German Jackboots

German Jackboots


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German Jackboots

The marching boot (Marschstiefel), more popularly known to the soldiers as the 'Dice Shakers' (Knobelbecher) and to the British as the 'jackboot', have been a feature of the German Army uniform since Bismarck's Reich

Picture provided by Epic Militaria ((c)2010), with thanks.


German Marching Boots (Early pattern)

Everyone with a hint of ww2 recognises the German jack boots (Marschstiefel). In the post-war period, these boots went under several changes but those made for the Berlin Watch Batallion, were still made as per pre-ww2 Specifications.

These boots have very light use, and feature a

Since these boots were meant for urban use, the leather sole is covered with a rubber outer-sole. This can easily be removed to allow hobnails attachment.

Excellent opportunity to own a military-grade jackboot. Sizes are exact.

* Shows minor signs of use, but still in very good condition. Will also include a pair of black socks for parade.

Historical Info on German Jack boots (Marching Boots)

All German front-line troops went to war with a distinctive and protective footwear, the Marching boots, commonly known as the German Jack boots. In November 1939, a new order was given to shorten all newly produced jackboots' shaft to around 29cm (from 35cm). However, as war progressed, and materials got scarce, the ankle boots were and gaiters took over.

Boots made for the German Military, worn by you.

Everyone with a hint of ww2 recognises the German jack boots (Marschstiefel). In the post-war period, these boots went under several changes but those made for the Berlin Watch Batallion, were still made as per pre-ww2 Specifications.

These boots have very light use, and feature a

Since these boots were meant for urban use, the leather sole is covered with a rubber outer-sole. This can easily be removed to allow hobnails attachment.

Excellent opportunity to own a military-grade jackboot. Sizes are exact.

* Shows minor signs of use, but still in very good condition. Will also include a pair of black socks for parade.

Historical Info on German Jack boots (Marching Boots)

All German front-line troops went to war with a distinctive and protective footwear, the Marching boots, commonly known as the German Jack boots. In November 1939, a new order was given to shorten all newly produced jackboots' shaft to around 29cm (from 35cm). However, as war progressed, and materials got scarce, the ankle boots were and gaiters took over.


The English word "jackboot" evolved without any specific reference to Germany or World War II. In their own language, German soldiers referred to their standard footwear as "Marschstiefel," a compound word meaning "marching boots." The word "Stiefel" would have been used, as it refers to boots in a more general sense. When parading about, Nazis did not use the term "goose-stepping." To march in a goose-step fashion is called, in German, "Stechmarschen," which literally means "to stab-march."

To make the jackboots more durable, the hide leather soles were reinforced with round-headed tacks called "hobnails" nailed into them. The hobnails added to the theatrics of a marching German army by creating a sharp click sound when each boot hit the hard streets. Similarly, the boots had steel reinforcements around the heel that created a loud click when a soldier was ordered to come to attention.


Why jackboots?

Post by Joseph A. West » 16 Dec 2010, 01:35

Re: Why jackboots?

Post by Joseph A. West » 16 Dec 2010, 01:41

Re: Why jackboots?

Post by Ernst Wittmann » 18 Dec 2010, 00:14

Re: Why jackboots?

Post by Ernst Wittmann » 18 Dec 2010, 00:18

Re: Why jackboots?

Post by phylo_roadking » 18 Dec 2010, 01:46

Re: Why jackboots?

Post by Ernst Wittmann » 04 Jan 2011, 21:56

Re: Why jackboots?

Post by ljadw » 05 Jan 2011, 17:22

Re: Why jackboots?

Post by murx » 27 Feb 2011, 16:15


On the day such historical knowledge like the one above will disappear forever, I will light a candle.

Consider tihe situation after Versailles, The German territories were ruled to be "defended" by 100.000 lightly armed men, which was the then called the Wehrmacht. For comparison: The Netherland's army had 120.000 men, Swizzerland 200.000, Lituania 60.000, Poland 1.000.000, the Red Army (in 1939) had 1.931.962 active soldiers. For defending Warsaw the Polish army had 100.000 men.
After WW I he Polish governant repeatedly threatened to invade the Reich (Polish papers wrote that there is a necessity to redraw the Polish-German border "straight through the centre of Berlin").
The journal "Gasschutz und Luftschutz" wrote in 1931 that all major cities in Germany can be reached by 7 different air forces, whichs areas of activity overlapped. On the other side the enforced Versailles "treaty" not only didn't allow any kind of air defenses (FLAK), but even passive measures (shelters for the civilian population) were not allowed until 1926.
The population themselves had experienced the deliberate starvation of 800.000 Germans by the British blockade after 1918, which probably lead to the (logic) conclusion to be surrounded by criminals whithout any possibility of defending oneself.
Claiming that the re establishment of a sufficient military force to be a symptom of genuine German militarism requires to be able to present an alternative. If that solution would be a practicable one, the choice of the military alternative by the Germans could then show some tendencies of militarism. I am curious to hear yours.


