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Forum » The interwar period (1918-1939) / Межвоенный период (1918-1939) » Thread: Фрайкоры/Freicorps -- Page 2  Jump To: 

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From: Воронеж
Messages: 1584

Sent: 09-06-2012 17:25

A representative recruiting poster, in this case for the Freikorps Hülsen - 'Reichswehr Brig.З - Registration offices: Friedberg.Hessen.Schloss'. (Von Oven)

In the Ferst World War began in the summer of 1914, great demonstrations of popular enthusiasm broke out in all major European cities. The governments of all the combatant powers received almost unanimous support from their parliaments for what was generally expected to be a short and glorious war. What followed proved to be an unprecedented ordeal, as for the first time in history mass conscription took a whole generation of European manhood and fed them into an unimaginably horrible industrialised slaughterhouse. Hundreds of thousands of men fell in each of a series of bloody, monthslong battles, which followed one another relentlessly, year after year, seemingly with no end in sight.

For four years the front-line fighting men lived ilt a sort of hell; but on the ՝home front', too, the uncomprehending civil populations also suffered increasing misery as shortages gripped, leading in many countries to real hunger. The initial patriotic joy turned first into baffled disbelief, then into despair and rage. The political leaders who opposed the war - a small and generally derided minority in 1914 - began to win more and more popular support. Every day increasingly bitter criticism was voiced against the military and political leadership which seemed unable to end the conflict.

Russia was the first country where tilis unrest broke Olit into actual revolution. The patriotic fervour stirred by the outbreak of war had only
masked already dangerous pressures, and the three-year ordeal which followed finally exposed the chronic failings of the Tsarist state. 111 February 1917 the Tsar was removed from power by a moderate reformist regime headed by Kerensky, which attempted to continue the war; but the Russian revolutionary process only ended that October, when V. I. Lenin's Bolshevik (Communist) party took power in a coup d'etat. The example of revolutionary Russia would have a great impact in all European countries.

For the Marxist Lenin, and for his imitators all over Europe, mankind's history was simply a succession of episodes in the struggle between the classes. Following Marxist theory, the First World War was an irrelevant contest between rival capitalist powers whose consequent weakening offered the long-awaited opportunity for a radical transformation of society. The rights of the proletariate could be secured only through a civil war between the social classes, in which the 'inevitable՝ victory of the workers would lead to the establishment of a 'dictatorship of the proletariate', and the eventual withering away of the coercive powers of the state. In Russia the seizure of power by Lenin's Bolsheviks was followed immediately by a long, cruel and devastating civil war (1). Similar upheavals occurred in some other European countries; although never matching the horror or intensity of the Russian experience, some of these were still dramatic.

Men of the Volksmarine Division with an armoured car, in the Berlin barracks which they occupied, December 1918. Alt have removed the national insignia from their caps. A mixture of naval and military uniforms are worn by this group; and note the sailor (centre) armed with a cutlass - cf. Plate A3. (Von Oven)

In some countries the Bolshevik-inspired extreme left wing parties attempted to seize power by violent revolutionary means. As a consequence, the end of the Great War did not silence the guns; on the contrary, the Armistice only heralded the beginning of a number of more or less intense internal struggles. While these broke out in several of the defeated countries, some of the winners (e.g. Italy) endured similar episodes. The most perfect example of such low intensity civil wars, however, is that which was to plague Germany. Simultaneously with these internal conflicts, the drawing of new national frontiers after the collapse of the Central Powers in 1918 caused a number of international border wars. The rebirth of Poland as an independent state and the consequent conflict with Germany provides a typical examplar of these territorial disputes.

This text deals with the Freikorps movement, which represented one of the most important factions to fight in Germany's low intensity civil war, and also shouldered the defence of the national borders, mainly against the Poles.

1 See MAA 293, 4 The Russian Civil War: The Red Army, and MAA 305, The Russian Civil War: The White Armies


In November 1918, when the German Imperial government concluded an armistice with the Allies, many German soldiers did not have the feeling of having been defeated. At that moment, while steadily retreating in the face of a massive Allied offensive, German armies were still on French and Belgian soil, and also controlled a good portion of the old Tsarist empire and the Balkans. Nevertheless, the German High Command were conscious that after the failure of their offensive in France in spring 1918 a military victory was impossible. The failure of the German leaders to achieve a victory that could justify to their people the crippling costs of the war opened the way for the revolution that brought down the Second Reich.

Since 1916 there had existed in Germany an extreme-left political group named the Spartakusbund ('Spartacus League'), which pressed for an immediate end to the war, and pursued a Communist revolutionary programme. Tilis movement was hugely encouraged by the triumph of the February 1917 revolution in Russia; from April that year large scale strikes developed in Germany, and that summer a mutiny broke out in the German High Seas Fleet, while parliament also demanded an end to hostilities.

The German Socialist Party (Sozialistische Partei Deutschlands, or SPD) remained loyal to the government and continued to support the military effort; bilt ilt April 1917 a large element of the SPD split off to form the Independent German Socialist Party (USPD). The new party adopted a more extreme platform, demanding not only peace but also major social and political reforms.

Offizierstellvertreter Suppe, an NCO/officer candidate of 2.Garde Regiment, was the Creator of the very first Freikorps unit as early as 21 November 1918 - a 1,500-strong battalion of NCOs.

In spite of the growing unrest at home, the German High Command under Ludendorff continued to conduct major military operations. However, in September 1918 the other members of the Central Powers (Turkey, Bulgaria and the Austro-Hungarian Empire) began to explore the possibilities of an armistice with the Entente powers; and it became clear that Germany had no option but to follow silit. With the aim of getting the best conditions for an armistice the German High Seas Fleet - largely shut up in its harbours for the past two years - was ordered to sail, to demonstrate the Reich's continuing military power.

