The columns on the litzen (collar tabs) what do they symbolize or mean?

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Sauerteig
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The columns on the litzen (collar tabs) what do they symbolize or mean?

Post by Sauerteig » 21 Jun 2022 04:06

Pretty basic question, on I have always wondered about but never found any answer to. The Wehrmacht and later NVA of the DDR had collors for most enlisted men and lower ranked officers featuring what look like two classical columns. What are these supposed to signifiy or mean? Why were they chosen? They must have some sort of symbolism or tie to German history.

My apologies if this is not in the correct sub forum.

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Re: The columns on the litzen (collar tabs) what do they symbolize or mean ?

Post by von thoma » 22 Jun 2022 01:11

Certainly a very unknown insignia for many, here is his story :


As with all military insignia, the double bar insignia worn on the collar of every German infantryman’s tunic
( including officers ) has a long history of development.

The birth of the litzen can be traced as far back as the Roman Empire. During the days of early civilization, the Roman
Empire played a significant and influential role in shaping the culture of central Europe ( and specifically Germania ).
Roman military symbols became an inseparable part of the ornamental motifs of the new style in art that was called Em-
pire style.

The development of the double bar collar insignia closely parallels that of the heraldic eagle. Heraldic eagles have for a
long time been the emblems of European countries such as Russia, Austria, and Prussia.
In 1804 Napoleon Bonaparte, under the throne of the new empire, declared the “the realm of the eagle'“. Along with this
declaration came various forms of heraldic symbols directly acquired or adopted from ancient Roman heraldry.
Since no European country since the time of the Roman Empire had acquired the power and might that France did under
Napoleon, the use of such symbolism became wide-spread among many armies who were influenced by France’s military
victories. In fact it was Napoleon who proclaimed his country to be the heir of the great Roman Empire.

Like other countries, the early Prussian military was greatly influenced by the weapons, uniforms, and tactics employed
by the French. In this era of military history, it was common for armies to adopt similar styles of military clothing.
For the Prussian army, this included the creation and use of a variety of laces that were used to enhance the appearance
of military uniforms. In many armies it was common to use cloth or metallic lace around the collars of uniforms.
Unique or distinct guard units often received the most detail when it came to uniform design.
The level of uniform quality made the men who served in these units “elite” in the sense that they often hand the best
training and also the best uniforms.

During the 19th and the early part of the 20th Centuries ( prior to the First World War ) the military as a profession was
considered a prestigious enterprise. There was no greater reflection of this prestige than the uniforms of the various
armed forces. One might even surmise that before the advent of modern sports that the men in military service of their
country might be considered the "team" that represented national, regional, or local pride.

In Europe most large communities had "Honor Guards" made up of societies finest who would don their fancy if impractical
uniforms for ceremonial occasions and to escort visiting dignitaries. Following the Napoleonic Wars military fashion was at
its peak as the combatants and their heirs on all sides of the conflicts relived and reveled in their past glories.

During the height of this time in military fashion the Prussian army adopted the litzen as a standard form of uniform decoration
for use on tunics worn by guard units.

Below, the pattern of Garde Litzen worn on the collar by some 19th Century Prussian Regiments.

Garde Litzen.png
The actual design of the litzen can be traced back to the image of the Roman stone column. In Roman architecture, as well
as military structures, the stone column represented the notion of “strength and solidarity”.

The double bared litzen insignia is actually a modified form of the image of the Roman column placed on its side and slightly
angled for appeal. Worn on either side of the collar, this image carried the message of strength for the men who wore uniforms
decorated with this type of lace.
While officers were generally entitled to wear a higher quality version of the litzen, during the early days of the Prussian military
the use of this insignia was permitted only for wear by enlisted men who served in prestigious guard units.

During WWI the collar litzen slowly began to appear on field uniforms of the common infantryman.
While not widespread, its use by selected military states serving under the Kaiser’s combined military can often be seen in use
during the latter part of the conflic. Following Germany’s defeat in WWI, the collar litzen was abandoned by not forgotten altogether.
Military traditions inspired by the Prussian army under the direction of officers who helped re-build Germany’s military during
the 1920’s and 1930’s inspired the resurgence of military tradition.

