Let’s clarify the exact name of the badge in question to start with. The founding order signed by the Bundesführer Franz Seldte named it as a “Honorary badge of the Old guards” (Ehrenabzeichen der “Alte Garde”), while award certificates designate it as a “Service Entry Badge” (Diensteintritts-Abzeichen). However, in certain printed and online publications one may found it being called “Service Entry and Traditional Badge” (Diensteintritts- und Traditionsabzeichen). In order to avoid confusion, the name as it appeared in numerous award documents will be used in this article.
Thus, Service Entry Badge of the Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten was instituted on November 13, 1933 by the Bundesführer, i.e. leader of the League of Frontline Soldiers Franz Seldte (29.06.1882-01.04.1947) in conjunction with the fifteenth jubilee of the Stahlhelmbund, the veterans’ organization he had created on December 25, 1918 in Magdeburg. According to the statute of the decoration, it was issued to “tried and tested faithful fighters and comrades-in-arms as a token of appreciation for their loyal service and interruptible membership in the League during the harsh years of struggle”. The latter note corresponded to the period of 1918-1932, i.e. the Weimar Republic-era before assumption of power by NSDAP.
Those eligible for decoration with the badge had to present their Stahlhelmbund membership card (Mitgliedsbuch) with a record confirming the date veteran joined the League. Those unable to produce membership cards for valid reason had to show any other documents certifying their status. In that case suitability of a badge presentation was decided by the Bundesführer himself.
Service Entry Badge of Stahlhelmbund was also issued to the personnel of the so-called “Wehrstahlhelm”, or Wehrsta-Kameraden, provided they were able to present proof of their membership. To be more specific, it’s worth mentioning here that since July 1933, ca.314,000 members of the Stahlhelmbund aged 35 and below were enlisted to “Wehrstahlhelm” under control of the SA, retaining their Stahlhelmbund memnbership for a while.
According to the statute of the Diensteintritts-Abzeichen des Stahlhelm, the badge together with the award certificate had to be presented during a solemn ceremony in presence of other Ortsgruppe members.
Service Entry Badge was handed to a veteran in a square cardboard box with dark blue artificial leather finish. However, black colored boxes are known to exist as well. Dimensions of boxes depended on diameter of the badge, i.e. early pieces were presented in slightly larger cases. Cushions were manufactured of rose, turquoise and yellow cotton.
After the decoration was done, a relevant entry certified by an Ortsgruppenführer was to be made in the membership card.
Diensteintritts-Abzeichen des Stahlhelm was always presented with an award certificate (Urkunde), absence of which prohibited wearing of a decoration. Typewriter was used to fill name and last name of the veteran, date and place of entry into Stahlhelmbund, name of the Territorial association (Landesverband), serial number of the badge as well as the date the certificate was issued. Certificates for “old guard” members were hand-filled, though. The lower part of the document had facsimiles of the Bundes-Intendant Theodor Gruß and the Bundesführer Franz Seldte. Acceptance of the national socialist ideology even during the last months of the formal independence of the Stahlhelmbund manifested in a modified greeting printed just above facsimile of Seldte: “Frontheil Hitler!” instead of “Front Heil!”.
The second and last type of award certificate appeared after renaming of Stahlhelm Bund der Frontsoldaten to Nationalsozialistischer Deutscher Frontkämpfer-Bund (Stahlhelm) on March 28, 1934 within the scope of the all-German policy of “Gleichschaltung”. Traditional emblem of the Stahlhelmbund in the shape of a formalized steel helmet made way for a new emblem comprising of swastika. Serial number of the badge as well as Landesverband name were henceforth printed in the middle, the designation of Theodor Gruß was changed to the “Treasurer” (Bundes-Kämmerer).
In the event of discontinuation of membership, Diensteintritts-Abzeichen des Stahlhelm together with an award certificate had to be returned to the headquarters of the Ortsgruppe or to the Division IVa of the Federal office of the Stahlhelmbund (Abteilung IVa des Bundesamtes). Those pronounced unworthy of wearing of the badge were obliged to surrender it immediately. Loss of badge had to be reported to the Division IVa of the Federal office without delay. An official announcement was subsequently made by the Stahlhelmbund executives in the local newspapers, and the badge was considered void. After that the unlucky holder was allowed to present an application for reissue of the Service Entry Badge.
