Anatomy Part I
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.
Covers & Pages 1 - 2
are one of the "common elements" among the
three main groups of Wehrmacht aficionados: for the
collector, they present an almost limitless variety at
reasonable prices. For the researcher of German
Army life, they contain large amounts of detailed,
dated information, and for the reenactor, they
represent an important and highly individualized piece
of kit from which an entire first-person impression
can be built.
series of articles will attempt to do is give the
reader a better understanding of how Army Soldbuchs
were filled out, and explain the significance of the
cross-section of books for this study was obtained by
examining a total of 255 books or copies of books, not
including a number of parts or incomplete books.
army personal would carry an "army"
Soldbuch. As we have pointed out in earlier
issues, there were many men who transferred from
either the Kriegsmarine or Luftwaffe in
the ranks of the late-1944 vintage infantry unit.
These men kept their old Soldbuchs, and there were
certain differences from the Army type in both.
This series will cover Army books only; books
from the other arms will have to wait for a future
series of articles!
other procedure that is left up to a great many
individuals, the methods used in filling out Soldbuchs
varied greatly, and sometimes even defied regulations.
Some entries were almost never filled out according to
regulation and some things put into the books had no
regulations pertaining to them at all. In almost
every case, however, a "typical" or
"standard" method or entry can be easily
identified; the description for the
"typical" entry will be set in underlined
bold type. Entries made like these would
not have aroused suspicion in your typical "Kettenhund"!
The "Item Numbers" correspond with the
item-locating arrows on the illustrations.
two basic covers for Army Soldbuchs: stock and variant
re-covers. Stock covers were made from a
dense, greenish cover stock that had a peculiar
"wavy" watermark. The spines were
covered with a green cloth spine-reinforcing tape.
Stock covers also had a "pocket" formed in
the back cover by folding three flaps inward.
Printed inside on the end-flap of the pocket there
were some "rules" for the book, and here is
a rough translation:
1. The Soldbuch serves the soldier as
a personal identification in wartime and as
an authorization to receive pay from his own
or outside pay-stations. In addition,
it is an identification for rail travel,
detached service, leave, and for receiving
Soldbuch will always be carried by the
soldier on his person in a tunic pocket.
Leaving the book in one's baggage or in
one's quarters is not permitted. The
careful preservation of the book is in the
best interest of the owner.
Soldbuch must be kept in an orderly fashion.
The owner must see to it, that all changes
in pay due to transfer or promotion are
immediately entered by his responsible duty
Soldbuch is an official document.
Entries are only to be made by a Wehrmacht
duty station. Making unauthorized
changes is punishable as falsification of
5. The loss
of a Soldbuch is to be reported as soon the
loss is discovered to the holders unit or
duty station, and the issue of a new
Soldbuch will be requested.
Cover of Army
printed in pen
at the top
being carried in someone's pocket for a few
years, the covers on most books turned to
mush. Instead of giving the man a
brand-new book, the old cover was simply
torn off and a new cover stapled on, thus
preserving the original pages and entries.
These re-covered books are easy to spot
today, because the staples that hold them
together will be on the outside
of the spine reinforcing tape. This is
due to the manufacturing process used to
make new books and covers: for a new book,
the pages and cover were stapled together, then
the cloth tape was put over the spine,
thereby covering the staples. A
certain number of empty covers were kept in
the field-unit company's office supplies to
recover worn books, and for these
replacement covers, the spine tape was put
on the empty cover at the print shop that
made the cover. Therefore, when the
new cover was stapled onto the old book at
the company office, the staples had to go
through the tape.
sample group for this study there were also a total of
20 books (about 8%) that were re-covered with a very
different sort of cover. This variant cover, as
yet seen only as re-covers, was made of card stock
which was more of a brownish-green color and lacked
the wavy texture. There are no fold-in flaps on
the rear cover, so there is no "pocket".
The rules normally printed on the flap of the rear
cover were now printed either on the inside of the
front cover or inside the back cover.
books were recovered with whatever was handy at the
time. Two books in this study had plain,
cardstock covers. Many books were protected
inside various types of covers and wallets, but since
these are technically not actually a part of the book,
they are outside the scope of this article.
Maybe a future article!
