DDR Generals Insignia & Uniforms


All pictures and research courtesy Richard Church and Tony Fabo. 

Introduction and Historical Context courtesy Richard Church.


A Brief Introduction to East German Militaria


Many uniform traditions of the Wehrmacht lived on in the newly-created NVA: tunics and headgear piped in various Waffenfarben, embroidered bullion tunic and hat insignia for officers and generals, the basic design of shoulder boards and collar tabs, helmet decals and the wearing of dress daggers after 1961 to name just a few. Uniforms, headgear and insignia produced during the first few years of the NVA (1956-1965) rival their 3rd Reich counterparts in terms of quality, rarity and aesthetic appeal. Uniforms and headgear could either be obtained through standard military supply channels or through civilian tailor shops. Tunics and trousers could be purchased off the shelf and then tailored to fit or completely custom made from scratch. Even enlisted ranks had the opportunity to purchase tailor-made, officer quality uniforms and hats for formal occasions. Thus numerous, small variations in insignia and uniform color and design can be observed, as might be expected under such conditions.


As time went on, the East Germans continually sought to standardize and streamline production methods and to cut costs. Bullion embroidery was replaced with stamped metal, headgear and tunic piping was standardized to white for all branches of the Army (for ranks below general), uniforms were manufactured under standard conditions and in a greater variety of sizes in order to accommodate more people with “off the shelf” fit, and the dark collar tunic was replaced with an open collar design. One thing that did not change, however, was that generals in the NVA continued to wear custom tailored uniforms crafted from superior materials and workmanship.

The number of Generals in the NVA is just a fraction of the number of Generals in the Wehrmacht. Throughout the entire history of the NVA (1956 – 1990), there were only about 250 Admirals and Generals from all branches of service. The majority of these did not attain the rank until after 1965, thus the number of Generals and Admirals in the first 10 years or so of the NVA is very small indeed. The uniforms and insignia from this time period are exceedingly rare, much more so than their Wehrmacht counterparts. 


The selection of uniforms, headgear and insignia presented here is, unfortunately, only partially complete. Some important and beautiful examples from the earliest years of the NVA (and their predecessor, the KVP) are virtually unobtainable and will likely ever be seen only in reference books. It is hoped, however, that collectors and historians will at least get an idea of the development of German uniforms and insignia that continued after the end of WWII, on the “other side” of the wall.   (For further information and a historical context of the East German army, scroll to the bottom of the page)



DDR General Officer Shoulderboard Patterns


There were three distinct patterns of DDR Generals shoulderboards over the years of 1956 – 1990, beginning with early bullion cord 4 loop boards very similar to the WWII style, and evolving into nylon cord based, 5 loop boards.



1st Pattern East German Army Generals Boards

4 loop (excluding button loop) bullion cords with 1st pattern pips, used from 1956 - 1966



2nd  Pattern East German Army Generals Boards

4 loop (excluding button loop) nylon cords with 2nd pattern pips, used from 1966 - 1980



3rd  Pattern East German Army Generals Boards

5 loop (excluding button loop) nylon cords with 2nd  pattern pips, used from 1980 - 1990





DDR General Officer Shoulderboards – Rank Structure



Gold & silver intertwined cords with a single rank pip at the base/shoulder seam.




Gold & silver intertwined cords with two rank pips sequentially spaced from the base.





Gold & silver intertwined cords with three rank pips, sequentially spaced from the base.





Gold & silver intertwined cords with four rank pips, evenly filling the board from base to button loop.

Only 5 men attained the rank of Armeegeneral throughout the history of the NVA (3 NVA, 1 Stasi and 1 general of Police)




Marshal der DDR

Four loop gold & silver intertwined cords with a single, large gold rank pip with a ruby center, affixed to the center of the board.  Marshal boards are a bit wider than other General officer boards.





