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NVA "Cold War" Collection 1956 - 1990

Article about: Well, a short (or maybe long) introduction is on order... It's true... History DOES repeats itself. In the eve of the "Second Cold War" (started a few days ago in the Ukraine), I'v

  1. #1

    Default NVA "Cold War" Collection 1956 - 1990

    Well, a short (or maybe long) introduction is on order...

    It's true... History DOES repeats itself.
    In the eve of the "Second Cold War" (started a few days ago in the Ukraine), I've decided to open my own thread of NVA collection.
    I already have a thread of my Hungarian "Cold War" collection: Hungarian "Cold War" Collection 1945 - 1990 - but I have decided to slowly but surely, start a collection of NVA items.

    I have to say, I only have a few items so far, there is a lot to be learned still from the members of this forum and from assorted places, mostly from the internet. I have to thank René and James from the Show us your NVA items! thread to inspire me to kick start collecting NVA stuff.

    In this thread, I will only post items I have already have in my possession - when I'll have questions, I'll ask them in the already mentioned thread - and I'm sure I'll have many.

    Finally, just a few words about NVA items in general...
    I think NVA (collecting) has a bad rep. "Poor man's German military", etc.
    I'm a comic book artist - so being "visual" is my job. I tend to think of NVA as a "futuristic, sci-fi, alternative history" version of a "what if the 3rd. Reich won the war" army - with great traditional uniforms, M56 helmet (best damn helmet - if not the prettiest - until the kevlar stuff flooded the market), all exciting things, still in great shape, and reasonable prices. But not for long! Some early 1950s - 1960s NVA items are getting as pricey as the WW2 counterparts...

    I'll do my best to try to "FOCUS" on interesting items - but sometimes it's hard to leave an item, if the price is right...

    When I'll post items, I'll almost always write a few things about the item itself, when possible, post original photos for reference. I do quite a research of anything before I buy it - so in a way it's a great way to share info to all noobie NVA collectors, such as myself.

    I planning to get professional photos taken of all my items (WW2 and Cold War) later this year, maybe also open a "museum blog" also...Until that time, I'll post seller's pics and my somewhat crude photos.


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  3. #2


    For my second post - I'll copy in some general info regarding NVA markings, dates, and sizes. ( I realize there is a "sticky" thread already with codes, let's just say; this is for my own reference, when I'll post stuff in the future )

    This info can be found at most major NVA military web-shops - but for quick reference - I'll post it here:

    Determining when East German tunics, overcoats, hats and other collectibles were manufactured is not difficult if you know what to look for.
    Two dating systems were used: Digital and Letter Code. The Digital System was used in the early years of the DDR; the Letter Code System replaced it beginning in 1968.
    Digital System:
    In the Digital System, the year of manufacture is shown either by its last 2 digits following a slash mark (example: /61= 1961), or by all four digits (example: 1961).
    Letter Code System:
    Beginning in 1968, letters were used in place of numbers to show the year of manufacture. The chart below shows the year each letter represents. Note that by an oversight the letter "L" was used twice: 1973 and 1987.

    K 1968
    Z 1969
    M 1970
    X 1971
    B 1972
    L 1973 (also 1987)
    O 1974
    S 1975
    R 1976
    A 1977
    U 1978
    F 1979
    E 1980
    G 1981
    I 1982
    C 1983
    H 1984
    T 1985
    P 1986
    L 1987 (also 1973)
    Y 1988
    N 1989
    D 1990


    1966-dated Hat:

    1856 = Inventory/Stock #
    1966 = Year of Manufacture
    NVA = Armed Forces
    52 = Size

    1972-dated Tunic:

    1862 = Inventory/Stock #
    K52 = Size
    IV/B = 4th Quarter, 1972
    ("B" = 1972)

    1984-dated Overcoat:

    NVA = Armed Forces
    H/1 = 1st Quarter, 1984
    ("H" =1984)
    SG52 = Size

  4. #3


    Here is the first item - and the most recent - in fact, so recent, that the items are being shipped from Berlin as I write this...

