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Landsers' Pocketknives
By Larue Curren & Eric Tobey (All knives illustrated are from Mr. Curren's collection)


The following was taken from the Die Neue Feldpost newsletter & was done so with permission of the publisher.  We would like to thank him for his generosity as well as thank all those who have contributed to this article.  It is with their efforts, we are able to share this valuable research with the rest of you.

Anyone who has spent any time in the field will know the value of a good serviceable pocketknife, and the Landser was no exception to this rule.  In fact, given the pragmatic efficiency of the German Army, it is somewhat surprising that we can find no evidence of these useful tools being standard issue item - there is no mention of them in either equipment lists or Soldbuchs.  Instead, they were purchased either at home, from whatever local sources were present, or from their own "Marketenderwäre" (PX goods).

The knives with known wartime usage fall into two general categories:  1) Heavy-duty knives made for field use, and 2) "Penknives".

Field Knives:   
The grips of the knives we examined in this study were of wood (pear, walnut, or maple), or metal (steel or brass), and all of the specimens in this study had some type of maker's name or logo stamped on at least one blade.  Furthermore, almost all of them were made in a city which made its livelihood from edged steel: Solingen.

Knife "A":   
This example was a common type, and has been reproduced a great deal since the 40s - good for reenactors, bad for collectors, right?  The grips on this period specimen appear to be of pear wood and the high-quality single blade is 3-½" long.  The bolster is steel and the maker is Anton Wingen of Solingen.  Most of the reproductions of this style originate from Pakistan or India and some of them have been in the collector market long enough to attain a certain amount of credibility.  Some of the characteristics of these repros are: Large Waffenamts, pressed instead of ground blades (which was not present even in the late-war "ersatz" quality blades), a large hemispherical cut-out at the base of the blade which we are told was supposed to be a wire-stripping implement, and a maker mark of "HaWe".  It is possible that some of these "HaWe" wire-stripping knives are period, but in the words of long-time German Edged-Weapon collector Larue Curren, 

"...almost every German blade I know of has two things: a blade which was ground to shape and either a makers name or code.  If the base of the blade looks forged with no grinder marks, watch out!"

Knife "B":  
This is a variation on "A" and was jokingly referred to by Mr. Curren as the "French Occupation Model" because of the corkscrew!  The grips are maple and the bolster steel.  The long 3-½" blade is marked "ROGISO SOLINGEN".

Knives C&D:  
These are both of another fairly common pattern.  They are slightly smaller than the previous types and lack the reinforcing bolster.  Knife "C" has walnut-like grips, nickelled rivets, two blades and a can opener.  The larger blade (3" long) is marked "KAUFMANN" and has a "55" between two mirror-imaged Ks.  On the other side of the same blade is the Kaufmann logo.  These are all the trademarks of Heinrich Kaufmann & Sohn which was a well-known Solingen knife maker.  Knife "D" is about the same size as "C" and has maple grips, one blade marked Aug. Müller Söhne, Solingen, and a can opener.  This knife probably dates from the later war period as it is of simplified design, has a lot of machining marks, and has zinc side plates beneath the grip panels and zinc washers under the rivets.

Knife "E":  
This interesting knife has walnut grips with a brass insert, a 3-¼" long main blade, and may not be German manufacture.  The German inscription indicates that the knife was probably a 1941 Christmas gift to Mountain Troops stationed in the "Polar night" from citizens of the Sudetengau in Czechoslovakia.  It is possible that this knife is Czech-made.

Knife "F":  
This lock-blade style was popular before the war and this particular knife may actually date from WWI.  The sheet-brass handle has no added grip panels and originally was painted black.  The knife has a single large 3-½" long blade, a marlinspike, and a can opener.  The blade is marked with the "Kissing Crane" trademark of Robert Klaas.

There is another commonly-encountered variation of this knife which may date from WWII, but since we need more proof about this its time-frame, we have not illustrated an example here.  They are a massed-produced lock-blade style of the same general construction and size as Knife "F", but without the can opener and marlinspike.  The handles are black-painted steel instead of brass and are marked with the Kaufmann mirror-imaged Ks and "55", and a running cat.  The blade is marked "Mercator" and "Germany", and "Solingen" (these are the ones being reproduced now).  If anyone has more information on this model of knife, please share it with us!

PenKnives: 
In general, these are much smaller and more delicately made than their robust cousins of the field & camp.  They definitely had their uses, but woe to anyone who tries to gouge into a lard container of frozen Schmalz or hack off a slab of dried Mettwurst with one!  The soil of Europe is probably infested with thousands of them, split apart or broken-bladed and rusting gently into oblivion.  In fact, in a photograph of excavated German foxhole junk which appeared in a French brochure entitled "Traveler's Guide to Battlefields of the Vosges", you can see among the shell casings, ceramic fuse-cord balls for stick grenades, and rusted buttons: a small penknife with the rusting stub of a broken blade still protruding from the white-gripped handle!  But is obvious that they were actually used in the field (for whatever purposes), so they deserve some investigation.

The penknife illustrated below is somewhat unique.  The pearloid grips bear a printed design of green oakleaves, and "Andenken an die Westfront" and the bust of a soldier in black.  The soldier is wearing a helmet with a Luftwaffe decal on the side.  The knife has a single 2-¾" long blade (marked "ELAST, Germany") and a miniscule corkscrew (of course!  It does say Westfront, doesn't it?) of dubious value.

Another, more typical penknife (not illustrated) has two blades with the longest being 2-¾" long, and black plastic grips with a silver inlaid logo "Continental-Absätze".  The larger blade bears the 5 mobile arrows trademark of Müller & Schmidt.

In the following images you will find the German list of cutlery manufacturers logos from the 1930s.  The presence of one of these trademarks on any knife could indicate German manufacture before 1945, but it would not be proof since it is not known how many or which ones of these logos were still used post-war.  Puma, for instance, is still in use.

One word often found on German blades is the term "Rostfrei".  This means, "Stainless Steel".

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