DDR General/Admiral Corresponding Ranks for Branch of Service



Air Force/Air Defense

Border Troops

























DDR General/Admiral Officer – Branch of Service Backing Colors


Army - Shoulderboard

Bright Red Service Branch Color



Army – Collar Tab

Bright Red Service Branch Color



Border Troops - Shoulderboard

Bright Green Service Branch Color



Border Troops – Collar Tab

Bright Green Service Branch Color




Air Force/Air Defense - Shoulderboard

Light Blue Service Branch Color


Air Force/Air Defense – Collar Tab

Light Blue Service Branch Color




Navy - Shoulderboard

Dark Blue Service Branch Color



Navy – Collar Tab

Dark Blue Service Branch Color





DDR General/Admiral Officer Collar Tabs



Early Bullion Collar Tab

These are embroidered bullion collar tabs, used from 1961 - 65. These angled tabs were used on the closed collar, 4 pocket tunic for parade and service. There was a version of right-angled tabs used on an open collar, double-breasted tunic for walking out. (from 1956 – 1961 an artificial bullion, similar to celleon was in use, though I do not have an example to show for reference)



Subdued Bullion Generals Tab



Later Style, Metal Parade Collar Tab

In 1965/66 bullion insignia was abandoned and replaced by stamped metal collar tabs.





Navy Admral

Gold embroidered wreath on dark blue badge cloth.




KVP-Bereitschaften General

These collar tabs were worn by generals of the KVP-Bereitschaften, the defacto military, from 1952 - 1956. This specimens is on a maroon backing, which signified a general of the Infantry. There were smaller tabs are for wear on the tunic, and larger tabs are for wear on the greatcoat.



Bullion Collar Tab

Here is an ebroidered bullion collar tab on a rectangular base, which was used on the double-breasted Walking Out tunic circa 1961 - 66.


(The bullion collar tab shown previously was used on the Service tunic and the red-piped, 4 pocket Parade tunic.)


As these were hand embroidered, no two sets of collar tabs are completely identical. Compare the embroidery with the angled-base collar tab and you will see differences.


As with hat insignia, Generals' collar tabs were made from embroidered celleon from 1956 - 61, then embroidered bullion from 1961 - 66. Generals' celleon collar tabs are extremely rare, even more rare than Generals' bullion collar tabs.




Celleon Collar Tab

A photo of two single East German Generals' collar tabs that showed up recently on German Ebay.


One tab is for an Army General, on the red rectangular base for the double breasted walking out tunic. The other tab is for an Air Force General, on the angled base for the service and parade tunics. The period of use for these collar tabs would be 1956 - 61.






DDR General Officer Uniforms



Army Generals Service Tunic – 1956 - 1958



This is a completely custom tailored uniform so there are no date stamps, but judging by the construction & weight, texture & color of the fabric this tunic is believed to be quite early, circa 1956-58.


Other features that suggest very early vintage are: the color contrast between the collar & the rest of the uniform is not as pronounced as on tunics produced after about 1958 and the cuffs are noticeably shorter than those on later vintage tunics. These short cuffs seem to be an early variant sometimes seen on tunics prior to about 1960/61. 


The collar tabs are embroidered celleon, produced from 1956 - 61. They are hand-stitched to the collar. The buttons are the 1st pattern. The DDR Staatswappen design is sightly different than that used on later buttons and the finish on the buttons has a matte, brass-like appearance whereas later buttons have a brighter, mirror-like finish.


By "the book", this tunic should have the 1st pattern, 4-loop bullion shoulder boards (1956-66) yet it has the 2nd pattern, synthetic 4-loop shoulder boards with 1st pattern pip. The early shoulder board buttons & tie strings (NOT easy to find floating around) suggest that the boards are indeed original to the tunic.


There are 2 possible explanations: 1. This tunic was worn into the 60s when it had the 2nd pattern boards attached, perhaps as replacements for damaged or tarnished bullion boards. 2. Synthetic boards came into service earlier than conventional wisdom dictates.


The belt is dated 1957 and is of noticeably higher quality than belts produced in the 1960s & beyond. The design of the belt is the same as that used by officers except the buckle has a gold colored finish.






Generals Subdued Tunic – 1959 - 1964


This is a general's tunic with subdued insignia. Tunic is custom made, as were all generals' uniforms. Subdued insignia for all ranks was used from 1959 - 1964, although it was used later than 64, perhaps as late as 1968.

