Origins of the Volkssturm concept

The Volkssturm was formally established in October 1944. However, within the traditions of German military history, the concept of a militia was far from new, especially in the guise of the Landsturm of 1813-14.


The origins of the Volkssturm, namely a militia composed of those too young, old or infirm to serve in the field, yet capable of bearing arms, lay far further back in Prussian/German history than is often realised.

In the early 18th century Prussian Army the lowest category of troops were the Garrison Regiment, essentially composed of men regarded as no longer capable of field service who were entrusted with guarding fortresses. The lowest calibre of such were the New Garrison Regiments (Neue garnisonregimenter), later Land regiments (Landregimenter), raised only in wartime from men even less able to perform field duty, many being merely impressed peasants with little knowledge of military affairs. Five regiments existed, the New Garrison Regiment and others numbered 1-4, for garrisoning Berlin, Konigsberg, Magdeburg and Stettin respectively. The New Garrison Regiment had its antecedents as far back as 1718, although Frederick the Great only formally raised it and its 4 fellow regiments in 1742. One may judge their quality by the comments of the Queen in April 1745 when the garrison regiment of Major-General v. Kraatz was ‘guarding’ Berlin, for the men were ‘…no longer the veteran troops, but simply whatever peasants could be rounded up from the neighbouring villages. They make a laughable sight when they mount guard, for they wear their own coats or sometimes just their smocks’.

Of a lower calibre even than the Landregiments were the Militia, which was first embodied in mid-1757 between May and August, when the Russians threatened invasion from the East (echoes of 1944-45). Twelve battalions were raised in Pomerania, three each in Neumark, Kurmark and Magdeburg. However, this was as much to deny the Russians prospective recruits as to form effective units, thus far removed from the popular spirit that animated the true forebears of the Volkssturm, the Landsturm of the War of Liberation of 1813-14.

Landsturm 1813-1918

Re-enforced by the events of the French Revolution, the established ancién regime preferred reliance on regular troops, concerned for the prospect of putting weapons in the hands of the populace. However, the sweeping victory of Napoleonic France over all armies of continental Europe by 1808 put into context the apparent success of popularist uprisings in Iberia against the French occupiers began to promote the concept of calling upon the whole nation for liberation from occupation.

The term and concept of the Landsturm first appeared in the Austrian Tirol in 1809. It was subsequently created in Prussia in 1813 and included all men from 15 to 60 years of age capable of bearing arms and not serving in the army or the Landwehr. According to a German law of 1888 the Landsturm included all males from 17 to 45 years of age liable to military service but not in active service. In Austria-Hungary the Landsturm included all those from 19 to 42 years of age. By a law of 1935 Germany enrolled in the Landsturm all those 45 to 55 years of age with military obligations (the Landsturm existed up the the outbreak of war in 1939). The concept of the Landsturm has been preserved in Switzerland to this day.


King Frederick William III of Prussia established the Prussian Landsturm as an irregular paramilitary force on 21st April 1813 by royal edict – the decree appeared in the Preussische Gesetzesammlung (Prussian Code of Law). The 1813 edict called for resistance "by any means" against the Napoleonic invasion. The Landsturm was essentially a local defence force consisting of all the remaining male population capable of fighting. Their initial role was to defend their villages against the French, to round up stragglers and deserters, and to hinder the movement of supplies by the enemy. The Landsturm would ultimately see combat on a number of occasions.

According to the original royal Landsturm edict, all Prussian citizens were obliged to oppose the invasion by the enemy using any weapons available, like axes, pitchforks, scythes or shotguns. All Prussians were further encouraged to not obey orders by the enemy, but rather to make themselves a nuisance to the Napoleonic troops however possible. However, this was a clear departure from ordinary jus in bello (Law of War), which commanded the civilian population to obey the orders of the occupying power, and the police forces to assist the occupying power in crushing any uprising.

Concerned that this would result in little more than banditry, the edict was modified less than three months later on 17th July 1813 and was purified of its socially subversive content relative to the laws of war. The war then took place according to the standard rules of conventional warfare. This concern for legitimacy was later reflected in the establishment of the Volkssturm to ensure its members were not treated as partisans.

Initially the Landsturm wore civilian clothing, being distinguished by nothing more than white armbands. Later they wore either the Litvka of the Landwehr or when not available, any available military clothing. Comparisons with the Volkssturm are remarkable.

