Military Patches


Guide to German Rank

German Army of the Nazi era inherited its uniforms and rank structure from the Reichsheer of the Weimar republic (1921–1935), many of whose traditions went back to the Imperial Army of the German Empire and earlier. The Reichsheer was renamed Wehrmacht Heer in May 1935. There were few alterations and adjustments made as the Army grew from a limited peacetime defense force of 100,000 men to a war-fighting force of several million men.

These ranks and insignia were peculiar to the Heer and in special cases to senior Wehrmacht officers in the independent services; the SS, Luftwaffe and Navy uniforms and rank system were different. Nazi Party also had its own series of paramilitary uniforms and insignia, some of which were conceived by Adolf Hitler.

National Emblem (breast eagle): Hoheitszeichen or Wehrmachtsadler

Breast eagles



The Reichswehr's visual acknowledgement of the new National Socialist reality came on 17 February 1934, when the Defense Ministry were ordered the Nazi Party eagle-and-swastika, now Germany's National Emblem, to be worn on uniform blouses and headgear effective 1 May. The design adopted, in silver for the Reichsheer (Army) and in gold for the Reichsmarine (Navy), was a stylized eagle with outstretched, beveled wings clutching a wreathed mobile Haken, later to be called the Wehrmachtsadler there Armed Forces eagle.On tunics this took the form of a cloth patch about 9 cm (3⅝") wide worn on the right breast, above the pocket. For enlisted uniforms it was jacquard-woven ("BeVo") or sometimes machine-embroidered in silver-grey rayon, for officers machine- or hand-embroidered in white silk or bright aluminum wire, and for generals hand-embroidered in gold bullion. The backing was "badge-cloth" (Abzeichentuch), a close-woven velvetish fabric; this was originally Reichsheer grey, but in late 1935 the renamed Wehrmacht Heer changed its Abzeichentuch color to a dark blue-green called flaschengrün (bottle-green).
The war brought several variations to the breast eagle, although it should be kept in mind that none of them was replaced or de-authorized, and all were being worn side-by-side at war's end. When hostilities began in 1939, on the enlisted Feldbluse or field blouse the eagle was changed from off-white to matte grey for reduced visibility; and in 1940 backings began to be produced in field-grey (feldgrau). Another version appeared with the advent of the Model 1944 Field Blouse, which used a triangular backing for speed and simplicity of manufacture. Very late in the war some Hoheitszeichen were simply printed on thin fabric.

Machine-embroidered Panzer Hoheitszeichen

There were also versions for other uniforms: both white and grey variants on black for the Panzer uniform, and in dull grey-blue on tan backing for the tropical (Afrikakorps) uniform. A stamped metal pin-on breast eagle was worn with the officers' white summer tunic.

By around 1938 the fast-growing Heer had found that it was impractical, for the enlisted field uniform, to manufacture and stock a multitude of collar patches in assorted Waffenfarben which also had to be sewn on and frequently changed by unit tailors. Accordingly, new universal Litzen were introduced with the Litzenspiegel and Mittlestreife woven in dark green to match the backing patch, and which could be applied at the factory; Waffenfarbe was now displayed on the shoulder-straps, which simply buttoned on and were easily switched. With the wartime change to lower-visibility insignia enlisted Litzen were woven in matte "mouse-grey" with field-grey stripes, which were at first sewn to green collar patches as before but increasingly directly to the collar, which beginning in 1940 was made in feldgrau like the uniform; grey Patten were never produced. The troops however preferred the green patches (and collars) if they had or could get them, especially on "clean" uniforms for walking-out; and long-service veterans took particular pride in pre-38 Litzen with colored stripes.

NCO tunic with post-1940 insignia

In contrast, officers' service uniform collar patches never changed. While most officers in the front lines wore the enlisted field uniform as per wartime regulations, many opted to have their green-and-silver Kragenpatten added instead of (or on top of) the factory Litzen.


On olive tropical uniforms the collar patches were tan with dull grey-blue Litzen for all personnel; officers again sometimes added their green Kragenpatten. Tropical NCO Tresse was copper-brown, or sometimes olive drab.

