The Volkssturm was a German national militia which was created during the last months of the Second World War. On October 18, 1944, as the tide of the war had changed, Adolf Hitler founded this fighting militia. Males, who were not already serving in some military unit, between the ages of 16 to 60 years were conscripted as part of a German Home Guard. The word "Volkssturm" derives from the two German words "Volk" plus "Sturm;" that is to say "people" + "storm," storming people.
The creation of the Volkssturm was based on the old Prussian Landsturm of 1813 – 1815, that fought in the liberation wars against Napoleon, mainly as guerrilla forces. Plans to form a Landsturm national militia in Eastern Germany as a last resort to boost fighting strength had come from Oberkommando des Heeres chief General Heinz Guderian in 1944, because the Wehrmacht was lacking manpower to stop the Soviet advance.
Volkssturm soldiers were given only very basic military training, which included a brief indoctrination and training on the use of basic weapons such as the Karabiner 98k rifle, Volkssturmgewehr 1-5 automatic rifle, and the Panzerfaust. Because of continuous fighting and weapon shortages, weapon training was often very minimal. Since there was a lack of instructors, weapons training was sometimes done by WW1-veterans drafted into service themselves. Often Volkssturm members had to familiarize themselves with their weapons when in actual combat.
During the Battle of Berlin, Volkssturm units fought fiercely in many parts of the city. This battle was particularly devastating to its formations, since many members fought to the death to defend their country against the Soviet invasion. Another important Volkssturm battle was the Battle of Königsberg.
Volkssturm members being trained in the use of the Panzerfaust (video)