Fantasy Nazi awards

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Jamie Cross looks at the Germany WWII awards that were never issued, were thought up after the war or are incredibly rare.

Germany, in 1944, was fighting a war on three fronts with battles raging throughout Europe. New awards were needed and instituted to reward those fighting and dying for the Reich. Some of these were instituted, manufactured and awarded, others only awarded on paper and some only remained on the drawing boards of the designer to be forgotten for years. Others, however, were never even thought of until well after the last shot was fired. So what we have here is a range of awards that were genuinely designed, but never actually made during wartime, those which are complete fantasy works, made to dupe the unwitting collector, and lastly, awards that might well have been made, right at the death of the regime. Or not, as you’ll discover by reading on.

The trickiest awards to distinguish from real ones are those which were created in the 1960s and ‘70s, but are now so old that they actually look like they came from the war. One of these is the Arnheim shield. These shields are stamped from sheet metal and follow the design of earlier, original shields. There is an open winged eagle and between the arms is the date 19 on the left and 44 on the right, Below this, the word, ‘Arnheim’ and below this is the river and the wording ‘Niederheid’. It was given to the two main German SS Divisions, Frunsberg and Hohenstaufen, for their defence against the British Operation Market Garden (17-25 September 1944). This award first appeared in the 1970s so is not genuine.

This shield was closely followed by the Budapest 1944/45 Arm shield. It features an eagle with a swastika to its chest above, along with aeroplanes and supplies dropping onto the city of Budapest, with the name and date. Despite the nice design, it is a complete fantasy. Few, if any, would have been needed, as only a handful of the German forces involved managed to break out and return to German lines.

German copies of badges including SS Insignia and fantasy badgesThe Budapest shield links to one that was officially designed, but never awarded. The Stalingrad shield has been seen in two designs. The first was made by Ernst Eigener, a war artist with Propaganda Company 637. The design consists of a shield, with an eagle to the top, above the wording ‘Stalingrad,’ with the main design being the big grain silos in Stalingrad, where many battles were fought. To the base was the corpse of a German soldier. This design was not approved. A second version featured a river replacing the corpse and added the word ‘Wolga’. This was placed on a shield with the dates ‘1942-1943’ to either side. This shield is often found to be made from stained brass, sometimes it has a backing cloth, other times it just has some pins to the reverse. In both cases, if you come across it at fairs or auctions, be aware that it was never approved or manufactured and is a pure fantasy item.

The Balkan shield, however, has a faint hold on historical fact. Drawings have been found of it and the design was dated to the end of the war. The designer of this shield was Benno Von Arent, who was well known for his eagles. The shield has the word ‘Balkan’ and then an SS eagle with the date ‘1944 & 1945’ to either side of the swastika over a map of Greece and the Balkans. Another design shows the Army style of eagle. Other than this, it stays the same. In the book Combat Medals of the Third Reich by Christopher Ailsby, on page 110, he states that an SS Oberscharführer from the Prinz Eugen Division, made some awards in late January of 1945. To date, though, all those seen have been the same design made from a brass stamped sheet and have big thick pins to the back.

Memel was another place that had a shield put forward, to encourage the fighters in the besieged area. The design shows the wording ‘MEMEL’ to the top of the shield over a castle-type tower, flanked by two watchtowers, with a boat to the base and the wording ‘Njemenfront’. It is stated in the book Orders, Decorations, Medals and Badges of the Third Reich Volume 2 by David Littlejohn & Col C.M Dodkins, that the shield was issued and even give the measurements of 52mm x 85mm. However, personally speaking I think that due to the fact that the Kurland Band was issued, this item never got past the design trial stage and into production.

Warsaw ShieldsThe Warsaw shield is another that was designed, but never reached distribution. It was to be given to the troops that put down the Polish Insurrection, who fought to liberate their capital from the Germans. Whilst this went on, the Russians waited outside to let the Germans wipe out their opposition even as the Polish hoped the Russians would come and aid them. This shield, like the Balkan shield, was again designed by Benno Von Arent. It has an eagle with a swastika to its chest and a nameplate through the centre, with the wording ‘WARSCHAU 1944’. Its talons hold a coiled snake to signify the partisans being destroyed by the German eagle. The shield was instituted on 10 December 1945, for service from 1 August 1944 to 2nd October, and was probably made from stamped metal. The design was approved and shield production began but it has been reported that the die, and tooling for this award, were destroyed along with on-hand stocks of this and other awards. The firm is often cited as CE Juncker, which were bombed out of production for a while. It is believed that the shields we see today are taken from the shield that was sent to the records office in Berlin for approval. A genuine example of this shield may turn up one day, though it is worth noting that soon after the cessations of hostilities, the firm of Rodulf Souval was making this and a number of other approved badges that were never manufactured, or believed to not have been manufactured, during war time. This firm may well have taken over these wartime dies and turned out these badges, along with trusted and true badges and awards.

One of these made by the firm of Souval is the Luftwaffe Close Combat clasp. Records show the original institution order for this clasp, along with a picture of the award. The clasp was for the Luftwaffe replacement army of Hermann Göring, who were fighting as ground troops. Like their Heer counterparts, these troops were becoming more and more engaged in hand to hand combat and Göring wanted a clasp to replace the Army one his troops were receiving. The clasp was instituted on 3 November and it is reported that a few were given out in December of 1944 and January 1945. But, it has not been proven whether it was the Army type or this type. It is also interesting to note that a lot of these clasps have been made with the swastika to the base, rather than being held by the eagle, as the main design for the copies. This type are, without doubt, of post war manufacture.