The badge had to be returned to the Stahlhelmbund headquarters after the demise of its holder. However, Bundesführer was entitled to allow family to hold the badge in remembrance of their deceased relative.
All the regulations stated above applied to the personnel of the “Wehrstahlhelm” as well.
Let’s return to the description of the Diensteintritts-Abzeichen des Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten.
The badge had a round shape and was covered with the “hot” black enamel leaving thin silver edge. Miniature device in the shape of a silver-coloured German steel helmet M1916 (Stahlhelm M1916) ССЫЛКА facing left as an emblem of the League was attached to the upper part of an obverse. The helmet carried a stylized image of the Prussian Iron Cross, 1st Class and an inscription in Gothic letters in two lines: “Der Stahlhelm”. Apropos, three methods of helmet attachment are known to exist: soldering, riveting and usage of prongs. Two crossed oak leaves of silver colour standing for strength and hardiness were situated just below the helmet. The lower part of an obverse had a date of entry into the Stahlhelmbund executed in large silver-coloured Arabic numerals.
Altogether 15 Service Entry Badge of Stahlhelm were instituted, each bearing date from “1918” to “1932”.
The founding order stipulated that veterans who joined the Stahlhelmbund during its first three years of existence, i.e. in 1918, 1919 and 1920, were issued with much larger badges measuring 35 mm in diameter. All the other badges bearing dates “1921”-“1932” would have 30 mm in diameter.
The order also stated that serial number of the badge corresponding to that printed in the award certificate as well as date of joining the Stahlhelmbund were to be engraved on reverse. However, that regulation wasn’t generally followed and unified pattern of engraving never existed. Thus, most badges carried the name of the Landesverband, some pieces lacked date of joining the League. The year of entry was engraved in different ways, e.g. “.24” and “1924”; the badges bearing just year and lacking day and month are not uncommon; the month was executed either as a word, e.g. “Juli”, or as a numeral (“7”), etc.
Generally speaking, five types of Service Entry Badge of Stahlhelm may be singled out. Their characteristics, except for Entry badge for founding members and “1919” Entry badge for “old fighters” from Magdeburg, are cited according to the “Abzeichen und Auszeichnungen Deutscher Kriegervereine 1800-1943” catalogue published in 2012. Dimensions and weight for those two badges are provided by a Russian collector who owns original pieces.
Large badge bearing the date “1918” was unofficially known as “Entry Badge for Founding Members” (Eintrittsabzeichen für Gründungsmitglieder). Two variations of this badge are known to exist differing in manufacturer only. First batch was produced by Stahlhof Magdeburg company. Those badges bearing “STh” manufacturer’s mark weighed 15,9 g, measured 35,4 mm in diameter, while steel helmet’s dimensions were 12,6x22,9 mm. Some of them had an engraving “Mitgründer” (“founder”) on their reverses. All decorations bore their holders’ names and dates of entry. Second batch of badges was manufactured by the Berlin-based company “J.Godet & Sohn”. They weighed 14,7 g, measured 35,3 mm in diameter, and steel helmet’s dimensions were 12,7x22,1 mm. While the former were presented in boxes with blue finish, the latter were supplied in white cases measuring 50x50x16 mm and bearing manufacturer’s elegant logo in black Gothic lettering – “Godet Berlin” – on top of the cover.
It’s worth mentioning here that some private collections exhibit both variations of the Eintrittsabzeichen für Gründungsmitglieder awarded to the same person, i.e. manufactured by Stahlhof and Godet. At least four such pairs are known to exist. It is believed by some collectors that “Godet” badges were manufactured and issued to renowned veterans unofficially, before a solemn decoration ceremony (described below) took place. As for the “Stahlhof” pieces, those were presented on December 25, 1933 officially. Supporters of that theory indicate that “Godet” badges sport fairly worn obverses and reverses, unlike “Stahlhof” decorations. One “Stahlhof” badge is even preserved in nearly mint condition. Difficult to say whether this estimation is true or not, but it is based on a certain logic.