On 28 October 1918 the German warship crews in Kiel, instead of sailing f r om their base, mutinied and raised the red flag on their ships. The mutiny quickly spread to other German ports such as Lübeck, Hamburg and Bremen. The ships' officers were overpowered and in some cases murdered; and the ratings set lip 'Workers' and Sailors' Councils' (Räte in German), on the model of the Russian 'Soviets'. The mutinous sailors formed the Volksmarine Division ('People's Naval Division'), and immediately sent detachments all over Germany - and especially to Berlin - in order to spread the revolution.

Early January 1919: Oberst Wilhelm Reinhard, from 4.Garde Regiment (centre, leaning on gate), receives reports of the fighting in Berlin-Moabit. Note the white armbands (see Plate A1).

Once the German public learned that the government was seeking an armistice, revolutionary unrest spread all over the Reich. Soldiers refused to fire Oll the mobs which stormed their barracks to raise the red flag over them. All over the country Workers' and Soldiers' Councils were set lip. The SPD, which had formed part of the government since September, attempted to help stop the revolutionary wave. One of its leaders, Gustav Noske, who had been appointed governor of Kiel, partially succeeded in restoring calm in that city, but it was far too late to confine the revolutionary movement. On 8 November Bavaria's reigning Wittelsbach dynasty was removed from power in Munich. The next day Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia, abdicated his throne. All Germany's other petty rulers were also deposed.

Understanding that the revolution was impossible to stop, the SPD joined it. On 9 November an SPD leader, Scheidemann, proclaimed the German Republic. But at the same time the Spartacist leader Carl Liebknecht declared the birth of the German Socialist Republic - two rival political projects were about to clash. For the SPD, the Kaiser's abdication marked the successful end of the revolution; for the Spartacists and the USPD the abdication was only that revolution's first step.

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Sent: 09-06-2012 17:47

The SPD, the main force on the German left, had no intention of seeing their country follow Russia's path, where the Tsar's fall led not to the birth of a democracy but to a Communist dictatorship imposed by force. In order to form the first Provisional Government of the German Republic the SPD agreed to join forces with the USPD; at the same time the SPD leader Friedrich Ebert agreed with Gen.Groener, the deputy chief-of-staff who had replaced Ludendorff, that the Army would support the new government, since it was in both their interests to prevent a Communist insurrection.

On 11 November 1918 the Armistice was signed and immediately the German Army began a disciplined retreat towards its national frontiers. It quickly became evident, however, that as soon as units arrived at their home stations they would dissolve: the only wish of most German soldiers was to return to their homes. For this reason, on 27 November, the German High Command ordered its subordinate commands to raise new units, formed only f r om volunteers of unquestionable loyalty.

At the political level, in November and December 1918 Germany in fact lived under two parallel authorities. On the one hand was the Provisional Government (whose official name, following the Russian example, was actually 'the Council of People's Commissars'). Oll the other were the Workers' and Soldiers' Councils, of which more than 10,000 had sprung up all over Germany. Since the Provisional Government had very little actual authority, Germany's future depended on the path which this 'Councils Movement' (Rдterbeiuegung) would choose to follow.

Gustav Noske, appointed Defence Minister in the SPD government, reviews men of a Marine Brigade. (Von Oven)

On 16 December 1918 the Councils' Pan-German Congress opened in Berlin. Although many radical proposals were put forward, in the end the SPD got control of the Congress by democratic means - the Spartacists were a small minority. The Congress's main resolution was a call for a National Assembly in order to draw up a constitution. The Spartacists understood that they could not achieve power by political means; so they decided to try to seize it by armed insurrection.

Since the beginning of the revolution, armed militias had been formed composed of former soldiers - who had replaced their Imperial insignia with red cockades - and of civilians sporting red armbands; these militias called themselves Republikanische Soldatenwehren ('Republican Soldiers' Forces'). Initially their members came from the SPD and USPD, but the Spartacists soon managed to take control of the movement. In response the SPD raised a new militia, the Republikanische Schutztruppe ('Republican Defence Troops'), loyal to the Provisional Government. However, the most powerful revolutionary militia was the Volksmarine Division, whose sailors were still in Berlin. The Army High Command wished to disarm all these militias, and the Provisional Government to gain control over them. On 12 December 1918 it proposed to raise a Freiwillige Volkswehr ('Volunteer People's Force') to integrate all the militias. Although this project never materialised, it would have left the Spartacists without control of the shock troops needed to carry out a coup d'etat. They decided to act without further delay.

General Ludwig Maercker, GOC of the 214.lnfanterie Division, raised the first major Freikorps formation in December 1918; a member of this Freiwilligen Landesjдgerkorps is illustrated as Plate D2.

The Freikorps

Defeat and revolution had practically dissolved the German Army. Even where troops remained in their barracks the Soldiers' Councils usurped the officers' authority. (It was common for extremists to tear the rank badges and medals from the uniforms of veterans, and officers rarely dared wear uniform in public for fear of mob violence.) Tilis military weakness coincided with revolutionary threats to German unity, and new menaces on the national borders. Both the Poles and the Czechs saw the German crisis as an opportunity to enlarge their new states at Germany's expense.

A group of Spartacists manning an MG 08 heavy machine gun in the Lindenstrasse, Berlin, January 1919. Remnants of military and naval uniform can be seen along with civilian clothes.

All these factors, and particularly the perceived danger of a Communist dictatorship in Germany, provoked a spontaneous reaction among many military men - officers, NGOs and soldiers alike - who were still strongly inspired by nationalist and patriotic sentiment. It was in this context that the 'Free Corps' movement was born.

