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The Reich Labour Service
Reich Labour Service
(Reichsarbeitsdienst; RAD) was a major organisation established in Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
as an agency to help mitigate the effects of unemployment on the German economy, militarise the workforce and indoctrinate it with Nazi ideology. It was the official state labour service, divided into separate sections for men and women. From June 1935 onward, men aged between 18 and 25 had to serve six months before their military service. During World War II
World War II
compulsory service also included young women and the RAD developed to an auxiliary formation which provided support for the Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
armed forces.

RAD members working in the field, East Prussia, 1938

Contents

1 Foundation 2 Organisation 3 War 4 Ranks and insignia 5 Equipment 6 See also 7 Notes 8 References 9 External links

Foundation[edit] In the course of the Great Depression, the German government of the Weimar Republic
Weimar Republic
under Chancellor Heinrich Brüning
Heinrich Brüning
by emergency decree had established the Freiwilliger Arbeitsdienst ('Voluntary Labour Service', FAD) on 5 June 1931, two years before the Nazi Party
Nazi Party
(NSDAP) ascended to national power. The state sponsored employment organisation provided services to civic and land improvement projects, from 16 July 1932 it was headed by Friedrich Syrup
Friedrich Syrup
in the official rank of a Reichskommissar. The idea of a national compulsory service was quite popular, especially in right-wing circles, but it had little effect on the economic situation. The concept was adopted by Adolf Hitler, who upon the Nazi seizure of power in 1933 appointed Konstantin Hierl
Konstantin Hierl
state secretary in the Reich Ministry of Labour, responsible for FAD matters. Hierl was already a high-ranking member of the NSDAP and head of the party's labour organisation, the Nationalsozialistischer Arbeitsdienst or NSAD. Hierl developed the concept of a state labour service organisation similar to the Reichswehr
Reichswehr
army, with a view to implementing a compulsory service. Meant as an evasion of the regulations set by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, voluntariness initially was maintained after protests by the Geneva World Disarmament Conference. Hierl's rivalry with Labour Minister Franz Seldte
Franz Seldte
led to the affiliation of his office as a FAD Reichskommissar
Reichskommissar
with the Interior Ministry under his party fellow Wilhelm Frick. On 11 July 1934, the NSAD was renamed Reichsarbeitsdienst or RAD with Hierl as its director until the end of World War II. By law issued on 26 June 1935, the RAD was re-established as an amalgamation of the many prior labour organisations formed in Germany during the Weimar Republic,[2] with Hierl appointed as Reich Labour Leader (Reichsarbeitsführer) according to the Führerprinzip. With massive financial support by the German government, RAD members were to provide service for mainly military and to a lesser extent civic and agricultural construction projects. Organisation[edit]

RAD flag, Female Section

The RAD was divided into two major sections, one for men (Reichsarbeitsdienst Männer - RAD/M) and the voluntary, from 1939 compulsory, section for young women (Reichsarbeitsdienst der weiblichen Jugend - RAD/wJ). The RAD was composed of 33 districts each called an Arbeitsgau (lit. Work District) similar to the Gaue subdivisions of the Nazi Party. Each of these districts was headed by an Arbeitsgauführer officer with headquarters staff and a Wachkompanie (Guard Company). Under each district were between six and eight Arbeitsgruppen (Work Groups), battalion-sized formations of 1200–1800 men. These groups were divided into six company-sized RAD-Abteilung units. Conscripted personnel had to move into labour barracks. Each rank and file RAD man was supplied with a spade and a bicycle. A paramilitary uniform was implemented in 1934; beside the swastika brassard, the RAD symbol, an arm badge in the shape of an upward pointing shovel blade, was displayed on the upper left shoulder of all uniforms and great-coats worn by all personnel. Men and women had to work up to 76 hours a week. War[edit] See also: Bicycle infantry § World Wars The RAD was classed as Wehrmachtgefolge (lit. Defence Force Following). Auxiliary forces with this status, while not a part of the Armed Forces themselves, provided such vital support that they were given protection by the Geneva Convention. Some, including the RAD, were militarised. Just prior to the outbreak of World War II, nearly all the RAD/M's extant RAD-Abteilung units were either incorporated into the Heer's Bautruppen (Construction troops) as an expedient to rapidly increase their numbers or else in a few cases transferred to the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
to form the basis of new wartime construction units for that service. New units were quickly formed to replace them. During the early war Norwegian and Western campaigns, hundreds of RAD units were engaged in supplying frontline troops with food and ammunition, repairing damaged roads and constructing and repairing airstrips. Throughout the course of the war, the RAD were involved in many projects.[3] The RAD units constructed coastal fortifications (many RAD men worked on the Atlantic Wall), laid minefields, manned fortifications, and even helped guard vital locations and prisoners.

