- The Online Reference Guide to World War II German Helmets 1933-1945

    Collector Topics:  Waffen-SS Helmet Decals

Decals of the SS

On 12 August 1935 helmets worn by members of the Armed-SS (Waffen-SS) and General-SS (Allgemeine-SS) were given insignia applied in the form of decal transfers.  Prior to this time many Schutzstaffel (SS) helmets had insignia that was hand painted or applied using fine stencils.  In fact, the very first helmets issued to SS troops had no insignia whatsoever.

Today SS helmet insignia is categorized into groups with common terminology derived by helmet collectors.  The first SS runic shield to be produced was one with a pointed bottom and sharply defined "lighting bolts."  Collectors often refer to this decal as the "first pattern runic shield" simply because it was the first insignia issued in this format.  A second variation of this decal was also produced with a more rounded bottom, wider black border, and thicker "lightning bolts."  This decal has come to be known as the "second pattern runic shield."  Although given these terms, it is important to note that both runic insignia were produced in the mid-1930's.  Collectors often make the assumption that the "second pattern" runic decal was produced much later and possibly after 1939.  Terminology of this kind was not used by the German's who produced or wore the decals on their helmets.  To those men, the insignia was simply the symbol of the SS.

When printed, the runic insignia was accompanied by a matching insignia that was used to represent the National Socialist Party.  This decal took on the same shape and dimensions as the runic insignia.  While intended to be issued and used in sets, it was common for helmets to receive a mixed pair of insignia.  For example, a given helmet might receive a "first pattern runic shield" and a "second pattern" National Socialist Party decal.  Once again, the emphasis was placed simply on the utilitarian nature of the standard combat helmet.  As long as the helmet conformed to basic regulations it was considered acceptable for general use.

Several different makers were directly involved in the production of SS helmet decals.  These were typically the same firms that printed insignia for the German Army (Heer), Navy (Kriegsmarine), and Air Force (Luftwaffe).  As a result, a number of variations in runic shield and National Socialist Party decal can be found.  Some variations were also produced by Austrian firms as well.  One such insignia is the very notable "mirror runic" shield in which the "lightning bolts" appear backwards.  The exact reason behind the nature of this odd variation is still unknown.

It is very important to note that SS helmet insignia has been reproduced over the years at a volume greater than any other counterfeit military insignia.  The quality of reproductions varies from the very poor to the near perfect.  The best defense against purchasing a reproduction SS helmet is to become familiar with original decals and their properties. 

The following decals shown below are all originals photographed from certifiably authenticated SS helmets.  While other variations of these insignia exist, the images below provide a starting place for collectors and historians to become familiar with the type of insignia that was used on these steel helmets.  The more a collector becomes familiar with the look of original decals the more likely they will be able to spot a reproduction.

    Decal Main Topics



Decal Main

    Service Insignia



Luftwaffe (see below)

National Colors

NS-Party Decals

Polizei Eagle Decals


SS Runic Shields

    Related Topics


Freiwillige Main


Waffen-SS Main






The first pattern runic shield. One variation of the second pattern runic shield.

Another version of the first pattern runic shield.

A first pattern runic shield showing a lacquered finish.  - The Online Reference Guide to World War II German Helmets 1933-1945

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