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Schlesischer Adler / Silesian Eagles

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Aside from the rare ones marked by Max Reich in Breslau and the Meybauer pieces, these two unmarked types can be identified from period catalogs:

1939 Steinhauer and L?ck (note beak, "gills," and feathers pattern)

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1940 Otto Schickle (note beak, "O" crotch which was where the 1921 devices had been attached, and feathers pattern)

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This former officer from Reserve J?ger Battalion 7 or 9 (can't tell which since he was inconsistent in positioning the Schaumburg-Lippe and hamburg awards) had been in Georgia in 1918 and stopped in Silesia on the way home-- my only mini too, BTW:

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The Silesian Eagles ARE Freikorps awards, since the infant German Republic could not be seen to "officially" defend itself from the cross-border incursions of the equally newborn Polish Republic. The VI. Armeekorps which authorized them was of the OLD army.

While a digression of THESE Freikorps awards into the Freikorps in general would be a distraction, the VERY short version "explanation" was that while the regular army hid behind barracks gates polishing their boots and continuing to draw paychecks for over a year while doing absolutely nothing-- and hence regarded all Freikorps as ill-disciplined free booters, the Imperial navy--which had mutinied and lost most of its personnel to the Reds at least as sympathizers-- kept the cadre of loyal sailors together so that in their eyes the Freikorps were their reliable elite. Post 1920 Reichswehr recruitment policy reflected this-- the Reichsheer discharging almost all ex-Freikorps personnel, while the Reichsmarine did everything possible to retain as many as possible.

Two VERY different views of Freikorps:

On the left, wounded WW1 veteran and Red polemicist Georg Grosz's savage "Prost Noske! The proletariat is disarmed!" (from VerKuilen Ager's 1973 "Awards of the German Freikorps 1919-1935" and on the right, from my collection, an unknown Professor Wilfrid Brimley type-- hardly the savage right wing killer of myth!

It is a mistake to speak of "THE Freikorps" as a monolithic entity. There were hundreds, often of minimal strength, and reflecting the specific "group culture" of each unit. The border units were generally disciplined military forces, while the interior units were as nasty as their Red street counterparts.

One thing all my years of research has turned up is that members of the Freikorps were NOT a solid block of proto-fascists and--contrary to one notoriously 180?-off book a generation ago--"The Vanguard of Nazism." What I have found is that the senior officers and generals who were most likely as a group to oppose wartime Nazi policies WERE ex-Freikorps members. Free THINKERS not freebooters-- men who thought for themselves.

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Wilfrid's Silesian Eagle 1st Class:

and another, being worn in 1920 by LaPo Leutnant Hugo Behrens in Thuringia:

Note Behrens' bizarre wearing of FIVE ribbons off his left breast pocket flap. That is the Silesian Eagle 2nd class 3rd of the 5 facing straight down directly under the button.

Presumably the enamelled versions came in some time in the late 1920s. I have seen NO dated, documented "first seen in wear" photos of the enamel ones.

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One thing all my years of research has turned up is that members of the Freikorps were NOT a solid block of proto-fascists and--contrary to one notoriously 180?-off book a generation ago--"The Vanguard of Nazism." What I have found is that the senior officers and generals who were most likely as a group to oppose wartime Nazi policies WERE ex-Freikorps members. Free THINKERS not freebooters-- men who thought for themselves.

An interesting historical interpretation, Rick. Not one I have come across. And one on which I -- for one -- would appreciate some footnotes. Most of the serious historical research I have seen on this topic -- and I have to admit it is far outside my field, where I have a hard enough time staying up to date -- holds that there was a close ancestral/parental relationship between the freicorps people and the various street-fighting thug groups that later evolved into things like the SA and SS. The argument that they formed a proto-Nazi cadre of anti-communists and anti-Semites cannot, I think, be as easily and glibly dismissed as you seem to be doing here. Your distinction between naval and military responses is dead on target, however, and is worth remembering.

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I am never carelessly "glib." Concise as opposed to epically OFF "Silesian Eagles" topic, sure. :P And this IS my field (German personnel/family/career research). I've been at this for 30 years, and I learned personally at the knee of the greatest analyst of them all, the late Harold Gordon who KNEW and interviewed these guys.

Urban thugs in their early 20s gleefully smashing windows in the Great Depression were not FREIKORPS members. Iconic "brawlers" like Horst Wessel-- the ACTUAL punch up demographic-- were CHILDREN in 1919-20.

