SS Blood group tattoo

German SS and Waffen-SS 1923-1945.

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SS Blood group tattoo

Postby Jock » Wed Sep 27, 2006 11:52 am

Hi all,

Just wanted some background information on the SS blood group tattoo's. When were they first implemented, who thought them up, why only the W-SS, etc, etc? Also, as erkennungsmarke had the blood group on them, was the tattoo purely in case the erkennungsmarke was lost? Although, I cant imagine that many (if any) men died because they had been given a wrong type of blood, in isolated cases where the soldier had no erkennungsmarke on his person.

All in all, it seems to be slightly pointless, just another thing to differentiate the W-SS from the rest of the Wehrmacht.

Any info greatly appreciated, TIA. Cheers,
Jock
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Postby Jock » Wed Sep 27, 2006 12:02 pm

Hello again,

Just a quick follow up, Wiki has a little info, I now know the tattoo is called a blutgruppentaetowierung, but Wiki also states that depending on the size of the lettering on the tattoo, you could tell the blood rhesus (large letters = pos, small letters = neg). Is this true?

I had once read that rhesus was not included in the tattoo as it had not been discovered, but I'm informed that it was discovered in 1937, and published in 1940. So I assume there is no truth in rhesus not being included in the tattoo.

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Jock
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Postby Jock » Fri Sep 29, 2006 9:17 am

Hi all,

Well, it looks as though information is scarce on this topic. I have an article prepared, I could do with knowing a couple more facts though.

Whos idea was it, and when was it implimented?

Can anyone confirm or deny the rhesus factor being included?

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Blutgruppe

Postby Rudi Welz » Fri Sep 29, 2006 12:26 pm

I only can tell you, that the Blutgruppe was onder the left arm and had no Rhesusfactor. I have just 0 and nothing else.
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Postby Christoph Awender » Fri Sep 29, 2006 12:49 pm

The Rhesus factor was definately not tattooed and did not play a big role in German military medicine during the war.

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Postby Jock » Fri Sep 29, 2006 2:47 pm

Arminius, Christoph,

Thanks very much. If either of you are bothered, the German wiki entry on the SS claims otherwise, I would change it myself, aber mein deutsch ist schreklich! I have also seen a couple of other sites with the same info.

Thanks again,
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Postby Christoph Awender » Fri Sep 29, 2006 3:04 pm

Honestly I don´t really bother what WIKIPEDIA has to say. :-)

The standard procedure in the field when a wounded soldier needed blood was to get someone with the corresponding blood group (soldier files) and transfer the blood directly.
Before, the test if it was really corresponding was that a sample of each patient was mixed together. If there was no reaction within 10 minutes the blood corresponded. Very "simple" but the best way they had in the field.

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Postby statemachine » Mon Oct 02, 2006 9:14 pm

Apparently some found being tattooed under the arm very sensitive,and preferred the shoulder.
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Postby Jock » Thu Oct 19, 2006 9:11 am

Hi all,

Thank you all for the replies and information. The reason I wrote this article was because there is only one decent article on the net on this subject, and I hoped to improve on that. I hope this article will be useful to people as it contains all information I can find on the tattoo, and included it in one place.

Two things bug me - Was AB a recognised blood type, and who thought up the idea?

Anyways, here is my article, please feel free to critique it. This follows on from another discussion where I'm advocating user driven information. With members contributing, and others adding to that and correcting it, we could have a wealth of information among ourselves.

Article follows...

Cheers,
Jock
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Postby Jock » Thu Oct 19, 2006 9:23 am

SS Blood Group Tattoo
(blutgruppentaetowierung)

Basic Information

The SS Blood group tattoo was applied, in theory, to all Waffen-SS (W-SS) members. It was a small black ink tattoo located on the underside of the left arm, usually near the armpit. It generally measured around 7mm long, and placed roughly 20cm above the elbow. The tattoo consisted of the soldier’s blood type letter, either A, B, (AB?) or O. The discovery of the Rhesus factor had been made in 1937, but was not fully understood during WWII, so was not implemented. In Early war tattoos were also printed in a Gothic style lettering, while late war tattoos were printed in a Latin style lettering.