Soldbuchs were not usually found outside the
possession of their owners, there were occasions when
the books were taken in and filed for security
reasons. Filing was not a problem as long as the
number of books was small, like when a small group
left its books behind before going out on patrol.
On the other hand, if a whole unit turned in its
books*, filing the 180 books of a company could be a
problem because all Soldbuch covers look the same.
Hospital clerks had the same problem with the books
belonging to the patients in their care. In
these instances, there had to be some method of
identifying and filing the book without having to open
the cover, and apparently there were two common
methods of doing this: marking the cover and filing
the books with the covers open.
116 of the
books in our study have either the soldier's last name
(the most common), the whole name, or the first couple
letters of the last name printed somewhere near the
top of the front cover. 29 more books have just
the last initial in the same place. This
practice of placing the soldier's last initial in the
upper right-hand corner may have evolved from the
small block printed in the same place on the cover of
a Wehrpaß. The designers of the German
documents realized that Wehrpasses would normally
be filed so they put a small space on the cover for an
initial. Knowing how thorough the Germans are
makes it all the more remarkable that they didn't
realize that the Soldbuch would occasionally be filed
and provide a similar "box" on the Soldbuch
cover. Nobody's perfect.
half of the books do not have the soldier's ID on the
cover at all; this is not really unusual, for all it
usually indicates is that the book was never
temporarily filed away from the individual.
covers have a pair of holes punched through
just the front cover (36 books in our study,
see illus. 2). This is evidence of
filing system attributed mainly to
hospitals, in which the Soldbuch was secured
and filed in an open state, exposing the
first page and allowing the clerk to
identify it without having to physically
In 1942 and
1943, it was an occasional practice to glue
a detailed training record sheet (Ausbildungsnachweiß)
on the inside of the front cover (7 books in
our study). Photographs were often
later affixed over these sheets, obscuring
entries on the sheet itself.
Note on German Ink Stamps:
are two important types of stamps:
entry stamps and unit seals.
Entry stamps were used to replace
repetitious entries (except
signatures): unit names, officers'
ranks and titles, some dates, and
other entries. Unit seals
are the big circular stamps that
have the eagle in the middle and
an office name or Feldpost number
just inside the circle.
red cross across the cover usually indicates the death
of the owner.
in 1944, photo-graphs were required to be affixed
inside the front cover of Army Soldbuchs as an
additional security measure. A genuine Afrika Korps
Soldbuch will therefore not have a picture in it,
unless it was added after the campaign. Books from the
Normandy campaign may or may not have photos in them.
Of the 45 books in our study group that were actually
carried in the Normandy campaign, 8 of them had no
photograph at the time of the battles. All of the
specimen books carried by front-line soldiers during
the Ardennes campaign (a total of 151 books) have or
had a photograph at the time of the battle.
the photos were stapled in with two
staples, one through the upper right and one
through the lower left corners, then stamped
with the unit seal over the upper left and
lower right corners (see
illustration 2). The soldier
then signed his name in ink under the photo.
The stamps were meant to prevent
substitution of a different photograph.
course there are variations to the norm;
some photos are just glued, not stapled (48
books), some photos are riveted in like Wehrpaß
photos (6 books), and sometimes the
positions of the staples and stamps vary:
staples upper left and lower right, stamps
upper right and lower left, or staples in
the middle of the top and bottom or sides,
etc.. (29 books). Sometimes the soldier
signed his name right across the bottom of
the photo itself rather than underneath it
(51 books), both on and underneath the photo
(15 books), or not signed at all (7 books).
front cover: Typical
some variations to the photos themselves, but the
typical photo is about 1-3/4" wide by
2-3/8" tall including a small white border,
showing the soldier in his wool field tunic, down to
about the bottom of the flaps of his tunic breast
pockets, and posed with the soldier turned looking
slightly to his right. The soldier has removed his hat
and glasses, his hair is neatly combed (and often
oiled) back, and his collar is closed. Many
are smiling slightly, but only one man out of our
group is smiling so you can see any teeth! Actually,
there is an amazing variety of expressions, probably
depending on the subject's situation at the time: some
look terrified or confused, some look bored, some
glare at the camera as if they were trying to
intimidate the photographer. Some look exhausted, and
a few look back at you with such haunted expressions
that it gives you goose bumps.
some neat variants in the size and scope of the
photos: the smallest photo examined was only 1 x 1 1/2
inches, and the largest was 2 1/2 x 3 3/4. A
half-dozen or so of the photos had black borders and
four had no borders at all. The coverage of the photo
ranged from a little as down to the points of the
collar (21 photos) and as much as down to the belt
buckle (6 photos). In 13 examples, the soldier is
dressed in his dress uniform, and in 5 photos, they
are dressed in the pocketless green HBT work tunic.
