Sunday, June 15, 2014

Nazi Helmets and the German Army

German Helmet in "Apple Green"
The recent 70th D-Day anniversary caused me to post pictures of German soldiers and their families, from wallets that my uncle took off of dead German soldiers after D-Day.  I also posted pictures of some Nazi artifacts that he brought back, including a black Nazi helmet.  This inspired my interest in Nazi artifacts and history, and made me want to own more of such artifacts.

I love the black helmet that uncle brought back from Normandy, still well preserved after seven decades, but the helmet is not a combat helmet.  It is a civilian police helmet.  It is in the standard M-34 Nazi helmet shape, but the steel is is a lighter gauge, and it has a different kind of vent holes.  Why my uncle picked this helmet among the thousands available, I do not know.  In any case, I have always wanted a Nazi battle helmet.  Why?  Just curiosity, I suppose, or a desire to own a piece of history.  In any case, I have been scouring the internet for sources of such helmets.  A well preserved German army helmet can be prohibitively expensive, so I have been looking for bargains.

Uncle's German Police Helmet
I notice that EBay does not allow any pictures of Nazi helmets or other artifacts that display the swastika.  This seems rather stupid -- what, are people who see it going to turn into pillars of salt?  Ridiculous.  However, European countries have outlawed the display of any swastikas, so no doubt EBay has to comply with their laws if it wants to do business in Europe.

So far I have bought three helmets.  Ironically, one is another police helmet, authentic and identical to the one I already have.  Another is a reproduction of the M-35 German combat helmet, my favorite model, painted in German field gray, the most typical color. It has the proper liner and chin strap, and I will use it for reference.  A third is an actual German M-40 model helmet, but it was repainted black after the war and used as a civil defense helmet in Czechoslovakia.  It has minor rust spots, the liner is wrong, may have come from another type of helmet.  I intend to strip it of paint and rust, and spray paint it in early war apple green, with double decals, one on each side of the helmet.  I have also ordered a replacement (reproduction) inner liner.

Last night I watched a film about the Battle of Kursk, Russia.  I was interested because Kursk is where "my Nazi," Corporal Franz Schmid, was killed.  Schmid's life and mine intersect only in a very oblique way:  his photo and death notice were in one of the wallets my uncle retrieved at Normandy.  Before last week I had never heard of the Battle of Kursk, but it was an intense fight, probably the greatest tank battle in history.  Hitler, his big fat ego punctured by the German loss at Stalingrad, was eager for revenge on the Russians.  The Battle of Kursk was to reverse his fortunes on the Eastern front, and inflict heavy damage on the Russian army.  However, the Russians kicked his butt in a serious way, largely destroying his armored divisions, and put Hitler into a steadily deteriorating, defensive position.

In my opinion, Adolph Hitler was a fool, a lousy military leader who wasted his splendid military by overreaching (his invasion of Russia was particularly stupid) smashing his armies against the brick wall of impossible goals, in a do-it or die bravado.  They didn't do it, and a great many died.


Deov said...

The Stahlhelm's legacy lives on to this day in the PASGT, MICH, and SPECTRA helmets. Its design is so effective that it's been known to stop bullets at near point-blank range. It's shame that it was stained for so long as a symbol of Nazi atrocities that it wasn't adopted earlier. A Stahlhelm-like helmet would've saved a lot lives in Vietnam because the American M1 was ineffective at stopping Russian AK-47 rounds and many soldiers wouldn't even wear them because it was too uncomfortable to wear in the jungle.

Wizard of the Saddle said...

You've never heard of the Battle of Kursk? I always found it one of the most interesting battles of WW2 since it was the first time a German Blitzkrieg attack was broken before it could achieve a major breakthrough. All-in-all, I personally find the Eastern Front the most interesting theater of World War Two because of its sheer savagery and the fact that an impoverished nation of mostly illiterate peasants with antique weapons did more to defeat the then preeminent military power on the planet than anyone else (the Soviets suffered the worse causalities of the war and yet, inflicted 80 percent of the total German causalities of the entire war as well). If you're looking for a good read on the subject, I would suggest 800 Days on the Eastern Front.

Stogie Chomper said...

Wizard, thanks for your input. I am getting up to speed on the Eastern Front. On Hulu, there is a series of films called "The Forgotten War," all about the Nazi invasion of Russia. I am watching one each evening before bed, but I started with Kursk, because of Franz Schmid. Yes, the Russians were utterly fearless fighters against the Nazis, and their tanks were pretty good too, certainly a match for the Tigers. A major factor in the Russian victory at Kursk was that they had many more tanks and many more men -- I read that they lost over a million soldiers at Kursk, the Nazis maybe half that many. No matter how many Russian tanks were knocked out by the Nazis, there seemed to be an endless stream, and the Germans were largely defeated by sheer numbers. That's my understanding from what I've seen and read, but I'm no expert. Feel free to correct me.

Stogie Chomper said...

Deov, yes, and the helmet first appeared in World War I, and was very advanced for its time. The German helmet is possibly the most recognized symbol of World War II.