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More On So-Called “Nazi Bears”

Posted by: Loren Coleman on September 25th, 2008

Some interesting followups to the “mystery photo” of the apparently polar bear-costumed person with the German soldiers have been forwarded.

This first one comes from a military scholar now serving in Baghdad. It shares some good points to ponder:

UNCLASSIFIED

Loren:

I am a frequent visitor to your site and have been for some years. I have little to contribute, other than an interest in all things BF. But today you showed a German WWII image that I thought I could help with. I am a twice-degreed Military Historian and have been reenacting for 30 years. Additionally I collect certain WWII era German photographs.

· First of all there is no way of determining if they are Nazis. I know you are a thorough and conscientious scholar and always want to be as accurate as possible. These are German Heer (Army) Soldaten (soldiers), and not Waffen SS either. Just conscripted young men in the army. The infamous NSDAP lapel pin was forbidden to wear on the uniform, but were they active in the party there would be presence of SA (Stormtrooper) sports badges or other SA ephemera present.

· I think the image is a period one. They are too thin and too young for reeanctors and the topic is too goofy. Reenactors would have been fatter, older and wearing camouflage and show a late war influence. These guys are very pristine and uniform. If one examines the Civil War pterodactyl faux-image it is immediately obvious that they are reenactors.

· The image is pre-war. The soldaten are wearing the M36 feldbluse (blouse) and M35 stalhelm (helmet). They are also lacking load bearing harness. There is also an absence of war-time awards.

· There are no commissioned officers. The two in the visored caps are NCOs. The one of the right of the image is a gefreiter (corporal). I cannot make out the shoulder rank of the NCO on the left.

· Perhaps this is someone dressed in a bear suit to mock the Russian Bear? Perhaps it is a wolf or a dog costume (much more in line with German sensibilities)? Many things can be answered if someone could read anything written on the reverse side of the picture.

ALAN C. HUFFINES

Cryptomundo reader Tom Burke sends along this photograph (above) that has been labeled a “Nazi Bear” by the blog “Piece of Phour” in 2007. Blogger M. Wade Nichols notes “Germany, 1948. The Nazi bear. As I understand it, this character was used in the PR campaign during World War II.” And also: “What I heard is that it was used during the Wehrmacht era (1935 – 1945).”

Of course, WWII ended in 1945, so the assumption is that this is of a WWII-era costume taken in 1948.

Burke also mentions that it might have something to do with “Operation Polar Bear” (Eisbär) which was the German landings in the beginning phase of the Battle of Kos. This occurred on October 3, 1943, for the control of the Greek island of Kos, in the then Italian-held Dodecanese islands in the Aegean Sea.

Furthermore, Henry “I Love Yetis” Stokes sends along a link to this site, which clears demonstrates these are authentically historical and may have something to do with Germans not liking the Russians (via their bear symbol).

The following images are from there, which also has the photo shown at the top here.

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


15 Responses to “More On So-Called “Nazi Bears””

  1. red_pill_junkie responds:

    Well, nothing prohibited German soldiers from having a sense of humor. I still think the quality of the picture is too good though; and there’s something in the stance of the soldiers (not the officers) that doesn’t feel right.

    But I’m open to the possibility that this might an authentic period photo.

  2. cryptidsrus responds:

    This is goofy beyond words but interesting nevertheless. Good show.

  3. RandyS responds:

    These photos clearly prove that bears like Nazis (and vice versa). More support for the argument that bears are one of the greatest threats facing our nation. Somebody should alert Stephen Colbert!

  4. Rod Dyke responds:

    I propose that BOTH THE “NAZI BEAR” AND THE PTERODACTYL PHOTOS WERE TAKEN AT THE SAME LOCAL!

    A close viewing of both photos show that the 2 smaller trees in the background. That is; the tree just to the left of the first Civil War soldier (L to R) and the one between the second and third Civil War soldier ARE THE SAME, (just older and closer), to the tree behind the third standing German soldier (L to R) and the tree behind the fifth standing German soldier.

    THE DAMNING EVIDENCE: LOOK VERY CLOSELY (it is hard to see unless you are really looking) and note the willowy tree/shrub between both sets of trees, especially the exact same right growing gnarly branch (above the first CW soldier’s head and above the fifth standing German soldier’s head).

