Nazi police bayonet
By David Rilley-Harris, Curator, DITSONG: National Museum of Military History (DNMMH)
Under the Weimar Republic (1918-1933), Germany’s police force was under multi-party government control, and each German state exercised some degree of authority over its state’s police force. In mid-1933, the Nazi Party took power, outlawed opposition political parties, and consolidated total political control in Germany. The leadership of the new centralised German police force was placed under the de-jure control of Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick and under the de-facto control of Hermann Göring. He was in Adolf Hitler’s inner circle. This placed the German police exclusively under the control of the Nazi Party. During the Nazi Party’s rise to power in 1925, the party formed the SS (Protection Squadron), which would fall under the control of another of Hitler’s inner circle, Heinrich Himmler. The SS functioned partly as a party-controlled police force, and Germany’s police were placed under Heinrich Himmler’s control in 1936, with the entire country’s police force being functioned as an organ of the SS. The SS continued through the Second World War (1939-1945) as the infamous primary instrument of the holocaust and used the German police for manpower. The German police force would become implicated in the Nazi campaign of forced migrations, internment, and mass executions of Jews, Slavs, Communists, homosexuals, the disabled, and the more defiant Christian leadership.
Under the SS, the police force was divided into different departments. The standard police force was called the Ordnungspolizei (Order Police) and was comprised of uniformed officers. The Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police) was divided into the Kriminalpolizei (Criminal Police) and the Geheime Staatspolizei (Secret State Police) which was abbreviated as “Gestapo”. Finally, the Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service or SD) was an exception in that it was an elite section of the SS rather than an organ originating from Germany’s Weimar Republic police force. The SD functioned in a roughly similar manner to what various countries now call their Secret Service.
During the period of the Weimar Republic, police officers were issued with ceremonial bayonets to mark their authority and status. These police bayonets were based closely on the 1898 pattern (S98) German military bayonet and were cumbersome due to their length. The “S” stands for Seitengewehr (Sidearm) and this model included versions which were modified in 1905 (Pattern S98/05). While new shorter versions were later produced, some older patterns were machine-shortened and examples of these can be identified by noting the fuller (blood groove) on the blade reaching all the way to the tip of the bayonet. The shortened versions are referred to as pattern K98 or K98/05 where “K” stands for kurze (short). The blades were shortened from about 43 cm long to 33 cm long.
The German police where issued with bayonets based on the K98 pattern bayonet with a few changes. The police bayonets were more decorative with oak leaf patterns on the quillon (crossguard), stag horn grips, a pommel in the form of an eagle head, and the police crest pinned onto the handle. The Weimar period pattern also included a clamshell extension of the quillon covering the ricasso (unsharpened base of the blade) decorated with an eagle. The Nazified German police were issued with similar bayonets but with the clamshell removed, and the old police symbol was replaced with a new one.
The example in the collection of the DNMMH is of a more rare even shorter type with the blade closer to 25 cm long. These shorter versions were produced in the later period of Nazi rule. The Museum’s example also lacks serial numbers suggesting that it was a private purchase which in turn suggests that it may have been the property of a higher ranking member of the Nazi police. It has a steel black painted scabbard which is also associated with later period examples as opposed to the earlier more common leather scabbards. Black scabbards were associated with municipal police while brown scabbards were associated with rural police. There is a small black felt buffer on the Museum bayonet at the bottom of the ricasso. Green felt ricasso buffers were associated with the standard Order Police which may exclude the Museum example as originating from the more common German police officers. The blade is well chromed, the aluminium hilt is fashioned in fine detail, and the maker’s mark (Carl Julius Krebs, Solingen) seems to be of a later style.
While it is possible that the excellent condition of the Museum example could suggest that it is a reproduction, enough detail in the bayonet’s construction more strongly suggest that it is a very late period privately purchased genuine article. There is also the possibility that this bayonet was produced by the factory but never claimed as the Second World War came to an end. The bayonet was donated to the DNMMH in December 2010 without financial compensation to the donor. No providence attached to the bayonet was known or shared.