Your "average" Freikorps member in 1919 was one of the following:

a career soldier (commissioned or enlisted) concerned for his country and not content to polish shoes and practice pre-war squad drills while his country fell apart beyond the barracks gates;

a very young soldier who felt guilty at not having done his "share" during the war eager to "prove" himself;

an unemployed family man unable to get any paying job to feed his small children after the mass demobilization of 1918-19;

a local faced with immediate, personal "my street" consequences that could not be avoided.

Psychopaths, perverts, and anti-Semites were a very distinct minority and I have never seen any statistical evidence of ANY greater concentration of same within the Freikorps as a whole than among the German male population in general.

One could just as easily make a case that "most" Nazis were pencil-necked weanies like Himmler and Goebbels whose personal physical inadequacies and ostentatious lack of frontline service led to psychological overcompensation. Also certainly true-- but not a statistical norm or majority.

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I am never carelessly "glib." Concise as opposed to epically OFF "Silesian Eagles" topic, sure. :P And this IS my field (German personnel/family/career research). I've been at this for 30 years, and I learned personally at the knee of the greatest analyst of them all, the late Harold Gordon who KNEW and interviewed these guys.

Urban thugs in their early 20s gleefully smashing windows in the Great Depression were not FREIKORPS members. Iconic "brawlers" like Horst Wessel-- the ACTUAL punch up demographic-- were CHILDREN in 1919-20.

Your "average" Freikorps member in 1919 was one of the following:

a career soldier (commissioned or enlisted) concerned for his country and not content to polish shoes and practice pre-war squad drills while his country fell apart beyond the barracks gates;

a very young soldier who felt guilty at not having done his 'share" during the war eager to "prove" himself;

an unemployed family man unable to get any paying job in the mass demobilization of 1918-19;

a local faced with immediate, personal "my street" consequences that could not be avoided.

Psychopaths, perverts, and anti-Semites were a very distinct minority and I have never seen any statistical evidence of ANY greater concentration of same within the Freikorps as a whole than among the German male population in general.

Good summary. Thanks. Has any of this ever appeared, researched, documented, and in print? (Asked as a professional academic historian.) I'd like to see it.

How would you distinguish these boys from those who went on the other team, with the communists? Those who'd later get this:

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Briefly Ed-no. I have been looking at this topic for a while-since 1997 in fact and nobody out there is doing this-at least not in English speaking countries.

There is a PhD thesis in there somewhere-or certainly an article.

Hitler knew the old Freikorps were threats-hence his rants in Mein Kampf and the banning of most Freikorps awards.

A german academic named Rafael Scheck(?) started to do something on this after researching the Kapp Putsch-but he got sidelined into the Von Tirpitz's Navy League and Weimar north german politics. Freikorps subjects don't get one tenure these days.

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Interesting thread. Are there any books specifically related to these badges and the fighting associated with them. These are in my collection:

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Ed: two completely different types and motivations of Freikorps-- BORDER defense like the Silesian outfits, and the neighborhood gangs on both sides of block by block urban fighting. My comments have been on the former and not the latter, about which I am blissfully iggurant. :cheeky:

Here's a nice little 1921 set, in which the Hauptmann aD (1 of 11, I can't narrow it down any further than that) had his Silesian Eagles placed on the very odd French style rosettes, but not on his teeny tiny lapels (the "micro ribbon bar" style is embroidered in 1 piece, anyway, and he dien't bother with Xs on these, either)

And both these bars have appeared elsewhere, but might as well stick them back in since we are doing the Bogart "black bird" thang here in detail:

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There is a PhD thesis in there somewhere-or certainly an article.

There's a need for some statistics on units raised and who the leaders and their reasons for raising units, or being part of a unit's leadersip, and if possible information on then and later political ideology. The rank and file of Freikorps units would be a major challenge to try to come up with stats on, but it's possible there were specific differences between officers, NCOs, and the almost invisible simple soldiers that made presumably made up the bulk of these units.

If you look at specific Freikorps units, there might be a chance to determine what patterns exist. For example, there's good old Ritter von Epp who started a Freikorp unit, and then went on to become not only a member of the NDSAP, but rose rather high in the party food-chain. (Let's note that von Epps unit could be consider "internal" rather than a border unit, however, let's also remember Bavaria might be a special case in that it was a "republic" for a while, and arguably not part of Germany for a short while. ;-)

Some of his folowers include Ernst Roehm who not only joined the NSDAP, but rose to become high enough in the party food chain (and the SA) that he could have posed a considerable threat to Adolph and company.

