by Chris William
When Adolf Hitler and the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (N.S.D.A.P. – the Nazi Party) battled their way to the top of the Weimar German political scene, one of the main tools on which they relied to attract and retain the membership were the highly orchestrated mass political rallies. Highlighted by Hitler’s charismatic speaking along with the speeches of scores of the other top Nazis and the pomp and circumstance elaborately staged at each event, the attendees fell under the Party’s spell.
After Hitler’s ascension to Chancellor, then “Führer” of the Third Reich, mass rallies continued to as a part of the Nazi agenda to control and bind the people by creating the illusion of Volksgemeinschaft—the idea of unity and equality of all citizens regardless of class or economic background.
Germany (and later some of its occupied territories) was divided into “Gaus.” These territorial regions roughly paralleled the state boundaries of Imperial Germany. “Gauleiters” (the administrative heads of these regions) would host lavish Gau Day meetings presented for the party members and followers. Over time some of these rallies proved to be pivotal in the formation and acceleration of the Nazi’s rise to power.
To commemorate the importance of these particular meetings and to honor the participants who had attended them, Gauleiters, as well as Adolf Hitler, had commemorative badges produced as traditions badges. These were officially recognized national awards of the NSDAP. Recipients could wear these badges on their paramilitary or civilian clothing to demonstrate having been attendees at these important events.
Among the badges that qualified as tradition badges were the Coburger Abzeichen (Coburg Badge), Nurnberger Parteitagsabzeichen 1929 (Nurnberg party badge of 1929), Abzeichen des SA-Treffens Braunschweig 1932 (Braunschweig badge), Gau-Tradtitonsabzeichen Essen (Gau Essen badge), and the Tradition abzeichen des Gaues Osthannover der NSDAP (East Hanover Gau Badge). In a few cases, the traditions badges resembled the “day” (entrance fee) badges purchased during the actual events, while others were strictly distinct from anything used in conjunction with any particular rally.
THE COBURG BADGE
The 1932 Coburg badge was one of the rarest national badge awards being designated as a “traditions badge” by Hitler in 1936. This massive bronze piece was 40 mm wide by 54 mm high and consisted of an oval containing a canted swastika under a down-turned sword with the outline of the city castle behind the handle. Around the oval were the words Mit Hitler in Coburg 1922-1932. With only 436 recorded awards presented, this was, and is today, a rare NSDAP badge.
THE NURNBERG BADGE
The Nurnberg badge was worn unofficially as a honor badge from 1929 until its official recognition as a national award in 1936. This small pin back was 21mm wide and 48 mm high, coming in gray, silver and gold finishes, and took the form of a shield with an outline of the city across the top. The center contained a helmet with a wreath circled swastika surmounted by a closed wing eagle. On either side of the eagle were “1914-1919” and “NSDAP,” while above, stretched an underlined “Nurnberg” and below, “Parteitag 1929.” A larger, non-portable (table medal) version was also produced that could be proudly displayed in the owner’s home or place of business. 60,000 participants were documented as entitled to wear the badge.
THE BRAUNSCHWEIG BADGE
The Brunswick (Braunschweig) badge of 1931 was initially issued to more than 100,000 of the participants in the large and spectacular rally hosted by Victor Lutze (future head of the Sturmabteilung after the then SA leader, Ernst Roehm’s murder in 1934). This badge was produced in both hollow and solid backs, and in two sizes: 37mm wide by 50mm high and later 37mm wide by 52mm high. These silver-colored pieces consisted of an oval of oak leaves with a bow at the base, and an eagle with small outstretched wings perched on a circle enclosed swastika across the top. In the center was printed “SA Treffen Braunschweig 17/18 Oktober 1931”. Later badges were stamped with an RZM mark on the reverse.
THE GAU ESSEN BADGE
The Gau Essen badge came in silver and gold finishes. These 53mm by 31mm badges consisted of an upright roman style sword with a canted swastika on the grip. Behind the upturned blade were crossed hammers with the dates of 1925 and 1935 printed on the opposing hammer heads. A vertical pin was mounted on the rear of the badge which also displayed the manufacturer’s marks.
THE EAST HANOVER BADGE
The East Hanover badge came in hollow-backed bronze, silver, or gold finishes. Some gold pieces were also struck in a solid-back version. These 40mm by 50 mm badges consisted of an oval oak leaf wreath with a smaller rope edged oval running perpendicular at the top. The lower body contained a static swastika with Im Jahre der Nationalsozial. Erhebung Gautag Osthannover” surrounding it in a “U” shape. The upper oval contained a galloping horse with the year 1933 below its outstretched legs.
Recipients proudly wore the Gau commemorative badges during official proceedings sponsored by the ongoing indoctrination of the Nazi party. In 1945, the Gau system was abandoned, along with the other trappings of the defeated Nazi regime, making way for the remaining German citizens to rebuild a new democratic Germany.