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We believe these two are father and son from the early 20th century. Possibly German/Austro-Hungarian/Polish region but unsure.

Any assistance would be greatly appreciated, I understand that is little to go off.

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    @njuffa - I'd say there's enough (really helpful) content in those first two comments to make a proper answer, at least by identification question standards. Feel free to do so when you feel comfortable with it.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Mar 8 at 14:15

1 Answer 1

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I was encouraged to write an answer by a moderator. I am neither an expert on military uniforms nor German student corporations, but recognized some identifying elements shown in the pictures.

I think these could be two pictures of the same person, at a younger stage as a university student and later as a member of the military. The uniform in the first picture appears to be a Luftwaffe uniform, about 1935-1945, by its cut and emblems. So most likely this person was German. The second picture shows a university student who is a member of a student corporation who could be German, Austrian, or Swiss. Because all self-organized student associations were forced to disband early under Nazi rule in Germany and Austria (many were re-constituted following WW2), if the person was German this would date the second picture to before 1933 and the first to some time after 1935.

The second picture could yield more clues about the person, if we could decode the information contained in it. We cannot date the picture with accuracy, as the ceremonial dress depicted has remained largely unchanged over the past one hundred years or more. Most student corporations using such dress originated in the mid to late 1800s. They may be called Corps, Landsmannschaft, Burschenschaft, etc. with different rules and regulations applicable, partially set by the umbrella organization they belong to, e.g. Coburger Convent, Deutsche Burschenschaft.

This ceremonial dress (Vollwichs) is worn by the executive leadership (elected annually) of a student corporation during particular official functions. Typically the leadership of a student corporation comprises three people referred to as Chargierte. The presence of a fox tail on the hat of the person identifies them as holding the office of Fuchsmajor: an older student who acts as a mentor and instructor to new members. This suggests the person depicted may have been around age 23 or 24.

The presence of the épée indicates that the members of the student corporation engage in academic fencing, either mandatory (schlagend) or optionally (fakultativ schlagend). As far as I know, the type of guard on the weapon differs by university and could be either the bell type shown here or a basket type. Student corporations are associated with a particular university or university town. Identifying marks are the colors as shown on the sash for example, and the Zirkel, an elaborate monogram unique to each student corporation, partially visible on the sash here. Most student corporations use a tri-color scheme, with the middle color frequently white (heraldic: argent) and sometimes yellow (heraldic: or). Since this is a black & white photograph, it is difficult to determine the colors.

Most Zirkels contain a capital letter 'F', and this seems to be the case here. Of particular interest is the connection (or lack thereof) between the major horizontal stroke and the vertical stroke, here a simple small loop. I looked through Wikipedia's list of Zirkels but could not find a good match to the partially visible one in the photograph. One possibility is that the student corporation this person belonged to no longer exists, possibly because it was associated with a university in regions that now belong to Poland (e.g. Breslau) or Russia (e.g. Königsberg).

As for the military uniform in the first picture, the "wings" on tunic and cap are clearly the emblem of the Luftwaffe. No part of the uniform indicates an NCO or officer rank to me. The collar patches on the collar tips appear to be of uniform color, but I cannot determine what color that may have been. So I think this is most likely an enlisted man. The background is not aesthetically pleasing, suggesting this picture may have been taken in the field rather than at home. An airman depicted with no visible infrastructure in the background leads me to hypothesize that this person may have been part of antiaircraft personnel, in particular part of a crew manning an AA gun emplacement in the country side.

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  • The second photo is not only taken in the field but by an amateur - the subject is out of focus! Makes the enlisted assumption more likely, IMO.
    – SPavel
    Commented Mar 9 at 15:15

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