I know there has been controversy about the growth of German uniforms visible at 1940s events ,some events have banned the presence of “German” re enactors while others limit the re enactors movements.
I can personally see that it is essential for some re enactments to have German soldiers as it’s quite hard to have a wartime battle that doesn’t have any of the actual enemy troops and I know that contrary to general opinion most “Germans ” are not neo Nazis ,many re enactors have a number of uniforms which they pick and choose from depending on the event .It’s very likely that the average officer or foot soldier in German uniform has merely picked it out for the day and hangs it up at the end of the day next to his GI or RAF uniforms.
I think perhaps casual “German” soldiers might think twice about wearing their uniforms if they knew the hidden cost of its production.
The German uniforms are without doubt some of the smartest available on the re-enactment scene well cut and elegant ,this is because they were for the most part designed by Hugo Boss and because unlike the allies Germany had more resources available.
Primarily they had no labour problems and very low costs ,they had slave labour from the concentration camps ,they had the resources of their “subject” countries and their victims.Re enactors buying German uniforms should be aware they were made with slave labour and the products of the nazis oppression and exploitation of its conquered states and may in some cases be made with human hair from concentration camp victims.
The first claim with regard to “slave labour” is acknowledged by Hugo boss itself
Hugo Boss has recently officially apologised for its use of slave labour,(I use the BBC report for its clarity )
While sources have claimed Hugo Boss had a much fuller involvement with the Reich and treated its workers badly ,I have prefered to use only the company’s report as this provides the very best view of their conduct .
The company’s own report states clearly that it was closely involved and aided by the Gestapo in providing workers to make its german uniforms,it also admits to using paid but forced labour
The first forced laborers started work at the company in April 1940. At that point several
textile companies from southwestern Germany joined forces to recruit staff from Bielsko in
Poland, a major hub in the Polish textile industry. Even at this early stage, the workers were
not recruited voluntarily, but rather with the active support of the Gestapo.
After detailing the living conditions ,which were much better than in the concentration camps and stating workers were paid it also admits ,,
they had no choices as to the duties they
performed and, from 1943 onwards, were forced to live in the special camp set up for eastern
Europeans, which frequently involved considerable hardship
There are conflicting reports as to how management treated the laborers. While several
witnesses, including one former forced laborer, expressed relatively positive views of Hugo F.
Boss as an individual, there were some committed National Socialists in the company who
treated the women extremely harshly and threatened them with concentration camps etc.
Hugo F. Boss was likely not personally involved in these incidents. However, he took no
action to stop them either.
the company preferred not
to house its female laborers in the eastern European camp, partly because the poor living
conditions there affected their performance at work. This in no sense implies that the forced
laborers at Hugo Boss enjoyed good lifestyles – the existing sources show that this was not
Thus any re enactor buying and wearing his or her uniform should be aware that the people making it were almost certainly suffering from hardship and oppression .
With regard to what may seem the sensational statement on the use of concentration camp victims hair in uniforms the sources are primary source documents and records taken from the archives ,one directive is reproduced below in full including dates and names to the doubtful can cross check .
August 6. 1942
Amtsgruppe D – Concentration Camps
D II 288 Ma./Ha. Tgb. 112 geh.
Re: Use of hair cuttings
To the Commandants of the Concentration Camps Arb., Au., Bu., Da., Flo., Gr.Ro., Lu., Maut/Gu., Na., Nie., Neu., Rav., Sahs., Stutth., Mor., SS SL Hinzert.
SS Obergruppenfuehrer Pohl, Chief of the SS Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt has ordered that the hair of concentration camp prisoners is to be put to use. Hair is to be made into industrial felt or spun into yarn. Woman’s hair is to be used in the manufacture of hair-yarn socks for ‘U’-boat crews and hair-felt foot-wear for the Reichs-railway.
It is therefore ordered that the hair of female prisoners be disinfected and stored. Men’s hair can only be put to use if it is longer than 20 mm. SS Obergruppenfuehrer Pohl therefore agrees for an initial trial period to the growing of the prisoners hair to a length of 20 mm before it is cut.
