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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.



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.



Modern equivalents to WWII paper

Living History Posted on Sun, November 04, 2018 10:47PM


You can’t have a Schreibstube, without paper.

I collect many different types of wartime paper items including Feldpost letters, identity documents, passes, ration and personal kit item packaging and other ephemera from the war years. Paper used during the war came in a wide variety of textures, colors, and thicknesses but there are characteristics that I associate with wartime paper in general. Materials shortages necessitated the use of even things like potato stalks in German paper, it was different from most paper commonly used today. Most commercially available modern paper is made differently from what was used in the first half of the twentieth century, in general. Modern paper is brighter and smoother whereas wartime paper was often rougher, with a slightly mottled appearance. Of course there were exceptions to this, smooth paper did exist back then.

Having a Schreibstube necessitates

having a variety of different kinds of paper for different documents and purposes. I have found it very difficult to source exact modern equivalents for wartime paper, but I have been able to amass a lot of usable paper that looks close enough to fall generally within the very wide range of what was used. To reiterate, you are looking for paper that is not bright white, and that has some texture. One thing I do from time to time is go to an art supply store and look at sketch pads. There are a lot of different types of these pads available and many have usable paper. I will also look at stationery and try to find nice paper with subtle watermarks, or without watermarks, or various kinds of natural colored or off-white stock for specific projects.

One thing you can keep an eye out for is paper with a high recycled content that has not been bleached to bright white. Paper and envelopes in “Recyclinggrau” color, that may be available in Germany, look great.

If you look at pads of “kraft” paper, or colored “construction paper,” you may find usable stuff for making envelopes, small passes or ID documents, or other specific purposes. Here in the US, dollar stores often have sketch pads with thin newsprint type paper that is great.

Newsprint in general is very good to have and is widely available in pads. The issue with this is that it doesn’t stand up to fountain pen ink, which will bleed and feather. So newsprint alone is not suitable for all purposes.There is paper that is marketed today specifically for fountain pen use.

A lot of these pads of paper are 9” x 12” which is ideal as you can cut that down to the DIN A4 size that is and was standard in Germany.

Lastly, keep an eye out for actual vintage paper. In antique shops and thrift stores you can sometimes find old typewriter paper or old notebooks. Even small notebooks can yield great paper for typewritten Soldbuch inserts or other small documents. And old books may have blank end pages that can be utilized.



At the Gap

Living History Posted on Tue, January 26, 2016 01:22PM

I’m leaving today for the event at Fort Indiantown Gap, PA, and won’t be back until Sunday. I can’t ship any orders until next week. Sorry for the inconvenience.



The Schreiber Impression in Living History: a guide for beginners

Living History Posted on Sat, August 08, 2015 02:17AM

I’ve been having a busy summer and the new In Trenches web shop is still not ready for its debut. In the meantime, I wanted to post this new article. Every reenactment group needs a clerk to issue identity documents and other paperwork. This article is a guide for people interested in this unique specialty impression, it contains tips for how to get started and ideas for the practical application of this skill in a living history context.



Schreibstube, Fort Indiantown Gap PA January 2015

Living History Posted on Wed, February 04, 2015 05:18PM

Some photos from a Schreibstube. This was a collaborative effort between people from different groups. Larger versions of these photos here.



Paperwork for a living history impression

Living History Posted on Tue, January 06, 2015 04:35PM

I am often asked what would constitute an ideal set of paperwork for a first-person persona in reenacting. My answer is always that the best paperwork that a reenactor can carry
is paperwork that he understands and that he can relate to his persona. The
Soldbuch is the crux of personal paperwork and knowing what is written
in there and what everything means is a key step in a first person
impression. The flap in the back of the Soldbuch is a good place to keep
things like period photos, most are small and fit in there easily.
Anything that you can understand and explain and build a story around
will be better to carry than even perfect reproduction paperwork if you
don’t know what it means or how it relates to the character you
represent.