A third example is Reinhard, former CO of the 3rd Ft. Gardes, PlM recipient, Freikorp founder, and....joined the NDSAP, was a "ranking officer" in the SS, and so on.

"Cherry picking" names without any stats or numbers isn't proof of one thing or another.

Ulster, I agree there's a Ph.D. thesis in there. An article could state many things, but there needs to be some detailed numbers, affiliations, and so on. Granted there were some seemingly bad apples among the Friekorp vets that joined the party, and/or served on during the inter-wars period of during WWII.

Ricks' photo of the kindly old grandfather type is a photo and photos can be -very- decptive. I've met more than a few WWII vets (not only Germans) who did things that most of us probably wouldn't believe if someone pointed them out as they were walking by and whispered something in our ear about them. There's an adage: never judge a book by it's cover, or a woman by her looks.

Les

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Guest Brian von Etzel

Psychopaths, perverts, and anti-Semites were a very distinct minority and I have never seen any statistical evidence of ANY greater concentration of same within the Freikorps as a whole than among the German male population in general.

Thank you Rick. I think careless conversation generalizing about these men should be avoided as some of the gentlemen here count them as relatives.

Edited by Brian von Etzel

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Guest Brian von Etzel

Mini.

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Guest Brian von Etzel

full size

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Guest Brian von Etzel

back

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Guest Brian von Etzel

MB

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Brian I do fail to see why you are so defensive of relatives who are probably long dead, it is not relevant to this discussion. This is a historical forum. ALL of us have relatives that form part of that history, for good or bad. The mere suggestion that members are not able to express their opinion for fear of offending another member, on the basis that they might be related to someone who formed part of that history, is a ludicrous concept. Where would history be if we all took this line? No one would want to discuss anything!

I agree stereotyping is not a good thing and there seems to be a lot of generalisation in linking Freikorps members with the NSDAP. However it is not surprising given that the little historical reference that is out there does just that. That?s why hopefully communities like this can dispel myth and further historical research. Not Suppress it!

As has been pointed out it would be very nice to see a statistical analysis of the percentages to see how many (prominent) members of Freikorps units did go on to join the party. But this is probably an impossible task or at least a lifetimes work.

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This is a historical forum. ALL of us have relatives that form part of that history, for good or bad. The

Nick,

Spot on. Permit me a small digression which puts a wole different light on the idea of "family" once you think of some basic biology and math. I know folks are often proud (or ashamed) of what someone in their family may have done, but there's a saying, if you go back far enough, we're -all- related, and I don't mean that in a biblical sense that all of us came from the characters of some particular religions's depiction of the creation and how manking came into being.

We got here (and any brothers and sisters) thanks to two people, our parents. Our parents were produced by two sets, which means we have four grandparents; our grandparents by their parents, etc. Each generation doubles the number of people. Go back ten generations, and that generational "doubling" means all of us had 1184 biological parents (related to each other is another matter). Now, add each doubled generation up. Our two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and by the tenth generation we have a total of -2356- direct ancestors.

If you take the time and trouble to flesh out the rest of the family trees with brothers, sisters (who become aunts and uncles through the generations, and people who have married into the family, or into someone elses', it becomes clear -ALL- of us are co-mingled far more than a small town of West Virginia coal miners who have lived in the same spot for almost 200 years.

Go back 20 generations, and that figure is well over the six-figure mark!

Think about the simple biological and mathematical aspects of "family" and it becomes apparent go back far enough, and all of us are indeed related. That makes a dog's breakfast about racial theories, one cultural or national group being better or worse than another.

For those of us studying general history, military history, we shouldn't get hung up over what we think someone else's family did or didn't do, because we're all related to each other in some degree or another.

By that token, -all- of us have had black sheep in the family, and some that represented the best of humanity. We're all "family" in a sense.

Now, back to our regular scheduled programming, and the topic of Silesian eagles? Sorry for the digression, but this comment didn't seem worth an entirely seperate thread.

Les

Edited by Les

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Still a little off topic for Silesian Eagles but not a bad effort on the subject of the Freikorps, although it does suffer from the same generalisation is "The Birth of the Nazis: How the Freikorps blazed a trail for Hitler" by Nigel Jones

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