Reduced version of Eintrittsabzeichen für Gründungsmitglieder measured 30,2 mm in diameter, steel helmet’s dimensions were 10,9x20,7 mm. Unlike all the other Diensteintritts-Abzeichen, it was attached by the horizontal pin soldered to its reverse. Those badges were manufactured of 835 silver by the Bonn-based Firma Ferdinand Hoffstätter. Reverse bore silver hallmark (“835”) and maker’s mark “Hoffstätter Bonn”.
The very first presentation of Eintrittsabzeichen für Gründungsmitglieder in conjunction with the 15th jubilee of the Stahlhelmbund took place on December 25, 1933 at the “Emperor’s Hall” (Kaisersaal) of the “Harmony Society” (Harmonie-Gesellschaft) in Magdeburg.
Beyond all doubt, Eintrittsabzeichen für Gründungsmitglieder is the rarest amongst all the Service Entry Badges (save unique piece bearing no date presented to Hermann Göring) as it was presented only to seventeen founding fathers of the Stahlhelmbund. That was the initial strength of the frontfighters’ union by the end of 1918, only one week after the Stahlhelmbund was founded on December 23, 1918 in Magdeburg. Here’s the list of recipients: Bundesführer Franz Seldte, Leutnant Eugen Seldte, Feldwebel Fritz Velten, Vizewachtmeister Georg Fahlbusch, Musketier Max Oppermann, Oberleutnant der Reserve Georg Seldte, Leutnant der Reserve und Regierungsbaumeister (i.e. state architect) Johannes Fischer, Leutnant der Reserve Max Fischer, Leutnant der Reserve Werner Fölsche, Leutnant der Reserve Wilhelm Schröder, Hauptmann der Reserve Walter Stern, Kanonier Helmut Fischer, Leutnant der Reserve Erich Görnemann, Hauptmann der Reserve und Rechtsanwalt (i.e. solicitor) Dr.Gustav Bünger, Leutnant der Reserve Karl Görnemann, Leutnant der Reserve und Studienrat Dr.Max Görnemann, Anwalt und persönlicher Berater F.Seldtes (lawyer and personal assistant to Franz Seldte) Rudolf Schaper. The latter was the only civilian amongst the seventeen awardees.
Please take notice that the list provided above lacks the name of Theodor Duesterberg, the Stahlhelmbund second leader. Illogical as it may seem at first glance, such a decision has two clear explanations, one being unbiassed and one prejudiced. Firstly, Oberstleutnant Duesterberg joined the Stahlhelmbund only in December 1919, one year after it was founded (it will be recalled that the League came into being on December 23, 1918 in Magdeburg) and was elected second Bundesführer in April 1923. Thus, decoration of Duesterberg with the Eintrittsabzeichen für Gründungsmitglieder would be absolutely unfounded. Sure, no objection would be raised within the League to presentation of a badge to such a popular politician were it not for the second reason that tipped the scale dramatically. By the time the Eintrittsabzeichen für Gründungsmitglieder was instituted, matters took such a turn that Theodor Duesterberg had already asserted himself as an informal opposition leader within the Stahlhelmbund and an opponent of the first Bundesführer Franz Seldte. But the last straw that broke the camel’s back was information revealed by the Nazis in 1932: Duesterberg’s paternal great grandfather, Abraham Selig was a Jew who headed Jewish community in the city of Paderborn. No wonder that deprivation of the badge was the least discomfort Duesterberg encountered, bearing in mind change of ideology the whole Germany faced come January 30, 1933.
1919 badge was 34,3 mm in diameter, dimensions of steel helmet – 12,4x22,2 mm.
1920 badge was either 33 mm in diameter with dimensions of steel helmet – 12,7x21,5 mm, or 29,2 mm in diameter with dimensions of steel helmet – 10,8x18,9 mm.
By January 06, 1919, two weeks after its creation, the “Stahlhelmbund” comprised of 200 members approximately. After seventeen “Entry Badges for Founding Members” were presented on December 25, 1933, it was decided to introduce a special version of a Service Entry Badge exclusively for veterans of the Magdeburg Orstgruppe, initial tiny unit from which “Stahlhelmbund” had actually been grown to a mammoth nationwide organization. That badge was issued to those who missed the chance to enter the League in 1918 but acquired reputation as active “Stahlhelmbund” members and deserved a special decoration. An obverse was similar to the ordinary Diensteintritts-Abzeichen bearing the date “1919”, but reverse had the following engravings: “Gr[ünder] G[ruppe] Magdeburg”, serial number of the badge and entry date. Altogether 195 veterans were decorated with the badges during the solemn ceremony held on April 21, 1934. Theodor Duesterberg was not one of them for the reasons mentioned above.