These men reintroduced the insignia for wear on both officer’s and enlisted men’s uniforms of the Reichswehr. During this time
many enlisted men wore high quality officer’s grade insignia that differed from those used during WWII

When Hitler assumed control over Germany in 1934 and established the Wehrmacht as the combined military forces of Germany,
he continued to permit the collar litzen to be used on the uniforms of both officers and enlisted men.
After being redesigned for modern appeal, collar litzen worn by enlisted men took the form of a stylized and angled litzen similar to
those used in early Prussian uniforms of the 19th Century. These new litzen were slightly smaller that previous examples with the
addition of having colored highlights denoting army branch of service ( waffenfarbe ).

The new collar litzen had five basic components which included the:
Dopplelitze, Kragenpatte, Mittelstreife, and two Litzenspiegel.


Enlisted Men’s Collar Insignia: The History Behind the “Litzen”, by Brian Bell.
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Re: The columns on the litzen (collar tabs) what do they symbolize or mean?

Post by HPL2008 » 24 Jun 2022 14:06

Let me add a bit more information about the original German terminology.

Litze, depending on context, can mean braid, lace or even piping. I have left this term mostly in the original German; where I translated it, I went for "braid".

The angular, widening elements on both ends of Litzen are known as Kapellen [chapels]; thus, Litzen with this feature are known as Kapellenlitzen [chapel braid]. A twin Litze is a doppelte Kapellenlitze [double chapel braid]; a single Litze is an einfache Kapellenlitze [single chapel braid].
Kapellenlitzen.JPG
(Picture 1: A collar patch and a sleeve patch of the GDR Volkspolizei [People's Police].)


The style of Litzen with "teeth" is called Kolbenstickerei [cob embroidery or spadix embroidery].
During the Third Reich era, collar patches with Kolbenstickerei were worn by general staff officers and military officials of the high-grade career and police officers serving with central command agencies; today, they are still worn by general staff officers of the Bundeswehr.
Kolbenstickerei.JPG
(Picture 2: A collar patch for a Bundeswehr general staff officer.)


A Litze without Kapellen and one pointed end is known as an altpreußische Litze [Old Prussian braid].
During the Third Reich era, such collar patches were worn by army Sonderführer and Beamte auf Kriegsdauer as well as by some non-military organisations, such as the Werkfeuerwehren.
altpreußische Litze.JPG
(Picture 3: A collar patch for a WW2-era Beamter auf Kriegsdauer [official for the duration of the war].)


The elaborate pattern worn by general officers is called Larischstickerei (Larisch embroidery), named after the Prussian Infantry Regiment no. 26 "Alt-Larisch".
The Larischstickerei was implemented for all German general officers by Emperor Wilhelm II in 1900 and was carried over throughout the Weimar- and Third Reich era and the post-war years (in both the FRG and GDR) right to the present.
Larischstickerei.JPG
(Picture 4: A collar patch for a Bundeswehr general officer.)
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Last edited by HPL2008 on 24 Jun 2022 14:41, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: The columns on the litzen (collar tabs) what do they symbolize or mean?

Post by HPL2008 » 24 Jun 2022 14:09

Now for the individual design elements.

The actual cloth patch is a called a Kragenpatte [collar tab] or Kragenspiegel [collar flash]. The latter term in particular has come to refer to the entire patch including the badges thereon.
As we have already seen, the widening end parts are called Kapellen [chapels]. The center stripe on a Litze is called Litzenspiegel [braid flash], the space between two Litzen is known as Mittelspiegel [center flash]:
Bezeichnungen_1.jpg
Bezeichnungen_2.JPG
(Picture 5 and 6: Third Reich-era collar patches for a cavalry officer (dress tunic type) and a cavalry enlisted man (field uniform type).)


The Mittelspiegel is usually in the some color as the collar patch. A notable exception are the collar patches worn by with the field-grey Kriegsmarine uniform, where the center flash was white:
Kragenspiegel_Marineoff_feldgr_Uniform.JPG
(Picture 7: A Third Reich-era collar patch for a Kriegsmarine officer for wear on the field-grey uniform.)


General officers' collar patches are adorned with the elaborate Larischstickerei. This is one specific form of Arabeskenmuster [arabesque pattern], which refers to decorative patterns composed of vines and leaves.
The Larisch pattern has a Spitze [tip or point], two (for field marshals, three) pairs of Blätter [leaves] and a Schweif [tail], with Ranken [vines] separating these elements. The double line in the middle is a stylized buttonhole [Knopfloch]:
Bezeichnungen_3.JPG
(Picture 8: The collar patches for a Bundeswehr general officer and a Bundesgrenzschutz general officer).
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Re: The columns on the litzen (collar tabs) what do they symbolize or mean?