The Landsturm was raised as a result of a call given on 21st April 1813 for all men capable of fighting, 40 years and over, to belong to the Landsturm. They were only to be used in cases of extreme need in areas threatened by the French, and as a defense against marauders and Cossacks. It was only to be used for defensive purposes. The publishing of this call is attributable to the efforts of Gneisenau. Ernst Moritz Arnt wrote: ‘This Landsturm only rises up if the enemy is there, or really near; when the dangers is by, each goes , as it pleases him, back to his house, work, business.’

The formation of Landsturm units was widespread, although not always enthusiastic: the Polish inhabitants of West Prussia tended to either disappear into the great forests or go off to Warsaw.

Both foot and mounted Landsturm units were formed. Each battalion consisted of four companies each of 100 men, and the companies were of four platoons each. The mounted men were formed, where possible, into squadrons of 100 men, each of three platoons. For every 400 men a commander was chosen and he was transferred to the gendarmerie as a pensioned or half-pay officer. State officials were generally appointed as officers and NCO’s. Thus the Landsturm took the character of a police troop.

In respect of weapons, anything went. In the “Kurzen Anleitung zum Exerciren des Landsturm” (Short Introduction to the drilling of the Landsturm), it was stated that the weapons of the Landsturm should consist of: (a) as many guns as are available, (b) pikes for both cavalry and infantry, and (c) sabers and pistols for the cavalry. It was also stated that the first rank should be armed with guns, the second with pikes. But every possible weapon was used; those on horse-back also had axes, while those on foot had axes, pitchforks, spears, cudgels, scythes, iron bars, clubs, etc. the NCO’s had pikes. Every man had to provide his own weapons and ammunition.

The Landsturm were not permitted to wear uniforms so as to avoid detection by the French. However the ‘Hauptleute’ (Infantry captains) and ‘Rittmeister’ (Cavalry captains) were ordered to wear a black and white band on the right arm, and the lieutenants on the left. Men of standing in the local community were to be the officers. The rank-and-file just wore their everyday clothes – shirt, trousers, clogs or shoes, and possibly a jacket or coat (of the ‘Lithewka’ style). Equipment was whatever each man brought – a bread-bag, knapsack and water-bottle. It was not unknown however for Landsturm units to wear some sort of indication of their status. For example, the Graefin Schwerin described the Landsturm she saw in 1813 as wearing a red mark on the sleeve of their Sunday-coats which indicated the battalion they were in.

The ‘Buergergarde’ of 17th July 1813 stated that no proper Landsturm should be formed in the major towns but rather citizens’ companies or battalions belonging to the Landwehr. Their duty was to fight in defense of their town. In the cases where such units had already been formed, they were to join the relevant companies or battalions and were allowed to retain their uniforms.

The Potsdam Garrison, 23rd April – 2nd May 1945

As Soviet forces enveloped Berlin, Potsdam became a final rallying point for retreating German forces. Unlike those trapped in Berlin, the entire force was able to link up with General Walther Wenck’s 12th Army and escaped west across the Elbe.

The Potsdam battle narrative is best commenced on 23rd April 1945 when Lieutenant-General Helmuth Reymann, until that date commander of the Berlin Defence Area, was dismissed for telling the truth as regards reality and was instead given command of the Potsdam Garrison, which now gained the grandiose title of “Armeegruppe Spree”. The expectation was that Potsdam, several miles to the west of Berlin, would become the link to the approach of relief forces from the west in the form of Wenck’s 12th Army, which Hitler fantasised would save Berlin. In the event Potsdam became a brief rallying point for various formations escaping the Soviet steamroller, which were subsequently lucky enough to indeed link with Wenck and escape west.

The City of Potsdam itself had been devastated by the last major area bombing raid of Bomber Command when, on the night of 14th – 15th April, 500 Lancaster’s and 12 Mosquitos of Numbers 1, 3 and 8 Groups had left the historic centre smashed to rubble and 5000 civilians thousand dead. Even Churchill was shocked, he wrote to the Minister of Air, Sir Archibald Sinclair on 19th April, asking “What was the point of going and blowing down Potsdam”. The only response Air Marshall Sir Charles Portal, Air Marshall Sir Arthur Harris’s commander, could offer was to confirm Harris had been explicitly ordered to finally cease area assaults on German cities, implicitly accepting it was long passed being appropriate to continue, albeit a day late for the 5,000 civilians, the Baroque and Rococo centre of Potsdam and the historic records of the Prussian Army. Indeed, only a few days prior to the raid the Swedish Red Cross had recognised Potsdam as a refugee city (it housed some 30,000 civilians who had fled the eastern provinces alongside 37,000 normal inhabitants) as it had not been subject to a single bombing attack throughout the war given its only claim to military significance was being home to the historic records of the Prussian Army up to 1919 (most of which was burnt that night).

