I would like to begin by stating that after collecting World War II German memorabilia for many years, I have found that new information is constantly surfacing. The truth is, some “hard facts” do change. This is especially true of East German militaria collecting where new information sources are being discovered all the time and where many sources are still virtually untapped as far as translation into English is concerned. That being said, this article presents the most current information on DDR senior officers daggers that I have found.
The generals-admirals daggers of the DDR were adopted for wear in 1960. They made their first public appearance in the May Day Parade of 1961. The majority of these daggers are identical in appearance, being of lacquer-coated polished brass. However, some presentation daggers were gold-plated. This gold plating was discontinued after 1983.
These gold-plated presentation daggers were boxed in white goat skin-covered cases, with a gold colored DDR crest, with the motto “For the Defense of the Workers and Peasants Power”, embossed on the lower right of the case lid (Fig. 1).
ADMIRALS AND GENERALS DAGGERS OF THE DDR
By Chester Larson
Issue No. 16 Summer 1997
Die Nationale Volksarmee
All of these presentation cases that I have seen are lined with a wine-colored, velour-like material. However, one pre-1973 Army General presentation dagger - having the motto ‘Presented by the Minister for National Defense of the DDR” engraved on the obverse of the scabbard (Fig. 2)- was obtained in a red case with a blue satin-like lining.
Some of the gold dagger scabbards were engraved and some were not. The only two types of engravings now known to be legitimately documented and accepted for DDR daggers are those shown in Figure 2. The left and center examples shown are engraved on the obverse side of the scabbard. The center example is the pre-1973 gold-plated dagger mentioned in the previous text. The example at right is engraved on the reverse side of the scabbard. All three engravings translate as ‘Presented by the Minister of National Defense of the DDR”, with the DDR being left off of the example at right for lack of available space.
Regular officers daggers are also documented as having these same presentation inscriptions from the minister of defense. Some of these were engraved after the collapse of the DDR. An example of this post-collapse engraving would be an inscription with a West German Spelling.
It seems that the white cases were introduced for the gold presentation daggers. When the gold plating was eventually discontinued after 1983, so were the white cases. Sometime later, a longer red case with a blue satin-like lining was introduced. This change in the size of the case was made to accommodate the addition of a brocade parade belt (Figs. 1 and 3). These longer red presentation cases also displayed the gold- embossed DDR national logo on the lower right corner of the case lid. I imagine the DDR leadership felt that presenting the brocade parade belt would compensate for the lack of the gold-plated daggers.
The pommels of the admirals / generals daggers differed from those of lower ranking officers. They featured a DDR national logo rather than the “hammered” design used on those for the lower ranking officers. Most admirals / generals daggers were serial numbered, but some were not. Approximately 4,000 of these daggers were manufactured prior to the end of the DDR.
The only highly visible characteristic which one could use to differentiate between the branches of service when looking at the presentation dagger, is the color of the backing material on the hangers. The service branches and their respective colors are as follows:
Land Forces (Army) - Red
Air Forces / Air Defense - Corn Flower (bright) Blue
Border Troops - (bright) Green
Volksmarine (Navy) - Navy (dark) Blue
In addition, there are two major variations which occurred in these hangers. The older hangers have two golden metallic vertical bands, running the length of the hanger, on a silver gray metallic background (Fig. 4). The newer hangers have a gold-colored cloth background with two dark vertical bands, narrower than those found on the older hangers, which run the length of the hanger (Fig. 5, hanger on the right). The branch backings, which are made of colored felt, are the same colors for both the older and the newer hangers.
There is very little published information concerning the serial numbering of these daggers, except that the numbers ran up to approximately 5,000 to 5,500 for all of the branches combined. There are, however, the “long box” presentation daggers which ran into the 6,000 range.
The dating of these daggers is very difficult because, unlike the daggers for the lower ranking officers, no manufacturers certificates were issued with the admirals / generals daggers. Indeed, it was not a known practice to issue any type of certificate with admirals /generals daggers. However, dated certificates have been sold with daggers where the certificate had a date which preceded the actual printing of the certificate itself Presumably this was done because some dealers felt that issuing a fraudulent certificate with an admirals / generals dagger would enhance sales (Fig. 6). Buyer beware.
At this time I can only provide two references concerning daggers and their specific dates. The first is a pre-1973 gold-plated dagger with an early style Army hanger. The engraved presentation scabbard on this particular dagger (Fig. 2) is numbered OO7XX. The other is a dagger that is numbered just over 1,000, which was ‘liberated’ from the DDR prior to 1988. (Authors note: When looking for the manufacturer’s logo, some daggers have the logo on the obverse side of the blade opposite the serial number (Fig. 7).
Fakes by the thousands were ordered by dealers ‘after the wall’. Many were parts daggers, made up of remaining parts held in stock by the manufacturer. Some were complete remanufacture, and others were a combination of both. Please - buyer beware!!
The following information comes second-hand from the managers of two warehouses which supplied daggers for the DDR. Approximately 100 Stasi engraved daggers, complete with Stasi colored hangers, were ordered ‘after the wall’. In addition, left over white cases, which were made for the gold-plated daggers, were sold containing the polished brass daggers. When the existing inventories of cases were depleted, some additional cases were constructed. Also, in addition to the Stasi fakes, there were nearly 1,000 daggers engraved for the other four branches of service.
The managers also stated that no admirals / generals daggers were engraved for outstanding performance like the blades which were created for the top student of each graduating officer class (Fig. 8).
Figure 8 shows a legitimate engraved honor graduate officers dagger on the left and a fake engraved generals dagger on the right. Beware of any dagger with electric marker-type engraving, and any presentation case that is not standard. This includes daggers that are presented with engraved brass plates which were placed in the case or on the lid.
Many additional things were done to promote sales, including the numbering of unnumbered blades with lower serial numbers which, like the addition of fraudulent certificates to. cases, were thought to increase the desirability of the item. In the case of certificates, custom numbering of blank certificates for admirals I generals and regular officers daggers was also practiced (Fig. 9).
According to Sylvia Lais, PGH in Thuringen, the original manufacturer of DDR daggers, stated that “...production of daggers ceased with the last delivery to the land Forces in 1990. However, assembly of honor daggers from stock parts continued until 1992.”
I would especially like to thank Kurt Glemser who has published two excellent reference books, listed in the sources, containing information on DDR daggers. In addition, I would also like to thank Lt. Col. (RET.) Thomas M. Johnson (a well known authority on German daggers), and his staff at Johnson’s Reference Books. Finally many additional thanks go to Lee Stewart, Mel Norris, Richard Byrd, Diane Schreiber, James Stejskal, Robert A. Yoder, Dan and Sharon Dolfl, all of you who provided information about your daggers, and last but not least, my son, Jason.
Glemser, Kurt, A Guide to Military Dress Daggers Vols. 1 & 2, self published, 1991.
Lais, Von Sylvia, “Zuviel der Ehre,” Visier Militarverlag der Deutsche Demokratisches Republik (VEB), Berlin, 1991.
Keubke, Klaus Ulrich, and Kunz, Manfred, Uniformen der Nationalen Volksarmee der DDR 1956-1986 Brandenburgisches Verlagshaus, Berlin, 1990.