One man had his photo taken in his Border Customs
uniform. One soldier has his mountain cap on, two
soldiers have not removed their glasses, 19 have their
collars open, and two, surprisingly, are still in
civilian cloths! 29 men are posed turned to their
'left', but only 5 are posed faced directly at the
camera. Most photos appear to have been taken in
a studio, but a few appear to have been taken
outside, apparently against the outside of a building,
and 3 photos are actually cut out of group pictures!
Ah, sweet diversity!
on this page is the serial number of the book, as
recorded by the issuing unit. In very early-war
books, or books from training units that produced very
limited numbers of trainees, this number will often
match the dogtag serial number (item #5). In
most books, however, these numbers will not
Here for why this happened.
is the rank of the soldier when the book was issued.
Unless the book is a replacement for a lost book, the
soldier was prior service, or if the man was demoted
(they issued new books to soldiers who were reduced in
rank), this rank will be some form of
"private". Of course, the actual term
for "private" will depend on the arm and
period of the war. From war's start until
October of 1942, the official term for infantry
private would be Schutze. From that date
onward it would be Grenadier, or less common Füsilier.
If the man was an engineer trainee, it would read Pionier,
if he was an artillery man, it was Kanonier, Fahrer
if he was a driver, etc.. Normally this rank was
written in by hand, but occasionally it was put in
with a rubber stamp, especially in later-war books
from units which turned over large numbers of
Note on German Handwriting:
were two different styles of
German handwriting for the WWII
period. One is a slightly
different style of our own "latinized"
longhand, but the other is a
rather bizarre sawtooth script
known as "Sutterlin" or
Although this second style is
sometimes seen in Soldbuchs, most
of the entries were done in the
"latin" script. A
few are printed. Whether the
ink has faded after 50 years or
whether it was thin to begin with
is not known for sure, but the ink
often appears a washed-out,
grayish color. Blue ink was
used less commonly.
#3 is a table to record the individual's
promotions. Promotions were made
retro- or pro-active to the beginning of a
month, so the dates will be the first of a
month. In addition, some really
important rank changes, like promotion to
officer rank, especially out of one of the
regular officer schools, were sometimes put
in with inkstamp instead of the normal
is the full name of the soldier, written
in its natural order. Most
Germans of the period didn't have middle
names, so just a first and last name is the
most common. If the soldier did have
more names, the name he was called by was
underlined, ie.: Walter Willi
#5 is the ID tag information for the
soldier. For anything but very
early-war books, the unit name here is
often the only rubber stamp on this page.
This is especially true if the unit that
issued the dogtag is the same one that
issues the Soldbuch. The unit
name will be a rubber stamp, with the ID tag
number hand-written in nearby.
During the initial mobilization in 1939,
rubber stamps had not yet been made for all
units, and the ID tag stamps were a lower
priority than, lets say, the unit seals or
unit name stamps. Therefore, very
early books will often have this ID tag unit
name written out. If the book
is a replacement, of course the unit issuing
the book would not have the rubber stamp of
the unit that originally issued the man his
dogtag, so the EK inscription will be
hand-written in these cases as well.
Note on German Dates:
Germans indicate their dates in
the following order: day, month,
year, with periods separating the
numbers. Sometimes a roman
numeral will represent the month,
ie.. 19.XII.44 for December 19th,
1944, although this form was used
more in letter writing and less
often seen in Soldbuchs.
Page 1: Here is a fairly typical example
of entries on the first page. This
particular Soldbuch was issued by the
Reception Company of the 107th Grenadier
Replacement Battalion during the summer of
1944. Erwin Jastrau eventually wound
up in Volksgrenadier Division 559.
