Thursday, December 31, 2009

HJ shoulder straps, an introduction

Shoulder straps worn by the Hitler Youth served three basic purposes. They indicated the rank of the wearer, they identified the geographic location of the unit, they indicated the assignment designation of the wearer, and they indicated the branch of the Hitler Youth to which the wearer belonged. When viewed in combination with the Gebeitsdistrict triangle sleeve insignia, unit identification could instantaneously be made.

From time to time the shoulder straps underwent modification, new ranks were introduced and new Gebiets were raised. When looking at HJ shoulder straps it is neccessary to consider the year that the straps are from. Very early shoulder straps prior to 1933 were worn by youth elements that sometimes employed a dual colored piping that was most likely an indication of the Landesfarben, (National Colors used by each German state), that went around the sides and to the point of the boards. These early boards are difficult to find and considered to be rare.

The first standarization was achieved in 1933. The basic first pattern shoulder strap was made of light brown uniform cloth. Regulations prescribed that the width be 44mm inclusive of the 2mm wide piping that bordered the outer edge. Some straps were without this piping and only measured 40mm. The length was 125mm from the base to the pointed end. Included on the strap was the retaining button, the Bann number, the Unterbann number, and where appropriate the rank insignia and piping.

Early Pattern HJ shoulder straps.

Early pattern 1933 shoulder straps had several distinct charateristics. The button measured 19mm in diameter. It was a pebbled button in either plain field grey, field grey with a raised arabic numeral depicting the Gefolgshcaft, (a company sized HJ unit), silver to corespond to with the tunic buttons of leaders, or gold to corespond to high ranking leaders tunic buttons. The number was later dropped and unumbered buttons were used. There was some variance to this as period photos show.

Regualtions of November 24, 1934 called for some changes. The Bann number was in arabic style. It measured 18mm high, and normally was a chain stitch type of sewing. The number was in the color of the respective HJ Obberbann. The respective Obberbann colors were as follows:
Obberbann 1-Red
Obberbann 2-Yellow
Obberbann 3-Green
Obberbann 4-Blue
Obberbann 5-Black
Obberbann 6-White
The Bann number was positioned above the Unterbann number on the strap, in the center.

The Unterbann number was positioned below the Obberbann number on the strap. It was also normally in a chain stitch type sewing. The number was a Roman numeral and ranged from I to V. It measured 10mm in height.
I, II, III, IV, V are the only Unterbann numbers that should be encountered, however a known period document shows an Unterbann number of VI, so regulations were not always adhered to.

The Obberbann system underwent changes begining in 1934, and by the end of 1935 was abolished. The time period during 1936 saw changes to the straps. Specialisied straps that identified the wearers assignment were introduced during this time frame. During this time there was a period when the Obberbann straps and specialist straps co-existed, making determination of the wearers assignment sometimes difficult. By the year 1937 the NSDAP organisation book, third edition, shows that the tan colored straps piping and numeral coloring indicated the wearers assignment, instead of the Obberbann of the old system. It is also important to note that regulations were not always adhered to, and there was also normally a "grace" period to allow HJ to change over to the newest insignia regulations.

This remained until September 30th, 1938, when HJ straps again underwent significant changes, which will be covered in a later post, along with rank, specialty and DJ shoulder straps.

Period uniform regulation illustrations.

Very Early HJ Shoulder Straps 1931-1933

First photo is a set of very early piped in Brown and Yellow with Brown numerals. This color combination is for HJ Gruppe Nord, (Bremen), Hannover Sud during the time period when the HJ was subordinate to the SA. At that time period the numerals represented the Schar and the Gefolgschaft of the Bann. The early Banns were not numbered but named instead. This set would date to the early 1930's. $ 400.00

