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Yes! Nazi polar bears WERE a thing – thank you for asking…

Have a peak at Jean-Marie Donat’s incredible collection

Some things need no explanation, Nazi polar bears are one of them…

Nazi polar bear
Wehrmacht officers pose for a snap with a polar bear

A bizarre trend for posing with men dressed up in polar bear costumes raged in Germany during the first half of the 20th century. Even Wolfenstein couldn’t think up Nazi polar bears, proving yet again that fact is stranger than fiction.

Nazi polar bear
A formal celebration is gatecrashed by a polar bear

It appears that the polar bear was a somewhat inexplicable mascot for the Fanta drink. Fanta traces its origins from within Nazi Germany due to a shortage of the supplies needed to make Coca-Cola during the war years (notably a trade embargo on syrup from the United States).

‘People need a reason to have their picture taken, and a bear is a damn good reason.’
KLAUS PETER SPEIDEL

Nazi polar bear
Amused children gather round for a picture

More than two hundred intriguing snapshots taken by street photographers between the end of the First World War and the late 1960s. These prints were discovered by collector Jean-Marie Donat in various regions of Germany. 
Anonymous models pose next to placid, playful, sometimes disturbing ‘polar bears’: these bears traverse the decades, unchanged. The history of Germany unfolds.

Nazi polar bear
A bear cannot resist having a picture with American soldiers in post-war Germany

The pictures, particularly those from the pre-war years have a grim foreshadowing of the horrors soon to be unleashed on the world. Pictures of smiling soldiers, families and children are a sometimes uncomfortable reminder that those who elevated the Nazis to power were normal, ordinary people. The polar bears began to disappear in the sixties and now remain consigned to the more bizarre pages of the history books.

Nazi polar bear
A young German girl smiles with a Nazi polar bear

The incredible collection has been put together for a book, TEDDYBÄR. The book has been released by Innonces Publishing and has a limited print run of 500. Click here to purchase or for more information.

All pictures are copyright of Jean-Marie Donat.

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Written by MarkCross

Assignment Editor for Press On This. Twitter @MarkCrossPOT

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