Like many nations of the Warsaw Pact, the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Democratishe Republik - DDR) or East Germany was heavily influenced by Soviet models in their development of military uniforms and equipment. The earliest camouflage patterns used by the DDR were essentially Soviet in design, whilst later "rain" patterns were more likely influenced by WW2 German models. A popular uprising in 1989 led to the downfall of the Communist regime and reunification of East and West Germany. This led to the integration of East Germany's military forces into those of West Germany, and the dissolution of the Nationale Volks Armee (NVA), or East German Army.
East German Camouflage Patterns
The earliest camouflage uniform produced specifically for the DDR was based on the WW2 Soviet two-color MKK (maskirovochnyi kamuflirovannyi kostium) and may have even been produced in the USSR. The lightweight fabric and distinctively Soviet style were discarded in later East German designs. Known colloquially as M49 sowjetische tarnbekleidung or Russisches tarnmuster (Russian camouflage), the East German version was a tricolor pattern with large brown and russet amoebic blotches on a khaki background, and saw issue until approximately 1957. In addition to the two-piece pullover uniform, this pattern was also printed on heavier-weight canvas material used for a zeltbahn (shelter half/poncho).
The M58 Flachtarnenmuster pattern was issued between 1956 and 1967 to units in the East German Army (NVA) and Ministry of Interior (MDI). Also known as Kartoffelmuster (potato camouflage) or Blumentarn (flower camouflage), the pattern generally consists of blue-green, olive green & brown ragged blotches on a field grey background. Several mild color variations have been documented, some of which may appear darker due to their having been coated in anti-gas chemicals (which also gave the fabric a waxy texture). Several types of jacket, trousers, field equipment, shelter half and hood/helmet cover were produced in this pattern.
An interesting variant of the Flachtarnenmuster was produced in limited numbers as a shelter half. Instead of gray, the pattern employs a yellowish-tan field. It is unknown whether these shelters were simply production errors, or if this was, in fact, an experiment in producing a pattern more useful in an arid or desert environment. We are unaware of any examples of officially-produced clothing in this variant pattern.
Produced between 1965 and 1968, and in use for several years thereafter, the first type Strichmuster (line pattern) is a very simple pattern incorporating long, slender brown rain straits on a light greyish-green background. The "rain" theme was common with many Warsaw Pact nations (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria) and was probably influenced by WW2 German designs such as Splittermuster and Sumpftarn. This is generally referred to as 1st Type East German strichtarn.
A second type Strichmuster design was introduced in 1968. This version differed from the original in having thicker brown rain straits on a greyish-green background. In production until the collapse of the DDR in 1990, numerous types of uniform, shelter half, helmet cover, field cap, field equipment and even a special airborne trooper fighting vest were produced in this pattern. This camouflage was also worn in Africa by insurgent groups, particularly in Angola and South West Africa.
A general purpose all-white camouflage smock was also issued to East German Army (NVA) personnel for wear over their normal combat clothing in snow conditions (illustration not shown).
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