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East German Grenzschutz Uniforms

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I thought I would post a series of DDR Grenzschutz (Border Service) uniforms as they changed a bit over time. The first I will show is a standard Grenzer uniform that was worn from 1952-1956. However, from 1948 until 1952 border control was handled by the blue uniformed Deutsche Volkspolizei (DVP) of the Ministry of the Interior. The "Grenzpolizei" wore the same blue uniform as the regular police except they also wore a green shield with a large "G" in the center on the left sleeve of the blue Model 1948 four button open collar tunic. This blue uniform was worn with a light blue shirt and a red tie until circa 1950. During this time period the Hauptverwaltlung fur Ausbilding (HVA) was studying new uniforms to build out an East German military to be called the National Peoples Army (NVA) and there were several changes in land and sea uniforms during this time period.

This Soviet style tunic shown below, adopted on 1 July 1952, is a single breasted khaki canvas with upper breast pockets only. The hidden upper pockets have flaps concealing the buttons and there are no hip pockets below the waist. There are no collar tabs on this particular canvas tunic and it appears there never were any from the fading of the cloth. Wool tunics of this style did have collar tabs but the canvas tunics are very scarce and it is unknown if they were worn with collar tabs or not. This tunic has five early East German pebbled aluminum buttons securing the front. The shoulder boards are the then new style for Grenzpolizei of the Kasernierten Volkspolizei (KVP). The barracked police (KVP) khaki uniforms of this Soviet style were worn by land, sea, and air forces from 1952 to 1956. This particular tunic is dated 1955 and is property marked to the Ministry of the Interior (MdI). The rank is Grenzpolizei Feldwebel KVP as indicated by the green piped shoulder boards.



KVP GP coat back.JPG

KVP GP coat close.JPG

KVP GP coat cuff.JPG

KVP GP coat collar.JPG

KVP GP coat shoulderboard.JPG

KVPP GP coat lower back.JPG

KVP GP coat pockets.JPG

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Here is an example of the Model 1948 blue Volkspolizei uniform discussed above. While this is not a Grenzpolizei uniform it is the same as those worn by the Grenzpolizei before 1952 with the exception of it not having the green "G" patch sewn to the upper left arm.


I would like to mention a very good book for this early East German time period. It is "Uniforms of the East German Military 1949-1990" by Klaus-Ulrich Keubke and Manfred Kunz. Published by Schiffer Publishing Co. in 2013 it covers the early foundations of the later DDR Military with authoritative quotations and period color uniform plates. Another authoritative two volume set of books is "Geschichte der Deutschen Volkspolizei" published by VEB Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften, Berlin 1987.


DDR DVP jacke back.JPG

DDR DVP jacke collar.JPG

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The 1952-1956 time period saw other uniform and structural changes to the KVP. Up until now there were no air assets fielded by the Deutsche Volkspolizei. This changed with the standing up the Volkspolizei-Luft during this time period but this air service was destined to become the military air force of the DDR Nationale Volks Armee (NVA).


The Hauptverwaltung Seepolizei (HVS) developed new uniforms and structure for the Volkspolizei-See during this same time period. Some personnel would remain as Wasserpolizei under the MdI; some would transition to the Volksmarine as sailors under the NVA; and some would transition to the Coast Guard and become Grenzpolizei-See. This organization is shrouded in mystery but it is known they existed but were reorganized many times (according to Keubke and Kunz) as of 1957. They became the Coastal Border Brigade (Grenzbrigade Kuste) answering to the MdI until again reorganized to report to the NVA from 1961-1990. These Grenzers wore basically the same uniform as other Seestreitkraten of the NVA Navy with some exceptions as to piping and insignia.


