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In Trenches News and Updates

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Schreibstube, Fort Indiantown Gap PA January 2015

Living HistoryPosted by Chris Pittman 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.




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Paperwork for a living history impression

Living HistoryPosted by Chris Pittman 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.



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Re-typeset custom stamps

Rubber stamp projectsPosted by Chris Pittman Wed, December 17, 2014 12:59PM
I make a lot of custom stamps where no original stamp image to copy is available. The most commonly requested type of stamp is the standard Dienststempel round service stamp with the German eagle emblem. Unless otherwise requested I create the designs for these using the Tannenberg font, which is the most similar computer font that I have found to the various metal typefaces used in the Nazi era for rubber stamps. I use an eagle design that I painstakingly copied from an original printed Dienststempel on an official mail envelope. I can also vary the fonts and eagle designs as needed for variety. Here are just a few of the many custom stamp designs I have made in the standard way. These are for the Heer, Luftwaffe, Waffen-SS and Kriegsmarine but I can of course design reproduction rubber stamps using the correct text, designations and abbreviations for absolutely any kind of unit. I can offer these as rubber only, with a regular wood handle, or with one of my WWII German reproduction wood handles.



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New Leitz binder labels

Reproduction PaperworkPosted by Chris Pittman Fri, October 03, 2014 10:53AM
I picked up a few used Leitz binders recently.
The new spine labels obviously are not period-looking. I have previously made some different period-type labels using graphics from wartime office supply companies but for the sake of variety I wanted to do something different with these and I decided to try to make a real Leitz label. Leitz started making these binders around 1900 and the look has not changed all that much. The label has certainly changed, the old-style logo had almost Chinese-looking characters. I finally found a picture of the original logo that was good enough to copy so I worked up a new spine label with the old-style logo.
I still do not have an original wartime or pre-war label that I could copy exactly so I had to use some creativity here but I am very pleased with the result. Here is a PDF:

Leitz Binder Labels


Cut carefully just inside the borders. These are sized for 3" binders. New Leitz binders are available from Empire Imports.

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Facebook group

LinksPosted by Chris Pittman Wed, September 24, 2014 09:36PM

There's a new group on Facebook for discussing original WWII German paperwork and recreations for living history. Pens and ink, rubber stamps, paper and forms, typewriters, Nazi-era civilian and military identity documents, the Wehrpass and Soldbuch, and everything related to the duties of a clerk in the Wehrmacht.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/WHSchreibstube/



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Reproduction handles for round Dienststempel stamps

Rubber stamp projectsPosted by Chris Pittman Tue, August 26, 2014 03:15PM
I have been working on these for months and am finally satisfied with these. I will be adding these to the web site soon.

It can be difficult to find old used stamp handles that will fit the round "Dienststempel" service stamps that are the most important stamps for personal ID paperwork and other military and civilian documents. Originals varied, here are a couple pictures of original stamp handles (first picture Spence Waldron collection):
I have copied the style that I believe was the most common and typical. These are made here in Massachusetts, hand-turned on a lathe from solid maple. Each one is about 3.25" high and the bottom is sized to fit standard Dienststempel stamps- the handle is about 40mm in diameter, original stamps (the rubber or metal part) were approximately 35mm. Because they are individually made and finished by hand they vary slightly and may have very slight imperfections but they are all very nice. Each one is burnished on the lathe, coated with linseed oil then finished with a gloss clear coat. They even have the brass pins in the handle as seen on originals to indicate which way to hold them when stamping. Here are pictures:

The cost for these handles is $12 each for just the handle or $25 each complete with a rubber stamp, plus shipping. Shipping is $3 for 1-3 stamps in the USA. In my opinion these original-type handles really add to a Schreibstube display. Please e-mail me at intrenches1945@gmail.com for ordering information.

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Luftschutz property stamp

Rubber stamp projectsPosted by Chris Pittman Fri, February 28, 2014 03:30PM
I wanted to show another stamp I made based on an original that is not a document stamp. This is a property stamp for the Luftschutz, the German air raid protection service. The Luftschutz used significant quantities of captured and obsolete equipment and this stamp was used on things like helmets, lanterns, gas masks and other personal equipment items.



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Stamps for a Festungs-Bau-Bataillon

Rubber stamp projectsPosted by Chris Pittman Mon, January 27, 2014 02:16AM

Here are some stamps I copied recently from an original Soldbuch. These are for Festungs-Bau-Bataillon 12 (a fortress construction unit) and the associated Ersatz unit, Bau-Ersatz-Batl. 6. I really like the ornate font on the line stamp for the Festungs-Bau-Batl.






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Schreibstube display, Fort Taber, New Bedford MA 2013

Living HistoryPosted by Chris Pittman Mon, June 24, 2013 09:07AM

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

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59 and senile, drafted into the Wehrmacht

Original PaperworkPosted by Chris Pittman Tue, June 11, 2013 09:51PM

The idea that German soldiers were all young men in their teens and early 20s is based more on an idealized caricature than historical reality. As the war dragged on, manpower shortages became so acute that many men previously passed over for medical reasons were called up to serve. The average age of the German Army in 1944 was 32; in Normandy, the average age in some gun crews was 45, some of the men were over 55. Of course, not all of these older fellows were assigned to combat duty. For every German soldier at the front, there were three in the rear, performing logistical or administrative tasks, on occupation duty, in training units, or home guard units, etc. As the front line came closer to Germany, many of these men found themselves in combat zones. I uploaded some scans of a Soldbuch I have for a 59-year-old draftee and WWI veteran who was assigned security duties in a Landessch├╝tzen unit. When he was released from the POW camp after the war he was judged to be malnourished, senile and unfit for any duty. A far cry from the supermen of wartime propaganda and post-war legend.

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