Post by HPL2008 » 24 Jun 2022 14:12

Of course, collar patch insignia can be found in various manufacturing methods: Hand-embroidered [handgestickt], machine-embroidred [maschinengestickt], woven [gewebt] or as metal devices [Metallauflagen]:

Machart.JPG
Metallauflagen.JPG
(Picture 9: BGS collar patches; picture 10: a VoPo collar patch. Metal Litzen were not used in the Third Reich and the FRG; these are typical for the GDR.)
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Re: The columns on the litzen (collar tabs) what do they symbolize or mean?

Post by HPL2008 » 24 Jun 2022 14:16

A quick word on piping:

The general German term for all kinds of piping is Paspelierung or Vorstoß (the latter term was the one normally used in official Third Reich-era regulations, but is less common and somewhat archaic today):
Paspelierung.JPG

The term Schnurumrandung or Schnureinfassung specifically means "cord edging". Pipings were made with gedrehte Schnur [twist cord] or Rundschnur [round cord]. (Twist cord piping is sometimes also referred to as Kordelierung.) Piping made by folded-over and sewn- or glued-down cloth whose edge is slightly protruding is known as a Gewebelitze [cloth piping]:
Paspelierung_gedrehte_Schnur.JPG
Paspelierung_Rundschnur.JPG
Paspelierung_Gewebelitze.JPG
(Pictures 11 to 14: Collar patches for WW2-era Beamte auf Kriegsdauer [officials for the duration of the war] of the Heer.)
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Re: The columns on the litzen (collar tabs) what do they symbolize or mean?

Post by HPL2008 » 24 Jun 2022 14:21

A word on the subject of branch colors: The German term for branch color is Waffenfarbe. Branch colors in the modern sense of the term first came about in WWI, with a much more detailed and elaborate system created for the Reichswehr in 1921. Over the decades, this system was often modified and expanded, but many of the branch colors used today still have essentially the same meaning as they did in 1945, or even 1921:
Waffenfarben.JPG
(Picture 15: An assortment of Bundeswehr collar patches showing the full range of currently-used branch colors.)


All uniformed Beamte [officials] serving in the Heeresverwaltung [army administration] of the Reichswehr and the Wehrmacht had dark green Waffenfarbe. The various specialty careers were further identifed by the use of a Nebenfarbe [secondary color], which appeared as an additional shoulder board underlay and as three-sided collar patch piping.
Waffenfarbe.JPG
(Picture 16: Third Reich-era collar patches for a cavalry officer with golden-yellow Waffenfarbe and for an official of the high-grade career displaying dark green Waffenfarbe and bright red Nebenfarbe.)


Up until 1938, enlisted ranks' collar patches for army field uniforms displayed the branch color on the Litzenspiegel. By an order of 26 November 1938, this practice was discontinued and standardized collar patches with a dark green Litzenspiegel were introduced for all branches. These were known as Einheitslitzen:
Einheitslitzen.JPG
(Picture 17: an Einheitslitze)


Incidentally, the Third Reich-era police did not use the term Waffenfarbe, but Dienstzweigfarbe, which literally translates as "service branch color":
Dienstzweigfarbe.JPG
(Picture 18: Collar patches for enlisted ranks of the police; Dienstzweigfarbe is, respectively, orange for the Gendarmerie and bright green for the Schutzpolizei des Reiches).
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Re: The columns on the litzen (collar tabs) what do they symbolize or mean?

Post by Hans1906 » 24 Jun 2022 14:40

WOW!!!

My thanks to HPL2008, this is what I would like to call "Deutsche Gründlichkeit", Excellent! :thumbsup:

You see me speechless...


Hans
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Re: The columns on the litzen (collar tabs) what do they symbolize or mean?

Post by von thoma » 24 Jun 2022 19:51

Thanks to HPL2008 for your inputs

And after all, still in service in the Bundeswehr tunics...
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Re: The columns on the litzen (collar tabs) what do they symbolize or mean?

