Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Reichsarbeitsdienst für die weibliche Jugend (RADwJ)

State Labor Corps – Reichsarbeitsdienst

On June 5, 1931, a two full years before the NSDAP party arose into power, the Weimar Republic was in a great depression and unemployment was rampant.

Chancellor Heinrich Brüning issued an emergency decree establishing the “Freiwilliger Arbeitsdienst” ('Voluntary Labor Service', FAD) for the men and the Freiwilliger Frauenarbeitsdienst for the women.  

In 1933, the then State Secretary of the Reich Ministry of Labor, Konstantin Hierl, was responsible for all FAD matters. Hierl was already a high-ranking member of the NSDAP and head of the party's labor organization, the "Nationalsozialistischer Arbeitsdienst" or NSAD. Hierl developed the concept of a state labor service organization similar to the Reichswehr army, with a view to implementing a compulsory service.
Following a law enacted on June 26 1935, the RAD moved from being a voluntary service to becoming compulsory. All German men between the ages of 18 – 25 were obligated to serve in the RAD for six month before enlisting in military services. It would not be until September 1939 that this law would become universally enforced.

On July 11, 1934, the NSAD was renamed "Reichsarbeitsdienst" (RAD, "Reich Labor Service")  with Hierl as its director until the end of World War II. This agency will help to mitigate the effects of unemployment on the German economy, militarize the workforce, and indoctrinate its members in the National Socialistic ideology. It was the official state labor service, divided into two sections: one for men (RAD/M) and one for the women (RADwJ).
RADwJ 1/142 Dumzin, Germany - 1941
In 1934, there were 7,347 women in RADwJ. These women worked in agriculture, forestry, economics, and horticulture. They also participated as maid cattle breeders/caretakers in the country.

RADwJ 1/142 Dumzin, Germany
Kindergarten Class 1941

Although the National Socialistic view of the women’s place centered on domesticity, female RAD members were also employed on farms and for community service such as caring for the elderly and for children. Generally, the women’s branch of the RAD was not a highly disciplined organization, being fairly relaxed and sociable. A full-time career as a permanent member of the RAD was also open to young women from the ages of 20 – 25.
Women in RADwJ had to be at least 20 years old and serve for a period of six months. The women worked for 12 hours a day and up to 76 hours a week. They served mostly in agriculture but also in various industries.  Those women who chose to continue their service in the RADwJ went on to achieving a high-raking command position. The women received a daily wage of 0.20 RM per day (about 0.04 cents an hour, or about 50 cents in today’s US dollar).

In 1937, there were about 25,000 Arbeitsmaiden
 On March 12, 1938, Austria was annexed into Germany. By October, it was mandatory for all men and women ages 17 – 25 to join RAD. The male youth were used mainly for land reclamation, road construction, and forest operations while the women worked exclusively in agriculture.

On September 1, 1939, World War II began and by 1940, about 50k women are serving in the RADwJ.

The first major change came in 1941 when a “Führer Decree” introduced the concept of Auxiliary War Service (Kriegshilfdienst) for RAD women. In many cases, this service was restricted to serving as factory workers in firms whose business was contributing to the war effort (munitions factories, etc.), or serving in essential civilian jobs such as auxiliary hospital staff, postal workers, bus or tramcar conductresses, and railway workers, etc. Auxiliary formations were developed which provided support for the Wehrmacht armed forces. Many RADwJ women served with the Aircraft Reporting Service of the Luftwaffe as Flakhelferinnen. 
RADwJ Women making gas masks
© Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz/ Germin
By special decree dated June 29, 1941, the service was for a period of six months (Reich Law Gazette I, p. 491). With the introduction of the “War Relief Service,” service was extended to a period of 12 months. By this time, there were over 130k women and by 1942, there were over 150k women serving in the RADwJ.