Armored vehicle uniforms

Panzer Totenkopf pin

A major exception to the wearing of collar Litzen was the "panzer wrap", the double-breasted jacket worn by crews of tanks and other armored vehicles. When the Panzertruppe were established around 1935 they were then issued a distinctive black uniform and as a badge the Totenkopf or Death's-head, versions of which had formerly been worn by the Imperial tank corps and various cavalry units. These skulls took the form of white-metal pins attached to black Kragenpatten which were edged in Waffenfarbe piping.

AFV crew collar insignia

In mid-1940 crews of assault guns (Sturmgeschützen) received a uniform of their own, identical in cut to the Panzerjacke but in standard field-grey, which they wore with red artillery piping. Over the course of the war a bewildering and changing series of regulations governed the uniforms and insignia for assault guns, tank destroyers, armored cars and self-propelled artillery. Depending on the unit and the date either the black or grey wrap or the standard Feldbluse might be authorized, and on the grey "assault gun" jacket the regulation collar patches could be black with skulls, or grey with skulls, Litzen, or no device at all. The result in practice was chaos; wartime photos show a mix of uniforms and insignia worn not only in the same battalion, but even in the same vehicle.
Officially both colors of panzer wrap were working and field uniforms to be worn only in or around the vehicle; this regulation was universally ignored. Panzertruppen were issued standard uniforms for service-dress and walking out but rarely wore them, much preferring their unique jackets.
In North Africa, AFV crews wore the same tropical uniform as the other branches, including collar Litzen; many tankers however pinned their Totenkopf badges to their lapels.

Infanterie Regiment "Großdeutschland"

Collar Litzen for NCO of I.R. "Großdeutschland"

In June 1939, the Wehrmacht Heer wanted to renew its ties with the Old Army tradition by introducing a new uniform for its most prestigious unit: Wachregiment "Berlin" which was renamed Infantry Regiment "Großdeutschland". The new Waffenrock for I.R. "Großdeutschland" had an elongated Litzen. Although shown to the press, this new uniform was not provided to the unit due to the outbreak of WWII. Instead, it was placed in depot storage.


Under the Treaty of Versailles, the Reichswehr was only allowed 100,000 men split between the Army and the Navy. Following the 1932 German elections the Nazi party came to power and began to abrogate the treaty. The Army was made part of the Wehrmacht in May 1935 with the passing of the “Law for the Reconstruction of the National Defence Forces”. The Wehrmacht included not just the Army and Navy but also a third branch known as the Luftwaffe. Initially, the Army was expanded to 21 divisional-sized units and smaller formations.

Between 1935 and 1945 this force grew to consist of hundreds of divisions and thousands of smaller supporting units. Between 1939 and 1945 close to 16 million served in the Army. Over 3 million were killed and over 4.1 million were wounded. Of the 7,361 men awarded the initial grade of the highest German combat honour of World War II, the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, 4,777 were from the Army, making up 65% of the total awarded. The Allies dissolved the German Army on 20 August 1946.

The item featured in this page is a German Army doctor device. Of metal construction. The design consists of an snake wrapping around a pole. Two pins are found in the back. That is how the device is attached to the shoulder boards.

WWII GERMAN MILITARY AND CIVILIAN PATCHES – The German armed forces during WWII developed a large variety of cloth insignia. The designs and materials employed in the development of the patches make these items very interesting to collect.

The Germans were among the first to use subdued patches. Some examples of camouflaged construction were used by the SS troops.

Construction materials for the patches varied greatly. From regular cotton to some very interesting bullion designs. The officers had the prerogative to be able to have taylor made patches. Some of these were of very high quality construction and very nice looking.

This section of the website provides a pictorial history of the Third Reich patches. A combination of military, political, Hitler Youth and paramilitary organizations are covered. The data provided allows the enthusiast to identify cloth insignia of the Third Reich. Additional data outlines the value of the collectibles over a period of time.