However, Potsdam’s defensive strength lies in the fact it is almost an island surrounded by vast expanses of rivers, canals and lakes. Thus Reymann, despite facing substantive elements of the Soviet 3rd Guards Tank Army, having blown all the relevant bridges, was able to maintain an effective defence until an avenue of escape was opened by Wenck.

The formations Reymann found awaiting him in Potsdam were a mix bunch indeed, amounting in total to two understrength divisions. The total number of troops under Reymann’s command varies depending upon the source, from a low of 15,000 up to a maximum of 22,000.

Division Potsdam:

The original Potsdam Garrison was commanded by Oberst Lux (who boasted a prosthetic arm and glass eye), who was the City’s Kampfkommandant. His garrison included:

Various battalions of Potsdam Volkssturm, the Potsdam Police Units, Potsdam’s Hitler Youth, a distinct Volkssturm-Battalion from Pomerania, crew and personnel from the nearby airfield at Gatow and the Luftwaffen-Lazarett Werder (hospital), and Sturmgeschutz-Brigade 234 under Hauptmann Rubig, which just happened to be there in the process of constitution with 6-8 Sturmgeschuts III, and the 9th Infantry Regiment Ersatzbataillon (an understrength training battalion of approximately 300 seventeen years olds, with a platoon of officer cadets acting as NCO’s under the command of a regular army lieutenant). These various units are sometimes collectively referred to as the “Division Potsdam” or “Potsdam Garrison”.

The only element that could be described as “artillery” were a handful of light Heimat flak elements in the form of 20mm and 37mm guns.

Friedrich Ludwig Jahn RAD Division:

Retreating from the east came the battered remains of the Friedrich Ludwig Jahn RAD Division (Reichsarbeitdienst-Division 2). Formed in early April from members of the RAD, whilst fairly well equipped by the standard of the time, large elements had been overrun on 20th April on the Juterborg parade ground by Soviet tanks. This left some 2,000 surviving troops organised into one and a half regiments and a few anti-tank guns falling back on Potsdam under the command of Oberst Zoeller. Various other units and shards of formations from the Oder front or the defence of the OKH military headquarters at Zossen had attached themselves to this formation and came under its command, including:

Panzerverband Wünsdorf (6 training tanks, almost certainly old Panzer IIIs); Troops from Kommandant Zossen (approximately one battalion of clerks and drivers, three Panzer-Jagd-Brigaden on bicycles, who were mostly Hitler Youth), all these listed in this paragraph had been defending the OKH military headquarters at Zossen until its evacuation; plus various small alarm units who had escaped from units smashed on the Oder front, including company sized fragments from the 35th SS Police Division.

The defence of Potsdam:

Commencing on 24th/25th April, the first Soviet thrust came from the south-east and south-west in the form of the 10th Guards Tank Corps of the 4th Guards Tank Army. This was confronted by the various elements of the Friedrich Ludwig Jahn RAD Division listed above. There was heavy fighting in the villages immediately to the south-east and south-west of Potsdam, but the German defenders, assisted by the various water obstacles, halted all assaults. It is interesting that the Soviet commander Marshal Koniev in his memoirs fails to say anything about the complete rebuff of Soviet forces attacking Potsdam over the next few days!

Then, on the morning of 28th April, having secured Gatow airfield to the north of Potsdam, the 175th Division of the 47th Army’s 125th Corps, assisted by the 5th Guards Tank and 33rd Guards Mechanised Brigades, assaulted Potsdam from the north. The Soviet onslaught was met by the disparate units of Oberst Lux’s Potsdam Division, reinforced by various Alarm units from the Friedrich Ludwig Jahn RAD Division. Heavily outnumbered and facing substantive tank formations without the benefit of any armour or artillery, Lux’s men were gradually but inexorably forced back into the ruined City. They were now being described as “Kampfgruppe Potsdam”. On the night of 30th April all Reymann ordered all units to retire via the ruined streets of Potsdam westward, finally evacuating the City of Potsdam with the intention of linking up with Wenck’s advance guard.

Three divisions of Wenck’s 12th Army, ‘Ferdinand von Schill’, ‘Scharnhorst’ and ‘Ulrich von Hutten’ launched a final attack towards Potsdam on 28th April and reached the village of Ferch just a few miles south of Reymann’s lines. Reymann rapidly directed his remaining forces of Armeegruppe Spree to attack south to link up.

