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What stamps do I need to be able to fill out Soldbücher for people in my reenactment group?

Living History Posted on Mon, January 20, 2020 08:13PM

“What stamps do I need to be able to fill out Soldbücher for people in my reenactment group?” I have been asked this question many times and I always enjoy answering it, because I think it is great when someone decides to offer this service to the people in their group. In my opinion, having the correct personal identification paperwork for a living history impression is every bit as important as having the right hat or belt buckle. A dedicated clerk in a reenactment group can research and learn all of the unit-specific details that are applicable to their group’s paperwork, and can in most cases create more realistic paperwork, for that specific unit impression, than anyone outside the group could, without the benefit of that research. But in any case, to create a realistic-looking Soldbuch, you are going to need stamps- and in most cases, quite a few of them. To answer the question of what stamps are needed, I will first provide some information about what entries are typically found in the Soldbuch. I’m going to use the page numbers for a Heer Soldbuch, here. The entries would be the same in the Soldbücher of other branches, but the page numbers may be different.

The Soldbuch was introduced in 1939. Soldiers who were already in the Wehrmacht in the fall of 1939 were issued books by whatever unit they were serving in at that time. For people who joined the Wehrmacht after that date, their Soldbuch was generally issued by the training or replacement unit in which they got their basic training. Most soldiers kept the same Soldbuch for their entire military career, though it was not uncommon for a replacement to be issued later, usually (not always) because the original was lost or damaged. The first entries made in the Soldbuch were on the first 5 pages. These pages recorded a soldier’s personal details, and the unit to which he was assigned. To make these entries, you need to have, at the very least, a round unit stamp for page 2, with the designation of the unit that issued the book. You may want this to be a stamp for a training or replacement unit that supplied recruits to the unit that your group portrays. Or, you could use a stamp with the designation of the field unit your group portrays, for issuing “replacement” books, or books that would have been issued in 1939. Or, you could use a stamp for almost any unit, and then “transfer” to the unit your group portrays. The unit entry on this page 2, next to the round stamp, was often a line stamp, and the rank and role of the officer who signed the book was often indicated by a stamp here as well. The units a soldier served in, both training/replacement and field units, were all recorded on page 4; you may want line unit stamps for this page. Also at the start of a soldier’s career, his pay grade was entered on page 18, usually with the stamp of a paymaster. And soon after a soldier joined the Wehrmacht, he would be issued uniforms and equipment; these were entered on pages 6 through 8d, sometimes with associated stamps. Page 9 was for immunizations, which usually began in training and continued throughout a soldier’s service time, and there were stamps for these, too.

During a soldier’s wartime career, he might be transferred to a different unit, go to a hospital due to illness or wounds, be awarded decorations, go on leave, be promoted, be issued various kinds of pay or soap or other kinds of gear, or undergo security checks. There were stamps for all of these things. A soldier who served for years would likely have many entries made in his Soldbuch by different people, at different times. And these entries might have stamps specific to the type of entry, or they might be stamped with a unit stamp, or approved by an officer who might then stamp his own rank and role beneath his signature. Any given entry could be made without a stamp, but the stamps were widely used, and any book with a lot of entries will have a lot of stamps. To make all these various entries, I offer two different sheets of stamps for the Soldbuch. Both of the sheets contain many “generic” type stamps such as medical stamps, rank stamps for officers, stamps related to issue of equipment, etc., that could be used in almost any Soldbuch. If you are new to filling out the Soldbuch, sheet A will get you started. As you get proficient in using these stamps, you will likely want sheet B as well. With the stamps on these two sheets, you have the ability to create very realistic-looking documents, with the typical well-traveled appearance of books carried by soldiers with extensive wartime experience.

But what about stamps specific to your unit? If you plan to fill out multiple Soldbücher for the same unit, I think you would find the following stamps useful:

-A round stamp and line stamp with the designation of the unit your group portrays. These can be used for leave award entries, security checks, etc. as well as on award documents.

-A round stamp with the Feldpost number of the unit your group portrays. These were used on mail and were widely used to certify entries in the Soldbuch and other documents for units in the field.

-A round stamp and line stamp of a training/replacement unit that supplied recruits to the field unit your group portrays, for use on page 2 and on entries pertaining to training.

Many units (both training units, and field units) changed their designations over the course of the war. If this is the case with the unit your reenactment portrays, you may want to get stamps for each of the different designations, for recreating Soldbuch entries made at different times.