RAD members digging a trench for a RAD flak battery in March 1945

The role of the RAD was not limited to combat support functions. Hundreds of RAD units received training as anti-aircraft units and were deployed as RAD Flak
Flak
Batteries.[3] Several RAD units also performed combat on the eastern front as infantry. As the German defences were devastated, more and more RAD men were committed to combat. During the final months of the war RAD men formed 6 major frontline units, which were involved with serious fighting. On the western front RAD troops were used as reinforcements to the 9th SS Engineer Abt (SS-Captain Moeller) in the fighting to retake the northern end of the Arnhem bridge from British Paratroopers under Col. Frost. This action was during Operation Market-Garden in September 1944. It was noted that the RAD troops had no combat experience. SS-Captain Moeller's report concluded: "These men were rather sceptical and reluctant at the beginning, which was hardly surprising. But when they were put in the right place they helped us a lot; and in time they integrated completely, becoming good and reliable comrades." Losses for these troops were in the hundreds.[4] Ranks and insignia[edit] Further information: Ranks and insignia of the Reichsarbeitsdienst Equipment[edit]

Luger pistol Gewehr 98 Stielhandgranate Model 39 grenade Schiessbecher Panzerfaust Sturmpistole Panzerbüchse 39 MP 3008 Einstossflammenwerfer 46 MG 08 Schwarzlose machine gun Teller mine S-mine Stock mine Schu-mine 42 Glasmine 43 Abwehrflammenwerfer 42 Topfmine Riegel mine 43 2 cm Flak
Flak
30/38/Flakvierling Volkswagen Kübelwagen Opel Blitz Mercedes-Benz L3000 Krupp Protze SdKfz 2 M42 Truppenfahrrad

See also[edit]

Bevin Boys Deutscher Aufbaudienst Organisation Todt Forced labour under German rule during World War II Labour Army Labour battalion Assault pioneer Construction soldier (East Germany) Work Order Act

Notes[edit]

^ Nominally. ^ Hartmut Heyck, "Labour Services in the Weimar Republic
Weimar Republic
and their Ideological Godparents", Journal of Contemporary History, 2003; 38: 221-236 ^ a b McNab 2009, p. 55. ^ Moeller 'Die Schlacht um Arnheim-Oosterbeek. Der Einsatz des Pionier Battalion 9 Hohenstaufen vom 17. bis 26. September 1944.

References[edit]

Kiran Klaus Patel: Soldaten der Arbeit. Arbeitsdienste in Deutschland und den USA, 1933-1945, Verlag Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2003. ISBN 3-525-35138-0. English edition: "Soldiers of Labor. Labor Service in Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
and New Deal America", 1933–1945, Cambridge University Press, New York 2005, ISBN 0-521-83416-3. McNab, Chris (2009). The Third Reich. Amber Books. ISBN 978-1-906626-51-8. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Reich Labour Service
Reich Labour Service
at Wikimedia Commons The German Reichsarbeitsdienst

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WorldCat Identities VIAF: 156484921 LCCN: n81009634 ISNI: 0000 0001 1958 5270

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