Reich Arbeits Dienst
(Reich Labour Service)

Every German male was required, upon completion of high school to enter the Reich Arbeits Dienst (RAD).   Apparently there were exceptions, as Siegfried Knappe tells us in his book SOLDAT:

We all stared silently into the fire a moment.  One more day, and then we would have to take up our new adult lives.  I would be leaving for the Labor Service, Friedrich would be entering the Army (by agreeing to become an officer candidate after his first year in the Army, he had avoided Labor Service.)

While officially the RAD was intended to put all German male youth to useful work after finishing school, it was in reality pre-military training and indoctrination.  The following photos show how militarized the regimen was.

(Note the similarity to a military uniform; including the tunic hook on the man at left.  One pattern of tunic worn by RAD men was identical to the Army Feldbluse, with the exception of having a brown rather than dark green collar.radm36.gif (4498 bytes)radbelt.jpg (7266 bytes)
Military styled RAD belt buckle, complete with leather tab

There were uniforms....
radguys.jpg (34322 bytes)

drlbad.jpg (10049 bytes)
DRL Sports Badge; instituted in November 1933 and legalised by Adolf Hitler on 15th February 1935.
sasport.jpg (8740 bytes)
SA Sports Badge, renamed SA Military Sports Badge, with Hitler's approval in January 1939.  

...and decorations (mostly for sports)...
radmedal.jpg (25283 bytes)

radmed.jpg (28898 bytes)

...and bands...
RADband.jpg (36360 bytes)

radsong.jpg (43800 bytes)
An RAD songbook - for singing on the march.

...and marching...
radmarch.jpg (87537 bytes)


radcap.jpg (7128 bytes)
Metal Cap Badge

...and colourful uniform distinctions, as well as high-topped leather Marching Boots...
radmen.jpg (88683 bytes)

radtitl.jpg (10618 bytes)
Unit arm badge

...and formations....
radform.jpg (91985 bytes)

...and drill with "arms" the case of the RAD, spades...
radease.jpg (41338 bytes)


radknif.jpg (11816 bytes)

...and dress daggers to wear for weddings and ceremonies....
raddagger.jpg (72939 bytes) well as honour guards at those weddings.
radguard2.jpg (41571 bytes)



RAD men learned to drill - but with the spade instead of the small groups.....
radsalute.jpg (38108 bytes) formed units...
radpresent.jpg (54921 bytes)

....and in mass parades.
radparade.jpg (47296 bytes)


radgt.jpg (13662 bytes)

There was guard duty (not to mention military styled greatcoats)...whether in front of the distinctive military red/white/black sentry box.....
radguard.jpg (26115 bytes)


(While soldiers were expected to clean their rifles, an RAD man's spade was also expected to be spotlessly clean)

...or a sentry box specially painted with the RAD symbol.
radbox.jpg (39292 bytes)

radzelt.jpg (5102 bytes)
RAD pattern shelter quarter

The more military manifestations of RAD life were the field exercises such as hikes (not to mention military style equipment such as rucksacks, messtins and shelterquarters)....
radhike.jpg (65830 bytes)

(Note the men saluting with spades in the background, and the spades at right, neatly stacked as was the practice with rifles, as well as the RAD flag flying.)

radflag.jpg (4251 bytes)
radstan.jpg (8682 bytes)

....and like soldiers in the Army, RAD men swore an oath of loyalty on the unit standard.
radoath.jpg (38963 bytes)



Proud RAD men posed for photos in uniform; with equally proud sweehearts, family, or alone...
radcouple.jpg (25688 bytes) raddude.jpg (14315 bytes) radfam.jpg (12293 bytes)

radpin.jpg (7246 bytes)
Enamelled stickpin for wear with civilian clothes by malesradbrooch.jpg (7216 bytes)

...had their own special bound photo albums to keep the pictures in...
radalb.jpg (12471 bytes)

radbroach.jpg (9893 bytes)
RAD broaches for wear on civilian clothes by females
radbroach2.jpg (7267 bytes)

broochsketch.jpg (9355 bytes)

...and for some, these photos were printed on their death notices when they were later killed in action with the Army.

raddeath.jpg (63739 bytes)

The following excerpt also comes from the book SOLDAT by Siegrfried Knappe (Bantam Doubleday, 1992 ISBN 0-440-21526-9)  The photos are for illustrative purposes and are not directly related to the subject matter.