Concerning boots:
I have learned that even today modern miltary boots which's soles are attached by adhesives tend to dissolve when exposed to extreme ambient heat. The Wehrmacht was the only troop fighting in the heat of Africa and in extreme cold conditions of the Russian winter. All other armies were either fighting in the heat or in the cold. Nailing the soles of the boots were the only solution to fix them and keep them in place under extreme temperature conditions.

Re: Why jackboots?

Post by ranoncles » 27 Feb 2011, 20:43


On the day such historical knowledge like the one above will disappear forever, I will light a candle.

Consider tihe situation after Versailles, The German territories were ruled to be "defended" by 100.000 lightly armed men, which was the then called the Wehrmacht. For comparison: The Netherland's army had 120.000 men, Swizzerland 200.000, Lituania 60.000, Poland 1.000.000, the Red Army (in 1939) had 1.931.962 active soldiers. For defending Warsaw the Polish army had 100.000 men.
After WW I he Polish governant repeatedly threatened to invade the Reich (Polish papers wrote that there is a necessity to redraw the Polish-German border "straight through the centre of Berlin").
The journal "Gasschutz und Luftschutz" wrote in 1931 that all major cities in Germany can be reached by 7 different air forces, whichs areas of activity overlapped. On the other side the enforced Versailles "treaty" not only didn't allow any kind of air defenses (FLAK), but even passive measures (shelters for the civilian population) were not allowed until 1926.
The population themselves had experienced the deliberate starvation of 800.000 Germans by the British blockade after 1918, which probably lead to the (logic) conclusion to be surrounded by criminals whithout any possibility of defending oneself.
Claiming that the re establishment of a sufficient military force to be a symptom of genuine German militarism requires to be able to present an alternative. If that solution would be a practicable one, the choice of the military alternative by the Germans could then show some tendencies of militarism. I am curious to hear yours.


Concerning boots:
I have learned that even today modern miltary boots which's soles are attached by adhesives tend to dissolve when exposed to extreme ambient heat. The Wehrmacht was the only troop fighting in the heat of Africa and in extreme cold conditions of the Russian winter. All other armies were either fighting in the heat or in the cold. Nailing the soles of the boots were the only solution to fix them and keep them in place under extreme temperature conditions.

Boohoo, cry me a river. I'll light a candle when apologists like you stop turning the ferocious Dutch, the warlike Danes, the trench loving Belgians and the grenade-lobbing Swiss in clear and present dangers for a Germany in bitter need of a huge army.

As to the German boots, the main reason I can find is the durability of these over "lesser" boots. Worn out boots were considered a major problem for armies on the march and the high quality "jackboot" with its hobnails was deemed to be more durable than the alternatives available. As Germany relied on quickly defeating its opponents before they could fully mobilize and coordinate, the infantry's ability to march is obviously a major issue. The fact that they look martial probably helps too. And they certainly weren't the only country to use jackboots although it certainly seems to be a northern continental fashion, similar to the shako or the peaked helmet. The southern continental/western fashion seems to lean to things like the kepi and ankle boots.

But jackboots are expensive and require high quality leather so when that becomes scarce, the advantages of ankle boots (cheaper, confers more mobility) become more pronounced.

As to the advantages of hobnailed boots for extreme weather conditions, the Germans obivously disagreed. The Africa Korps were issued tropical boots and troops on the eastern front allegedly preferred Russian boots.


East German Jackboot conversions?

Post by DarExc » 25 May 2004, 18:13

Anyone know a place that will convert the soles and add heel irons and hob nails on east German jackboots? I don't wanna shell out $400 for a pair of boots I'll be wearing a few times a year so I'm looking to do this.

Post by Langemann » 25 May 2004, 18:23

Most local shoe repair stores should be able to remove the rubber sole and replace it with a stacked leather one for under $50 US. Nails can be done with a needle nose pliers and a hammer on your own, or can also be done by the shoe repair location.