I can make any custom stamp, and if you don’t know your unit’s Feldpost number or the n of a training/replacement unit that would fit for your group, I might be able to help; just e-mail me at intrenches1945@gmail.com.



Modern made wartime type ink bottles

Office Supplies Posted on Tue, December 10, 2019 10:10AM

Wehrmacht soliders used lots of different types of ink bottles. Excavated finds from dumps in former Wehrmacht positions in eastern Europe have turned up a wide variety, not only German ink but products of other countries as well. Wartime ink bottles were made in many different shapes and sizes, with caps made of metal or plastic, or even simple cork closures. One style of bottle that seems to be a common type has an integral rest for a pen. This is an old style, the oldest ones had simple openings closed with a cork and were made not only of glass but also from stoneware and ceramic. This shape appears to me to have been more popular in Germany (or at least in Europe) than in the USA, if surviving original bottles are a good indication. Here are two original bottles of this style, from Wehrmacht dumps.

These have screw-on plastic tops. They are different and probably are from two different brands of ink. They probably had labels originally, though no trace remains. Whether or not all ink bottles had labels on them at that time or not, I don’t know.

The company J. Herbin in France still produces ink in 30 ml bottles that are basically the same as the originals above. Here are two modern J. Herbin ink bottles with the labels removed. I put a pen on one so you can clearly see the pen rest feature these have. It’s a handy feature that keeps inky nibs off the desk.

J. Herbin ink in these 30 ml bottles is widely available from online retailers.



“Griffelkasten” – box for writing tools

Office Supplies Posted on Tue, December 03, 2019 08:18PM

Probably every person who went to school in prewar Germany would have been familiar with a “Griffelkasten.” This was a wood box used by children and students to house their writing tools, initially slate pencils used on a slate board, and later, more typically, pencils, dip pen holders and nibs. Here are two that I have, both are what I would call the classic typical style with a sliding lid. The painted one is newer, maybe postwar; the dark wood one is probably over 100 years old. There were lots of variants of these and they remained in widespread use until the seventies. I have one that was a German souvenir from Poland in October 1939. I have found the Griffelkasten to be a very handy thing for my clerk impression field desk setups, for protecting my pencils and dip pens and keeping them where I can find them. To me it is evocative of the writing culture of that era, as well as being useful.



Sizes of “Dienststempel” service stamps

Original Paperwork Posted on Fri, September 27, 2019 11:27PM

If you compare the two different round “Dienststempel” service stamps used by paymasters on this page of this original Soldbuch, you will notice that they are two different sizes. The one on the top is neatly contained within the column and measures about 33 mm in diameter. The lower stamp is larger than the column and is about 35 mm. Sizes up to 37 mm are not unusual for these round stamps, they varied in size.



WWII German Typewriters with the SS Runic Key

Office Supplies, Schreibtisch Posted on Thu, September 26, 2019 08:22PM

During WWII, many German typewriters (and some typewriters made in other countries) were manufactured with a special key that types the runic emblem of the SS, a paramilitary organization that was a branch of the Nazi party.

These typewriters were manufactured by companies including Groma, Olympia, Torpedo, Triumph, Continental, Urania, and Seidel & Naumann, among others. Typewriters made by Remington in the USA, and by Olivetti in Italy, with German keyboards and intended for the German market, were also made with the SS runic key.

The German factories that made typewriters, generally speaking, made thousands of typewriters each year. These typewriters were available with a nearly infinite number of keyboard and type slug configurations. The SS rune was only one of a large number of special characters that were manufactured. Some Third Reich-era typewriters came from the factory with the SS runic key, but with others, this key may likely have been an option that could have been chosen when ordering. Any competent typewriter repairman in those years could easily have switched out type slugs and keytops. It is not at all uncommon to find special keys on typewriters where the keytop or typeslug do not match the others. They could have left the factory like that or been modified by a distributor, retail shop or a typewriter repairman.

Who used typewriters with the SS key during WWII? Typewriters with field-gray paint were likely intended for military use. The Olympia “Robust” model, which was made both with and without the SS key, came in a special wooden transit crate and was designed to be especially resistant to dust; these were undoubtedly intended for use in the field.