Officers of the Grenzpolizei-See, and Grenzbrigade Kuste, did not wear cuff stripes indicating rank like those worn by Volksmarine Officers until 17 January 1959. Seamen wore naval style Tellermutze hats with a ribbon that indicated either "Volkspolizei-See" or "Grenzbrigade Kuste". Here is an Officer's white cotton Summer dress uniform jacket that was worn with white trousers and a white top cap from 1952-1956. This naval style double breasted tunic has ten gilt anchor buttons on the front and no cuff stripes according to regulations. It has wine red Unterleutnant shoulder boards indicating Coastal Service. This uniform jacket was worn without cuff stripes until 1959-1960,



KVP Coastal coat.JPG

KVP Coastal coat back.JPG

KVP Coastal coat close.JPG

KVP Coastal coat buttons.JPG

KVP Coastal coat shoulderboards.JPG

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New uniforms for the Nationale Volksarmee (NVA) were developed by the end of 1955 and the new East German Army was stood up in 1956. The new military uniforms were revealed on 1 May 1956 at the May Day parade held in Berlin. Due to a shortage of the new uniforms there was a wear-out transitional period for the khaki uniforms that lasted until the end of the 1950s. A new dress code for the NVA was created in 1957 but it took until the end of the 1950s to implement for the khaki uniforms. A new dress code for the Volkspolizei was established by the MdI on 1 October 1954 that largely replaced the open collar DVP blue uniforms with closed collar green uniforms. The new military and police uniforms were of similar styles with closed collar tunics having four pleated patch pockets accompanied by riding/marching boots and breeches. The Grenzpolizei remained under the control of the Ministry of the Interior until 12 September 1961 when it was integrated into the NVA. The 40,000 men of the Grenzpolizei of the MdI became the Grenztruppen of the NVA with yet another uniform change.


The Grenzpolizei uniform shown below is dated 1960 and shows what the Grenzer uniform looked like just before integration into the NVA. This khaki colored uniform is for a Corporal of the Grenzpolizei as indicated by the green piped collar tabs and shoulder boards. The uniform was worn with black leather belts with the uniforms and equipment property marked to the MdI.

DDR GP tunic 2.JPG

DDR GP tunic back.JPG

DDR GP collar.JPG

DDR GP collar tabs.JPG

DDR GP Cpl shoulder board.JPG

DDR GP shoulder boards.JPG

DDR GP belt hook.JPG

DDR GP belt buckle.JPG

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Here are some photos of the circa 1960 Grenzpolizei uniform worn with a lightweight set of equipment. Note that all of the black leather goods are "MdI" property marked as is proper for this time period. The waist belt is the original one that came with this particular uniform while the other equipment has been added.


Also note the accompanying photograph of the East German Grenzer throwing away his machine pistol and escaping to the West as the Berlin wall was being erected.



DDR grenzer.jpg

DDR GP tunic.JPG

DDR GP tunic Y straps.JPG

DDR GP tunic insig.JPG

DDR GP tunic belt.JPG

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The Grenztruppen of the NVA were first uniformed in 1962 in what the Germans called the stone grey uniforms of the land, sea, and air services of the NVA. This included the naval style Grenzer units who only received blue navy style uniforms in 1966. The new uniforms carried over the green insignia color of the Grenzpolizei with light green piping where one would normally see the colored piping of other units such as Infantry or Panzer troops of the NVA. One notable difference was the distinctive light green color of the band on the peaked cap of all ranks. By order of the Minister for National Defense on 2 October 1963 the issue of stone grey uniforms with light green piping was to begin on 1 November 1963 and was to be completed by the 30th of that same month. This changeover of uniforms actually lasted through the first half of the 1960s.


In addition to the regular issue of uniforms for all members of the NVA the Grenztruppen were issued several special uniforms due to the particulars of their service. For instance they were issued such specialty items as fur coats, winter hats, snow suits, mosquito nets, rubber boots, and ski equipment. There were also special additions for the KPP Service, who were Grenztruppen members serving at the border control points. All Grenzers were issued a rain cape that was only to be worn in the appropriate weather conditions.