Post by DarExc » 25 May 2004, 18:32

Post by Langemann » 25 May 2004, 19:38

Post by DarExc » 26 May 2004, 07:16

Ok thanks, do you think its a good deal to do this here? They do everything for you and sell you the boot for $200? So many boots

Post by Drew Maynard » 26 May 2004, 14:12

I think if you stick to a shoe repair place and have them replace the sole, and then find some heel irons, toe taps and pop the hob nails in yourself. Plus, you're gonna get spanked with duty on them. IMHO.

Try ebay for the hobnails/toe taps etc., you might get lucky. I've also seen jackboots with leather soles on ebay cheap, depending on your size, but alot of them are the higher leg offizier type.

I'm going to see how much a local guy will replace the sole for.

Post by Askold » 26 May 2004, 20:51

Post by Director » 17 Jun 2004, 18:03

Has anyone hear got any pics of these? DarEX, did you end up doing this cheap alternative? If so, could you post some pics of the finished product?
With thanks.

Post by Langemann » 17 Jun 2004, 18:42

The first pair of low boots I owned, I put carpet nails in them for hobnails. The problem you'll run into with them is that the heads tend to break off from the shafts as they were not meant for walking on. However, if it is only temporary and for short use, it's definately a inexpensive option.

Post by DarExc » 18 Jun 2004, 01:18

Post by voorst » 18 Jun 2004, 09:30

Post by Wilibald » 27 Jun 2004, 14:33

Here are my humble advices:

Repros are out of price for most of us.

Wachtbatallion boots ( I own a pair too) have that nasty buckle at the top and they therefore require some cobbling anyway. they are quite too "large & heavy" looking when compared to the original anyway.

I personally bought a pair of EG boots from Ebay, and the guy who sold it had the sole already replaced (I only paid 35$ USD for it . ) So all in all, even if you pay 30$ for a pair of unconverted EG boots and throw in an additional 40$ for replacing the sole, you are still far from the 250/400$ range of price paid for repro boots (that you would be reluctant to use on the field anyway. )

The pebbled leather on the EG boots is really NOT a problem if you are patient enough. So here is how it goes:

1- Don't tell your wife (or mom if you are younger or single! lllooolll) and manage to get the pressing iron (one with STEAM if possible).

2- Lock yourself up in a quiet place with a couple of good CDs playing in the background ..you might have to spend 6 hours on that hobby mate! lol

3- Wear cooking mitts (yeah I know, so far I sound like a freak! lllllloooollllll)

4- Put your hand IN the boot and press from the inside against the HOT iron . and slowly flatten the grain. making sure the steam is continuously flowing. It can take up to 2-3 hours per boot to get a satisfying result but it SURE turns out VERY GOOD in the end. I just could not believe the result!

I STILL have to go and see a cobbler for covering the leather soles with a second FLAT leather layer (the actual one is not appropriate, but it will be an easy & unexpensive task) and finally add the stiefelnagels but it is q quite satisfying and cheap alternative that would probably pass the inspection in most reenactment units

I am including pix of the pair, halfway done, to compare the PRE and POST transformation boots. Note that the completed boot is NOT stuffed on the pix. the leather just gained strenght (but it is still highly flexible) in the making


Jackboot Germany: A New History of the Gestapo

When you purchase an independently reviewed book through our site, we earn an affiliate commission.

THE GESTAPO
The Myth and Reality of Hitler’s Secret Police
By Frank McDonough
309 pp. Skyhorse Publishing. $24.99.

What would it be like to live in a police state? Sinclair Lewis wondered if “it can’t happen here” in his 1935 novel. Well, what happened over there, when Nazis took power in 1933? Germany was not an unfamiliar place. Citizens drank Coca-Cola, cherished walks on Sundays, scrimped to buy a motorcycle and went to the movies. With Hitler’s dictatorship, they also lived with the Gestapo, or secret police. Its agents have long been imagined as standing on every street corner. As one Nazi boasted, “The only people who still have a private life in Germany are those who are asleep.” Sorting out reality from myth in “The Gestapo,” Frank McDonough, who has written several books on the Third Reich, promises a new “understanding of terror in Nazi society.” The picture is more frightening than Orwellian ideas about Big Brother and his thought police.

“Underresourced and overstretched,” the Gestapo employed some 15,000 officers who policed 66 million Germans. As a result, it had to rely on denunciations from ordinary citizens. It is vexing to imagine how readily people felt licensed to vilify colleagues and neighbors, although McDonough exaggerates incidents of wives turning in husbands or children their parents. Law-abiding citizens could find themselves interrogated because they listened to the BBC or joked about Hitler, but the circumstances of denunciation usually resulted in lenient treatment.

