WWI German Facial Dueling Scars – Mensur Scars and WWI Portraits


Apologies for not posting any interesting original material in the past few weeks, I’ve been busy dealing with the holidays and the celebrations that inevitably pop up at this time of year. Today’s blog post will be about a topic I’ve become fascinated with over the course of the past two years. Have you ever wondered why stereotypical WWI German media characters from WWI always seem to have a large scar on their face? Ever wonder why they always seem to be on the cheek and always are attributed with men of high status such as generals and higher ranking officers?

Well, recently I was able to purchase on eBay  an inexpensive photo ($4.99) on eBay that perfectly personifies the image of a young WWI German soldier with a prominent facial scar.

scarface005

Mensur Scar (New photo to collection)

Was this scar the result of a bad shaving accident? In fact, the answer is exactly the opposite; this left cheek scar is the result of a deliberate action.

scar

Ouch!

After a solid night of internet research, I was able to cobble together an answer regarding the odd number of facial scars associated with late 19th and early 20th century German and Austrian soldiers. The Dueling Scar!

Male (upper class) students who were members of fraternities of major German and Austrian universities during this time were often engaged in academic fencing which at times would, at times, become a duel between competing fraternities. These individualized duels between students eventually became a badge of honor among fraternity members – taking a blow to the face showed courage and was a lasting reminder of the fraternal bond. Since these boys were often from a higher class, it was no surprise that many eventually became officers during WWI. This act was well know during the time and eventually became banned around the time of the outbreak of the war. The ban was lifted when Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. Many of the German officers of WWII had these scars given the fact that they were in university prior to WWI.

Skip ahead to 2:50 to see the duel in action!

 

ss-hauptsturmfuhrer otto skorzeny schmiss mensur scars

Otto Skorzeny with Mensur Scar

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “WWI German Facial Dueling Scars – Mensur Scars and WWI Portraits

  1. Burschenschaften still exist today – I was recently privy to witness a duel in a frat haus: very unusual as these groups can be fairly secretive. The people I have met in 12 years in Germany are conservative at the very least and sometimes fairly right-wing. A recent incident in Munich throws this into sharp relief – they wanted to refuse membership to a Chinese student – because he was Chinese. They claim that the banning of the groups under Hitler shows that they were a oppressed group -therefore suggestions that they are sympathetic to right-wing ideologies must be false. This overlooks the fact that they were not singled out for special treatment but rather their suppression was part of the wider policy of Gleichschaltung.

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