    M56 Helmet - a few days ago, I've posted a photo of M56/66 helmet over the "Show me your NVA items" thread, which I was planning to buy. James informed me, that that helmet had an upgraded liner, so I sort of "let it go"...
    Then by accident, I saw a lot of 5(!) M56 helmets on the German ebay site...with early WW2 style (M44?) liners.
    I wrote to the seller, if he could sell me just one for a fix price - which he couln't, since there was already a bid on them.
    So I also bid - not a huge amount money - I thought to myself; I had no chance - an avarage German worker makes about 4x over the amount I earn here in Hungary...
    As it happend, and to my shock, I won the helmets! (I make no secret of the price: 105 euroes)
    I didn't know the market price of an early M56 helmet - I usually only see brand new 1980s made "no rivets" versions for around 30 euroes + shipping. So I think I won these for an "OK" price...

    Just as the M35 helmet (shape) was an iconic image of the German Army in WW2 - the M56 was the same for the NVA...
    Only recently I learned (I have been collecting military since 3 years ago), that the M56 (or B/II prototype or M45) was designed by the Third Reich, to replace the M35,40,42 helmets, but never was mass-produced (mostly because Adolf Hitler disliked the shape of it - wasn't "iconic" enough for him.)

    But again, I'll copy in general info regarging the helmet...Under the text I'll post seller's pics - and I'll update with more pics, when they arrive in a few days.