In fact, most Germans rarely bumped into the Gestapo. They were satisfied with the dictatorship because they believed its promise to eliminate disruptive elements from public life: Communists, repeat offenders and so-called asocials who contributed nothing to the “national community.” Many citizens shared Gestapo fantasies of “cleaning up” the country by throwing “riffraff” into concentration camps. Family doctors and social workers joined Gestapo officers to identify “disabled” or “work-shy” individuals for incarceration or sterilization.

A majority of Germans did not find the boundary between order and disorder arbitrary. The Gestapo gained legitimacy precisely because it left most people alone. But when the Gestapo pursued so-called enemies, it did so relentlessly. Communists and Jehovah’s Witnesses, who ostentatiously refused to salute Hitler, were rounded up, tortured into giving up names and imprisoned with lengthy sentences. Other “enemies,” like the few Catholics and Protestants who recognized, as Hitler put it, that “one is either a Christian or a German,” were treated more cautiously. Here the Gestapo understood Germans’ religious sensibilities, a latitude the churches did not take advantage of since they were sufficiently loyal to remain silent about the persecution of Jews. McDonough notes Clemens von Galen’s condemnation of euthanasia, but the cardinal never mentioned anti-Semitism publicly or privately. Conclusions regarding Galen’s “strong defense of the sanctity of human life” fall short.

The energy the Gestapo spent policing relationships between Germans and Jews shows that not all citizens accepted Nazi racial policies. A few snoops could destroy many lives. “The Gestapo” teaches us that if you are not a designated enemy, you can live comfortably in a police state, but victims learned how easily neighbors jettisoned empathy and enforced distinctions between “us” and “them.” Martin Niemöller’s famous poem “First They Came,” first for others — socialists, trade unionists, then Jews — before “they came for me,” misplaces hope because terror succeeded by not threatening most people.

Unfortunately, McDonough is an unreliable guide. He makes elementary errors. Hermann Göring was not appointed Prussian minister of the interior months before Hitler’s seizure of power. Moreover, examples tumble over one another without being representative or telling. McDonough also scrambles statistics. Crime rates at once rise and fall, and indictments in Hamburg are compared to convictions in Frankfurt. There are good books on German society under the Nazis, but McDonough’s is too careless to illuminate the “hidden history of the Third Reich.”


IS ANYONE REALLY WEARING THOSE JACKBOOTS WE'RE ALL SO AFRAID OF?

"What's wrong with creating a national employment registry? . . . Judging from the criticism the idea received last week, you might think it was a step toward the day when squinting, jackbooted militiamen demand your papers."

-- Feb. 13 editorial, USA Today

". . . jackbooted government thugs . . ."

-- Term used to describe federal agents, inthe NRA fund-raising letter that caused ex-President Bush to resign his membership

"I have described them properly as jackbooted American fascists."

-- Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, referring to agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms

These are jumpy days, and if you want to stir up a little quick anti-government lather, the thing to do is invoke the image of a person in jackboots.

Jackboot -- it does have an onomatopoetically nasty ring, with the disdainful "j" followed by the aggressively hard "k" and "t" sounds.

Yet the term may not be delivering the impact that its users intend. Many busy Americans, hazy in their command of repressive military apparel, may be secretly wondering: What is a jackboot anyway?

The answer is a two-parter: the jackboot as footwear, and the jackboot as metaphor.

The term jackboot dates back to the 17th century, when it denoted a boot of tall (knee length or even over the knee) undecorated design, made of extremely thick, tough leather to protect the legs of a soldier on horseback.

Its origins are English and it is commonly regarded as a European item, but for a time it enjoyed a vogue in this country.

"According to one source, after 1660 the jackboot became popular in the American colonies," says Dennis Baron, professor of English and linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana. "It was a shiny black leather boot, large enough to pull over shoes or slippers."

The origin of the "jack" part of the term is uncertain, Barron says, with one school holding that it simply refers to the English slang for a man, or alternately, a soldier.

By all accounts, it's a heavy and fairly movement-restricting item, meaning that, ironically, it may not be all that suited to kicking down doors or stomping on citizens.

As a figure of speech, suggesting "military oppression" or "rough, bullying tactics" (The Oxford English Dictionary), jackboot -- or its ever-popular adjectival form, jackbooted -- has almost as long a history, with the earliest citations appearing in the mid-1700s.

But for most people now alive, the metaphor tends to be associated with the Nazis, whose infamous goose step showcased the boots in a particularly vivid, menacing way.