The first of them was raised in Kiel, on Gustav Noske's orders; the SPD city mayor grouped loyal Navy officers and sailors into a unit named the Eiserne Brigade ('Iron Brigade'). But it was Gen.Maercker, commanding the 214.Infanterie Division, who created the classic model which would later be followed by most Free Corps. On 6 December Maercker decided to recruit a Free Corps among the men of his division, and orders were issued on 14 December. This all-volunteer Freiwillige Landesjдgerkorps ('Volunteer Provincial Rifle Corps') was ready to serve under Provisional Government authority to oppose the revolutionary threat. Due to the prestige he enjoyed among his soldiers Gen.Maercker successfully recruited several thousand men in a short time, although he had difficulty in fitting them all out with weapons and uniforms. In an important contrast with the old Imperial Army, the rigid disciplinary barriers which separated officers from other ranks were abolished, and Maercker emphasised a solid comradeship among all his volunteers. (Among front-line troops the separation had in fact never been as rigid as is sometimes supposed.) Another important innovation was that all units of Maercker's corps were of mixed arms. Due to the kind of combats that they faced it made no sense to maintain the traditional separation of infantry, cavalry and artillery. In the Landesjдgerkorps units combined elements of all arms of service, tillis avoiding the need to improvise mixed formations when entering combat.

Maercker's example was immediately followed, and during December 1918 other Free Corps were born around Berlin - e.g. the Freikorps Potsdam (Maj.voll StephanЎ), FK Reinhard (Oberst Reinhard), Carde Kavallerie Schьtzen Division (Cen.voll Hofmann), FK Held (Gen.von Held), FK Hьlsen (Genрvon Hьlsen), and the Deutsche Schutz Division (Gen.von Wissel). Most of them were formed from former regular military units. These Free Corps, together with Maercker's corps and the Eiserne Brigade (now led by Oberst von Roden), would be the forces which Gustav Noske - appointed defence minister in the SPD government on 27 December - would use in the battle for control of Berlin.

Berlin, 6 March 1919: a disabled MG 08 on the roof of the Polizeiprдsidiums (Police HQ) on the Alexanderplatz after heavy fighting between the Freiw.Regt. Reinhard and the Volksmarine Division.

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From: Воронеж
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Sent: 09-06-2012 18:11
The Spartacist rising

In the last days of December 1918 the situation in Berlin was openly revolutionary. On the 23rd the Spartacists and the Volksmarine Division stormed the Berlin Kommandantur and encircled the Reich Chancellery. The government appealed to the Army for help, but the units which had arrived ili Berlin from the front had largely vanished as soon as they reached their barracks; it was only possible to send a small party of soldiers. These succeeded in freeing the Provisional Government, but were unable to dislodge the Volksmarine Division from its quarters in the Imperial Palace, due to the opposition of a large number of demonstrators led by Spartacists. The soldiers were unwilling to fire on civilians. This episode established the uselessness of sending regular troops against the revolutionary masses; neither could the SPD militia hope to confront the Spartacists successfully. After the fighting of 23-24 December the USPD withdrew from the Provisional Government and passed to the opposition, leaving the SPD alone ili government. On 30 December the Spartakusbund took the new title of Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands ('German Communist Party', KPD). To maintain its authority and public order, the SPD government would have to turn to the Free Corps.

Berlin, March 1919: men of the Trench Mortar Detachment Heuschkel block the Wilhelmstrasse against Communist demonstrators. The placard reads 'Halt! Anyone who goes past will be shot'. The man to the left of it can just be seen to wear the M1918 helmet with ear cut-outs; the volunteer to the right wears the badge of this Freikorps on his left sleeve (see Plate H12).


The battle for Berlin

On 5 January 1919 the USPD and KPD called a demonstration; some 700,000 people turned out on the streets of Berlin waving red Hags, and the Communists took control of the centre of the capital. Іn response, the next day the Provisional Government legalised the status of the already existing Free Corps, summoning volunteers to defend the law, public order and the frontiers. On 9 January the KPD instructed its followers to launch ail armed insurrection.

On 10 January the eight Free Corps named above converged on the city, occupying the outer districts. Next day they stormed the city centre, expelling the Communists from the government buildings and newspaper offices which they had occupied. The fighting was severe, and machine guns, field gillis and flamethrowers were employed; many barricades and buildings were taken by assault. Many of the Free Corps volunteers were former members of elite wartime units such as the Sturmtruppen assault battalions (2), and they proved more than a much for much larger but less disciplined leftist forces.

From 12 January the Free Corps units deployed all over the city, mopping tip nests of Communist resistance and snipers, and searching for extremists and weapons caches. On the 15th Carl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, the two main Spartacist leaders who had called for the 'social class war', were arrested by Free Corps members and brutally murdered. In order to avoid further major violence, on 20 December the Provisional Government - well aware that many Free Corps members hated both the fledgling Republic and the Socialist Party little less than they did the Communists - ordered the Free Corps to leave Berlin.

On 19 January the German people voted for a new National Assembly, and the SPD won a convincing victory in the elections. But although it was clear that Germany did not wish to repeat the Russian experience, the Communists had enough popular support to threaten the new parliament if it convened in Berlin. It was decided that the new seat of parliament would be the city of Weimar, under the protection of Gen.Maercker's Free Corps; and it was as the Weimar Republic that the new polity would be known to history.