Second photo is a single from Wesser-Ems, Oldenburg piped in Brown and Green. Interesting to note is the set appears to have had the number 41 embroidered in Brown, which appears to have been removed and then oversewn with a Black number 5 for the Schar, which was en vouge at the time this strap would have been used. Pre 1934 HJ straps are quite large when compared to later versions. They were refered to as "cows tounges" during the period. $200.00

Third photo is an early strap, Führerschnur, and Gebietsdriecke for the HJ Gruppe Sudwest Baden. This insignia was used prior to 1933 when the HJ Gruppe were not numbered but named instead. The lanyard denotes a Kameradeshcaftsfuhrer from the Bann. 650.00

Fourth photo is a very 
early strap from Bann 29 Eifel in the Aachen region. The Blue and Black  piping is possibly from the region of Serie III Aachen but this is unconfirmed. An interesting early strap. $250.00



Very Early 1932-1933 Pattern Pair

This set is from the time period before Bann numbers were officially issued, and the HJ Bann were named instead of numbered. The HJ were subordinate to the SA at this time and Bann structure was very similar to the SA Gau structure. This set is quite large as is typical of early HJ straps. Rank is for a Scharfuhrer. Green and white dual colored piping would indicate HJ Gau Mitte from the Sachsen region. Signals strap in last photo is for size comparisson. $200.00

Early Obberbann 1 Straps.

Some examples of early Obberbann 1 straps, piped in red with red numerals. The large numeral  represents the H.J .Bann, the Roman numeral represents the Unterbann.  Photo is a set of very early pre 1934 pair for a Scharfuhrer from Bann 243 Westerwald, Unterbann V, HJ Gau Koblenz-Trier. There was never a triangle issued for this district. This set is very large compared to other later H.J. straps.$300.00

Early Obberbann 2 Straps.

 Early Obberbann 2 straps. Yellow numerals and piping represent Obberban 2. First photo is a 1935/37 period single HJ schulterklappe from Bann 131 Hamm. At this time the Bann was located in Obbergebiet West, HJ-Gebiet Westphalia. Note the RZM tag on the reverse. By regulation the first tags had to be blue in color with TA and, as such, were used officially until spring 1935 when the TA was replaced by the A4 code, due to a re-organization. A tag with the "TA" officially should not have been used if the strap is post 1935, but one with "A4". It is possible the manufacturer still had old tags,but according to orders for the RZM inspections the old one was not allowed to be used in 1936. The "TA" refers to Textilabzeichen. The manufacturer is 260, this should be August Orlob II. from Leinefelde. He first had his manufacturing permission in 1934. It was renewed November 9th, 1935 and had this number until the end of the war. (Thanks to Wilhelm Sarris for the RZM information.) The yellow piping and numeral may denote signals HJ, but more likely Obberbann II, from the time period when the Unterbann system was in process of being abolished, due to the period of the RZM tag. $100.00

Second photo is a single from Bann 64, Unterbann III, Prenzlen, of the Ost/Kurmark Gebiet for the rank of a Kameradeschaftsfuhrer.$75.00

Third photo is a set from Bann 256 Northeim-Einbeck, Nord/Niedersachsen, Oberbann 2, Unterbann I. $200.00

Early Obberbann 3 Straps.

Obberbann 3 straps are piped in green, with green numerals. The large numeral represents the Bann and the Roman numeral represents the Unterbann. First photo is a 1934 regulation single Schulterklappe from Bann B35 Schweinfurt. At this time the Bann was located within HJ-Obergebiet Süd, HJ-Gebiet 18 Franken. Note the chain style stitching of the numerals used on the early period straps. The green piping and Bann number denotes Oberbann 3 Unterfranken. The roman numerals denote Unterbann II.  $70.00

Second photo is a single strap from Bann 57 Unterbann II Wessel Stadt, Obergebiet West, HJ Oberbann 10 Ruhr-Niederrhien. $70.00

Third photo is a set from Bann 271 Luneburger-Heide, Nord Nordsee.$175.00

Fourth photo is a scarce Bann Liebstandarte Munich single for Obberaban 3. A very difficult strap to find. $325.00

Early Oberbann 4 Shoulder Straps.