Most typewriters with the SS key are identical to other commercially available typewriters that were marketed to civilians. It’s possible that typewriters such as these were used by military and government offices. It’s also possible that these could simply have available for anyone to buy. Documentation about specifically who used these typewriters, or if their use was restricted in any way (other than wartime restrictions that applied to any kind of typewriter), has proven elusive. It is not true that all German typewriters in WWII had this key. One SS-keyed typewriter in my collection came from a man who said his father used it during his wartime service in a German Army munitions depot. Other typewriters that I have with this key, bear commercial type labels for typewriter dealers or distributors, something I would not expect for machines made exclusively for government or military contracts.

After the war, many typewriters with the SS key were modified. Some were “denazified” by grinding off the runic sybol on the type slug and removing it from the keytop. Others had the SS slugs and keytops completely removed and replaced with other characters that were more useful after 1945. Many unmodified examples have nevertheless survived, and WWII German typewriters with the SS key are not very rare to find today, though they often change hands for significant sums, as they are desirable collectibles.

If you have questions about a specific WWII typewriter with the SS key, please email me at intrenches1945@gmail.com.



1938 Erika M Typewriter

Uncategorised Posted on Thu, August 22, 2019 10:32AM

I picked up this 1938 Erika M typewriter this week. I had brought it to a repairman to have the rubber on the platen and feed rollers replaced.

The Erika M typewriter is regarded by many typewriter collectors as the finest prewar portable typewriter ever made. No expense was spared in engineering this thing. The result was a machine that is easy to type on, extremely fast, with a very precise feeling. It has deluxe features like heavy nickel plated levers, “skeleton shift” (only the platen and paper tray move when shift is pressed, not the whole carriage) and a lever that adds spaces between the letters, for emphasis. I prefer typing on large, “standard” manual typewriters of the sort normally used at that time in offices. To me, the solid, sturdy feel of typing on a big typewriter cannot be beat. The Erika M feels like an attempt to replicate that experience in a portable format. They got pretty close. Any 1930s Erika typewriter is generally regarded as a quality object. But the M was the top of the line. “M” stood for “Meisterklasse.” It is a masterpiece.

Because these typewriters are avidly sought after by typewriter collectors, it is hard to get one of these for less than $200. I paid a bit over $200 for this one, plus another $100 for shipping from Hungary. When I got it, the platen was hard as stone, and the feed rollers had developed big flat spots, making the machine unpleasant to use. I spent another $150 for new rubber. The machine types as if it were brand new, now. I will get a lot of use out of this. I do have some other 1930s German portables that are as pleasant and fun to type on as this Erika M. Torpedo and Triumph portables from that era are fast, precise typers.



Office supply illustrations from a Wehrmacht book on sign painting

Office Supplies Posted on Tue, August 13, 2019 09:44AM

My friend Richard Tietze has this original Wehrmacht instructional book on sign painting. There are some illustrations of writing stuff inside. The dip pen nibs shown are from Brause, Soennecken and Heintze & Blanckertz. The waterproof ink and paint is from Pelikan. 

Vintage Heintze & Blanckertz nibs can still be found. The Berlin factory was destroyed in WWII and after the war a new factory was built in Frankfurt am Main. The “Berlin” marked nibs are all from before 1945.



Where to get wood stamp handles?

Instructionals Posted on Tue, August 06, 2019 11:24AM

For stamps that I use at reenactments, I prefer to find old German wooden stamp handles, strip off the old rubber and re-use the handle. I search for “Holzstempel alt” or “Holzstempel Konvolut” on eBay. de.

Wood stamp handles in the old style are still made and available in Europe. Jackson Marking Products is a US source for handles in the proper style.

For stamps that I only use at home, I cut simple wooden blocks. I used to use a cheap back saw and plastic miter box from the hardware store. Now I use a band saw. I just cut up scrap wood.



Reproduction Label for Typewriter Oil Bottle

Office Supplies, Reproduction Paperwork Posted on Wed, July 24, 2019 09:40PM

I recently picked up this vintage German bottle of oil for bicycles, sewing machines and typewriters. It has a Bakelite cap and remnants of the old oil inside.

I made a reproduction of this label. Print it on newsprint or some other thin, off-white paper with a bit of texture.



Wehrmacht Schreibstube living history

Living History Posted on Wed, March 13, 2019 10:21PM

Photos from WWII reenactment events in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Ohio, USA, December 2018-March 2019.



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