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German Catalog Comparisons
By Thomas Salazar (Ostfront Militaria), edited by Jonathan Bocek

The following are short articles written by Thomas Salazar of Ostfront Militaria.  These articles were originally found in his monthly Ostfront Feldpost Newsletter.  They highlight a few of the interesting things he has found in the catalogs. Some of them will be funny, some will be educational and some will probably annoy or agitate the collectors who think they know “everything about everything”….

Thomas has a large collection of pre-war and wartime German catalogs for products ranging from footwear, military equipment, and tools to shaving supplies, and other personal items. He often uses these to authenticate items listed on his website: The greatest thing about these catalogs is they are unbiased and have no agenda. Many modern militaria reference books have bits of disinformation. Some of them contain honest mistakes but others contain misinformation that I believe is intentionally added to deceive the collector. Regardless, collector’s reference books are written by collectors and may contain the individual prejudices and conclusions held by that particular author(s).  Thomas' intensive use of these 1930’s- 40’s German product catalogs in the authentication of the items he sells has been a FIRST in militaria collecting.

Many items once considered “modern” have actually been found to be quite old. After seeing the items in these catalogs we have been forced to change the way we think about German products in the 1930s and 40s.  Mr. Salazar has generously allowed us to post his short articles from his newsletters here on our website.  We would like to thank him for his kindness which allows us to share this information with the rest of you.

Aluminum Butterdishes are NOT FARBY

These aluminum “butterdishes” were originally designed for use by hikers and campers and were produced by the same companies who made German army canteens and other aluminum items such as fork/spoon sets, etc. These came with both glass and pressed paper inserts for insulation. These were commonly used by the German army during the early war years to supplement supplies of butterdishes to the soldiers and were also used in field kitchens. These can be seen in early war photos and we recovered these on a regular basis while excavating German fighting trenches and bunkers on the northern Russian front. A variation of these was produced after the war by the German army and many collectors have incorrectly concluded that these pre-war and wartime examples were postwar in production. Obviously, these are not as common as the bakelite examples, however, they should not be considered “FARBY”. Pictured below are examples in wartime photographs, scans from wartime catalogs, and some that were recovered from German positions in the eastern front.


Flashlight Farbiness

As stated before we are constantly surprised at the items we encounter in the period catalogs we have acquired. The shear number of different types of flashlights is a very good example of this. There are several types of flashlight which are considered “Military” or “Issue” due to photographic evidence or particular features. But what of private purchase flashlights? Well it appears that just about any type, style or color was available at the time. Of particular interest is the flashlight illustrated below with simulated “snake skin” cover! Even our current production “D” size batteries were being used in flashlights in Germany during this period along with the square 4.5 volt and long round 3 volt.

Augenschützer 42 Goggles Were NOT Developed Specifically for the Wehrmacht

Contrary to popular belief, the Augenschützer 42 disposable style goggles were not developed specifically for the German armed forces during WW2. These were civilian goggles that were later adopted and manufactured for the Wehrmacht. See the scan below of these from a pre-war German goggles company catalog.


Chewing Tobacco is NOT FARBY

It was less common than cigarettes or cigars, but chewing tobacco was in fact an official Wehrmacht issued tobacco item. See the scan from a German Army Rations manual dated 1942 below. Also below is a scan of chewing tobacco from a 1938 German products catalog. The most common form of the tobacco we have seen in period advertisements and package labels is the “twist” style pictured below. We also have a receipt/ packing list from a German chewing tobacco company for a shipment of chewing tobacco sold to a store in Germany in 1944. Whether or not it remained an Army issue item as late as 1944, this receipt demonstrates that it was still being produced and sold to the civilian population as late as 1944.


Pocket Knives with Small Fold out Scissors Are NOT FARBY

These were produced before and during WW2 and although they might have been too expensive for the average Landser to afford, they are categorized as “military pocketknives” in the catalog scan below. The catalog scans below are from a catalog for a German knife company dated 1935.



Not a JOKE!, We often think of Germany in the 1930’s & 40’s with our black and white, old fashioned minds, but Germany was very similar to the modern consumer driven world of today. The pictures below are from a 1941 grocery store display magazine. I know that it might not have been very common (but we don’t really know, do we?, it might have been VERY common) but I am sure that families purchased chocolate Easter bunnies (and chocolate Easter eggs!) for their family members in military service and mailed them by Feldpost. It appears they were sold without outer wrapping and also packaged in cellophane and the aluminum style wrap that is used today. So Farb out all the other soldiers in your unit and send one to yourself by Feldpost this year, and when someone tells you that your wrong, tell them “halt die klappe” and show them this photo below.


Crescent Wrenches are NOT FARBY:

"YES, the standard every day, adjustable crescent wrench was in fact used in Germany during WW2. Even if these were not an official part of any of the Wehrmacht tool kits, its definite that these ended up in military mechanics' toolboxes during the war. How many mechanics do you know who don’t seriously horde different types of tools in their boxes, etc? The following picture is a scan of three different models that appear in an German tools catalog dated 1935. They also appear in other catalogs that we have as well, one of those is dated 1939. So throw one in your reenacting mechanics toolbox, truck, or werkzeug crate and if someone tells you its wrong tell them to “pass auf” and show them this picture. (By the way, you can resist the urge to spray paint yours field gray, ordinance tan, etc.. none of the originals were painted field gray and many had a shiny “chrome” finish to them, some of them with molded rubber handles... How FARBY!…)"


Half and Half Erasers are NOT FARBY:

First, I should explain what “FARBY” means for those of you who do not know. Farby is a word used by reenactors/ living historians to describe something that is not correct, not authentic, etc. Something or someone can be “Farby” and a person can also be a FARB, etc.

I participated in a WW2 living history display for the public back in 1995, at that time a friend of mine brought with him a German WW2 map case that was a vet bring back from a family member. It was full of different items and he took them out and neatly displayed them with the map case. One of the items in that map case was a simple pencil eraser one-half black (for ink) and the other half white (for pencils). One of the veteran reenactors and collectors saw this and told us that this was a postwar item likely put in there by the soldier after the war. My friend promptly threw out the eraser and didn’t think twice about it. It seemed to us highly plausible that this type of eraser is a modern invention (1960s right?). Well we were all wrong and my friend was wrong for listening to the “know it all”. This exact type eraser was manufactured in the 1920s in Germany and they appear in several of the pre-war and wartime German products catalogs we have. They come in black & pink, black & white, black & gray, etc… So stick one in your map case and then when the Professor “know it all” Reenactor in your unit tells you that you’re a FARB for doing it, tell him “pass auf” and give him a copy of the scans from the German catalogs/ advertisements below. One catalog is dated 1938, another is Christmas 1939 and the color advertisement is from the 1920s- 1930s.

Editors Note:  If using a modern version of this eraser, be sure to remove any possible modern markings on it prior to using it in one's map case.



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