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Joseph Burgard, with expert knowledge of SS collars and cuffs, dismisses the artwork as pure fantasy, October 19, 2004

SS uniforms: the last word

I'M WRITING to address the rather gross inaccuracies in the uniforms of the SS men in David Olère's drawings [on which Deborah Lipstadt generally relied as evidence in her Trial for libel].

Another reader already commented that the "doctor" is incorrectly wearing a black Allgemeine-SS officer's visor cap [click image above for enlargement].

Once the war broke out, the black uniform fell out of use except for parades and ceremonial duties. In fact Himmler ordered all remaining black SS uniforms to be collected on June 8, 1942 (Beaver, Uniforms of the Waffen-SS, vol. 1, page 35).

The camp guard's were issued field-grey uniforms like the Waffen-SS and hence became almost indistinguishable from combat troops, a fact that was unpleasing to many Waffen-SS men who wanted to distance themselves from the camp guards. So the likelihood of an officer actually wearing the black visor while on duty during the war is practically non-existent.

The depiction of the other SS man holding the bottle of poison is fraught with errors.

Most notable is the fact that the eagle is the army (Heer) version, and worn on the right breast, instead of the SS version on the upper left sleeve. The SS did have a slightly different version of the national eagle from that of the regular armed forces.

Second is the odd collar insignia combination. The SS rank insignia on the collar usually consisted of the SS runes or a special division insignia[1] on the right patch and the actual rank-indicator patch on the left. This combination was used up the rank of Obersturm- bannführer, or the U.S. Army equivalent of Lt. Colonel.[2]

The right collar has the SS runes with aluminum piping around the edge of the collar patch - officers' did have that distinct feature. The left collar however has the Totenkopf (skull-and- crossbones) on the patch without aluminum piping, an indicator of enlisted men or NCOs. This combination is pure fantasy and was not used (this same fantasy collar combination and the misplacement of the eagle was used in the other sketch with the soldier grabbing the mother breast- feeding her infant).

The Totenkopf' patch was the original concentration camp unit collar patch, but with the constant personnel transfers during the war the SS runes patch became the predominant one.

Other aspects would indicate that he is an officer: the dark green collar, the French cuffs on his sleeves, and the aluminum piping on both the overseas cap and the SS collar patch. However, the aluminum piping is absent on the left collar patch. The shoulder boards would also indicate rank, but one cannot tell from this cartoon.

The other sketch with the breast-feeding mother has the same fantasy collar insignia combination, SS runes on the right and Totenkopf on the left, and the misplaced eagle. The rank chevrons are correct, the two giving him the rank of Rottenführer (Corporal).

I would agree that this is nitpicking, but I doubt that anyone who was in the camp system as a prisoner would forget such obvious aspects about the SS uniform.

Also the sketches are obviously just an artistic impression that has no concrete tie to reality. The sketches try to get all the horrors at once: the guards beating a prisoner, the smoke from the chimneys, a bottle of poison, a doctor doing a medical experiment on a person, assaulting a mother with an infant and young daughter, pulling gold teeth out of dead bodies, etc.

The fact a judge [Mr Justice Gray, right] considered some of Olère's sketches as historical 'evidence' is ridiculous. When all is said and done, the sketches are propaganda and nothing more.

Joseph Burgard

  1. for examples see this site:
  2.  see this site for SS-rank equivalents:

Philip Mathews


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David Irving comments:

IT is fair to point out that this particular sketch was not shown to Judge Gray by Lipstadt's lawyers, and we can only presume why.

This letter is however an example of the Internet at its best, generating real expertise -- for free -- of a kind that historians and even the wealthiest law firms can never hope to amass.

© Focal Point 2004 David Irving