The term »labor service« usually conjures up images of men in uniforms carrying polished spades over their shoulders while marching in ranks at the Nuremberg Nazi Party rallies. The National
Socialist Reich Labor Service, in preparation since 1933 and finally introduced two years later, had a little-known forerunner whose legal basis had been established by the Brüning government in
1931. Organizations that participated in this early effort to relieve youth unemployment included the Katholischer Jungmännerverband (Catholic Young Men’s Federation), the Katholischer
Gesellenverein (Catholic Journeymen’s Association), the Werkjugend (Factory Youth), the Zentralverband der katholischen Jungfrauenvereinigungen (Central Federation of Catholic Young Women’s
Associations), the Jugendbund des Katholischen Deutschen Frauenbundes (Catholic German Women's League’s Youth Organization), and the Katholisches Reichswerk (Catholic Reich Charity
Organization), one of the major supporters of social-pedagogical measures.
Taking advantage of the fact that scholars have paid little attention to the Catholic role in the Volunteer Labor Service, the author produces a convincing and thorough historical account. He
demonstrates that the fundamental ideas and underlying motives of these Catholic organizations clearly transcended the economic, military, and völkisch-national priorities of the succeeding Reich Labor
Service. The newly developed social concepts represented by the Volunteer Labor Service always stressed service on behalf of unemployed workers, in the form of personal counseling, educational
functions, and job placement. In the visions of these activists, a Christian conception of labor, given new life by the Volunteer Labor Service, would serve as an important building block for
constructing an economic and social order based on Christian beliefs and usher in a religious renewal of society.
Relying on a broad range of sources, the author analyzes the motives of those groups involved in the Volunteer Labor Service and chronicles the legal groundwork, before
focusing on the service’s brief active phase until its termination in 1933.