There are no markings in the tunic as is common for custom made tunics in the DDR, this piece is likely from circa 1960.

The subdued shoulder boards are have 4 loops (WWII style) with gray painted, 1st pattern pips. The buttons are gray plastic, although gray painted aluminum buttons were also used on subdued tunics.




Generals Service Tunic – 1980’s


In 1974, the dark collar tunic was abandoned in favor of the open collar tunic. All tunics were now piped, with Service tunics having no cuff bars and Parade tunics sporting cuff bars. After 1982, cuff bars were abandoned altogether and the only thing distinguishing Service tunics from Parade tunics was the accoutrements (brocade belt, aguilette and full medals for Parade; leather belt & ribbon bars for Service).

As in WWII, Generals' uniforms were custom made and they often have other custom features such as loops for medal or ribbon bars. Also, the buttons have a DDR Staatswappen design rather than the pebbled finish.


Note: In the earlier dark collar era, tunics came in 2 basic varieties: Service & Parade. Service tunics were unpiped with bullion collar tabs, Parade tunics were piped in red around the cuffs & collar, and sometimes even down the front lapel. Parade tunics were worn with bullion collar tabs & cuff bars, then after 1965, with stamped metal collar tabs & cuff bars.






Generals Parade Tunic – 1970’s


This is a Parade Tunic and this style was worn from 1974 - 1982. This one has the 4 loop shoulder boards, so it is likely 70s vintage. It's hard to see in the photos, but it also has real French cuffs, which is unusual even for generals' tunics.

This style of tunic would be worn for parade with breeches & the accoutrements included with your consignment uniform, or for "walking out" with trousers & ribbon bars.




Generals Double Breasted Tunic – 1970’s


Here is another style of tunic, the double breasted. The double breasted tunic was an optional item as it was intended for walking out (Ausgeh) or as a sort of formal occasion dress. It was worn with trousers and either ribbon bars or full medals, depending on the occasion.

The double breasted walking out tunic was worn throughout the duration of the NVA, 1956 - 1990. In the earliest years these tunics had bullion collar tabs & cuff bars and was piped in gold-colored, braided aluminum. At some point, possibly around 1965, the gold piping was dropped in favor of the red cloth piping. Cuff bars were also discontinued on this tunic, possibly sometime between 1965 and 1974.

My tunic has the 4 loop shoulder boards and it came with the 1972 dated hat so it is of early to mid 70's vintage.

Note also the base of the collar tabs. On the Service & Parade tunics, the base of the collar tabs are angled to match the cut of the collar. The base of the collar tabs on the Double Breasted tunic have right angle corners, to match the right angle of the lapels.




Generals Greatcoat – 1980’s


Here is a typical general's greatcoat. It has a number of features that distinguish it from an officer greatcoat, most notably the piping round the cuffs & collar and the presence of collar tabs. Some have real French cuffs - this particular one does not.
 While dark collar greatcoats were abandoned for officers & EM ranks after 1986, generals continued to wear them until the end. Like tunics & trousers, greatcoats were custom made and have none of the standard issue markings.

This one has 5 loop shoulder boards and six-buttons in front, so is most likely 80's vintage. (Greatcoats earlier than about 1977 had 10 buttons in front.)  Pre-1965 greatcoats had bullion collar tabs, after that they had stamped metal collar tabs.




Generals Geselleschaft Jacket – Army, 1980’s


This Gesellschaft jacket was for formal or social occasions. The Gesellschaft uniform was worn by both officers & generals and was worn with white shirt, tie, trousers and visor hat (depending on the situation).

There were two basic ways of wearing the Gesellschaft uniform: the Kleiner Gesellschaftsanzug with ribbon bars and academy badge; and the Grosser Gesellschaftsanzug with up to the 4 highest awarded medals, aguillette and dagger. The jacket itself was the same for both the Kleiner & Grosser Gesellschaftsanzug, only the accoutrements varied.  The Army general Gesellschaft jacket pictured here is outfitted for the Kleiner Gesellschaftsanzug. The color is a very pale gray, although in the pics it may look more white. And of course, it is completely custom made. It has the late pattern shoulder boards so the jacket would appear to be of 80's vintage.  The ribbon bar is custom made, with the cloth ribbons being assembled in the proper order of precedence and then stitched onto a cloth backing that matches the material of the jacket. The whole thing is then stitched down onto the jacket.

