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"The Todt Organization and Affiliated Services" from Tactical and Technical Trends

A report on the WWII German Organization Todt and related units, from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 30, July 29, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


The most important of the German semi-military organizations engaged in economic operations is the Todt Organization, abbreviated, O.T. Under the leadership of Dr. Fritz Todt, this organization expanded from a small body in 1933 to an army of half a million in 1941. Much of the success of the O.T. is due to its leader. An engineer and road builder and an early Party member, Dr. Todt combined personal acceptability to the Nazi hierarchy with great administrative ability and drive. The organization created by him represents the most specific Nazi contribution to the war effort, despite the fact that it has historical antecedents in the First World War.


The first task assigned to Dr. Todt was the construction of the Reich superhighways in 1933. An enterprise was established for this express purpose by law of June 27, 1933, with the official designation of "Company for the Preparation of Reich Motorways."

Work began on the roads in 1933; 100,000 men were employed in 1934, with an additional 150,000 men employed on work connected with the highway construction such as the construction of bridges, work in quarries, etc. In 1935 some 250,000 persons were employed directly or indirectly in this work. By the end of 1937, 2,000 kilometers (1250 miles) of highways had been built and an estimated 1,000 kilometers (625 miles) were completed in each of the following two years.

The Westwall

The efficiency of the organization in carrying out the highway construction was such as to lead to its next major assignment in 1938, the completion of the Westwall. The fortification work begun in 1936 by the Army under the direction of its own engineers was not satisfactory to Hitler, who ordered Todt to take over the construction work on May 28, 1938.

It was for this task that the O.T. as such was founded. With Army engineers retained as advisers on the technical aspects of the fortifications, a civilian organization was set up by Todt from headquarters at Wiesbaden to complete the construction.

A variety of organizations were called upon to contribute materials, equipment and personnel to the O.T. One-third of the production of the cement industry was required. Additional excavators, concrete mixers, pneumatic drills, tractors, and trucks were requisitioned from the private construction industry. Large numbers of freight cars from the Reich railroads were permanently assigned to the movement of materials and supplies. Two-thirds of the rural bus fleet of the Reich Post Office was turned over to the O.T. Truck drivers, dispatch riders, and traffic control officers from the NSKK (National Socialist Motor Corps) were assigned to the project.

The O.T. began work on the Westwall with 35,000 men on July 20, 1938. This number was increased to 342,000 by October 6, 1938. In addition 90,000 workers were employed by the Staff of Fortification Engineers (Festungspioneerstab) and 100,000 men from the Reich Labor Service. The work on the Westwall was completed in December 1939.

War Activities

The magnitude of the O.T.'s activities increased after the outbreak of hostilities. It operated extensively in Poland, Norway, the Low Countries, and France on building and construction projects. The most important project undertaken in the West was the construction of the Second Westwall (the so-called Atlantic Wall) along the Atlantic coast from Kirkenes, near the North Cape, to the Spanish - French frontier.

On the Eastern Front several vitally important tasks have been performed by the O.T. The maintenance of the Russian road system in operating condition is its most difficult assignment, one involving the continuous employment of thousands of laborers. In addition, the permanent repair of many of the key bridges in the intermediate zones has been carried out by the O.T.

A typical special task assigned to the O.T. was the transport of supplies to German forces on the central sector of the Eastern Front during the summer and autumn of 1941 before railroad service to Smolensk had been restored. In this task, the O.T. used huge trucks with two trailers (total capacity 30 tons) operating from Berlin and other depots in Germany proper, in trains of from 200 to 300 units, capable of moving 6,000 to 9,000 tons per motor-train--as much as a freight train--and at high speeds. Travelling day and night, such a train could make the run from Berlin to Smolensk (approximately 1,000 miles) and back once a week. Each truck carried 3 drivers, sleeping bunks, and simple cooking and washing facilities. Two of the drivers relieved each other at 2-hour intervals while the third slept. Drivers were classified as civilians and received 180 reichmarks a week, a very high pay for German workers for the extremely trying work; they were chosen for their robust constitutions and many were released from military service for this purpose. Rest and repair stations were located at regular intervals along the route, but stops were few and brief. The unloading near the front and the reloading of captured or damaged war equipment--a large source of scrap metal--took only 3 hours. The turn-around at Berlin was also kept to an absolute time minimum; if a motor needed repairing or overhauling it was simply lifted out and a new one installed with the least possible delay. The road to Smolensk was kept in excellent repair by the O.T. assisted occasionally by Reichs Labor Service units, and breakdowns were very rare.


The O.T. is controlled from the Central Offices at Berlin. Besides the general administrative offices, there are a number of departments in charge of such special activities as rail transport, road transport, repair services, and day and night surveillance services.

The various field projects of the O.T. when not working under army command, are supervised by local "chief works departments" which maintain direct liaison with Berlin. The workers on these fields projects are quartered in "chief camps", each of which is under the command of a camp commander (Lagerführer). The men in each camp are divided into groups (Gruppen) of 25 or 30 workers, which are led by a Gruppenführer, and sent as units to the construction project.

