By: W. C. Stump
RELIC FROM THE BALKAN FRONT
Every now and then, a very desirable and rare war relic comes my way. After over 40 years of collecting, I still get that special thrill and exhilaration that I first experienced so long ago when I acquire my first war relic. It has been so long ago I do not remember what that relic was, but the feeling has never changed after all those years. As my collecting years seem to be coming to an end, and after owning so many great relics, I thought that pleasurable feeling has been erased from my mind. However, my new find has again fired that desires to search for hidden facts that can help this relic “come alive” and tell its story.
A day or two ago, I spotted an unusual black M-43 field cap listed on an Internet auction. It caught my eye because it appeared to be of S. S. Panzer pattern, but had the insignia of the German Police rather the S. S. Skull. It was an officer’s cap, noted by the silver bullion trim and was so interesting that I was determined to try and acquire this item. I have never been that interested in cloth items, but something about this cap stood out and “beckoned to me” to give it a place on my trophy shelf.
To make a long story short, I acquired the cap and the history behind it makes for what I knew would be a great story. Before I go any farther, the cap was acquired from a fine fellow collector by the name of Christopher Sweiwe, Troy Michigan, a new member of the Ohio Valley Military Society. He provided the basic information concerning the cap, and with the cap and his facts at my disposal I began my research into the history of the S. S./Police Panzer unit from whist this cap came.
Chris informed me that this cap came from a museum in Canada where it had been on display since shortly after the end of the World War two. It had been labeled as being worn by an officer of the “15th S. S. Panzer regiment commanded by a S. S. General Roshner fighting Tito’s Partisans.” With the cap and this vague clue, I began researching to find any information about a “Police/S. S. Panzer regiment”.
I spent the better part of a day looking through my reference library trying to find any S. S./Police Panzer regiment. Then I remembered that I had a source of information in my files that might provide the clue to unlocking the now mysterious unit. It was the March 1945 ORDER OF BATTLE OF THE GERMAN ARMY published by the Military Intelligence Division of the War Department. This book was given to me years ago by a former Lt. S. Zinderman. His book was well worn, filled with his personal notations and from first appearance was not worthy of being displayed in any collection or library. However, as it has for many years, it provided all the information to give the cap a personality and a story to tell.
The first thing I looked for was the name Roshner, with a rank of an S. S. General. There was no such name listed. However, there was a Erwin Rosener and he was an S. S./Police Obergruppenfurher, age 43, and was listed as HSSPF, Wrk. (Wehrkreis) XVIII as of August 1, 1944. He was the “Chief of the Anti-Guerrilla activities.” For some unusual reason, the U. S. didn’t have any other relevant information as to his past commands, dates, origin, or awards. This is most strange as he was such a high ranking S. S./Police officer.
Noting this information, I consulted Gerhard von Seeman’s book, Die Ritterkreuz Trager and Jost W. Schneider’s book Their Honor was Loyalty and again drew a blank.
I took another approach by looking for any S. S./Police Panzer regiment. None was found, so I started again, but at the top of the German High Command and now looked for an S. S./Police Panzer Division. Bingo..I found the unit. It was listed as the 4th S. S. Panzer Grenadier Division. Under the American designation was the German designated sub-title listing the Division as “4. S. S. - Polizei - Panzer - Grenadier -Division”.
The Division was formed in October of 1939 in Germany from members of the German police. After training, the Division campaigned in the West. From July 20, 1940, until July of 1941, the Division was in France. The Division was transferred to the eastern front, northern sector and was continuously engaged.
The Division was transferred to the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and assigned the Government security. This was after the assassination of S. S. Obergruppenfurhur Reinhard Heydrich in 1942. Partisan activity began to increase during this period. The unit was specifically provided security duties.
In the summer of 1943, the division was transferred to Greece, again combating partisan forces. In September, the Division was transferred to Serbia, then to Hungary in November of 1944. No further information was listed by the U. S. Army Intelligence. What is known is that the German forces suffered great losses, sometime entire divisions being wiped out, battling Tito’s Partisan and the Soviet forces.
Every time I admire my M-43 S. S./Police Panzer cap resting in my display case, I stop and day dream. I have found out a lot about the history of the Division whose officer once wore this simple black field cap. Alas, if the cap could just tell me its story, I would really have one most interesting story to tell. However, taking into consideration all that I know, I can close my eyes and almost see a Panzer officer, wearing my cap. He is wearing an Anti-Partisan War Badge, Tank Assault Badge, and a Close Combat Clasp on his uniform. Of course he is wearing a Knights Cross around his neck and charging into battle in the Saw River Valley, Near Zegreb, in December of 1944. Could you?