The spread of the Freikorps movement

In spring 1919 several hundred new Freikorps sprang lip all over Germany, of all sizes from a single company lip to a full division with artillery, pioneers, cavalry and even air squadrons as well as infantry. Many originated in wartime regular Army units, with volunteer veterans grouping themselves around trusted leaders and maintaining to some extent their old unit traditions. Some of the corps took names which clearly showed their Imperial Army origins, e.g. the Freikorps V.Armeekorps. Others were created by respected combat officers (or even NGOs) who gathered around them volunteers from different backgrounds, civilian as well as military. These leaders set up recruiting offices in any convenient place, such as cafés or private houses; and when enough men had been enrolled they began to operate. To acquire uniforms, weapons and ammunition was not difficult at a time when many military barracks were almost without garrisons.

Lancer squadron from the FK Lichtschlag, raised by Hauptmann Lichtschlag (inset), and operational in February 1919 in the towns of Dorsten and Bottrop north of Essen during the first confrontations with revolutionaries in the Ruhr. The squadron commander (left), wearing a sheepskin coat, holds а Р 08 pistol and has a slung carbine. Several of his troopers can be seen to wear the M1918 helmet with cut-outs over the ears. The man at right foreground wears the badge of the FK Lichtschlag just above the left elbow of his greatcoat: this was a shield with a rampant horse, surrounded by an oakleaf wreath, apparently in white or silver-grey.

The popularity of this movement is explained by the confused and revolutionary conditions then spreading all over Central and Eastern Europe. The Russian Red Army was advancing through the Baltic countries, threatening East Prussia. Communists had taken power in Hungary and were leading serious riots in Austria. The borders between Germany and Poland, still not officially determined, saw frequent armed clashes. Inside the Reichthere were rumblings of secession in Bavaria and, to a lesser degree, in Saxony and the Rhineland. Although the Versailles Confer ence began on 19 January, the Allies were still maintaining their naval blockade; unemployment and hunger were widespread in German cities, offering fertile ground for the revolutionary propaganda of the KPD and USPD. Willi the very existence of Germany as a unified state within secure borders called into question, and with the fragile institutions of the new Republic under open threat from armed factions on the extreme left, many Germans considered that continuing to bear arms in defence of what remained of their state institutions was not only legitimate blit an unavoidable patriotic duty.

The SPD triumph ili the Congress and in the elections for the National Assembly, together with the Free Corps' December victory ill Berlin, by no means signified that control of the country was securely in government hands. The real power was on the streets, and the government needed to regain it in the areas and cities under extreme left wing control.

March 1919: the officer in the centre holds bundled under his arm a red flag captured during the fighting for the Königsberg garrison fortress. Note that the white armband worn by these Freikorps volunteers is sometimes a simple tied handkerchief.

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Sent: 09-06-2012 18:29
North-West and Central Germany

Defence Minister Noske resolved to regain control, firstly, of the north-west German ports - Bremen, Cuxhaven, Wilhelmshaven and Hamburg - which had been in Communist hands since the first days of the revolution, and which did not accept the authority of the government. For this operation he assigned a powerful Free Corps - the Freiw.Landesschiitzenkorps led by Gen.von Roeder - reinforced by three units formed from Navy personnel: the Eiserne Brigade, now renamed I.Marine Brigade; the II.Marine Brigade (Korvettenkapitдn Ehrhardt); and the III.Marine Brigade (Korvettenkapitдn von Lцwenfeld).

As in Berlin, the leftists had numerically superior armed militias under their orders; but the Free Corps attack launched on 4 February against Bremen broke their resistance in hard street fighting. This provided a salutary demonstration, and after a few days all the other ports yielded to government authority.

Revolutionary unrest broke Olit immediately in the Ruhr, Germany's industrial and mining heartland. The KPD and USPD called a general strike and the local Soldiers' Councils supported them. The locally raised FK Lichtschlag, supported by elements of the Free Corps from the north-west coast, confronted the so-called 'Red Army of the Ruhr'. There were violent skirmishes, but an agreement was negotiated by SPD leaders in order to avoid sabotage of the mines by radical strikers, which would have caused economic catastrophe.

Now the focus shifted to the industrial cities of central Germany, several of which had proclaimed themselves as 'Autonomous Revolutionary Cities' at the end of February. Luckily for the government these rebellions were not simultaneous, and the Free Corps crushed them one by one. This campaign was led by Gen.Maercker, who employed a part of his own powerful corps (I.Brigade, Freiw. Landesjдgerkorps) plus other veteran Free Corps (II.Marine Brigade - now usually referred to as the Ehrhardt Brigade - and FK Hьlsen), together with more recently created units: FK Gцrlitz (Oberstleutnant Faupel) and FK von Oven (Gen.von Oven). Also employed at this time was an ultra-nationalist association of former front-line soldiers, the Stahlhelm ('Steel Helmet').

On 1 March 1919, Maercker's troops stormed Halle, where hard fighting brought total success. This 'Spring Campaign' under Maercker's leadership would be prolonged until mid-May; fresh fighting in Berlin and the 'invasion' of Bavaria (see below) obliged part of Maercker's force to be withdrawn from Central Germany to face these new dangers.

A particular feature of this campaign was that Free Corps troops advanced into the Lдnder of Brunswick and Saxony in order to overthrow extreme left wing provincial governments which had taken power under the chaotic conditions which still prevailed. Both these Communist governments had made public their wish to break with the Reich and to ally themselves with Soviet Russia. This 'invasion' of two Lдnder which did not belong to Prussia demonstrated that neither the SPD government nor the Free Cor ps would allow any kind of secessionism.

Successively the Free Corps took Magdeburg (10 April), Dresden (14 April), Brunswick (18 April), and Leipzig (11 May). After their capture Gen.Maercker raised in each city new militias, called Einwohnerwehren ('Citizen Forces'), which became a kind of 'Free Corps reserve'. The main difference between Freikorps and Einwohnerwehren was that in the first former front-line soldiers were in a majority, while in the second civilian volunteers predominated.

