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The Führer and Other Gifts
By Jim Pool (Lt.Col., Ret.)


Special thanks to Jim Pool for providing the article below.  Mr. Pool is a well known collector, historian, & author with focus on the topic of WWII German rations items .  He has contributed several articles to this site & we are always excited when we receive a new one as they are always full of great information and images. If you enjoy reading this article, then we highly recommend you pick up his new book, Rations of the German Wehrmacht in World War II.  It is definitely a "must have" for those of us interested in things like this.
 

Introduction
For Christmas this year I received the 1958 classic movie “A Time to Love and a Time to Die”. Set in 1944 the movie is about a young German soldier Hans Graeber who we meet fighting as an infantryman on the Eastern Front. Early in the movie, his Company Commander informs him that his 2 week furlough to German has been approved. The remainder of the movie focuses on the events that occur during his furlough in wartime Germany. Enroute to Germany by train, a German officer distributes a food package at one of the stops. The officer explains that the package should be given to their families as a symbol on how well things are going at the front. Of course this was one of the Führer Gifts which were initiated to recognize the sacrifices of the soldiers and citizens supporting the war effort.

There were two distinct categories of gifts; the Führergeschenk and Führer-Paket. Chronologically the Führer-Paket was initiated first and was authorized from October, 1942 to March, 1943. The Führergeschenk was authorized beginning 15 October, 1943 and rescinded on 1 September, 1944. I'll comment on the gifts in reverse order since very little information was available on the Führer-Paket.


Führergeschenk
This gift was authorized by O.K.W., 22.9.43-6447/43-W Allg (IIb). It authorized the issuance of the Führergeschenk starting 15 October, 1943. It was authorized for personnel on normal leave, wounded, ill or recalled to Germany on emergency leave. The gift was rescinded on 1 September, 1944 by O.K.W., 25.8.44-5150/44-AWA/W Allg (IIb).

Wehrmacht and Waffen SS personnel had to serve in the following areas to be eligible for the gift: The east front (eastward from the Reich, The General Government and the Bialystok district), from Finland, Italy including Albania and the Italian Aegean Islands, Greece including Crete and the Aegean Islands, Serbia, Croatia and Norway. Naval crews in the following areas were eligible: The Eastern Baltic, in Norwegian waters, in the Black Sea, and in the Mediterranean. Members of certain units of the Navy and Air Force serving in the West were also eligible. It is assumed that personnel in North Africa, Italy, and the Western Front (after June 6, 1944) were also eligible for the gift.

Members of the following organizations were eligible for the gift: Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Foreign Volunteers of the Army and Waffen-SS, Police, Customs, RAD, OT, NSKK Gruppe Todt, Railway (so called Blue Railroadmen), civilian crews of warships, construction workers for the Air Force, NSKK Motorgruppe Air Force, Schutzmannschaft Battalions, and the Red Cross. Both men and women were eligible for the gift.

The gifts were a controlled item and their abuse carried stiff penalties. When a person was entitled to receive the gift an entry was made in his Soldbuch, Einsatzbuch or other identity document. This entry would generally match up with a leave date. Another entry was made in the identity document when the gift was received. Our research indicates that the gift could only be given out once. However some references state that an order dated October, 1943 allowed the gift to be given more than once.

The gift program was under the control of the Reichkommissars of the Ukraine, Gauleiter Koch, via the various organizations of the Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt (NSV), or the National Socialist People's Welfare. Distribution points for the gifts were established at railroad stations in the following towns or cities: Zdolbunow, Gretschany, Przemysl, Kowel, Brest, Memel, Pogegen, Tilsit (moved to Pogegen), Eydtkau, Bialystok (moved to Wolkowysk), and Königsberg. Provisions were made for personnel who could not get to one of the authorized distribution centers.

The Führergeschenk consists of a Food Parcel (Lebensmittelpaket) containing: 5 kg Flour, 2 kg of other food stuffs, 1 kg Sugar, 1.5 kg Marmalade or 1 kg of Jam and 0.5 kg Honey and 0.5 kg Butter or other Fats. In lieu of the Food Parcel a recipient could be given a Special Ration card (Sonderlebensmittelkarte) and funds in the amount of 10 RM necessary for the purchase of items.


 

Führer-Paket
Very little is known about this gift. Heeresmitteilung 1942 p.582, Nr 1055, 30.11.42 authorized the gift after 30.9.42. A reference in one of the regulations on the Führergeschenk gives the dates for the Führer-Paket as October, 1942 to March, 1943. It is assumed that the regulations governing the Führer-Paket were similar to those for the Führergeschenk. The special ration card was named the Führer-Paket für Osturlauber (Leader package for eastern vacationers) and consisted of the following items: 2.5 kg Flour, 1 kg Sugar, 1.5 kg Dry cereal products, starch or legumes, 1 kg Butter, and 1 kg Meat or meat products. Since the food products for the the Führergeschenk and Führer-Paket were not provided by the military it’s likely that they were commercial off the shelf items. The individual items were probably placed in a card stock box or paper sack for ease of handling.


 

Other Gifts
There are several items found in collections today that are assumed to be part of the Führergeschenk or Führer-Paket. They are clearly identified as a gift from the Führer, but are not referenced in any of the pertinent regulations we have. The authors have elected to call them Lebensmittelpakets, because they are clearly made to hold food items. However the containers are not large enough to hold the amount of food specified by regulation for the Führergeschenk and Führer-Paket.. Its likely that these were special gifts given out for special occasions or circumstances. More than likely these gifts were distributed via the various organizations of the Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt (NSV) or by the German Red Cross. From surviving photographs and items in collections, its evident that the German Red Cross was heavily involved in preparing gift packages for German soldiers. Of course individuals, companies, and towns also recognized the sacrifices of the military by preparing food and clothing etc. packages for soldiers.

Dr. Lothar Zeidler was a young infantryman on the Eastern front from 1943-45 and provided these recollections about the Führer gifts. "You got the Führer-Paket as you returned on leave to Germany from Russia, at a border crossing point. A Political Leader presented the gift after the mandatory speech. The gift consisted of a cardboard box with flour, other grains, sugar, and butter, but no sweets. When I was wounded in early 1944, I was given a whole homemade box, with cans of Portuguese (!) sardines. It was handed out at the hospital in Winniza, as part of the Verwundeten rations".



 




 




 


 


 






 


 


 

 


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