German Student Corps
Corps (or Korps; "das ~" (n), German pronunciation: [ˈkoːɐ] (sg.), [ˈkoːɐs] (pl.)) are the oldest still-existing kind of Studentenverbindung, Germany's traditional university corporations; their roots date back to the 15th century. The oldest corps still existing today was founded in 1789. Although distinct, the corps are in some aspects similar to and serve many of the same purposes of college fraternities found in the United States and to a lesser extent Canada.
Corps are built upon the principle of tolerance: No corps may endorse a certain political, scientific or religious viewpoint. In addition, all members are solely chosen by their personal character. Neither national, ethnic or social provenance play a role.
Corpsstudenten (corps students) wear couleur (colored stripes and caps) and practice mensuren, academic fencing with razor-sharp blades that can result in bleeding face wounds, Schmisse. The corps are organized in two federations, the Kösener Senioren-Convents-Verband (KSCV) and the Weinheimer Senioren-Convent (WSC). Together, they comprise roughly 170 corps throughout Germany and Austria. The corps usually bear names that reflect their former origin from certain German regions, such as Saxonia (Saxony) or Guestphalia (Westphalia). Formerly, when a distance of a few hundred kilometres between a student's home town and his university meant weeks of travel, students from the same part of Germany traveled together and formed some kind of "new family". The distance, plus the fact that they carried the money for a complete semester with them in a bag, might also explain why students began fencing, simply for self-defence, for students, military officers and aristocrats were the only people allowed to carry arms.
Like all Studentenverbindungen, corps consist of two bodies: The active part contains all members, that still study and have duties for the corps, and are not part of the Altherrenschaft, those who graduated. A fundamental idea is that older students should help their younger fellows, and this principle dominates the relationship between the two bodies. The former keeps the everyday business of the corps alive, organizes gatherings, keeps the Corpshaus (Corps House) in order. The Altherrenschaft, graduates with regular incomes, provide financial support. This usually means quite cheap housing for the younger members among other things. The Altherrenschaft has the power to intervene in the business of the active members, typically to ensure the principles and spirit of their corps.
The active body is headed by a panel of three chargierte (charged persons), who are elected by all active, full members at the beginning of each semester (or at the end of the former one). Their functions are called senior, consenior and drittchargierter (meaning third charged person, also named subsenior in some corps).:
- The senior is responsible for all corps affairs in general, but leading and heading gatherings and events in special; he supplements his signature with a single cross (x) (in some corps with three crosses (xxx)) as an external sign of his duties.
- The consenior teaches fencing to all members of the inner corps and assures the execution of the mensuren in coordination with the conseniors of other corps; his signature is enhanced by two crosses (xx).
- The drittchargierter (also known as Sekretär, Secretary) has administrative tasks like paperwork and often the task of a treasurer; his sign is three crosses (xxx) (in some corps one cross (x)).
Being the oldest of their kind, the corps tend to treat all other forms of German studentenverbindung with contempt; corps despise all mannerism and affectedness (e.g. the overly use of Latinisms) that other kinds of studentenverbindung, esp. Catholic corporations and burschenschafts show. This does not mean that they understand other corporations as their natural-born enemies. This might happen occasionally, but also vice versa.
Even with the principle of tolerance being a central aspect in each corps' self-image, every corps student is urged to develop his own viewpoints and stand for them and to strongly participate in society, be it in politics, economy or social affairs. This encouragement for an ethical and self-confident behaviour on one side and the absence of a limitation to certain views on the other side let corps students often show up as the leading figures of the most diverse political directions. The emphasis on individuality brought many corps students in opposition to totalitarian regimes, such as the Third Reich.
The Weinheimer Student Corps also maintain a confederation with Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, a college Fraternity with over 270 chapters in the United States and Canada.
The Corps sprang from the older Landsmannschaft. The name Corps came into use in 1810 at the University of Heidelberg and soon displaced the older name of Landsmannschaft at all the universities. The oldest Corps, Onoldia, at the University of Erlangen dates from 1798, though it was not called a Corps until some years later. Most of the Corps came into existence in the period 1800-1820. At first, the various governments prohibited them as well as the Burschenschaften, but tolerated them after 1840. After 1848, they were officially approved.
