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German Winter Help/Winterhilfswerk Offers Dozens of Collectible Categories

by Matthew Roth (12/21/12).

This is an example of a Winter Help/Winterhilfswerk door plaque (Tuerplaketten in German) from December 1934.

A German Winter Help/Winterhilfswerk “We’ve Helped” donation favor/tinnie/pin from 1933-34.

Most of the German people suffered heavily after the Frist World War, especially in the large cities, due to the sacrifices made for the war effort, reparation payments, high unemployment, costs of rebuilding Germany and the hyper-inflation of the early 1920s. These conditions were fertile grounds upon which the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers Party) would find support, grow and rise to power.

When the NSDAP came to power in 1933, those in charge realized the great propaganda potential that some kind of welfare program would provide and set into action immediately. This would serve both the social cause and their own political aims. To these ends they created the Winter Help/Winterhilfswerk (WHW).

The first WHW drive was set into action in October of 1933 and ran through 1943. A new WHW drive was started each year, and any person in Germany was eligible for assistance; however, special consideration was given to the unemployed and families with an income below what we today would call the “poverty line.”

First War Winter Help (KWHW) March 1939 donation gutschein (rewards certificate). This voucher overprinted extending the redemption period to Jan. 31, 1940, series I, Kenn letter A, 5 RM value.

The used (redeemed) information with recipient, store name and WHW stempel on reverse.

The WHW always dispensed goods, never money. One of the slogans of the WHW was “Fight Hunger and Cold!” The WHW drives were implemented through various means, including voluntary donations, voluntary reductions in wages (normally 10 percent), subscriptions, lotteries, volunteer work, door-to-door raising of funds, special events and the sale of various types of badges, door labels, certificates, booklets, toys, trinkets and other donation favors.

From 1933 to 1943, it is estimated that more than 8,000 different badges and favors were created for the WHW. Contributions were also received from Germans living abroad, and well-known politicians and artists also endorsed and contributed to the cause. In addition, special postcards were issued to support the WHW organization. The first 1933 WHW drive gave the WHW organization 358.1 million German Reichmarks. By the 1937 drive, this had grown to 419 million German Reichmarks.

Heinrich Hoffmann propaganda postcard #579 with Hitler Youth members in full uniform, collecting for the WHW and a soldier amputee. The back of the card is titled “The greater sacrifice.”

Document dated Oct. 20, 1938 on WHW stationery sent to potential donors in Bayerischen Ostmark (Northern Bavaria bordering on the Sudten region of Czechoslovakia, which had just weeks earlier been ceded to Germany as part of the Munich Agreement) about helping Sudeten Germans, referred to in the text as liberated brothers.

Photo postcard of German Shepherd dog saddled with a WHW donation can and a police man soliciting donations.

With so many types of items, most collectors focus on one or several of the categories. There is also a large overlap for topical items. Collectors of flowers, military vehicles, dogs, locations (towns and areas) and more will find these areas well represented within Winter Help items. Each of the Gaus (German districts) had its own organization and favor production, which contributes to the huge number and variety of favors and also the variations exhibited within seemingly similar favors.

During the Third Reich there were stamps issued for an emergency relief fund, the Deutsche Nothilfe, for the years 1933-35 before it was incorporated into the WHW in 1936. Stamps for the winter help were issued in 1936 through 1940 and a special issue in 1943 commemorating the 10th year of the Winter Help.

Stamps were also issued in some of the occupied areas, like Bohemia and Moravia, a former section of Czechoslovakia, and Generalgouvernement (occupied Poland).

WHW memory stationery. The text translates to “Every letter, every card carries WHW stamps.” Used with WHW stamps for the correct postal rate.

Generalgouvernement, occupied Poland 1940 WHW stamp set with corner margins containing the German national emblem tabs.

Stamp collectors are of course drawn to these official issues, but also special cancelations and usages. Additionally, there is a large interest in collateral items like memory sheets, postal stationery and labels/vignettes associated with the WHW and fund raising activities. Condition is the most important factor when pricing stamps, with stamps that are hinged on the gum commanding typically 20 percent of the price of a stamp that has never been hinged (has full undisturbed original gum). Used stamps are a category in unto themselves and price independently. In recent years there seems to be significantly less interest in used stamps than unused.

Within the area of door plaques (Tuerplaketten in German), there are 42 different labels, one for each month October to March 1933 to 1939/40 with well over 200 catalogued variations including paper types, printing variations of color, sizes and formats (square, round and rectangular). Prices for these items can be as little as a few dollars each to around $50. As is typical with all collectibles, this is greatly influenced by condition, scarcity and demand.

There were many postcards and postal stationery issued both publically (by the government) and privately by stamp clubs and organizations which assisted with fund raising and commemorated events like club meetings, stamp shows, stamp day and others. Prices will vary from as little as a few dollars for the lottery cards to more than $100 for some of the scarcer propaganda cards. As usual, this is greatly influenced by condition, scarcity and demand.

KWHW (Kriegs Winterhilfswerk/War Winter Help) Tag der Wehrmacht (Day of the Wehrmacht) 1941 donation favors. Complete set of 12 military related items from the German Wehrmacht.

In addition to favors, certificates of donation were also awarded to companies or wealthier donors who contributed more significant amounts. They range mostly from 20 to 100 Reichsmarks, but I have seen one for 500 RM. Depending on type and rarity, these can price in the $40 to $200 range.

Winter Help gutschein are certificates provided to people in need from the organization and came in 50 Rpf, 1 Reichsmark, 5RM and 10RM values. Some special certificates were denominated in weights for commodities like coal. The certificates were redeemable for clothing, food products, rent, gas and electricity (utilities) and more. These are collectible by their years, values and serial numbers.Prices range for $10 to $50 for the more common ones to more than $100 for special and uncommon certificates.

Matthew Roth is the owner of MAR Historical and been collecting and selling German Third Reich historical collectibles for more than 30 years. He has also authored several books on German WWII postcards that, along with books by other authors on German Third Rich Stamps and Militaria, have been brought to print by his company MAR Publishing. He lives and works in Broomfield. Colo.

Some of the items pictured in this article are available for sale. Visit  MAR Historical for more information.

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