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"Pickelhaube" (helmet with a tip) of a Prussian officer with the motto With God for King and Fatherland

The so-called Pickelhaube (officially: "Helmet with lace") was initially purely military , then also police headgear, which was first used in the Prussian army from 1843 and later adopted by other states and is still used today for representative purposes, such as z. B. in Sweden or Colombia.


The “helmet with a tip” introduced by the Prussian military in 1843 was soon popularly known as the “pimple hood”, which simply referred to the “prickly” tip, ie the “pimple”. The “hood”, on the other hand, has always been a different word in German for the military helmet, such as the balaclava and the pool hood . The latter had already been called "Bickelhaube" or "Pickelhaube" after some sound shifts in some parts of the German-speaking area. The helmet type and name of this medieval basin hood disappeared completely after 1450. The Prussian "helmet with a tip" developed in 1842/43 therefore has no historical connection to the basin hood or "Bickel hood".

The term “Pickelhaube” never appeared in official linguistic usage, and even in serious publications (e.g. in manufacturer catalogs, in factual articles in the Prussian daily press, etc.), “helmet” or “helmet with a tip” or “Leather helmet” spoken. The Prussian helmet with peak attained in the states in the German language but just below his popular name "Pickelhaube" rapidly greater awareness, especially after the German unification in 1871. There, the spiked helmet was soon to be typical Prussian-German headgear or as a symbol of Prussian militarism considered .

The Prussian "helmet with a tip"

Helmet of the Prussian Gardes du Corps (drawing by Anton von Werner , 1871)
A German NCO in Hanover with a spiked hat
Kaiser Wilhelm II at the 11th Army High Command , 1915
In the USA, too, the spiked hat was introduced as part of the parade uniform from 1872 until the early 20th century. An example is a version from the United States Marine Corps . In this context, this helmet shape is typical, among other things, of the time of the Indian Wars

In 1842, under King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia , a new helmet was prescribed for the Prussian army (with the exception of the hunters , riflemen , hussars and lancers ) , which was then introduced in 1843. The prototype for cuirassiers developed by the metal goods factory Wilhelm Jaeger in Elberfeld (today Wuppertal ) in 1841 was made of steel and had an eye and neck shield. Since this helmet was too heavy for foot troops, the entrepreneur Christian Harkort, a younger brother of Friedrich Harkort , developed a helmet made of pressed buffalo leather with metal fittings in his leather goods factory in Haspe . In November 1842, Harkort received the first order to equip Prussian troops with this leather helmet. The metal tip was characteristic; it should deflect laterally blows with sabers or similar edged weapons. In some regiments , especially the guards , the tip was replaced by a bush of hair in addition to the parade uniform. With the artillery a bullet was carried instead of the point, otherwise there would have been a risk of injuries when operating the guns. The cuirassiers wore a version with a steel helmet bell and a neck shield pulled down low.

With the Garde du Corps , the body gendarmerie and the guard cuirassers, a metal eagle sculpture was worn with the large uniform instead of the tip. The metal helmet type was later adopted by the parts of the hunters on horseback (regiments No. 1 to 7, 8 to 13 wore leather helmets), but consisted of tombac . The two Saxon heavy cavalry regiments from 1875 wore the cuirassier helmet in yellow metal with white hair bushes with the large uniform, from 1910 with the 1st regiment in the large uniform with a lion sculpture instead of the tip.

It is not certain whether the modern spiked hat was really invented in Prussia. According to legend, Friedrich Wilhelm IV saw the pre-production model of a Russian spiked hat on the tsar's desk during a visit to Russia in 1842 and was so enthusiastic about it that he immediately introduced this helmet shape in Prussia, while Russia did not follow until 1846. Allegedly, helmets of this type were worn by a Bavarian fire brigade even before 1842 . Here the point (or spider, today: comb) has the function of breaking falling debris or a door with a headbutt.

Starting in Prussia, this type of helmet gradually replaced other helmet types and the shako that had been common up until then in all German states . In 1857 the helmet bell became flatter and got its characteristic shape, which is known today. This model was used by all German states during the imperial era (from 1871) and was worn with a brass emblem in the form of a national animal or national coat of arms. In 1897 she got two cockades (one in the imperial and one in the national colors), which were attached to the side under the rosettes of the chinstrap and the scale chain. In 1886 even Bavaria finally gave up the caterpillar helmet that had been typical for its army up to that point and took over the spiked hat (although in Bavaria, unlike in the other federal states, the artillery used a point and not a ball attachment), even if the Bavarian generals were considerate on the reservations of Prince Regent Luitpold continued to wear the general hat customary in Bavaria.

The penultimate Pickelhauben model introduced in 1895 at the beginning of the First World War was no longer able to cope with the operational conditions of a modern war . The brass fittings reflected the light and made it difficult to camouflage the soldier in the field. As a concession to modern warfare, a beige-colored helmet cover with a red, sewn or painted regimental number was worn in combat and maneuvering operations since 1892. Most of the head injuries in the war as a result of the vastly increased use of artillery were caused by shrapnel, against which the old helmet offered insufficient protection. The tip of the helmet often stuck out treacherously from the trenches . As a temporary solution, the Supreme Army Command therefore ordered in 1915 that the tip should no longer be worn at the front. The tip of the last spiked hood model made during the war was very easy to unscrew; the helmet cover has also been modified accordingly. The color was generally field gray , the conspicuous red regimental number was omitted. In order to save leather, the last generation of the pimple hood was partly made from substitute materials such as felt or cardboard. The steel helmet made of hot-pressed chrome-nickel steel was then introduced in the German army in the course of 1916 as improved head protection .

