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Rations of the Waffen SS
by G. Kudszus
When the Waffen SS was formed as an elite 4th Branch of the armed forces, it's role was somewhat ill-defined. While ideologically tied to the Nazi's concept of "Teutonic Knights" on the holy quest for the German Empire (later know as "Germany bombed back to the stone age"), it was soon recognized that a fighting force consisting of hand-picked and superbly trained individuals would come in handy when the need for elite units with unconventional warfare capabilities arose.

Chief of the SS Himmler, well-aware of Hitler's love-hate affair with all things English was deliberately steering much of the SS military special effort into a framework similar to British Commandos, a force which both infuriated and impressed Hitler.
For this very reason, knowing that his "black corps" would face short-notice commando raid tasking, along with protracted deployment to areas with extremes of climate and terrain, Himmler charged the  Wirtschafts Verwaltungs Hauptamt (WVHA) (SS Economic and Administrative Central Office) with procurement of appropriate rations specifically geared toward this use. Even though many people argue that the SS received special rations to create "superior beings", the main idea behind the rations was simply one of specialized use. Sadly enough the nutritional research was conducted on victims of Himmlers empire within the empire. All politics aside, one of the main reasons the SS got the rations they got was that German governmental branches have always had a penchant for wanting to be "special" or at least "different". (Similar odd supply requisition competitiveness led to all sorts of chaos with Germany's allies Italy and Japan, where even weapons and ammunition were designed by different service branch bureaus...).   

Graubrot - "Gray" Rye Bread in 750 gram Loaves

Feld Rationen

(Field Rations)


This was standard "marching rations" for units on the go, out of the support range of Feldküchen (Field Kitchens). Normally, this was meant for units moving from point a to point b, but was designed to be fed up to four days. All service groups (Armored, Mechanized and Infantry) received the same rations.

700 or 750 grams (25-26.5oz) of Graubrot (Gray Rye Bread--Not the stuff with caraway seed). Wrapped in Wax Paper or tinfoil backed paper

200 to 300 grams of Fleisch or 160 grams Wurst (Tinned meat or Sausage) or Käse (Tinned cheese) (many times this was issued as dried sausages and lumps of cheese wrapped in butcher paper)

125 to 175 grams (4.4-6.1oz) of Vegetables (or 50 grams preserved vegetables)

15 grams (1/2 ounce) of Jam, Honey, Hazelnut Paste or Margarine/Butter (issued into lard dish)

5 grams of Coffee (Generally in the form of some sort of "Ersatz" Instant or as a shared pack of 20 grams for 4 troops).

5 grams of Sugar. This was issued either in small bags, as part of the instant coffee ration, or, more rarely, in the form of rock candy.

6 Cigarettes. Even though many of the SS leaders did not approve of smoking, it was considered a "nerve tonic" and means of staving off hunger and thus approved. As opposed to many parts of the Wehrmacht, SS units did not enjoy a regular issue of Cigars. Some pipe tobacco was issued in special circumstances where available.



The Eiserne Portion (Iron Portion) was an issue of rations for times where definite daily re-supply could not be guaranteed, such as on outpost duty, raids or other missions lasting up to 2 days. This was normally issued to units performing reconnaissance and rearguard duties.

200-250 grams of Tinned Hardbread/Biscuits. Either issued as one tin (hard bread) or in several smaller tins (biscuits).

Where these were not available for issue, or where tin cans were considered a weight factor, 100 gram packs of Hard Biscuits were issued. These were generally sealed in either foil or cellophane, and wrapped in waterproofed paper.

200 grams of Tinned Fish or Meats, or 160 gram tins of Enriched Meat Spread (Leberwurst)

10 grams of Instant Coffee. This could be ersatz or real, but normally was a combination of Coffee and Milk, as "Milchkaffee" was seen as a proper energy drink for fighting troopers.