The triangular shaped badge designates a graduate of the Friedrich Engels Academy, the NVA's premier military academy. Graduates of the Friedrich Engels Academy (opened in 1959 I believe) did rise to General rank, although it is more common to see NVA generals with Soviet academy badges.



Generals Grosser Geselleschaft Jacket – Border Troops, 1980’s


Here we have the Grosser Gesellschaftsanzug for a Border Guard (Grenztruppen der DDR) general.  The jacket itself is the same as for the Kleiner Gesellschaftsanzug, but with the Grosser Gesellschaftsanzug the jacket is worn with aguilette, dagger, and 4 highest medals.

The collar tabs & shoulder boards are identical in design as for the Army, except of course with a green backing to signify Grenztruppen. The aguilette is made of a golden yellow colored nylon. The aguilette was introduced in 1976, after the transition away from the dark collar tunic. (What a shame - those dark collar tunics would have looked great with an aguilette!) As far as we know, the generals' aguilettes were always made of nylon, whereas officers' were made of silver colored aluminum thread until 1986, when they switched to a silver/gray nylon.

The medals are not original to the tunic, but are a reasonable assortment of medals for the most junior General rank (Generalmajor), especially if he were just recently promoted. From left to right, the medals are: Kampforden in bronze, and the Verdienste Medal of the NVA in gold, silver & bronze.  Up until 1977, Army, Navy, Air Force & Grenztruppen all wore the same medals. Then in 1977 the Grenztruppen came out with their own versions of the Verdienste and Treue Dienste medals. So to be correct, the guy pictured here would have had to have been awarded his Verdienste medals prior to 1977/78.

The tunic has the 1980 pattern, 6 loop shoulder boards so the tunic is likely of 80's vintage, perhaps as early as 1980.
The triangular shaped badge is once again a Friedrich Engels academy badge. I found a nice photo of a general wearing an Engels academy badge that I will send just to prove that not all NVA generals were graduates of Soviet acedemies.
The dagger is suspended on hangers attached to a D-ring inside the jacket. The design of the dagger was identical for all branches of service, only the color of the backing on the hangers differed - red for Army, green for Grenztruppen, blue for Air Force, and dark blue for Navy. Only military officers & generals wore daggers - the Police, Customs, and civilian organizations did not wear daggers.




Generals Rain Camo BDU Jacket – 1980’s


Here is a BDU jacket for generals in the standard East German "rain pattern" camo. (In German, it's called "ein Strich, kein Strich".)

Rain pattern camo was introduced for all ranks below General beginning in 1965. It’s not certain when Generals started wearing rain pattern, but possibly around the mid-70's. The overall design is quite similar to the standard camo jacket worn by lower ranks, except the Generals' BDU jacket has no cargo pockets on the upper sleeve. Also, the Generals' jacket is fully lined with a smooth, polyester material whereas lower ranks' jackets are completely unlined. The buttons in front are hidden under the front lapel. Unlike the dress & parade uniforms, the BDUs do have standard NVA issue markings. This particular jacket is dated 1981 and has the 1980 pattern, 6-loop subdued shoulder boards.

The jacket is pictured as it was worn in the field: with gray dress shirt & tie, brown leather service belt with gold-colored double claw buckle and overseas hat.




Air Force Generals Service Tunic – 1980’s



Here is a 1980's vintage Air Force General's tunic. As you can see, the design & color of the tunic is the same as the open collar Army generals' tunics, except the piping & base color of the collar tabs & shoulder boards is a teal/blue. You can also see that the collar tabs are identical in design to the Army & Border Guard tabs.

