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Freikorps
Freikorps
(pronounced [ˈfʀaɪ̯ˌkoːɐ̯], "Free Corps") were German volunteer units that existed from the 18th to the early 20th centuries, the members of which effectively fought as mercenaries, regardless of their own nationality. In German-speaking countries, the first so-called Freikorps
Freikorps
("free regiments", German: Freie Regimenter) were formed in the 18th century from native volunteers, enemy renegades and deserters, and criminals. These sometimes exotically equipped units served as infantry and cavalry (or more rarely as artillery), sometimes in just company strength, sometimes in formations up to several thousand strong; there were also various mixed formations or legions. The Prussian von Kleist Freikorps included infantry, jäger, dragoons and hussars. The French Volontaires de Saxe combined uhlans and dragoons. In the aftermath of World War I
World War I
and during the German Revolution of 1918–19, Freikorps
Freikorps
consisting largely of World War I
World War I
veterans were raised as right-wing paramilitary militias, ostensibly to fight on behalf of the government[1] against the Soviet-backed German Communists attempting to overthrow the Weimar Republic.[2][3] However, the Freikorps
Freikorps
also despised the Republic and were involved in assassinations of its supporters.[4][5] The Freikorps
Freikorps
were widely seen as a precursor to Nazism, and many of their volunteers ended up joining the Nazi militia, the Sturmabteilung
Sturmabteilung
(SA).[6] An entire series of Freikorps
Freikorps
awards also existed.

Contents

1 Origins 2 Napoleonic era 3 1815–1871 4 Post–World War I

4.1 Freikorps
Freikorps
units

5 See also 6 References 7 External links

Origins[edit]

Serbian, Wurmser, Odonel and Mahony Free Corps
Corps
in 1798

The very first Freikorps
Freikorps
were recruited by Frederick the Great
Frederick the Great
during the Seven Years' War. On 15 July 1759, Frederick ordered the creation of a squadron of volunteer hussars to be attached to the 1st Regiment of Hussars (von Kleist's Own). He entrusted the creation and command of this new unit to Colonel Friedrich Wilhelm von Kleist. This first squadron (80 men) was raised in Dresden
Dresden
and consisted mainly of Hungarian deserters. This squadron was placed under the command of Lieutenant Johann Michael von Kovacs. At the end of 1759, the first four squadrons of dragoons (also called horse grenadiers) of the Freikorps
Freikorps
were organised. They initially consisted of Prussian volunteers from Berlin, Magdeburg, Mecklenburg
Mecklenburg
and Leipzig, but later recruited deserters. The Freikorps
Freikorps
were regarded as unreliable by regular armies, so they were mainly used as sentries and for minor duties. These early Freikorps
Freikorps
appeared during the War of the Austrian Succession and especially the Seven Years' War, when France, Prussia and the Habsburg Monarchy
Habsburg Monarchy
embarked on an escalation of petty warfare while conserving their regular regiments. Even during the last Kabinettskrieg, the War of the Bavarian Succession, Freikorp formations were formed in 1778. Germans, Hungarians, Poles, Lithuanians
Lithuanians
and South Slavs, as well as Turks, Tatars
Tatars
and Cossacks, were believed by all warring parties to be inherently good fighters. The nationality of many soldiers can no longer be ascertained as the ethnic origin was often described imprecisely in the regimental lists. Slavs
Slavs
(Serbs, Croats) were often referred to as "Hungarians" or "Croats", and Muslim recruits (Albanians, Bosnians, Tatars) as "Turks". For Prussia, the Pandurs, who were made up of Serbs and Croats, were a clear model for the organization of such "free" troops. Frederick the Great created 14 "free infantry" (Frei-Infanterie) units, mainly between 1756 and 1758, which were intended to be attractive to those soldiers who wanted military "adventure", but did not want to have to do military drill. A distinction should be made between the Freikorps formed up to 1759 for the final years of the war, which operated independently and disrupted the enemy with surprise attacks and the free infantry which consisted of various military branches (such as infantry, hussars, dragoons, jäger) and were used in combination. They were often used to ward off Maria Theresa's Pandurs. In the era of linear tactics, light troops had been seen necessary for outpost, reinforcement and reconnaissance duties. During the war, eight such volunteer corps were set up:

Trümbach's Freikorps
Freikorps
(Voluntaires de Prusse) (FI) Kleist's Freikorps
Freikorps
(FII) Glasenapp's Free Dragoons
Dragoons
(F III) Schony's Freikorps
Freikorps
(F IV) Gschray's Freikorps
Freikorps
(F V) Bauer's Free Hussars (F VI) Légion Britannique (FV - of the Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg) Volontaires Auxiliaires (F VI).[7]