The working facilities, housing, sanitary conditions, etc., of the men on the various projects are the responsibility of a "Front Control" A subdivision of this organization, known as the "Security Service" conducts investigations and supervises the transfer of men subject to disciplinary action between the work camps and the punitive camps. In these camps, the men are segregated by nationality, and perform heavy duty under the surveillance of armed guards. The O.T. maintains its own police force for internal security and discipline. The O.T. police are responsible for protecting the construction projects, and for the safety of the trains and trucks of the O.T. en route to the projects.

The medical service of the O.T. functions independently of the other services. It is supervised by a surgeon-general in Berlin and is administered on a regional basis, with itinerant physicians and dentists, and hospitals for each camp of more than 500 men.


The total number of personnel employed by the O.T. is not definitely known. However, it is estimated that over 500,000 were employed in 1941. Recent reports indicate a much higher figure in 1942 and 1943. Originally the O.T. recruited workers on a voluntary basis. Since then there has been a complete shift to conscription and impressment. The construction of the Westwall was largely undertaken by a labor force conscripted in one way or another: men qualified for military duty but assigned to the O.T., men over military age (including ex-service men), men provided by the Reich Labor Service, etc. Part of the labor force was recruited through the official employment offices (Arbeitsämter). In addition, certain private contractors and industrial organizations were called upon to furnish engineers, technicians, and skilled workers.

The O.T. personnel today is believed to consist of about 450,000 men permanently assigned of whom probably less than 200,000 are Germans. The rest are prisoners, foreign "volunteers" and the like. The O.T. also hires or impresses local labor when and where needed. The German cadre is composed of experts of military age assigned to the Organization, young men doing their pre-military labor service (Arbeitsdienst) and men over military age.

Their order of battle, static, is based on areas, subdivided into sectors, which are again subdivided into sub-sectors. The basic unit when under Army command is different from that used in civil operations. There the Gruppe of 25 or 30 men is the unit, while under the Army, the basic unit is the construction gang of about 100 men. When mobile, the organization is similar, but with different names. In this case the area is called the Operation Staff (Einsatzstab) and is normally under the command of Army Group Headquarters.

Affiliated Service Organizations

(1) Bautruppen (Construction Troops)

To deal with the enormous number of engineering problems that confront a modern army, the German Army has resorted to three principal groups: first-line pioneer troops; second-line engineer troops, the so-called Bautruppen, organized on a battalion basis, and the O.T. units.

As we have seen, the O.T. units are semi-military in organization, and normally the farthest removed from the front. The regular pioneer troops are absorbed in front-line tasks. In between them and the O.T. are the Bautruppen, definitely military in character, but reserved for such tasks as bridge construction (Brückenbaubataillone) of a more permanent kind, road building, railway (Eisenbahnbaubataillone), and fortification works (Festungsbaubataillone). These troops had their prototype in the First World War, when the regular pioneer troops proved insufficient in number to handle all the repair jobs. At that time private construction firms were called upon to furnish technical personnel and skilled workers, who were organized into special mobile units for emergency construction work.

The principal periods of usefulness of the Bautruppen were the May 1940 campaign and the opening months of the Eastern Campaign. Since late 1941 the original Bautruppen personnel has been increasingly absorbed into front-line duty and the O.T. has had to take over much of the more permanent construction and repair work originally assigned to the Bautruppen.

(2) NSKK

The NSKK (Nazionalsozialistisches Kraftfahrkorps - Nazi Motor Corps) provides the drivers and trucks for the O.T. In organization it is similar to the O.T., but has less independence, its units being normally subordinated to units of the O.T.

(3) TNH

The TNH (Technische Nothilfe - Technical Emergency Corps) also works in closely with the O.T. It is however, a more skilled organization consisting for the most part of specialists in such matters as oil wells, hydro-electric plants, etc. The TNH will normally draw any manual labor it may need from the O.T.

Civilian Firms

The O.T. can and often does control civilian firms. Sometimes the whole firm is put to work, at others only the equipment is hired. Many civilian contractors worked for the O.T. during the building of the Westwall, and French firms are known to be working on the Atlantic defenses at present.

Uniform and Pay

(a) Uniform: Originally only the German members of the O.T. wore a uniform, consisting of a khaki tunic, open at the throat. On the sleeve is a red brassard with a black swastika in a circle on a white background. About three inches above the left cuff is a narrow band with the words Org. Todt in white Gothic lettering. The belt is black with a plain buckle. Army boots are worn. Foreign workers normally wear civilian clothes with a grey brassard on which is stitched the unit or squad number. It appears, however, the foreigners who are willing are now being put into uniform and that they receive higher pay in consequence. If in uniform, foreigners wear distinguishing piping, showing their nationality, on their shoulder straps.

(b) Pay: Previously, pay in the O.T. varied greatly. It has recently been reorganized, and it is now believed that all full time German employees receive soldier's pay plus bonuses and that an allowance is paid direct to their families. Foreigners usually receive a small wage.


The O.T. contributes a great deal to the German war effort. That the army can spare so many trained engineers to a para-military organization is explained by the fact that the O.T. does carry a great deal of the work which would otherwise be the responsibility of the army engineers. That the O.T. is now stretched to a surprising degree, and the fact that it is capable of doing so much and such valuable work at such great distances from Germany is yet another proof of the genius for organization of the Germans.


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