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    Spartacist uprising MG08 photo

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    Guest Rick Research

    Actually, they're the other side. The caption identifies them as Spartacists.

    Generally when you see a mix of uniformed and civilian personnel like this they were the Reds. Look for missing cap cockades and shoulder straps as another clue, as is the crown of a visor cap being pinched to a point.

    I'm surprised that the soldier at far left clearly HAS both cap cockades-- he may have just "gone over" moments before... :rolleyes:

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    • 2 weeks later...

    Uniforms were a big deal in those events. My father was visiting his mother in Hamburg in December 1918 and he was stopped in the street at rifle-point by a patrol of Red sailors and stripped of his boots and great-coat. He was furious, he had been a storm-trooper for 2 1/2 years and was not used to being messed with like that, and he vowed to kill some sailors. He went to Berlin, where the Peoples' Naval Division (Reds) were raising hell, and he joined the Guards-based Freikorps Potsdam, and took part in the attack in the Vorwarts building, burning the way in the back door with his Flammenwerfer.

    There were 300 Spartakists in the building, but they did not have the stomach for fighting room-to-room against an opponent with Flammenwerfer. 26 were wearing sailor's uniforms, which were the "radical chic" of the day. Pop's unit had a legitimate sailor with them, and they set up a sort of sea-scout test for the guys in sailors' uniforms, parts of ships, etc. Some of the "sailors" were real sailors, and some were landlubber communists who were wearing the fashionable sailors' uniforms. The results of the tests were announced, and the real sailors were told that, as no ship was in sight, they were going to be shot as deserters, while the civilians were going to be shot for the unauthorized wearing of a military uniform. (Nothing like some humor at a moment like this.)

    They were put against a wall, and a Freikorps commander went down the line, shooting each in the forehead. As he had only one arm (and one eye), after every eighth sailor he had to hand his P 08 to someone to insert a new clip. Pop called the CO "Lieutenant Rocca", as I heard it 50 years ago. (I had little German at the time. Rokkow?) Pop said that he was a hero at Verdun, where Pop was wounded twice.

    Who says that fashion does not count?

    Anyone have an idea who this officer was? The Freikorps Potsdam was the only Guards-based Freikorps. Of course he did not have to be a Guards officer. The CO of the entire Freikorps was the Guards officer Major von Stephani, whose father was a Prussian general, and who interestingly, based on a statement from an authoritive source, was Jewish, and who later served in the Weimar and/or Reichstag as an Ehrenaryan, or an "honorary Aryan", and also was a top Stahlhelm leader. I find this very interesting. Anyone know more about this?

    Bob Lembke

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    I just read the Wiki piece on these events that you linked, and they are a good example of how the history of the post-war civil war is told very differently depending on the politics of the writer. I am not (yet) an expert on these times (have not yet written the portion of a book about my father that covers these events), but it is clear that some of the "facts" cited are incorrect, and certainly the piece was written from a left perspective. Many of the words used in the article seem to be chosen to impart spin. Be aware that probably little written on these events is objective (whatever that is).


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    Guest Rick Research

    There may have been a naval clothing depot in Berlin that had been looted. I think so, but cannot recall exactly where it was.

    Or the phony mariners were early versions of the poseurs who have nowadays come to such notoriety. Since the sailors,--in Germany as in Russia--were the vanguard of the revolutions, wannabes may have thought that by passing themselves off that way they'd guarantee cushy leadership roles for themselves.

    One of the oddities of the several types of Freikorps is that the naval ones were the elite of LOYALIST forces-- since they held together under wartime discipline while the mutineers dispersed like locusts across the country. The army establishment, on the other hand, regarded its Freikorps members as ill-disciplined ruffians-- and the regulars preferred to stay in their barracks, polishing their boots and not looking out the windows at all that noise until eventually they all got chucked out in March/April 1920 anyway for being on the payroll doing nothing.

    It may have come down to the navy's requirement that all commanders down to the lowest levels HAD to be able to think independently (nothing lonelier than a submarine in the deep blue sea) while the army maintained emphasis on rigid discipline and a collective mentality that looked down on personal initiative.

