Students of nazi Germany will know that high ranking nazis and those who joined the NSDAP early on (the "old fighters") were known as "Golden Pheasants" because of the colour of their party badge, and the golds, reds and browns in the uniform, reminiscent of a cock pheasant's plumage.

Was "Golden Pheasant" a slur term in Nazi Germany or was it fairly neutral (something like "Top Brass" in English perhaps)? Would regime loyalists have used it? Might ordinary Germans or anti-nazis have reworked the phrase into something more pejorative?

C.J. Sansom's novel Dominion has one of its characters describe a senior nazi as a "Golden Peasant" (sic).

However the narrator at that point is a somewhat disillusioned junior policeman. I'm wondering whether the author intends it deliberately as a piece of wordplay (indicative of a hostility to the regime), or if it's sloppy proofreading/editing on the part of the publisher.

  • 2
    For this to be an intentional wordplay, it'd have to make sense in German too, wouldn't it? Jul 19, 2013 at 22:09
  • 3
    Yes. FUBAR: Soldier Slang of WW II: Landserdeutsch - German Army Slang: Goldfasan: "Golden Pheasant. Official or politischer Leiter (political leader) of the Nazi Party. So called owing to their light-brown uniforms hinting a golden cast, gold and red insignia, and reddish-brown leather accoutrements, altogether reminiscent of the plumage of male pheasants." Jul 20, 2013 at 0:28
  • 1
    -- Dorsten unterm Hakenkreuz: "Ein echter „Goldfasan“ also, wie solche Leute in ihren braunen und goldbetressten Uniformen damals im Volk spöttisch genannt wurden." (A true "golden pheasant" in other words, as such people in their brown uniforms with gold ribbons were then mockingly called by ordinary folk.) Jul 20, 2013 at 0:28
  • @EugeneSeidel i'd take your comments as an answer, and i've edited in your improved derivation Jul 21, 2013 at 22:52
  • 1
    The number of German words ending in "-asan" is small and most of them are merely compound nouns with "Fasan"; I don't see a single sound-alike German word that could be used for wordplay as with pheasant/peasant. I would rather not answer this time, but I'd be happy for another user to use the refs I found and collect the rep. Jul 22, 2013 at 0:21

1 Answer 1


Yes. Quoting Wikipedia:

Im Dritten Reich war "Goldfasan" ein vom Volksmund geprägter Begriff für hohe Parteifunktionäre und Militärs im Hinblick auf ihre Uniformen und den Ordensschmuck darauf, allen voran Hermann Göring, der im gleichen Wortsinn auch "Lametta-Heini" genannt wurde. Der tierische Ausdruck geht dabei beispielhaft konform mit dem der "hohen Tiere".


In the Third Reich, "golden pheasant" ["Goldfasan"] was a popularly coined term for high-ranking party functionaries and military officers with regard to their uniforms and the decorations on them, above all Hermann Göring, who was also called "Lametta-Heini" [Lametta: ~ 'tinsel'] in the same literal sense.
The animalistic expression here conforms in an exemplary manner to the expression of the "high and mighty" ["Hohe Tiere": ~ 'high (ranking) animals'/i.e.: big shots].

  • 7
    Can you provide a translation? Jul 20, 2013 at 21:23
  • @FelixGoldberg: Done with the help of Google translate. Jul 22, 2013 at 18:49
  • 1
    Nice job by Google Translate on the first sentence. The second German Wikipedia sentence, however, meant to say that the most common term in the German language for a "big shot" is hohes Tier (high -- or highly placed -- animal) and that this finds its echo in the term "golden pheasant". It wasn't well written in German thus not easy to translate. Jul 25, 2013 at 10:44
  • @EugeneSeidel: Please edit the answer. :-) Jul 25, 2013 at 10:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.