The arming of the German Volkssturm (People’s Storm, the equivalent of the British Home Guard) in the last war phase.
Volkssturm rifle VG-1, VG-2, Volkssturm carbine VG-45, MP 3008.
The German Volkssturm was mainly intended to fight tanks and was therefore widely equipped with the Panzerfaust.
The Volkssturm soldiers were to be armed mainly with provisionally manufactured rifles. The VG-1 (Volkssturmgewehr 1) and the Volkssturmkarabiner 98, a simplified version of the Karabiner 98k, were mainly intended for this purpose.
During the last months of the Second World War and actually also quite late under the pressure of the collapsing fronts and the extension of the fighting to Germany itself, the Nazi leadership created the German Volkssturm.
It consisted of men who had not yet served in the Wehrmacht – mostly older semesters, youths and even children – or who were not actually fit for military service or indispensable in their home country.
Since no regular weapons were available for these Volkssturm units, the production of quickly and simply constructed and roughly processed Volkssturm rifles began.
The VG-1 had a simple twist-cylinder bolt, a coarsely machined beech stock with a short forearm and a simple and non-adjustable visor.
The best part was the magazine of the semi-automatic rifle Gewehr 43 with 10 rounds.
The VG-1 was manufactured in 1945 in the Czech Brno weapons factory. The caliber is 8×57 IS, the length is 42.125in (107 cm), the weight 8.28lb (3.75 kg) and the magazine capacity is 10 cartridges.
The VG-2 is a bolt-action rifle with a rotary cylinder breech, which was manufactured in the last phase of the Second World War for the Volkssturm.
The case for the breech has steel plate and the visor is also not adjustable and just like the VG-1 the magazine of the semi-automatic rifle 43 with 10 rounds was used.
The VG-2 is roughly processed and all parts were manufactured and assembled with a high tolerance only. Nevertheless, the rifle, just like the VG-1, is effective at shorter firing distances, where the hardly trained Volkssturm men could only expect hits anyway, and had a large magazine. In addition, they were extremely easy and fast to produce as well as cheap to manufacture.
The caliber is 7.92 mm, the length 41.9in (106.5 cm), the weight 9.16lb (4.15 kg) and the magazine capacity is 10 cartridges.
This self-loading carbine was designed in late 1944 by Karl Bernitzke, a designer at Gustloffwerke. This weapon was also roughly assembled with stamped parts and used as few casts or machined parts as possible.
The function was carried out by an unlocked breech with delayed opening. This was done by discharging parts of the powder gases at the muzzle of the barrel into a container between the surface of the barrel and a metal cylinder close above, which was firmly attached to the breech.
The short 7.92 mm cartridge (33 mm long) should be used as ammunition, as on the StG-44 or StG-45.
This automatic weapon, actually a primitive form of the assault rifle Sturmgewehr 44 of the regular units of the Wehrmacht, was to be produced in enormous numbers in several factories and delivered to the Volkssturm. However, the rapidly deteriorating war situation in 1945 thwarted such plans.
The caliber is 8×57 IS, the length 37.8in (96 cm), the weight 9.4lb (4.27 kg) and the magazine capacity is 30 cartridges.
In the course of the Second World War the SD (German security service) began to use already captured British Sten sub-machine guns. Since the weapon proved to be useful for secret and command operations, a replica of the Sten Mk II began to appear in Germany under the name ‘Potsdam’.
In the course of 1944, this easy-to-manufacture weapon was to be mass-produced as a sub-machine gun for the Volkssturm. For this purpose the Sten Mk II was revised by the Mauser company under its designer Vorgrimler, where some defects of the British version were fixed and even the production became easier and cheaper than it already was for this coarsely sluggish weapon.
The most conspicuous modification was the relocation of the magazine to the position below the barrel, typical for German sub-machine guns, instead of the left side of the British original.
Until the end of the war some smaller weapon factories started to produce this simple weapon, whereby the individual models again differed clearly from factory to factory.
The caliber is 9 mm Parabellum, the length 31.3in (79.5 cm), the weight 6.73lb (3.05 kg) and the magazine capacity is 32 cartridges.
Arming the Volkssturm
The armament of the German Volkssturm 1944-45 as well as other equipment and training was insufficient. By November 18, 1944, the Gauleiter (Nazi district leaders) had to report to NSDAP (Nazi party), Organisation Todt, Wehrmacht, Waffen-SS, which stocked and private civilian weapons in their area could be issued to the Volkssturm.
The reports even had to include shotguns and small bore rifles. Thus, for example, the NSDAP district leadership Lichtenfels-Staffelstein in the Gau Bayreuth (Bavaria) reported as of November 25: 21 Gewehr 98, 15 Kar 98k, 42 Italian, 44 French and 1 Romanian captured rifles, 19 hunting rifles, 81 shotguns and 7 small bore rifles. Of these, 36 rifles, 107 hunting rifles and all small bore rifles were privately owned.
In December 1944, individual families were to be checked to see whether they still had weapons at home. Suitable clothing, shoes, boots and caps were also to be ‘donated’ to the Volkssturm.
For the first (1,850 battalions) and second contingent (4,860 battalions) Himmler’s Volkssturm command had to find 4 million rifles, 181,170 rifle grenade launchers, 203,150 light machine guns, 25,680 machine guns, 25,680 medium mortars, 5,500 guns, and 40,260 Panzerschreck anti-tank rocket launchers.
The third contingent of the Volkssturm had not yet been equipped with any weapons, and the fourth contingent was supposed to get only armed with captured weapons and hunting rifles.
