Photos from WWII reenactment events in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Ohio, USA, December 2018-March 2019.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Some pictures of a Schreibstube display from the 2013 Fort Taber D-Day commemoration can be found here.
Some photos from a Schreibstube display. Larger versions of these photos here.
A small field desk set up at Odessa NY, September 2012.
Here are some pictures from a small display at the annual D-Day commemoration at Fort Taber in New Bedford, Massachusetts, June 2012. Fort Taber is a 19th century fort that is not that much different from fortifications made in Europe at the same time and later used by the Wehrmacht as munitions depots and for other purposes. This vignette depicts the work stations of a Hauptfeldwebel and Schreiber in the Kompanie-Schreibstube.
folding table is stocked with supplies for filling out the Soldbuch. The
field desk has binders and also some small boxes to keep supplies
organized. On top of the
field desk is a wooden box containing the Wehrpaesse for the Kompanie, and a 1935 typewriter. Field desk with binders.
Work station with stamps and stamp stands, period type bakelite and metal stamp pads, pens, ink, a
small rocker blotter, pencil tin, etc.Two
work stations facing each other seems to be a common feature in
original Schreibstube photos.