only at regimental level ( piece of "private enterprise" on the part of a conscientious regimental commander).

With the exception of the Free City of Danzig, Nazi awards of German racial communities outside the Reich, such as the "Volksgruppe" in Roumania, have not been included. Similarly those of non-German Nazi movements, (for example Anton Mussert's Dutch Nazi Party) were by definition, precluded.

The well-known "Azad Hind" or "Free India" decoration, often found in Nazi collections, was instituted not by the Germans but by the Free India Committee in Germany and is, therefore, an Indian and not a German decoration.

"Day" badges issued to commemorate annual Party rallies, sporting or other events, of which there are vast numbers, have not been included except for those later granted the status of official Party awards (such as the Party Day badge for Nuremberg 1929).

The line between official and semi-official has not been easy to draw. On the whole, the authors have tried to be as comprehensive as possible even where this has involved slight violations of their own definitions. For example, rigid adherence to the "Reich-level-only" principle would have precluded all the Luftgaue plaques since these were instituted by the General Officers commanding the Luftgaue. Although they were awarded only within the limits of the Gau, they are of considerable interest and have been included. For basically the same reason the Lorient Shield, strictly speaking an un­official award, has been put on a par with official shield badges.

Quality and Markings

It has not been possible to indicate the quality of the metals used in the manufacture of the various awards described since a considerable diversity exists in this respect. On the whole, genuine silver or gold is rare.

*It is interesting to note that the present government of West Germany has reversed this policy and the German Lander once again award their own Life­saving and Fire Brigade, etc. medals.

Portable Nazi awards were never inscribed with the recipient's name. Where this is found, as on some war badges, it was certainly privately done. Even the numbering of badges or medals is unusual, which makes it very difficult to ascertain whether a particular item was ever issued or not.

All firms authorized to make official medals and badges had a manufacturer's mark (Herstellungszeichen). Those permitted to make Party awards (this included Youth badges) had an additional authorization number (Zulassungsnummer) which was prefaced by the letters R. Z. M. in a circle (standing for Reichszeugmeisterei or roughly translated Ministry of Supply). For example, the firm of Steinhauer & Luck of Ludenscheid who were large scale suppliers of medals and badges had the Herstellungszeichen L 16 and the Zulassungsnummer R. Z. M. M 11/1.
Some badges had the maker's name or initials on the reverse rather than a number. Medals and badges made in silver or silver-gilt carry the continental silvergrading number, usually a very small 800 or 900 which is sometimes found on the suspension loop.

Variants, Fakes and "Remakes"

1. Collectors may find that they have in their possession items which, although their authenticity is beyond doubt, vary slightly or even considerably from the descriptions given in these pages. This need not be regarded as remarkable. Unauthorized variations and "improvements" often appear in all countries during time of war. It was not uncommon for decorations to be produced in the field or even on board ship. It should also be remembered that there was no single Mint responsible for the production of all decorations. A number of private concerns contracted to supply medals and badges and their standards did vary. In the chaotic conditions which prevailed in Germany during the closing stages of the war, recourse had often to be made to improvisation, an example being the "Kurland" cuff band.

As many collectors are by now aware, Nazi awards have been remade in West Germany since the war on an ever increasing scale. It would not be strictly correct to term these as "fakes" since they come, in most instances, from the original dies and are made by firms formerly authorized to manufacture medals during the 3rd Reich era.

They are not, however, always accurate reproductions of the originals. The best word to describe these is "restrikes" or "remakes". Unfortunately, there is no easy rule of thumb by which the beginning collector can distinguish the genuine from the "remake". Experience is the only guide. The attitude that the collector should adopt towards "remakes" is a matter of personal choice.

Some may reject them all out of hand as worthless, while others may feel that they are useful in filling gaps where genuine examples would be very hard, if not impossible, to obtain. On the whole, collectors who do not wish to devalue their collections will probably want to avoid them. Where there is some doubt as to whether or not examples of a particular award were ever issued during the life-time of the 3rd Reich, has been made clear in the text. The authors do not wish to lend authority to badges, etc., which may have been produced since the end of the war.

Prestentation Cases and Citations

Citations actually signed by Hitler, although in some circumstances comparitively lowly awards were made personally by Hitler to special recipients.

Medal Ribbons

In view of the fact that many collectors specialize in medal ribbons only, some detailed remarks on this subject may be of use. The width of German ribbons varies, normally medals were issued on a 30mm or 35mm ribbon. When mounted for wearing, either singly or in a group, a 25mm ribbon could be employed. This was made up in a double length with the medal couched in the center*. Neck ribbons were usually 45mm wide, and in the case of certain long service awards such as the Police, Customs and SS.

Long service, a 50mm ribbon was used. Here it may be noted that originally these long service awards were mounted on the normal doubled 25mm ribbon with the Police (etc.) emblem on a separate piece of ribbon. This embroidered emblem, usually mounted on cardboard or metal backing, was attached to the center of the basic ribbon. Only later was the 50mm ribbon introduced and worn as such when mounted.

