THE VOLKSSTURM

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The Volkssturm was formed in September 1944 by a Führer Decree and they were formed into four levies to defend German soil against an Allied invasion. The Volkssturm fought their first action at Memel in the eastern front on 7th October 1944.

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Who were the men who fought in the Volkssturm? They were not all old men as most people would think, some of them were very young indeed. Others were of normal military age, but they were in important jobs vital to the war effort, thus had been denied military service. The Volkssturm were split into four levies:

FIRST LEVY

The first Levy were mostly uniformed as such, and could be expected to stay in service for about six to eight weeks and could be sent far outside their own areas. Some units within the first Levy could actually become an official part of a Wehrmacht unit, these Volkssturm men were usually better uniformed and better armed than their counterparts in independant Volkssturm battalions. The Volkssturm had an elite unit called the “Freikorps Sauerland” which fought on the western front.

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SECOND LEVY

The second Levy were called up two or three days before their towns or villages were threatened by an invading force, these were the men who were doing vital war work and could not be released until the last moment. They also included men of a lower physical standard or of the older or younger age groups. The second Levy received their weapons a day before the enemy were at the gates, making training almost impossible. The second Levy would have very few uniformed items and not all would be armed in time.

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THIRD LEVY

The third Levy were activated hours before an enemy attacked their villages or towns. They would have no military uniforms or equipment, if they were lucky they would have been given weapons. It was men of this levy that would most likely be defending their own living rooms and kitchens from a broken window pane with their wives and grandchildren clutching to their legs.

FORTH LEVY

The forth Levy were the ones considered to be totally unfit for any military service at all. No training or weapons, most of these men would have registered on paper only. If they were called up for sevice their one military act would be to throw away their armband before the enemy entered the building. Having said that, there must have been many unrecorded acts of bravery that we will plainly never know about.

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WOMEN IN THE VOLKSSTURM

Women volunteers were taken into the Volkssturm towards the end of the war and if not official, at least on a local level. From the end of March 1945 women were allowed to carry arms and one famous Wochenschau film shows a woman firing a Panzerfaust.

VOLKSSTURM RANKS AND FORMATIONS

No Volkssturm unit was bigger than a battalion and some were only company strength, therefore there was never a rank higher than battalion commander. The battalion commander wore black collar patches with four pips on each. The four company commanders wore three pips on each collar. The platoon commanders wore two pips and the squad leaders wore one pip on each collar.

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VOLKSSTURM UNIFORMS

Most of the first Levy were given military uniforms as such, be they Army or airforce, or a mixture of both. Although some men were lucky to have a greatcoat to wear over their civilian clothes. It was common to see a Luftwaffe breast eagle on a jacket and an Army eagle on a field cap, although their removal was ordered, most Volkssturm left them on the uniform items to stress the fact that they were combat troops under military law, should they surrender to the enemy. However, all uniform jackets and greatcoats had the shoulder straps removed upon issue.

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Those members without military uniforms had the option of wearing hard wearing outdoor civilian clothing or if they had them some form of para-military uniform. The uniforms of the SA, RAD, HJ or in fact any NSDAP formation could be worn. It was however difficult to surrender wearing such a uniform as the chances of being accepted as a prisoner was very much reduced. The Soviets would kill anyone wearing a party uniform on the grounds that it was the same colour as the Soviet uniforms. Other unifoms worn were post office and railway, although any could be worn, but rank badges were ordered removed, including those of high party officials.

All of the Volkssturm wore an armband and this is what identified even those in civilian clothing as members of the Volkssturm. The armband was supposed to protect the Volkssturm man when surrendering, although many Volkssturm were shot out of hand, even on the western front. The armband came in three types, black lettering on a white background, black writing on a yellow background and a printed version in all three national colours, black, white and red. All the armbands served the same purpose and contained the same text “DEUTSCHER VOLKSSTURM WEHRMACHT”.

FATE OF THE VOLKSSTURM

No two unit histories are the same, some surrendered as soon as they could, whilst others fought on until the last man, their deeds going unrecorded. In general terms it can be safely said that if a Volkssturm man could fire his Panzerfaust, tank hit or not, if he could fire twelve rifle rounds in the direction of the enemy then he was doing good. Many had served in the 1914-1918 war and as such, knew how to survive if the gods allowed them a chance.

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This Volkssturm Battalion Commander fought to the death…

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Published in: on September 6, 2016 at 7:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

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