Der Brotbeutel

The brotbeutel, meaning bag for bread was a traditional piece of equipment long before the world wars. It was used to carry bread and other items and was attached to the soldiers belt, worn on the right hip. It followed the german soldier from the beginning to the end in Berlin 1945. It was used by soldiers from all branches. Der brotbeutel is a prime example of item that shows the development of equipment trough war experience and shortages of resources as it was used trought the period of nationalsozialism and was changed during the course of war. A various amount of different brotbeutels exists so this is clearly a collectors field on its own. It is also a good way to collect and tell the story of the evolution of german field equipment in the period 1939-1945.

Early war setup as used in the polish campaign. Field grey brotbeutel with a black painted messkit and canteen. 

The brotbeutel was made of cloth sown together to make a bag. On top was attached a pear shaped piece of cloth making a lid. Attached to the front are two D-rings intended for attachment of the M31 messkit and M31 canteen. On the back are 2 smaller D-rings for attaching the strap for the brotbeutel. The D-rings are re enforced by leather pieces. The front shows two leather loops sown to the lid. These are intended for the straps of the messkit and canteen to keep them stable and fastened to the soldiers hip. There are 3 buttons on the inside to attach 3 leather straps to close and secure the content.

The breadbags was easy to produce and did not demand advanced machinery in the production, therefore a lot of manufacturers and varieties in the production.

The brotbeutel was worn on the right hip attached to the belt with 3 loops. It was used from beginning to the end by the german soldier. It was originally intended for bread but was used for various items needed by the soldier. It could contain personal hygiene items, eating/cooking utiliteties and different rations. Altough uncountable varieties of the brotbeutel, some major changes in the design/production was made during the course of the war. Further reading below shows a simplified timeline of the major changes to the brotbeutel 31.

Timeline of development/changes

Late war setup for a soldier armed with a gewehr43. He carries a late midwar brotbeutel made with course material, steel fittings and minimal use of leather.


1933-1939/40 Produced in grey cloth. All metal fittings are made of aluminium. The beltloops are buttoned and has leather re-inforcement, often brown or grey in color. The carrying straps are nicely made with stitches following the entire lenght.

1940 The colour of the cloth changes from grey to olive green. The start of war has shown the soldiers the benefit of camouflage.

1941 The battle of britain is lost and the luftwaffe has lost a considering amount of aircraft. Aluminium is getting scarce. The metal fittings of the brotbeutel is now changed to steel. The same can be seen on Y-straps, k98 pouches etc.

1942 Leather is getting scarcer so the leather reinforcements on the brotbeutel is starting be removed. The quality of cloth used (as with the uniforms M43, m44)  is declining. Leftovers from other productions can be seen more often (e.g pebbled leather from K98 pouches). Mixed materials are observed.

1943 some branches discontinues the use of the carrying strap for the brotbeutel

1944 A new model, referred to the m44 brotbeutel by collectors, is introduced. The middle belt hook is replaced by a simple loop of cloth, the buttons and leather on the other straps are also discontinued. A uniqe detail is the pocket for the RG34. Introduced as the M44 backpack saw service.

In the meditteranian theatre and Afrika a version with webbing instead of leather saw service.

Sa, police or other paramilitary organizations had a version with an inner divider in the bag. This is also seen on afterwar variants used by e.g DDR, BGR etc.

1931/1940 - Early Grey Brotbeutel, leather and aluminium

This first version of the brotbeutel is made in 1939. It features grey painted aluminium d-rings and often grey coloured leather fittings. It was precision made of high quality materials. The item above is made in 1939 in munich. the leather an aluminium fittings are painted in fieldgrey color.

1939/1940 - Olive green breadbag with aluminum fittings

Around 39/40 the colour of the breadbags change to olive green due to need for camouflage. The above item features the old style strap with precise stitching in nice lines along the lenght of the strap. The strap also has the divider in the middle to adjust the lenght of the strap. The breadbag has aluminum metall fittings and leather protection on the belt loop. Manufacture is good, precise and highly skilled made. Note the pear shape of the bag.  Ink stamp faded and barely readable. It seems to be marked 19x9 but some photoshop needed to confirm the last digit.  The strap is marked identical to the bag. 

Another early war breadbag with aluminium fittings. It has olive textile in same quality as the breadbag above. Item is a household find in the 90's. It features aluminium fittings and is nicely made. The bag has pre war kriegsmarine strap attached. This item is marked with maker in Hamburg, adress and phone number. A soldier captured by the allies would give the bomber command the precise location of the factory. A marking practice soon to be discontinued.

