All work and no play

The third man from the right in the photo, standing slightly higher than the others, is Generalarbeitsführer Hans Baumann. The rather cumbersome title translates as “general work leader”, the equivalent of an Army Generalmajor. He’s an officer of the Reichsarbeitsdienst, the National Labor Service. The other uniformed people in the photo are a gaggle of RAD officers, as well as a black-uniformed Allgemeine-SS lieutenant and a portly Nazi Party official. The photo is probably from around 1937 or 1938, as evidenced by the “Deutsche Wehrmacht” armband worn by the RAD Arbeitsführer (major) and the black SS uniform. The location is probably München (Munich).

Hans Baumann was born in 1875 and joined the Bavarian army in 1894 after the completion of his studies. He rose in the ranks, and served as a battalion commander in Bavarian reserve infantry regiments during World War 1. Baumann was a member of the paramilitary Freikorps Epp during the unrest after the war. In 1919 he joined a small party on the extreme right, the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (German Workers’ Party). Another war veteran who joined the party was a certain A. Hitler, who quickly emerged as a prominent orator. The DAP soon became the NSDAP, and the march towards the pinnacles of power began. History had taken a dark turn.

Hans Baumann had been discharged from the army, which was to be severely reduced in accordance with the Versailles Treaty. He worked as a farmer, but he had a second career as a politician and regional leader in the Freiwilligen Arbeitsdienst, the forerunner to the RAD. He became a member of the Reichstag (parliament) in 1933, a position he held until 1945. Baumann was promoted to Obergeneralarbeitsführer in 1940, making him one of the 20 or so highest ranking officers of the RAD in the Third Reich. While being one of the old guard, it appears like he wasn’t prosecuted after the war, and seems to have faded into obscurity. He died in 1951, aged 76, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was an unrepentant Nazi to the very end. Today he is all but forgotten.


This is Hans

Hans serves in the Reichsarbeitsdienst, the National Labor Service, which was compulsory before getting conscripted into the army. Six months of living in barracks, digging ditches and building roads, and in some cases serving abroad as auxiliary troops. Hans looks like a proper Nazi with his swastika armband, but the armband was part of the RAD uniform, and not a sign of Party membership. For all we know, he couldn’t have cared less for the Nazis. In fact, no Army troops, nor Waffen-SS wore swastika armbands. That was a feature of Party-affiliated organizations like the Hitler-Jugend, RAD, SA, and Allgemeine SS. The sleeve patch over the swastika armband has the number “353”, which means that he belongs to the 353rd Arbeitsgruppe in Wien-Niederdonau district, Austria. An Arbeitsgruppe was made up from 1,200 to 1,800 men. This dates the photo as from 1938 or later.

He wears the earth-brown uniform of the RAD, an M35 helmet, the cow-hide backpack called “Affe” (“monkey”, due to the hairs being left on) with a rolled, dark brown greatcoat strapped to it. The round, metal gas mask case is just visible, while the long bayonet can be spotted by his left leg. Not visible are his bread bag, water bottle and mess kit. The spade usually seen together with the bayonet is probably replaced by the longer RAD equivalent. His rifle is a WW1-vintage Mauser Gewehr 98, which had been replaced in the Army by the Mauser Kar98k, but which apparently saw continued service in rear area units.

On the back of the photo, Hans has inked in neat handwriting “Zum Gedenken an Euren Neffen Hans.” (“In memory of your nephew Hans.”) This doesn’t mean that he had been killed; ” zum Gedenken” and “zu Erinnerung” are common wordings on photos intended for sweethearts, family and relatives. In the case of death, it was more common for the surviving family to give a way “death cards”, which were card-sized obituaries intended as mementos of the dead soldier. If Hans was lucky, he didn’t end up on one of those.

Monkey business

One of the lesser known projects in the Third Reich was the Affen-SS, or “Monkey SS”. The plan was to raise an army of trained monkeys and apes in order to deal with the Army’s human manpower shortages. A series of special firearms was developed, like the poo-flinging MP-42 “Scheisser” SMG. The appointed commander was the unusually intelligent gorilla SS-Silberrückenführer Bongo, a fanatic believer in Bananazism. The apes had to prove that they were racially pure for at least five generations back. The project collapsed when the supply of bananas and other tropical fruits was stopped by Allied attacks on German merchant ships returning from Africa.

OK, I’m just checking whether anyone actually reads my posts. The text above is complete bunk, of course. What we actually see are three Reichsarbeitsdienst youths and what appears to be a Vervet monkey. It is possible that the photo was taken in Italy, as RAD units were sent abroad, and that would explain the monkey, as Vervet monkeys can be found in (among other countries) Ethiopia, which was occupied by Italy until 1941.