On the same day, the Luftwaffe also instituted a panzer badge to recognise the heroics of the Herman Göring Panzer Division who, until now, had also worn the German Army Panzer badge. On 10 November 1944, numbered box types were added (like the Army counterparts) to the badge. These, though, have never had their manufacture confirmed. Having said that, the firm of Souval has made some superb examples, again straight after the war. These often turn up in both books and collections, with the big giveaway being the Souval post war clip. A few days later on 27 November 1944, another Luftwaffe badge was instituted. The badge, which is nicely designed, shows an eagle and swastika over a ship tilted at an angle. The badge was supposed to be given to Luftwaffe air sea rescue crews and, like many other of these Luftwaffe badges, this one was made in a 1957 form. Most of the ones encountered are these 1957 badges modified by removing the eagle and replacing it with a eagle and swastika example.

One of the last Army badges to be introduced was the Army Balloon Observers badge. The award was instituted in July of 1944 and was given to members of the armed forces who sat up in a balloon spotting for the artillery. As the Luftwaffe was no longer a force to be reckoned with, this type of job was not for the faint hearted. It has also been stated that the bronze and silver grade awards have been issued, but no gilt classes have been given. It is to be pointed out that few men would have survived and that, to date, no photographic evidence has surfaced of any soldier wearing this award.

What is believed, is that a few bronze awards were made and issued before the end of the war and it is also known that the firm of Souval made this award straight after the war in a solid flat-backed metal. An affidavit from a Canadian soldier states that he picked up a solid Balloon badge in a battle in 1945. No-one, to date, has ever been able to prove or disprove whether they were produced before the end of the war. One thing is for certain and that is that they were being sold in July 1945 by the firm of Souval, as a Major Charlton, in charge of de-Nazification of Vienna and who married the ex-wife of the Gau Leiter, purchased one then.

The Kriegsmarine also had a clasp issued for service and/or valour. The clasp design is of an anchor to the centre with an oak leaf spray either side. The date of institution was 19 November, 1944 and, though no official clasps were made or awarded, unofficial examples made on-board ship have been seen and were awarded. The well-made machine style, that we see today, are normally re-worked 1957 examples.

Another badge that also turns up is the one for shooting down low flying aircraft. This award uses the same cloth backing as a Tank Destruction strip and has a metal aircraft diving to the ground. It was instituted on 12 January 1945 and notations in paybooks are known. But, as the badge was also made in 1957 and these early ‘57 ones use war-time cloth, you would have a hard time proving if the badge you have is from WWII or a 1957 award.

 

The Commemorative Medal for 1939-40 was never issuedEARLY WAR AWARDS

It was not just late war awards that were manufactured but not adopted. The commemorative medal for the campaign of 1939-1940 is one that was manufactured in a small way, but never made it further than the factory gates. Made from iron, the award was bronzed or blackened and was to be given, like the Cross of Honour, for combatants and non-combatants. However for some unknown reason, the award was never instituted. A few have survived, but extreme care must be taken as, like so many of these fringe awards, more are made today than ever were during the war years. Another trial pattern of this is even based on the Cross of Honour and shows the same basic shape, but has an eagle to the centre and the dates ‘1939’ and ‘1940’ to the top of the cross. The oak leaf ties and crossed swords are also the same as the earlier Cross of Honour, tying it into this award even further.

Another earlier award that was trailed but not adopted is the Hitler headed, Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Führer medal that was proposed as the Aunchluss medal for Austria. The design, made by Richard Klein, was that of the election day badge from 1933. It was stated that the award was to be bronze and had, to the reverse, the date ‘13th March 1938’, with a German eagle and swastika. Apparently some were manufactured but the Führer rejected the design, going instead with Professor Klein’s second design, based on the Rally badge for the Reichspartag of 1938. Apart from a drawing in David Littlejohns proof manuscript for the book Orders, Decorations and Medals of the Third Reich, I have never seen one.

 

THE BADGE THAT NEVER WAS

Another badge surrounded in mystery for years is the RSA badge. Shown as a drawing in the book Insignia, Decorations and Badges of the Third Reich and Occupied Countries by R Kahl, the badge is stated to be a: ‘… badge of an unknown English Nazi Organisation.’ However, it is not a badge of Mosley’s fascist group. It was highly prized by collectors for years, until research found out that it was, in fact, a British wartime copy of what was believed to be the German Sports badge (Reichs Sport Abzeichen) which shows a swastika to the top within an oakleaf wreath and the letters to the centre. As far as is known, it is the British idea of the DRL sports badge. This was confirmed in 1994 when, after more research, it was proved beyond doubt that the badge was a film prop made in about 1942 in the UK to dress up about 10 or so Nazi SS uniforms for films. Amongst others, a subsequent film called Silver Fleet, which starred Sir Ralph Richardson, who played a Gestapo Colonel Von Schffer, confirmed this beyond any doubt.

 

THE NEW BREED

Over the last few years, a new breed of badges have appeared. These badges range from crude lead castings to well made items, but most are screw back. They usually have patriotic slogans but actually never existed.

The original paratroopers cloth badgeAlthough rare, you will see more copies and fake than real German Snipers badges. This cloth badge shows an eagle’s head raised out of two oak leaves. The original drawing was done by Paul Casberg but was re-worked, removing the title ‘Scharfschutze’ from the base. It doesn’t help that the fakes look better than the original cloth badge. The vast majority of these badges have been made in Pakistan where a large amount of fake, fantasy and original style items do now come from. Included in this, is the Reichsführer SS Eppeleps and the SS Mess Dress insignia. I, personally, have never seen a real one. Another fake band that fools many people is the ‘Otto Skorzany’ cuff band. One was stuck to Otto Skorzanys funeral pillow, giving it a sense of authenticity, making it hard to convince collectors that the title never really existed.

 

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