Because, with some exceptions, they were seen as undisciplined and less battleworthy, they were used for less onerous guard and garrison duties. In the so-called "petty wars", the Freikorps
Freikorps
interdicted enemy supply lines with guerrilla warfare. In the case of capture, their members were at risk of being executed as irregular fighters. In Prussia the Freikorps, which Frederick the Great
Frederick the Great
had despised as "vermin", were disbanded. Their soldiers were given no entitlement to pensions or invalidity payments. In France, many corps continued to exist until 1776. They were attached to regular dragoon regiments as jäger squadrons. During the Napoleonic Wars, Austria recruited various Freikorps
Freikorps
of Slavic origin. The Slavonic Wurmser Freikorps
Freikorps
fought in Alsace. The combat effectiveness of the six Viennese Freikorps
Freikorps
(37,000 infantrymen and cavalrymen), however, was low. An exception were the border regiments of Croats and Serbs who served permanently on the Austro-Ottoman border. Napoleonic era[edit]

Painting of three famous Free Corps
Corps
members in 1815: Heinrich Hartmann, Theodor Körner, and Friedrich Friesen

Freikorps
Freikorps
in the modern sense emerged in Germany during the course of the Napoleonic Wars. They fought not so much for money but rather out of patriotic motives, seeking to shake off the French Confederation of the Rhine. After the French under Emperor Napoleon
Napoleon
had either conquered the German states or forced them to collaborate, remnants of the defeated armies continued to fight on in this fashion. Famous formations included the King's German Legion, who had fought for Britain in French-occupied Spain and were mainly recruited from Hanoverians, the Lützow Free Corps
Corps
and the Black Brunswickers. The Freikorps
Freikorps
attracted many nationally disposed citizens and students. Freikorps
Freikorps
commanders such as Ferdinand von Schill, Ludwig Adolf Wilhelm von Lützow or Frederick William, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, known as the "Black Duke", led their own attacks on Napoleonic occupation forces in Germany. Those led by Schill were decimated in the Battle of Stralsund (1809); many were killed in battle or executed at Napoleon's command in the aftermath. The Freikorps
Freikorps
were very popular during the period of the German War of Liberation (1813–15), during which von Lützow, a survivor of Schill's Freikorps, formed his Lützow Free Corps. The anti-Napoleonic Freikorps
Freikorps
often operated behind French lines as a kind of commando or guerrilla force. Throughout the 19th century, these anti-Napoleonic Freikorps
Freikorps
were greatly praised and glorified by German nationalists, and a heroic myth built up around their exploits. This myth was invoked, in considerably different circumstances, in the aftermath of Germany's defeat in World War I. 1815–1871[edit] Even in the aftermath of the Napoleonic era, Freikorps
Freikorps
were set up with varying degrees of success. During the March 1848 riots, student Freikorps
Freikorps
were set up in Munich. In First Schleswig War
First Schleswig War
of 1848 the Freikorps
Freikorps
of von der Tann, Zastrow and others distinguished themselves. In 1864 in Mexico, the French formed the so-called Contreguerrillas under former Prussian hussar officer, Milson. In Italy Garibaldi formed his famous Freischars, notably the "Thousand of Marsala", which landed in Sicily
Sicily
in 1860. Even before the Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
of 1870/71, Freikorps
Freikorps
were developed in France
France
that were known as franc-tireurs. Post–World War I[edit] The meaning of the word Freikorps
Freikorps
changed over time. After 1918, the term was used for the paramilitary organizations that sprang up around Germany as soldiers returned in defeat from World War I. They were the key Weimar paramilitary groups active during that time. Many German veterans felt disconnected from civilian life, and joined a Freikorps in search of stability within a military structure. Others, angry at their sudden, apparently inexplicable defeat, joined up in an effort to put down communist uprisings, such as the Spartacist uprising, or exact some form of revenge on those they considered responsible for the armistice. They received considerable support from Minister of Defence Gustav Noske, a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. Noske used them to crush the German Revolution of 1918–19 and the Marxist
Marxist
Spartacist League, including arresting Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, who were killed on 15 January 1919. They were also used to defeat the Bavarian Soviet Republic
Bavarian Soviet Republic
in May 1919.[8] On 5 May 1919, members of Freikorps
Freikorps
Lützow in Perlach near Munich, acted on a tip from a local cleric and arrested and killed twelve alleged communist workers (most of them actually members of the Social Democratic Party). A memorial on Pfanzeltplatz in Munich
Munich
today commemorates the incident.[9][10][11]