Working girl

A Jungführerin of the Reichsarbeitsdienst der weiblichen Jugend (RAD/wJ, Female Youth National Labor Service) with her floppy hat and swastika-adorned brooch. At the same time that the RAD was officially established in July, 1934, it was also divided into separate sections for males and for females. The Reichsarbeitdienst Männer, or RAD/M, was set up for men, and the Reichsarbeitdienst der weiblichen Jugend, or RAD/wJ, for females. All young women between 18 and 21 years of age were expected to serve. For women the period of service had been six months since 1939, but this was often extended by an emergency service obligation. In July 1941, the service was extended by a further six months to twelve months, extended to 18 months in April 1944, and finally made indefinite in November 1944. The extra (wo)manpower gained by the extended service term of 1944 was mainly used for anti-aircraft defense.

The female RAD replaced male agricultural workers as they entered Wehrmacht service, but they also joined the workforce in offices, in the armaments industry, and in public transport. Their main tasks were to assist peasant families with childcare and as teachers or nurses, or to work in the household, in the field, or taking care of farm animals, milking cows, and so on.

The daily routine, with its detailed schedules, left the members of the RAD/wJ with little time at their own disposal and resembled that of the soldiers: not counting the lunch break, the work hours amounted to about 76 hours per week. Also, the evenings were usually planned, and with no time for activities outside of the camp; this required special permission, as in the case of the military. The RAD completely replaced the existing social environment. Thus, a collective identity was to be developed in the new “community”, indoctrinating the RAD/wJ members into the Nazi state.

Women were also able to serve as Wehrmachthelferinnen (Army female auxiliaries), like telephone operators (“Blitzmädel“). To this end, the period of service was extended by six months. From 1944 the RAD/wJ was also used for the operation of anti-aircraft searchlights in support of anti-aircraft guns and Luftwaffe nightfighter units.

The manpower shortages required that women served, just like in many other countries affected by the war. For the Nazis, women were mainly to be mothers and to take care of the household. The war production relied on slave and forced labor, which often resulted in sabotaged munitions and other war materiél. Had German women been employed earlier, the war industry might’ve run smoother.

Dressed for work

…or perhaps overdressed. With the Nazi fascination with uniforms, it seemed like half of Germany was dressed in one uniform or other. This Feldmeister (rank equal to an army second lieutenant) wears the earth-brown uniform of the Reichsarbeitsdienst (RAD; National Labor Service). The breast pocket is adorned with the Reich Sports Badge and the SA (Sturmabteilung) Sports Badge, while a NSDAP (Nazi party) members’ pin is worn by the tie knot. He carries a hanger – a heavy knife – the grip covered with deer antler and the blade etched with the RAD motto “Arbeit adelt” (“work ennobles”). The sleeve patch over the swastika armband has the number “44”, which means that he belongs to the 44th Arbeitsgruppe in Arbeitsgau IV (Pommern-Ost – Eastern Pomerania). An Arbeitsgruppe was made up from 1,200 to 1,800 men, eight of which made up an Arbeitsgau.

This guy could probably look forward to sit out the war in relative safety, tasked with training new RAD recruits before they went on to military service. As the war progressed and the situation at the fronts became more desperate, several RAD units found themselves deployed from rear-line support to more direct combat. With little or no combat training, most of them fared poorly. So, did the guy above end up at the front, or did he have connections that saved him from the fate of millions of his compatriots? The Eastern Pomerania location is bad news, as that area was overrun by the Red Army. Unless he changed to civilian clothing, or made his way west, the future looked grim…

Totally RAD

An Arbeitsmann from the Schleswig-Holstein Arbeitsgau, 76. Arbeitsgruppe, 3. Abteilung, stands among the dunes of the German North Sea coast. He wears the brown uniform of the Reichsarbeitsdienst, the State Labor Service. Basing RAD on earlier labor organizations, the Nazis made service compulsory and nationwide. Every man aged 18 to 25 had to serve for six months before they were called up for army service. Before the war, the RAD was mostly deployed in agricultural and similar projects in Germany. While not a part of the Wehrmacht as such, once WW2 began, the RAD supported the army in many capacities, like building fortifications and airfields, laying minefields, repairing roads, loading and unloading supplies, etc, from Norway to the Mediterranian Sea. Later in the war they were even deployed as troops, but with minimal military training, they didn’t do well.

By organizing the RAD, the Nazi government achieved several goals. They got a useful workforce, the men got used to work as a unit (if they hadn’t been in the Hitlerjugend already), and they were subjected to more indoctrination. The RAD was another aspect of the totalitarian state.