Note how the
Soldbuch number "5593" (Item 1)
and the dogtag number "5793" (Item
5) do not match. The unit that issued
this book obviously issued more dogtags than
Also note how
the promotion dates in Item 3 are all the
first day of a month. The long serial
number on the third line in this block is a
US Army Prisoner of War number. This
man was captured by the Americans late in
1944 or early 1945. The man's blood
type (Item 6) was put in with red pencil.
Everything else is in dark blue ink, except
for the promotion entry to Unteroffizier,
which is in black ink.
(Item 8) contains the following information:
Berlin II was the recruiting office that
registered him. Berlin had a total of
10 such offices, each indicated by a Roman
numeral. The first two numbers
indicate Erwin's year of birth, so he was
born in 1906. The second number, 47,
corresponds to the military registration
police precinct. The last two numbers,
8 and 8, pertain to the location of Erwin's
file on the induction roster sheet.
is the soldier's blood type. This is most often put
in with red pencil and occasionally with red
ink or inkstamp, and sometimes with regular blue or
black (gray!) ink. RH factor was unknown then,
so the blood type will simply read A, B, O, or AB,
without the "+" or "-" we have
is the soldier's gas mask size. This will be a
number between 1 (the largest) and 3 (the smallest).
A man with who got a size 3 mask has a really small
face -- this size was normally only issued to female
is the soldier's military service registration number.
This number was given to the man when his Wehrpaß
was issued to him, and theoretically it followed him
until retirement. There are usually 5
elements to this number:
The first element is the name of the Wehrbezirkskommando
(recruiting subdistrict headquarters). A
complete list of these offices will be published in
the next part of this article.
2. The last two digits of the year of
3. Number of military registration police
precinct (or in some really large cities, a number
corresponding to the first letter of the family name.)
4. Serial number of the induction roster
5. A number from 1 to 10 indicating the
man's place on the above sheet.
III 14/38/4/7, for a man born in 1914 and
registered in the third recruiting office of Hamburg.
Note on Soldbuch Corrections:
an entry was changed (like a lost
dogtag), or negated (like a unit
change or equipment reissue), the
old entry was crossed out using a
straightedge and pen or colored
pencil. These strike-outs
are often done in red ink.
we have already mentioned, Soldbuchs were
sometimes lost or destroyed. For these
second-issue books, the term Ersatzausfertigung
will often be printed or written across the
very top of this page, and often stamped
with the seal of the unit that issued it.
Rather than the entire word, sometimes just
an "E" or Ersatz is
printed, and sometimes the term Zweitschrift
(copy) is used.
is the owner's birthdate, indicated in the usual
#10 is the place of the owner's birth. In
the case of small towns or cities with the same name,
accurate placement is aided by locating the town in
the "vicinity" of a larger city or
"region". The town will occupy the top
line, and the additional reference (if necessary) will
often be on the second line. For the small town
of Riedendorf listed in Illus. 4, the clerk noted the
town's Kreis (region) to pinpoint the location:
Mährisch - Schönberg (Schönberg in
Moravia). Another convention, of course, was to
locate like-named cities on a river, i.e., Frankfurt
am Main and Frankfurt an der Oder.
Larger cities needed no aid to location: Stettin,
Berlin, Hannover, etc..
#11 is the holder's religion. The two
most common entries are, of course, either "kath."
(catholic: 96 books), or "e.v."
(Protestant: 116 books).
Protestants predominate, but large numbers of
Catholics lived in the south and south-west. The
eastern regions could be either. There is one
"religion" which did not survive the war:
most of the officers and career NCOs have "gttgl."
or "gottglaubig" listed as their
religion. "Gottglaubig" was the
term Nazis used for people who believed in God but
rejected the regular organized churches. It was
the "politically correct" religion,
especially if one had aspirations. 15% of the
books examined listed this religion, and almost
without exception they belonged to early-promoted
NCOs, officers, military police, or ex-Nazi government
employees. 5 books had the term "gttls."
or "gottlos" (non-believer, or
atheist) as an entry. Some books specify r.k,
r. kath. or röm. kath. for Roman Catholic.
We are told that at least one book is known to have
"Lutheran" as am entry, but the book was
unavailable for study so we cannot verify this first
hand. Lutheranism is a form of Protestant faith
and as such was covered under evangelisch.
In addition, "kath." can be confused with
"luth." when Sutterlin script is used.
See the entry listed as item 11 in illustration 4 and
you will see what I mean.