Obberbann 4 Straps. The blue piping and numerals indicate Obberbann 4. First phot is a single for Bann 138, Unterbann III, Siegerland, Gebiet West/Westfalia. Note the buttons sewn to the bottom to allow them to be removed from the Kopperbluse for laundering. $80.00
Second photo is a single for Bann 160, Bonn, Gebiet West/Mittlerhien. This strap may possibly be from the time when different colors were introduced to indicate the wearer's specialty, or may just be an Obberbann 4 strap. Note the "lash" sewn to the back to allow removal from the uniform for laundering. It's possible that this practice influenced the later post 1938 pattern straps being constructed with these "slip on" tongues on them. $80.00

Early Obberbann 5 Straps

First photo is a single 1934 pattern for a Kameradeschaftsfuhrer of Bann 102 Zittaum from Oberbann 5, Unterbann 2 of Obergebiet Mitte HJ Gebiet 16 Sachsen. The black numbered and piped are difficult to find. $250.00

Second Photo is a single from Bann 263 Tuetoburg from Oberbann 5, Unterbann I (black numbered and piped) of Obergebiet West, HJ Gebiet 9 Westfalen. $275.00

Third photo is a pair from Bann 260 Beckum-Warendorf, Oberbann 5, Unterbann II of Gebiet West/Westfalen. $450.00


Oberbann 6 Shoulder Strap

Single Oberbann 6 shoulder straps for Bann 183 Herford, Unter Bann IV, Gebiet West/Westfalia. The white piping and numerals denote Oberbann 6. The piping has unfortunately come loose on this example, but it is the only Oberbann 6 strap I have been able to secure in several years of collecting. White numbered and piped straps of this pattern are very difficult to find. $275.00

1934-1937 Pattern HJ Straps.

First photo is a set of 1936 pattern for a Rottenfuhrer from Bann 334 Wurzburg-Land/Kitzingen, Obergebiet Sud, HJ Gebiet 39 Mainfranken. The Bann dates to 1936 as that was the introduction year of this Bann. Note the slip on litzen. This set was manufactured prior to the factory applied litzen or added as a later promotion. $250.00

Second photo 1934/37 period HJ schulterklappen pair from Bann 335, Schwienfurt. At this time the Bann was located in Obbergebiet Sud, HJ Gebiet-18 Franken. This Bann was renumbered in the timeframe of 1934/35 from B35 to 335 , (see the B35 strap post). These straps are from the tranisitonal period when the Obberbann system was abolished and the straps showing the assignment were introduced. The red piping and numeral may denote Obberbann 1 or General HJ, without knowing exact date of manufacture specific identification is difficult. This pair appears to have been put together from different sets. Note the holes in the strap on the right where rank pips or button snaps have possibly been removed, and the different coloration and shape from washing and wear. Also note that on the early period straps, 1934-1938, the stitching for the numerals goes all or part way through the backside of the straps.$250.00

Third photo is an interesting cutoff H.J. strap for a Gefolgschaftsfuhrer from Bann Rottal, Gebiet Sud/Bayerische. The numbered button reflects that this was the Gefolgschaftfuhrer of Gefolgschaft 11 of the Bann. An interesting and not often seen "cutoff". $400.00

Eary Gebietstab Pair

Early Pair of Gebeitstab for Gebiet 9 Westfalen for the rank of Stammfuhrer. These pre 1938 pattern Gebeitstab straps are very difficult to find. Note the dual colored piping also. RARE: $850.00

Early Landjahr Straps

First and second pattern Landjahr. Introduced 1934 worn in combination with the green background triangle. The stitching on this pattern strap passes through both sides of the strap. The first version of Landjahr strap was worn in combination with the early black triangle (first part of 1934), which was changed to green according the regulations dated 28 July 1934. The first pattern Landjahr has a more elegant "L" which closely resembles the Bann Munchen "L". RARE: $300.00, Second $175.00

