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Concentration Camp Prisoner's Uniforms

Article about: Most of the uniforms were made in the textile workshops of some of the larger Konzentrationslagers, such as KL-Dachau, KL-Sachsenhausen or f.KL-Ravensbrück. The material differed slightly fr

  1. #1
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    Default Concentration Camp Prisoner's Uniforms

    Most of the uniforms were made in the textile workshops of some of the larger Konzentrationslagers, such as KL-Dachau, KL-Sachsenhausen or f.KL-Ravensbrück. The material differed slightly from workshop to workshop, with a mostly cotton or cotton/wool mix being utilised. Summer issued linen garments were also produced. Some, perhaps thinking of the expensive modern high street garments, have questioned that this material was actually used to produce prisoner's uniforms but indeed it was. The damp, cool Northern European climate allowed the production of the material to thrive, hence the relatively low costs involved with a material that unlike cotton, did not need importing.

    The coloured stripes would range from purple to light blue, with the alternating stripes being present in grey to near white. The stripes were generally printed on both sides and the quality of the garments was of a fairly high standard.

    Many of the jackets produced had pockets. Patently, garments with pockets were preferred by the prisoners. Even "secret pockets" are known to have been stitched into some pieces, likely originating from prisoners with a contact in the workshop, who was able to supply them with a needle and thread.

    The hierarchy that existed within prisoners is well known, yet few realise that this was also partly reflected in the uniforms. It is known that some "prominents", as Primo Levi refers to them in his work "survivng Auschwitz", wore uniforms with piping around the pockets or shoulder area.

    No size indications are found on original pieces either, despite variations being produced in the period. Although some trousers were manufactured with belt loops attached, these were somewhat redundant as prisoners were forbidden to own belts.

    Stains: Interestingly, not all stains that appear on concentration camp prisoner uniforms are related to their former forced labour duties. Whilst most are indeed a sign of work in a machine shop for example, some prisoners, as ever plagued by the constant harassment of lice, chose to sprinkle a little oil on their uniforms to act as a form of pest control.

    During the 1960's, uniforms from the camps still were not recognised as artifacts, and were disinfected in mass quantities, in addition to undergoing much repair work. Post war alterations also occurred. At Majdanek and Sachsenhausen, German prisoners were kept in the former KLs from 1945 onwards, and they wore the uniforms of the former concentration camp inmates, although most of the former insignia was removed. Today, very few genuine pieces have the original insignia present. Those that do are typically marked with the former red triangle of Schutzhäftlinge (political prisoners). One theory suggests that this is due to the post war Soviet desire to remind the Germans that the communists prevailed.

    Various period images attached.

    Regards,

    Carl
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture AUSCHWITZ A.JPG   BUCHENWALD A.jpg  

    DACHAU A.jpg   NIEDERHAGEN A.jpg  

    SACHSENHAUSEN A.jpg  
    Last edited by CARL; 11-26-2017 at 01:09 AM.
    Experienced guide and published author leading detailed study trips to the former KZ sites of Nazi Germany. Contact for further details.

    www.concentrationcamptours.com

    www.concentrationcampmoney.com


    "maka akaŋl oyate maŋi pi ki le, tuweŋi wíyópeya oki hi sni"

  2. #2

    Default Re: Concentration Camp Prisoner's Uniforms

    What style of inmate uniforms were used in the German penal system outside or before the concentration camps were set up? Was the familiar striped uniform specifically for concentration camps inmates?
    I collect, therefore I am.

    Nothing in science can explain how consciousness arose from matter.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Concentration Camp Prisoner's Uniforms

    "the quality of the garments was of a generally high standard."
    That really does surprise me!...
    It's a wasted trip baby. Nobody said nothing about locking horns with no Tigers.



    I'm Spartacus, not really i'm Paul!...

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Concentration Camp Prisoner's Uniforms

    Quote by Gunny Hartmann View Post
    "the quality of the garments was of a generally high standard."
    That really does surprise me!...
    It may well surprise some, but it shouldn't. The prisoners were repeatedly forced to perform arduous labour, hence the requirement of hard wearing clothing that was able to endure the strain of the demands. Remember that the material still needed to be paid for, and to reproduce or constantly repair uniforms would have been both time consuming, thus taking labour away from a productive task and onto an area that did not assist the Reich, and also costly.



    Re: German prison uniforms.

    Some prisons did not have a uniform code. Prisoners would then wear their own civilian garments. Others had their own variation of prison uniform.

    Regards,

    Carl
    Experienced guide and published author leading detailed study trips to the former KZ sites of Nazi Germany. Contact for further details.

    www.concentrationcamptours.com

    www.concentrationcampmoney.com


    "maka akaŋl oyate maŋi pi ki le, tuweŋi wíyópeya oki hi sni"

  5. #5

    Default Re: Concentration Camp Prisoner's Uniforms

    Yes built for purpose and not the "comfort" of the inmate.
    It's a wasted trip baby. Nobody said nothing about locking horns with no Tigers.



    I'm Spartacus, not really i'm Paul!...

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Concentration Camp Prisoner's Uniforms

    Exactly. Efficiency over elaboration.
    Experienced guide and published author leading detailed study trips to the former KZ sites of Nazi Germany. Contact for further details.

    www.concentrationcamptours.com

    www.concentrationcampmoney.com


    "maka akaŋl oyate maŋi pi ki le, tuweŋi wíyópeya oki hi sni"

  7. #7

    Default Re: Concentration Camp Prisoner's Uniforms

    Fascinating post, Carl. Thank you for your work here.

    Josh

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Concentration Camp Prisoner's Uniforms

    Quote by CARL View Post
    Exactly. Efficiency over elaboration.
    Indeed. Further more, as uniforms could be re-used, when former wearers no longer 'needed' them, it would be more efficient, if the uniforms were durable instead of having to make new uniforms or repair old ones.
    Ice cold cost-benefit analysis for the TR to make, but I assume that was a factor as well.
    Last edited by CARL; 11-26-2017 at 01:08 AM.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Concentration Camp Prisoner's Uniforms

    A very interesting thread. I thought it might be appropriate to upload some pictures of prisoners uniforms that I have taken in various KL museums, including Auschwitz, Belsen, Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture a65.jpg   IMG_4468.jpg  

    IMG_4469.jpg   IMG_4470.jpg  

    IMG_6023.jpg   IMG_6027.jpg  

    IMG_6031.jpg   IMG_6033.jpg  

    IMG_6308.jpg   IMG_6410.jpg  

    IMG_6411.jpg   IMG_6642.jpg  

    IMG_6644.jpg   IMG_6645.jpg  


  10. #10

    Default Re: Concentration Camp Prisoner's Uniforms

    I believe that some KL inmates wore the clothes they arrived in and had a patch of the striped uniform stitched over the back rather than wearing a complete inmate uniform?
    I collect, therefore I am.

    Nothing in science can explain how consciousness arose from matter.

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