    "East German NVA Stahlhelm: Historical development.
    The East German Military Helmet has origins that can be traced all the way back to 1939, and to the Wehrmacht invasion of Poland. The Iron and Steel Specialty Division of the Third Reich Research Council undertook a study at that time, of the ballistic characteristics inherent to various military helmets of armies of several different countries. The Reich Institute For Defense Technology was tasked with this study, and two Professors, Dr. FRY and Dr. HAENSEL were instrumental in securing examples of different helmets from different countries for the test. These helmets, along with the Wehrmacht’s own M35 Stahlhelm, were tested with small arms ammunition fired from a multitude of angles and distances, for research purposes relevant penetration characteristics. The British “Tommy” helmet fared the worst. However, the Wehrmacht’s own M35 also was found to have serious shortcomings. Finding none of the helmets in current use by the different armies of the world to be satisfactory, the Reich Institute undertook steps to design an all together new helmet with the ballistic characteristics sought after. Several prototype helmets for testing were produced by the Voelkingen Stahlwerke. Upon completion of the tests in 1942, the results were provided to the Army Weapons Office. Despite objections by Hitler, this office, under the auspices of a memoranda generated by the Army Medical Inspectorate, went ahead and authorized production of a new pattern combat helmet. The passing of the memorandum was due in part to increasing pressure on the Army Weapons Office to find a solution to the ever increasing number of serious head wounds received by wearers of the M35 and the M42; and to encompass design changes that would address the increasingly scarce supply of necessary materials and labor required for production of the current M35/42 helmet. The M35/42 models were both very expensive to produce, and labor intensive. Subsequently, a total of four prototypes were designed, which were designated A, B, BII, and C. The latter 3 represented major departures from the M35/42 design. After preliminary testing, models B and BII were approved for further testing. Orders were then placed with the Eisen und Huettenwerke for production of no less than 50 examples of each type. They were referred to as the Thale/Harz helmets after their designers. The Helmets were then sent to the Doeblitz Infantry School outside of Berlin, where they were then put through rigorous “Hands-on” testing in a true field environment with Infantry Units at the school. The helmets subsequently proved to be of sound design for wear and use, and were far superior in ballistics to any helmet then made. It was only then that Hitler was approached with the final results of the research program that had gone on for several years without his knowledge. Both helmet designs, B and BII were presented to him in the autumn of 1944 for his approval of one or the other. The new helmet was to be designated the M45. Remarkably, Hitler took no action against anyone for the tests that had gone on behind his back. He did however reject both helmets, doing so on the principal that the current M35/42 in his eyes, best exemplified the German Soldier. His decision was based entirely on his own perception of how countries with whom the Wehrmacht was at war, viewed the German Soldier in Uniform. He felt the M35/42 best exemplified that look. Not surprisingly, memoirs recorded in diaries of some Soviet soldiers suggest the new helmets given to the Infantry School on the outskirts of Berlin for testing, received their baptism of fire when Soviet Forces first entered the Berlin Capital in the Spring of 1945. Reportedly, Russiantroops encountered two Infantry Companies from the Doeblitz Infantry School.
    The Dresden Museum has in its NVA Display, an example of a model BII Stahlhelm, believed to be a survivor of the last ditch effort by the Wehrmacht against the Russians, as they unsuccessfully strove to fend off the invaders as they entered Berlin.
    After the division of the two German states, and the designation of East Germany as a separate country in 1949, a seemingly new type helmet already had appeared, which was worn in limited numbers by the Barracks Police, or KVP. It actually was based upon the model A Stahlhelm and therefore resembled the M35/42. It, together with the Khaki type uniform then worn by the KVP, proved to be problematic with the East German Populace, who found it too closely resembled the uniform of the hated Soviet Military. Consequently in 1956, with the transformation of the KVP into the new National Volkes Army (NVA), the newly established NVA Rear-Services Administration and Office of Technology was ordered to develop a new helmet deemed suitable for an East German“Socialist” Armed Forces. It could not have physical characteristics associated with either the Wehrmacht M35/42 or the Russian helmet. Consequently the Model A helmet then being worn by the KVP was rejected. Yet the helmet still needed to project the “National” character of East Germany. It suddenly dawned on all, that the helmet in question had already been designed, tested. and, the factory for producing the helmet already existed, with all the necessary tools and die. It just so happened that the Head Engineer appointed to and tasked with the development of the new NVA helmet was Erich KIESEN. Ironically, he had been affiliated with Eisen und Huettenwerke, which had produced the model B and BII helmets formerly approved by the Wehrmacht Army Weapons Office, but rejected by Hitler. Hitler’s rejection now proved paramount and profound, because it paved the way for acceptance of that helmet without connotations of it being associated with the “Fascist” Wehrmacht Army. Better yet, no money was necessary for research, design and/or testing. The helmet had already been designed, researched and tested thoroughly, and had passed with flying colors on all accounts. Even better was the fact that Engineer KIESEN was the holder of former patents for an improved helmet liner with a new “Y” type chin-strap and ventilation bushings meant for the M35/42, but never implemented. With modifications, the Model B and BII could be quickly fitted with that liner. But most prophetic of all, was the good fortune that the factory in question was completely intact and located on East German soil. The BII subsequently was selected for production over the model B. So it was that in Jan 1956, production of the model BII was resumed. The new helmet was introduced to the East German Public via photographs published that February in a magazine for the German Youth, or FDJ. The new helmet was officially introduced at the introduction ceremony of the NVA on May 1st, in Berlin. It was painted in a “Stone Grey” matte and bore a Tri-color Shield on one side in Black, Red and Gold.
    Eventually, the helmet under the direction of Gen. Willi Stoph, went through more rigorous testing, resulting in superficial design modifications over the passing years - the removal of the “Rivets” being one of the later design modification improvements. In principal however, the helmet was found to be superior to anything then being fielded by any army anywhere. Not until the advent of the Kevlar Helmet by the U.S. Military, did a helmet surpass the ballistic qualities endowed to the NVA Stahlhelm, officially designated the M-1956. In 1957 the helmet entered production in earnest in three sizes (60m, 64m and 68m). By September of that same year, 50,000 helmets had been produced and issued to NVA Troops. By years end, all NVA Troops had the helmet. The entire process – development to production and issue, was accomplished in a single year. Also in 1957, the first “Resin” or plastic NVA helmets were produced for issue to and wear by special elite or honor guard troops.
    It should be noted that the first production helmets had a liner similar to the M-42, but were configured with a double “Y” chin-strap. Consequently, any NVA Stahlhelm found to be configured with an M-42 type liner and the single type adjustable chinstrap, could very well be an example of a model B or BII produced during the era of the Wehrmacht. The “Rivets” of course should be found to be positioned lower on the helmet than on subsequent 1956 production models.
    In 1956 development of this helmet was deemed necessary due to experience with the model 1935 and 1942 german helmet. Many head wounds were experienced by wearers of the earlier designs.
    The design team led by Erich Kiesen started with the last developmental versions of the Nazi German steel helmet and steeply sloped the form to increase the glancing effect of the helmet.
    The final design was tested using :
    Direct shots from TT33 pistols at 10 to 25 meters.
    MPi PPSch 41 at 25 to 100 meters.
    Sharpshooter Rifle D from 300 to 600 meters.
    SMG fire from 600 meters.
    Also from the effects of:
    Hand Grenades from 10 meters.
    82mm Grenade Launcher from 10 meters.
    76mm Cannon from 20 meters.
    122mm Howitzer from 25 meters.
    Taken into account were also the weares comfort and utility.
    Wind and Rain were also not to diminish perception of sound.
    The users eyes were to be shaded from the sun.
    It was to be comfortable whether the user is Standing, Lying, rolling, running, or getting up.
    Also the suspension was not to cause any pressure pain. A well known phenomenon of even todays helmets.
    The VOLPO helmet is perhaps the most scientifically developed Alloy helmet of the 20th century."
    Click image for larger version. 

