School Uniforms:  Cold War Germanies (1945-89)

Figure 1.--German boys still commonly wore short pants to school during the 1950s. The sneakers help us date the image. Lederhosen were very popular in the 1950s, mostly in West Germany. We would guess that this unidentified scene is from West Germany. Perhaps our Germany readers will know of a way of dicening whether these unidentified school images are from East or West Germany.

After the Second World War there was again such a general revulsion against all things associated with the war and the NAZIs, including the obsession with uniforms. The disaster of the Second World War had a profound impact on the German people. Any consideration of school uniform in post-war Germany would have been seen as enforced regimentation and asociated with the NAZI era and perceived military-like enforcement of conformity. The Cold War of course created two Germanies. Immediately after the War, neither the Communist East (DDR) or the democratic West (DFR) introduced school uniforms. The DDR first introduced scarves and eventually followed the Siviet convention of school unfoirms. School authoriies in the DFR never did adopt school uniformns.

West Germany (DFR)

After the War school fashions changed little. The problem was that Germany was impoverished. May boys wore clothes that they had outgrown or hand me downs. Families did as best theu could. This began to change after 1948 when the economy began to recover. German boys did not wear uniforms to school, except at the Hitler Touth boarding schools. The thought of wearing a uniform, especially putting children in uniform was repulsive to most Germans. The Germans any many ways tried to emulate America--many aware of the stark contrast between NAZI and American occupation. And of course there were no school uniforms in the America of the 1940s. The mere thought of uniforms on children would have brought on harsh, realistic memories of the Hitler Youth and terrible Third Reich and its ghastly, un-Godly doings. Gernan boys in the early post-War era wore mostly white or plained colored shirts. The colorful shirts worn by Americans proved popular first in the american Occupation Zone and gradually spread througout the rest of Germany. Most boys wore short pants to school, often suspebder or H-bar shorts. Lederhosen became increasingly common including areas other than Bavaria. Lederhosen were widely worn in the 1950s, but declined in popularity as jeands became increasingly popular in the 1960s.

East Germany (DDR)

The DDR also did not immediatelu institute school uniforms. This is interesting as the model for the DDR was the USSR, and Soviet children did have to wear school uniforms. Soviet proconsuls controlled every aspect of German life. The lack of school uniforms in the DDR probably reflects the deep-seated rejection of German militarism and ideas (such as uniforms) associated with it. Eventually school uniforms were adopted, but I sam not sure precisely when. The uniform was used for both school and for German Young Pioneers. The Young Pioneers were a youth group primarily organized around school classes. The children, however, only wore their Pioneer uniforms to school on special days. While we have little information on East German schools at this time, some East German films had school scenes. A ggod example is the Der Untergang de Emma (1974).

Differentiating DDR and DFR Images

Differentiating East (DDR) and West (DFR) German school images is difficult in the early years after World War II (1939-45) because the children in both occupation zones still dressed alike. The early post-War photographs are thus very difficult to differentiate. We are trying to develop indicators to help differentiate unidentified images. One reader believes hair styles differed. Gradually differences develipedbetween children in the two zones. The task becomes easier in the 1950s as the DDR students began wearing Young Pioneer scarves. We are not sure yet just when the scarves were inroduced, we think in the early- 1950s, butvthis neds to be condirmed. The children were awarded the scarves when they were about 10-years old. The youngr children did not wear them. Eventially the DDR followed the Soviet convention and introduced school uniforms. We are not sure just when, but believe it was the lare-1960s. Children in the DFR never wore uniforms. Thus it is relarively eassy to differentiate the children once the DDR introduced uniforms.


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Created: July 1, 2002
Last Uodated: 11:46 PM 5/29/2012