Deutsche Abreitsfront – The German Workers Front
Soon after the NSDAP came to power in 1933, all trade unions and workerorganizations were declared illegal and the DAF was set up in their place asthe sole labor organization of the German Reich. The concept of the DAFwas to ensure the political stability and smooth operations of all Germanindustry and commerce. It was through the use of mass organization, much likeall other NSDAP-era organizations, that labor was to be formed into asingle militarized group where “…a certain amount of well-supervised misery,combined with daily work begun with drums beating and ended with drumsbeating…” would be used to solidify the labor front of the German Nation.
Membership in the DAF was voluntary, but any person who was a worker in anyarea 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 onthe 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 totalintake was 300,000,000 RM.
The DAF was composed of two main areas, the NationalsozialistischeBetriebsorganization, or National Socialist Factory Organization (NSBO) andthe Nationalsozialistische Handels und Gewerbeorganization, or NationalSocialist Trade and Industry Organization (NSHABO).
Another major part of the DAF was the KdF, or Kraft durch Freude -Strength through Joy. This organization, as a subset of the DAF, was taskedwith providing activities such as trips, cruises, concerts, and cultural activitiesfor the German workers. These events were specifically directedtowards the working class and it was through the KdF that the NSDAP hoped tobring to the “common man” the pleasures once reserved only for the rich. Byopening the door for the working class to easily and affordably take partin activities once reserved only for the rich, it was hoped that the laborforce could be lulled into being more flexible and productive. One of themost famous aspects of this were the numerous trips and cruises provided bythe huge fleet of ocean-going liners controlled by the DAF/KdF, such shipsas the Wilhelm Gustloff, Robert Ley, andmany others. The Volkswagon was also a partial product of the DAF/KdForganization as well.
The smallest form of the DAF 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 10workers was considered a Betriebsgemeinschaft (plant community) under theleadership of a Betriebsfuhrer (plant leader) and under the control of aBetriebswalter (plant warden). Several small industrial or commercialbusinesses 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 were13 DAF Bezirke in 1935.
The NSBO was responsible for the political work and guidance of the DAF,being concerned with the party and political interests of the workers, while the larger DAF represented their economic interests. Within the actualplaces of industry and commerce, the NSBO was organized into work cells undera work cell foreman, and the cell organizations within a Gau were controlledby an NSBO-Gauleiter.
Initially, when WWII began, the DAF 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 1942when the increasingly heavy strain of war forced all but the most importantworkers to be now eligible for the draft and military service. Anotherimpact the turning tide of WWII had on the DAF was in the formation ofindependently organized anti-aircraft artillery units, staffed with menof specific industries and businesses, and put into action on a as-need basis,literally either on the roof of the business in question, or close by it onthe ground outside of it. These units were pulled together from men insidethe factory itself and called up whenever an attack was imminent or taking place. As theseunits were very ad-hoc in nature, they didn’t receive a great deal of trainingif any at all, and they were equipped with only light anti-aircraft guns of20mm or 37mm caliber. They also lacked fire control equipment, so they functioned more thananything in the barrage role, sending as much flak into the air as possible in the path of oncoming Allied aircraft. They served much better againstlower flying aircraft because of this. It is not known exactly how many of these units were formedduring WWII, or how well they performed in general, but it can only be assumedthat their services were heroic but lacking the punch and training to havebeen as universally effective as had been hoped.