1942 Pattern SS/Police General Officer Collar Tabs

A Guide to Identifying Originals from Reproductions

 

SS style General Officer collar tabs are amongst the most difficult insignia for the average collector to be able to determine originality.  Compounding this problem is the large number of reproductions that have been dumped on the market for decades and the previous lack of good reference.  In contrast to the Heer or Luftwaffe, the SS very tightly controlled the production of their insignia through the RZM, and as a result there is a consistency in the high ranks insignia production that doesn’t exist in the other armed forces.  So, there are very few variations, and instead there is an incredible consistency in the faithful adherence in the rendering of design, which is amazing when you consider that all of these were embroidered by hand.  In this page we will explore the “accepted” versions of the 1942 pattern SS General Officer collar tabs, as well as the SS style Police Generals collar tabs.  Careful study of these images, combined with the ability to physically examine originals, should help most collectors develop a degree of confidence in pursuing these rare collectibles.

 

 

Allgemeine/Waffen SS Style General Officer Collar Tabs

 

There are two accepted designs of 1942 SS style General Officer collar tabs.  These two designs are shown below, and will be called “Type A” and “Type B” here solely for the purpose of discussion and education.

 

Type A

This is the most commonly encountered design, featuring sharply scalloped leaves and a pronounced downward arch of the bottom oakleaf.  Notice too, how the top leaf on the left has a slight inward curve and leans toward the center leaf.  The center leaf will always be straight.

(Bob Hritz collection)

Type B

This design features softer, more rounded scallops to the leaves and a much more slight, less exagerated downward arch to the bottom leaf.  This type also has the slight inward slant of the top leaf toward the inner leaf. The center leaf will always be straight.

(Bob Hritz collection)

 

 

 

To better illustrate some of the attributes of original tabs and the differences between the two styles note the areas highlighted in red.  The Type A tab (left) has more well defined arches to the two leaves, has very sharp scalloped edges and a well defined, rounded leaf tip.  In comparison, the Type B tab (right) has a very slight arch to both top and bottom leaves, smoother scalloped edges and a less defined leaf tip.  The B type tabs also appear to have thicker leaves due to the smoother scalloping.  Notice the rigid, straight center leaf on both tabs.  The majority of common reproductions of these tabs tend to have all three leaves straight with no arches.

 

 

 

 

SS Style Police Generals Collar Tabs

 

The German Police switched to SS style General Officer collar tabs in February 1942 when the Waffen SS and Allgemeine SS introduced the 2nd pattern, 1942 style tabs.  There were a couple of differences with the Police version; the Police used a lime green backing instead of black and also utilized gold wire and piping instead of silver.  However, in period photos it is not uncommon to see Police Generals wearing the silver embroidered, black backed SS Generals tabs as they seem to have been more popular with the officers than the green backed tabs.  Perhaps the officers wanted to display their connection to the SS and preferred the black backed tabs over the green, or maybe it was a fashion statement….one of the questions we’ll probably never have a clear answer to.  Shown below are two examples of both accepted SS styles of collar tabs, utilizing the Police green backing and gold embroidery and piping.

 

 

 

Type A

“Type A” style for the right collar of a Generalleutnant equivalent in the Police (Polizei). The tab has the very sharp scalloping of the leaves as well as the pronounced downward arch of the bottom oakleaf.

(private collection)

Type B

 “Type B” style for the right collar of a Generalmajor equivalent in the Police (Polizei). Note the softer, more rounded scalloping of the leaves.  This B type has a well pronounced downward arch of the lower leaf.

 

 

 

 

The two matched pairs of collar tabs below present an excellent study in the intricacies of hand embroidery and how you will almost never find a perfectly matched pair of collar tabs.  As each tab was done separately, you will find minute to major differences.  Why does this occur?  There are several probable answers.  There may have been a different embroiderer creating the left tabs, than the person that created the right side.  It is also possible that the embroiderer could not render the design as accurately when creating a reverse image.  One thing that I have noticed, is that modern hand embroidered reproductions also exhibit the same inconsistencies.  In fact, they will even repeat the flaw over and over on the same-side tab when they produce a quantity of pairs.  So, whatever the reason, it is a problem that was not restricted to the Third Reich era, and continues with hand embroidery even today.

 

 

SS Gruppenfuhrer und Generalleutnant der Polizei

Pair of matching tabs of the “Type A” style for the left and right collars of a Generalleutnant equivalent in the Police (Polizei).

