|Internal view of the planned underground factory, Weingut I, one of Jägerstab's projects, as found by the U.S. Army in 1945.|
|Formed||March 1, 1944|
|Dissolved||August 1, 1944|
|Superseding agency||Rüstungsstab (Armament Staff)|
|Parent agency|| Template:Interlanguage link |
Reich Ministry of Aviation
Jägerstab (Fighter Staff) was a Nazi German governmental task force whose aim was to increase production of fighter aircraft during World War II. Established in March 1944, it was composed of government and SS personnel, as well as representatives of the aircraft manufacturers. The Jägerstab was instrumental in bringing about the increased exploitation of slave labour for the benefit of Germany's industry and its air force, the Luftwaffe. The task force played a key role in the Emergency Fighter Program, including the "people's jet" Heinkel He 162.
Background and formationEdit
In early 1944, the Allied air war began to focus primarily upon the destruction of the Luftwaffe in preparation for the invasion of Normandy. Plans for the so-called "Big Week", which was intended to permanently smash the German capacity to produce fighter aircraft through targeted airstrikes on final assembly factories, were already underway in 1943. Between February 20–25, 1944, approximately 10,000 American and British aircraft, including about 6,000 bombers, attacked strategic targets all over Germany. Following these attacks, which seriously damaged German aircraft industry, the production rates fell drastically. In response, Adolf Hitler authorised the creation of the Jägerstab with the aim of ensuring the preservation and growth of fighter aircraft production, superseding the Ministry of Aviation in this jurisdiction. The task force was established by the 1 March 1944 order of Albert Speer, the Minister of Armaments and War Production in the Hitler Cabinet, with support from Erhard Milch of the Reich Aviation Ministry. Speer and Milch played a key role in directing the activities of the agency, however, the day-to-day operations were handled by Chief of Staff Karl Saur, previously head of the Technical Office in the Armaments Ministry.
Activities and use of slave labourEdit
The organisation consisted of multiple committees, including the Airframes Main Committee, Equipment Main Committee and Development Main Committee, that coordinated the work on the development of new aircraft as part of the Emergency Fighter Program. The Airframes Main Committee was chaired by Karl Frydag, who was also a deputy chair of the Development Main Committee. In this capacity, Frydag oversaw the day-to-day development and production activities relating to the Heinkel He 162, the Volksjäger ("people's fighter").
The Jägerstab was given extraordinary powers over labour, production and transportation resources, with its functions taking priority over housing repairs for bombed out civilians or restoration of vital city services. The factories that came under the Jägerstab program saw their work-weeks extended to 72 hours. At the same time, Milch took steps to rationalise production by reducing the number of variants of each type of aircraft produced. The task force immediately began implementing plans to expand the use of slave labour in the aviation industry. Already on 9 March 1944, Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, informed the Aviation Minister, Hermann Goring, that the SS would provide 100,000 prisoners with the aim of moving aircraft production underground.
The plan to protect the aircraft industry, especially the manufacture of the jet-powered Messerschmitt Me 262, entailed the relocation of its assembly plants into underground bunkers. This idea was not entirely new, as a similar (but never realized) proposal had already been considered in October 1943. The Jägerstab's original plan included six locations. By June 1944 the invasion of the allies had forced the Jägerstab to focus in the end on two locations in Upper Bavaria. Three bunkers were to be built at Kaufering in the Landsberg am Lech district, while the codename "Weingut I" (Vineyard I) was chosen for the factory in the Mühldorfer Hart.
Records show that SS provided 64,000 prisoners for 20 separate projects at the peak of Jägerstab's construction activities. Taking into account the high mortality rate associated with the underground construction projects, the historian Marc Buggeln estimates that the workforce involved amounted to 80,000−90,000 inmates. They belonged to the various sub-camps of Mittelbau-Dora, Mauthausen-Gusen, Buchenwald and other camps. The prisoners worked for Junkers, Messerschmitt, Henschel and BMW, among others.
The progress achieved through the work of the Jägerstab was seen as a success by the German authorities. From February to July 1944, the production of the FW 190 and Me 109 fighters increased 150 percent.
The cooperation between the Reich Ministry of Aviation, the Ministry of Armaments and the SS proved especially productive. Although intended to function for only six months, already in late May Speer and Milch discussed with Goring the possibility of centralising all of Germany's arms manufacturing under a similar task force. On 1 August 1944, Speer reorganised the task force into the Rüstungsstab (Armament Staff) to apply the same model of operation to all top-priority armament programs. The new task force also assumed responsibilities for the underground transfer projects of the Jägerstab.
- Boog, Horst; Krebs, Gerhard; Vogel, Detlef (2006). Germany and the Second World War: Volume VII: The Strategic Air War in Europe and the War in the West and East Asia, 1943-1944/5. London: Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0198228899.
- Buggeln, Marc (2014). Slave Labor in Nazi Concentration Camps. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198707974.
- Raim, Edith (1998). "Concentration Camps and the Non-Jewish Environment". In Berenbaum, Michael; Peck, Abraham. The Holocaust and History The Known, the Unknown, the Disputed and the Reexamined. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-33374-2.
- Uziel, Daniel (2012). Arming the Luftwaffe: The German Aviation Industry in World War II. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-6521-7.
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