Transitional Period Straps

Regulations regarding H.J. straps began to change again in 1936 and some odd looking H.J. straps come from the period when the changeover was occuring. There was always a transition period when H.J. insignia regulations changed and there was some time allowed for members to comply with the new regulations. Here are a few examples. First photo is a set of Motor H.J. for Bann 162 Lubeck, Gebeit Nord/Mecklenberg. This set is interesting as it is red piped but the numerals are pink. It is known that blank red piped straps were sold in RZM outlets to allow for numerals to be sewn on later. This set was possibly made from one of these "blank" sets, and when the wearer recieved his assignment to the Motor H.J. the pink  numerals were sewn in.$200.00

Second photo Bann 55 Lippe in Detmold 1934 pattern sew on pair for an H.J. Rottenfuhrer. This set has been dyed black on the front side. Probably to conform to the new regulations introducing black background straps in 1938. The litzen is missing from one strap, but they are still a scarce set not often seen. $300.00

Third photo is a single from Bann 389 Geilenkirchen for a Hauptbannfuhrer. It is a 1934 pattern that has been oversewn with a black "felt" material and handstichted Bann number on the reverese and worn flipped over to comply with the new 1938 regulations.$200.00

1938 Pattern Shoulder Straps

1938 Pattern HJ Shoulder Straps

Numbered Shoulder Straps

Regulations dated September 30, 1938 Stated that all shoulder straps of the HJ were now to have a black base. This is also the time period when piping and numeral color reflecting branch assignment was now in full effect as per the 1937 regulations. Bann numbers 1 through 949 may be encountered. It's possible higher numbered Banns were in used, however research has not shown this as yet. There were unused Bann numbers below 949, some of which were used to create new Banns late in the war. It is important to consider the time frame when looking at HJ straps, as Bann numbers changed as new Banns were added over the course of time. Branch colors reflecting assignment are as follows:

General HJ, a Bright Red. The earlier pattern straps had a more dull red
Motor HJ, Pink
Flieger HJ, Blue
SignalsHJ, Yellow on a black background strap
Marine HJ, Yellow on a blue background strap
Stiefendienst, White
Gebiets Stab and Stab of the RJF, Carmine or Silver *
Gebiets Stab of Flieger HJ, Blue

* Gebeitstab will often have metal numerals in combination with stitched lettering

Lettered Shoulder Straps of the HJ

Post ’38 straps may also be encountered that have lettering rather than numerals to identify the wearer’s assignment. Straps with lettering often reflect special assignments or participation in educational, leadership, or agricultural programs. There are also straps with lettering that reflect a physical disability. These lettered straps are scarcer and this is often reflected in the value when they are offered. Some examples that may be encountered are as follows:
A, Akademie, Silver
AHS, Adolph Hitler Schule, Red for students, Silver for leaders
B, Blind, Red
G, Deaf, Black
J, Franken, see assignment colors above
L, Hochland, see assignment colors above
LBA, Lehrerbildungsanstalt, Silver or White *
L, Landjahr, Green on a black strap
NPEA, White
RFS, Reichsfinazschule, Red
RFS, Reichfuhrerschule, SilverRS,
Rundfunk Spielscharen, Red

* LBA will occasionally have metal lettering, or be “converted” from normal HJ straps.

HJ Rank Structure for Post 1938 Straps and Boards

HJ boards and straps are often encountered with metal pips, cloth cords, and litzen affixed. These devices are normally representative of HJ rank. Occasionally the pips and litzen were worn in combination with a lanyard to denote a rank or position within the HJ organization. By wearing shoulder straps with these devices, the wearer’s assignment, Bann number, and HJ rank was instantly identifiable. This was universal throughout the HJ. A final note, most dealers will charge more for straps with pips and litzen on them, and they are easily added to inflate the value of a normal set of straps by dishonest sellers. I would recommend being cautious when buying straps with these devices. There were several changes in the rank system with the final regulations put in place September 30th 1938. This rank system remained in place until the end of the war. This section deals exclusively with the aforementioned final rank system.