An early example of this hooded rain cape is shown below. These capes are shown in clothing regulation examples from 1959-1960. They will be found property marked to the "DDR" or the "NVA". This early undated example is marked "DDR" without an issue date. It appears to have been made during this period of transition.



DDR rain cape.JPG

DDR rain cape interior.JPG

DDR rain cape back.JPG

DDR rain cape collar.JPG

DDR rain cape hood.JPG

DDR rain cape DDR markings.JPG

DDR rain cape markings.JPG

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Another specialized item of issue was the camouflage combat suit. This two piece Blumentarn pattern camouflage suit was shown in the 1959-1960 uniform regulations along with the rain cape. This "splotch" or so called "potato" pattern combat suit was worn over the service uniform with a grey web belt and Y straps for the matching Blumentarn camouflage assault pack system. The jacket had a large attached camo pattern hood and various loops in which foliage could be placed. This 1st pattern of camouflage combat suit had no provision for shoulder boards as rank insignia was envisioned as being a series of cloth bars sewn onto the left sleeve. However, I have never seen a camouflage suit with this rank insignia sewn to the sleeve. Later versions of this combat suit did have provisions for wearing shoulder boards to indicate rank. The matching loose camouflage trousers were worn over the top of the boots.


It seems that Grenzers tested and refined this Blumentarn pattern camouflage system according to Keubke and Kunz. The early Blumentarn combat suit was worn by Grenzpolizei and there were several refinements and variations that will be found such as the shape and placement of foliage loops, button types, hood variations, and method of showing rank to name a few. Later Grenztruppen troops also wore and tested the second pattern of camouflage called Strichtarn or rain pattern that was also called the "one-stripe-no-stripe-suit" by soldiers. This Strichtarn rain pattern combat suit was finally adopted as the "DV-10/5. edition 1965" field service outfit. Interestingly, the Blumentarn pattern suit continued to be manufactured and issued until the late 1960s.


The 1st pattern Blumentarn camouflage combat suit shown below is an early style as worn by the KVP and Grenzpolizei. This particular camouflage suit is property marked to the MdI and is dated 1959, It is distinguished by having flapped vertical slits on the chest which allows the wearer to access his tunic pockets. This feature was later abandoned. It also has a hood with metal clips to attach to the steel helmet to hold it in place. There is also a face net rolled up in the edge of the hood. This early outfit has plastic buttons and no provision for shoulder boards.



DDR 1st camo jacket.JPG

DDR 1st camo jacket back.JPG

DDR 1st camo jacket close.JPG

DDR 1st camo jacket belt.JPG

DDR 1st camo jacket buttons.JPG

DDR 1st camo jacket hood.JPG

DDR 1st camo jacket markings.JPG

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Here are some photos of the Blumentarn camouflage assault packs that could be attached to the grey web Y straps. Various pieces of equipment were made in this camouflage pattern that could be attached to the web belt system. Two part cloth packs, cloth canteen covers, ammunition pouches, or shelter quarters were made in Blumentarn pattern to name but a few.


All of these items are property marked to the MdI.



DDR MdI splotch pattern pack front.JPG

DDR MdI splotch pattern pack back.JPG

DDR MdI splotch  pattern pack markings.JPG

DDR MdI splotch pattern bag front.JPG

DDR MdI splotch pattern bag top.JPG

DDR MdI splotch pattern bag back.JPG

DDR MdI splotch pattern bag markings.JPG

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While we are on the camouflage combat suit, there was a later version of this Blumentarn pattern that deviated from the earlier hooded variety. This later pattern was also tested by the Grenzers and there are period photos of both patterns being worn by border troops. The later Blumentarn pattern was cut with a collar instead of a hood in the same manner as the 1965 Strichtarn (rain) pattern suits. Like the hooded camouflage suit some will have provisions for shoulder boards and some will not.