"The jackboot for the Nazis wasn't just a piece of apparel, it was an essential part of their image," says Borden Painter, professor of history at Trinity College. "I think of Rossellini's 1945 film "Open City," which starts in darkness, and then you see the occupying German troops, and what you initially see is their boots."

The use of jackboot as a rhetorical device has suffered from a certain tendency toward propagandist excess.

In his celebrated 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language," George Orwell disdainfully refers to the word several times. Orwell sees the term jackboot as one of a number of stale images that seek to "glorify war" (others include "mailed fist," "chariot," etc.), and he ends his essay by urging writers to "send some worn-out and useless phrase -- some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno or other lump of verbal refuse -- into the dustbin where it belongs."

Those who are concerned that the United States is in danger of being overrun with jackbooted persons may be mildly comforted to know that authentic jackboots are hard to come by, at least in mainstream retail channels.

Most conventional Army & Navy surplus stores don't carry them, and some are even insulted to be asked the question, on the grounds that the jackboot is a symbol of our former enemies.

What you want, then, is such a place as Kaufman's Army & Navy, on 42nd Street in New York City, which expressly sells international military goods, much of it to theatrical groups.

"We're well-stocked right now with jackboots, which come from the former East German Army," says Jim Korn, the store manager. "They're actually very handsome boots, very sharp. They sell for $70 or $80, depending on the grade."

Today's unified German army no longer wears this style of boot, Korn says, meaning that when the existing stock is gone, it's gone. "As far as I know, the boot is not being made anymore."

The modern jackboot customer, in any case, is not necessarily politically motivated.

"We know a lot of people buy them because they are extremely tough and durable, and because they are inexpensive," says Bonnie Walter, general manager of Sturm, a military-supply wholesaler in Kennesaw, Ga. "They're popular with a lot of regular blue-collar workers and also motorcyclists."

And for the record, agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, who have been the objects of much recent jackboot rhetoric, actually wear footwear that's far less symbolically resonant.

"On the relatively rare occasions when they are going into some dangerous situation, they wear a kind of utility boot of the sort that a telephone lineman might wear," says Les Stanford, information officer at the BATF in Washington, D.C. "You know, one of those fairly low, lace- up boots with the knobby rubber soles."

But even that's the exception.

"Ninety-five percent of the time, they're in street clothes, which would generally mean a business suit or maybe a sport coat and tie."


Men in German Uniform : POWs in America during World War II

Examining the largest prisoner-of-war handling operation in U.S. history, this book offers a meticulous account of the myriad problems—as well as the impressive successes—that came with housing 371,000 German POWs on American soil during World War II. Antonio Thompson draws on extensive archival research to probe the various ways in which the U.S. government strove to comply with the Geneva Convention’s mandate that enemy prisoners be moved from the war zone and given food, shelter, and clothing equal to that provided for American soldiers.

While the prisoners became a ready source of manpower for the labor-starved American home front and received small wages in return, their stay in the United States generated more than a few difficulties, which included not only daunting logistics but also violence within the camps. Such violence was often blamed on Nazi influence and control however, as Thompson points out, only a few of the prisoners were actually Nazis. Because the Germans had cobbled together military forces that included convicts, their own POWs, volunteers from neutral nations, and conscripts from occupied countries, the bonds that held these soldiers together amid the pressures of combat dissolved once they were placed behind barbed wire. When these “men in German uniform,” who were not always Germans, donned POW garb, their former social, racial, religious, and ethnic tensions quickly reemerged.


Even Nazi prisoners of war in Texas were shocked at how black people were treated in the South

Prisoners forced to watch news reels of Nazi atrocities expressed surprise at the realization that they had been instruments in the perpetration of genocide. (East Texas History)

O ne morning in the spring of 1943, years before the end of World War II, Huntsville, Texas woke up to a startling sound: the clip-clapping boots of Nazi soldiers in formation, singing German marching songs as they made their way through the dusty streets of the small town.

Those soldiers were among the first prisoners of war sent to POW camps in the United States. The townspeople watched as barracks went up, surrounded by barbed wire and chain link fences, and wondered what, exactly, they were in for. Americans had only been in the war for a year when POW camps were being built, and residents of Huntsville had little time to prepare for the reality of thousands of Nazi prisoners taking up residence just eight miles from the town limits.

In fact, the United States entered the prisoner of war business very reluctantly in 1941, and then only at the insistence of the British. The Allies were winning the North African front of the war, and capturing soldiers they could not house. The British wore down the United States after months of efforts and a few frosty notes from Whitehall. “It is very hard to understand on this side why…it should prove so difficult even to get an agreement in principle,” complained one frustrated writer. The U.S. begrudgingly accepted their share of POWs in 1942, starting with 50,000 soldiers from the African front.