Hitlerjunge: Basic strap with no devices.
Rottenfuhrer:Single 5mm wide silver stripe or litze at the base of the strap.
Oberrottenfuhrer: Two 5mm wide silver stripes or litzen positioned as above.
Kameradschaftsfuhrer: One single pip.
Oberkameradschaftsfuhrer: One pip above a 5mm wide silver litzen at the base.
Scharfuhrer: Two pips positioned on a horizontal line.
Oberscharfuhrer: Two pips in a horizontal line above a single 5mm wide litze.
Gefolgschaftsfuhrer: Three pips, two in a horizontal line with one above. Obergefolgschaftsfuhrer: Three pips as above, positioned over a single 5mm wide litze.
Hauptgefolgschaftsfuhrer: Three pips as above over two 5mm wide litzen.

The following ranks are higher ranking HJ leaders who wore special black boards with a silver twist cord piping around the outer edge. These are more “stiff” in construction in many cases than the lower ranking HJ straps. These boards will rarely be encountered and are considered scarce to rare. They command high prices when they are offered. Be very careful with HJ straps of this level, these are possibly the most often faked HJ boards.

Stammfuhrer: Four pips, two horizontal and two vertical forming a square.
Oberstammfuhrer: Four pips as above over a single 5mm silver litzen.
Bannfuhrer: Black strap with 10mm Bann number above one oak leaf with one acorn.
Oberbanfuhrer: Two silver oak leaves with two acorns.
Hauptbannfuhrer: Two silver oak leaves with two acorns and one silver pip below.
Gebietsfuhrer: As above with the oak leaves, acorns, and pip in gold coloring.
Obergebietsfuhrer: Three gold oak leaves with two acorns, one gold pip, and 2.5mm gold twist cord piping.
Stabsfuhrer: Three gold oak leaves with acorns, and two gold pips on a horizontal line below the oak leaves, and a 2.5mm gold twist cord piping.

Additional Notes on Post 1938 Shoulder Straps of the HJ

Normally two different styles of the “post 1938” shoulder strap will be encountered. A "sew in" variety which is a longer version to allow it to be sewn into the shoulder seam of the uniform, and a “slip on” variety, which is a little shorter and has a tongue on the backside and a loop, which passes through a loop sewn to the uniform to allow for removal during washing. Straps modified with black metal snaps may also be encountered, allowing for removal from uniforms for washing. An RZM tag in red lettering will often be affixed to the reverse of the strap. Some slight variance in size is common, due to manufacturing differences, shrinkage from age or laundering, and exposure to U.V. sunlight. Most straps were made specificly for certain HJ ranks at the factory as it was deemed difficult for the wearer to affix rank pips and litzen. Some will have more crudely attached rank devices that were attached at a later point by the wearer as promotions were attained. Single straps are often encountered, as it was more profitable for dealers in the past to sell singles rather than pairs. It is difficult to match two singles into a pair.

Post 1938 Pattern General H.J. Shoulder Straps

First photo is a post 1938 General HJ "Slip on" style pair from Bann 79 Hildenshiem, Obergebiet Nord, HJ Gebiet 8 Niedersachsen. $125.00

Second Photo is a post 1938 General HJ "sew in" pair from Bann 242 Julich-Erkelenz (later Julich), Obergebiet West, HJ Gebiet 11 Koln-Aachen. The three pips indicate the HJ rank of Gefolgschaftsfuhrer. It is not uncommon to see different styles or colors of pips on the same strap, as they were added as promotions were attained.$225.00

