German National Labour Service -- Reichsarbietsdienst (RAD)


Figure 1.--This German youth was photographed in his RAD uniform. The image is undated, but webelive that it ws taken about 1940. HBC has other photographs of this youth, both as a younger boy and as a wounded soldier. Click on the image for more information on him.

German students and youth at age 18 years joined the German National Labour Service or Reichsarbietsdienst (RAD) where they worked for the government for 6 months. During the Weimar Republic, the Bruning Government in 1931 established work camps to house mostly young men who volunteered for labor service. The program was comparable to the Civilian Construction Corps (CCC) that was later created by the Roosevelt Administration (New Deal) in the United States. The purpose in both instances was to create jobs for unemployed youth as a result of the world-wide Depression. The NAZIs seized power in 1933 and in July 1934 established the RAD. It was expanded and made compulory in 1935. The RAD was the offical state and party labor service providing jobs for unemployeed men. Many boys then joined the military or found jobs until drafted. Others entered university. The RAD undertook the construction of Germany's innovative Autobahn system as well as other roads, land reclamation, drainage projects and soil conservation. The RAD was also helped to construct military fortifications and installations.

The Depression

Germany was hard hit by the Depression which was a major cause in the phenomenal success of the NAZI Party. Unemloyment grew in 1930 and 31. During the Weimar Republic, the Bruning Government in 1931 established work camps to house mostly young men who volunteered for labor service. The program was comparable to the Civilian Construction Corps (CCC) that was later created by the Roosevelt Administration (New Deal) in the United States. The purpose of the CCC and the Bruning effort was to create jobs for unemployed youth as a result of the world-wide Depression. Adolph Hitler had a much wider vision.

Early NAZI Party Efforts

The NAZIs focused on gaining the aliegance of jobless, disaffected young men. One effort to appeal to this group over political rivals, was to organize labor camps. Withoit Goverment finacing, their abilities were linited, but they did set up several such camps, in part using their control over local government to finance the camps. The first NAZI Volunteer Labor Service camp was opened at Hammerstein in the Grenzmark District. A few months later the Free State of Anhalt made these labor service State-wide. Hitler in 1929 appointed Konstantin Hierl to create a national uniformed labor service organised along military lines. Hierl was a respected retired officer with over 30 years military service. He served as Director of the War Academy in Munich and later at the War Ministry in Berlin. During the Spartacist insurection, Hierl raised the 'Hierl Detachment' and drove the Socialists out of Augsburg. His Nationalist sympathies were thus impecible and he was widely regarded as the perfect choice for this task.

Purpose

Hitlers interest in a German Labour Service was not just limited to allieviating unemployment or to build political support. Hitler saw a national Labor Service as a valuable tool in buiklding his New Germany. He saw manual labor as a way to break down social and class barriers and mold the character of young people. He also wanted to revive interest in the dignity of manual labour. The NAZIs had a ideological commitment to the value of mannual labor, connected with their emotial tie to the land. "Labor service," Hitler claimed "shall be the proud privilege of German Youth and shall be service to the entire Volk." Bur it was not just the political benefits and the ideological commitment to mannual labor that Hitler saw in the RAD. It further another important NAZI goal--breaking down social barriers. In the RAD, youth from middle or even upper-class families worked side by side without social destinction with youth from working-class families.

Konstantin Hierl ( -1955)

German Chancellor Brüning authorized a national work service--the Freiwilliger Arbeitsdienst (FAD) (1931). This was a voluntary labor service. Brüning chose Konstantin Hierl to head of the FAD. Hierl worked to join together the independent camps that had been established througout Germany. Hierl was also a high-ranking member of the NAZI Party. We are not sure if Chancellor Brüning knew this. He headed Organiztion Department II of the Party. When the NAZIs seized power, FAD was renamed the Nationalsozialist-Arbeitdienst (the National Socialist Labor Service (NSAD). Hierl continued in command. Hierl's work was at first complicated by foreign objectioms that the proposed Laboe Service was really desguised military conscription. He would continue to lead the agency throughout the War. Hierl became Reichsarbeitsführer and a member of the Party's ReichsIeitung as a Secretary of State. Hitler also appointed Hierl as the State Secretary for Labor Service and a member of the Reich Labor Ministry. He was ppointed Reich Labor Leader (1935), a Reichsleiter (1936), and finally a Reichsminister (1943). He survived the War and was arrested by the Allies. He was tried and found guilty of 'major offenses'. He served 5 years in a labor camp. He died (1955).

NAZI Government Program

The NAZIs seized power in 1933. Hitler appointed Hierl Secretary of State for Labor Service and the FAD program was remamed Reichsarbietsdienst (German National Labor Service, RAD) (July 1934). It was expanded on a nation-wide level and made compulory in 1935. The RAD was transferred from a NAZI Party organisation to the Supreme Reich Authority, a government agency with the authority of a Reich ministry. The 1935 law required all male Aryan Germans (17 and 25 years of age) to serve in the RAD for 6 months. Once military conscription was organized, German youth would do their RAD service before being inducted into the military.