Those that chose to work in the RAD Lager (Camps), worked on the farms as assistants, nannies, teachers, and were also domestic helpers in families who had many children.  These camps were located in rural and scenic settlements mainly in old school buildings, manor homes, or palaces.
RAD Lager 1/142 - Dumzin, Germany
Palace Domacyno
Domacyno, Poland
Each camp held about 40 women.
Thirty-three were regular helpers (Arbeitsmaiden):

Three were of higher ranks (Kameradschaftsältesten)

While 3 were nurses (Gesundheitshelferin),

And one Camp Leader (Lagerführerin) - here she is teaching class

The camp leaders and nurses received a regular salary while the Arbeitsmaiden received 0.20 RM per day.



There were thirteen RADwJ districts. The first German town is the name of the district, followed by the seat (location) of the district headquarters. Later on, another 20 districts were added to conform to the male RAD/M districts.

 1 Ostpreußen - Königsberg in Preußen
 2 Pomerania - Stettin
 3 Nordmark - Schwerin in Mecklenburg
 4 Kurmark - Berlin
 5 Schlesien - Breslau
 6 Mitteldeutschland - Weimar
 7 Sachsen - Dresden
 8 Niedersachsen - Hannover
 9 Westfalen - Dortmund
 10 Koblenz - Rheinland
 11 Hessen - Wiesbaden
 12 Südwestdeutschland - Stuttgart
 13 Bayern – München
Working Dress: The basic dress of a RADwJ was their working blue dress, white apron, and a red scarf.


Service Dress: The RADwJ service dress consisted of a jacket, blouse, skirt, shoes, and a fedora hat. The uniform jacket was a single-breasted tunic style garment cut from light brown wool, with a contrasting dark brown collar, four front buttons, and a matching cloth waist belt with a rectangular buckle made from horn or wood. The jacket skirt had two internal pockets with slanted external buttoned flaps. Leadership ranks had aluminum or gold-colored cord piping to the collar depending upon the rank grouping.  The skirt was cut from the same brown wool as the jacket, and could be either plain or with two front pleats. The blouse was white and worn under the jacket, buttoned up at the neck. It was not worn with a necktie as with the BDM girls.  Both long and short-sleeved models were used.  The short sleeve version could be worn without a jacket in the summer months. In place of a necktie was a brooch worn at the base of the throat.  The design differed accordingly to rank. The hat featured a green hatband onto which was pinned, on the right side, a badge in silver or gold colored metal depending upon the rank.

Insignia: The insignia was worn on the upper left sleeve. It was in the shape of a shield and machine woven. The field was brown with a black outer edge. In the upper portion was a white disc bearing a swastika over a chevron formed from ears of barley, all in black. Below this was a Roman number indicating the area of the wearer.  This number and the inner border just inside the black edging were in white for junior grades, silver for an officer grade, and gold for the most senior position. 

Brooch: The brooches were designed by Egon Jantke. It was worn at the neck and was made from stamped sheet metal. Various patterns existed. Some were introduced after the outbreak of the war and fall into two basic patterns.  The first was worn by auxiliaries between the ages of 18 and 21. These were circular with the regulation swastika over ears of barley, all on a pebbled field.  The border, in conjunction with the brooch color, indicated the wearer’s rank as follows:

Arbeitsmaiden – iron color, smooth border

Kameradschaftsälteste – iron color, ribbed border

Jungführerin – bronze color, smooth border

Maidenunterführerin – bronze color, ribbed border

Maidenführerin – bronze color, roped border

Maidenoberführerin – silver color, ribbed border

Maidenhauptführerin – silver color, roped border

Stabsführerin – gold color, smooth border

Stabsoberführerin – gold color, ribbed border

Stabshauptführerin – gold color, roped border


Those who served after a full year but did not yet hold a leadership rank, were permitted to wear a membership brooch in a grey color metal, with the usual central motif but with the edging bearing the inscription “Reichsarbeitsdienst weibliche Jugend.”

Another brooch is known to be round in shape with the swastika in the center surrounded not only by the ears of barley, but also whole stalks on a textured background. The flat edge bore in the old German Sütterlin script: “Arbeit für den Volk, Adelt dich Selbst, Deutscher Frauenarbeitsdienst,” (Work for our People, Enoble Yourselves, German Women’s Labor Service).  Nothing else is known about these brooches except that these brooches bear serial numbers suggesting they were a form of an award whose issue was regulated.