In the autumn of 1944, 200,000 Karabiner 98k carabiners were produced each month, but the demand of the Wehrmacht was actually already 300,000 rifles. Profiteers from the armaments’ industry, however, wanted to step in and build ‘Volksgewehre’, ‘Volkskarabiner’ and ‘Volksmaschinenpistolen’ (people’s sub-machine guns) out of pressed sheet metal parts in addition to the military armaments program. In addition, there was a ‘Volksgranate’ (people’s grenade) from the company Sprengstoff AG Reinsdorf.
The orders were awarded by the High Command of the Army to leading companies in the individual Gauen (districts). As suppliers and subcontractors, these leading companies had to integrate all suitable companies and even the smallest craftsmen’s businesses in the respective district for the production of Volkssturm weapons.
The main committee ‘Weapons’ in the Ministry of Armaments under Speer expected a production of 100,000 to 150,000 rifles per month, which meant at least 3,000 to 4,000 weapons for each Gau.
In January 1945, Styr-Daimler-Puch AG had completed only 500 Volksgewehre. In February, another 4,000 rifles were added, built by the Gustloff factories in Suhl. Rheinmetall-Borsig AG in Düsseldorf received an order for 50,000 rifles in January 1945.
The individual district had to take care of the necessary material, machine tools and the transport of the rifles. Some raw materials were also provided by the Ministry of Armaments, but only to the extent that the armaments’ production for the Wehrmacht was not affected.
In addition, the Volkssturm received a further 25,000 rifles from the police and postal service until the end of 1944. In December 1944 and January 1945, a total of 13,000 Karabiner 98k, 2,000 rifle grenade launchers, 1,351 MG 42, about 900 medium-sized mortars, and 100,000 Panzerfaust came from the Wehrmacht.
This, of course, was by no means enough, and so captured weapons were issued to the Volkssturm, especially Italian Mannlicher-Carcano rifles – but with little ammunition.
In the district of Naugard in Pomerania only about 10 percent of the Volkssturm soldiers received rifles – and in addition up to six different types with sometimes only 5 cartridges.
For the battalion ‘Breslau-Land No. 3’ there were 100 rifles of different models with an average of 15 cartridges available.
Himmler’s staff could in no way provide the necessary armament for the Volkssturm. A battalion of the first contingent with 649 Volkssturm men would have had to receive 649 rifles, 27 rifle grenade launchers, 31 light and 6 heavy machine guns, six medium mortars, three guns and 6 anti-tank rocket-launchers Panzerschreck to fulfill the TOE.
Since the Volkssturm could in no way be armed from German stocks or current production, initiative was called for. Gauleiter Koch in East Prussia procured equipment for his Volkssturm on the black market in Northern Italy, mediating by Speer.
It therefore proved to be quite laborious to persuade the men called up to the Volkssturm to voluntarily let themselves be sent into enemy fire if they could not even obtain a carbine. More and more recognized in it the bankruptcy declaration of a regime that only wanted to send them to the slaughterhouse for a lost cause.
At the beginning of 1945 the problems of arming the Volkssturm battalions sufficiently increased. These already began with the rifles and so far it had only been possible in the rarest cases to equip the battalions with the three intended guns. Except for Volkssturm artillery units in the fortified cities, the majority of all battalions never received a gun.
On 15 January 1945, for example, the Volkssturm in Gau Bayreuth had a total of
- 1,148 rifles Model 1888 (obsolete 8mm cartridges),
- 1,265 rifles Modell 1898 (from World War One),
- 543 Karabiner 98k,
- 5 Gewehr 43 (semi-automatic rifles),
- 17,562 Italian Mannlicher-Carcano rifles,
- 1,974 French captured rifles,
- 64 Russian rifles (Mosin-Nagant),
- 1 Romanian rifle,
- 34 Dutch rifles,
- 129 Belgian rifles,
- 134 Czech rifles,
- 13 Polish rifles,
- 2 British rifles,
- 34 Austrian rifles,
- 173 9mm pistols,
- 2,038 7.65mm pistols,
- 982 6.35mm pistols,
- 1 Italian pistol,
- 19 French pistols,
- 25 Belgian pistols,
- 3,576 different pistol models,
- 3 MPi 40,
- 2 MG 13,
- 4 MG 34,
- 2 Polish machine-guns,
- 2 Czech machine-guns,
- 1 French machine-gun,
- 1 Austrian machine-gun,
- 2 Czech heavy machine-guns,
- 1 mortar 5cm,
- 1 mortar 8cm,
- 1 French gun,
- 4,436 pieces Panzerfaust,
- 690 grenades Eierhandgranaten,
- 720 grenades Stielhandgranaten.
On January 25, 1945, the OKH (army high command) informed Himmler’s Volkssturm command staff that, with immediate effect, only weapons would be handed over to active Volkssturm units.
And despite the inadequate armament of the Volkssturm, at the beginning of March 1945 the Volkssturm had to hand over all Karabiner 98k carabiners to the Wehrmacht, which had lost about 3.5 million pieces from June 1, 1944 to March 1, 1945 and was suffering from a severe shortage.
On January 5, 1945, the ‘Volksopfer’ (people’s sacrifice) was called upon to collect equipment and all kinds of uniforms for the Volkssturm.
The final date for the ‘Volksopfer’ was 11 February and about 60,000 tons of collected goods could be brought in. Another 20,000 tons were lost in the east due to the rapid advance of the Red Army.
The Wehrmacht alone, however, needed 200,000 tons for its current personnel during this period.
References and literature
Illustriertes Lexikon der Waffen im 1. und 2. Weltkrieg (V. Dolinek, V. Francev, J. Sach)
Der Volkssturm – Das letzte Aufgebot 1944/45 (Klaus Mammach)