Posted by: Loren Coleman on September 25th, 2008
Some interesting followups to the “mystery photo” of the apparently polar bear-costumed person with the German soldiers have been forwarded.
This first one comes from a military scholar now serving in Baghdad. It shares some good points to ponder:
I am a frequent visitor to your site and have been for some years. I have little to contribute, other than an interest in all things BF. But today you showed a German WWII image that I thought I could help with. I am a twice-degreed Military Historian and have been reenacting for 30 years. Additionally I collect certain WWII era German photographs.
· First of all there is no way of determining if they are Nazis. I know you are a thorough and conscientious scholar and always want to be as accurate as possible. These are German Heer (Army) Soldaten (soldiers), and not Waffen SS either. Just conscripted young men in the army. The infamous NSDAP lapel pin was forbidden to wear on the uniform, but were they active in the party there would be presence of SA (Stormtrooper) sports badges or other SA ephemera present.
· I think the image is a period one. They are too thin and too young for reeanctors and the topic is too goofy. Reenactors would have been fatter, older and wearing camouflage and show a late war influence. These guys are very pristine and uniform. If one examines the Civil War pterodactyl faux-image it is immediately obvious that they are reenactors.
· The image is pre-war. The soldaten are wearing the M36 feldbluse (blouse) and M35 stalhelm (helmet). They are also lacking load bearing harness. There is also an absence of war-time awards.
· There are no commissioned officers. The two in the visored caps are NCOs. The one of the right of the image is a gefreiter (corporal). I cannot make out the shoulder rank of the NCO on the left.
· Perhaps this is someone dressed in a bear suit to mock the Russian Bear? Perhaps it is a wolf or a dog costume (much more in line with German sensibilities)? Many things can be answered if someone could read anything written on the reverse side of the picture.
ALAN C. HUFFINES”
Cryptomundo reader Tom Burke sends along this photograph (above) that has been labeled a “Nazi Bear” by the blog “Piece of Phour” in 2007. Blogger M. Wade Nichols notes “Germany, 1948. The Nazi bear. As I understand it, this character was used in the PR campaign during World War II.” And also: “What I heard is that it was used during the Wehrmacht era (1935 – 1945).”
Of course, WWII ended in 1945, so the assumption is that this is of a WWII-era costume taken in 1948.
Burke also mentions that it might have something to do with “Operation Polar Bear” (Eisbär) which was the German landings in the beginning phase of the Battle of Kos. This occurred on October 3, 1943, for the control of the Greek island of Kos, in the then Italian-held Dodecanese islands in the Aegean Sea.
Furthermore, Henry “I Love Yetis” Stokes sends along a link to this site, which clears demonstrates these are authentically historical and may have something to do with Germans not liking the Russians (via their bear symbol).
The following images are from there, which also has the photo shown at the top here.