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Original German WWII Sonderführer Civilian Special Leader with Military Rank M36 Tunic & Breeches

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Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. The Sonderführer ("special leader"), or Sonderführer mit militärischer Kommandobefugnis, ("special leader with military command power"), often abbreviated Sdf or Sf, was a specialist role introduced in the Wehrmacht of Germany in 1937 for the mobilization plan of the German armed forces. This allowed the the competence of civil experts and specialists to be exploited for military purposes. Certain assignments could be filled, from senior officers, company-grade officers, down to non-commissioned officer (NCO) ranks.

A huge variation of service functions, e.g. in foreign languages, propaganda work, medical service, veterinary service and the like, was possible. Typically, the men were not trained as soldiers. They received the pay applicable to the position they were holding, but only by virtue of their temporary appointment. As a rule, Sonderführer were not allowed to execute the command and disciplinary powers vested in the rank. However, this was changed in 1942, during World War II.

This is a very nice early pattern German WWII Sonderführer M-36 Tunic, showing some light wear and damage from age and service. The design is for the most part identical to the Heer Army version, except that the color is the same Blue Green used for Polizei uniforms during the NSDAP Period. The tunic is of very high quality, and has a maker label on the left front interior under the pocket:

C. Louis Weber

Other than that we were unable to find any markings. The tunic features four pockets with scalloped flaps and pebbled aluminum buttons, and has a 6 button front closure, with two "hook and loop" fasteners for the collar. Like a Heer tunic, it features litzen collar tab insignia, which have a blue-gray felt background and wide bullion stripe, with a smaller central stripe. The "sew-in" style schulterklappen (shoulder straps) are the 1940-1942 officer style, constructed with two rows of fine silver flatware "Russia Braid" double piping and have black / white / red chevrons woven into the braid. The attractive breast eagle is the officer's silver BeVo embroidered type on a green background, and is very neatly hand stitched to the chest in a fashion typical of wartime German tailor work.

Unfortunately, not much is known about the insignia used by the Sonderführer, so all that we can tell is that this "Special Leader" most likely had the rank of Sonderführer (Z), which had command power equivalent to a Leutnant / Oberleutnant (1st - 2nd Lieutenant). Higher level officers would have had rank "pips" like their Wehrmacht counterparts. As to what function or specialty they had, were were unable to locate any information regarding that, so we leave it as an excellent research opportunity.

Condition of the tunic is very good, showing little wear around the collar, and just a few moth nips and repairs overall. The color is very well retained, and there is just a bit of oxidation on the silver bullion litzen. There are thread loops on the left breast pocket, so the original owner must have been awarded some type of medals during their service, or possibly had some from WWI service.

The included breeches are in the Stonegrey “Steingrau” color in a satinet wool, and are in very good condition. The inside bears a maker label reading Georg Kübrick / BAMBERG on the rear, with no other markings we can see. They show light wear, and there are some repairs on the interior around the waist band area where the buttons are. There also looks to have been an area of wear or possibly a tear on the left knee area, which has been reinforced by multiple rows of stitches.

Overall condition is very good, though there is some wear and staining consistent with service. Ready to research and display!

Approximate Measurements:
Collar to shoulder: 9”
Shoulder to sleeve: 25”
Shoulder to shoulder: 17”
Chest width: 18”
Waist width: 17”
Hip width: 18”
Front length: 28"

Pants Waist: 36"
Pants Inseam: 26"

More on the Sonderführer "Special Leaders":
Draftees were called up for Sonderführer to almost all branches of service (Heer, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine) or special forces, equivalent to assignments or appointment of military personnel in the hierarchy of the Wehrmacht.

Officer function assignments in the hierarchy of the Heer (Army)
- Sonderführer (B), equivalent to Major / Oberstleutnant (OF-3/-4),
- Sonderführer (K), equivalent to Captain / Hauptmann or Rittmeister (OF-2),
- Sonderführer (Z), equivalent to Leutnant / Oberleutnant (OF-1) or platoon leader.

NCO function assignments in the hierarchy of the Heer (Army)
- Sonderführer (O), also Dolmetscher O (en: Interpreter O), equivalent to an Oberfeldwebel (OR-7),
- Sonderführer (G), equivalent to an Unteroffizier (OR-4).