Post by Eugen Pinak » 26 Jun 2022 19:29

Sauerteig wrote:
21 Jun 2022 04:06
Pretty basic question, on I have always wondered about but never found any answer to. The Wehrmacht and later NVA of the DDR had collors for most enlisted men and lower ranked officers featuring what look like two classical columns. What are these supposed to signifiy or mean? Why were they chosen?
Those patches were symbol of Guards and other elite units.
They were copied from Russian Army in 1814. Several variants existed, but only this ultimately survived.

Sauerteig wrote:
21 Jun 2022 04:06
They must have some sort of symbolism or tie to German history.
Nothing, besides being the mark for the elite units. That's why after WW I they were given to the whole army to rise morale

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Re: The columns on the litzen (collar tabs) what do they symbolize or mean ?

Post by Eugen Pinak » 26 Jun 2022 20:19

von thoma wrote:
22 Jun 2022 01:11
Certainly a very unknown insignia for many, here is his story :
Unfortunately, this story has nothing to do with the reality :(

First and foremost - fallen column signifies weakness, not strength. That's why it's not used in the heraldry.
Russians, which invented this particular embroidery, called it "katushka" = coil, spool.

The nonsense about "heraldic eagle" is also striking. What's in common between it and a simple embroidery???
"Like other countries, the early Prussian military was greatly influenced by the weapons, uniforms, and tactics employed
by the French."
Yes-yes - that's why it copied _Russian_ uniforms after Napoleonic wars :)

While officers were generally entitled to wear a higher quality version of the litzen, during the early days of the Prussian military the use of this insignia was permitted only for wear by enlisted men who served in prestigious guard units.
No, officers wore them too from the very beginning. For example: http://www.preussen-infanterie1813.de/ev-2-garde.html

During WWI the collar litzen slowly began to appear on field uniforms of the common infantryman.
No, even before WW I common infantrymen (and cavalrymen, who are forgotten for some reason) could veat them too. See here: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Litze_(Geflecht)

Following Germany’s defeat in WWI, the collar litzen was abandoned by not forgotten altogether.
They were worn by both Reichswehr and Freikorps soldiers who had right to wear them. From May 1919(?) all German army men received the right to wear them.
When Hitler assumed control over Germany in 1934 and established the Wehrmacht as the combined military forces of Germany,
Wehrmacht was created 16 March 1935. Even most basic facts are wrong here :(

After being redesigned for modern appeal, collar litzen worn by enlisted men took the form of a stylized and angled litzen similar to those used in early Prussian uniforms of the 19th Century.
No. For example: http://www.preussen-infanterie1813.de/ev-2-garde.html

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Re: The columns on the litzen (collar tabs) what do they symbolize or mean?

Post by von thoma » 26 Jun 2022 21:53

I'm sorry you didn't like the article signed by Brian Bell.
I don't really know what their sources are.
They were copied from Russian Army in 1814
First and foremost - fallen column signifies weakness, not strength. That's why it's not used in the heraldry.
....And what are yours to say this ? Why does the Russian military choose this symbol of weakness ?
When Hitler assumed control over Germany in 1934 and established the Wehrmacht as the combined military forces of Germany
Wehrmacht was created 16 March 1935. Even most basic facts are wrong here
August 19,1934, Hitler becomes the absolute dictator of Germany.
The text does not necessarily imply the creation of the Wehrmacht in that year of 1934.
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Re: The columns on the litzen (collar tabs) what do they symbolize or mean?

Post by Eugen Pinak » 27 Jun 2022 09:53

von thoma wrote:
26 Jun 2022 21:53
Why does the Russian military choose this symbol of weakness ?
Who told you that? Coil is not a symbol of weakness in Russia.

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Re: The columns on the litzen (collar tabs) what do they symbolize or mean?

Post by Sauerteig » 29 Jun 2022 04:38

Hey everyone, reading the responses now. Thank you all. Will respond individually where appropriate.

Edit Now that I have read the responses, it seems i was correct that they were supposed to portray roman columns. I don't see how they would be interepreted to be fallen columns.... Thank you in particular to von Thoma and HPL2008 but again thanks to everyone.

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Re: The columns on the litzen (collar tabs) what do they symbolize or mean?

Post by PunctuationHorror » 29 Jun 2022 15:22

Is there a reason why the Austrian/Austro-Hungarian Army didn't adapt litzen? Obviously, litzen were not in fashion there: Image

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