Volkssturmmann

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Volkssturmmann with Panzerschreck, Berlin, April 1945

Volkssturmmann was a paramiltiary rank of the Volkssturm, the German militia created to defend the German homeland in the last months of World War II. The rank of Volkssturmmann carried no special uniform or insignia and the title was merely held by any person who was drafted to serve in the Volkssturm. The next senior rank of Volkssturmmann was that of Zugführer.

Nazi Germany's last-ditch effort to defend the fatherland during World War II was dependent on the Volkssturmmann ranks. The Volkssturmmann, or "people's army" took any able body, man or boy, ages 15–65. In most cases the Volkssturmmann was elderly men and Hitler Youth fanatics. Unfortunately, for Nazi Germany, the Volkssturmmann was an ineffective force that was inadequately equipped, trained or disciplined.

In the closing months of World War II, the Volkssturmmann forces were most prominent along the defenses at the Rhine River and during the Battle of Berlin. Even though the use of the Volkssturmmann was a clear indication of a defeated nation, Nazi propaganda glorified the "people's army" as a force that would turn the tide in the war effort. Hitler would proclaim that although the once vast Nazi empire had diminished the fatherland could never be penetrated. Joseph Goebbels also contributed heavily to Nazi propaganda. Goebbel's numerous speeches and opportunistic outlook called upon the German people to take up arms during the last months of World War II.

Gravestone of a young Volkssturmmann in Berlin, killed in action on April 30, 1945

The Volkssturmmann's main objective was to halt the advance of allied forces. During the last months of World War II, the western front faced American and British forces while the eastern front faced the Soviet army. By 1945, both western and eastern fronts had reached or entered the German homeland. Since the Volkssturmmann's goal was to halt the advance of enemy infantry and armored forces, the Volkssturmmann was trained to use the panzerfaust, an anti-tank weapon, and the machine gun. The use of these weapons was simple and required little training. Furthermore, the panzerfaust and machine gun were some of the last munitions that the German war machine had in vast supply.

Although glorified by the Nazi Party as the defenders of the fatherland, the Volkssturmmann was Germany's failed attempt to replenish their depleted forces. Grandfathers and boys took up arms and fought to the death under the belief that, in the last months of the war, final victory was still possible. This disillusionment continued the war and established the Volkssturmmann as the "people's army".

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