Both tabs have the very sharp scalloping of the leaves as well as the pronounced downward arch of the bottom oakleaf.  However, look at the differences in how the acorns were embroidered at the stem of the leaf.  Notice also the difference in sizes and spacing of the embroidered pips.  Seldom will a pair of collar tabs match exactly due to the nature of hand embroidery.

 

 

SS Brigadefuhrer und Generalmajor der Polizei

Pair of matching tabs of the “Type B” style for the left and right collars of a Generalmajor equivalent in the Police (Polizei). Note that the downward arch of the lower leaf of the left collar tab is very slight, almost non-existent, with no arch until the very tip, whereas the right side tab is much more pronounced.  Overall, the quality of embroidery on the right tab is much higher and more symmetrical.

 

 

 

 

Known Reproductions

 

Shown below are examples of known and suspected reproductions of 1942 pattern SS style General officer collar tabs.  The examples shown are mostly the black backed SS tabs, as they have by far the larger quantity of fakes on the market and one can surmise that if it is fake on a black backing, the same pattern was used as a fake on green backing.  These images were compiled from various sources on the internet (ebay, public forums, reenactor and research sites) as well as emailed to me by fellow collectors.  Many of these are very common and sold as reproductions, while others have been passed off as originals either intentionally or by mistake.  The really bad pieces are quite obvious by the poor execution of the leaves and scallops, the chunky piping or the loose embroidery.  The biggest mistake that you will see repeated over and over again is that all three leaves are very straight, with no arching.  The better pieces adhere very closely to the design of originals and incorporate the arches and scalloping but do not have the tightness of embroidery or the right materials.  Keep in mind, the reproductions are numerous and endless, whereas the originals only have two accepted designs.  It is much better to study known originals and get to know their characteristics, than to try and study all of the reproductions.  These are presented here mainly to alert collectors to some of the more common (and comical) reproductions on the market.  Also please understand that some of these are openly sold as reproductions and not meant to intentionally deceive.

 

 

These are some of the most common encountered reproduction SS Generals tabs which some collectors refer to as the “banana leaf” repros, a pattern of three straight leaves that are poorly defined.  You will see this pattern repeated in many of the different repros illustrated in the examples below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This example is one of the better done reproductions, but notice how the scallops are overdone and loosely embroidered.

 

 

Modern made Janke examples.

 

 

Another Janke modern made design.

 

Another fairly well made reproduction, which incorporates elements of both the A and B style tabs.  Once again, the loose embroidery is one of the first red flags that the tab is a copy.  The edge piping thickness and pips are also incorrect.

 

Reproduction Police Generals collar tab.

 

Another very well made reproduction of the A style Police Generals collar tab.  The design of the leaves is very good, but the edge piping is way too big.

 

 

Original vs. Reproduction

 

The comparison below shows an original SS Obergruppenfuhrer collar tab next to a current reproduction.  Study the two tabs carefully and the differences will become quite clear.  The original tab has very tightly woven, symmetrical embroidery.  In contrast, the reproduction tab has a bit sloppier design, particularly in the area of the scallops on the leaves which is more loosely embroidered.  If you were to have both of these tabs in hand, comparing them physically, you would notice how smooth and tight the embroidery is on the original tab, giving it some “depth”.  The reproduction, on the other hand, has a very flat feel to it.  Notice also how the pips on the repro tab are squeezed in between the leaf and the edge of the tab and poorly shaped.  The piping on the repro is also quite a bit thicker.

 

 

A side by side comparison, original on the left, reproduction on the right.

 

 

Period Photos

 

Besides relying on collector or dealer opinion as to originality or existence of verified patterns, it is best to examine all of the period photos that display clear images of collar tabs that were in actual use during the war.  You will see the same consistencies in period photos that support the accepted two styles of collar tabs.

 

Notice the clear and precise the detail of the tabs in this period photo.  You will be challenged to ever find an example of the “banana leaf” tabs on a period photo.  Wartime photos are the best evidence we have of what was actually worn and the photos constantly support the accepted styles.

 

Once again, consistent with the Type A tabs.

 

Type B tabs in wear.

 

A Police General wearing black backed SS Type B tabs.

 

Type A tabs.  This photo appears that it may have been retouched and upgraded with the addition of a pip to each collar tab and the oakleaves to the knights cross.

