Odd Design Artifacts: Helmet Crown

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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This is the beginning of an occasional series on “Odd Design Artifacts,” which includes designed things that are not always recognized as being significant, although “significance” is relative. Let’s start with a helmet.

Military helmets are utilitarian yet chilling pieces of industrial design. They protect the wearer against injuries; are emblems of authority and power and artifacts of industrial death and destruction. They also have a perverse appeal.

Among these, is an East German M-56 helmet, originally designed in 1942 as a replacement for the more cumbersome yet iconic World War II German steel helmet (stahlhelm). The M-56 was initially developed for the Wehrmacht yet not adopted during World War II purportedly because Hitler felt its streamline look was not “German enough.”

After the war it was, however, adopted when the Communist German Democratic Republic required a helmet for its Volkspolitzei that was distinct from the traditional Nazi design, which would have been an insult to the Soviet Union. Moreover, while the surplus Stahlhelm were used by West German army units, the M-56 version was reminiscent of the Soviet gefechtshelm (or battle helmet).