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The Winteranzug
Text by Brad Hubbard
Photographic research by Luke Bartow
Original Examples courtesy of Chris Pitman


Some very difficult lessons were learned by the Wehrmacht during the harsh winter of 1941-42 on the Eastern Front.  The tragic failings of their cold weather preparedness became evident with the considerable losses suffered due to exposure to the elements that year.  Developed in response to the German Army’s urgent need for a more effective cold weather combat uniform, the Winteranzug was a “Kriegskind” (child of war) ultimately intended to replace the iconic Mantel (overcoat) in front-line combat units from mid-November through mid-April.


Evo
lution of an idea...
The initial design is credited to a military clothing contractor named Josef Neckermann of
Textil-Versandhaus Neckermann in early 1942.  Testing began immediately and by the Autumn of that year the initial version, the Winteranzug 42 saw limited issuance to frontline troops fighting in the East. It consisted of a Winterjacke (parka) and Winterhose (trousers) made of a plain colored wool exterior shell and white cotton canvas interior, with the intention that it could be reversed for snow camouflage.  The set also included a Kopfhaube (balaclava) and Fäustlinge (mittens) of similar construction.  Both interior and exterior was treated with a chemical called Opanol to increase water resistance.

Shortly into its production run the Winteranzug 42 was modified to include a cotton canvas exterior and interior with a wool blanket lining.  These were still being produced with a white interior and a monotone exterior ranging from a “mouse gray” to various shades of green similar to the earlier wool production model.  This was the most common version of the Winteranzug seen during the Winter of 1942-43 among both Heer and SS combat units.

Further adaptations were featured with the introduction of the Winteranzug 43. The exterior shell of this incarnation was constructed using various camouflage patterns including versions of Splittertarnmuster (splinter) and Sumpftarnmuster (tan/water). With material shortages and acquisition difficulties the fabric itself varied in quality from cotton canvas to rayon to cotton poplin, and many later war examples were constructed from imperfectly matched scraps and remnants.  The padding also varied from blanket wool to a batting-type stuffing to no padding at all.  Some versions were also made with a colored rayon lining that could not be reversed, an increasingly common variant late-war.  The following are some images of original garments to give you an idea of their overall construction:

How they were issued...
The
Winteranzug was issued as a set consisting of at least the Winterjacke and Winterhose.
  The Kopfhaube and Fäustlinge do not appear to have seen as wide or complete an issue as the parka and trousers. Gerd Hörner, a veteran of Grenadier-Regiment 980 during the Winter of 44 recalled “[We had] complete padded suits that were white on one side and camouflaged on the other. Very warm.” and added, “In the 272 VGD we all had winter equipment”.  Photographic evidence suggests the camouflage pattern in this case was Sumpftarn and though not every member of the Division received the Winteranzug, his second statement is worth further consideration.

What Herr Hörner is pointing out is that his immediate comrades were similarly equipped with matching Winteranzüge. The sets were issued to entire units at the same time, not to individual soldiers.  Though the individual was responsible for the care and maintenance of the garment, it was not recorded as a piece of personal equipment in the Soldbuch as it was considered “unit property”. On the Westfront in 1944, these sets most likely arrived to the troops from distribution points in bundles received directly from the factories that produced them.  By regulation, Winteranzüge were to be returned at the end of a season (April) on a unit-wide scale to Sammelstellen für Winterbekleidung (collection points for Winter equipment) where they were inspected and, when in need of extensive repair, sent back to factories to be made ready for future service.

That the Winteranzug was issued as parka and trouser set, usually in matching patterns, can be further substantiated by period photographs of the uniform in use. In many situations where only the parka or trousers are worn it is likely that the other half is either being carried with the soldier’s equipment or temporarily placed in a nearby location for quick access.  Mix-matching of patterns worn by individual soldiers top to bottom seems to be a rare occurrence.  Mix-matching of patterns among groups of soldiers photographed together appears equally uncommon. On some occasions, almost certainly dictated by terrain, one side (usually the bottoms) is worn white side out with the tops being worn camouflage side out.  Here are several original images showing the Winteranzug being worn in the field:

Further generalizations (not hard and fast rules, exceptions can always be found and specific patterns are often difficult to positively identify) can be made from photos and documentary evidence to suggest that a matching, cotton-shelled, solid color, reversible Winteranzug 42 was the predominant style issued to all soldiers on the Eastern Front in 1942/43, a matching, reversible Winteranzug 43 in Splittertarnmuster was the predominant style issued to Heer soldiers in 1943/44, and a matching, Winteranzug 43 in Sumpftarnmuster was the predominant style issued to Heer soldiers on both fronts in the winter of 44/45, with sets in Splittertarnmuster still being seen particularly in the East.  Instances of the Winteranzug 42 in solid colors appear to be extremely rare on the Western front.


Conclusion...

What is certain is that the
Winteranzug was an effective answer to the German Army’s acute cold weather uniform deficiencies during the early part of the war.  Though it never fully replaced the traditional Mantel, for many front line units facing brutal environmental conditions it was a much appreciated Kriegskind.

 


Additional Sources:
- Camoflage Uniforms of the German Wehrmacht by Werner Palincky
- Winter Uniforms of the Germany Army and Luftwaffe in WWII
by Vincent Slegers

  


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