The datation process
A lot of photos found on the web and books are misdated, or even simply "undated", and more importantly the description may be wrong, leading to false statements that are transmitted over the years, even by historians and writers.
The main particularity of this website is to put accurate dates on the photos, some of them have a correct date for the first time, and are positioned in their actual event. My research being a huge work in progress, I don't claim that this is 100% error-free, and this page lists only a few examples of dating clues.
Here is a perfect example of a widely transmitted misdated / misdescribed picture:
This photo is taken directly from Wikipedia, one of the main source of knowledge and research on the Internet. The description says “Adolf Hitler, accompanied by other German officials, grimly inspects bomb damage in a German city in 1944, in this German film captured by the U.S. Army Signal Corps on the western front. Ca. 1944.”
This photo was certainly not taken in 1944, the first clue is Hitler's armband: from September 1st 1939 until his death, he was always wearing his field grey uniform with the army eagle embroidered on the left arm. The NSDAP armband was never worn during the second world war, that means: Each photo of Adolf Hitler wearing his armband is prewar, that’s a first, important, and easy clue.
The second clue is Adolf Hitler's belt buckle, this one is the early type that he was wearing with the NSDAP uniform from his access to power (January 1933) until about August 1934, that means the picture is pre-August 1934.
The third clue that can help refine the date is Bruno Gesche's (one of Hitler’s bodyguard, on the left side of the pic) uniform: here he has the SS-Untersturmführer rank, and we know that he was promoted to SS-Obersturmführer on November 9th 1933, that means this photo is even earlier.
As a conclusion, an erroneous picture can be used and shared by anyone and end up on “trusted” pages like Wikipedia without any verification.
You can find the exact date and description of this picture (with other ones of the same event) here.
There are many other examples, but this one is particularly speaking and unfortunately, widely spread: a simple Google research will show a hundred of this same picture with the same mistaken date/description.
The dating process is similar to a detective job, sometimes the smallest details will help to confirm a date. Here are some of the clues I found can help refine a date:
ADOLF HITLER'S UNIFORMS AND APPAREL
Depending on the period, Hitler wore different apparel:
- Golden Party Badge Hitler wore his Golden Party Badge for the first time on November 9th 1933, the day the badge was introduced after a decree from October 13th. Strangely, photo records show that he stopped wearing it from that day until early 1937.
- Visor cap Hitler had a particular visor cap. He asked for a longer visor in order to protect his eyes from the sun and light (he suffered from hyper photosensibility after having suffered a mustard gas attack during World War I, that blinded him for a few weeks). The visor cap was part of the NSDAP uniform after Hitler’s access to power. His visor cap had no cockade until early 1938.
- Belt and belt buckle The belt was part of the NSDAP uniform. The very first version was a rounded one. Around early August 1934, it was replaced by a new one. Starting from October 1937, a third variant was introduced, the same as the wartime one.
- White uniform The NSDAP, as well as the SS and the Wehrmacht, had summer white uniforms that could be worn between April and October. There were two versions for officials: a single breasted, and a double breasted vest, that could be worn with either a matching white trousers, or black trousers. Hitler also occasionally wore it with a brocade belt. Most of the time, he wore his white summer uniform with his standard visor cap, but sometimes (rarely), he wore it with the matching white visor cap.
- Field grey wartime uniform From September 1st 1939 until the end of the Second World war, Hitler decided to wear exclusively the field grey uniform of the German army, because he considered himself as the first soldier of the army. He did even wear this official uniform in his private life (there are no photos of him in civil or NSDAP uniform during WW2). This could be a standard uniform with belt, or the Führer wartime uniform: double-breasted jacket, no belt and black trousers.
- Whip Until around August 1934, Hitler often had a dog whip as an accessory in his hand. He decided to give it up due to a lot of criticism in the foreign press.
- Tinnies and badges Tinnies are small badges, often made of cheap metal, like tin (hence their name), which were widely produced for almost each event that took place during the Third Reich, and were sold to the public as a souvenir for their participation of the event. There are thousands of tinnies, and they are now a major part of Third Reich collectibles.
More in-depth information about Adolf Hitler's awards, badges and tinnies.
ADOLF HITLER'S ENTOURAGE
- Uniforms and ranks The uniforms and ranks of people around Adolf Hitler can also help finding information about a picture.
- Period of service / Death The immediate entourage of Adolf Hitler did not change very much, this is due to the fact that he did not like having new people around him when he could keep trusted people. But some persons died and others were dismissed. Here are a few examples:
- Julius Schreck, Hitler's chauffeur and personal friend, died on 16 May 1936.
- Karl Wilhelm Krause, Hitler's personal valet, was dismissed in September 1939.
- Wilhelm Brückner, one of Hitler's adjutants, was dismissed on 18 October 1940.
- Theodor Morell, Hitler's personal physician, met Hitler for the first time at the Berghof on 25 December 1936.
For example, his adjutant, Julius Schaub, can be seen on a lot of photos, and from all periods. Julius Schaub had a total of 7 ranks in the SS from February 1932 until 21 June 1943.
PLACESJust as for the uniforms and people in Hitler's entourage, here are a few examples of how the different places can help identify/put a date on a photo:
- Haus Wachenfeld, Hitler's montain residence of the Obersalzberg, was renovated and enlarged, and became the Berghof on 5 July 1936.
- After a year of reconstruction, the new chancellery in Berlin opened officially on 9 January 1939.
- The Teehaus am Mooslahnerkopf, a pavillon near the Berghof that Hitler and his friends visited to have tea in the afternoon, was ready by 9 August 1937.