Munich, early May 1919: a Krupp-Daimler Plattformwagen used as a Geschьtzwagen - self-propelled artillery truck. The Freikorps is unidentified, but under magnification a large white death's-head can be seen painted over the armoured louvres of the radiator.

Berlin: the Volksmarine Division defeated

While Maercker's troops established government control of Central Germany, on 3 March the KPD and USPD in Berlin called a general strike. The government immediately declared martial law, while the revolutionaries once more took control of the city centre and the Free Corps gathered again in the suburbs. On the 5th the Volksmarine Division joined the revolutionaries. Fighting spread all over the city and lasted until 13 March. Oll the government side the same Free Corps were involved as had beeil the previous December, but now reinforced by the Ehrhardt Brigade. Heavy weapons, including tanks, were liberally used. Free Corps discipline and experience again prevailed, and after this new Free Corps victory the Volksmarine Division was finally dissolved. This episode cost about 1,500 dead and 12,000 wounded. The 'Reds' fought ruthlessly, and the Free Corps certainly responded ili kind; but at least their merciless crushing of the rising avoided the spread of a national civil war, which would have been a vastly bloodier affair.


Bavaria is a German region with a strong historic personality, whose existence as a kingdom was older than Prussia's. Inside the Second Reich the Kingdom of Bavaria enjoyed political self-government and a wide autonomy which even included its own army; but Prussian hegemony provoked the resentment of many Bavarians. The tragic costs of the First World War were blamed by a part of the Bavarian population on Prussian militarism.

Munich, together with Kiel, was the first focus of the German revolution. On 2 November 1918 a large crowd headed by the leftist leader Kurt Eisner had attacked Munich's military barracks, provoking the abdication of the royal family. Eisner was appointed head of the Bavarian government, and pursued a policy of open confrontation with the central government in Berlin. On 21 February 1919 an extreme right wing activist murdered Eisner, causing a violent reaction from the leftists. On 7 April the left wing extremists proclaimed the Bayerische Rдterrepublik ('Bavarian Councils' Republic') - a Soviet-style republic inside Germany.

The Bavarian branch of the SPD broke its links with the Communists and organised a 'government in exile' at Bamberg, led by the Bavarian SPD leader Adolf Hoffmann. In Munich the KPD and USPD radicals, some of whom had arrived directly f r om Moscow, had total power. On 12 April the SPD armed militia, the Republikanische Schutztruppe, failed to dislodge the extremists. In response, the KPD/USPD government ordered the raising of a 'Bavarian Red Army' which counted 25,000 men by the end of April. The situation in Munich was chaotic - to hunger and unemployment was added a reign of terror, including the shooting of hostages.

From Berlin, Defence Minister Noske offered Hoffmann help from the Free Corps to recapture Munich; but Hoffmann rejected the offer, thinking that the presence of Prussian soldiers in Bavaria would be too provocative. He sent a small armed force to advance on the city, but tilis was defeated by the Bavarian Red Army near Dachau on 16 April. Now Hoffmann did ask Noske for help, and the minister entrusted military operations in Bavaria to Gen.Ernst von Oven (3).

3. Not to be confused with Gen.Georg von Oven, leader of his own Freikorps - they were cousins.

Almost 30,000 men were concentrated to surround Munich. This force included veteran shock units such as the Ehrhardt Brigade and FK Gцrlitz; and other new but powerful corps such as the 2.Garde Infanterie Division (Gen.von Friedeburg) and Freiwillige Abteilung Haas (Gen.Haas). Highly reputed Bavarian Free Corps would also take part: the Bayerischen Schьtzenkorps of Oberst Franz von Epp (better known as the FK von Epp), and the FK Oberland. The Free Corps fought many battles against Communist revolution-aries; not all can be studied in a book of this size, but the events in Munich may stand as a representative example.

On 27 April 1919 the Free Corps units crossed the Bavarian border, advancing quickly towards Munich. Large forces were assembled. Some Free Corps arrived from the neighbouring Land of Wьrttemberg; these, reinforced by several Bavarian units, formed Gen.Haas' task force, which surrounded Munich from the west. Its order of battle included the Wьrttemburgischer Freiwilligen Regiment Senter and the Wьrt. Freiw.Regt. Graeter; and from Bavaria, Von Epp's Bayerischen Schьtzenkorps, the Bayer.Schьtzenkorps Herrgot, Bayer.Freiw.Abt. von Bogendorfer, FK Werdenfels and FK Schwaben.

(Left) Oberst Ritter von Epp, uniformed according to the regulations of the Provisional Reichswehr; note oval unit arm badge, and Kragenspiegel, the lace collar bars of the Guard regiments whose use was now extended to all units. He carries a small calibre pistol in a non-regulation holster.
(Centre) This Oberleutnant wears the new M1919 Dienstmьtze cap, and the left sleeve badge of the FK von Epp (see Plate H2); note his 'naval'-style rank rings above the cuff.
(Right) A Prussian Hauptmann from the Garde Kavallerie Schьtzen Division displays its badge (see Plate H8) pinned to the centre of his collar patches. Compare these uniforms and insignia with details on Plate J. (Bay. Armeemuseum)

North of Munich two other task forces were deployed, mainly composed of elements from Prussia. North-west of the city Gen.Friedeburg's task force included the (Preussische Freiwilligen) 2.Garde Infanterie Division, FK Gцrlitz and the Hessische-Thuringische-Waldekische Freikorps. To the north-east was Gen.Deeюjer's force, with the Preuss.Kavallerie Schьtzenkorps and the Ehrhardt Brigade.