The complete list of holders of that rare decoration is published below with serial numbers of badges engraved on reverses in brackets. Alfred Berg (1), Willi Eckart (2), Herbert Hilbner (3), Otto Kühne (4), Gustav Naunapper (5), Wilhelm Naunapper (6), Walter Ohlrogge (7), Reinhold Protze (8), Wilhelm Schwarz (9), Paul Seisse (10), Eduard Stichler (11), Franz Weitzenfeld (12), Dr.jur.Walter Wendel (13), Otto Liestmann (14), Arthur Laue (15), Adolf Fresdorf (16), Max Schulz (17), Franz Humbert (18), Fritz Hering (19), Karl Meiners (20), Erich Jänicke (21), Karl Kobitzsch (22), Fritz Schulze (23), Gottfried Drenkmann (24), Walter Bormann (25), Willi Joerning (26), Walter Joachim Könnecke (27), Fritz Süssenguth (28), Hermann Wendeborn (29), Gerhard Haufe (30), Hans Trepper (31), Kurt Rinke (32), Dr.Paul Meier (33), Kurt Brusche (34), Paul Kühne (35), Arthur Hufeld (36), Georg Hauswaldt (37), Willi Feine (38), Ernst Schmidt (39), Wilhelm Marsal (40), Hans Müller (41), Wilhelm Harder (42), Max Bethge (43), Hermann Stephani (44), Kurt Brandt (45), Reinhold Funck (46), Otto Straube (47), Friedrich Wilhelm Schallehn (48), Ernst Schimmelburg (49), Walter Schmeil (50), Wilhelm Schönemeyer (51), Otto Ackermann (52), Bruno Finke (53), Dr.Fritz Hellweg (54), Walter Engler (55), Wilhelm Berg (56), August Schröder (57), Karl Ruf (58), Paul Dalchow (59), Johannes Pistel (60), Franz Schüler (61), Arno Fritz (62), Oscar Hoffmann (63), Georg Duchrow (64), Paul Schulze (65), Christian Helmecke (66), Walter Kempe (67), Joachim Friedrich Winckl (68), Georg Erlecke (69), Franz Lohnhardt (70), Walter Rohde (71), Heinrich Mundlos (72), Kurt Schulze (73), Rudolf Giersberg (74), Friedrich Tillmann (75), Paul Schüler (76), Ernst Knorr (77), Karl Fritze (78), Berthold Hermecke (79), Bruno Kubatschk (80), Paul Beer (81), Artur Diesrich (82), Max Otzner (83), Erich Wallstab (84), Berthold Kühne (85), Bernhard Teichmann (86), Walter Rudolph (87), Ernst Haberland (88), Werner Otto (89), Dr.Hans Dieck (90), Wilhelm Schulz (91), Paul Wolter (92), Fritz Haubold (93), August Harth (94), Gerhard Tiemann (95), Georg Kunst (96), Kurt Heyer (97), Bruno Liebrecht (98), Franz Gauerhering (99), Albert Bunz (100), Friedrich Rabe (101), Karl Lausch (102), Paul Siems (103), Otto Wilde (104), Kurt Wilde (105), Hans Schuster (106), Karl Gantzmann (107), Walter Fricke (108), Erich Teichmann (109), Georg Schaper (110), Dr.Karl Meier (111), Fritz Eschmann (112), Kurt Steiner (113), Robert Wehle (114), Walter Schubert (115), Moritz Lachmund (116), Fritz Niepage (117), Adolf Walter (118), Wilhelm Karow (119), Paul Wünsch (120), Eugen Tielebein(121), Karl Menrice (122), Karl Letzmann (123), Gerhard Meier (124), Fritz Mahlecke (125), Ernst Dittmar (126), Karl Brack (127), Walter Dieckmann (128), Richard Burkhardt (129), Rudolf Bierlich (130), Alfred Becker (131), Karl Dittmer (132), Karl Dillemuth (133), Paul Schultz (134), Friedrich Gerstering (135), Albert Kotzmann (136), Wilhelm Rucklies (137), Hans Brüggemann (138), August Tappe (139), Willi Lindner (140), Willi Dräger (141), Alexander Weyergang (142), Franz Kundt (143), Fritz Laun (144), Hermann Baermann (145), Harry Heinemann (146), Erich Gerretz (147), Adolf Schwineköpper (148), Karl Könnecke (149), Alfred Ferchland (150), Walter Pflughaupt (151), Karl Adamek (152), Max Jonas (153), Oskar Markisch (154), Hermann Baldamus (155), Paul Gnatz (156), Heinrich Grave (157), Alfred Jansen (158), Paul Meyer (159), Georg Münchhoff (160), Franz Grunow (161), Gottlieb Holzhauer (162), Kurt Trümpelmann (163), Walter Trümpelmann (164), Hans Steffen (165), Wilhelm Fräsdorf (166), Richard Förster (167), Fritz König (168), Udo Dreher (169), Hans Stegmann (170), Fritz Liedigk (171), Friedrich Gerber (172), Martin Niefert (173), Arno Grießmann (174), Willi Förster (175), Siegfried Becker (176), Anton Popien (177), Franz May (178), Paul Arendt (179), Karl Heinz Meinecke (180), Wilhelm Schmidt (181), Martin Könnecke (182), Dr.Alfred Eberhard (183), Paul Lindau (184), Ferdinand Preuße (185), Bernhard Hofmann (186), Karl Wiele (187), Richard Waldhelm (188), Georg Löhr (189), Günter Voigt (190), Fritz Betzold (191), Fritz Alte (192), Wilhelm Lotze (193), Karl Kaufmann (194) and Karl Markert (195).
Rare “1919” Entry badge for “old fighters” from Magdeburg measured 34,9 mm in diameter, dimensions of steel helmet were 12,6x22,7 mm. Its weight was 15,4 g.
1921: 30,2 mm in diameter, dimensions of steel helmet – 10,9x20,0 mm.
1922: 29,4 mm in diameter, dimensions of steel helmet – 10,6x20,7 mm.
1923: 29,7 mm in diameter, dimensions of steel helmet – 12,3x19,8 mm.
1924: 30,1 mm in diameter, dimensions of steel helmet – 11,5x19,6 mm.
At least three variants of the badge bearing the date “1924” are known to exist, differing in the shape of the numeral “4”, viz. “open-ended” “4” (roughly like “Ч”) and two ways of “locked” “4” shape.
1925: 30,0 mm in diameter, dimensions of steel helmet – 10,7x20,6 mm.
1926: 30,2 mm in diameter, dimensions of steel helmet – 11,9x21,1 mm.
1927: 29,7 mm in diameter, dimensions of steel helmet – 10,7x19,1 mm.
1928: 29,7 mm in diameter, dimensions of steel helmet – 11,5x20,1 mm.
1929: 29,9 mm in diameter, dimensions of steel helmet – 11,2x20,1 mm.
At least two variants of the badge bearing the date “1929” are known to exist, differing in the shape of the numeral “2”.
1930: 29,8 mm in diameter, dimensions of steel helmet – 11,7x20,2 mm.
1931: 30,8 mm in diameter, dimensions of steel helmet – 12,0x21,2 mm.
1932: 30,2 mm in diameter, dimensions of steel helmet – 10,8x20,0 mm.
According to “Bewertungs-Katalog Deutschland 1871-1945” published by Detlev Niemann, Hermann Göring was decorated with the unique Diensteintritts-Abzeichen that bore no date on obverse.
Full-size badges were attached to the tunic by a vertical pin and catching hook soldered to reverse. As it was indicated above, reduced version of the 1918 Eintrittsabzeichen für Gründungsmitglieder measuring 30,2 mm in diameter had horizontal pin.
Reverse of all the badges, except for the reduced version of the 1918 Eintrittsabzeichen für Gründungsmitglieder bore figured manufacturer’s mark, “STh” standing for the Stahlhof Magdeburg, and patent mark “Ges.Gesch.” standing for “gesetzlich geschützt”, i.e. “registered”. One may find several layouts of reverse: manufacturer’s mark minted vertically or horizontally relative to the pin, patent mark located either horizontally or in half-circle. Moreover, “Ges.Gesch.” mark was executed in various fonts.