Sonderführer were mainly deployed:
- As interpreter
- In construction engineering
- In the field of public finance, and administration tasks
- To handle scientific tasks, e.g. as archaeology or curator
- In the field of agriculture science
- Railway transport, in particular field railways
- In case of professional expertise as photographer or draughtsman, the corresponding draftee could be called up as a Sonderführer to a so-called Propaganda unit of the Wehrmacht.

An example of individual influence in the occupied territories is the case of Sonderführer Leo Weisgerber. His campaign to unify the Breton language has had a lasting influence in the French region of Brittany

Position and status
Sonderführer were called up to military service to use the skills and expertise of specialists on defined function positions. This status was limited as to time, and became revocable if a military trained soldier could fill this position. In this case, the Sonderführer was fit into the "regular" military training procedure etc. The former function position as Sonderführer – which contained a service "assignment" not including a service "grade" – remained without consideration.

By order in 1942 – Sonderführer on officer assignments received regular military training, in order to join the reserve officer corps. Therefore, the limitations to execute military command – and disciplinary powers were lifted.

The legal state of the Sonderführer was equivalent to those of a soldier in the meaning of the Service Act Legislation. Therefore, they held combatant status even prior to their appointment as commissioned officers in 1942. In the pension legislation of the Federal Republic of Germany Sonderführers are explicit equivalent to regular soldiers.

Russian emigrants who served as interpreters in the Wehrmacht, often were adjudged to Sonderführer status.

Rank insignia
Sonderführer of the Wehrmacht wore the standard military uniform but their collars and cap bands were blue-grey rather than army green, with unique shoulder and collar insignia. The collar patch was blue-grey with a gable-end device like that of Beamter a. K. in matte aluminium, with aluminium braid down the center. Epaulette patterns changed twice during the war. The original patterns, worn until March 1940 and again after December 1942, were narrow versions of army shoulder boards: a single doubled strip of aluminium braid for company-grade officer equivalents, and a single braided strip for field-officer equivalents; NCO equivalents were similar to junior officers' but green. Instead of rank pips, Sonderführer wore braided gold rings encircling the shoulder straps. From 1940 to 1942 an entirely different type of shoulder board was worn: this was like the army equivalent but the braid used incorporated repeating black-white-red chevrons, giving the whole a checkered look. Ordinary rank pips and specialization pins were worn with these "Second Regulation" epaulets. At the end of 1942 the narrow first-pattern epaulettes were brought back again.

In soldier's slang Sonderführers, as well as Wehrmacht officials and military chaplains, were called "narrow-gauge officers" (German: Schmalspuroffiziere), in a witty reference both to the form of their rank insignia and the limited width of their military knowledge.

German Military Uniforms
Terms such as M40 and M43 were never designated by the Wehrmacht, but are names given to the different versions of the Model 1936 field tunic by modern collectors, to discern between variations, as the M36 was steadily simplified and tweaked due to production time problems and combat experience.

Field Tunic (Feldbluse) Model 1936
When the NSDAP came to power in early 1933 the Reichswehr, the armed forces of the Weimar Republic, were near the end of a two-year project to redesign the Army Feldbluse (field-blouse). Beginning in that year the new tunic was issued to the Reichsheer and then the rapidly growing Wehrmacht Heer, although minor design changes continued to be made until the appearance of the standardized Heeres Dienstanzug Modell 1936. The M36 tunic still retained the traditional Imperial and Reichswehr uniform color of grey-green "field gray" (feldgrau) wool, but incorporated four front patch pockets with scalloped flaps and pleats (on Reichswehr tunics the lower pockets were internal and angled). The front was closed with five buttons rather than the previous eight, and the collar and shoulder straps were of a dark bottle-green instead of the Reichswehr grey. Compared to the Weimar-era uniforms the skirt of the feldbluse was shorter and the tailoring was more form-fitting due to Germany's adoption of mechanized warfare: soldiers now spent much time in the confined space of a vehicle and a shorter jacket was less likely to pick up dirt from the seats. It also included an internal suspension system, whereby a soldier could hang an equipment belt on a series of hooks outside of the tunic. These hooks were connected to two straps inside the lining, which spread the weight of equipment without having to use external equipment suspenders. The M36 was produced and issued until the very end of the war, though successive patterns became predominant.

SS field uniforms were of similar appearance externally but to fit their larger patches had a wider, feldgrau collar, and the lower pockets were of an angled slash type similar to the black or grey SS service-dress. The second button of an SS Feldbluse was positioned somewhat lower, so that it could be worn open-collar with a necktie. Due to supply problems the SS were often issued army uniforms.

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