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 always printed on both sides, and the quality of the garments was of a generally 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.