The Wehrmacht and cross-dressing

Today I found a gem at the flea market – photos of German soldiers dressed as women. Browsing through boxes with old pictures and postcards, I came across a collection of photos of young men serving in the army. Most of them didn’t stand out in any way, except for two that caught my eye.

Zdjęcie żołnierzy Wehrmahtu przebranych za kobiety

Source: private collection

Cross-dressing and the Wehrmacht

At the beginning I decided to buy 2 portraits of women and 2 short correspondences from the end of the 19th century. I didn’t really want photos of German soldiers in my collection, especially without any additional information that would help me identify someone in the next step.

However, as soon as I left a stall,  something told me that it would be worth reconsidering this decision – and as I kept thinking about these pictures, I came back and bought them.

While looking for information that would help me understand the context of these unique items, I came across an article about Martin Damman. An artist who has been collecting photos of German soldiers practicing cross-dressing for two decades. It seems that men in “my” pictures were part of something bigger, as Martin released his book Soldier Studies. Cross-dressing in Wehrmacht containing his photo collection in 2018.

Zdjęcie żołnierzy Wehrmachtu przebranych za kobiety

Source: private collection

Carnival, entertainment or self expression?

Dammann, besides presenting his photo collection, reflects on the role that cross-dressing could have played among German soldiers.

On the one hand, he said that it may have referred to German carnival traditions and to theatrical performances with intention to bring relief and entertainment in brutal circumstances. On the other hand, he noted that homosexuality and transgenderism were present among German soldiers, even when faced with the penalty of placement in a concentration camp and death.

Perhaps for some it was an entertainment and emotion regulation, for others it could have been a substitute for normality and the possibility of self-expression.

A short interview with Martin Damman can be viewed here here. 

Zdjęcie żołnierzy Wehrmachtu na łóżku

Source: private collection

Zdjęcie żołnierzy Wehrmachtu na polanie

Source: private collection

Żołnierze Wehrmachu przebrani za kobiety

Source: private collection

Żołnierz Wehrmachu przebrany za kobietę

Source: private collection

Żołnierz Wehrmachtu przebrany za kobietę

Source: private collection

Żołnierze Wehrmachtu przebrani za kobiety

Source: private collection

Żołnierz Wehrmachtu przebrany za kobietą

Source: private collection


  • Martin Dammann, Soldier Studies. Cross-dressing in Wehrmacht, 2018

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