The badge was worn on the upper left sleeve. An example here gives the insignia as a "Gesundheitsdienst". The stripes (two 10 mm wide brown) are rank insignia for "Lagergehilfin" (later for Jungführerin). The one stripe was for "Kameradschaftsälteste". On 30 September 1943 these rings were replaced by a 70 mm long grey bar with zig-zag pattern (1 or 2, according to rank).

Cap Badges: The cap badges were made from metal and worn on the band of the fedora.  This featured the swastika and ears of barley motif in a circular frame, the field normally being pierced out. It was in iron color for Arbeitsmaid and Kamaradschaft, in bronze for the Jungführerin and Maidenunterführerin, silver for the Maidenoberführerin and Maidenhauptführerin. Gold color was for the rank of Stabsführerin to Stabshauptführerin. The rank of the Maidenführerin wore an embroidered version of this badge, in bronze color wire.
 Wartime Special Badge:
In July 1941, a special badge to recognize service as a wartime helper was introduced. This consisted of a swastika over a chevron formed by two ears of barley. Over this chevron was draped a scroll bearing the initials RADwJ (Reichsarbeitsdienst weibliche Jugend – State Labor Service Female Youth).

Piping: The rank of the Maidenunterführerin wore silver/black mixed cord piping to the collar. This eventually changed to a plain silver cord for the ranks of Maidenführerin. Gold was for the rank of Stabsführerin to Stabshauptführerin. 
The standard RAD jacket when worn by women serving as drivers featured a dark green rather than a dark brown contrasting collar.

In late 1943, the specialist leader (Sonderführer) role was introduced. Three grades equivalent to the lower, middle, and higher specialist careers found in the military were Sonderführerin “U,” “M,” and “H,” for Unten, Mittel, Hoche (Lower, middle, high).

The Unten Sonderführerin wore a brown/red mixed cord collar piping and a bronze brooch with a silver border. The Mittel Sonderführerin wore a silver/red collar cord and a silver brooch, and the Hoche Sonderführerin wore a gold/red collar cord and a gold brooch with silver borders.
Cuff Rings: Somewhat analogous to the ‘command’ rings of military auxiliaries, female RADwJ members with the rank of Kameradschaftsälteste wore a single 10 mm wide brown cuff ring on both sleeves, while the Jungführerinnen wore two such rings. These cuff rings were replaced in 1943 with short gray braid stripes on a brown base. 
In 1944, a change was introduced for NCO equivalent grades specifically serving with Flak units. The rank of Kameradschaftälteste was changed to Obermaid and the rank of Jungführerin to Hauptmaid.

Late in the war, a ‘battledress blouse’ type jacket was introduced for women RAD personnel. This short, single-breasted, waist-length garment had six front buttons and two patch breast pockets with buttoned flaps. The sleeve cuffs were also adjustable, with button fastening. The usual RAD badge was worn on the left upper sleeve. The skirt worn with this jacket had two-pleat front and two slanted side pockets. This basic uniform was the same as that issued to military auxiliaries; however, the RAD version was not announced until February 1945. What level of issue was achieved is unknown.

In many cases, female RAD personnel wore the uniforms of the service with which they were serving as auxiliaries. In some cases, such as factory workers, this would be a simple overall.  In other cases, such as railway guards/conductors or postal service workers, the full uniform of that service would be worn but with the Kriegshilfdienst badge displaced on the lapel. A cuff band with the inscription “RAD Kriegshilfdienst” was also worn on some occasions, and an armband “Kriegshilfdienst/des Reichsarbeitsdienst’ is also known to have been used.  Female RAD personnel serving with the Luftwaffe Flak units wore the standard Luftwaffe auxiliary’s uniform, but with the RAD sleeve patch.

Source:  Gordon Williamson – Osprey Publishing

To order a copy of World War II German Women’s Auxiliary Services:

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