Volkssturmmann

Volkssturm marching, November 1944.

Volkssturmmann was a paramilitary rank of the Volkssturm, the German militia created to defend the German homeland in the last months of World War II. The rank of Volkssturmmann carried no special uniform or insignia and the title was merely held by any person who was drafted to serve in the Volkssturm. The next senior rank of Volkssturmmann was that of Gruppenführer (Corporal).

Volkssturm armband.

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Volkssturmmann with Panzerschreck, Berlin, April 1945.

History

Nazi Germany’s last-ditch effort to defend the fatherland during World War II was dependent on the Volkssturm ranks. The Volkssturm, or “people’s storm” took any able body, man or boy, ages 15–65. In most cases, the Volkssturm was elderly men and Hitler Youth fanatics. Unfortunately, for Nazi Germany, the Volkssturm was an ineffective force that was inadequately equipped, trained or disciplined.

In the closing months of World War II, the Volkssturm forces were most prominent along the defenses at the Rhine River and during the Battle of Berlin. Even though the use of the Volkssturm was a clear indication of a defeated nation, Nazi propaganda glorified the “people’s storm” as a force that would turn the tide in the war effort. Hitler would proclaim that although the once vast Nazi empire had diminished the fatherland could never be penetrated. Joseph Goebbels also contributed heavily to Nazi propaganda. Goebbel’s numerous speeches and opportunistic outlook called upon the German people to take up arms during the last months of World War II.

Gruppenführer (1), Zugführer (2), Kompanieführer (3), Bataillonsführer (4).

The Volkssturm’s main objective was to halt the advance of allied forces. During the last months of World War II, the western front faced American and British forces while the eastern front faced the Soviet army. By 1945, both western and eastern fronts had reached or entered the German homeland. Since the Volkssturm’s goal was to halt the advance of enemy infantry and armored forces, the Volkssturmmann was trained to use the Panzerfaust, an anti-tank weapon, and the machine gun. The use of these weapons was simple and required little training. Furthermore, the panzerfaust and machine gun were some of the last munitions that the German war machine had in vast supply.

Although glorified by the Nazi Party as the defenders of the fatherland, the Volkssturm was Germany’s failed attempt to replenish their depleted forces. Grandfathers and boys took up arms and fought to the death under the belief that, in the last months of the war, final victory was still possible. This disillusionment continued the war and established the Volkssturmmann as the people’s army.

Gravestone of a young Volkssturmmann in Berlin, killed in action on April 30, 1945.
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