World War One: Freikorps Brutality!


In 1918, as the guns fell silent on the Western Front, Germany was in turmoil.

In November 1918, as the German Government was concluding the armistice with the allies, many in the German Army did not believe they were defeated. In contrast, while steadily steadily retreating from advancing allied armies, many German units were still on Belgian and French soil.

In the face of growing unrest in Germany, the German High Command continued to run the war. Gradually returning home in the winter of 1918 and early 1919, the German army on its return to Germany, were shocked at seeing how much their families and communities were still suffering.

In the wake of the armistice, defeat and revolution broke up the German army. In particular, in garrisons where units had remained at their posts, 'Soldiers Councils' had usurped officers' authority. The military weakness demonstrated coincided with revolutionary threats and new menaces on Germany's borders. The emerging countries of Poland and Czechoslovakia both wanted pieces of Greater Germany.

Threats, both internal and external, dangers of Communism emerging in Germany, provoked veterans to defend their nationalistic and patriotic sentiments.

The Freikorps movement was the brainchild of Kurt Von Schleicher. Known as the 'Black Reichswehr' or 'Black Army' this quasi-military force was outside the law of the Versailles Treaty. The failure of an army unit to suppress a demonstration made up of women and children, led Schleicher to conceive of a notification wherey Army units would crush 'red' uprisings. Schleicher suggested that the units were made up of former German Army units and commanded by former German Army officers. The reason for such an act would be that the 'Reichswehr' would avoid the stigma of firing on civilians and the government would be financially bankrolling these 'Free Corps'

The German government, which was in turmoil at the time, held the belief that arming these 'Free-Boots', would enable the government to control the units and render them harmless …

The first of the many 'Free-booter' or 'Free Corps' movements was raised in Kiel on Gustav Noske's orders, who at that point was Defense Minister. General Maercker who commanded the 214 Infantry Division raised the first classic model of a Para-military force on which all subsequent 'Free Corps' units would be based.

The historian KP Fischer noted:

"The backbone of the Free Corps Units understood of declassed imperial officers who were justified by the prospects of giving up their privileged positions in German society. to be hostile to the old military establishment "

Forming the 'Volunteer Provincial Rifle Corps' by December 1918, Maercker was ready to face the revolutionary threat from the left. Recruiting several thousand men in the space of a few weeks, including the difficulty of equipping them all, Maercker offered his services to the German government. The main contrast between the old army and this new zealous band of men was comradeship. Maercker not only emphasized 'community' within his men and bonded with his men, but the efficiency of his soldiers having mixed arms. Due to the kind of combat the Freikorps would see between 1918 and 1923, there was little point in maintain the armed bands of infantry, artillery and cavalry.

In the wake of news of Communism in Germany, Maercker's example was followed to the letter. In December 1918, Freikorps units such as Freikorps Potsdam, Freikorps Reinhard and the Deutsche Schutz Division were formed in and around Berlin to face the 'terror' of the left. These military units along with Maercker's Corps and the infamous Eiserne Brigade would have the forces Gustav Noske would use in the battle for Berlin.


Source by Simon McShannon