Third phot is a post 1938 pattern Genral HJ pair for a Gelfolgschaftsfuhrer of Bann 507 Wien West, Obergebiet Ost,HJ Gebiet 27 Wien. This set was manufactured by Otto Hendel of Sehma. $SOLD

 Fourth photoe is a 1938 Pattern late war General HJ "sew in" pair for Bann 945 Reichwerke Hermman Goering, Obergebiet Nord, HJ Gebiet 8 Niedersachsen. Note the red RZM control tags on the reverse. The ink stamp indicates the manufacturers name, the A4 designation is for textile manufacturing, the large C possibly represents the price of the tag, and the printed number at the bottom is the serial number of the straps. The name of the specific manufacturer can be traced through the ink stamp.This manufacturer is Rudolf Langer from Weipert in the Sudetenland-district, who got his RZM permission (anyway announced) February 11, 1939. Niedersachsen and Sudetenland are not really in the same area. This information is difficult to obtain as very few collectors have access to the RZM regulations which state who was permitted to manufacture items, and when they were permitted. Also note the straight pattern buttonhole, the "keyhole" pattern is more common. $175.00

Bann Munden Musician

Post 1938 General HJ "sew in" style single strap from Bann 596 Munden, Obergebiet Nord, HJ Gebiet 8 Niedersachsen. Note the metal lyre cypher on this strap.The use of the metal Lyre was forbidden by regulation in 1934 with the introduction of the early HJ uniform regulations-books from that period. A special color for the shoulder-strap was never introduced, so music bands largely wore the red piping of the General HJ. The only insignia which was officialy introduced as an indication for members of a band was a special grey metal button in the summer of 1937. The button shows an "S" and has a diameter of 1.9 cm officially, with the height for the "S" being 1.3cm.The use of any kind of musical insignia was never officially allowed, however period photographs show that this was not alway adhered to. $250.00

Bann Pless

Post 1938 pattern General HJ pair for an HJ Scharfuhrer of Bann 768 Pless, Obergebiet Ost, HJ Gebiet 40 Oberschlesien. This set has an interesting story. I bought a single from Spencer Vicotory. Over a year later I spotted the exact mate to my single on Ebay. I explained to the seller that I had the matching strap to his single and he accepted my offer. Of note on this strap is the Kriegsfreiwillege (war volunteer cord). Arthur Axman proclaimed the year 1944 as the "Year of The War Volunteers".  HJ members who were born in 1928 but were not fit to join the Waffen SS or Grossdeutchland formations were used within the Luftschutz, Feuerwehrscharn, and even in the Schnellcommandos. The cord is not a rank but is a decoration. It was stated that this kordel was the "highest possible decoration" for the H.J. at the time it was instituted in July of 1944. The signifigance of the cord diminished over time as thousands were handed out to H.J. members. It was allowed to be carried over and worn on the military uniform shoulder straps when an H.J. member became an active serviceman. This set has both a red and a white Kordel. It is not known to me what the white kordel represents but speculation could be for Striefendienst. Thanks to Wim Saris for the information regarding the kordel.$275.00

Unumbered General H.J.

Post 1938 Pattern late war General HJ "sew in" pair. This pair was manufactured without Bann numbers, designed to have metal numbers affixed. The pips reflect the HJ rank of Scharfuhrer. The manufacturing of these was allowed by the RZM from September 1944 to simplify matters by companies that were in fact RZM controlled. A manufacturer had to ensure the straps were well-made, then was allowed to sell them at wholesale. They had ensure proper embroidery. However, this is apparently something that did not happen all the time, and they can be found with somewhat crude looking stitching them. On occasion, late war straps with a rather poor embroidery are found, and they are assumed to be faked, when the regulations are not adhered to. This is also the time that metal letters and numbers came into use. Earlier this was strictly forbidden. Manufacturing of shoulder boards for leaders was continued and controlled by the RZM until the end of the war. Period photos also show this style of unumbered straps were used by some students of the N.P.E.A. Rare: $175.00