DJ Boy: Berlin Zoo Visit (1934 or 37)


Figure 1.--Germany has several important zoos. The Berlin zoo was the most important. Surprisingly we note quite a number of images of children photographed holding the animals, including potentially dangerous animals. We have seen quite a number of photographs of boys with lion cubs. The number suggests that this was much more common than in other countries. We wonder if German zoos might have used such photographs as a means of generating additional revenue. Here we see a Hitler Youth boy holding a lion cub in the Berlin Zoo during 1934 or 37. Click on the image to see the back of the card.

Here we see a German Deutsche Jungvolk boy with a great lion cub at the Berlin Zoo. We wonder if German zoos might have used such photographs as a means of generating additional revenue. Perhaps they had a deal with the photographer. We are guessing that this photograph was taken by a zoo photographer and not the boy's father. We know from the message on the back that this is the boy's first portrait in his new DJ uniform. The DJ was the junior unit of the Hitler Youth. We are not sure about the date, bit it looks like 1934 or 37.

Message on Card Back

A HBC reader writes, "I love to decipher those old German postcards. This one caused me hardly any trouble, although I cannot read the name of the persons very well. Anyway, I believe the card was addressed to Neta Barkening (I have trouble reading it) z.Zt. Bad Kreuznach, Friedrichstr.2, Nordischer Hof. The abbreviation z. Zt. means "zur Zeit" (temporarily). Bad Kreuznach is a city on the Rhine. The stamp shows the head of President Hindenburg, German general and president, who died in 1934, after allowing Hitler to become chancellor. There is a rubber stamp of an airplane on the left with the words: Benutzt die Luftpost, meaning Use airmail. On the left of the card it says : Er lebt noch ! (He is still alive !) That of course is a humerous comment saying that the boy survived his wncounter with the lion. Then the name that I am not able to read really. It continues with: Das einzige Bild eines ersten h.j. uniforms mit einem L÷wen im Berliner Zoo am 22. August 1937. "The only picture of his first h.j. uniform with a lion in the Berlin Zoo, Aug.22 1937". HBC sort of thought that the date read 1934.

Boy

We have mot yet been able to decipher the boy's family name. Hopefully our German readers will have an idea here. We do know that he is 10 years old because this is the first photograph in his new DJ uniform and boys entered the DJ at age 10 years.

DJ Uniform

The DJ was the younger unit og the Hitler Youth. Their uniform was different than the HJ uniform. The uniform the boy is wearing here is the winter uniform even though it is August. Perhaps it was a cool day. Notice he is not wearing a cap with his uniform.

Leibchen

A reader writes, "Did you notice that the boy is apparently wearing a Leibchen even though he doesn't need it for his knee socks? You can see the end of the garter strap ("Strumpfhalter")with the button-hole on his right leg just under the hem of his shorts. This would have been used for fastening the white button at the top of a long stocking if he had been wearing long stockings. Perhaps he just wears the Leibchen out of habit even when he is wearing knee socks, or perhaps it is a chilly day (his jacket is buttoned up to his chin} and he will change to long stockings later in the day. In 1934 long stockings were worn quite long. This Strumpfhalter seems to come down lower on the leg because he is sitting down. It would not show if he was standing up." Our take on this is that earlier in the day he was wearing long stockings and when he changed into his uniform he did not bother taking off his Leibchen. It is possible he put on the Leibchen for warmth, but this seems rather unlikely in August. Another reader writes, "The noticing that the boy is wearing a Leibchen was quite observant. When I have seen the garments from the 1930s they (like the American garter waists) they were also used to hold up short trousers so the Leibchen here may have been used to hold up his shorts. We have seen many advertisements where belted garments also had buttons in the waistband to attach to garter waists or blouses. Maybe it is the same in Germany, that would be a rather simple explanation for wearing the Leibchen." I don't think so. I don't believe that button-on styling was as common in Germany as in America. And in this case I am virtually certain that he is not wearing button-on shorts. Remember this is a Hitler Youth DJ uniform. As far as I know, HJ shorts were not made with the waistline button holes. A reader remembers the Leibchen and other gatments he wore as a boy in Germany. He tells us that the Leibchen was also worn to hold up underpants.

Chronology

I thought the postcard was dated 1934, but our reader tells us it was dated 1937. It does have more of a look of 1937 than 1934. Unfortunately the postmark is undestinct. I am nit sure about the Hindenburg stamp. Were they issyed after his death? Eventually of course the German Post Office issued Hitler stamps, foe which he received a personal royalty.

Location

We do know where the portrait was taken, the Berlin Zoo.

DJ Activities

We are guessing that this was a portrait taken during a Deutsche Jungvolk (DJ) visit to the zoo, although we do not see the rest of the unit. We rather think that if the boy was on a visit with his parents that he would not be wearing his DJ uniform. I know as a Cub about 10 yerars later that I only wore my Cub uniform for Cub events and not on outings with my parents. We think the same was true for the DJ, although we are not positive about this.

Lion Cub Photos

The photographic record provides us many images of German children visiting zoos. The portait here is one example. Surprisingly we note quite a number of images of children photographed holding the animals, including potentially dangerous animals. We have seen quite a number of photographs of boys with lion cubs. The number suggests that this was much more common than in other countries. At first we did not give much attention to these images, in part because they seem unusual or commercial images and not really representative. We now have come toi think of these images as acrually representative. Quite a number of these portraits were made. Also our limited information about lion cubs is that they are rather rambunctious, especially one this age. A boy might have trouble handling one this size. Handling a cat can sometimes be difficult, imagine what the cub here could do, It seems unusually docile in the portrait. Note the size of those paws. A reader writes, "The lion cub looks as if its ready to spring out of the boys grip and run somewhere. It does not seem to like being cuddled but it is patient!" A reader writes, "My daughter loves animals and at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, it was explained to us that each state has laws as to whether or not someone may handle cubs. In Massachusetts it is illegal, in the Carolinas it is legal and we were given names of zoos and animal parks etc. where we could arrange for our daughter to do so. Since I never followed up, I have no idea how this is arranged but the information was shared with me in October 1905". Of course rules were much more flexible in the 1930s. Today there is concern not only about the health of the Cub, but also legal action if the children might be injured. A Cub this size could not only might, but also scratch.








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Created: 6:28 PM 3/20/2006
Last updated: 5:37 AM 2/16/2010