POW camps would spread out across the country in subsequent years, throughout the South, Southwest and Midwest, cropping up in California, New Jersey, West Virginia, and North Carolina. By the time the war ended, about 500,000 captured soldiers were housed in the United States, and 380,000 of those were German prisoners of war.

Huntsville was the first camp to open, built from scratch and fully outfitted to comply with Geneva Convention requirements for warm and hygienic living quarters, access to medical treatment, provisions for libraries and other intellectual activities, and open spaces that encouraged physical activities. Prisoners also had to be housed in a climate similar to where they were captured, which was why so many captured in North Africa ended up in Texas.

By the time they arrived at Camp Huntsville, the German POWs were thrilled. They’d already been dazzled by travelling to the prison in luxurious Pullman cars. Both the cityscapes and the rural beauty of the United States amazed them. “From New York to Texas, you saw the whole countryside. Cars driving. Buildings lit up….I came to wonder — how did we ever think we would beat the U.S. at this war?” former POW Heino Erichsen mused decades after the war ended.

Men like Rudolf Thill, who was transported to Huntsville in 1943, found sparkling facilities behind the chain link fences and rows of barbed wire. Enlisted men lived in bunk rooms. Officers had their own quarters. They ate food that the townspeople could only dream of during rationing, with items like milk, meat, and butter appearing on their daily menus. Angry local residents dubbed the camps “The Fritz Ritz.”

German prisoners line a funeral procession for one of their own at a camp in Fort Bend County, Texas. (University of North Texas Libraries)

At first, locals weren’t just resentful, but also feared the prospect of Nazi prisoners of war in their towns. Former prisoners of war remember Americans searching their faces, “looking for horns,” expecting the moral menace of the German soldiers to even manifest physically. Americans who gathered to gawk at the prisoners as they were transported across the country also expected to see a race of superhero-like men, blonde, muscular, tanned, and fearsome examples of men Hitler described as a “master race.” They were disappointed. “To our curiosity and surprise, they looked no different than other young men in the neighborhood,” a 14-year-old boy observed at the time.

The resentment passed quickly when the federal government decided, in 1943, that it would be safe to put the Nazi soldiers to work. Farmers had been complaining they couldn’t find anyone to work their fields. Most men were expected to fight in the war and for those who were left behind, the war-related industries paid far better than farm work. Farmers were thrilled to hire the prisoners to hoe and pick cotton. For the most part, the walls between the locals and the prisoners dissolved as soon as the Germans picked up hoes. Grateful farmers invited POWs to lunch and showered them with small gifts of candy and cigarettes. “They were just the best bunch of boys,” one Texan recalled.

A merican officials were frustrated by their inability to stop their citizens from fraternizing with the enemy after the walls between the prisoners and the townspeople came down (albeit metaphorically). Women lined up against the chain link fences to watch the POWs play soccer. People piled into train stations when a transport was scheduled to arrive, hoping for a glimpse of the prisoners. Edouard Patte, a Swiss delegate of the International YMCA who worked as a Red Cross monitor, put it this way: “it’s difficult to imagine that these nice blond lads with rosy cheeks had been war baiters and murderers a short while ago.”

The POWs also found friends in the most unlikely of places, as they worked alongside African Americans hoeing and picking cotton, talking away long days in the hot sun. African American field hands were painfully aware that white Americans treated Nazi prisoners far better than they did people of color. African Americans waited on POWs when they were transported in Pullman cars to their camps, and prisoners were also allowed to eat in whites-only cafeterias. At the camp, they were dealt the most menial jobs, including spraying the prisoners with delousing foam. The slights hurt all the more because African-American soldiers fought diligently during WWII in all-black units such as the renowned Tuskegee airmen.

Yet, on an individual level, they got along with the Germans. And Germans were fond of them, in part because African American soldiers had protected them from the mobs of people who wanted to kill the POWs.

Surprisingly, given the blatant racism of the Nazi party, some of the German soldiers were also shocked by the shoddy treatment of their fellow farmworkers. “The blacks…didn’t do much better than us,” remarked one POW. “They were just in front of the wire, and we were behind the wire.” Another German soldier, who was a farmer in his civilian life, noted that African American were expected to pick two to three more times the cotton required of the POWs. “You have to see how they lived,” he said after the war. “These people were so exploited.”