This was a reduced version of the Eiserne Portion, a "small portion", designed to provide a standard amount of reserve food for each man.

It consisted of a Meat and a bread unit, and in many cases consisted of a standard Wehrmacht Halbeiserne portion, or a Tinned Bread/Tinned meat grouping similar to the Eiserne Ration. This tended to be a ration which was to be eaten on orders from the commanding officer only.


This was a pre-combat ration issued to troops along the same line as the American D-Ration or British 'Ration Chocolate' bars. Issued to provide a boost of energy and a fast snack food good for nerves and stomachs is an emergency or in conditions were additional calories were needed (forced marches, mountaineering or general cold weather etc). The ration generally consisted of:

100 grams (3.5 oz) of Chocolate (either in a 100 gram flat bar, or later in the same 50 gram lumps of Ersatz Chocolate issued to the Wehrmacht)

100 grams (3.5 oz) of either Cookies (Bahlsens Leipnitz cookies--Still made today) or Fruit Bars (normally date and nut varieties) in 20 gram cello-wrapped lumps

6 Cigarettes (but this was normally limited to 4 cigarettes in Wehrmacht style commercial slider packs)

In addition, the WVHA guidelines provide for a special ration for troops that either are or have recently been engaged in close combat. This ration was similar to the one issued to the Wehrmacht, and bore the same name:

NAHKAMPFPACKUNG (But, due to its small size often referred to as the "Nahkampfpäckchen"--Little close combat pack)

The intent for this ration was to provide additional calories/snacks to troops in physically demanding situations, and secondly, to provide an after-action incentive. This ration (same as its Wehrmacht counterpart) was also issued to recently wounded troops after action (as in many cases medical units directly behind the front did not carry food preparation facilities).

Thus, this "snack" was to serve as a tie-over ration until evacuation to rearward hospitals or field medical stations "Verbandsplatz") became possible. There are many accounts by western ally POWs who were cared for at German medical stations directly after capture, and given a Nahkampfpackung as a ration on their way into captivity. This ration took some unusual forms as the war progressed, in that the contents could no longer be standardized, and "odd" items were substituted for listed standards.

Standard items consisted of:

100 grams of Chocolate (bar or Lump variety)

200 Grams of "Candy" (Bon-Bons)Generally hard candy or peppermint candy

6 Cigarettes (often a Wehrmacht 4-pack as issued in lieu of the prescribed number)

"Ersatz" components for this ration included a variety of items, some of which were:

Frucht-Gelee (A cello-wrapped Candy that was chewy, made of fruit or sugar beets)

Kandieszucker (hard lump sugar)

Fruit Bars (as in the Grosskampfpackung)

2 or 3 Cigars (In a paper sleeve)

Rolls of Peppermints ("Vivil", "Dr. Hillers"or Dutch "King" brand mint dragees

Lakritzen--Salty Licorice

Malz Kamellen (Malt-Flavored Candy)

Sweet Biscuits/cookies, such as "Printen" (a spicy sweet hard bread), Bahlsen Cookies or durable "Pfeffernüsse" (Pan-coated small spice cookies that have eternal shelf life).

A Variety of Printen--Spice Bread Tooth Busters!


Even though many of the ration sets began their life in very organized Teutonic fashion, especially as pertaining to standardized outer packages, war shortages made the standards quite fluid after 1943. By 1944, only few boxed rations are reaching SS troops, and most of the additional ration items (such as the Nahkampfpäckchen) either came in a coloured paper bag (occasionally still with stamps either stating the ration name or purpose), or in a stamped cellophane bag. After December 44, most "extra rations" are either handed out from bulk containers, or wrapped by non-combatant rear-echelon staff in lulls between actions.

Stay tuned as more pictures and information will be added periodically!

Check out our new Sales Web Page called "Vintage Ration Depot"

SS and Wehrmacht rations will again be available within the month of September.

Click Here To Go To Our New Sales Page. Vintage Ration Depot.