A fourth task force was deployed east of the city. Led by Geil. Siebert, it was mainly composed of Bavarian Free Corps: the Bayerische Freiwilligen Abteilung Sellad, Bayer.Freiw.Abt. Heinzmann, Bayer.Freiw.Abt. Voithenleitner, Bayer.Freiw.Abt. Schaaf, and FK Oberland. The only Prussian unit in tilis force was the FK Liitzow.

Although Free Corps from very different backgrounds took part in these operations, their co-ordination was successful. Among them some originated directly from old Army units, e.g. the two Wьrttemberg regiments named above, which could almost be regarded as regular troops; others were ՝genuine' Free Corps, raised by individuals regardless of any official initiative. Although former 'front-fighters' predominated in many units, among the Bavarian Free Corps there were many civilians. Bavaria was a conservative region, and the revolution in Munich had frightened the Roman Catholic middle classes and peasantry alike. Irrespective of their origins, however - old Army or new volunteers, Bavarian, Prussian or from other German provinces - all these units accepted the authority of the regular Army generals who were placed in command.

The Bavarian Red Army had at one point boasted some 60,000 men, but its numbers began to dwindle through mass desertion when its members learned of the approaching threat. From 28 to 30 April the Free Corps tightened the encirclement of Munich, capturing the neighbouring towns one by one. Inside the city KPD extremists began to murder their political opponents en masse. The Free Corps assault was planned for 2 May; but when news of these executions reached them some Free Corps - e.g. the Ehrhardt Brigade and FK Oberland - decided to anticipate it, attacking on 1 May. At the same time anti-Communists inside Munich were encouraged by the proximity of the Free Corps to rise against the Communist regime and take over some vital positions.

A Freikorpskдmpfer resting placidly behind the bullet-holed window of the Ring Hotel after the battle for Munich, May 1919.

The Free Corps entered Munich from all sides in a concentrated attack. Before the assault aircraft dropped propaganda leaflets calling for surrender. Thanks to the concentration of the units and the weight of the attack victory was quickly achieved. The battle lasted two days, and although some quarters of the city were occupied without the firing of a shot, in others hard fighting was necessary; some Communist strongpoints had to be reduced with flamethrowers. The 'Red Terror' that had reigned in Munich for six months was over; it was now avenged by equally ruthless repression of the leftists at the hands of the Free Corps.

The Free Corps' campaign in Bavaria was not only the largest operation against German Communists; it also eradicated the worst danger of secession faced by the young Weimar Republic, since the Bavarian separatist movement was the only one with some degree of genuine popular support.

'The Saviours of Munich' - poster thanking the forces of all the German Lande which liberated Munich from the 'Red Terror'.

The Munich victory raised the Free Corps to a zenith of prestige. Thanks to them, Communist insurgents had been defeated in Berlin; the German northern ports had been brought under government authority; the Ruhr and Central Germany had been pacified; the secessionist threat had been crushed in Brunswick, Saxony and Bavaria; they had assured the meeting of the National Assembly in Weimar; and - as we shall see - they were the forces which were defending Germany's eastern borders. From an army that had seemed to be on the point of evaporation after the Armistice, an effective military force had been created. However, that effort to rebuild the army would be checked by the Treaty of Versailles.

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Sent: 09-06-2012 18:57

The Heimwehren were the Austrian equivalents of the German Freikorps, and fought the same enemies: Communists and Slavic nationalists. Here men of the Kärntner Volkswehr Btl. St Veit Nr.8 man a machine gun position in Völkermarkt, April 1919.

The Provisional Reichswehr

On 6 March 1919 the German National Assembly at Weimar promulgated the law that created a new German Army, the Reichswehr. (In fact this was the first truly unified German army: under the Second Reich the Imperial Army was formed by those of the kingdoms of Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony and Württemberg, each having its own War Ministry.) The territory of the German Republic was now divided into two great military commands: Gruppenkommando I (the north and east) and II (the west and south). Each was divided in turn into several Wehrkreis (military districts). The Reichswehr order of battle included 24 brigades.

Many of the Free Corps obeyed the government's instruction to become integrated into the new Reichswehr. The largest were transformed into entire brigades: FR Hülsen became the III. Reichswehr Brigade, Von Roeder's Freiw. Landesschützenkorps the IV.Brigade, Maercker's Freiw.Landesjägerkorps the XVI.Brigade, FK von Epp the XXI.Brigade, and so on. Some other corps were converted into regiments or battalions according to their size, and new units were created by amalgamating several small Free Corps. In May 1919, Noske declared that he had 400,000 men under his command; about 150,000 of these were Free Corps men, the rest belonging to surviving Imperial Army units.

On the feldgrau uniforms of the First World War the Free Corps displayed their own unit badges. But there were thousands of former soldiers wandering around Germany, with no money and no jobs, still wearing their old uniforms. For this reason it was resolved to provide the Reichswehr with distinctive new uniforms and insignia, while retaining the old colour (see Piatej).

However, this Vorläufigen ('Provisional') Reichswehr was far bigger than the army which the Allies were willing to allow Germany. In January 1919 the Peace Conference had begun in Versailles, but the Germans were not called until May - and even then not to negotiate, but simply to receive the conditions. When this 'Diktat' became known it caused astonishment ІІІ Germany; political leaders were at a loss to know how to respond, and many Reichswehr generals and Free Corps chiefs preferred the risk of a new war to the acceptance of such conditions. The Treaty limited Germany to a small army of 100,000 men, with no tanks, no aircraft, no general staff, and with a tiny navy. The SPD government narrowly avoided several threatened military coups. On 28 June 1919 Germany finally signed the Versailles Treaty. The Free Corps never forgot this 'shameful surrender՝ by the SPD government.

