German Winter Morale

The problems of German troop morale during the harsh winters of the Eastern Front — translation of German Taschenbuch für den Winterkrieg, August 1942 from the U.S. wartime publication German Winter Warfare, Special Series, No. 18, Military Intelligence Division, U.S. War Department, December 1943.


a. General

The coming winter will again severely tax the spiritual stamina of the soldier. All suitable means commensurate with the situation and combat conditions will be employed to bolster his inner resilience. The example of the soldier, especially the officer who has proved himself in all situations, is a determining factor in maintaining the morale of the troops. Eagerness for action and good discipline must be maintained, especially behind the lines. Prerequisites in assuring morale are consideration for the welfare of troops, tolerable shelter, and adequate provisions. Winter equipment, lighting facilities, and fuel must be procured in advance or substitutes provided. Important! Stimulate the initiative of troops. Shows should be staged and soldiers encouraged to participate in them. Intelligent organization of spare time is the best means of preventing useless brooding, rumor-mongering, and disciplinary offenses.

The welfare of troops in the lines has priority. Morale-building supplies for the front must actually reach the front lines. There must be no pigeonholing in depots, railroad stations, headquarters, or orderly rooms. Checks against delay must be made continually. Commanders and headquarters must be in constant communication with field offices of the High Command of the Armed Forces.

b. Recreational Aids

(1) Reading material.–Do not leave newspapers lying around. Newspapers, bulletins, and magazines must reach the front fast. There the soldier is waiting for recent news. Papers of occupied territories should be sent forward because they do not have to be transported far. Front papers of field armies also serve the purpose of inculcating combat doctrine in troops.

Exchange of library kits between battalions and regiments should be encouraged. Field library kits of the Army Book Service (Heeresbücherei) are exclusively for front-line troops. Rear echelons and higher headquarters are normally equipped with Rosenberg libraries.

“Information for Troops” (Mitteilungen für die Truppe) continues to be distributed through the Army Postal Service (Feldpost) to divisions, two copies per unit. Report immediately any failure to receive copies. This also applies to “Information for the Officer Corps” (Mitteilungen für das Offizierkorps).

(2) Lectures.–Important lectures by speakers from the High Command of the Armed Forces are possible only under quiet conditions and after long preparation. Lectures by members of units on general cultural subjects (history, geography, travel, economics, engineering, fine arts) have been successful even in small units. The units themselves have good men for this purpose!

(3) Radio.–The Army radio receiving set has worked even in winter on the Eastern Front. The further issue of sets and spare parts, on the basis of current production, is confined to front-line troops and is carried out only through higher signal officers of signal regiments. Production and distribution of additional sets and spare parts is being stressed. Rear installations and welfare organizations are equipped with commercial receivers.

(4) Movies.–Theaters are improvised behind the front lines on the basis of experience. The increase of available machines, especially of the projector unit with direct-current generator for localities without power supply, is desirable. Pictures shown are coordinated by the division G-2 (Ic der Division).

(5) Employment of “Strength through Joy” groups.–On the Eastern Front only tours by small acting troupes are ordinarily possible. Transportation and shelter must be considered. When constructing new motion-picture theaters, provide stage facilities for acting troupes. The stages will also be used for official business (lectures, instruction, briefing, schools, etc.).

It is important to employ “Strength through Joy” groups (KdF.-Gruppen) according to plan. Provide them with transportation facilities, cooperate with them, pay attention to their welfare, and provide for their security in guerrilla territory.

(6) Competitions.–Competitions are particularly valuable in all respects. New facilities have been provided for the winter of 1942-43. Important activities in this field are inventions and improvements of arms and equipments.

(7) Improvement of quarters.–The troops should be urged to improve their quarters by their own handiwork. Arts and crafts have a place in the construction of shelters. In view of the bare-minimum shelter conditions in the east, this is particularly important. Encourage by competitions the improvement of quarters, moving-picture halls, theaters, kitchens, storerooms, stables, and gardens.

(8) Organization of spare time.–In organizing spare time, schools for choir leaders are particularly valuable. Train choir leaders for the units of divisions and regiments. Also encourage hobbies, crafts, and amateur theatrical performances by and for the troops. Occupational aid through correspondence courses and civilian work groups is also successful. This kind of instruction has practical value for the future of the soldier.

(9) Service centers.–Service centers should be especially promoted. Unattractive living conditions and the lack of “places to go” and restaurants on the Eastern Front must be remembered. The establishment of numerous service centers is necessary. At larger service centers a senior hostess and several junior hostesses of the German Red Cross (DRK) must be assigned.

(10) Front convalescent camps.–These are successful without exception. Convalescent camps behind front lines meet an urgent need of troops. In large areas and broad front sectors the establishment of small convalescent camps for regiments has been successful.


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1 comment to German Winter Morale

  • old-salt

    Must have been quite a challenge to keep morale up in the misery of the Eastern Front. Not sure these items would have done the trick.