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The German Army "K-Ration"
By Eric Tobey, revised by Jonathan Bocek



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.

The well-known American K-Ration impressed the German Army.  Unlike their own time-tested Eiserne Portion (iron ration: a two-part reserve foodsupply consisting of hardtack and canned meat), the K-Ration supplied a more varied menu and provided more stimulants like sugar and nicotine.  It also appealed to the German proclivity towards efficiency: light in weight, pre-measured, pre-packaged.  One box, one meal.
 

Late in World War II, the Wehrmacht began to issue its own "K-Ration".  They came in two types: the Nahkampfpäckchen and the Großkampfpäckchen.  In this article we will illustrate and describe in detail two such boxed rations which we were able to examine.  It is not known which of the two types listed above this particular ration actually is.

The first illustration shows what the boxes themselves look like.  It is a cream-colored thin cardboard, with the label Nur Für Frontkämpfer in Infanterieverband (only for front-line combat troops in infantry units) printed in red.  Overall dimensions are roughly 5-1/8" x 4-1/2" x 1-1/2", and the box is designed with an unusual flap-and-slot closure.

The box appears to have been made by a cigarette manufacturer because the internal stiffening frame is made of cardboard which was previously printed with the logo of another cigarette maker: Waldorf Astoria, "Echt Orient" (Genuine Orient).  Perhaps that is who assembled the ration as a whole.

Neither of the two boxes examined still retain all of their original contents, but the sum of the remaining contents between the two probably represents the original contents of one complete ration.  One example contains a fruit bar, a pack of cigarettes, and a roll of candy.  The other contains a pack of cigarettes and a small box of what appears to be biscuits.  According to the US Manual on German Military Forces (TM-E 30-451): "They include (referring to the Nahkampfpäckchen and Großkampfpäckchen) chocolate bars, fruit bars, candies, cigarettes, and possibly biscuits."  Knowing this, we can assume we have examples of a complete set of contents between the two boxes examined.

There is one fruit bar extant in one of the boxes, and this box exhibits stains which originated from another, similar bar which sat on top of it.  One bar is almost exactly half as thick as the box is deep, so we can assume that two bars were originally packed in the box.


The fruit bar is wrapped in a waxy paper and packaged in a box which measures about 1-3/8" x 5-3/8" x 5/8".  The label is printed in red.  On one side of the box is a label followed by an ink stamp: Hergestellt:, and then stamped: Aug. 1944.  On the opposite side is another label: Netto Frischgewicht ca. 80g.  The fruit bar itself now looks like a thick piece of beef jerky, but originally it must have appeared as a solid, semi-dry bar of about the same dimensions as the package.  It was made by Wilhelm Felsche in Leipzig.

The roll of candy has a oval cross-section of about 1" x 3/4", and is 2-1/8" long.  The candies themselves look like caramel and melt quickly on warm days (due to this unfortunate trait, which almost ruined the box and the rest of the contents, the actual candy had since been removed and only the wrappers saved.).  There were 5 candies in the package and they were wrapped in a waxy paper with the company logo printed on it and this in turn was slid into a tube-like paper label.  The wrapper bears the official "Reichsgesundheits Gutmarke". the Reich's Health Seal.  I suppose this meant that the stuff was supposed to be good for you.  The candy was made by Schokoladewerke K.G. Lobositz.

The full name of the candy on the label is "Deli Dropse".  The label is printed in red and blue, and the wax paper inner wrapper is white with blue printing.  The wrapper has a repeated pattern consisting of the "V" logo (which is printed in a diffuse red in the label), the name of the candy, "Dropse Deli", and the words "K.G. Lobositz" and "Deli Schokoladenwerk."
 

The cigarettes are identical in both boxes examined.  The rather small packs are about 2-1/16" x 2-9/16" x 7/16", and were made by Sulima in Dresden.  The pack contains six cigarettes, wrapped in a tin foil envelope.  The box is printed in red and black.  Like many German cigarettes of the time period, the pack is decorated with a middle eastern motif with stars, half moons, and a Arabian style building.

Some would find it rather amusing that the only thing in the ration meant to be burnt was made in Dresden (the city was heavily bombed in Feb. 1945 during operation THUNDERCLAP).

The biscuits are also wrapped in waxy paper and packaged in a small cardboard box, but the printed contents cannot be read because of staining which undoubtedly originated from either the fruit bar of candy which was originally placed in this ration.  the biscuits themselves look like oversized versions of the all-natural "stone ground, whole wheat" crackers that you can buy in the store.  Although the contents are rather crumbly, there appears to be 6 biscuits in the box.  The biscuit box measures about 2-1/16" x 2-9/16" x 1-7/16".  

Based on the remaining contents and their relative size compared to the box, we can postulate that the original contents were as follows:
 

  • 2 fruit bars (or one fruit bar and one chocolate bar of the same dimensions)

  • 1 box of biscuits

  • 3 or 4 boxes of cigarettes

  • 2 or 3 rolls of candy

 


Sources:
- Manual on German Military Forces (TM-E 30-451)  U.S. Government Printing Office 1945
- The collections of: Eric Tobey and Clifford Ciotti
- Brussels Army Musuem
 

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