    I hope I have explained this enough for you to see what I’m seeing. Maybe Loren can do blow-ups with arrows to better show my hypothesis.

    Roderick Dyke
    Archives for Cryptozoology Research

  5. DavidFullam responds:

    The bear in pic 2 is a fairly close match to the original photo. Nothing definitive of course, but interesting.

  6. korollocke responds:

    I am German and this is something from the Fanta Soda promotions, Fanta (has 80 flavors all over the world) was and is a product of Nazi Germany. I am one of the few Germans that seem to admit to our history. The soda plants there couldn’t get any materials to make the usual soda so the man in charge made fruit soda to keep the company (a US company) from going under and the factories making cash for the USA and now hot chicks ask if you want it, go figure. The bear still lingers as the Icee Bear from the frozen drinks. There even a Pez dispenser of it.

  7. greybear responds:

    The bear costme looks like it could be from the Steiff studio, a soft toy manufacturer specialising in teddy bears. Bear in mind (pun intended) that if the photograph is indeed authentic the soldiers would be very young and might have had toy mascots from the factory. My father was in the RAF and took his soft toy cat with him, tucked into his flight jacket. Many of his friends had teddy bears, although it would not have been considered patriotic to have a German one.

  8. Loren Coleman responds:

    For another new period image of German folks (a woman and a male soldier) with a person in a polar bear costume, see here.

  9. Daedalus responds:

    The NCO? is a Warrent Officer by what I can see. And the group looks to be from the Ukraine There was a division of troops from the Ukraine and fought under the Bear Unit mark. Now I can’t be for sure but it does look like this is what it might be! And I have come across this before in the past.

    I will do some more checking to see what I can find in my files.

  10. Ivan_Bear responds:

    At the very least the officer on the far right of the photo is most certainly a Nazi. He is wearing corporal strips on his sleeve. This was allowed by members of the military (army and SS) who were party members before Hitler came to power. It was an honor because Adolf was a corporal in the First World War.

  11. Andrew Minnesota responds:

    Clearly Biscardi impersonating a Yeti impersonating a bear…duh.

  12. UmbrielPA responds:

    As Mr. Huffines notes, the lack of wartime awards on the uniforms in the first photo is key. The Germans were very big on proficiency badges and service commendations — and modern reenactors almost always feature such embellishments on their uniforms. To me that indicates that this is an authentic pre-war photo. An early-war training facility is also a possibility, but in that case I would expect the NCOs to have some field experience, and decorations to indicate it.

    As DavidFullam notes, the bear suit in the second photo does closely resemble the first, and the wooded setting is also consistent. The coats of the soldiers in the second photo would conceal any service awards, but their garrison caps are of a type that became less common as the war went on, being largely replaced by a visored cap in 1943.

    My best guess is that the bear suit was a sort of mascot for a particular regiment — possibly reflecting the coat of arms of its home city, or some local folk custom as others have noted. After the war began there would have been less time and inclination for zany hijinks such as these, and the suit probably stayed in a locker somewhere — maybe ultimately being sewn into a coat for service in Russia after the shock of that first nasty winter.

    Also, find a larger print of the first photo if you can — The smirk on the face of the third guy from the left is particularly amusing.

  13. FunkyBunky responds:

    I recently saw a period photo of Churchill and the Phillies Phanatic proving the green guy must be real. Maybe we’ll get lucky and Josh will do a Destination Truth show on guys in suits. He might actually find something other than Ryder’s terrorized face.

  14. Daedalus responds:

    Yes the Germans where big on awards, but a front line combat unit did not where them. There where a few of the SS Officers who did or they wore the Iron Cross. But I do not see this as strange as for the awards not being shown.

    I could scan many war time photos where they do not have any awards at all on there Uniforms, other than a Iron cross. I like the other man that wrote have and study the Army’s of WWII. But as always there is the one out of the norm.
    I would like to see the back of the photo, most of the older photos had a stamp on the back that would tell quite a lot and help solve the issue.

  15. Carol Maltby responds:

    I’ve been collecting German images from the 1930s-40s featuring a polar bear posing with regular people. I’ve got about 6 so far. They pose with both adults and children, and I have both winter and summer scenes. My assumption is that they are a folkloric custom of some sort, but I’ve never run into any useful information on them.



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