#12 is the owner's trade. This will always
have something in it, even if the owner was a
17 year-old draftee in late 1944.
"Student" appears in only 5 of the books
examined, and all of these belonged to officers or
officer candidates. The vast majority of German
youth would have been taught a trade after leaving
primary school, and thus would be listed as a
tradesman or been apprenticed as a tradesman by the
time he reached draft age. If he was
still in school, he was enrolled in some program of
college-type higher education and would not have a
trade. The likelihood of a college student
remaining an enlisted man was remote. "Tradeless"
men would normally be listed as some sort of laborer.
Everyone worked. The following are the most
common occupations, or most typical form of name for
the occupation (ie., Bauer is the same as Landwirt,
and such terms as Landwirt Helfer just means
very few men belonging to the specialized technical
trades. Interestingly, German technical trades
often have very specific names, like "Kompressor
Führer" for compressor operator, or "Dreher"
for lathe operator. In the subject group, there
were no tool makers, mill operators, grinders,
electricians, plumbers, draftsmen, or welders.
There were a few Mechaniker (mechanics), but
these were in motorized units. Most of the books
examined belonged to men in the combat arms,
especially the infantry, which would not have gotten
men with skills like these.
workers were needed for war production, so many
skilled tradesmen were not drafted at all; if they were
drafted, they would probably have gone to technical
units, not the combat arms. Here is a sampling
of the less-frequent occupations listed in our sample,
again, all from the combat arms:
Beamter (police official)
an interesting mistake that was fairly common to this
entry. The heading Stand, Beruf, was supposed
to mean "profession or job". Almost
10% of the books examined showed that the men filling
them out rendered the German word Stand in
another meaning: martial status. In addition to
the man's occupation, these books have led. or
ledig (single), or v.h. or verh.
(married) somewhere near this heading, usually either
above or below the heading itself.
Page 2: The birthdate in Item 9 conforms
to the typical German practice: Alfred
Langer was born on March 8, 1925.
birthplace in Item 10 is also typical, with
the town Riedendorf on the top line,
and the region on the line below (see
explanation in text). Alfred Langer
was Catholic and his civilian occupation was
German "not applicable" symbol
used in Item 15.
one distinguishing characteristic which was
noted (Item 19). He had a "scar
on his left eye". As it turns
out, the picture in his book does not show
the scar on the eye itself, but rather
through the eyebrow.
entries are not typical in that both the
length and width are filled out.
Many times neither are filled out, or more
often the length and not the width.
The clerk used the German sizes here; Langer
had a size 7½ foot. This was a small
size, even for someone who was only
notarization portion of this book is very
typical (Item 22). The date of issue
is an inkstamp, with the stamp being indexed
to the proper date. Below that, the
unit name is stamped. The large,
flourishing signature of the unit CO is
illegible, as usual, and put in with blue
pencil (everything else on this page is in
grayish pen or dark blue stamp-pad ink).
The CO's rank and title (Captain and Company
commander) is on the bottom line. The
unit seal stands off to the left in its
proper position, and the location of the
unit (Augustow) is stamped in the
most common position, above the seal.
#13 is the owner's height in centimeters.
#14 is the shape of the man's face. The
most common entries here are rund (round) and oval.
Voll (full, or fat), schmal (narrow),
and länglich (oblong), had five examples
apiece. One description reads "normal",
whatever that was supposed to indicate!
#15 is a description of the man's beard. Of
course, the vast majority of the books have "keine"
(none), or that peculiar symbol the Germans used for
"NA" that looks like a percent symbol
(•/•). One book, however, has the
entry Schnurbart (mustache), and sure enough,
the picture of the man shows him with a little
Hitler-type brush mustache! Another book has the
entry here of Ja (yes)! The photo shows
the typical clean-shaven Soldat, so I guess "Ja"
meant that he could have grown a beard
if he wanted to!
#16 indicates the owner's body type. The
most common entry here is schlank, meaning
"slim". Another fairly common
entry is kräftig (rugged), or mittel
(medium build). A less common entry is muskulär
(muscular), and one book contains the body description
voll (full-bodied, or "heavy").
One book for a 5' 11" man had groß-schlank
(big-slim) for a description. There were
probably other seldom-used terms as well.