Interestingly, some of these will be found that have been darkened by dying the suit to achieve a darker camouflage tone. It is unknown if this was done as part of the testing process or not. What is known is that the camouflage combat suits were extensively tested by the Grenztruppen during the years from 1963-1965 before adoption of the new Strichtarn pattern suits by the NVA. It is also known that during the adoption process for new uniforms that old uniforms could continue to be worn as work clothing. As work clothing the older category II uniforms were dyed black per Order No.2/67.


One of these later Blumentarn combat suits is shown below. This example does have provisions for shoulder boards. It is also one of the suits that has been dyed to darken the camouflage shade.

DDR 2nd camo dyed.JPG

DDR 2nd camo dyed collar.JPG

DDR 2nd camo dyed back.JPG

DDR 2nd camo dyed back close.JPG

DDR 2nd camo dyed shoulderboard.JPG

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Sarge, I'm late on commenting your posts since I've had only little time last week. What we do see here are some uber-rare uniforms. I collected DDR uniforms in the 1990's and still then the ones you have posted here were very hard to obtain. There's still a very active Grenztruppen-collecting community over here and the museum quality pieces you have posted would achieve high prices. Thanks for sharing these gems!

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Thank you for the kudos. I hope collectors understand that these pre-1965 uniforms are rare. Both here and in Germany. Very few of these early uniforms make it to this side of the pond as most are snapped up by German, and European, collectors. As a matter of fact most of these early uniforms that I have shown have come out of Germany when I was there or are ones I got from a German picker who actively looked for early MdI marked uniforms and equipment for me. You know something has become really collectible when they start faking items and palming them off as period pieces.


At any rate, new uniform regulations came into effect in 1965 and there was some standardization in NVA uniforms that lasted until the end of the DDR. New outfits, such as those for Career Soldiers, new Field Service Uniforms, Paratroops, etc. were developed until around 1970 when other structural changes that affected the Grenztruppen took place. The 50,000 man Grenztruppen was formally separated from the NVA in 1971 and they were reclassified as "Grenztruppen der DDR". While they remained in the Defense Ministry they were separated due to political reasons so they would not count as soldiers alongside regular Army, Navy, and Air Force military units. At this time, the green sleeveband with "Grenztruppen der DDR" was added to the uniform, which remained essentially unchanged and still showed "NVA" issue markings in the lining.


Here is an example of the then new, circa 1965 and later, Strichtarn (rain pattern) camouflage that replaced the Blumentarn pattern over time. This pattern of camouflage lasted until the end of the DDR.





DDR VP rain pattern camo pack.JPG

DDR VP school camo back.JPG

DDR MdI rain pattern pack back.JPG

DDR MdI rain pattern pack outside.JPG

DDR Strichtarn pouch.JPG

DDR Strichtarn pouch back.JPG

DDR Strichtarn pouch open.JPG

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This is an amazing thread. You have some really nice early stuff. I have a few grenzflieger uniforms I can share.


Thank you Paul. I really like the early stuff myself. Hard to get though.


Please do post your Grenzflieger uniforms. For the viewer, here is what we are talking about.

DDR Grenz flight jacke.JPG

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Excellent thread. It has now been pinned for easy reference. Congratulations!


Thank you for the kudos Gil and the decision to pin the thread as a reference. B)


Here is another example of one of the uniform changes during the 1960s. This is a circa 1965 example of a Grenztruppen NCO Summer jacket made without green piped cuffs or a "Grenztruppen der DDR" sleeveband. This lightweight cotton-poly tunic was worn in the Summer by an Unteroffizier auf Zeit (non-career NCO) of the Grenztruppen. These five button front tunics, worn with either a closed or open collar, were worn with a black leather belt for fatigue and field service only during the Summer. This Summer uniform tunic continued in wear for a long period of time.

DDR Grenz Summer Tunic.JPG

DDR Grenz Summer tunic collar.JPG

DDR Grenz Summer tunic back.JPG

DDR Grenz Summer tunic shoulderboard.JPG

DDR Grenz Summer tunic collar tab.JPG

DDR Grenz Summer tunic cuff.JPG

DDR Grenz Qual badge.JPG

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  • 2 weeks later...