The portrait below of Captain (later Major) Michner, the CO of the Kärntner Volkswehr Btl Nr.8, shows an edelweiss badge on the collar sides.


Among the more humiliating clauses of the Treaty of Versailles were the territorial losses imposed on the Deutschtum ('Germandom'). Two new Slavic states, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, plus the reborn Poland, were ready to enlarge themselves at the expense of German and Austrian territories. From Styria and Carinthia, crossed by the new Austrian-Yugoslavian border, through the Sudetenland, annexed by Czechoslovakia, Silesia, Pomerania, and West and East Prussia, the Germanic and the Slavic worlds confronted one another.

The Austrian borderlands were defended by patriotic militias called Heimwehr ('Home Forces') or using similar titles - Heimatbund, Heimatschutz or Heimatwehr. The Austrian equivalents of the German Freikorps, they fought against the same enemies: Communists and Slav nationalists. The Tiroler Heimatwehr engaged the Bavarian Red Army when the latter attempted to enter Austria. The Kärntner Heimatschutz in Carinthia and the Steirischer Heimatschutz ili Styria fought against the Yugoslavians. While Austria's borders were protected by these Heimwehren, Germany's would be defended by the Freikorps.

Kurland, mid-1919: General der Infanterie Graf Rudiger von der Goltz (left) talking to Hauptmann von Brandis - see also page 61.

The first Eastern border campaign

On 8 November 1918 the Germans, who at that point were occupying the whole of Poland, freed the main Polish nationalist leader Josef Piłsudski. He soon created a Polish Provisional Government in Warsaw, controlling all the undoubtedly Polishpopulated areas. The German Army moved out of Poland without major incidents; but Germans and Poles would soon be fighting for control of territories with mixed German/Polish populations which had belonged to the Reich before 1914. One of these territories was the Wartheland or Poznania, the area around Posen (in Polish, Poznan), where the Poles set up a Polish Supreme Council which challenged the German military auhorities in the area. The same problems arose in other border regions - East and West Prussia, and Upper Silesia.

The German High Command was not willing to hand over to Poland territories which were traditionally part of the Kingdom of Prussia. Therefore it ordered the establishment of a military command devoted to the protection of these borders, the Grenzschutz Ost ('Eastern Border Defence'), and authorised the raising of volunteer units. Many Free Corps were born of this appeal. Some were raised from regular units garrisoned in the area, such as the FK V.Armeekorps; but the most famous were those created by junior officers - like the FK Paulssen, FK von Aulock, and Sturmabteilung Rossbach, all named after the first-lieutenants who led them.

The Poles organised and armed themselves on the basis of a clandestine Polish militia, Polska Organizajca Wojskowa ('Polish Militar) ׳ Organization', POW). The local German inhabitants also formed militias; many of these Free Corps took the names of towns, usually German settlements surrounded by Polish rural populations, e.g. the Grenzschutz Bromberg ('Bromberg Border Defence').

Tension was rising iii Poznania, and fighting broke out at the end of December 1918. At this time Berlin seemed to be on the point of falling into the hands of the Spartacists and the German Army was demoralised by mutinies and mass desertion. The German regular troops were ordered to give up the fight for Posen and retreat westwards. However, after the SPD victory over the Spartacists in Berlin the Grenzschutz Ost considered the possibility of regaining Posen, this time using Freikorps units. Two task forces Were organised, to converge on Posen. Several Free Corps led by Gen.von Below would attack f r om the north; from Silesia in the south other Free Corps units would be led by Gen.von der Borne.

On 2 February 1919 the German offensive began with the capture of Culinsee (Chełmno) in West Prussia by the Sturmabteilung Rossbach. The offensive seemed to be going well; but a few days later the Allies instructed Berlin to halt the advance in the Posen area, in West Prussia and Upper Silesia. On 20 February the offensive was stopped and the Free Corps fell back to their departure points.

Soldier's grave in northern Kurland. Several wounded men of the Eiserne Schar Berthold were murdered by Lithuanian Bolsheviks with the hammer which is nailed to this wooden cross.

The Baltic campaign

The most surprising chapter in the Free Corps' history was their participation in the Baltic fighting of 1919. In November 1918 the German Anny occupied this region. Any rapid withdrawal would create a vacuum to be exploited by the Russian Red Army - a prospect which the Western Powers did not welcome. Sending Allied troops to the area would have been very unpopular at home; but the fledgling Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian nationalist forces were unable to halt the Red Army on their own. For these reasons Germany was ordered to maintain its 8th Army in the region.

In fact the demoralised German troops were controlled by a pro-Communist Soldiers' Council; but a Freikorps was raised from among them, named the Eiserne Brigade and led by the charismatic Maj.Bischoff (4). This was the only German military unit that attempted to halt the Red Army's advance in the Baltic countries. The other force involved was the Baltische Landeswehr raised among local German-Baits, members of the German aristocracy which had formed the landowner class in Estonia and Latvia since the time of the Teutonic Knights.

4. Not to be confused with the Eiserne Brigade created by Noske in Kiel from naval personnel and later retitled I.Marine Brigade.

The confusingly named Hauptmann Hauptmann, commander of the Freiwilligen Bataillon Hauptmann, composed of volunteers from the German Sudetenland and Austria. The collar device appears to be a large white metal oakleaf.