Like the Luftwaffe in WWII, officers & generals in the East German Air Force always wore an open collar tunic from the very beginning. Unlike the Luftwaffe, the color of the Air Force uniforms was the same stone gray as the Army uniforms. There was only one color of piping ever used by the East German Air Force, the teal blue shown in these photos. Like Army insignia, Air Force collar tabs, cuff bars and visor hat insignia were embroidered in bullion from 1956 until the mid 60s, when it was phased out in favor of stamped metal. The shoulder boards also went through a similar evolution, starting with a bullion, 4 loop pattern followed by a celleon, 4 loop pattern from 1966 - 1980, and finally a 5 loop celleon design from 1980 - 1990.

This tunic has the 1980 pattern, 6 loop shoulder boards. It is pictured as it would have been worn for service dress: with gray shirt & tie, brown leather belt with gold colored, double claw buckle. Ribbon bars & academy badge also would have been worn.





DDR General Officer Headgear


Generals Overseas Cap - 1961


This is an example of a general's overseas hat, which is dated 1968, however this type of hat was introduced in 1961. The wreath is embroidered, gold-colored bullion.

Note that the hat is marked "DDR" rather than "NVA" (Nationale Volksarmee). Hats marked "DDR" are believed to have been used by the Stasi.(Stasi generals wore the same uniform as Army generals.) Thus this hat would have been used by a Stasi general, probably in command of an administrative district or perhaps even at the Minister level.

The other markings are: "55" is the size, "1856" is the manufacturer code number, sort of the like an RB number.

The identity of "1856" is known: it is "VEB Perfekt." VEB stands for "Volks Eigene Betrieb", or "Peoples' Owned Enterprise". VEB Perfekt made cloth headgear for the East German military, police and uniformed civilian organizations.




Generals Subdued Overseas Cap - 1965


The hat is dated 1965 and "NVA" marked (it is typical for generals' headgear to be "NVA" marked). The hat itself is the same as an officer's overseas hat (gabardine material, unpiped), but officers wore only an embroidered DDR Staatswappen cockade whereas generals wore an embroidered wreath with metal & enamel Staatswappen cockade. The wreath is embroidered in a golden/brown synthetic fabric onto the backing which is hand-stitched to the hat in this case.





Generals Overseas Cap – mid 1970’s


Here is the style of overseas hat worn from about the mid-70's onward. Note that the side flaps are stitched down, unlike the 1968 hat. This example is dated 1990, made prior to the use of the West German style bullseye cockade just before re-unification. The wreath pictured here is embroidered in synthetic fabric and is supposed to have been introduced in 1986.

There is supposed to be a stamped metal version of this wreath used on overseas hats from the mid 60's (when they abandoned bullion embroidery) to 1985, but they have yet to be encountered. They are either exceedingly rare or the conventional wisdom is mistaken. (Interestingly, it is not very common to see overseas hats being worn in photos. In most cases they are wearing either the visor hat or the Ushanka.)



Generals Visor Cap - 1956


Here is the 1956 Army Generals visor hat, among the rarest of the rare. There is actually no date on the hat but the "DDR/I" marking on the sweatshield was used only from 1956-58. The quality of construction & materials leads one to  believe that the hat is from the earliest production for the NVA.  


The wreath is embroidered in celleon with an embroidered bullion bullseye cockade. The chin cord is also celleon. Chincords used after 1965 were nylon, so there is a noticebale difference in surface appearance of the 1956 celleon cord vs. the post-1965 nylon cords.


The liner is a dark, chocolate brown colored cotton and the sweatband is a very soft & supple "pigskin" textured leather. The gabardine material used for the crown of the hat is very reminiscent of WWII gabardine.


The maker's identifying code number, "1855", can be seen on the sweatshield. "1855" has been identified as the "Emhage" company. "Emhage" is the East German incarnation of the well-known "Erel" company. Robert Lubstein's widow ran the company until operations were taken over by the East German government sometime in the late 40s - early 50s.




Private Purchase Generals Visor Cap – 1959?


This hat has the manufacturer's logo ("Emhage") inside, indicating a private purchase hat. (Emhage is the DDR incarnation of "eReL").