The advance guard of Wenck’s forces in the guise of Division Schill made contact with Potsdam’s defenders from the south-west on the night of 29th/30th April. On the night of 1st May the garrison fell back through Sanssouci Park on the western edge of Potsdam, the retreat being covered by the 3rd IR of the Friedrich Ludwig Jahn RAD Division and associated Alarm Units. Those elements of Reymann’s forces that were still capable of coherent combat took position on the northern face of Wenck’s formations as elements of Division Scharhorst enabled the survivors of the 9th Army to break through at Halbe. Having secured as many surviving soldiers and civilians from Halbe, they began to retreat west.

A few days later, the entire Potsdam garrison successfully crossed the Elbe River and surrendered to the awaiting American forces.

NB: I have been working on a detailed narrative of the battle for Potsdam, of which the above is only a brief synopsis. The key texts utilised were:

A Stephen Hamilton, Bloody Streets (Helion, 2008)

A Stephan Hamilton, The Oder Front 1945 (Helion, 2010)

Ivan Stepanovich Koniev, Year of Victory (Moscow, 1984)

Tony Le Tissier, The Battle for Berlin 1945 (Jonathan Cape, 1988)

Tony Le Tissier, Slaughter at Halbe (Sutton, 2005)

Richard Overy, The Bombing War, Europe 1939-1945 (Allen Lane, 2013)

Wolfgang Paul, Das Potsdamer Infanterie-Regiment 1918-1945 (Osnabruck, 1983)

Joseph Pechmann, Die RAD-Infanterie-Division "Friedrich Ludwig Jahn" (Wien, 1993)

Anthony Read & David Fisher, The Fall of Berlin (Hutchinson, 1992)

Helmuth Reymann, Ich sollte Berlin verteidigen (Bundesarchiv-Militararchiv, Freiburg)

Wilhelm Tieke, Between the Oder and the Elbe, The Battle for Berlin 1945 (Fedorowicz Publishing, 2013)

In Berlin a total of 31 battalions being 230 companies were formed. They were organised into two divisions of four brigades and amounted to 29,217 men. The officer corps was almost entirely of experienced officers. They also had a battery of captured French/Saxon cannon.

In terms of active involvement in the Wars of Liberation, besides dealing with stragglers and foragers, the Landsturm was involved in a number of sieges, and in support of Bluecher’s army while it was on the retreat in Silesia in August 1813. The AKO of 7th August 1813 ordered the Pommeranian Landsturm to serve in the lines of investment around Stettin and the Brandenburgers around Kuestrin. During the siege of Glogau, the Landsturm of Beuthen defeated a sortie by the garrison.

As for the rest of Germany, from December 1813 to February 1814, a Landsturm of the Prussian model was formed in all other German states. Bavaria formed a ‘Nationalgarde dritter Klasse’ (National Guard, third class), which was similar to the Prussian Landsturm.

From 1815-1867 both the Landwehr and Landsturm were an integral part of the Prussian Army. By the 1860s every Prussian man served a couple years in the army, then served in the reserves/Landwehr, and then the Landsturm, the latter being an integral element of the Prussian/German military system.

In the Wehrordnung of 1888 the Landsturm was laid out in two separate and distinct levies or bans, the first for young boys and the second for middle aged/old men. Each year, between the first of January and the middle of February, a list of service eligible young men from the subject class year was put together. Requests for exemption from service were considered by the lowest recruiting committee. There were basically two divisions of manpower, active military service (Dienstplicht and Landwehr) being one; and the Landsturm being number two. In certain theory, this was supposed to cover the ages of 17 through 45.

In 1914, 334 Landsturm infantry battalions were mobilised on 2nd August, and many were assigned to Reserve and Landwehr infantry regiments or 20 ‘mobile’ Landsturm infantry regiments (1-3, 7-11, 13, 17, 19, 20, 22-26, 109, 115, I Bavarian). On 20th December 1912 field-grey Reserve infantry uniforms and insignia were prescribed. The M1813 shiny black (30th November 1914, dull field-grey) oilcloth peaked cap was worn instead of M1895 spiked helmet, with a large dull brass state-pattern Landwehr Cross on the front of the crown above a state cockade.

Putting equipment on these soldiers was a ragtag operation. The Army Corps District had stockpiled some equipment but not nearly enough to handle the influx. Old equipment was heavily utilized for the Landsturm. In many cases Landsturm units that had superior equipment issued had to turn around and surrender that equipment to frontline soldiers.