 

 

A Police General wearing the B style tabs, which seem to be the most commonly encountered examples used by the Police.

 

 

Both of these Police Generals also appear to be wearing the B types.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This photo gives us an excellent, clear view of the Police Generals tab showing very nice definition to the oakleaves as well as the downward arched bottom leaf.  This also appears to be a “B” type design.

 

 

 

A very nice, tightly embroidered original example of a Police Generals SS style collar tab of the “B” type which is still attached to the collar that was cut from a uniform.  Notice how well defined the leaves are due to the tight embroidery.

 

Another example of an original Police Generals SS style collar tab conforming to the accepted “A” type of design.

 

 

 

 

Possible Variations

 

There has probably never been a military in existence that was completely textbook in their dress, as uniforms were anything but “uniform” and endless variations exist in nearly every aspect of militaria.  In the collecting world, accepted original items are almost always those most often encountered and/or documented by provenance.  That doesn’t mean that variations didn’t exist, it just means the safest method of collecting (for the novice or average collector) is to stick to the “known” and “accepted” pieces.  Anything outside of this realm may not be considered authentic by the vast majority of those in the hobby and is best off left to those advanced collectors who have a comfort level with these items as well as a confidence of their own.  SS style Generals collar tabs, as noted earlier, are probably one of the most consistent of the hand embroidered insignia that came out of the Third Reich.  As a result, there are very few variations and most have to do with subtle highlights or minor departures from the design template, with the design itself remaining consistent.  There has been much controversy and disagreement over some styles of the SS Generals tabs that exhibit the three straight leaves, without any downward arch, particularly as it relates to the Police Generals.  These types of tabs have turned up in reference books and in collections purporting to be original, yet clear documentation from period photos have yet to support their existence.  There are some photos that indicate these “may” have existed, but no definitive clear photos have yet surfaced to definitively prove this.  Most likely what is seen in the period photos are the B type tabs, many of which have a very slight arch to the lower leaf, which may not be visible in the grainy photos.  If you have any clear period photos that prove these straight leaf tabs existed, please email them to me and they will be included for reference on this page.

 

 

When reviewing period photos one thing you have to be aware of are the period retouched photos where ranks were upgraded to show a promotion.  This photograph of Oswald Pohl is a good example.  In this instance the collar tabs were hand painted by a photo retouch artist to reflect his upgraded rank, which gives these tabs the same look as some of the really poor “banana leaf” reproductions.

 

 

Here is an interesting “variant” Felix Steiner is wearing in which the top leaf has the curved arch instead of the bottom leaf.  This is a seldom encountered variant and reflects a mistake in final construction, rather than a variation in embroidery.  This mistake occurred when the embroidery was turned upside down when attaching the cloth to the buckram backing during assembly.  Thus the right side collar tab ends up on the left side, and vise versa.

 

 

Felix Steiner in yet a different tunic, this one open-collar, with the same variant upside down tabs with the top leaf showing the arch.

 

 

Felix Steiner in a different tunic with more textbook B type tabs.

 

 

 

Police General Kurt Daluege in what could possibly be a variant left collar tab exhibiting three straight leaves with no arches.  The photo unfortunately is not clear enough to see enough detail to verify this with any certainty.

 

This photo of Daluege with Himmler appears to be the same tunic as above, only the right side tab shows evidence of a downward arch as the leaf turns down to meet the piping at the back edge.

 

Another, closer image of Daluege from the same meeting with Himmler.

 

 

In this photo of Daluege we can also clearly see the downward arch of the bottom leaf.  It would appear, based no the ribbon bar attachment, that it is the same open collar uniform in all four photos.

 

Here is an interesting example of an accepted variant tab in which black thread highlights were added at the base of the leaf where the stems and acorns meet.

 

Here is an example of the upside down variant that Felix Steiner wore on several of his uniforms.  Notice how the top leaf has the dramatic outward curve instead of the bottom.

 

This variant example shows three stems protruding at a very dramatic angle from the base of the leaf.  This insignia was obtained directly from Obergruppenfuhrer Karl-Maria Demelhuber by the collector/historian Bill McClure.

 

This variant shows a gap between the stem/acorn arrangement and the center leaf.

 

 

I’m always looking for good photographs of original tabs as well as clear period photos showing variations in wear.  If you have something to contribute, please visit the submitting photos page.