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

    Freiwillige: Foreign Volunteers

Photo:  A wartime poster calling Norwegians to volunteer for the Waffen-SS.  The poster reads: "Norwegians...Fight for Norway."

Between 1939 and 1945 it is estimated that more than two million people of non-German heritage volunteered to serve in the ranks of the German Armed Forces (Wehrmacht) and the Armed-SS (Waffen-SS).  The bulk of these volunteer forces came from Russia where more than one million served predominantly in the Wehrmacht.  Opposed to the concept of communism and the oppression of Stalinist ideals, these people saw the advance of National Socialist Germany as a potential answer to their problems.  Volunteer forces are often divided into those that came from Western Europe, the Baltic States, Russia and Central Asia.  Equipped with standard German military uniforms, units were formed and integrated into the German Army (Heer), Air Force (Luftwaffe), and Navy (Kriegsmarine).  A large number also served in the Waffen-SS.  Most units adopted sleeve insignia that identified their status as foreign volunteers.  Some also utilized distinctive rank insignia that was patterned similar to that found within the Wehrmacht.  Much has been written about the uniforms and organizational history of these volunteer units.  However, little information has been forthcoming on the helmets worn by these units and their members. 

While it is true that the vast majority of volunteers were issued standard German helmets, some units adopted practices that allowed for unique decal insignia.  In some cases, the reverse application of insignia was permitted whereby the standard Armed Forces Eagle (Wehrmachtsadler) was placed on the right side of the helmet while a national shield of the volunteer's home region was added to the left.  A number of variations were possible including some that were seemingly odd and unusual.  The debate among modern collectors has long since focused on the fact that most refuse to believe in the existence of such helmets.  In fact, collectors often dismiss original volunteer helmets as counterfeits simply because of lack of information, inadequate historical insight, or pure skepticism.  This section of will provide commentary on this subject for those who have an interest in pursuing these rare and interesting helmets.


Each section of is divided into separate Information Tracks that outline important details, facts, and historical notes pertaining to steel helmets used by the German Armed Forces during World War II.  

Information Tracks are organized by subject matter and their content is directly related to the service arm or organization to which each topic is related.  Topic areas that bridge one subject matter to another are cross linked within each Information Track.

This Information Track provides historical facts pertaining to steel helmets worn by Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS Foreign Volunteers.  Individual links related to this subject are outlined below.

Main Tracks

  • Belgium (Flemish)
  • Croatia
  • Denmark (Danish)
  • Egypt
  • Finland (Finnish)
  • France
  • India
  • Netherlands (Dutch)
  • Norway
  • Russia
  • Spain

Additional Information

The following related topics are helpful when examining the history and characteristics of foreign volunteer helmets.

M1935 Helmet of the "Ostbataillon" Representing
Russian Volunteers in the Wehrmacht.  This
Helmet Formerly of the Al Barrows Collection.  - The Online Reference Guide to World War II German Helmets 1933-1945

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