1941-1942  brotbeutel with leatherloops and steel D-rings

Aluminium metal fittings are replaced by steel fittings as aluminium is getting scarce. Hard to read markings but the breadbag is makers marked not so probably produced between 1941 and 1942. It features leather re-enforcements on the loops but aluminium is changed to steel D rings. The textile quality has not deterioratet compared to the breadbags above. 

Item above shows a bluegrey luftwaffe brotbeutel. It has grey painted steel fittings. The leather re-enforcement on the belt loops are still there. This item still has a readable production markings and marked the year 1941.

1943 Brotbeutel without leatherloops and stampet, steel fittings

Resources and materials are getting scarcer. This brotbeutel produced after 1943 is marked with The leather re enforcements on the loops are gone to save leather. The material is cleary worsened in quality and appears very course. Marked with a faint on the back loop. The nice stitching on the strap is long gone.

Above item is a luftwaffe brotbeutel from same period. The leatherloops are removed from production and it features steel D-rings wich in this case are painted field grey. It is marked with an unreadable makers mark.  The germans are meeting lack of resources and higher demand for field gear by simplifying the production.

M44 - Last design brotbeutel

The last on the timeline is the socalled M44 brotbeutel. It differs by having a integral pocket for the RG34 seen on the picture in the middle. The belt loops are sown, middle belt hook removed and have no leather reinforcement. Also present are mixed textile variants. This breadbag is made for purpose and not the higly skilled detailed productions as prewar/start of war.Experience in the field and resource getting scarce forces changes. The general textile quality is coarse. Item  marked with, but as most brotbeutels, this specimen had ink markings wich faded away with use. Only remnants to be seen so unreadable.

Brotbeutel for tropical climate

For use in tropical climate a brotbeutel with webbing instead of leather was issued. It is identical to the standard issue except all leather parts are replaced by webbing. Early models also featured a webbing strap. This item showed is marked by manufacturer and year 1942 barely readable as with most original markings found on brotbeutels.

Markings on the breadbag

As  most equipment the brotbeutels were marked. Most are marked with ink so many are barely readeable, if present. Breadbags remarked or with refreshed markings are commonly encountered. If the breadbag shows high wear and tear and the inkstamp is very fresh, something doesnt add up. Above far left is a marked breadbag. Often the markings are found on the middle belt srap or/and inside the lid. The middle is a "tropical" version marked year 1942. The far left is an early wartime breadbag. It is marked with manufacturers name, adress and phonenumber.

Pre war - other variants

Many varieties of breadbags period 1939-1945 exists. If it looks different or odd it might be an interesting piece and not a reproduction/modified to deceive. The germans occupied several countries and field gear was reused by the germans. Both Zcech and polish variants of the breadbag are known. The polish had D-rings with a speicl shape, more oval than round and a pointy often shiny belthook in the middle (like an eagles beak). 

The Czechoslovakian prewar breadbags has an inner divider so the rule Inner bag=Postwar or paramilitary doesnt give a complete solution. The czech were also used/recycled by the germans.

The dutch breadbag is easy to recognise by its large pocket on the left outside often with reinforced bottom.

Post war

The brotbeutel was a popular camping accessory postwar. It was adopted by the NVA and production continued. The breadbags are very similar to late war production, but differs as it has a internal divider wich the ww2 lacked with one exception. The political and paramilitary breadbags had an internal divider. They can be told apart by the fact that the ww2 with divider lackes the extra D-ring and the leather loop to attach the kochgeschirr. The sa/nsdap breadbags has one leather loop and one D-ring on the left side. Postwar breadbags with the inner pocket removed with fake markings can be seen. Check the inside for stitching remnants/perforation. Postwar often seen with 4 holes on the main leather strap, ww2 had only 3 usually.

In west germany they also continued production. Her also often seen with an internal divider. In addition it has longer belt loops and more round shape than ww2. Often consealed are markings from the fifthies. Found on the long leather strap. Pictures above of a west german postwar brotbeutel for comparison. (note the longer straps)

Pictures above shows brotbeutels adopted by the NVA after ww2. The one on the right is a early version with similarities to the war manufacture (e.g the leather tabs and the pear shape of the bag).  The left is a later version with square stitching on the leather tabs. It also features longer belt loops and an inner divider.