German Personal Experiences (1920s)

Figure 1.--Sailor suits were still popular in middle-class families during the 1920s. These two Berlin boys are Rudolf and Owlald Struckmeier. They had their portraits taken in 1922. Body posture can be reveiling in these old photographs. We would guess that the boys were very close.

Many German boys still wore suits, although they were not as popular a in the 1910s. Middle-class German boys still commonly wore sailor suits in the 1920s, but they were less common for working-class boys. We see many boys wearing sweaters. Quite a number of boys wore sweaters rather than suits to school, especially in primary school. We see more suits in secondary school. Short pants became standard for German boys in the 1920s. We still see knee pants in the early 1920s, but most boys wore short pants by the end of the decade. Older boys night wear knickers. We notice both knee socks and long stockings worn with short pants. The choice was often seasonal. Many boys still wore high-top shoes although we begin to see more low-cut shoes during the 20s. Bangs were popular hair cuts for boys.

Heinrich Böll (1917-85)

Heinrich Böll was the the famous postwar German writer who won the Nobel prize for literature in 1976. He was born in Cologne and deeply attached to the region, having been brought up in a liberal Catholic family. And like many proper middle-class boys wore sailor suits. He successfully resisted recruitment into the Hitler Jugend, attended the University of Cologne, but was ultimately drafted into the Wehrmacht, serving in France, Romania, Hungary, and the Soviet Union. He was wounded at the end of the War in 1945. His first novel was entitled "The Train was on Time" (1949). He wrote many additional novels and short stories--"Billiards at Half-Past Nine," "The Clown," "Group Portrait with Lady," "The Lost honor of Katharina Blum," and "The Safety Net" being perhaps the best known. His bent is anti-authoritarian and he criticizes evil forms of authority in both government and church. He disapproved of the rebuilding of Cologne Cathedral and admired the neo-medievalism of writers such as William Morris. His writings are sometimes referred to as "Trummerliteratur" (literature of the rubble), influenced of course by the bombing of Cologne during World War II.

Herbert and Kurt Hender (1920s)

A HBC reader has provided us a remarkable series of photographs showing how Herbert and Kurt Hender were dressed at different ages in the 1920s. Their mother clealy liked sailor suits, although they were not always dressed in them. We do not know much about the family except that they were from Dusseldorf and were a very affluent family. The boys were dressed very smartly and they even had a nurse to take care of them. There is a set of seven photographs showing the boys' clothing and hair styles at different times in the 1920s.

German Boy (1920s-40)

We do not know this boys name. We do know that he is German and was born about 1920. The family was not rich. We would guess lower-middle class. The parents appear to have encouraged artistic pursuits. The father was interested in photography and took artfully as well as humorously posed images of his son. While an entire albumn survived the War, we have only a few of the images. There is thus images from infancy to joining the German National Labor Service (RAD) about 1940. He apparently was wounded in the War.

Zeitgut-- German Boys (1920s-50s)

HBC readers ma find a book series called "Zeitgut" (roughly translated meaning "time material"). It is publishd in German. The publisher collects stories and reports written by witnesses of the last century. The stories tell about certain events, facts, experiences, adventures etc that happened in the last century in Germany. It seems that most reports deal with the period between 1920 and 1950. Our German readers may want to have a look at some of these books.

The Panzer Prince: Franz Zapletal (1920s-30s)

Franz Zapletal was the son of a Bavarian Prince had an affair with a Czech woman. They had a child named Franz Zapletal. He was apparently raised by his mother in Czechoslovakia. Even so he seems to have decided that he was a German. Unfortunately we have few details on his boyhood at this time. He went to Germany and as a teenager seems to have decided that he was a German. Like many German boys at the time he seems to have been caught up in ultra-natioanlism. He joined the Wehrmacht in 1937 and became a tank commander. He participated in the destruction of Czechoslovakia (1938-39) and then in the Polish (1939) and Western (Belgium and France--1940) campaigns. He was awarded the Iron Cross for valor and became known as the Panzer Prince. For some reason he was arrested (December 1940) and sentenced to Dachau for over 3 years. Dachau seems to have ended his desire to be a German. He returned to Czechoslvakia and lived the rest of his life there.

Rudolf and Oswald Struckmeier (1922)

Sailor suits were still popular in middle-class families during the 1920s. The brothers here both wear sailor suits (figure 1). The older brother wears a button-on suit. The younger boys wears a blouse than extends over the waist. Only the younger boy wears a dickey. Both boys wear knee pants. These two Berlin boys are Rudolf and Owlald Struckmeier. They had their portraits taken in 1922. The boys look to be about 5-8 years old. Body posture can be reveiling in these old photographs. We would guess that the boys were very close. Both boys have their hair cut in bangs.

Unidentified boy (about 1925)

Here unfortunately we know virtually nothing about this boy. We know that he came from Cologne. He wears a sailor suit and would guess he came from a comfortable middle-class family. We have included him here because we think that the portrait provides a charming view of German childhood in the 1920s.

An affluent German boy: Bodo (1920s)

Album1900 has prepared a wonderful overview of a German boys in the 1920s. " A little treasure from the flea-market: Here we have the chance to accompany a little boy from the 1920 and to see him grow. The backsides of the photos give some clues about Bodo B. life. Probably Bodo was born in Helfta/Eisleben, Germany in February 1923. Bodo got a brother, Günter, and had a nanny. His parents were with him on vacation at the sea. The pictures show Bodo over a period from birth to beginning school. We do not know what happened to him in later life." We note the short (but uncropped hair) even when he was quite young. He clearly comes from an affluent upper middle-class family. His father no doubt was a respected professional. As to the clothing. I notice one-piece garments or button=outfits. The winter coat and matching leggings are interesting. I wonder what they are made of? Is rabbit a possibility? The narrow-brim cap is interesting, I haven't seen many German boys wearing that style of cap.The square-collar romper looks fairly standard. The beach scenre with the little family shaded seat is a wonderful period scene. I notice several sailor outfits--standard wear for German boys. The first day of school scene is esspecially winderful. I wonder why he got two cones. Did children sometimes get an extra cone from their grandparents?

Steven Muller: German Jewish boy (192?- )

Steven Muller was born in Hamburg. He remembers a pleasant early childhood, but this began to change when the NAZIs came to power. Other boys began calling him rude names. Former friends now in Hitler Youth uniforms beat him up on the way home from school. Hi father was arrested on Kristalnacht, but was later released. As his mother was a genile, authorities told his mother that if Steven and his brother were castrated, they could join the Hitler Youth and lead normal lives in Germany. The family managed to leave Germany only days before World War II began, after which exit was virtually impossible. Once in Britain, Steven and his brother were evacuaed with the other British children. Some of the boys wanted to fight when they found that Steven and his brother were Germans. Once in America, Steven was recruited to make movies, ironically because he had a British accent.


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Created: 10:56 PM 3/10/2007
Last updated: 5:48 PM 1/3/2008