PARTISAN WAR BADGE
Is It Real?
One of the most interesting and desirable of all combat badges issued by the Third Reich is the Anti-Partisan War Badge. It is also one of the most widely reproduced badge found on today’s collectors market. I just acquired an original bronze example from a local W.W.II veteran and found it to be of a different strike than I have ever seen. It is unmarked, but has characteristics of two or more known makers that produced this badge during the brief 15-month period in which it was issued. Therefore, I would like to share the information I have accumulated over my years of collecting combat badges of the Third Reich, as well as that of other noted collectors, and in particular those who have covered the Anti-Partisan War Badge in references that they authored. Hopefully the answer to the question “Is it Real?” will be answered at the conclusion of this article.
Partisan fighters from all the occupied nations controlled by the armies of Nazi Germany immediately struck back at the invading German forces. The military branches of the Wehrmacht immediately engaged them, in turn. In October of 1942 Waffen S. S. Obergruppenfurher von dem Bach-Zelewski took over as Chief of Anti-Partisan Warfare. However, it was not until late January of 1944 that Himmler, Chief of the S. S., instituted a special war badge to recognize the service of the troops engaged in this type of combat. Most all recipients were recognized for their extremely dangerous service combating the partisans and guerrilla fighters, especially in the Balkans and behind the lines on the Eastern Front. The award came in three grades, bronze (for 20 days of active service), silver (for 50 days), and gold, (for 150 days). The awarding of this badge was not restricted only to the Waffen S. S., but the authority for recommendation was delegated down to the OKH, OKL, OKM as well as police leadership. (The Luftwaffe personnel were also eligible to receive this award but the bronze class required 30 operational sorties, 75 sorties to receive the silver class and 150 sorties to receive the gold class. If an enemy aircraft was shot down during a mission, that sortie counted as three.)
To the best of my knowledge the exact number of manufactures and specific types of the Anti-Partisan War Badge are still unknown after over fifty years as well as the number of badges awarded. This is due to the period of manufacture and limited number of the badges being awarded. Compare the number of personnel qualified to be awarded this badge with the number of Luftwaffe Pilots badges produced and awarded; or the Infantry Assault Badges, Tank Assault, or any other combat badges produced and awarded during W. W. II. Hard facts show that this badge was given to only a select few in a theater of the world where many recipients never returned and that the time the badges were issued was extremely short compared to all the other combat badges. Add the S. S. element, the sinister look with the serpents and dagger, and the popularity of collecting these items and logic dictates that one must understand why they are reproduced to the degree that they are today. It’s a simple fact that the demand far outweighs the supply and the greed for the dollar tend to cause the unscrupulous to crank out the reproductions by the hundreds. Each year they produce higher quality reproductions to snare the unwary collector.
I will try to point out the different original types of the Anti-Partisan War Badges that I personally know to exist. I am sure, especially after my latest acquisition; probably more examples or variations lie in some veteran’s souvenir chests just waiting to be discovered by today’s enthusiastic collectors.
I first want to acknowledge five noted collectors and authors and their books on the subject of Third Reich war badges: Ltc. (ret.) John R. Angolia (For Furher and Fatherland, volume 1, pages 106-108), David Littlejohn and Col. C. M. Dodkins (Orders, Decorations, Medals and Badges of the Third Reich), Page 156, Adrian Foreman (Forman’s Guide to Third Reich German Awards...And Their Values, Second Edition), pages 88 and 89, and Michael F. Tucker (Collecting Military Badges of the Third Reich).
I especially want to acknowledge the information provided to me for so many years by my late friend, Dr. Phil. Kurt-Gerhard Klietmann. His legacy as one of the most knowledgeable authorities on the subject of orders and decorations of the world, and his Institute for the Scientific Research of Orders will live on forever.