What constituted a uniform was relatively interesting and again impacted on the “uniform” of the Volkssturm. The German psyche was built around experiences in the Franco-Prussian war. The great moral dilemma was identifying enemy combatants as opposed to civilian partisans known francs-tireurs. Even this was at times distasteful for the Germans as irregular warfare was not considered quite "right". Perhaps one quarter of the German troops during the Franco-Prussian war were tied up defending the lines of communication against the francs-tireurs.

The senior German commanders of World War One in 1914 had participated on the German side during the Franco-Prussian war and those memories were deeply emplaced. The Hague convention of 1899 required in article 2 that militias such as the Landsturm or francs-tireurs be under responsible command, have a distinct uniform emblem, carry arms openly, and observe the laws of war. The distinct uniform emblem and following this convention when convenient became a mantra of the German forces and eventually led to many excuses for atrocities. As with the Volkssturm, a key item was a simple white armband as per 1813 (it is interesting that many early locally made Volkssturm armbands were white).

Note the white armbands utilised in the picture below from 1914-18. Armbands were often used to indicate a uniform and appear almost indistinguishable from the early Volkssturm of October 1944.

Berlin Landsturm 1813

All articles are copyrighted to Dr Philipp Elliot-Wright

The Volkssturm – An outline

After considerable debate within the Nazi regime, a decision was taken in September 1944 to form a militia under NSDAP control. On 25th September Hitler signed the “Decree of the Fuhrer regarding the creation of the German Volkssturm”. However, the official publication of the Decree when it came into force as law and thus the official foundation date was 20th October. It then fell to the NSDAP Gauleiters and Reichsleiters to put the decree into practice in each of the respective Gaue (the NAZI regions that Germany had been divided into, each headed by a Gauleiter and his deputy, a Reichsleiter). To clarify the legal status of the Volkssturm as legitimate combatants under The Hague Convention on Land Warfare, a subsequent Directive of 1st December stressed they were formally an element of the Wehrmacht, and the wearing of an identifying armband obligatory bearing the words “Deutscher Volkssturm – Wehrmacht”.

All men of the relevant age groups from 16 to 60 years of age who were deemed fit for military service and not then serving in the military were assigned for service in the volkssturm, albeit voluntary enlistment below and above the prescribed age parameters of 16 and 60 was permitted. Thus Hitler Youth as young as 12 and older men in their 80s are recorded. The local NSDAP registered men at the respective local office, some six and a half million men being officially listed. When men were subsequently mustered at registration parades they were assigned to one of four levies depending on a combination of the individual’s readiness for deployment and civilian occupation. In essence, the older, less fit and those deemed essential to the wartime economy were assigned to the third and fourth levies and were thus highly unlikely to be called up until the very bitter end. It was those assigned to the first levy who were immediately detailed to battalions, soon followed by those of the second levy. Third and fourth levy battalions were invariably last minute formations as the enemy arrived at the gates, as it were.

Whilst Gauleiters and Reichsleiters were responsible for the selection and appointment of suitable battalion, company, platoon and section commanders on the basis of political reliability, thus membership of the NSDAP. However, the obvious mismatch with the need for military capability verses membership of the NSDAP rapidly saw the former as the main criteria. Thus most officers and NCOs had seen active service 1914-18 or since 1939, or both, but only the majority of battalion commanders were members of the NSDAP.

The fundamental unit of organisation was the battalion, it being the responsibility of each Gau to arm and equip the men. Having said this, in the field, many battalions came under the authority of the Heer and were supplied by it. Nonetheless, there was a stunning range of military clothing issued, along with arms from every nation at war. In practice, only battalions from the first and second levy were likely to be uniformed and armed, those in the third and fourth levy, apart from the ubiquitous armband, were seldom issued military uniforms or weapons.

Thus, the third and fourth levies were never better than scratch, last minute, town guards, swept aside with hardly any notice being taken, be they T34s or Sherman tanks doing the sweeping. However, the first and second levies were generally well equipped and were quickly organised into “march” battalions for use far from home. They became a form of floating reserve. In the West, many such “march” battalions were used to make up the bulk of the 19th Army on the Lower Rhine, whilst in the East they were regularly folded into combat formations on the front line. This was far removed from the original intention of the Volkssturm.

Units of the Volkssturm were assigned numbers in Arabic numerals corresponding to the appropriate Gau, the battalion number and the company number. Battalions were then sequentially numbered within each Gau and the companies within each battalion. The three figures were then written together and separated by diagonal slashes. Thus our battalion/company is:


The Gau (16) is Brandenburg as this Gau is the only one whose western tip was overrun by the Western Allies (the Americans) and whose Eastern part by the Soviets, thus allowing us to be correctly involved with either theatre of war.

