German vigilantes laid down their arms before the conquests of capitalism
The National People's Army and other power structures of the GDR, which disappeared from the world map, have not yet found a worthy place in Russian military history literature. The thoroughly politicized works on this topic, published during the Soviet period, do not count. Meanwhile, the East German experience of military development is very interesting. In particular, the territorial defense in the GDR was entrusted to a kind of people's militia - the fighting squads of the working class (Kampfgruppen der Arbeiterklasse - KdA).
KdA is a functional analogue of the Volkssturm of the Wehrmacht, the German Landsturm of the First World War, the Hemvern of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, as well as the US National Guard, the British Territorial Army, and militia armed formations of other countries. The KdA were an irregular component of the GDR Armed Forces, subordinate, however, directly to the Central Committee of the Socialist Unified Party of Germany (SED), by virtue of which they were viewed as an important military-political tool of the party-state leadership ("party army", "army of the civil war"). In this regard, KdA turned out to be the closest to the people's militia (minbing) of the PRC and the Workers 'and Peasants' Red Guard of the DPRK, as well as the Patriotic Guard of Socialist Romania (created, by the way, by Ceausescu under the impression of the entry of Warsaw Pact troops into Czechoslovakia in 1968).
The fighting squads of the working class were intended:
in peacetime - to perform police functions in emergency situations requiring the involvement of additional forces and means of ensuring law and order (including for suppressing mass unrest), protecting important objects of government, industry and infrastructure, assisting civil defense units in eliminating the consequences of accidents and disasters;
in wartime - for the implementation of territorial defense (including anti-tank and anti-aircraft), protection of the rear (including the fight against sabotage and reconnaissance groups of the enemy), etc.
In the image and likeness
The KdA were created on September 29, 1953 by the decision of the highest party and state leadership of the GDR, pretty much frightened by the anti-communist workers' uprising that happened in June of the same year and was suppressed by Soviet troops and the People's Police (the prototype of the regular National People's Army of the GDR). As a practical basis, not only the actual German experience of 1944 was used (when, in the course of the total mobilization declared by Hitler, the Volkssturm was born, the detachments of which were subordinate to the Gauleiters - the leaders of the district organizations of the Nazi Party), but also the experience of creating the Czechoslovak People's Militia, which played an important role in the transfer of power in the country to the Communist Party.
The fighting squads of the working class, among other things, were to become the visible support of the state. At the celebratory May Day march in 1954, the KdA ceremonial boxes demonstrated this with their own eyes.
The service and combat activities of the fighting squads of the working class were regulated on the basis of direct directives and decisions of the Politburo of the SED. Their immediate political leadership was limited to the secretaries of the district and district committees of the party, and the People's Police of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the GDR were responsible for tactical and special training, material and technical equipment and current operational activities. The formal absence of direct involvement of the National People's Army in this process (whose de facto reserve was KdA, in wartime they were reassigned to the command of the Armed Forces) made it possible to avoid counting combat squads as components of the GDR armed forces during international negotiations.
KdA were built on a territorial production principle. Formations existed in enterprises, government agencies, agricultural production cooperatives, universities and technical schools. In public education institutions (secondary schools) KdAs were not created. Teachers were usually recruited to work in the Society for Sports and Technology (GST, an analogue of the USSR DOSAAF) by instructors in basic military training.
In order to avoid double subordination, the admission of members of the GST, personnel of the German Red Cross and civil defense units led by the Ministry of National Defense of the GDR was not allowed into the fighting squads of the working class.
Baptism by the Berlin Wall
The recruitment of military squads with personnel was carried out on a voluntary basis from among the members of the SED (which, in principle, were imputed to them as party duties), who were not in active military service (or in other security structures), and through the Association of Free German Trade Unions - and non-partisan citizens of the GDR. Along with men between the ages of 25 and 60 (including those unfit for military service in peacetime for health reasons), women who were appointed to military medical and auxiliary positions were also admitted to the KdA. The commanders of the units of the fighting squads were, as a rule, members of the SED.
Those accepted in the KdA took the oath: “As a fighter of the working class, I am ready to act on the orders of the party to defend the German Democratic Republic and the conquests of socialism with arms in hand, not sparing my life. This is my oath."
To train the command personnel of the KdA in 1957, in the structure of the SED, the Ernst Thälmann Central School of Combat Squads was created in Schmerwitz. Their training was also carried out in the Ernst Schneller school of combat squads, which opened in 1974 (a functionary of the German Communist Party, who died in 1944 in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp) in Gera and at the People's Police School in Biesenthal.
All KdA fighters were involved in tactical, special and political training on a 136-hour annual program (on weekends and after work on weekdays). The KdA training camps were located, as a rule, outside the settlements.
The propaganda publication that popularized the activities of the KdA and was used in ideological work with the personnel was the newspaper Der Kampfer (Fighter), published under the patronage of the central organ of the SED, Neues Deutschland (New Germany)).