This hat is believed to be circa 1959. It has a very attractive black, cotton twill lining and brown, pigskin texture leather sweatband and is just 1 of 2 known General's visors with manufacturer logos.






Generals Visor Cap - 1964


Here is a 1964 dated general's visor hat.

 The visor is made of WWII-style Vulkanfiber, used until 1965. The cockade is the DDR Staatswappen as is standard for headgear after 1961. From 1956-61, the wreath was the same but the cockade was the red/yellow/black "bullseye", (an example is shown below). The cord is made of nylon, introduced after 1965. Prior to that, generals' hat cords were gold colored bullion. This cord was either a replacement, or the hat was unissued until after 1965, whereupon it received the nylon cord.  The sweatband is a red/brown colored leather, and the lining is a cotton twill material, similar to that used in WWII M43's & overseas hats.

Although generals' uniforms were custom made, nearly all generals' hats have standard NVA issue markings. Although sometimes you will see hats with non-standard features, such as unusual material for the crown or, in one known case, grommet vents at the sides. But even these customized hats have standard issue markings.




Subdued Generals Visor Cap – 1962 - 1964



The crown of the hat is done in the typical gabardine, but the cap band is a dark olive/gray much like standard officer visor hats. The piping is a dark gray, which was not a standard Waffenfarbe used by the East German Army but rather used exclusively for subdued hats & insignia. (Dark gray piping was used by the East German Air Defense for shoulderboard base & collar tab/cuff bar piping, but the hats & tunic cuffs/collars were piped in Air Force blue.)


The wreath is embroidered in an olive/brown fabric and the Staatswappen cockade is the standard gold-colored version used on the service/parade visor hat & overseas hat after 1961. There is a version of the subdued general's wreath with bullseye cockade used 1959-61, but thus far no visor hat with the subdued wreath & bullseye has surfaced on the market. A couple examples of the loose wreath have turned up.


The cap cord is also an olive/brown fabric. Note the cap buttons painted in an olive/green color.


The interior of the hat features a red/brown leather sweatband and a very smooth, dark gray cotton twill lining similar to that found in WWII overseas hats. The sweatshield is especially interesting since it has the "Emhage" logo, indicating that this is a private purchase hat. (Recall that "Emhage" is the East German incarnation of Erel.)



Generals Visor Cap - 1965



Here is a 1965 dated general's visor hat.

 This hat is dated 1965 and "TGL" marked, typical of mid-60's hats. Rather than being marked "NVA", this hat is marked "DDR", which is believed to be associated with the Stasi.


The maker code for the hat is 1855, which is a company called "Emhage". Emhage was the East German incarnation of the famous "Erel" firm. The same facilities used by Robert Lubstein's firm were used by the East Germans.


The wreath and chincord are both made from gold-colored bullion. The visor is made of WWII-style Vulkanfiber, the sweatband is a soft, supple chocolate brown leather and the lining is green/gray satin, which is very unusual (but not unprecedented) for an East German visor hat. The hat also has a pronounced saddle shape, quite reminiscent of some Wehrmacht visor hats.





Generals Visor Cap - 1972


Here is an example of a 1972 dated visor hat. By this time, they had stopped using bullion wreaths and replaced them with the stamped metal version with the Staatawappen cockade attached to the wreath with prongs. (there is a round, flat center piece in the middle of the wreath to which the cockade is attached.)

The WWII syle Vulkanfiber visors were abandoned after 1965 when they switched to the black plastic visors, which is what this hat has. The sweatband is a reddish/brown colored leather and the lining is a cotton twill.

Note that this hat has metal grommets on the sides, which is most unusual. (Police visor hats typically had grommets, but this is most unusual for a military visor hat.) In fact, this is the only military visor hat encountered with grommets.

It is interesting, and a bit of mystery, that while generals' clothing items were custom made & had none of the typical issue markings, that does not seem to be necessarily true for headgear. Yet, the presence of the grommets on this hat indicates that at least some customization was done. (Private maker logos are found on early officer visor hats, and I'm sure they were also found on generals' visors as well. It's just that the early generals' stuff is so ridiculously rare!)