The Battalion number is (209).

The Company is (1), the HQ company, which is logical given our living history portrayal as an HQ.

Volkssturm unit structure resembled common German infantry practices with a triangular structure at the platoon, company and battalion level. Battalions had a standard organisation of four companies, comprising a staff, signals and pioneer section, medical and dispatch rider sections, all part of an HQ rifle company, with two further rifle companies and one heavy weapons company. Great efforts were made to ensure all battalions had proper support elements, with a doctor and paramedics for every battalion, cooks and pioneers. However, the heavy company was an aspiration and most battalions were lucky to have sufficient rifles and a few machine guns. Indeed, diverging from standard Heer practice, machine guns and mortars were usually attached to each company rather than assigned a specialist company. Having said this, the first levy march battalions that were often taken in by the Heer were supplied with mortars, machine guns and even some artillery pieces for specialist heavy companies, especially those attached to the 19th Army on the upper Rhine and those in East Prussia and Pomerania.

There were just five ranks:

Volksturmmann = Private

Gruppenfuhrer = section leader (single silver pip on collar)

Zugfuhrer = platoon leader (two silver pips on collar)

Komaniefuhrer = company leader (three silver pips on collar)

Battalionsfuhrer = battalion leader (four silver pips on collar)

In terms of weapons, alongside some issues of standard k.98 rifles, weapons from Russia, Italy, France, Czechoslovakia and many other sources were common. As for those receiving uniform items, again, anything in stock, be it Heer, Kriegsmarine, Luftwaffer, NSDAP, police, customs, old or new was issued. These items were usually worn alongside civilian items.

In conclusion, several million men and boys, and a few women served in the Volkssturm. Given the confusion that marked the collapse of Nazi Germany, no exact figures for casualties exist, but it ran in hundreds of thousands. In the East, it was common for the Soviets to treat Volkssturm as civilian guerrillas and shot them out of hand if captured. Whilst many Volkssturm surrendered before firing a shot or simply returned home, in both the East and West, some units did fight hard. In the West, on Bremen’s outskirts, at Kempton, Kicklingen, and Passau, the Volkssturm held up Allied forces, and at Aschaffenberg they blunted an armoured American assault. Indeed, the volkssturm in the West fought best in urban areas, such as in Nuremberg, Cologne, Wurzburg and Bonn. In the East, examples of determined Volkssturm combat were more common, especially in East Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia. In Konigsberg, eight battalions of Volkssturm helped hold the Soviets at bay for two months and even distinguished themselves in crucial counter offensives in Metgethen and Samland. At Pyritz the local Volkssturm successfully defeated a Soviet armoured thrust for sufficient time to allow a Heer counterattack. The cost was high, the 900 man Kustrin contingent lost all but 118 men in two months, whilst the 600 man Goldap battalion lost 50% inside a week. It seems appropriate to end by noting that some members were awarded the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross, such as Ernst Tiburzy, commander of Volkssturm-Bataillon 25/82, for the single handed destruction of 5-9 Soviet tanks around Konigsberg.


Hans Kissel, Hitler’s Last Levy, The Volkssturm 1944-45 (Helion, 2005)

David Yelton, Hitler’s Volkssturm, The Nazi Militia and the fall of Germany 1944-1945 (University Press of Kansas, 2002) ghsf

Landsturm 1915

Landsturm soldiers continued to serve throughout the war. In the West, the Landsturm operated mostly in quiet sectors, guarding Prisoners of War, used as Occupation and Fortress Troops and rear echelon support troops who rarely went into combat. However, on the Ost Front, Landsturm troops were more heavily relied upon in combat formations. Their detailed contributions to the overall Imperial German War effort are under appreciated and little understood. Some Landsturm battalions were combined into Landsturm regiments. Some of those became mixed with other elements such as the Landwehr. Eventually Ersatz regiments merged into guard Regiment and the original clear distinction accorded to active status, Reserve, Landwehr etc., had become completely blurred.


Long before the Volkssturm were formed, there existed a long standing tradition of raising a militia from those either too young, old, infirm or in a protected profession, to defend homes from invaders, support regular troops in respect of guarding depots and the like, and ultimately to even take their place in battle. The Landregimenter of the 18th century, but especially the Landsturm of 1813-1918, provided a substantive inspiration for the Volkssturm.

East Prussian Landsturm September 1914