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  RAD in the Rhoen

Geoff Walden and Bob Stefanowicz

Beyond Manteuffel Kaserne, what other relics of the Nazi period were hiding in plain sight during the American era in Bad Kissingen and the greater Rhoen region? Geoff Walden, TACOM - Schweinfurt, between many tours to Iraq, has been working to answer that question and has sent scans and photos that clarify one of the many small roadside mysteries found in our former border area. While on U.S. Patrol, if you ever went down one of those asphalt farm access roads in the Fladungen - Rudenschwinden - Leubach area and noticed a rather impressive stone archway that led … no where. Here is what you found.


Beginning in the early 1930s, while Germany still suffered mass unemployment from an economic depression that brought near collapse to the economic system, a national program was begun to find work for the thousands of men who otherwise were idle. The Reicharbeitdienst, Governmental Labor Service, often abbreviated as RAD, was built upon an earlier existing tradition in Germany of voluntary labor formations formed to provide productive activity for youth and unemployed adult workers.

Once the Third Reich was fully established, the RAD was refined. In the Nazi context, the labor organization expanded its mission to include basic para military training and indoctrination that service to the German state and service to Hitler were one in the same.

In the late 1930s, as the economy revived, the need to find work for older men decreased and the RAD was staffed by a near universal conscription program for young men at the age of seventeen. The men would spend approximately ten months to one year in Spartan labor camps learning the virtues of manual labor, team work, military discipline and service to the Reich.

Most but not all camps were located in the vast farm and wood tracks of Germany and could usually accommodate about 200 men . The men were assigned to public works projects such as road building, quarry work or land reclamation. The government was careful to not engage the RAD in direct completion with private sector construction firms. In some respects, the RAD closely resembled the Civilian Conservation Corps programs in the USA during the same period.

Getting the road built was important, but the Reich saw an almost equal benefit in the exposure of the young men to the hard labor and discipline associated with the construction projects. The RAD was organized on distinctly military lines. In addition to the basics of civil construction, the men learned to wear a uniform and follow a rank structure with a chain of command. Life in the rustic camps paralleled life in a military garrison and during parades, the RAD men marched with their symbolic shovel, a motif of their manual labor and a close surrogate for a rifle. After RAD service, most men could expect to be drafted into the Wehrmacht for two years. Formal military training began where the basic indoctrination the young men received in the labor organization had left off.

The command and leadership cadres of the RAD were career positions to which the men could aspire; a somewhat similar program existed for the young women of the Third Reich. The RAD program continued during the course of the war, units labored both within Germany and, increasingly, at the far flung fronts in direct construction support of the Wehrmacht. For a very good English language history of the Reicharbeiterdiesnt, follow this link :


In the 1930s, the area between Bischofsheim running north to Fladungen and then across the now gone border towards Kaltennordheim was a site of intense RAD labor pulled together by a powerful local political leader, Gauleiter Hellmuth. The central feature of his civil improvement “ Plan “ was the construction of the Hochrhoenstrasse, a major new road through the woods, marshes and hilly terrain of his political base in that region of Bavaria - Thuringia. The construction provided RAD jobs for hundreds of young men and the Fladungen area was a hub for the project with several RAD camps within just a few square kilometers.

Abt. - Abteilung, a work company / The official numerical designation / When adopted - the honorary company title / General location

Abt. 4/282 Stangenroth
Abt. 5/283 ( 1/288 ) Der Heidelstein der Hohen Rhoen Fladungen area
Abt. 6 /283 ( 2/288) Kaiser Heinrich II Fladungen area 
Abt. 3/288 ( no definitive location found )
Abt. 6/288 near Leubach
Abt.5/288 in Rudenschwinden

Many of the camps were rough and ready consisting of wooden barracks with coal stoves, a mess hall, parade field and perhaps some utility buildings. The longer the labor Abteilung remained in one area, however, the more features their camp developed. Photographs of the Fladungen camp reveal that the RAD men had the opportunity to do much finish carpentry and stone work to make their home a regional show place.

During the war years, the RAD camps of the Rhoen took on a new mission and were used to provide pre induction military training for the youth of the region. The training, lasting about one month, was skill specific and the Fladungen camp, because of its high elevation, focused on the basics of military radio and telegraph communications. Other camps taught introductory driver skills and infantry fundamentals. All students received training in the politics, history and philosophy of the Nazi Party.

How long the RAD construction units continued work on the Hochrhoenstrasse is unknown but certainly by 1942, requirements of the war would have seen local construction projects scaled back or ended.

In the modern day, the local road network tracks along many of the areas first cleared and graded by the RAD men. Long after their roadside monuments were removed and barracks pulled down, only the basalt door arch remains in silent testimony to what was once the largest RAD barracks in the Fladungen area.

Click on the picture below to view
Radlagertor Fladungen   RAD Lager Rundenschwinden
RAD Lager Laubach   2nd Fladungen Album

(updated September 2012)


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