Technische Nothilfe (abbreviated as TN, TeNo or TENO literally meaning "Technical Emergency Help") was a German organization founded after the First World War and developed into a volunteer emergency response unit. Its role was expanded during the Third Reich as the organization was placed in charge of technical civil defense.
It’s an underappreciated unit and, like all the organizations of the Third Reich, had its own very distinctive regalia including badges, uniforms and daggers. I bought my first TeNo hewer in 1970, along with a Red Cross hewer, for a total of $50 at a local flea market and was not even sure what it was. I shall have the opportunity to offer you some very nice TeNo items in the upcoming months so I wanted to tell you more about this “volunteer” group.
The TN was founded on September 30, 1919, by Otto Lummitzsch with the stated purpose to protect and maintain vital and strategic facilities (e.g. gas works, water works, power stations, railways, post offices, agriculture concerns and food production activities). At the time (1919–1923), these vital infrastructure facilities were under threat from sabotage and attack during a period bordering on civil war. This was caused by the collapse of the German economy following the end of WWI.
The organization was formed from primarily post World War I Army engineering/technical unit members and transitioned into a volunteer civilian organization. Based on the nature of its operations, the background of its personnel was mainly conservative middle class but included a large number of students, especially those in technical studies. In the Weimar Republic period, the TN was seen as a threat by the working class and thus aroused the animosity of trade unionists and more particularly, the Communist Party of Germany. The TN intervened as a volunteer aide organization when strikes could not be avoided, and when the public welfare was endangered as in strikes of electricity, food service and railroad workers.
As economic conditions improved after about 1925 and strikes became less common and less aggressive, the TN was able to shift its activities into public welfare areas such as disaster relief (Katastrophendienst), with respect to floods, fires, industrial accidents, bridge and railway collapses, as well as responding to motor vehicle accidents in the countryside.
Clandestine air raid protection activities also began in the late 1920s-early 1930s as the Luftschutzdienst (LD "Air Protection Service"). From 1931–1934, the TN also became involved in the Freiwilligen Arbeitsdienst (FAD "Volunteer Labour Service") and supervised training at over 12,000 locations. The FAD later morphed into the Reichsarbeitsdienst (RAD). Throughout the Third Reich, the TN, within Germany, focused on civil defense-air raid rescue, general disaster response and relief work.
From 1936, the TN was gradually absorbed into Ordnungspolizei as an auxiliary police organization and it came under the ultimate control of Heinrich Himmler, as the head of the police and, ultimately, the SS. From June 1, 1943, the TN members, serving outside of the Reich, wore the green uniform of the police and were referred to as the TN-Police. In addition to working within Germany, the TN was active in Nazi occupied countries from September 1, 1939 as Einsatzgruppen, which followed the Wehrmacht and restored vital services and functions in Poland, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Norway.
The TN Einsatzgruppen participated in the occupation of the Saar, Austria, Sudetenland, Poland and then in the Western Campaigns of 1940. Their purpose was to secure vital industries, prevent or repair sabotage, rebuild the infrastructure (bridges, power plants, drinking water facilities, wastewater facilities, etc.). TN units were taken into Luftwaffe (air force) service early on and other TN units into Heer service in mid-1941. Also, some TN units served in the Kriegsmarine (Navy), although it is poorly documented. Other TN units, under the control of the TN Headquarters, remained in service until the end of World War II.
You can see the TeNo or TN had its hands in many aspects during the Third Reich. Artifacts from this organization are very well made as the members were required to supply their own uniforms and accessories. Stay tuned as we shall have some very nice items from a large private collection to offer you in the upcoming months.