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  1. #1

    Landjahr and Landdienst - Origins

    The difference between Landjahr and Landdienst is most simply put as follows:

    Landdienst = permanent staff
    Landjahr = seasonal workers


    The origin of what would later become the Landdienst der HJ can be traced as far back as the industrialisation of the German economy at the end of the 19th century. This led to a gradual migration from the land into the cities and towns which resulted in fewer and fewer farmers and agricultural workers doing ever more work without the benefits which industrialisation was bringing to the factories (it would be another 60 years before the first tractors appeared). The Treaty of Versailles placed ever more emphasis on German self-sufficiency and in order to achieve this, Hitler knew that Germany's agricultural production would need to be optimised and that the exodus of agricultural workers from Prussia, Pomerania and Lower-Siliesia into the cities would need to be stemmed and reversed. An additional problem was that the gap left by the movement of Germans into the cities had been gradually filled by migrant workers and their families from Poland which it was felt would eventually lead to social friction. It was August Georg Kenstler who had the idea to form the 'Bund der Artamanen' in 1924 in order to combat the problems within German agriculture. The Artamanen were idealists who did not view their work as a job but rather as a duty to the nation. The first Artamanen group began work in Limbach on the 13th of April 1924 and consisted mainly of boys and girls from the city. The farmer in question sent his Polish workers home.

    The Artamanen carried swastika flags with the slogan 'Nach Osten wollen wir fahren' (we want to go east). The membership grew steadily and by 1929 there were 2000 members working on over 300 farms. There was no doubt for von Schirach that the Artamanen was a nationalist youth movement and the organisation was duly incorporated into the HJ on the 7th of October 1934. The Artamanen formed the core of the 'Landdienst der HJ' (Hitler Youth Land Service) and were placed under the control of Artur Axmann who at the time was the head of social matters at the RJF.

    The Landdienst was voluntary and the idealistic, self-sacrificing and pioneering nature of the Artemanen movement was continued within the new organisation. The four pillars of the Landdienst were:

    1. To lead by example and to show the german youth the virtues, worth and importance of farming.
    2. To attract new recruits to the Landdienst.
    3. To ensure that a high percentage of those involved in the programme stayed in agriculture permanently.
    4. To reward the most productive and committed with land and the chance to build their own future in agriculture.

    Landdienst members were all volunteers who worked for a wage (Landjahr did not attract payment) and the Landdienst was a contract between the applicant and the state for a minimum of 12 months.

    After the invasion and defeat of Poland a new age dawned for the Landdienst and the 'Osteinsatz' came into being. Essentially this was a progression of the Landdienst programme but now had the colonisation and Germanisation of the eastern territories as its direct aim. By 1943 there were 1600 Landdienst camps and 38,000 children and young adults serving 1500 villages and 100 estates. In addition to the Landdienstführerschulen (Land Service leadership schools) there were also Landdienstlehrhöfe (Land Service vocational schools). These schools were designed to train future farmers and the first was opened in Koppelsdorf in April 1940. It was such a success that 16 further schools had been opened by 1942 with seven of these being situated in the East.


    The HJ-Landjahr programme was proposed by the Ministry of Education as a measure to combat the view prevalent among school-leavers that agriculture was not an attractive career. This was to be achieved by sending them away to live and work in the countryside for a set period at the end of their last year of schooling under the auspices of the 'Landdienst der HJ'. The Landjahr programme was officially introduced on the 7th of January 1934.

    The state of Prussia was the first to introduce the programme for its children and young adults. It was not a Reich-wide programme and it was up to the individual states whether they wished to introduce it. It was introduced in Bremen (8.4.1935), Saargebiet (13.6.1935) and also Württemberg, Braunschweig, Hessen and the free city of Danzig by 1940. The Landjahr groups were not volunteers (as opposed to the Landdienst) and quotas had to be filled. In 1935 the requirements for Landjahr participants to work in certain districts were as follows:

    District/Number of personnel required
    Rheinprovinz 8250
    Brandenburg 6375
    Westfalen 4275
    Ober/Niederschlesien 5950
    Sachsen 3225
    Hessen-Nassau 2250
    Stettin 225
    Stadt Hannover 225
    Stadt Harburg 225

    60% of these were boys.

    The economic boom within Germany in the mid-1930s led ironically to an even greater move away from the countryside into the cities but the Landjahr programme was able to successfully work against this as it moved ever more young people in the opposite direction:

    The numbers of those engaged on the Landjahr programme steadiuly increased and 20% eventually took up employment within agriculture. Each participant received a Landjahr book which contained personal details and performance reports. Landjahr leaders received a diffferent book.


    The State Social Security and Employment office introduced a 'Landhelfer' programme on the 3rd of March 1933 for those who had already left school but who had not yet found employment. It had the same aims as the later Landjahr programme - to introduce the unemployed to the prospect of a career in agriculture. A green gatefold card was given to those who had participated on the programme.

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  2. #2

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    Great info Garry , I wonder if other countries at that time encouraged the youth to go or return to the countryside ,The Artamanen (can we find out more about these) as you quoted "did notview work as a job but as a duty to the nation" is in my mind just a wonderful sentiment lost a long time ago....

  3. #3
    Updated article. More info on Landdienst now included.

    Indeed. An admirable concept I think Steve. I'll add more on the Artemanen at some point. I'm not sure whether other industrialised countries had a programme similar to this but they certainly suffered from the same problem.

  4. #4

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    This is a much more helpful article than the explanations given in some of the reference books that are out there. Very helpful!

  5. #5
    Many thanks Douglas. I have more to add and will do that as time allows.

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