Another item of note on this hat is the sweatshield. It is the WWII style, clear plastic with the markings ink stamped onto it. It is stitched onto the lining. The date is given by the letter "B", which is 1972.

The number preceded by the letters "TGL" (seen above the "NVA" stamp) is a manufacturing specification number to which all visor hats must conform. TGL translates as something like "basic equipment list". The "TGL" marking was used on clothing items & headgear from about 1966 - 1975.



Generals Visor Cap - 1990


This is an example of a 1990 visor hat.  Overall it is quite similar to the 1972 visor hat, except there are no grommets and the sweatband is gray leather. (All generals' visor hats had leather sweatbands, even after they switched to that horrible dark brown vinyl stuff used in officer & EM hats.)

The sweatshield is also different. It is a diamond-shaped plastic, hot-melted onto the lining and the markings are embossed into the sweatshield. This type of sweatshield was adopted beginning in 1982 for all visor hats of all ranks. They can be either clear (like this one) or, more commonly, a semi-opaque white.

Also included is a photo comparing the fabric on the 1972 visor hat (left) vs. the 1990 visor hat (right). The fabric on the right is the gabardine material commonly used for officer & general uniforms & headgear. The fabric on the left is a lighter weight, tighter weave material that is sometimes seen on private purchase hats & uniforms. Both of these materials were used pretty much throughout the history of the DDR, although the real early gabardine tends to be very similar to WWII gabardine.

Lastly, a photo of the final pattern wreath where the wreath & cockade are stamped as a single piece. These only emerged in the last few years of the DDR and not many found their way onto hats.  In the last few months just prior to re-unification, the DDR Staatswappen cockade was replaced with a West German style bullseye cockade for all ranks. Unfortunately there is not an example of this style wreath to be shown and examples of generals' headgear with W German style bullseye are exceedingly rare.




Cap Insignia


Volkspolizei (VOPO) Cap Insignia


The hat wreath is for a general of the Volkspolizei, 1954 - 1960. The wreath is identical in design to that worn by officers and enlisted ranks, except the lower ranks wreaths are silver-colored aluminum. I believe the general's wreath is gold colored, anodized aluminum.

Note that the DDR Staatswappen, the hammer & compass, does not appear on the hat wreath. The DDR Staatswappen was not used on hat insignia until 1960/61. Prior to that, a WWII-style "bullseye" cockade was used for military headgear and the tri-color shield device was used for Police headgear.

The national colors of the DDR were red/yellow/black, so all bullseye and shield cockades were done in those colors.



Bullion Wreath Cap Insignia for Officers


This is an example from an early Signals officer visor hat, circa 1956-61. The officer wreath is different from the General's wreath, but this gives you a good look at the early "bullseye" cockade, which was the same for both Generals & officers.



Generals Ushanka


Here is the standard Winter headgear for generals, the Ushanka.

The Ushanka was introduced in 1963/64 for winter wear. Prior to that, officers & EM ranks wore a style of cap similar to the WWII M43, except the ear flaps buttoned on top of the cap. Generals, to my knowledge, never wore an M43 style cap, rather they wore the visor hat year round.

The generals' Ushankas were made of real lamb's wool on the exterior instead of the faux fur used for EM & officer ranks. The same wreath worn on the visor hat was also worn on the Ushanka. The earliest examples had embroidred bullion wreaths, then in the mid to late 60's they switched to the stamped metal wreath.

This example is dated 1981 and has a cotton twill lining with no sweatband.




DDR General Officer Shoulderboard Variations


Prototype Marshal Board Variants


The rank of Marshall der DDR was not created until 1984 and was only meant to be bestowed in time of war. A very limited number (6 pair, it is believed) were manufactured to be awarded to individuals upon promotion to the rank of Marshal. These have genuine rubies in the center of the shoulder board stars.  A number of boards were also made to be used in insignia displays at military schools and museums. They are identical in construction with the exception that a clear, red-colored polymer material is in the center of the shoulder board stars. The vast majority of the Marshal boards on today's market are post-unification reproductions.

