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A Third Reich stamp dedicated to the Reicharbeitsdienst

The Reichsarbeitsdienst (or RAD, Reich Labour Service) was an institution established by Nazi Germany as an agency to reduce unemployment, similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps of the United States. During the Second World War it was an auxiliary formation which provided support for the Wehrmacht.

The RAD was formed during July 1934 as the official state labour service. The RAD was an amalgamation of the many labour organisations formed in Germany during the times of the Weimar Republic[1]. RAD members were to provide service for various civic, military and agricultural construction projects. Konstantin Hierl was its director during the organization's entire lifetime.



RAD (House flag). The RAD symbol was known popularly as "die Kaffeebohne" (the coffee-bean)
RAD (House flag, Female Sections)

The RAD was divided into two major sections, the Reichsarbeitsdienst Männer (RAD/M) for men and the Reichsarbeitdienst der weiblichen Jugend (RAD/wJ) for women.

The RAD was composed of 40 districts each called an Arbeitsgau (lit. Work District). Each of these districts was headed by an officer with headquarters staff and a Wachkompanie (Guard Company). Under each district were between six and eight Arbeitsgruppen (Workers Groups), battalion-sized formations of 1200-1800 men. These groups were divided into six company-sized RAD-Abteilung units. Each rank and file RAD man was supplied with a spade and a bicycle. 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.


The RAD was classed as Wehrmachtgefolge (lit. Armed Forces Auxiliaries). 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.

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. 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.

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 Batteries. 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.

See also

External links


  1. ^ Hartmut Heyck, "Labour Services in the Weimar Republic and their Ideological Godparents", Journal of Contemporary History, 2003; 38: 221-236
  • Reichsarbeitsdienst
  • Kiran Klaus Patel: Soldaten der Arbeit. Arbeitsdienste in Deutschland und den USA, 1933-1945, Verlag Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2003 459 S. ISBN 3-525-35138-0.
    • English title: "Soldiers of Labor. Labor Service in Nazi Germany and New Deal America", 1933-1945, Cambridge University Press, New York 2005, ISBN 0521834163.


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