Example of a blutgruppentaetowierung (Blood Group ‘A’)
Image

Further Information

The idea behind the tattoo was that if a soldier needed a blood transfusion, and he was unconscious, or his erkennungsmarke (dog tag) or soldbuch (pay book) was missing, the doctor could still find out the soldiers blood type by locating the tattoo. The tattoo was generally applied by the units sanitater (medic) in basic training, but could have been applied by anyone assigned to do it, at any time in the soldiers career. Before the tattoo was thought up, a wounded soldier would be matched for a transfusion with another with the same blood group, (which would be found in their soldbuch or erkennungsmarke) then if there was no reaction within ten minutes of the blood being transfused between the patient and donor, it would be assumed the blood group was the same. The tattoo was thought up by ??????? in ????, and stems from the idea of W-SS men being more valuable to the reich than other Wehrmacht soldiers. In reality, it was just another idea to further raise the SS on a pedestal. Not all W-SS men had the tattoo, in particular, those who had transferred from other branches of service to the W-SS, or those who transferred from the Allgemeine SS. Not only W-SS members had the tattoo, because if a member of any other branch of the Wehrmacht was treated in a SS hospital, they would generally have the tattoo applied.

The tattoo was applied to most in the early war years, but gradually over the course of the war was applied to less and less soldiers, and by late war, having the tattoo applied was more the exception rather than the rule. The application of the tattoo to foreign volunteers seems to be a contentious issue with some, such as the Britische Frei Korps (BFC) whose terms of service stated that they did not need to have the tattoo, but other foreign units seem to have had no problem with the tattoo being applied to their persons. Very little information exists regarding the tattoo and foreign units, but it is claimed by some that Charlemagne (33.Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS Charlemagne) men had the tattoo applied, and no doubt many other foreign members of the W-SS did too.

Johann Voss, of 6.SS-Gebrigs-Division "Nord", did not have tattoo applied although the rest of his training company did, as he was visiting his father on that particular day, so this just goes to show that even in relatively orderly situations, not all W-SS men had the tattoo.

Drawbacks

When the war ended, the Allies were keen to catch all W-SS members on account of the high volume of war crimes commited by some units. The blood group tattoo helped greatly in identifying former members, leading to the prosecution of guilty men, and in some cases the execution of W-SS men, regardless of what they had or had not done during the war. Many W-SS men tried to remove the tattoo, some by burning it off with a lit cigarette, but the scar left behind was almost as incriminating, leading some to make a similar scar on the opposite side of the their arm, and claiming the scars were from a bullet which had passed through their arm. In these cases, the Allies would X-ray the arm to see if any bone damage had occurred, as would have if a bullet had passed through the arm at those points.

Conclusion

While a good idea in theory, I have not seen one recorded instance of a soldier dying because he was given the wrong type of blood, as his blood type was recorded in at least two other places. Ultimately, the tattoo served as a mark to identify W-SS soldiers, when many would have wished to go incognito.

Sources

Axis History Factbook - http://www.axishistory.com/

Axis History Forum - http://forum.axishistory.com/

Feldgrau Forum - http://www.feldgrau.net/phpBB2/index.php

Wikipedia - http://www.wikipedia.com


Author – Donald “Jock” Keddie - September 2006

PLEASE CRITIQUE MY ARTICLE, TO THE DEATH IF YOU HAVE TO. SPELLING, GRAMMAR, FACTS OR ANYTHING YOU DONT LIKE.

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Postby joefraser » Thu Oct 19, 2006 9:33 am

Good article Jock,
now all we need is a place on feldgrau where information like this can be accessed more easily. I know it wouldn't be easy to do, but it would be a great help for researchers and move feldgrau to a higher level.
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Tattoo

Postby haen2 » Fri Oct 20, 2006 9:50 am

The Blutgruppe was just about equally applied to ALL foreign volunteers.
It was done during the first three weeks of training, indeed by a "Sanitater" (medic), or a "schwester"on loan from the Red Cross.
As far as I know, lazaretts did NOT automatically apply the blutgruppe.
And . . . . actually it was a very minor thing at the time.
It only became major after the war. Mine was removed by my family phycisian, after I was "cleared", restored in rights, and DRAFTED into the Royal Netherlands Army.
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Postby phylo_roadking » Fri Oct 20, 2006 6:24 pm

I presume this practice is followed today in the world's armed forces, on dogtags etc? I know that motorcycle racers of all people do! Their blood group is nowadays by FIM rules carried on their racing leathers - in gurt big colour-coordinated letters!!!
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Postby 5RANGLIAN » Thu Nov 09, 2006 4:21 am

A lot of modern-day British soldiers carry it written on their equipment somewhere (shoulder staps or helmet, for example. I have even seen some with it tatooed under their arm... :roll: ).

The medics I spoke to said it's a waste of time, because they just pump you full of O neg anyway.

And AB is a recognised blood type, just very rare (I was told around 1.5% of the population. As AB pos I'm universal acceptor, so I'm alright Jack!
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Postby Jock » Thu Nov 09, 2006 7:37 am

Hi,

Yeah, I'm AB Pos too...think its about 4%, AB Neg is 1%. Just wasn't sure if it was used in WWII. We used to write our blood types on the webbing on our helmets.

Tattoed under the arm though? Worrying.

Cheers,
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