A recruitment poster for the Freikorps
Freikorps
Hülsen

Freikorps
Freikorps
also fought against the communists in the Baltics, Silesia, Poland
Poland
and East Prussia
East Prussia
after the end of World War I, including aviation combat, often with significant success. Anti-Slavic racism was sometimes present, although the ethnic cleansing ideology and anti-Semitism that would be expressed in later years had not yet developed.[12] In the Baltics they fought against communists as well as against the newborn independent democratic countries Estonia
Estonia
and Latvia. In Latvia, Freikorps
Freikorps
murdered 300 civilians in Mitau who were suspected of having " Bolshevik
Bolshevik
sympathies". After the capture of Riga, another 3000 alleged communists were killed,[13] including summary executions of 50–60 prisoners daily.[14] Though officially disbanded in 1920, some of them continued to exist for several years[15] and many Freikorps' attempted, unsuccessfully, to overthrow the government in the Kapp Putsch
Kapp Putsch
in March 1920.[16] Their attack was halted when German citizens loyal to the government went on strike, cutting off many services and making daily life so problematic that the coup was called off. In 1920, Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
had just begun his political career as the leader of the tiny and as-yet-unknown Deutsche Arbeiterpartei/DAP German Workers' Party, which was soon renamed the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei/NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers Party) or Nazi Party
Nazi Party
in Munich. Numerous future members and leaders of the Nazi Party
Nazi Party
had served in the Freikorps, including Ernst Röhm, future head of the Sturmabteilung, or SA, Heinrich Himmler, future head of the Schutzstaffel, or SS, and Rudolf Höß, the future Kommandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Hermann Ehrhardt, founder and leader of Marinebrigade Ehrhardt, and his deputy Commander Eberhard Kautter, leaders of the Viking League, refused to help Hitler and Erich Ludendorff
Erich Ludendorff
in their Beer Hall Putsch and conspired against them. Hitler eventually viewed some of them as threats. A huge ceremony was arranged on 9 November 1933 in which the Freikorps
Freikorps
leaders symbolically presented their old battle flags to Hitler's SA and SS. It was a sign of allegiance to their new authority, the Nazi state.[17] When Hitler's internal purge of the party, the Night of the Long Knives, came in 1934, a large number of Freikorps
Freikorps
leaders were targeted for killing or arrest, including Ehrhardt and Röhm. Historian Robert GL Waite claims that in Hitler's "Röhm Purge" speech to the Reichstag on 13 July 1934, he implied that the Freikorps
Freikorps
were one of the groups of "pathological enemies of the state".[18] Freikorps
Freikorps
units[edit]

Friekorps artillery, c.1919

Freikorps
Freikorps
soldiers pictured during the Kapp Putsch
Kapp Putsch
of 1920

Sudeten German
Sudeten German
Freikorps
Freikorps
in Czechoslovakia, 1938

Iron Division (Eiserne Division, related to Eiserne Brigade and Baltische Landeswehr)

Fought in the Baltic. Defeated by the Estonian Army
Estonian Army
in the Battle of Cēsis[19] Trapped in Thorensberg
Thorensberg
by the Latvian Army. Rescued by the Rossbach Freikorps.[20]

Volunteer Division of Horse Guards (Garde-Kavallerie-Schützendivision)

Killed Rosa Luxemburg
Rosa Luxemburg
and Karl Liebknecht, 15 January 1919[21] Led by Captain Waldemar Pabst[21] Disbanded on order of Defence Minister Gustav Noske, 7 July 1919, after Pabst threatened to kill him[22]

Freikorps
Freikorps
Caspari

Fought against the Bremen Soviet Republic Fought under the command of Walter Caspari

Freikorps
Freikorps
Lichtschlag

Fought against the Red Ruhr Army Fought under the command of Oskar von Watter

Freikorps
Freikorps
Lützow

Occupied Munich
Munich
following the revolution of April 1919. Commanded by Major Schulz[23]

Marinebrigade Ehrhardt
Marinebrigade Ehrhardt
(The Second Naval Brigade)

Participated in the Kapp Putsch
Kapp Putsch
of 1920[24] Disbanded members eventually formed the Organisation Consul, which performed hundreds of political assassinations[25]

Freikorps
Freikorps
Maercker (Maercker's Volunteer Rifles, or Freiwilliges Landesjägerkorps)[26]

Had Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
as a member[27][28] Founded by Ludwig Maercker

Freikorps
Freikorps
Oberland

Kurt Benson

Freikorps
Freikorps
Roßbach (Rossbach)

Founded by Gerhard Roßbach Rescued the Iron Division after an extremely long march across Eastern Europe.[20] had Rudolph Hoess
Rudolph Hoess
as a member.