Members

The RAD was for youths 18-25 years of age. I am not sure just how recritment worked. I believe that some youths volunteered. Others were drafted. Upon graduation at age 18, secondary students joined the RAD. Participation in the Hitler Youth and completion of the RAD requirement was necessary for university entrance. Previous to the Reich Labor Service Law, a law was passed in which military service was also made compulsory. Together, the two laws created a centralized, national and compulsory system in which all males between the ages 18 and 25 would first enter labor service for a period of 6 months, and upon completetion, enter service for a further 2 years in one of the branches of the Wehrmacht - the German Armed Forces. University students received deferments from military service, at least until the War began. Most German youth in the 1930s did not attend secondary school so they were consripted out of their jobs. Quite a number were unemployed. They worked for the government for 6 months. All the images of youth in RAD uniforms that we have found are male. There was, however also a female RAD program. The male program was the Reichsarbeitdienst Manner (RAD/M). The female program ws the Reichsarbeitdienst der weibliche Jugend (RAD/wJ).

Activities

The RAD undertook the construction of Germany's innovative Autobahn system as well as other roads, land reclamation, drainage projects and soil conservation. The RAD was also helped to construct military fortifications and installations.

Daily Schedule

According to one account, the morning began at 4:30 am when reveille was sounded. The boys then did exercizes and had a company parade. Labor assignments were from 6:40 am to 2:00 am. The afternoon was reserved for sport. An hour in the evening was designated for ideological instruction. The "Last Post" sounded at 9:30pm and lights out at 9:45pm. There may have been differences from camp to camp, but this is a good idea of the daily schedule. The boys were under strict military descipline. Boys who did not meet expectations, such as a well made bed, pr violasted camp rules would get extra assignments or be denied home leaves. They boys would parade or march to work assignments with shovels handeled like rifles. A coomand used was, "Present spades!". [Overy, pp. 464-465.]

Uniform

The RAD uniform brown, meant to sybolize working the earth. The uniform jacket or tunic was a four-pocket tunic. The collar had chocolate brown collar patches. The pants matched the jacket. There were black marching boots and a brown peaked cap with what looks like alpine styling. The tunic had two pleated patch breast pockets with button flaps. Theere were two internal skirt pockets with rounded flaps, five buttons down the front closure. All the pockets had exposed buttons. The basic uniform was the same for officers and men. Officers were identified by flared riding breeches or jodpurs and destinctive black riding boots.

World War II

Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, initiating World War II. The RAD in 1939 when the War began had an estimated strength of about 360,000. The RAD when the War began was made mobilized as an auxiliary of the German military. The RAD was used formed construction battalions needed by both the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe. After the invasion of Poland, RAD battalions were converted into pioneer groups with an average strength of 2,000 youths. They were divided into four companies and three columns. During the Polish Campaign in September and October 199 , the RAD units wre used in a variety of ways, such as buildin roads and airfields and constructing fortifications. They were also used in non-construction roles. RAD units were also used to transport supplies, collect and sort captured equipment and supplies and guard prisoners. After the victory in Poland, the RAD returned to pre-War projects. The RAD for the rest of the war was never returned to military control. Some RAD units who were deployed in combat zones were transferred to the Wehrmacht and fought as infantry. The RAD was, however, militarized and by 1943 was armed. he RAD continued working on construction projects, but they also wer given many military assignments, including laying minefields and workig on anti-tank defenses. There were many other projects assigned as war work. They worked on fire-fighting, helped clear bomb damage and construct bomb shelters as well as temporary accommodation for bombed-out civilians. Some RAD persnnel were used in actual combat roles as the War continued. They manned fortifications and anti-tank and anti-aircraft positions. As the war continued, mora and more men of younger ages were drafted into the military and the strength of the RAD was sharply reduced. We note a 1944 RAD image.

Modern German Anti-NAZI Regulations

Modern Germany has very strict regulations on NAZI paraphenalia. This means tht many images offered for sale on e-Bay can not be sold in Germany. The image here, for example, brought up this message: "Dear User: Unfortunately, access to this particular category or item has been blocked due to legal restrictions in your home country. Based on our discussions with concerned government agencies and eBay community members, we have taken these steps to reduce the chance of inappropriate items being displayed. Regrettably, in some cases this policy may prevent users from accessing items that do not violate the law. At this time, we are working on less restrictive alternatives. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience this may cause you, and we hope you may find other items of interest on eBay. Thank You."

Individual Experiences

We note a number of individuals in our biographical sections who served on the RAD. One is famed author Heinrich Böll.

Sources

Overy, Eichard. The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia (W.W. Norton, 2004), 849p.







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Created: August 3, 2002
Last updated: 11:12 PM 12/2/2017