Later use

The spiked hood was still used by the police and fire brigade after the World War . In the 1920s, it was often worn by World War II officers and members of warrior clubs at veterans' meetings, funerals and similar occasions. Reich President Hindenburg also wore this headgear on some official occasions, e.g. B. on the " Day of Potsdam ".

Also in some other European countries (e.g. some English regiments), in Latin American states and in the USA some military or police formations wore spiked bonnets from time to time.

In Botswana , England , Chile , Portugal and Sweden , spiked hat-shaped helmets are still worn by parade units on special occasions. The helmet of the British bobbies is also a modification of the original, higher version of the spiked hood. An English police model also has a tip with a bullet. In the parade uniform of the British Guard Cavalry , the tip has been replaced by the horsehair bush.

Symbolic meaning

Destroy This Mad Brute - Enlist . The US Army's call for recruiting from World War I shows a murderous and women-stealing gorilla wearing a pimple hood as the enemy .

Between 1842 and 1871, the Pickelhaube was soon seen in German-speaking countries as a characteristic symbol of Prussian militarism , which was internally involved in the smashing of the democratic movements. After Prussia founded the German Empire in 1871, this Prussian militarism was also reinterpreted abroad as hostile German militarism, the characteristic expression of which was perceived as the spiked hat. In numerous caricatures, the spiked hat became a symbol for the German Empire and the Germans. It was used abroad for anti-German agitation in the depiction of aggressive pimple-hooded monkeys or men . This was the case in particular up to the end of the First World War and the end of the German Empire. But even today, the spiked hat sometimes stands for German as such abroad. For example, it is worn by some German fans at sporting competitions, or opposing fans caricature “the Germans” with spiked bonnets.

The sign for German in some sign languages ​​symbolizes a spiked hat and used to mean “ policeman ” in the German-speaking area .

In the sign language of the deaf, the outstretched index finger, pointing upwards and held over the forehead, symbolizes the pimple hood and means German and Germany .

The poet Heinrich Heine ironically mentions the Pickelhaube in his epic Germany. A winter fairy tale :
I didn't like the new costume badly
Reuter, I have to praise that,
Especially the pimple hood, the helmet
With the steel tip up.
Yes, yes, I like the helmet, it testifies
From the highest jokes!
It was a royal idea!
The punch line is not missing, the point!
I only fear when a thunderstorm arises
Pulls such a point easily
Down on your romantic head
Heaven's most modern lightning bolts!


  • Ulrich Schiers: The spread of the Pickelhaube in the German states (= The collections of the Defense History Museum in Rastatt Castle. Row 5: Headwear . Volume 1, ZDB -ID 1190719-8 ). Military History Research Office , Freiburg (Breisgau) 1988.
  • Laurent Mirouze: Infantrymen of the First World War (= European militaria. No. 3). Karl-Heinz Dissberger, Düsseldorf 1990, ISBN 3-924753-28-8 .
  • Hein: The little book of the German Army. A hand u. Reference book for instruction on the German military power. Processed according to the latest regulations. Lipsius & Tischer, Kiel / Leipzig 1901 (Reprint. Weltbild, Augsburg 1998).
  • Volker Löbner, Tilman Lombard: Frankfurt uniforms. 1806-1866. From the holdings of the Historisches Museum Frankfurt am Main and private collections . Volume III: Frankfurt Military. Löbner Selbstverlag, Frankfurt am Main 2017, ISBN 978-3-87390-346-3 . Pp. 312-357.

See also

Web links

Commons : Pickelhaube  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Pickelhaube  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Günther Drosdowski (adaptation): Duden "Etymologie". Dictionary of origin of the German language (=  Der Duden. Vol. 7). 2nd, completely revised and expanded edition. Dudenverlag, Mannheim a. a. 1989, ISBN 3-411-20907-0 , p. 530 f.
  2. Kluge : Etymological dictionary of the German language. 23rd expanded edition, edited by Elmar Seebold . de Gruyter, Berlin a. a. 1995, ISBN 3-11-012922-1 .
  3. Liliane Funcken , Fred Funcken : Historical weapons and armor from the 8th to 16th centuries. Special edition. Orbis-Verlag, Munich 1990, ISBN 3-572-07893-8 , pp. 26-44, 241-257.
  4. http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/print_document.cfm?document_id=1405
  5. Wir sind Preußen , article from the magazine of the NRW Foundation 2/2009, accessed on the portal nrw-stiftung.de on February 8, 2013
  6. Burkhard Beyer: A 19th century entrepreneur supporting the state: The Elberfeld metal goods manufacturer Wilhelm Jaeger and his relationship with Krupp in Essen ( Memento from January 19, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 123 kB). Article in the portal bgv-wuppertal.de of the Bergisches Geschichtsverein Wuppertal, undated , accessed on February 8, 2013.
  7. feuerwehr-historie.de> Helme Sascha Guzy, Berlin, January 6, 2014, accessed December 5, 2016.
  8. https://www.gettyimages.it/detail/fotografie-di-cronaca/botswanas-president-ian-khama-inspects-the-guard-fotografie-di-cronaca/457981708 President Serêtsê Khama Ian Khama inspects the guard.
  9. Germany , website in the sign-lang.uni-hamburg.de portal , accessed on February 7, 2016.