KdA's baptism of fire was its participation in the construction and protection of the Berlin Wall in 1961. The most combat-trained and morally-politically reliable units from East Berlin, Saxony and Thuringia were involved in these events - more than 8,000 people in total, which at that time amounted to two percent of the total number of combat squads. KdA units guarded the Berlin sector of the state border for eight weeks, while only eight fighters escaped to West Berlin, which was regarded by the top leadership of the GDR as a negligible indicator of the political unreliability of the personnel in general.
Anatomy of KdA
KdA formations were subdivided into combat squads of the security forces, intended for use within the territory of responsibility of the corresponding district committee of the SED (including the units for the protection of national property, which existed at all large enterprises, numbering approximately 100 people), and motorized combat squads (the so-called regional reserve battalions), which could be transferred to any part of the country. The main organizational and tactical units of the KdA were battalions, hundreds (companies) and batteries, platoons, squads and teams. In terms of combat capabilities, these formations should be considered as light infantry.
The general operational leadership of the KdA formations was carried out by regional "commands" headed by the first secretary of the SED district committee. They also included the head of the relevant department of the People's Police and the senior military commander from among the commanders of the NPA units located in this territory (he served as chief of staff), heads of administrative bodies, enterprises, etc. Fighting squads were regularly involved in NPA exercises.
The armament of the fighting squads of the working class included Soviet and German pistols, magazine and self-loading carbines, assault rifles, machine guns, hand-held (RPG-2 and RPG-7) and easel (SPG-9 and SG-82, as well as Czechoslovak T-21) anti-tank grenade launchers, 45 mm (M-42), 57 mm (ZIS-2) and 76 mm (ZIS-3) anti-tank guns, 23 mm (ZU-23-2) and 37 mm (61-K) towed anti-aircraft guns, 14.5-mm towed anti-aircraft machine gun ZPU-2 and ZPU-4, 82-mm battalion mortars, light armored vehicles (first armored vehicles Sonder Kfz-1, created according to the type of the Soviet BA-64, and then armored personnel carriers of Soviet production - BTR-152 and others) and water-jet police vehicles SK-2 (including the armored version). The weapons were stored at factories and institutions that had KdA units. The main vehicles of the fighting squads were IFA W50 medium-duty trucks.
The personnel of the combat squads received khaki field uniforms, which were noticeably different in cut from the army uniform. The KdA fighter's kit included a summer blouse, worn underwear or with a white shirt (in a full dress version), a winter jacket, trousers outside, caps for the mountain type in the Wehrmacht and caps modeled on the NNA, an army steel helmet, a belt and black boots. The KdA emblem was worn on the cap, cap and left sleeve - a green circle bordered with red edging, inside which was a blue hand holding a black rifle with a red flag (metal on the cap and sewn on in other cases). The same emblem was also stamped on the metal belt buckle.
The insignia for the command positions held in the form of red horizontal stripes were worn on the right sleeve. The following positions have been introduced in the KdA:
-the head of the team (troupeführer), the squad leader (gruppenführer), the commander of the anti-tank or anti-aircraft gun (Geschützführer), the commander of the mortar or anti-tank grenade launcher (wehrferführer);
-platoon commander (zugführer);
- deputy commander of a separate platoon;
-the commander of a separate platoon;
- deputy commander of hundreds and batteries;
-commander hundreds and batteries;
- assistant to the deputy battalion commander, propagandist, driving instructor;
- the deputy chief of staff of the battalion, to whom the battalion doctor was equated in his official position;
- deputy battalion commander and equal to him secretary of the party organization of the battalion;
- battalion commander;
- the head of the internal service.
For whom the bell does not ring
The experience of the GDR in creating a people's militia turned out to be in demand in third world countries that were in the orbit of Soviet influence. The KdA assisted in the training of the Congolese People's Militia (Republic of the Congo) personnel on the territory of the GDR, in providing it with the necessary weapons and equipment.
In the GDR, there was a system of material and moral incentives for service in combat squads. KdA veterans with 25 years of service were entitled to a monthly pension supplement of 100 GDR marks. Soldiers and commanders were awarded medals "For Faithful Service" (four degrees - for 10, 15, 20 and 25 years of service), "For high combat readiness" and "For exemplary performance of official duties", as well as various badges and valuable gifts (watches, binoculars, etc.).
The maximum number of KdA at the peak of their deployment reached 400 thousand people. In the 1980s, there were 106,500 fighters in the combat squads of the security forces, 78,500 in motorized (regional reserve battalions), and in total, taking into account the "second order" reservists, 210 thousand people. In May 90, the fighting squads of the working class (189,370 fighters in 2022 units) were disbanded, and this was the end of their story. The existence of the Volkssturm Honecker is reminiscent of the Peace Bell monument erected in Dessau, cast from weapons belonging to the KdA. It should be noted that at the end of the GDR, the vigilantes were not only not used in attempts to save the "state of German workers and peasants," but, on the contrary, were among the citizens who actively protested against the omnipotence of the SED.