The first type of the Anti-Partisan War Badge is attributed to the firm of C. E. Junkers, Berlin. I once owned the badge pictured on page 106 of For Furher and Fatherland, Volume 1. It was a semi-hollow back with a “needle” type pin with cut out serpents. The years have erased my memory as to whether it was marked or not, but I distinctly recall that I showed this badge to Dr. Klietmann and he stated to me that it was of C. E. Junkers manufacture. One important feature that is found on the C. E. Junkers badge that is never observed on any other type is the fang of the serpent on the top left. Its fang is part of the cutout and the head of the serpent doesn’t touch its body that is wrapping around the blade of the sword. The cutout of the fang is more obvious in the flat back variation than in the semi-hollow back. (See copies No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, and 9) Another obvious feature is the sword handle appears to be twisted. One extremely rare version was manufactured in aluminum. I have owned one of these very rare badges. C. E. Junkers pioneered the use of aluminum. (The
Another semi-hollow back variation that I have owned was almost identical to the C. E. Junkers badge, but had the number “4” stamped on the pin. This was the identification number used by the firm of Steinhaur & Luck, Ludenscheid. I have no photograph of that badge. However, a near perfect reproduction this type badge bearing the hallmark “4” in the center of a brass, not steel, pin is coming out of Germany. It can be easily identified by looking at the reverse, the thin stamped hollow back, (Note: No Anti-Partisan War Badges were produced with a stamped full hollow back.), the type of pin and catch, and by the type of material it is produced from. Also, the serpents have four cutouts, a mark of all reproductions I have encountered.
The second type is exactly like type one, but with a wide flat pin with L/12 (the war time code for C. E. Junkers, Berlin) stamped on the pin. I inspected a badge of this badge in a collection in England in the early 1970’s. I have also observed the same type badge, but without any markings. Again, note the fang and open mouth of the serpent. (See aforementioned copies)
The third type is of solid construction and had a “needle” type pin and exactly like the observe of the first and second types. (See copies No. 6 and 8 - typical “needle pin”) Most Anti-Partisan War Badges encountered have the “needle pin”
The fourth type is exactly like the third, but had a flat pin and neither the third or fourth types were marked as to the maker. (See copy No. 2)
The fifth types are badges manufactured by other manufactures. It seems that competition still flourished as the war was coming to an end and various manufactures produced the Anti-Partisan War Badge. I had an example of the Anti-Partisan badge manufactured by the firm of Robert Hauschild, Pforzheim, who used the LDO number L/56 and is the only manufacture to use four cut-outs on the serpents. See page 106 of For Furher and Fatherland, Volume 1, for a picture of the badge I once owned. (See copy No. 6) Also make note that a new reproduction of this type of badge, produced in all three classes, has recently entered the country from Austria and Germany (See copy No. 11) as well as a cast copy also being offered from Germany. (See copy No. 12)
The sixth type is badges identical to type number five, but have no markings. I think that more than one manufacture produced this type of badge. I base this on the fact that minor details in the die strikes indicate that different dies were used. Considering the relatively short time that these badges were produced it is highly unlikely that a particular firm would have two dies for the same badge. Both the Junkers and Hauschild badges and my newly acquired variation have a long slender hilt on the sword. I have noticed that in other examples the hilt is larger and fuller in the center. (See page 156 of Orders, Decorations, Medals and Badges of the Third Reich.) (See copy No. 3)
The seventh type is the rarest of all Anti-Partisan War Badges and was produced by the firm of C. E. Junkers, Berlin. They are covered in detail by Adrian Foreman on page 88 of his book, Foreman’s Guide to Third Reich German Awards... And Their Values, 2nd Edition. These badges were the Deluxe Special Grade 111 in gold and awarded only four times by H. Himmler on the 15th of February 1945. (See page 108 of For Fuhrer and Fatherland for a picture of one of the presentation documents for this badge.) The badges were custom made convex, heavy gold plated tombak with blue steel finish on the sword blade and finely cutout serpents. To my knowledge, only one example exists today and it is in a private collection in England. (No photo available)
The eighth type was the Special grade of the Anti-Partisan War Badge in Gold and Diamonds 1944-45. Forman states on page 89 of his book Foreman’s Guide to Third Reich German Awards....And Their Values, 2nd edition, that twenty examples in silver-gilt with diamonds were produced, but never awarded. I have never seen an example of this type. (No photo available)
The above is a lot for anyone to try and remember when encountering an Anti-Partisan badge for the first time and don’t know what to look for to determine if it is real or fake. Therefore, here are some valuable things to look for that will help to avoid making a mistake and to answer the question “Is it real?”
1. Observe the type of material of which the badge was produced. If it is made of any other material other than tombak, kriegsmetal, and in the extremely rare case if aluminum, chances are that it is a reproduction. However, this alone doesn’t make the badge original wartime produced. Some reproductions are being made of similar looking material.
