About thirty-five years ago, I visited a gun show in rural Virginia. In between countless rows of firearms displayed, I observed a table full of Nazi and German artifacts from WWII. I was instantly drawn to an oval green patch with a bright orange eagle surrounded by orange wreath holding a black swastika. I purchased the patch not really knowing what it was. After buying a few other Third Reich items, I left the show, strangely satisfied. I had been bitten by the German WWII collecting bug.
Like most Third Reich militaria collectors, I began trying to collect many different types of artifacts: field gear, helmets, and daggers. At some point, acknowledgement of the space required to store and display the artifacts as well as a constrained budget focused my collecting on smaller Third Reich items like medals and cloth insignia.
One day while looking at the Ordnungspolizei Gendarmerie police shoulder eagle mentioned above, I realized I could collect and display many types of German WWII Police patches. These were well within my budget and storage space limitations. As they say, the rest is history ...
UNDERSTANDING THE THIRD REICH’S POLICE
To cover the entire German Nazi Police apparatus would require pages of detailed information. For the purpose of this article, I will cover the basics to help you understand what type of German WWII Police patches to collect.
Germany has always been a country with many different types of Länder uniformed police officers. The term Länder (“Lands/States” dates back to the 1919 Weimar Constitution. Each German state had its own variation of police forces, special security units, and fire protection service forces.
When Adolf Hitler and his Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP or Nazi Party) came to power in January 1933, the effort to create a national police force and to organize and control all the various Länder police forces began in earnest.
In June 1936, all German Länder police forces were consolidated under the Chief of the German Police in the Ministry of the Interior with Heinrich Himmler being appointed as the first Chief of the German Police. Under Himmler, the new national police structure was organized into three major branches: the Ordnungspolizei (Order Police or Orpo), the Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police or Sipo) and the Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service or SD). In September 1939, the Sipo and the SD were combined to form the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Main Security Officer or RSHA).
The Ordnungspolizei branch was composed of former members of the various post-WWI Landespolizei forces along with numerous factions of ex-Sturmabteilung (SA) individuals. Its sub-sections were made up of the Schutzpolizei (Urban Police), the Schutzpolizei des Gemeinden (Community Police), the Gendarmerie (Rural Police), the Wasserschutzpolizei (River/Water Police), the Feuerschutzpolizei (Fire Service Police), the Verwaltnungspolizei (Administrative Police), and various other technical, auxiliary and special police units like the Bahnschutzpolizei (Railway Police) and the Postschutz (Postal Protection Police).
THIRD REICH POLICE FORCE PATCHES
By 1943, the Ordnungspolizei had an overall strength of more than 300,000 members. The members wore different shoulder patches based upon their respective police organizations.
One of the more interesting Ordnungspolizei auxiliary police forces with a unique police shoulder patch were the Schutzmannschaft (Protective/Guard battalions or Schuma). Schuma battalions were composed of collaborationist native police officers serving in the areas of the Soviet Union and the Baltic States. They assisted German military and police personnel by providing local security and combating anti-Nazi resistance in the occupied territories. Many of these units participated in the Holocaust. Schuma units directly assisted the Einsatzgruppen in the extermination of hundreds of thousands of Jews in eastern Europe. By 1943, Schuma auxiliary police forces numbered over 300,000.
The Sicherheitspolizei branch was composed of the Geheime Staatspolizei (Secret State Police or Gestapo) and the Kriminalpolizei (Criminal Police or Kripo). The Gestapo branch began as a Prussian Secret Police unit. By 1936, it had become the primary Nazi Party control branch for surveillance, denunciation and torture of any opponents. It was the “action” branch of the Nazi political police system. The Gestapo numbered around 32,000 members by 1944.
The Kripo branch consisted of local, state, and municipal criminal investigative agents and plainclothes detectives that investigated severe violent crimes and fraud, conducted war surveillance on individuals and provided crime prevention to senior Nazi Party members. By 1944, the Kripo numbered around 12,000 active members.
Sicherheitsdienst branch was the intelligence gathering section of the SS in support of the Nazi Party. Its mission was to detect both internal and external actual or potential enemies of the state. It was also tasked to conduct counter-espionage operations in occupied territories and to track foreign opinion and criticism of Nazi Party leadership in order to neutralize its influence. By 1944, the SD was composed of around 6,500 active agents and thousands of informants around the world.
To begin collecting German WWII Ordnungspolizei shoulder patches, you should understand the following basic information for both the enlisted and officer rank shoulder eagles:
German WWII Ordnungspolizei enlisted members wore a machine-embroidered National Police style emblem of a wreathed eagle and swastika on their upper left sleeve. The wreathed eagle was in the Truppenfarbe (troop color) of their police organization and the swastika was always in black. The cloth backing of the patch was the same color as their uniform and usually made from some type of wool felt.
Late-war police patches were constructed with either a rayon or cotton cloth backing instead of wool. Some enlisted rank shoulder patches have the police district name embroidered in an arc above the eagle. However, this practice was not universal and by regulation was to be removed from police district patches by late 1941.
The basic Truppenfarbe were as follows:
Schutzpolizei – bright police-green
Schutzpolizei der Gemeinden – wine red
Gendarmerie – orange
Feuerschutzpolizei – carmine red
Wasserschutzpolizei – bright yellow
Verwaltnungspolizei – light gray
German WWII Ordnungspolizei officer members wore a National Police-style emblem that had a wreathed eagle hand-embroidered in silver with a black swastika on their upper left sleeve. The wreathed eagle was constructed of silver flat wire with silver/grey thread on top of a piece of thick police green cloth. For Ordnungspolizei general officers, it was the same design and construction but, gold-colored wire and thread was used instead.
Today, German WWII police shoulder patches are relatively easy to obtain at militaria shows, online militaria dealers, and online auction sites. The patches can be found in various patterns, designs, and material composition. Depending on whether they were issued and sleeve worn or completely unissued, the pricing remains very reasonable compared to other types of Third Reich insignia.
The average collector can spend years collecting all the different variations and district named sleeve eagles of the Ordnungspolizei without breaking the budget. They are handsome sleeve patches that display very nicely!
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