In order to free themselves of this German aristocracy a majority of the Latvian population supported the Red Army (in fact, the Latvian Rifle Regiments were among the best Red Army units). For that reason the Latvian nationalist leader Ulmanis was able to raise only a small national army, and he was forced to ask for German help in December 1918. The German government agreed, and on 1 February 1919 Gen.von der Goltz landed at Liepaja to take command of the German troops in Latria. Von der Goltz had experience in the region, as the former leader of the German troops which had helped Mannerheim to win Finland's war of independence in April 1918. He also had astonishingly ambitious plans. He wished to concentrate in Latvia the largest possible number of Free Corps, in order to advance on Petrograd; to crush the Soviets, establishing a pro-German government in Russia; and to turn Latvia and Estonia into German colonies, as they had been in the Middle Ages.

Provisional Reichswehr and Freikorps forces began to arrive in Latvia to reinforce both the Baltische Landswehr and the Eiserne Brigade (soon renamed Eiserne Division). To the German authorities this force was officially the VI.Reserve Armeekorps, and its mission was simply to prevent any Red Army advance towards East Prussia. Von der Golt, quickly suppressed the Soldiers' Councils in the 8th Army and restored discipline among the German regulars.

The holder of a famous Prussian military name: Baron Hans von Manteuffel, leader of the Stosstruppen of the Baltische Landeswehr, would fall at the head of his men on 22 May 1919 in the assault on Riga. His funeral in the captured Latvian capital had the character of a Teutonic Knights ceremony. The three stars on his collar are the rank badge of (presumably) captain; they are four-pointed, a peculiarity of this Freikorps.

At the end of February German troops and Latvian nationalists controlled only Liepaja, the rest of the country being in Bolshevik hands. But in March Gen.von der Goltz launched his troops towards the east, up to Jelgava (south of Riga), and towards the north, to occupy Kurland (Courland). The Red Army suffered heavy defeats and fell back in some confusion. The time seemed ripe to inflict new reverses on the Bolsheviks; but relations between the German Free Corps and the Latvians were very poor, leading to confrontations in mid-April. Von der Goltz arrested the Latvian government, and Ulmanis was forced to escape in a ship of the Royal Navy's Baltic squadron.

The Western Powers demanded respect for Latvian sovereignty; but as they were not disposed to send in their own troops, and since the Berlin government was more concerned with Germany's internal upheavals, for the time being Gen. von der Goltz was able to pursue his own agenda. Against the orders of the Reichswehr High Command he launched his troops in an attack towards Riga on 25 May, quickly expelling the Red Army.

May 1919: Hauptmann von Medem, chief of the Freikorps of that name, confers with his adjutant Oberleutnant Thöne shortly before the advance on Riga, May 1919. Their collar badge is llustrated as Plate H4.

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From: Воронеж
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Sent: 02-08-2012 01:09

Добровольческий минометный штурмовой отряд Хейшкеля
сформирован в начале 1919 года в Берлине.Отряд входил в состав Добровольческой дивизии генерала фон Леттов-Форбека (Freiwilligen-Division von Lettow-Vorbeck). Первоначально как отдельное подразделение дивизии, а позднее, как подразделение вновь сформированной в составе дивизии Добровольческой бригады «Граухофф». В составе дивизии принимал участие в подавлении мятежа «Спартаковцев» в Берлине и "разгоне" Бременской социалистической республики.Отряд состоял из 197 человек (14 офицеров и 183 низших чина), обслуживающих 8 минометных батарей, пять орудий и один огнемет.В июне 1919 года расформирован.

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Sent: 02-08-2012 01:11
Добровольческий егерский корпус "Герт"

Создание Добровольческого егерского корпуса состоялось 3-го января 1919 года в Ольштыне. Костяк корпуса составили бойцы 150-й пехотного полка. На 20-е июля 1919 г. численность этой боевой единицы составляла: 9 офицеров, 21 унтер-офицеров и 595 солдат, которые были сведены в 4-ре роты. первое боевое кречение часть приняла 03.03.1919 в Кенигсберге, дальше корпус использовался как пограничная охрана.

Добровольческий корпус Брюссова

Сформирован лейтенантом Брюссовым в Берлине в начале января 1919 г. Состоял из 1200 солдат и офицеров. На базе корпуса позднее был создан 4-й пехотный полк Рейхсвера.
На фото: ветераны корпуса

Железная бригада (дивизия)

Соединение создано в конце 1918 г. на основе разрозненных добровольческих отрядов при 8-й армии и получило название Железной бригады. Возглавлял бригаду оберст Куммер. С января 1919 г. бригада сражается против большевиков в Прибалтике. 18 января 1919 командование этой боевой единицей принял на себя майор Бишоф, после чего началось переформирование бригады в дивизию. До мая 1919 г. части дивизии участвуют в боях с красными на территории Латвии. После изгнания оттуда большевиков немцы отказались вывести свои войска, в следствии чего начались вооруженные столкновения м/у вчерашними союзниками. Против Балтийского Ландвера и частей Железной дивизии при поддержке Антанты действовали латышские и эстонские войска. Только к июлю боевые действия прекратились. С октября 1919 г. боевые действия возобновились. Железная дивизия в составе балтийского Ландвера поддержала местных белогвардейцев Бермонд-Авалова в его действиях против латышей. В конце осени 1919 г. дивизия покинула Прибалтику. 25 декабря она была расформирована.

2-я морская бригада Эрхардта

Лейтенант Август Рабен (по другим данным ротмистр) - немецкий летчик времен 1МВ (на счету 4 сбитых самолета), после войны командир эскадрильи в СЗА, после СЗА возглавлял один из фрайкоров в Силезии.

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From: Воронеж
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Sent: 02-08-2012 01:20

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From: Воронеж
Messages: 1584

Sent: 02-08-2012 01:21
Фрайкор Тильзит

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Messages: 1584

Sent: 02-08-2012 01:22

Все фото отсюда: reibert.info/forum/showthread.php?t=188009

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