2. Check the back of the badge, especially the pin and catch. Look how it is affixed to the badge. Observe the type of pin and catch. Since all Anti-Partisan badges were produced in either tombak or kriegsmetal, affixing a pin and catch on this type of late war material was different than employed on other materials used earlier in the war. Michael J. Tucker covers this procedure quite well on page 44 of his book. The “C” type catch was affixed to a separate metal plate prior to the two parts being affixed to the badge. If one encounters an Anti-Partisan War Badge with the “C” catch soldered directly to the back of the badge is can safely be considered to be a reproduction. (See copy No. 2, 6, and 8) 99% of all original badges have steel pins and are affixed directly to the badge without employing a steel plate. However, some manufactures produced the pins of bronze or other metals other than of steel.
I would like to discuss the three different materials used during the late war years and of what they were composed. Also I want to point out what one should look for in determining the difference between them.
Tombak is an Alloy of copper, zinc, and tin. The color appears to be that of bronze. This type of material was used in many badges after 1943. The firm of C. E. Junkers used tombak for a brief period for their Anti-Partisan War Badges, but kriegsmetal was used most.
Britannia is an Alloy of antimony and copper. Often called “white metal”. One of the characteristics of this metal is that one can buff or polish it, thus giving it an appearance of nickel silver. This metal was used ever increasingly from middle 1942, with a peak use in 1943, until the end of the war. I have never encountered an Anti-Partisan War Badge produced in britannia, but it is possible that some were.
Kriegsmetal is an alloy of zinc, lead and copper. This metal was used very late in the war and the color was dark gray, almost looking like lead. Copper was a scarce commodity and its use was limited in badges after 1943. The percentage of lead and zinc compared to the copper content were greater in kriegsmetal giving it the look of lead. Dipping or “washing” as the last process of production applied the various finishes. After only very little use the badges quickly lost their finish and appeared to be made of lead. I have had badges made of kriegsmetal stored in display cases where the “washed” finish oxidized and faded and fell off at the touch. I always avoided these badges when I could get an early war produced example. I am not alone in avoiding or adding a kriegsmetal badge to my collection. Many other collectors avoid these badges, often considering them to be fake. However, many of the rarest badges of this period, particularly the Anti-Partisan War Badges, were constructed of the above described metal. It is important to take note and remember this as I continue.
Michael F. Tucker’s new book deals with how to detect if a badge is original or reproduction. His book, Collecting Military Badges of the Third Reich, should be a part of every collector’s reference library today. I have read his book and in my opinion it one of the best on the market dealing with detecting original badges from reproductions. While I am a firm believer that no single source is 100% correct in it’s content, I would have to give Mr. Tucker 95% for his efforts. I suggest that one refer to the chapters dealing with types of materials, pins and catches in his book.
The pin and catch on an original Anti-partisan War Badge MUST conform to the manner the manufactures used at the time to affix the pins and catches to both tombak and kriegsmetal badges.
We are now back to the haunting question: Is it real? If you acquire an item from a veteran, knowledgeable collector, or reputable dealer who will give a “life time” guarantee, you start out with a 99% chance the items is original. However, know your source as the most important advice I can offer. I’ve encountered hundreds of “veterans” who “personally took” post war combat badges off a dead enemy soldier or POW. Other stories are “my father, uncle or brother” brought this rare, but fake, badge back from the “Great World War Two.” It used to be in the 1950’s and 1960’s that a collector had three criteria that he followed when adding items to his collection. First, he looked at the condition, next the price, and originality was last. I have noticed today that the first thing a collectors asks himself “Is it real?” Then he looks the condition and the price is at the end of the list.
I am afraid that by the end of the next decade, a beginning collector will have to turn to Scotland Yard, the F. B. I., and the best forensic laboratories that can be found to determine what is real and what is fake. Hopefully, I will be wrong, but the quest for the all mighty dollar and man’s inherent greed seems to overshadow the quest to keep the past alive by searching for that original elusive war relic from the past. It also keeps us all reaching for the provable “brass ring” on the merry-go-around of war relic collecting. In conclusion, I know my source for my latest find and I can lie down with a worry free mind that it absolutely original in every way. But, when my Anti-Partisan War Badge next passes into another collectors hands, will he have to ask “Is it real”? Probably so because that is the most important question that a collector must ask himself as he prepares to inter into the collecting arena of the new millennium.
Refer to the appropriate aforementioned references for clear detailed photograph