#17 is the owner's hair color. Only one book
in our study used schwarz (black) as a hair
color. Either there was a lack of black-haired
soldiers, or Dunkel, (dark) or dunkel braun
were the preferred terms. Of course, braun,
dunkel blonde, or blonde are the most
#18 is eye color. Nothing unusual here.
#19 are "other distinguishing
characteristics". If the owner wore
glasses, then "Brillenträger" was
written in. Other common entries include Narbe
(scar), Brandnarbe (burn scar), Blindarmnarbe
(appendectomy scar), or Leberfleche (liver
spot), followed by a location of the feature (except
for the appendectomy scar, of course) ie., Narbe r.
Knie (scar on right knee). A less common but
interesting entry is Narbengesicht (scarred
face) which would apply to someone whose face is was
scarred by acne, chicken pox, etc..
#20 is the man's shoe size (length and width).
There were two different systems of shoe sizing in use
during the war: one system is loosely identified as
the "European" shoe size, the other is
"German". Both are found in the books,
with no apparent trend over the course of the war --
you are just as likely to find one as the other, early
in the war or late. The length sizes are
equated in the following table:
the shoe length is filled out but the width is left
blank. Later-war books often left both spaces
#21 is where the man signed his name, in its
natural order. Some men, obviously
conditioned to sign their name in the official manner
with last name first/first name last, signed their
names in this fashion instead of in the regulation
#22 is the area where the new Soldbuch was
"notarized" by its issuing unit. The
most common arrangement here is the following: on
or around the first dotted line is the date that the
book was issued. This was either written
in or put in with a rubber date-stamp. Beneath
this, put in with a rubber stamp, is the name of the
unit that issued the book. Even in cases
where the man received his dogtag and Soldbuch from
the same unit (in which case the unit-name would be
the same one indicated on the dogtag), the
stamps for the unit on this line and on the EK line on
page 1 are almost never the exact same stamp.
This is a clear indication that most recruits were not
issued their dogtags and Soldbuch over the same
counter. The units that did appear to use
the same stamp were usually small training units, like
Infantry Signals Replacement or Infantry Pionier
Training companies. Of course, if the book is a
replacement for a lost or ruined one, the unit on the
dogtag will not usually be the same unit that issued
the book, and the unit that issued the book would
naturally not have a stamp with the name of the unit
that originally issued the dogtag on it. The
unit name on page 2 is almost always put in with
rubber stamp, even in many very early-war books;
apparently some priority was given to making these
stamps first. There are a few books, however,
especially 1939-vintage ones, in which everything
on page 2 is hand-written, except for the unit
the unit stamp is the signature of the issuing unit's
commanding officer, usually written á la
doctor-signature (i.e., impossible to read), and
below that, the officer's rank and position, i.e.
Oberleutnant u. Komp. Führer (1st Lt. and
Company Commander). This rank / position
entry is usually put in with a rubber stamp.
This measure prevented forged signatures. The
unit seal is put in to the left of these entries.
addition, 106 of the books, or about 42% of
the sample group, have the station or
training unit location written or
rubber-stamped above the seal. See
books, there is also usually an entry which
reads "d. Übertr. a. d. alten
Soldbuch", or "sowie der Übertragungen
aus dem alten Soldbuch"
(transcribed from the old Soldbuch).
This of course insinuates that the old
Soldbuch was available to transcribe!
A different entry used for the same purpose
states Ersatzausfertigung für in Verlust
geratener Soldbuch (replacement for lost
Soldbuch), which was used when the old book
was not available. Either of these
entries were usually put in the same place,
just above the line of text preceding the
unit-notarization section at the bottom of
collectors are familiar with
Soldbuchs that have all of the
swastika-wreaths under the eagles
filled in with ink or pencil,
erased, or scratched out. ID
was required for all Germans by
the occupying forces after the
war, and the Soldbuch was the only
ID many ex-soldiers had. The
books could be used as temporary
ID as long as all the swastikas
were obliterated. These
"de-nazified" books were
therefore also used as post-war
- The Exploitation of German
Documents, Military Intelligence Division, War
Department, Washington, DC. 1944.
- Information or books
provided by: Barry Smith, Rich Clement, Vince
Milano, Marchall Wise, Al Becker, Sal Marmon, and