This week in the War, 16–22 October 1944: The Volkssturm—Germany’s national militia
Two members of the Volkssturm after surrendering to the British in March 1945 [Public domain]
After so many setbacks on the Eastern Front, the Germans had realized that the quick Blitzkrieg
victories of the past would not be repeated and that henceforth an all-out effort would be required. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels introduced the concept of total war
. As part of the total war
idea, he announced the formation of the Volkssturm
this week in the war, on 18 October 1944.
The Volkssturm was essentially a militia, similar to Britain’s Home Guard, and males aged 16 to 60 years were conscripted.
Training was minimal and there was a shortage of effective weapons, except for the well known panzerfaust anti-tank bazooka that often features in photographs of Volkssturm units. Many Volkssturm personnel died in the last months of the war owing to Hitler’s insistence of continuing the fight to the bitter end.
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