In
the realities of war, there were an endless number of variables regarding
what paperwork was carried. There were regulations, of course, but these
regulations seem to have been more or less widely disregarded, and much
of what was actually carried on a day-to-day basis seems to have
depended heavily on such variables as personal preference, unit or type
of unit, area of operations, etc. It seems like there were few hard and
fast rules as to what was carried and what was not, what was retained
and what was discarded. The Wehrpass was not supposed to have been
carried by the individual soldier but some soldiers went into captivity
carrying these so this must have happened at some times, for some
reasons. I have a Wehrpass of a man from Hamburg who was a prisoner of
the Americans, the book contains a wide variety of smaller IDs and
paperwork including a certificate attesting that the man’s Soldbuch was
destroyed by enemy action, this may be why he held on to the Wehrpass.
Having said all that, here are my personal conclusions based on my
studies of more or less untouched paperwork groupings. Others may have
come to different conclusions.
SOLDBUCH:
As stated, this was the basic individual ID and is the cornerstone of
personal paperwork from a reenactment perspective. Some soldiers were
issued Merkblaetter which were small leaflets about topics including gas
warfare and various ailments, these leaflets were supposed to have been
glued into the Soldbuch but the majority of original Soldbuecher,
including many books issued early on and carried throughout the war on
all fronts, do not have these (even when other various documents are
still associated with the Soldbuch) and so their issue was either rather
limited or the mandate to keep these in the Soldbuch was widely
ignored.

OTHER
ID DOCUMENTS: Soldiers were issued many different kinds of lesser ID
documents which were issued right down to Kompanie level in some cases.
This category can include things as simple as small signed and stamped
paper scraps attesting that the soldier belonged to a particular unit,
as well as various kinds of photo IDs such as the military
driver’s license or the Dienstausweis, and all kinds of passes and
permits.
TRAVEL
DOCUMENTS: Soldiers do seem to have retained various kinds of travel
documents such as the Dienstreiseausweis or the Wehrmachtfahrschein even
when the travel was completed, for whatever reason. There were also
documents that permitted soldiers more or less free travel in specific
areas for specific purposes, these also seem to have been retained.
There were also passes to enter certain cities, some of these were valid
only for a specific occasion, others were valid for longer periods.

AWARD
DOCUMENTS: Some have stated that award documents were to be kept in the
Soldbuch. Based on my studies, I do not believe that award documents
were carried in the Soldbuch most of the time. No doubt they were
carried in the field for a period immediately after issue, but the
official entries in the Soldbuch would seem to make carrying the
associated documents redundant.

LETTERS
FROM HOME: Regulations stipulated that letters from home were not to be
carried in the field to deny the enemy any intelligence contained
therein. In reality, soldiers did keep and carry these, sometimes
accumulating large numbers of them when circumstances permitted. I feel
that these are a must; Feldpost was second only to ammunition in the
supply system, getting mail from home was an important feature of the
life of the Landser.
PERSONAL
STUFF: By this, I mean really personal. Many soldiers carried small
booklets in which they would record addresses. Keeping records of mail
sent and received was also common. Some soldiers kept journals in these
small notebooks. They seem to have been very common. Photos of loved
ones were also carried by very many soldiers.

EPHEMERA:
I find lots of stuff in paperwork groupings that were intended to be
discarded but that were kept for whatever reason. A page from a
calendar, a little piece of newspaper, a blank form or a receipt for hay
or for cabbage, perhaps these were used as bookmarks, perhaps they had
some personal significance known only to the soldier, or maybe it was
just pocket trash. Some companies would even send advertisements in
various forms to soldiers at the front and sometimes the recipients
would hold on to these.

CIVILIAN
STUFF: Many soldiers seemed to have carried documents related to their
civilian lives, even when these documents would seem to have been
useless at the front. Insurance cards, post office box receipts,
paperwork regarding bank accounts, or similar stuff.

The
paperwork that you can carry is limited only by your imagination. I
have held many untouched paperwork groupings as carried by German
soldiers and have never found one loaded with Reichsmarks and porn as
carried by so many reenactors. It is far more common to find a couple of
plain-looking pictures, a local provisional ID or travel permit,
perhaps a letter from home or a certificate relating to the soldier’s
civilian life, and a scrap of paper with seemingly random notes, their
significance lost to time.



Schreibstube display, Fort Taber, New Bedford MA 2013

Living History Posted on Mon, June 24, 2013 09:07AM

Some pictures of a Schreibstube display from the 2013 Fort Taber D-Day commemoration can be found here.



Display, Collings Foundation WWII Weekend October 2012

Living History Posted on Thu, October 18, 2012 04:25PM

Some photos from a Schreibstube display. Larger versions of these photos here.



Small field desk set-up

Living History Posted on Tue, September 18, 2012 10:28AM

A small field desk set up at Odessa NY, September 2012.



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