Issued Diensteintritts-Abzeichen des Stahlhelm bearing dates “1922” and “1923” existed with an additional mark on their reverses: apart from “STh” and “Ges.Gesch.” they bore “Muster” mark, signifying “Pattern”. It may well be so that similar “trial” badges bearing other dates on their obverses had been manufactured as well. To be on a safe side, we mention here only two such specimen as both were seen by the author himself.
Small buttonhole Service Entry Badges made of Tombac were manufactured as well. And, as with full-size decorations, miniature badges bearing dates “1918”-“1920” had appreciably smaller diameter, 22,7-22,8 mm. Steel helmet measured either 5,8x11 mm or 5,9x10,2 mm. Buttonhole badges with dates “1921”-“1932” measured 17,6 mm in diameter, while steel helmet – 6,2x11,3 mm.
Diensteintritts-Abzeichen des Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten was manufactured of 825, 835 and 935 silver, German silver (Alpacca) and Tombac. Silver badges bore relevant hallmarks on their reverses, those made of German silver had capital letter “A”. No special hallmarks for decorations made of Tombac were minted.
The badges were presented to veterans from December 25, 1933 up to 1939, the year the process of liquidation of Nationalsozialistischer Deutscher Frontkämpfer-Bund (Stahlhelm) was completed.
The author thanks Alexander Gladkov (Ekaterinburg) for providing additional information on “1919” Entry badge for “old fighters” from Magdeburg as well as for illustrations of decorations from his personal collection.
1-2 Entry Badge for Founding Members measuring 35,4 mm in diameter and manufactured by the “Stahlhof Magdeburg” company that belonged to the Oberleutnant der Reserve Georg Seldte, brother of Franz Seldte
3-4 Entry Badge for Founding Members measuring 35,3 mm in diameter and manufactured by the “J.Godet & Sohn” company that belonged to the Oberleutnant der Reserve Georg Seldte
5-6 Entry Badge for Founding Members measuring 35,4 mm in diameter and manufactured by the “Stahlhof Magdeburg” company that belonged to the Leutnant der Reserve und Studienrat Dr.Max Görnemann
7-8 Reduced version of the Entry Badge for Founding Members measuring 30,2 mm in diameter with horizontal pin soldered to its reverse manufactured by the “Ferdinand Hoffstätter” company
9-10 Service Entry Badge with date “1919” measuring 34,3 mm in diameter
11-12 Buttonhole version of the Service Entry Badge with date “1919” measuring 22,8 mm in diameter
13-14 One of 195 Entry badges for “old fighters” from Magdeburg with date “1919” measuring 34,9 mm in diameter. This piece bearing engraved number “126” belonged to Ernst Dittmar who joined Stahlhelmbund on June 10, 1919 in Magdeburg
15-16 Service Entry Badge with date “1920” measuring 33 mm in diameter
17-18 Service Entry Badge with date “1920” measuring 29,2 mm in diameter
19-20 Obverses of Service Entry Badges with dates “1921” and “1922” measuring 30 mm in diameter
21-22 Service Entry Badge with date “1922” bearing “Muster” (“Pattern”) mark on its reverse
23-24 Service Entry Badge with date “1923” bearing “Muster” (“Pattern”) mark on its reverse
25 Obverse of the Service Entry Badge with date “1923” measuring 30 mm in diameter
26-28 Three variants of the Service Entry Badge with date “1924” measuring 30 mm in diameter differing in the shape of the numeral “4”
29-32 Obverses of the Service Entry Badges with dates “1925”, “1926”, “1927” and “1928” measuring 30 mm in diameter each
33-34 Two variants of the Service Entry Badge with date “1929” measuring 30 mm in diameter differing in the shape of the numeral “2”
35-36 Service Entry Badge with date “1930” with engraving on its reverse
37 Obverse of the Service Entry Badge with date “1931” measuring 30 mm in diameter
38-40 Obverse of the Service Entry Badge with date “1932” and two reverses: of issued and non-issued pieces
41-42 Buttonhole version of the Service Entry Badge with date “1932” measuring 17,6 mm in diameter