Fascinating images reveal how Nazi soldiers enjoyed dressing up in women’s clothing during the Second World War and often lent their uniforms to women in return.
While Nazi doctrine abhorred anyone deemed a ‘sexual deviant’ – cross-dressers included – it seems the same attitude did not carry over to rank-and-file troops.
Dozens of images reveal German soldiers wearing everything from dresses and skirts to nurses uniforms and even women’s underwear.
German soldiers pictured wearing women’s underwear and bonnets during 1940. While cross-dressing was not uncommon among soldiers during the Second World War, it typically happened during performances at prisoner of war camps when men wore women’s costumes in plays. But Nazis were often pictured in effeminate dress, seemingly for their own enjoyment
Young German men and women pose for a photograph some time in 1939, having swapped clothing with each other. The trend of swapping clothes with women was so popular among German ranks that an artist named Martin Dammann published a book about it after uncovering dozens of pictures of the bizarre habit
Two Nazis soldiers pose for photographs alongside female companions after swapping clothes with them, with both images taken some time in 1940. Male and female roles were highly segregated in Nazi Germany, which perhaps added to the amusement of swapping clothing by making it taboo
Two Nazi soldiers pose alongside their French girlfriends having swapped clothing for a photograph, taken some time during German occupation of the country, exact date unknown. Many of the photos that have been uncovered of Nazis cross-dressing appear to feature girlfriends, often taken on foreign soil
Pictures of men cross-dressing during the war are not uncommon, but it largely happened within the context of prisoner of war camps, which often put on plays as a way to keep inmates entertained.
With no female prisoners to play the women’s roles, it was left up to men to don costumes and step into character.
But this is not the case with German soldiers, who often seem to have swapped clothing with whichever women were standing closest, purely for their own enjoyment.
Artist Martin Dammann, an amateur collector of wartime photography, found the trend so remarkable that he even published a book on the subject.
‘If the photos did not exist, you would not believe it,’ he said, adding that the images ‘most definitely contradicted National Socialist ideology.’
The Nazis began persecuting the LGBT community in Germany shortly after Hitler came to power in 1933, targeting clubs across Berlin – which had previously been one of he most sexually liberal cities in Europe.
By 11 November 1933, the Hamburg City Administration asked the Head of Police to ‘pay special attention to transvestites’ and to ‘deliver them to the concentration camps’.
Between 1933 and 1945, an estimated 100,000 men were arrested as homosexuals, of whom some 50,000 were officially sentenced.
Most of these men served time in regular prisons, and an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 of those sentenced were incarcerated in Nazi concentration camps.
It is unclear how many of the 5,000 to 15,000 would die in the camps, but leading scholar Rüdiger Lautmann believes that the death rate of homosexuals in concentration camps may have been as high as 60%
Two French women don Nazi uniforms some time during German occupation. The image on the right was found on a Nazi POW after he was detained. Soldiers often gave their uniforms to women who they met overseas, with the Nazis encouraging relationships and marriage in countries which they occupied as a way of integrating with the locals
Two Nazi soldiers sit inside a pram while a third, dressed as a woman, pretends to push them along. The image was taken some time in 1940, but the exact date and location are unknown. Why German soldiers seem so fond of cross-dressing is unknown, but Dammann suggests it was because of a long-standing tradition of dressing in female attire during carnivals
Two Nazis in an apparent game of nurses and patients having donned female uniforms while the women wear soldier’s outfits, taken some time in 1939 (left) and 1940 (right)
German soldiers attend a party in 1940, with most of the guests in the background having swapped clothes with their female counterparts. That is despite the fact that Nazi doctrine strictly prohibited anyone deemed to be a ‘sexual deviant’, which included cross-dressers
A woman is pictured wearing an SS officer’s uniform (left) in an image thought to be taken in France sometime in 1940, during Nazi occupation. Another woman (right) wears a German uniform in an image taken somewhere in Germany, though to be during the 1930s, though the exact year is unknown
Two women are pictured wearing Nazi uniforms, though the exact date and location the pictures were taken is unknown. Women in occupied territory were often forced into fraternising with the enemy as their own men were either killed in fighting or driven away by the occupying army
Two women smile into the camera while wearing Nazi jackets over the top of their civilian clothes in a picture taken sometime in 1940, possibly in Nazi-occupied territory outside of Germany