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Keywords: stahlhelm |
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The Stahlhelm was founded in 1918 by war veteran Franz Seldte, his brothers and some other soldiers from his unit. The association was originaly meant as both a
mutual aid society for world war one veterans and as a political combat group like many other that sprung up during the 1920s.
In 1926, it numbered half a million members, by far the largest at the time. Around this time the Stahlhelm entered politics although unlike similar groups, it didn't endorse a single party prefering instead to present itself simply as Conservative. It must be said that most of those who became deputies did so as members of the monarchist DNVP or liberal-nationalist DVP.
As "volkish" elements entered the stahlhelm, it continued to slide into a more radical and authoritarian mindset that culminated in the more moderate DVP severing ties with them. The Stahlhelm eventualy joined the DNVP/NSDAP coalition that brought Hitler to power.
After 1933, the Stahlhelm was first put under the command of the SA's leader and in 1935 it was disolved with its members being absorbed into the Nazi's
Organisation, either in the SA or in the veterans association. Interestingly, the later kept using a steel helmet (thought undefaced) as one of its symbols.
The Stahlhelm's logo was a german helmet, seen from the side, with the words "Der Stahlhelm" written on it in a Fraktur-like printing type. Because different
representations use slightly different types, the one included as <de)stahl.gif> should be seen simply as a typical version of the logo. Also note that at least one representation I have seen of the logo (used as a hat badge from the mid 1920s) had an Iron Cross next to the word "Der" (it replaced the circular bolt).
As befits a conservative organisation, members of the Stahlhelm used mainly former flags of the country.
Photographies show them using the Imperial War Flag and black-white-red horizontal tribands (most without an iron cross). At a meeting of the Harzburger Front
in 1931, they can be seen using hanging banners. The design of the banner themselves would appear to be inpired by pre-weimar regimental colours but are
carried in vexilum fashion extremely similar to "Deutschland Erwache" standards used by the Nazi. One even clearly have an eagle finial over a wreath thought its too small to see what it surround.
Flags were also used as inspiration for shield-shaped shoulder badges of the various units. Scharnhorst Bund (the youth wing of the organisation) used a black
cross fimibriated white and black (as from the war ensign). Both the Landesverband Westmark and Saar's own badges carried the imperial era triband, the first
defaced with a Prussian eagle and crown, the second defaced with a German helmet over the shields of Prussia and Bavaria.
The first flag image included is based on a photography seen in an antiquarian catalogue. It is a triangular burgee that carries the design of the imperial war ensign but with the central eagle replaced by the organisation's logo (the small grey areas in the corners seem to be where the rope is attached with extra fabric to reinforce the link). The details about the burgee are sparse but it is shown attached to a short metal rod which leads me to think that it might have been a car flag for Stahlhelm
The second one seems to be an organisational one. It is reconstructed from a photos on the cover of a pamphlet published by the Stahlhelm sometime in the late 20s or early 30s. The full flag is not seen but the lower quarter appears to be of a much wider ratio then the imperial war ensign which leads me to believe the vertical bar is not offcentered. like the suposed car flags, the central eagle is replaced by a German steel helmet, though this time, with words.
Marc Pasquin, 19 Sep 2006
Illustrations and photos of the flags used by the Stahlhelm in addition to those already available on FOTW can be found here.
Marcus Wendel, 5 Jan 2009
The following 2 flags are based on images found on the Axis History Factbook forum.
The first flag was used by the Orstgruppe Gründelhardt, an Orstgruppe being a local chapter of the organisation. having only found one image, I cannot say if this is the standard pattern or even if there was a standard pattern. The reverse wasn't shown.
The second orstgruppe flag can be roughly dated due to the presence of a Swastika behind the helmet which would place it after the organisation was joined to the SA in late 1933 but before it was disbanded in 1935.
The last image is the reverse of the previous image.
Marc Pasquin, 17 Feb 2007