One good East German deserves another, so the jacket is displayed here with an Ernst Thällmann Werke Pistole Makarow, as the Russian-designed DA autopistol was termed in the soi-disant “German Democratic Republic,” which was neither German nor Democratic, and was only a Republic when considered as opposed to a Monarchy.
From about 1949 to 1990, the Deutsche Demokratische Republik was a sort of Potemkin state structure set up under Soviet authority in the Soviet Occupation Zone of Germany. The politicians leading it at the outset were lower-level German Comintern functionaries, loyal to Moscow. Many of them spent the war years in Russia working on Soviet propaganda in the German language or as political officers in units of German “volunteers” from the prison camps. A state needs an Army, so these Soviet-controlled Germans quickly stood up an Army in the Red Army mold, with, originally, Russian weapons and equipment. It was called the NVA: Nationale Volksarmee, National People’s Army. (Where the “people” came in, is they got taxed to support it and drafted to fill its ranks. The officers were all Soviet yes-men).
In 1953, the East Germans rose for one day, a rising driven by the announcement that everybody’s work quota was going up 10% to pay for this Army, and that they’d better be making quota by 30 June 53. Why that date? The birthdate of German Communist Walter Ulbricht had supplanted Hitler’s birthday as a national holiday, even though Ulbricht was little but the condom Stalin wore when he dealt with the Germans. The rising was spontaneous, disorganized, and suppressed brutally by the Soviet occupation army, the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany. The new NVA was not trusted to join the Soviets in shooting demonstrating workers; but an elite “police” force, modeled on the Waffen SS and led by former SS and Gestapo leaders, was.
It was only later that the Russians came to trust the NVA a little — although, always, with Soviet units behind them.
Later, they were permitted to make small modifications in their equipment, like the pebbled plastic stocks that distinguish East German AKs. But very little deviation from the Party Line — or the Soviet quartermaster catalog — was tolerated. When NATO was still quite fractious and bumptious and every nation still went its own way, its eastern equivalent, the Warsaw Pact, had unity of command and absolute interoperability of equipment — possible because it was a master-slave relationship, not an association of free states.
According to Camopedia, the first East German camouflage suits were direct copies (or perhaps, hand-me-down supplies) of wartime Soviet recon unit camo. This odd pattern, which seems to owe more to the blotches worn by US Marines but with a peculiarly German grey-blue palette, is described like this:
The M58 Flachtarnenmuster pattern was issued between 1956 and 1967 to units in the East German Army (NVA) and Ministry of Interior (MDI). Also known as Kartoffelmuster (potato camouflage) or Blumentarn (flower camouflage), the pattern generally consists of blue-green, olive green & brown ragged blotches on a field grey background. Several mild color variations have been documented, some of which may appear darker due to their having been coated in anti-gas chemicals (which also gave the fabric a waxy texture). Several types of jacket, trousers, field equipment, shelter half and hood/helmet cover were produced in this pattern.
After the East Germans retired these, they showed up everywhere from Angola to Vietnam, having been surplused to “fraternal socialist states and liberation movements.” We can’t remember whether we picked this one up in Europe or South America in the 80s or 90s.
The East Germans replaced it with a “rain pattern” uniform — the one in which Your Humble Blogger did a penetration test of US Army Europe HQ in Stuttgart-Vaihingen, proving for all time that all Germans do look alike to us Yanks. We’ve still got that suit, too.