In November, 1989, with the breach of the Berlin Wall and talk of re-unification beginning to spread, the rank of Marshall der DDR was abolished.  Shown below are some of the prototype variants of Marshal boards that were produced for possible use.


Here are some prototype Marshall shoulder board devices. There were 4 proposed arrangements:

1. (Left) Silver star with DDR Staatswappen center + gold crossed batons

2. (Right) Gold star with DDR Staatswappen center + gold crossed batons

3. (Left) Gold star with plain red center + silver crossed batons

4. (Right) Gold star with plain red center + gold DDR Staatswappen roundel w/red enamel center.


Examples of prototype #1 (left) and #3 (right).




Subdued BDU boards


The subdued boards are the 5 loop style, used from 1980 - 1990. These were worn on the rain pattern BDU's. You've probably seen the common East German rain pattern BDU's at gun shows & such, but there was a version of this camo uniform made exclusively for generals.




Dress “jac-shirt” boards


The dress boards shown above are a significantly flatter version of the 5 loop pattern that was introduced in 1983 for wear on the "jac-shirt". The jac-shirt (short for "jacket shirt") is a sort of dress shirt with provisions for shoulder boards that was not tucked into the trousers, but rather it had a short hem to worn outside the trousers. They could also be worn under the dress tunic with a tie.

Comparison of the top & thickness of the dress boards vs. the jac-shirt boards.


Historical Context

In May of 1945, as Germany virtually ceased to exist and became a devastated land occupied by foreign powers, it must have been unimaginable that barely 11 years later German troops wearing jack boots and field gray would once again be marching through the streets of Berlin. In the East they viewed themselves as the protectors of the peace. In the West they were seen as an ominous sign of resurgent militarism. Once again plans for battle in Europe were being drawn and Germany, especially Berlin, was at the center of it all. In a very real sense, WWII did not end until the re-unification of Germany and the last of the Russian occupation troops left German soil in the early 1990’s.


The roots of East Germany are deeply connected with the roots of the 3rd Reich. The political leadership of the fledgling DDR had, in their youth, fought in the streets against the SA and fled to the Soviet Union as the National Socialists gained the upper hand. After the end of the war, these refugees from the Gestapo were brought back from the Soviet Union and installed in leadership positions in the Soviet occupation zone. The side that had lost to the National Socialists in the 1930’s now had its chance to re-shape Germany.

In 1949 the Soviet zone of occupation became the “sovereign” nation of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik. Re-armament was begun under the guise of “Peoples’ Police” (Volkspolizei) and Border Police (Deutsche Grenzpolizei) units, and expanded further with the creation of “garrisoned police alert units” (Kasernierte Volkspolizei – Bereitschaften, or KVP) from 1952 – 1956. During this time, the KVP was East Germany’s de-facto military and the uniform design was heavily influenced by the Soviets. Roughly speaking, the uniforms were a hybrid of Soviet design with German insignia.


In 1956, all pretenses were finally cast aside and East Germany revealed its full re-armament with the creation of the Nationale Volksarmee, or “NVA”. The East German government, in keeping with its claim to be the “true guardian” of German military and cultural traditions, abandoned the Soviet style uniforms of the KVP and re-introduced a modernized uniform based on traditional German design for wear by the NVA. The new uniforms and insignia bore a striking similarity to those of the Wehrmacht.

Over the next 30 years the uniforms of the NVA evolved as the size, strength and readiness of the East German military grew to the point that the NVA became the Soviets’ most trusted ally in Europe. In the late 1980’s, as popular dissatisfaction began to erupt into open protest, the NVA refused to fire on their fellow East German citizens. Shortly thereafter the Berlin Wall was breached and the prospect of re-unification became undeniable. In October, 1990 East Germany ceased to exist and, while a small portion of NVA personnel were absorbed into the Bundeswehr, for most of the NVA it was the end of their careers.


The end of the NVA was brought about not by bloodshed and destruction, but by a “quiet cataclysm” of having been passed over by political reality. It has been said that the NVA was the last, true German army. Europe is indeed fortunate to have avoided facing such an army in combat.