At the time, Huntsville was conducting a re-education program for German prisoners, and the status of African Americans made Germans look askance at their classes on the land of the free. “They were being taught the meaning of ‘democracy,’” explained historian Matthias Reiss, “while outside the southern camps no black citizen dared to step on the sidewalk alongside white Americans.”

As part of their re-education, prisoners were also showed films of Allied soldiers liberating the concentration camps. “We saw the emaciated bodies and empty eyes of the survivors,” said POW Gerhard Hennes. “We saw the piles of naked bodies, starved to death. We saw the mass graves. We saw the ovens where tens of thousands had been cremated. We saw and stared in silence, struggling but unable to believe what we Germans had done to Jews, gypsies, prisoners of war and many others deemed inferior or expendable.”

They watched them in disbelief, and many refused to accept the truth of what they saw. “This just doesn’t happen,” former POW Herman Daumling recalled thinking as he watched the films. “Nobody does that.” The fact of concentration camps was an open secret, but German soldiers claimed that no one knew about the genocide that claimed the lives of 6 million Jews and 5 million others that the Nazis deemed undesirable. Listening to American radio news reports eventually convinced Daumling that the films weren’t propaganda, but unvarnished truth, but he was the exception. Fewer than half believed that the Holocaust was real by the end of the war, according to a poll conducted by the U.S. government.

Accepting the fact of the death camps had profound consequences for German soldiers. Hennes was one of the believers. “I turned in one profound transformation from being a hero to being a villain,” he said.

Thousands of German POWs moved back to the United States after the war, including Hennes. Historian Arnold Krammer estimates that 8,000 POWs eventually returned to the U.S. Some married American women, but most were sponsored by a resident to be eligible for residency, including former farmers supporting their former farm hands. POWs who didn’t immigrate to the States still visited Texas regularly for reunions with the farmers they once worked for. “Without exception, they recall their years as POWs in Texas as ‘the greatest times of their lives,’” Krammer observed.

Erichsen also moved to the United States after the war, eventually becoming a citizen and settling in Texas. He’s lived here most of his life. Yet he can’t shake what he learned as a young person. He still remembers the songs he had to memorize as a young man in Nazi Germany. He offered a few lines to a reporter reluctantly, at his wife’s urging: “Sharpen the long knives on the lantern post. See the Jewish blood flow.” He doesn’t want to think about what he learned as a child, but he has acknowledged it is a part of him, and he can never relax his vigilance against the hateful indoctrination of his youth.


10 Famous Brands That Had Nazi Ties During WWII

People often choose to buy from brands that have been around for ages because of the quality. On the other hand, the fact that these brands did some shady stuff in the past gets forgotten quite easily. They had to do whatever it took to survive back then, or maybe because the owners were just horrible people in general. Here are 10 famous brands that had ties to the Nazis back in World War II.

1. Hugo Boss

Image credit: History In Pictures‏/twitter

Hugo Boss has been around since 1923, but it wasn’t until 1931 when its namesake founder joined the Nazi Party. They were one of the manufacturers that were granted a contract by the Nazis to produce the uniforms for the SS units, SA storm troopers, and Hitler Youth. They continued to produce these uniforms throughout the war, using forced laborers from France and Poland to increase output when demand increased. It wasn’t until 1948 when the company reverted back to producing uniforms for police and postal office workers, eventually morphing into the high-class fashion house that people adore today.(1,2)

2. Volkswagen/Porsche

Image source: nevingtonwarmuseum.com

Prior to Porsche being expensive cars for those with money to burn, Ferdinand Porsche served as the lead designer for the Volkswagen Beetle. What’s even more surprising about this is the fact that Adolf Hitler served as his co-designer for the VW Beetle. Hitler planned on creating a cheap and reliable vehicle that Germans could drive daily. Porsche jumped on the opportunity and created the vehicle with his design getting approved by the Nazi leader.

Soon enough, a factory in Stuttgart, Germany was creating the Beetle in the thousands with slave labor being the main reason why it was produced so quickly.(1,2)

3. Bayer

Image credit: holocaustonline.org, Conan/flickr

Despite being a large pharmaceutical company, Bayer was part of IG Farben which created Zyklon-B gas canisters. These gas canisters were loaded into the same gas chambers that killed millions of Jews during the Nazi regime. The man who invented the gas, Fritz Haber, was half Jewish but decided to renounce his faith just so he could get on the good side of Hitler and his men.

