Deutsche Abreitsfront – The German Workers Front
Soon after the NSDAP came to power in 1933, all trade unions and worker organizations were declared illegal and the Deutsche Abreitsfront (DAF) was set up in their place as the sole labor organization of the German Reich. The concept of the Deutsche Abreitsfront was to ensure the political stability and smooth operations of all German industry and commerce. It was through the use of mass organization, much like all other NSDAP-era organizations, that labor was to be formed into a single militarized group where “…a certain amount of well-supervised misery, combined with daily work begun with drums beating and ended with drums beating…” would be used to solidify the labor front of the German Nation.
Membership in the Deutsche Abreitsfront was voluntary, but any person who was a worker in any area of German industry or commerce more-or-less was a member by default. Membership dues were given in the range of 15 Pfenning to 3 RM, depending on the category a member fell into on the large scale of 20 membership groups. A substantial amount of money was raised through dues, in 1934, the total intake was 300,000,000 RM.
The Deutsche Abreitsfront was composed of two main areas, the Nationalsozialistische Betriebsorganization, or National Socialist Factory Organization (NSBO) and the Nationalsozialistische Handels und Gewerbeorganization, or National Socialist Trade and Industry Organization (NSHABO).
Another major part of the Deutsche Abreitsfront was the KdF, or Kraft Durch Freude – Strength through Joy. This organization, as a subset of the DAF, was tasked with providing activities such as trips, cruises, concerts, and cultural activities for the German workers. These events were specifically directed towards the working class and it was through the KdF that the NSDAP hoped to bring to the “common man” the pleasures once reserved only for the rich. By opening the door for the working class to easily and affordably take part in activities once reserved only for the rich, it was hoped that the laborforce could be lulled into being more flexible and productive. One of the most famous aspects of this were the numerous trips and cruises provided by the huge fleet of ocean-going liners controlled by the DAF/KdF, such ships as the Wilhelm Gustloff, Robert Ley, and many others. The Volkswagon was also a partial product of the DAF/KdF organization as well.
The smallest form of the Deutsche Abreitsfront was the Block (block) which consisted of 15 members, headed by a Blockwalter (block warden). Two to six blocks formed a Zellen (cell) which was led by a Zellenwalter (cell warden). Each commerce or industrial organization that had at least 10 workers was considered a Betriebsgemeinschaft (plant community) under the leadership of a Betriebsfuhrer (plant leader) and under the control of a Betriebswalter (plant warden). Several small industrial or commercial businesses that each had less than 10 workers were grouped together in street communities after the street they were located on. Plant communities and the individual members of the plant communities within the jurisdiction of a local party group of the NSDAP formed an Ortsgruppe (local group) of the DAF under an Ortsgruppenwalter (local group warden). Ortsgruppe (local groups) within an NSDAP Kries (circle) comprised a DAF Kries (circle) under the leadership of Kreiswalter (circle warden). The DAF Kries (circles) were then organized into Gau (regions) under the command of a Gauwart (region warden). The largest organizations of the DAF were the DAF Bezirke (districts) which were headed by Besirkwalter (district wardens). There were 13 DAF Bezirke in 1935.
The NSBO was responsible for the political work and guidance of the Deutsche Abreitsfront, being concerned with the party and political interests of the workers, while the larger DAF represented their economic interests. Within the actual places of industry and commerce, the NSBO was organized into work cells under a work cell foreman, and the cell organizations within a Gau were controlled by an NSBO-Gauleiter.
Initially, when WWII began, the Deutsche Abreitsfront went to great lengths to ensure that the majority of its members in areas deemed vital would be exempt from the draft and subsequent service in the Wehrmacht. This was the case until about 1942 when the increasingly heavy strain of war forced all but the most important workers to be now eligible for the draft and military service. Another impact the turning tide of WWII had on the DAF was in the formation of independently organized anti-aircraft artillery units, staffed with men of specific industries and businesses, and put into action on an as-need basis, literally either on the roof of the business in question or close by it on the ground outside of it. These units were pulled together from men inside the factory itself and called up whenever an attack was imminent or taking place. As these units were very ad-hoc in nature, they didn’t receive a great deal of training if any at all, and they were equipped with only light anti-aircraft guns of 20mm or 37mm caliber. They also lacked fire control equipment, so they functioned more than anything in the barrage role, sending as much flak into the air as possible in the path of oncoming Allied aircraft. They served much better against lower flying aircraft because of this. It is not known exactly how many of these units were formed during WWII, or how well they performed in general, but it can only be assumed that their services were heroic but lacking the punch and training to have been as universally effective as had been hoped.