The German Soldier smell

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

  1. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    I would say it was a mixture of the every Day smell (Sweat, Dirt, Smoke, etc.), and Koelnisch Wasser(4711)! Koelnisch Wasser was very wide spread amongst the Wehrmacht. I would realy like to know what the real Veterans would think when they are go to a perfumery and ask for original Koelnisch Wasser? Today i only smell this on very old German People....

    A new addition to my Christmas wish list.


    Obviously a 'must have' for ww2talk members :)


  2. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    Someone MUST buy a bottle of that and send samples of it to Ron, Brian etc to see if it provokes any memories. They say the sense of smell is the one that retains longest in the mind, would be great to find if there is any truth in that.
  3. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    Apparently this was noted in wars before world war two. Just read a French report (WW1) where the French claimed Eu de Cologne as a French product, which was 'superior to the Boche Cologne' copied product - of course it was no such thing. It was an Italian!

    The twisted history of 4711 eau de cologne dates back to the 18th century when Johann Maria Farina (1685-1766) relocated from Italy to Cologne where he began to manufacture and sell an "eau de cologne" that acquired a wide reputation.
    In 1803 Wilhelm Mülhens, desiring to capitalize on the fame of Farina's product, obtained the rights to the "Farina" name from Carlo Francesco Farina, a Farina with no connection to the Johann Maria Farina family.
    Mülhens opened his own factory in Cologne and produced his own eau de cologne using the "Farina" name. He also "licensed" the name and the right to produce his product to at least twenty other people. In 1835 as a result of a legal action, all of the licenses were voided and all of the businesses closed.
    At this point, Mülhens' son went to Italy, found another Farina, and again established a company under the "Farina" name. This again led to legal actions and in 1881, Wilhelm Mulhen's grandson, Fredinand Mülhens, adopted the "4711" name for both the company and their product after the company was barred from every using the "Farina" name again. The "4711" name had been registered as a trademark in 1845 and was derived from the building number that had been assigned to the Mülhens' Glockengasse building in 1796 by Daurier, the French commander of the occupying forces. The original 4711 Glockengasse building fell victim to urban renewal and and no longer exists.
    In 1994 the Mülhens family sold the company to hair care giant, Wella. In 2003 Wella was acquired by Procter & Gamble. In 2006 Procter & Gamble, citing a declining market for the 4711, sold the brand rights and the famous Glockengasse building to Mäurer & Wirtz, an independent subsidiary of the Dalli Group.

  4. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Solved at last. I penned an article about the "German Smell" and a German lady kindly got in touch, as she recognised what I described immediately. She told ,me that it was a German war time soap and everyone hated it was slightly perfumed, but pungent. The German smell.
    The name of this soap was..... Kern Seife. So after 69 years we now know what caused that smell so reminiscent of the days of Normandy, and beyond.....
  5. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

  6. arnhem44

    arnhem44 Member

    Kernseife = Marseille Soap (Wikipedia)...(also) produced in France ("Marseille" ;) ).
    And Normandy is part of France if I'm not mistaken..
    So "blame" the french for making it, and probably german soldiers and french citizens alike for using it..

    However, Wikipedia also reads (german version !) : Sie werden meist aus Fetten geringerer Qualität gewonnen.
    Made from "bad" quality fat.

    Wasn't there a rumour about where these fats came from during wartime ? (uuurgh)
  7. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce Patron

  8. Pylon1357

    Pylon1357 Junior Member

    Again, a topic here has brought back memories of things I was told as I chatted with Veterans of the Irish Regt. I had forgotten about them saying the Germans had a certain distinctive smell. Many of the guys said that the smell would alert them to the closeness of their adversary. Some even claiming they were saved by being able to recognize the smell.

    I do recall one veteran telling me he figured it was a combination of their clothing and diet.
  9. HAARA

    HAARA Well-Known Member

    30 April 1945, from a letter by a member of 76th H.A.A. Regt when they came across surrendered vehicles and equipment:

    "Everywhere the scented stench of German soldiery, the stink of ersatz oils and petrols, and the sour stench of that black bread. Smells which are so familiar in association with the Wehrmacht."

    The other pervading smell in North Africa and Italy that was frequently referred to was that of poor drainage!
  10. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    As a sidenote to this thread, there were only two periods when I found myself occupying sites immediately after Jerry had vacated them.

    The first was in Sicily, where the campaign was very "fast" and in fact only lasted for a month.

    The second was my time in the line with the 4th QOH when we literally took over positions that had been vacated by the enemy literally minutes before and some of the smell may have been more easily accounted for :)

  11. kingreverent

    kingreverent Junior Member

    Maybe it was the smell of their gun oil, BALLISTOL?
    Ballistol is widely used in the german countries for all kind of things:
    not only as an excellent gun oil, black powder cleaner, but also for
    leather and boots, woodwork.
    As a non toxic oil it is also used to disinfect minor cuts on man and animals(horses and dogs)
    When first applied out of the bottle or spray can it has the odour
    of uso wine, but after a while the odour becomes horrible, reminding
    stinking socks...
    CL1 likes this.
  12. tmac

    tmac Senior Member

    I'm not sure if this has already been mentioned, but John Frost - the man who led 2 Para's heroic stand at Arnhem Bridge - made some interesting observations on the German soldier smell.

    He confirms much that has already been written here by veterans and others.

    In his book A Drop Too Many, Frost describes his paratroopers’ battles in North Africa in early 1943, and tells how he found German prisoners generally to be a chivalrous foe. But he adds …

    ‘There was, however, one thing we could never get used to, and that was their smell. It was a clean smell. It was strange mixture of a food of some kind, of untanned leather and of chemical soap.

    ‘It clung to their clothes, their equipment, their vehicles, and even some weapons. Sometimes one could smell them from quite a way off and we found the smell in their dugouts was so strong that it was unbearable to use them.

    ‘On one occasion I asked our Provost Sergeant to get me a pair of braces as my own had broken. I found it impossible to wear the pair he purloined from a prisoner because nothing would remove the smell.

    ‘Perhaps in other circumstances one would not have minded. Perhaps one would not have even been aware of their different smell. It may have been that we were so keyed up to kill each other that nature had given us special power to detect our own potential destroyers in this way.’
  13. paulcheall

    paulcheall Son of a Green Howard

  14. paulcheall

    paulcheall Son of a Green Howard

    My dad said that in North Africa they washed their clothes in petrol because there was so little water. The troops rarely got a shower or bath apparently so any odour from British troops would have to have been of more natural origins!
  15. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Flicking through old threads looking for something.
    Had almost forgotten about this.

    Really interesting how veterans have posted here, or second hand recollections of similar olfactory memories.
    Smell is said to be about the closest sense to memory.
    I suppose senses are heightened during war too.

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