Every young German male was required to serve a period of six months in the RAD prior to joining the Army. The men lived in camps and were trained in drill, marching, and digging, but were not armed. The organisation may be compared to the U.S. Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) Program instituted in this country at the same time to combat the unemployment problem. By 1939 the RAD had 360,000 men in service, organised and administered by a small number of permanent full time staff.
With the onset of war in 1939, the RAD members were given military training and subsequently, transferred directly into the Nazi Armed Forces. During the war, RAD members were called upon to level roads and airfields, clear away rubble, repair damaged railways, collect captured war material, and generally perform manual labour in the occupied territories.
In 1943 the RAD organisation was armed and militarised, operating through out occupied territories.
To show how important the RAD became to the war effort, Adolph Hitler awarded the German Order to Konstantin Heirl, the second recipient of Germanys highest award (only 12 were awarded).
Dagger Information – RAD EM Hewer
In 1934 the RAD EM Hewer was authorised for wear by RAD career officers and NCO’s on formal occasions. It was designed by Paul Casburg and based upon an old German wood cutting hatchet. The Hewer had a practical use as well as worn on dress occasions.
The Hewer had stag horn grips and a large scimitar type blade onto which was etched "Arbeit Adelt" (Work Ennobles) and measured 40 cm.
The hilt on early daggers had a solid nickel base or brass and heavy silver plated finish coated with a clear lacquer. Later made daggers went to a low grade steel, still strong enough to handle heavy work loads, " being used as an axe etc." These will display the nickel plating and most will show bubbling or peeling etc. The stag grip plates on early made daggers display great topography, where as late made daggers have a more smooth finish. There is a very early variation of this dagger known as the full stag handle and these are super rare to find.
The blade is a heavy carbon steel blade made to standards so that it could be used as an axe if needed. I know for a fact that after the war many of these were sold to South American farmers that used these to cut sugar cane and other crops. So the blade is of super high quality and is, and can be, used as a tool; unlike most German daggers from the period.
The scabbard was made from a base of thick sheet metal steel. It was then oxide finished and clear coat lacquered on early daggers. Later made were finished with a lead-based black Paint. The upper fitting and lower fitting were made of a nickel base early on with silver plating and the backgrounds finished with a dark burnishing then clear lacquered.
Late made fittings were of low-grade steel with a nickel-plating and some had burnished finish - some did not. The design is a knot swirling ornamentation embossed onto the top scabbard fitting. The bottom scabbard fitting (chape) sported the organisation emblem, a spade head with a swastika embossed onto the centre and two ears of barley radiating from the spade handle. Each fitting is held in place with set screws, set on either side of the fittings, one per side. The throat is a separate piece set into the scabbard with riveted runners.
The Hewer was held onto the wearer’s belt by a large leather hanger, no Portapee was used in wear. There are many variations of hangers for this style dagger as well as home made styles that fit no form prescribed.
The Hewer was not available by private purchase but issued form local battalion bases as required. Each Hewer had a unit abbreviation and serial number as well as the RAD’s triangular proof mark. Post 1936, this practice stopped.
Production ceased during 1942.
Edited by Bruce Petrin