Ribbons without medals were worn on a metal bar mounting (Ordenschnalle) which is wider than the the usual Anglo-American type (17mm normally, although a narrower 9. 5mm bar was also, less commonly used. Two widths of ribbon could be used on a bar mounting, either full-sized (25mm) or halfsize (15mm). Actual full size, i. e. 30 or 35mm, was not used on the bar mounting. Where metal emblems were worn on the full sized ribbons, a reduced version was also worn on the half-size ribbons. In the medal ribbon chart, it has not been possible to show the diverse emblems which were worn on Nazi ribbons, but these have been described in the text.

*In Austria, the traditional Austrian "inverted triangle" style of mounting was sometimes used even for Reich awards. This style uses a 40mm wide ribbon.

When worn by ladies, medals were usually suspended from a bow, where this does not apply it is mentioned.

Miniatures have proportionally small ribbons, although it was more common to have miniature decorations attached to a fine chain without ribbons for evening wear (this is a normal continental practice). Miniature ribbons were made up in a variety of styles and could be worn in the button hole of civilian clothes. Metal tie-pin (Stecknadel) miniatures do not have ribbons.

Slight variations in the sizes and shades of ribbons are encountered, but collectors should note with caution that ribbons as well as medals and badges, etc., are being "remade" in modern Germany. Some of these are inaccurate not only as to quality and shade, but even in their proportions; others are perfectly accurate. It is entirely possible that some original ribbon stocks still exist.

The present-day West German style of wearing medal riboons is now similar to that employed in the Anglo-American forces. The above remarks apply only to the 3rd Reich period.

Littlejohn and Dodkins: "Orders, Decorations, Medals and Badges of the Third Reich", 1968.
R. James Bender Publishing.

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Saturday, June 9, 2007

Early Nazi Party Rallies


What was the Reichsparteitags & what was its purpose? In this article. and preposed future articles; we hope to answer this question.

Little has been written about the mammoth celebrations held each year from 1933 to 1938. We believe these rallys played an important role in gaining and retaining support for the Nazis. This article will deal with the rallys before 1933.

The 1st party congress, or Reichs-Party-Day was held on Jan. 27 & 28 1923 in Munich. Hitler called together 5000 SA men to demonstrate the strength of the party to win popular support and to attract other groups of similar political inclinations. Little was done at this 1st congress and nothing indicated that it would be the 1st of a long series of rallys, There were however several traditions started at this 1st rally.
The Fahnenweihe ceremony (consecration of the flags) became a lasting ritual of the party. The ceremony always began with an address by Hitler. The flags were consecrated by Hitler" who touched each new flag, or standard to the original flag of the party. The SA vowed at this time, never to abandon their banners under any circumstances.

Next came the traditional "march past" by all the Storm Troopers. The next day there were various meetings, and Hitler presented all the extremist ideas of the party, and told what they planned to do.

Because the Nat. Socialists thought the Jan. 1923 rally a complete success, a second rally was held in Sept. 1923, at Nurnberg the city that had once been host to the pageantries of the Old Roman Empire. This 2nd rally was an even larger success, which won many supporters & new members. A memorial service for the dead of WWI was introduced and held each year. In this, and all other rallys, the many speakers denounced the Jews andd blamed the Versailles treaty for the Nations problems .

As we known Hitler was soon sent to prison after the Nov. 9th Munich Putsh, and the party was banned. Hitler was released in Dec. 1924 and reassembled his followers. In Jan. of 1925 the ban on the party was partially lifted.

In 1926 the party once again felt strong enough to hold a rally. The city of Weimar was chosen, because Thuringia was one of the few states in which Hitler was permitted to speak at that time. At this time, Hitler spoke of the purpose of the rally as a mass demonstration, a show of unity and strength to the movement.

To subsidize the rally, each participant was obliged to purchase a party day medal, which cost 50 pfennigs. I do not know of a pin for the 1926 rally.

Party membership jumped from 17,000 in 1926 to 40,000 in 1927, therefore, the 3 day rally of 1927, at Nurmburg was the largest show of strength thus far. Approx. 160,000 people attended. Highlights include the SA's torchlight parade, consecration of 12 new standards and the 2 hour parade of 30,000 SA men & the SS.

No rally was held in 1928 due to a decline of popularity. But in 1929, Hitler found. supporters in Germany's big industry, and won over such political groups as the Stahlelm. Soon the party once again felt strong enough for another party congress. The 1929 rally began on Aug. 2nd, in Nurmberg. The highlight of Aug. 3rd was the fireworks displplay at night. Its finale consisted of a swastika in the evening sky, surrounded by a green wreath, and crowned by a huge eagle. Five bands accompanied the 150,000 strong crowd, as it sang the national anthum. The 1st event of Aug. 4th was the National Celebration of the dead of WWI. Twentyfive new standards and eleven new storm flags were carried by the SA in the Munich putsch, which was stained with the blood of the men wounded in the street fighting. The rally concluded on Aug. 5th.

The next rally was not held until 1933. The party concentrated on gaining power during these years. When Hitler came to power in 1933, the rallys grew into national events of great significance.

Unattributed: "THE EARLY "REICHSPARTEITAGS - GERMAN PARTY DAYS", Das Hakenkreuz", 1968

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