Even up to this day, Bayer still does some Nazi-ish acts. The company is well known for manufacturing Aspirin, but they refuse to acknowledge its inventor, a Jewish man named Arthur Eichengrun. Oh, and they also used to have an employee named Josef Mengle, and they were more than happy enough to sponsor his search for medical discoveries in Nazi concentration camps.(1,2)

4. IBM

Image Credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection via

IBM is one of the earliest IT companies to ever exist, so it’s not that surprising that they had a few questionable dealings from decades ago. The company was the pioneer when it came to keeping track of large databases using a very sophisticated system that involved punch cards. These punch cards kept track of financial and medical records, as well as who were Jews.

The moment the Nazis invaded a country, they would take over the census system using the punch cards from IBM. After doing this, they would be able to detect who were the Jews, Gypsies, and other non-Aryan citizens of the country before shipping them off to concentration camps. These punch cards were so sophisticated that it could group people based on religion, camp location, and even how they were planned on being executed by the Nazis. If you were a Prisoner Code 8, you were a Jew. The Code 11s were for Gypsies. If you were in Auschwitz, you’d get Camp Code 001, and Code 002 for Buchenwald. Status Code 6 meant that a prisoner would be executed by gas chamber, and Code 5 was for executions by order. That was how intricate IBM was when it came to the punch cards.

IBM claims that they were merely forced into being involved with the Nazis as they had a German subsidiary even before Hitler became the leader. On the other hand, there were records of IBM sending internal memos to their New York offices admitting that their punch cards were helping the Nazis become efficient.(1,2)

5. Siemens

Image credit: German Federal Archives

The Siemens Company was quick to take advantage of the rise of the Nazis in Germany by building factories near concentration camps in Auschwitz and Buchenwald. They employed hundreds of thousands of slave workers to manufacture all sorts of goods for the German military. They were put in charge of power generation, communications, and rail infrastructure, among other things.

It was far too common for slave workers back then to be a part of an assembly line inside a Siemens factory one moment, and then the next, be inside a gas chamber also made by Siemens. Nowadays, they’re still being forced to pay for damages by survivors, but still, the company was insensitive enough to attempt to trademark the name “Zyklon” so they can use it for their products that include gas ovens.(1,2)

6. Puma/Adidas

Image credit: 1,2

Adolf (Adi) and Rudolf Dassler co-owned Dassler Brothers, an athletic shoe company that eventually spawned Adidas and Puma after a feud between the brothers – thanks to the Nazis.

Rudolf was sent to Poland to serve German forces and believed that his brother, Adi, was behind it. As soon as the war was over, he confided into the Allies that Adi was helping the Nazis. All of this eventually led to the creation of Puma (from Rudolf) and Adidas (from Adi.)(1,2)

7. Kodak

Image source: filmsnotdead.com

Like with other companies, Kodak used slave laborers in their factory in Germany, employing at least 80 people plucked straight from concentration camps for their Stuttgart branch, and 250 more for their Kopenick one. To make up for this snafu, Kodak donated $500,000 to the German fund for victims of forced labor. Additionally, Hitler’s top economic adviser, Wilhelm Keppler, had ties to Kodak and advised the company to fire all of their Jewish employees if they wished to succeed.(1,2)

8. BMW

Image source: fallschirmjager.net

BMW was more than happy to help out the Nazi war effort by providing motorcycle parts and airplanes made using slave labor. Günther Quandt and his son Herbert were good friends with Hitler, and they were also given the businesses seized from Jews who were sent to concentration camps.

They justified the use of slave labor during WWII by stating that demands for aero engines from BMW were increasing and they had to do their part. On the other hand, they do admit that they regret doing this and have since apologized.(1,2)

9. Fanta/Coca-cola

Image source: timeline.com

Fanta was invented after Coca-Cola syrup became impossible to import into Nazi Germany. The head of Coca-Cola Deutschland decided that they needed to create a new product if they couldn’t manufacture Coke. The only ingredients that they could use during wartime in Germany were whey and apple pomace a.k.a. “the leftovers of leftovers.”

While the plant was cut off from the main headquarters during the war, they were busy manufacturing Fanta for the German masses. On the other hand, the parent company had some pretty questionable ads during that time as well.(1,2)

10. Ford

Image Source: The Henry Ford Organization

The Ford Motor Company turned a blind eye and decided to let slaves work at one of their German plants during WWII. They also backed their European subsidiaries and allowed them to create equipment for the use of the Nazi army. This is no surprise as Henry Ford was known for his anti-Semitic views and was captivated by Nazi propaganda. The founder was also mentioned in Mein Kampf and was praised by Hitler, even having a portrait of Ford above his desk to serve as his inspiration.

Henry Ford was also a recipient of the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, the highest honor that Nazis could give to non-German folks.(1,2)


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