The early 1970s brought the organizational change from the "Grenztruppen" as part of the Army to the separated "Grenztruppen der DDR" as indicated above. The existing uniform styles that mirrored the Army continued to be worn for a period of time. The Grenztruppen der DDR continued to wear tunics with dark colored collars that mirrored the other services that gradually changed during the wearing out period to tunics with collars of the same color as the tunic cloth. The green sleeve bands bearing the title of "Grenztruppen der DDR" were worn after 1 December 1976 on the left cuff indicating their new status. These uniforms, worn after the separation from the NVA as of 10 December 1973, continued in wear throughout the 1970s and 1980s.


Here is an un-issued example of the last enlisted version of the Grenztruppen uniform. Notice the similarity to the earlier Grenzpolizei enlisted uniform from the 1960s. This wool uniform retains it original paper manufacturing tags and is dated 1987. This uniform was worn by a non-career border patrolmen who was performing his compulsory military service rather than being worn by a career border patrolman.



DDR Grenz EM tunic.JPG

DDR Grenz EM tunic back.JPG

DDR Grenz EM tunic tag.JPG

DDR Grenz EM tunic shoulder board.JPG

DDR Grenz EM tunic collar.JPG

DDR Grenz EM tunic cuffband.JPG

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On the other hand, here is an example of a fake "Ike Jacket" style of Grenztruppen uniform Jacke. This style of uniform was never worn by the Grenztruppen der DDR. It has been made from a standard hip length tunic as shown above into a short jacket in order to sell a slow moving product after the fall of the wall and the end of the East German state. With thousands of un-issued uniforms available some German surplus companies remade slow selling DDR tunics into something else in order to sell them. Collectors will see these short fantasy jackets from time to time but they are not original to the time period of the DDR.



DDR Grenz short tunic.JPG

DDR Grenz short tunic back.JPG

DDR Grenz short tunic side.JPG

DDR Grenz short tunic collar tab.JPG

DDR Grenz short tunic sleeveband.JPG

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Fake IKE Grenztruppen uniform, I'm learning something new every day. Thanks for sharing this, SARGE!

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  • 2 years later...

I wanted to add an example of the Marine (Maritime) section of the Grenzschutz cap.  This is the Tellerform style of naval cap worn by the Seepolizei and the later Volksmarine after their establishment but with a different cap title.  This cap ribbon is for the "Grenzbrigade Kuste" or maritime Grenzers who were seaborne.  Members of this relatively small unit wore naval style uniforms and patrolled the coastline and waterways in boats.   Their primary identifier was this title ribbon on their cap.


Notice in the photograph below from a period Volkspolizei coffee table book these Grenzbrigade Kuste sailors patrolling a beach.



DDR Grenz Kuste cap.JPG

DDR Grenz Kuste cap2.JPG

DDR Grenz.jpg

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Hello 'Sarge',  And yet again, you've shown us an awesome & quite  unusual photograph of an uncommon, & thereby not usually encountered photograph of the DDR's 'Coastal & Waterways Patrol'. Apparently similar perhaps to the Wasserschutzpolizei, except I seem to recall that they may have fallen under command of the DDR's Navy, as opposed to the Polizei, IIRC. You appear to have realized that even though the market was literally 'flooded' with anything & everything East German related back around the collapse, you had enough forethought to purchase the odd & uncommon items as like everything else in the collector world, it all tends to dry up within a 10 or so year time span. If I had the space to do so, I would have done the exact same had I the room to display / store them !  Please keep it coming Sarge, as I'm sure that I'm not the only one who appreciates it. 


                      Best,    Dom P.  /  dpast32



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Proud Kraut

Yes, dpast is right. 6. Grenzbrigade Kueste was part of the "Grenztruppen der DDR" but under operational control of the Volksmarine. Very nice hat!

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