Death To The French
Originally, the Freikorps were recruited by Frederick The Great during the Seven Years War as auxiliaries and used mostly for sentry duty and other missions not requiring reliable troops. They reappeared during the Napoleonic Wars to shake off Napoleonic rule, but after being crushed at the Battle of Stralsund in 1809 they reorganized and fought the rest of the German War of Liberation as a commando/guerrilla force behind French lines. This led to the construction of a heroic myth by 19th century German Nationalists around these Freikorps, which would be revived after the political and military disaster of World War I.
The Misery Of Defeat
The collapse of the Second Reich
and the Versailles Treaty
left a lot of soldiers adrift in the chaos that was Weimar Germany
. Many of those demobilized soldiers and officers sought order within a military structure, and so the new Freikorps came to be. Nationalistic and politically conservative, the Freikorps were covertly supported and employed by the very government they hated to crush the German Revolution
of 1918-1919 and the Bavarian Soviet Republic
in 1919. The Freikorps also fought in Silesia, the Baltic States, and Prussia, often with great effectiveness. Most of the Freikorps were officially demobilized in 1920, a situation which led to the abortive Kapp Putsch
in that year. Despite the refusal of the Reichswehr
to fight the putschists, Kapp failed since most of the Freikorps would not rally to him, and in addition the general strike called for in Berlin crippled the logistics of the coup.
Into The Darkness
As Hitler's NSDAP grew in political power after its own abortive Beer Hall Putsch, many Freikorps members joined the Nazis' street fighting arm, the Sturmabteilung (SA) after their own organizations demobilized or were outlawed. Some Freikorps members became members of death squads, which were responsible for the deaths of (among others) former finance minister Mathias Erzberger and Foreign Minister Walter Rathenau. Eventually, the Freikorps formally demobilized, turning over their banners to the SA and SS in a massive ceremony on November 12, 1933. Many Freikorps members became prominent in the SA and SS, although some of these were eliminated in the Röhm Putsch, better known as the Night of the Long Knives.