The German Soldier smell

Discussion in 'Veteran Accounts' started by sapper, Feb 22, 2008.

  1. Nicola_G

    Nicola_G Senior Member

    I found it interesting to learn about the smells associated with German troops and how memory can be triggered by that. Whilst not related to a war situation my memory is triggered by the smells of photographic developer and fix. My father used to work in the film processing department at the BBC. I went on several visits to the lab and even now 30 years on, just a whiff of that smell takes me back and reminds me of my dad.
  2. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    Reading Carlo D'Este's Warlord at the moment and Churchill is quoted as saying the best mnemonic is smell and second to that a tune.



    Just found the quote on Page 73.

    He says " Nothing recalls the past so potently as a smell. In default of a smell the next best mnemonic is a tune. I have got tunes i my head for every war I've been to......."

    Wonderful stuff !!!!
  3. hoolig

    hoolig Member WW2 Veteran

    A particular Austrian girl I knew several years ago smelt very nice.
  4. Xguardian

    Xguardian Junior Member

    Well only being 35 I have know wartime knowledge , However when I was younger I know my moms family smelled different. I would not say pungent , but then again they were very clean . the smell could be magnified in war time.
    I narrowed it down to diet which is totally different . Different bread oils and sugar . not to mention lots of vinegar used in dishes like saur brauten ( sp? ) .
    Eating it made my urine smell very bad which obviously would have come through my pours.
    Hair treatment could have been the other but I am betting food was it .
  5. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    I shall never forget the smell it was a pungent scented smell very distinctive and "Heavy"
  6. pompey

    pompey Junior Member

    This has reminded me of my late father telling me of the smell from German troops, he served in Italy where he also encountered Italian troops who did not have the same smell. He did not express this in a derogatory manner, in fact after the war he worked on ex-POW camps for the Ministry of Works, there where still Germans in residence where they enjoyed a more liberal regime and many settled in the area. Again he encountered this smell but he praised their very high standard of hygiene, bathing twice a day in all weathers using the most rudimentary of facilities and forever taking part in sports. He put it down to diet and I would agree. I was stationed in the Far East where I noticed the Asian servicemen had a different natural smell from ourselves, I was told at one point that we Europeans smelt of hamburger.
  7. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    Actually it would probably be a case of fewer preservatives. In Vietnam US corpses were found to decompose much more slowly than Vietnamese ones, due to the preservatives in the American diet, both military and civilian.


    Mucho doubtful.
  8. John Jury

    John Jury Junior Member

    My Dad said the same,when I started to collect militaria,in 1972 he took me down to Cliftonville,margate to a militaria shop after buying a Luftwaffe officers cap when we got outside and got into the car,he turned to me and said "I got that smell again boy while I was in that shop".
  9. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Harking back to Holig's comment of the Austrian girl smelling good - when we were in Austria after the war ended and fraternisation was also ended we would go dancing around the various villages and pick up girls from their homes on our way.

    We were also learning the German langauge which came in handy..

    one night we stopped to pick up one of the regular girls - who was smothered in perfume which could be smelt a mile away - which caused one of the lads to remark that " du stinken sehr gut" - wherupon she belted him .....we thought it was good Deutsch....
  10. hoolig

    hoolig Member WW2 Veteran

    I was in Volkemarkt, enjoying the Fraternisation,.
    I could also speak fluent German, but only the following words.
    Nein, Ja, Blitzkrieg, Danke Schoen, and the clincher
    Nehmen sie lhr Hoschen aus.
  11. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    halbeiserncollage.jpg Various biscuits preserved meats etc,a ration pack 1944 Wermacht (possibly repro). Reading some of the comments brings back memories, 1970s on occasion we used assault rations some of us older hands would check with the Q bloke which packs were being issued. One pack had dried minced beef and rice, add boiling water wait and eat. We had a recruit squad - about 25 from the Guards depot up on SPTA Thetford Norfolk spitlocked the trenches and got them digging in, we the DS (Directing Staff) prepared our scoff, I always carried curry powder- in went the powder into the packs of dried mince. Then came the 'what the **** moment as the chief instructor arrived, I don't know about camouflage and concealment I can smell you lot in Norwich! Looking at 'Wermacht Rations' reading through one list something caught my eye - Larkritzen - salted liquorice, anyone old enough to remember walking to school of a morning - late 1950s many of us would buy a few twigs of liquorice - a smallish branch/twig which when chewed tasted of and certainly had a strong sweet aroma of liquorice just one more in the mix, of ersatz coffee. peppermint, black bread with preserved meat and fish. None of this would be a constant of course. If it was a constant smell it must have been something specific.

    Attached Files:

  12. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Just to bolster the Japanese side of things. All of the Burma veterans I have met say that the smell of a previously held Japanese position was unmistakeable.

    It wasn't the smell of their food (rice and little else) in particular but a sweet sickly smell of perfume mixed with body odour. This added to the distinctive aroma of their own brand cigarettes. The Japanese were also poor when it came to camp discipline and were the ultimate litter louts, so it was never difficult to pick up their trail.

    In the early weeks of the Imphal and Kohima actions, when Allied supply dumps had been overun, the Japanese soldiers went straight for the new food supplies on offer and often ignored the military hardware available.

    To balance things out here, they always said that the British smell was akin to that of a farmyard. Probably the mule droppings and all that 'Bully beef '.:D
  13. RosyRedd

    RosyRedd Senior Member

    Just bought 'Wire and Worse' by Charles Rollings - about RAF POW's in German camps during 1940-42 - and whilst flicking through it came across this quote of Paddy Denton's:

    It was here, [at the transit camp at Dulag Luft], that I first came into contact with German service soap. The scented stuff almost turned my stomach, it was so sweet and yet somehow quite corruptly evil. I don't know why. Like an old tart trying to disguise her BO with scent. Repulsive. Never forget how it permeated everything.

    Sounds quite similar.
  14. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    67 years on, I recall it like it was yesterday. Sweet and very pungent and a sign of their presence.......
  15. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    Luckily I have never experienced the 'German soldier smell' but RosyRedd's explaination seems the most plausible to me so far.
  16. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Does to me as well ....Odd that we never came across it. But then we were hardly looking form toiletries:)
  17. Angy

    Angy Junior Member

    The reason the Germans have a very distinct body smell and very strong...I've even heard they smell like animals, well I lived there for a little while and saw from children to 90 year old woman and man eating grounded raw pork spread on bread. Have you ever smelled rotting pork? Well it's very close or the same way they smell.
  18. Angy

    Angy Junior Member

    :rolleyes:The reason the Germans have a very distinct body smell and very strong...I've even heard they smell like animals, well I lived there for a little while and saw from children to 90 year old woman and man eating grounded raw pork spread on bread. Have you ever smelled rotting pork? Well it's very close or the same way they smell.
  19. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    you may be right as I don't recall them having too much soap around the place as they - like ourselves - invariably needed a bath and shave- and they killed lots of pigs - again as we did - but we had a different smell.../.
  20. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    if there is one outstanding memory above all else...A warning of imminent danger, and deep loathing for all the Germans of Hitlers regime stood for...... it is that smell.... I have never forgotten it... Even now I recall that pungent sickly sweet smell, It still fills me with loathing, for it represents for me.... all that was evil about that regime.

    It was rotten and evil, just like their smell. That smell must have travelled many miles, and must have often been present..... where 60 million innocent folk perished.

    I wonder if the victims of the death camps noticed it????

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