On the morning of Sunday, April 4, 1936, I woke early and with great anticipation.   I was to be at Augustus Square at nine o'clock to be transported by bus to somewhere in Bavaria, where I would serve the next six months in Reich Labor Service....At Augustus Square, I looked around at the milling crowd of young men...hoping to see a familiar face, but I saw none.  I did notice a figure in a Labor Service uniform standing near three parked buses.  Shortly before nine o'clock, he bellowed in a voice of unbelievable volume: "All right!  We are going to fill these three buses front to back.  I want every seat in the first bus full before a man sets foot in the second.  When I call out your name, get in the bus - on the double." bus.jpg (56186 bytes)

...By the time we arrived at our destination at seven o'clock, it was almost dark.  We were at the village of Burglengenfeld, near the Czechoslovakian border.  The Labor Service camp consisted of several small buildings.  The main building was a large former villa that had been remodeled to house as many as 160 boys.   As we grew quiet, the Labor Service man announced, in that awe-inspiring voice he had used in the square, "Gentlemen, the commanding officer of Burglengenfeld Labor Service Camp, Abteilungsführer Werner."  He drew himself stiffly to attention as a middle-aged man in a fancier Labor Service uniform emerged through the door behind him.

The commanding officer appeared very straight and military as he looked out over us in his neatly tailored uniform.  "Welcome to Burglengenfeld, men," he said, in a voice nearly as impressive as his subordinate's.  "Now you are proud Labor Service men."  He continued his brief prepared speech, informing us that our first four weeks would be training in military drill and only then would we be permitted to go to work for the Fatherland....

The next morning, we were rudely awakened at five-thirty by THE VOICE, bellowing with an unbelievable volume: "On your feet!"..."One person from each room go to the mess hall and get breakfast for your room," he ordered.

At promptly six-thirty, THE VOICE ordered us out into the square in front of the building.  We were divided into four squads and introduced to our squad leaders....Each of the four squad leaders selected a different spot on the soccer field, far enough apart that each could issue orders to his squad without causing confusion among the other squads.  (Squad Leader) Krupp, who seemed at ease and calm about his duties and us, was a pleasant contrast to the constantly bellowing Brandt.  He patiently taught us first how to stand at "attention," then how to space ourselves apart with an "eyes right!" maneuver.  That was followed by how to step off on our left heels at the command of "forward march," then how to react to a "squad halt" command.  We finished by learning how to do "left face," "right face," and "about face."

Finally, we were marched to the supply building and issued uniforms.  We were issued different uniforms for work, for parade, for exercising, and for sports...

In the afternoon, we attended an hour-long class, mostly on the "New Greater German Reich."

...Following the training session, we were marched back to the supply building, where we were each issued a shiny new spade...."Men," (Krupp) began, "this is the Labor Service, and this spade is the symbol of work and toil.  The spade you now hold will never touch dirt; it will be used strictly for exercise and parades.  At all times, your spade must sparkle as if it were made of chrome.  Since they are steel and not chrome, they will rust easily.  Spot inspections are to be expected."   Krupp then offered instructions on how to keep the spades clean by rubbing them with wet sand...and he advised us to work on the spade every day rather than waiting until rust built up on it.

radsports.jpg (37026 bytes)

After another hour of drill in which we were taught to march properly with the spades on our shoulders, we were finally released...

We spent the following four weeks learning military drill and routine.  An important function of the Labor Service was to free the Army from having to do this very basic type of training.  Everyone who went into Labor Service would also be drafted into the Army, and we would enter the Army already partially trained.

...At the end of the four-week training period, we were inspected by the camp commander and then released to begin our work detail.  On our first work day following our training period, we marched forty minutes to a strip coal mine with "parade spades" on our shoulders.  We fell out and stacked our parade spades, like rifles, in four-spade pyramids.  I worried about my spade, because I kept it perfectly clean.  I hated putting it in the stack with the others from my squad for fear someone would grab mine and leave his rusted one for me to clean.  We were then issued working spades.

...The final leg of Labor Service occurred with the selection of those of us who would parade at a huge political rally the government was planning to stage at Nuremberg on September 8, 1936.  The Army, the SA, the SS, the Labor Service, and the Hitler Youth were all to parade in a grand spectacle.....

Only those of us who demonstrated the greatest skill on the parade ground were selected.  To my delight, I was among the 10 percent of my Abteilung to go... Those selected to go to Nuremberg began to work less and do extra drill in preparation for the rally.  We practiced drilling by ourselves for two weeks, and then we went to Amberg for two weeks of drilling in a company-size unit...

We went to Nuremberg, which was not far away, by bus.  We arrived the day before our parade and disembarked from the buses in the city.  We marched the two miles from Nuremberg to a virtual tent city that had been erected for all of us...More than fifteen hundred tents, each accommodating six people, were arranged in neat rows, with grass streets running between the rows of tents...

radcamp.jpg (43116 bytes)

After the Nuremberg rally we finish our nearly completed tour of duty with Labor Service....on September 24, 1936, we had a discharge ceremony, ...we gave back our uniforms, put on our old civilian clothes, received our final pay, and were released to go home.  Although we had been brought to Burglengenfeld by chartered bus, we were trusted to return on the train by ourselves.

Three weeks later...I boarded the train that would take me from Leipzig to Jena, some forty miles away, to begin my new life as a soldier in the artillery.