Sudetendeutsches Freikorps

Formed by Czech German nationalists with Nazi sympathies which operated from 1938 to 1939 Part of Hitler's successful effort to absorb Czechoslovakia into the Third Reich

See also[edit]

List of defunct Paramilitary
Paramilitary
Organizations List of Free Corps List of Freikorps
Freikorps
members List of Paramilitary
Paramilitary
Organizations Organisation Consul Freikorps
Freikorps
in the Baltic Battle of Annaberg Free Corps
Corps
Denmark Viking League related Freikorps
Freikorps
activities Free company
Free company
Medieval units with some similarities

References[edit] Notes

^ Haffner, Sebastian (2000). Defying Hitler. Picador. pp. 30–31, 33. ISBN 0-312-42113-3.  ^ William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany, New York, NY, Simon & Schuster, 2011, p. 55 ^ Heiden, Konrad (1944). Der Fuehrer: Hitler's Rise to Power. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. pp. 21–22.  ^ Heiden, Konrad (1944). Der Fuehrer: Hitler's Rise to Power. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. pp. 23–24.  ^ Heiden, Konrad (1944). Der Fuehrer: Hitler's Rise to Power. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. pp. 88–89.  ^ Haffner, Sebastian (2000). Defying Hitler. Picador. p. 34. ISBN 0-312-42113-3.  ^ Background, formation and numbering according to Bleckwenn (1986) Vol. IV, pp. 82ff ^ Carlos Caballero Jurado, Ramiro Bujeiro (2001). The German Freikorps 1918–23: 1918–23. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-184-2.  ^ Max Hirschberg & Reinhard Weber. Jude und Demokrat: Erinnerungen eines Münchener Rechtsanwalts 1883 bis 1939.  ^ Morris, Justice Imperiled: The Anti-Nazi Lawyer Max Hirschberg in Weimar Germany ^ Freikorps
Freikorps
Lützow in the Axis History Factbook ^ Michael Mann, Fascists, Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University, 2004, ISBN 9780521831314, p. 153. ^ A Brief History of the Birth of the Nazis: How the Freikorps
Freikorps
Blazed a Trail for Hitler Nigel Jones, Carroll & Graf, 2004 ^ Walking Since Daybreak : A Story of Eastern Europe, World War II, and the Heart of Our Century by Modris Eksteins, page 73, 2000 ^ Kolko 1994. ^ Mason, K. J.; Fielden, Philip (2007). Republic to Reich: A History of Germany 1918–1939 (Third ed.). Melbourne, Australia: Cengage Learning Australia. p. 28.  ^ Waite, p. 197. ^ Waite, pp. 280–1. See also the full text of the speech at http://members.tripod.com/~Comicism/340713.html ^ Osprey - Elite 76 - The German Freikorps
Freikorps
1918-23. 2001. (page 20) ^ a b Waite, p. 131, 132. ^ a b Waite, p. 62. ^ Waite, p. 145. ^ Waite, p. 89. ^ Waite, pp. 140–2. ^ Waite, p. 203, 216. ^ Waite, pp. 33–7. ^ "Axis History Factbook". Retrieved 3 January 2009.  ^ Mueller, p 61

Bibliography

Blanke, Richard (1993). Orphans of Versailles: The Germans
Germans
in Western Poland, 1918–1939. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-1803-4.  Eley, Geoff (1990). "Conservatives and radical nationalists in Germany: the production of fascist potentials, 1912–28". In Blinkhorn, Martin. Fascists and Conservatives: The Radical Right and the Establishment in Twentieth-Century Europe. New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 50–70. ISBN 978-0-049-40087-0.  Gerwarth, Robert (2008). "The Central European Counter-Revolution: Paramilitary
Paramilitary
Violence in Germany, Austria and Hungary after the Great War". Past & Present. 200 (1): 175–209. doi:10.1093/pastj/gtm046.  Hoess, Rudolf; Fitzgibbon, Constantine; Levi, Primo (2000). Commandant of Auschwitz: The Autobiography of Rudolf Hoess. Translated by Constantine Fitzgibbon, Joachim Neugroschel. Sterling Publishing. ISBN 1-84212-024-7.  Koepp, Roy G. (2010). Conservative Radicals: The Einwohnerwehr, Bund Bayern Und Reich, and the Limits of Paramilitary
Paramilitary
Politics in Bavaria, 1918–1928 (PhD). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska.  Kolko, Gabriel (1994). Century of War: Politics, Conflicts, and Society since 1914. New York, NY: The New Press. ISBN 978-1-565-84192-5.  Morris, Douglas G. (2005). Justice Imperiled: The Anti-Nazi Lawyer Max Hirschberg in Weimar Germany. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-11476-X.  Mueller, Michael (2007). Canaris. Naval Institute Press.  Read, Anthony (2004). The Devil's Disciples: Hitler's Inner Circle. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-04800-4.  Waite, Robert G. L. (1969) [1952]. Vanguard of Nazism: The Free Corps Movement in Post-War Germany, 1918–1923. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company. OCLC 3633548. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Freikorps
Freikorps
at Wikimedia Commons

Authority control

GND: 41

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