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    ...and here are my helmets:
    two of the helmets are "rare" size: I
    three of the helmets are size II

    All of them have 3 rivets, an early WW2 style liner and 4 out of 5 has an early chin-strap - see this pic for reference:
    (the chin-strap on the bottom is "early" type - the top is with added chin-cushion is more common)
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Sellers pics:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Only seen 2 markings on the photos, (the 2 helmets with size I.) one is 1960 the other 1964 dated - I think (?)

    Finally, the M56 in action:
    Click image for larger version. 

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  5. #4



    These items are fairly common (exept maybe the 1968 dated KdA cap), and had them for a while...
    The plan is for the near-future is to get all branches (police, border-guard, navy, etc.) - if possible, get also some early dated ones.

    NVA "pilotka" field cap with markings:

    2/067 E

    Size: 55 Date: 1980
    Cloth badge - new condition
    Click image for larger version. 

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    NVA Field cap with chin-strap - markings:

    I /1
    Alu badge - new condition

    Size: 58 Date: 1st Quarter, 1982
    Click image for larger version. 

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    KdA / Combat Groups of the Working Class (Kampfgruppen der Arbeiterklasse, KdA) field cap with chin-strap - markings:

    MDI - 1855 - 1968

    Size: 57 date: 1968
    Alu badge - used condition
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Some reference photos - mostly KdA troops:
    Click image for larger version. 

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  6. #5


    Great post Fabe, I really like the KG cap badge.

  7. #6



    The lot of five M56 with WW2 style liners arrived yesterday...

    Overall, I'm happy with purchase - no rust, liners are all complete and the leather is soft.

    Some stats:

    4 out 5 helmets are size I. with 54 and 55 size liners (smallest - there are three M56 sizes: I. small - II. medium - III. large)
    1 helmet is size II. with a 57 size liner.
    2 out of 5 helmets have the "early style" chin-straps (with thinner strap and no chin-protectors)
    1 out 5 helmet has a complete "new style" chin-strap
    2 out of 5 helmets has a "new style" chin-strap with chin-protectors either missing on both sides or on one side
    1 out of 5 helmets have markings probably under the liner or one of the cushin pads - I couldn't find them, but will not take apart the helmets... safe to assume that it's between 1960 - 1964.

    Dates: (I'll number the helmets 1-5)
    helmet 1.: Size II. 1960
    helmet 2.: Size I. 1960
    helmet 3.: size I. 1963
    helmet 4:: size I. 1964
    helmet 5.: size I. ???

    Here are some (not so great) photos of helmet 1. - check the early style chin-strap around the neck - liner size: 57
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Again, the difference between early and new style chin-straps - top strap is new, bottom strap is early:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Reference photo of M56 helmet with early liner and chin-strap:
    Click image for larger version. 

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  8. #7


    This is a really nice collection of NVA stuff you have here.

  9. #8


    Thanks, just started collecting NVA more seriously recently - I had those hats for a while - and I wanted to get a M56 helmet finally. It was pure luck, that I happend to buy a lot (of 5) for basically for the price of one of them on - will focus on late 1950s - early 1960s NVA soilder (uniform and field-gear) - and hopefully stay away from the common "rain camo" stuff for now...But of course, after collecting together an early NVA soilder dummy, I'll eventually get to the more recent 1980s "rain camo" soilder.

    This is the kind of dummy I hope for - althou' this early camo stuff is rare & getting expensive:
    Click image for larger version. 

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  10. #9


    I will be looking forward to seeing that dummy. I also have started collecting NVA fairly recently. Actually most of my current collection was given to me by an older collector who was liquidating his collection. It seems to me that the earlier NVA can be fairly hard to find despite the prevalence of the later (80s) NVA militaria.

  11. #10


    I was looking at the prices on (as I said, getting these 5 early liner M56 for a 105 Euroes was pure luck - usually one of these costs around 100-150 EU) - and it's safe to say, that it will take me around a year at least to collect together an early NVA dummy - if not more.

    I don't have a family yet - so I gotta act fast...

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