Diplomatic Corps Elevated Career Officials Shoulder Boards
Image courtesy of Hermann Historica Auctioneers, Munich
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The Diplomatic Corps was made up of officials (civil servants) of the Foreign Ministry. This ministry was taken over in 1938 by newly appointed Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop who, for the first time, introduced specific Diplomatic Corps uniforms. Prior to 1938, there had been no defined uniforms for members of the Foreign Office.
Prior to the war, the Foreign Ministry was heavily involved in the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland. During the war, some conquered territory, especially in Poland, was incorporated into the German Reich, while other territory was merely occupied. These countries, while officially still independent, were in reality administered by German officials of the Diplomatic Corps, and in some cases also German-approved puppet governments.
It is important to remember that the officials who served within the borders of the German Reich weren’t of course part of the Foreign Ministry, but rather of the Ministry of the Interior. However, the officials of both these ministries wore nearly identical uniforms.
Officials of the Diplomatic Corps were distinguished by rank as well as their educational level. The latter determined which kind of “Laufbahn” (career) an individual was able to choose. The “Höherer Dienst” (Higher Career) required a university degree, the “Gehobener Dienst” (Elevated Career) required a college degree, the “Mittlerer Dienst” (Middle Career) required a highschool degree, and the “Einfacher Dienst” (Lower Career) required a grade school education, to put it in a simplified way. Additionally, the Higher and Elevated Careers included several different pay groups.
Uniforms for the Diplomatic Corps were first introduced in 1938. They underwent near continuous modification between then and 1943.
The shoulder boards were worn on the Diplomatic Corps tunic, greatcoat, and waistcoat. They represent the wearer’s career group. Diplomatic Corps shoulder boards were first introduced for Hitler’s state visit to Italy in May 1938. They provided the basic pattern for all diplomatic shoulder boards of the coming years.
The Rome shoulder boards have a midnight-blue, almost black, underlay, with a metal national emblem eagle cypher in the centre whose colour, either silver or gold, correlated with the wearer’s pay group. There is very little direct information concerning the Rome shoulder boards due to the lack of any official regulations.
The shoulder boards introduced after the Rome state visit were officially described in the March 30, 1939 regulations concerning the Diplomatic Corps navy blue uniform. Once more, the form of these shoulder boards reflects the wearer’s career group, while the colour of the national emblem eagle cypher, either silver or gold, may indicate their specific pay group.
Higher Career Officials (Group I) wore shoulder boards with three interwoven cords, two exterior gold-coloured cords and one interior silver-coloured cord, forming four bends and a button loop.
Elevated Career Officials (Group II) wore shoulder boards with three interwoven cords, two exterior silver-coloured cords and one interior gold-coloured cord, forming four bends and a button loop.
Middle Career Officials (Group III) wore shoulder boards with two interwoven double cords, all silver-coloured, forming five bends and a button loop.
Lower Career Officials (Group IV) wore shoulder boards with two folded, double-laid silver-coloured double cords.
For the navy blue, white, black, and field-grey uniforms, the colour of the underlay matched the uniform colour (although shoulder boards with blue or black underlay were frequently worn with the white uniform as well). The field-grey uniform was introduced in December 1939.
In case of administrative officials, the underlay colour reflected the wearer’s specialized field. The specialized underlay colours include:
Light Red: Traffic Administration (Verkehrsverwaltung)
Orange: Postal Administration (Postverwaltung)
Wine Red: Judicial Administration (Justizverwaltung)
The shoulder boards featured on the Diplomatic Corps field-grey greatcoat have an additional border of silver or gold-coloured wire tress, depending on the wearer’s trouser stripes.
At an undefined point prior to 1940, there were unique, ornate shoulder sewings introduced for use on the black uniform waistcoat and service tunic. These cloth pieces were composed of black cloth and feature silver-coloured (aluminum wire) embroidered oak leaves designs surmounted by the national emblem eagle.
On March 1, 1940 it was stated that the administrative uniform in navy blue was to be worn without shoulder boards. The next month, this was extended to include the field-grey uniform as well. After this, no further information has been found about Diplomatic Corps shoulder boards.
Some shoulder boards of Diplomatic Corps origin have been found with rank pips, both in period photographs and on surviving insignia sold to collectors. The wear of rank pips on these shoulder boards was against regulations.
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