    Shallow study-- especially by recent regurgitators of other people's secondary works that are founded on pre-existing political bias-- is VERY unreliable. There was no "single" Freikorps (and I use that word now for BOTH sides) experience, character, or purpose, even.

    "Red" cities like Berlin and Hamburg were rather like Paris under the 1871 Communards, while smaller cities like Bremen and W?rzburg managed to reassert order with their own civilians, braced with very small military support. Munich was briefly Red, but the countryside and residents' connections with the outside soon changed what had been proclaimed as a Soviet Republic but was never more than a group of loud but unsupported opportunists in a temporary power vacuum. Fatuous "idealists" and ordinary criminals do not make for a cohesive government. :rolleyes:

    Every place and every situation was different.

    Here's one I think I've posted elsewhere before, of the Republican/Loyalist side during the 1918/19 Berlin street fighting. They may well have been aimed down the avenue at the silly amateurs with that machine gun:

    It is important to remember that DESPITE the raucous braying of the species of academic who view all "right wing" Freikorps as homosexual proto-Nazis :speechless: , what the men of DOMESTIC 1918/19 units were ACTUALLY fighting for was the infant Weimar REPUBLIC... against what many people thought at the time was the "inevitable" instant global transformation of Russian Bolshevism. They fought more often than not to STOP fighting and preserve their nation from ruin than any other purpose.

    They should not be confused with the Baltic freebooters whose delusional dreams of expanding Empire... in 1919 :banger: had nothing to do with self-defense forces.

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    Yes, as Rick knows well, most of what is out there -- especially in the public arena -- ignores the complexities and, moreover, embraces the perspective of one of the two inheritors (and over-simplifier) of those compex events: The Nazis or the DDR. And, as this discussion shows, even contemporary amateur historians selectivbely embrace one view or the other (here, usually the Nazi view) and still celebrate some of the maniacal slaughter that took place in what verged on a German Civil War.

    I always find it strange how flexible people can be, simultaneously embracing the "defenders" of the German Republic but the destroyers of the Spanish Republic.

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    Guest Rick Research

    There are "republics" and "republics," of course. Canada and North Korea....

    and I know which one I'd prefer to live in ! :rolleyes::cheeky:

    In my long ago apprenticeship with the late professor Harold Gordon, one of the many things which remains in my memory of his encyclopaedic knowledge--first hand--of "right wing" Freikorps members was how many of them actually stood up to the Nazis precisely because they were non-conformists. The most common denominator of Luftwaffe generals, for instance, purged by His Reichs-Rotundity was that they had been Freikorps members and could--personally--tell right from wrong without the "Orders Are Orders" mind set common to extremists on both sides, then as now.

    Labels, whether contemporary or retroactive, are very often deceptive. :catjava:

    The "heroic workers and peasants" of Communist myth may have CLOAKED themselves (or been cloaked) in political rhetoric, but most had no more knowledge of Leninist dogma in 1918 than we know of the inner machinations of the Byzantine Empire in the 7th century. It made for a ... convenient... "we're THIS, so you're THAT" rather than starving, freezing, overworked people simply wanting an end to their sufferings and other people just not wanting strangers bursting into their houses stealing whatever they fancied.

    Not understanding their own inchoate (I've been waiting 20 years to toss THAT one out :ninja: ) motivations made it much easier to mis-identify their opponents' as well.

    What it all boiled down to was CHAOS:

    "Change" for the mindless sake of "change"-- of the sort that led from the populist uprising of 1789 to the Terror in a mere 3 years. (They didn't have a "plan for victory" AFTER their Let's Just DO It revolution.... :rolleyes: )

    Professional rabble rousers like Liebknecht and Luxembourg had no problem hitching their stars to equally anti-social gangsters, so that it was clearly foreseeable that a "Red" victory in Germany in 1918/19 would have led to the sort of bloodletting which the Soviet Union self-inflicted for three generations. No one--in 1919--could have foreseen fascism. But they were staring Soviet Communism full in the face and it was launching westward, crowing about world conquest after the bloodiest 5 years in human memory.

    For most ordinary people, it was as simple as stopping the butchery or embracing the apocalypse.

    Sadly, 19th century industrial workers with 4 years of schooling had a better grasp of history's patterns than national political leaders today.

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