Directive to commandants of concentration camps dated January 1, 1943:
“The prisoner’s hair is to be sent to Alex Zink, Fur Manufactures, Ltd., Nuremberg. The company will pay 0.50 marks for every kilogram of hair.”
for one reference chekcHarvards Nuremberg transcripts here
Likewise there exist invoices from the Bremen wool carding company
There are several known extant examples of “fabric” made with human hair from the camps
It’s also probable that leather from victims shoes and other items of clothing were reused often in workshops or business staffed by concentration inmates.
The possible uses rumoured were ,shoe linings ,socks ,jacket interlining and as industrial felting.Its unlikely that human hair was practical to use commercially for socks but without doubt hair was sold to companies and hair was used to make fabric so the individual re enactor must decided how far they feel confident that their uniforms do not contain human hair fabrics.
While many German soldiers and officers were merely defending their country and were conscripts .The SS were entirely different ,committed to Nazi ideology and responsible for many of its darkest deeds.Its perhaps not widely known that not all or even most SS uniforms were black ,many SS uniforms were other colours and its possible the re enactors smart-looking outfit was once worn by a concentration camp guard or by soldiers responsible for massacres.If you are planning on buying a German uniform consider its possible history and its original context.
I feel personally that is some one is wearing a genuine black SS uniform they are probably committed neo nazis as the cost of such items is extremely high and I doubt most re enactors would be willing to pay hundreds or even thousands of pounds for items they will hardly ever wear .Likewise I also feel it likely if an SS uniform is in very good condition the possibilty is strong that it will be from a camp as many SS officers on active duty at the front had extreemly hard times .
For those who still feel the attraction of the smart black SS uniforms perhaps placing them in context would remove some of their allure.Discreation os advised past this point in the post
Independent of the cloth and leather used for uniforms the sale of the uniform or other related items such as deaths head rings can be directly used to support those involved in past atttrocities.There is a posting on this site for instance offering a camp ring (ie one issued to concentration camp ss personal)
Hugo Boss company’s official statement can be found on their website here,there is a further link to a pdf file from which I have extracted the quotes used in this blog post.
Transcripts from the Nuremberg trials containing the documentation on victims and the camps can be found online here
Invoices for hair available to view here
List of camps and ghettos and their use of forced or slave labour in all industries can be found below
Items offered for sale on this site show that its accepted Dachau was used to make SS insignia(,the items are not offered for sale by a Nazi veteran however but a member of the allied forces who was involved in the liberation of the camp)
another site however offers a dager which is ,,,
The grip show the usual bumps and nicks of a dagger that was worn, but not abused. This is a textbook example according to Thomas Wittman and he has observed that these daggers were presented for, among other things, appreciation for the recipient’s participation in the action of the night of the long knives. The putting down of the Ernst Röhm insurrection. This appears to be true since this dagger came to us through a family whose relatives included a man who took part in this scenario. We had his photo collection and this documented the purge against Röhm and his associates. This is practically the ultimate in an dagger and very sought after. Condition of the blade is near perfect. Overall condition extra fine.
And an SS ring marketed using photos of the killing squads of the SS shooting “partisans” one photo showing what is clearly an elderly priest and several old men who hardly look like seasoned commando partisans,the photo incsription is from the site itself
and this listing also tip toes around the chasm of Holocaust denial by claiming the Einsatzgruppen were merely working in self defence against partisans,it claims,,
“For many years after the war we have heard about the horrors inflicted by these Einsatzgruppen against the Jews and other eastern peoples, and no doubt about it, this war in the east was hell personified and atrocities were, in fact, committed by these SS commandos and their ethnic anticommunist allies especially among the Croatians and Ukrainians. Yes, we have heard these stories, and they were often true, but there were the usual exaggerations that seem to be the privilege of the victors in any war’s end. But on the other side—and shouldn’t we always consider the other side? Some of the most beastly atrocities imaginable or (unimaginable) were being committed against the Germans by partisans of Tito’s forces and Russian red bandits all over …..
Into this terrible fiery conflagration enters SS-Sturmbannführer Kuno Callsen. We do not know enough at this point about his actual activities, but there is sufficient documentation to assume that he was indeed a Sonderkommando of the Einsatzgruppen. It fell to him to undertake these thankless tasks and to later be persecuted and prosecuted for doing his duty for the fatherland. We may find out more about this SS officer and we have many requests out there to various archival sources, but, so far, we know only the above”
This and similare items sell for substantial amounts
Images taken from the site below