A selection of famous Corps students 
- Otto von Bismarck, Chancellor of Prussia, later of the German Empire, "architect" of Germany's unification, Corps Hannovera Göttingen
- Max von Forckenbeck, German politician, founder of the German Progress Party and National Liberal Party, mayor of Berlin and President of the Reichstag, Corps Teutonia Giessen
- Ulrich von Hassell, German ambassador in Belgrade and Rome, resistance fighter in Nazi Germany, executed by the Nazis after the failed July 20 Plot, Corps Suevia Tübingen
- Friedrich Hecker, German revolutionary, Corps Rhenania Heidelberg
- Wilhelm Liebknecht, co-founder of the German social-democratic party, chief editor of the "Vorwärts"-Paper, Corps Hasso-Nassovia Marburg, Corps Rhenania Gießen
- Karl Marx, socialist author and theoretician, inventor of marxism, Corps Palatia Bonn
- Wilhelm II of Germany, Last German Kaiser, Corps Borussia Bonn
- Alois Alzheimer, neurologist, Corps Franconia Würzburg
- Emil von Behring, physician, Nobel prize laureate, Corps Suevo-Borussia Hamburg
- Karl Ferdinand Braun, physicist, Nobel prize laureate, inventor of the cathode ray tube Corps Teutonia Marburg
- Alfred Brehm, naturalist and author (zoological encyclopedia Brehms Tierleben), Corps Saxonia Jena
- Vincenz Czerny (1842-1916), surgeon, Corps Austria Frankfurt.
- Paul Güssfeldt, geologist, mountaineer and explorer, Corps Vandalia Heidelberg.
- Justus von Liebig, chemist, founder of organic and agricultural chemistry, Corps Rhenania Erlangen.
- Joseph von Lindwurm, physician and dermatologist, Corps Bavaria Würzburg.
- Alfred Pribram (1841-1912), internist, Corps Austria.
- Philipp Franz von Siebold, physician, emerged as the first European to teach Western medicine in Japan, Corps Moenania Würzburg
- Eckard Wimmer, virologist, synthesized a virus chemically, Corps Teutonia-Hercynia Gottingen.
Economy and Engineering 
- Gottlieb Daimler, engineer, Corps Stauffia Stuttgart
- Rudolph Hering, American engineer, Corps Altsachsen
- Alfred Herrhausen, CEO of the Deutsche Bank, murdered by Red Army Faction-terrorists in 1989, Corps Hansea Köln
- Ludwig Mond, chemist and industrialist, Corps Rhenania Heidelberg
- Wilhelm von Opel, engineer, Corps Franconia Darmstadt
- Hanns-Martin Schleyer, board member of Daimler-Benz, formerly leading member of the National Socialist Student Association, later head of the employer's confederation and of West Germany's federal industry confederation, murdered by Red Army Faction terrorists in 1977, Corps Suevia Heidelberg
- Max Wirth, journalist and economist, Corps Rhenania Heidelberg
Fine Arts and Culture 
- Heinrich Heine, German poet and journalist, Corps Guestphalia Göttingen
- Georg Heym, poet, most important exponent of early expressionism, Corps Rhenania Würzburg
- Egon Erwin Kisch, Czech-German author und journalist, corps student in Prag
- Robert Schumann, composer and pianist, Corps Saxo-Borussia Heidelberg
- Ludwig Thoma, author, publisher and editor, Corps Suevia Munich
- Richard Wagner, composer, Corps Saxonia Leipzig
Further reading 
- Lees Knowles: A day with corps-students in Germany
- Martin Biastoch: Duell und Mensur im Kaiserreich (am Beispiel der Tübinger Corps Franconia, Rhenania, Suevia und Borussia zwischen 1871 und 1895). SH-Verlag, Vierow 1995, ISBN 3-89498-020-6
- Martin Biastoch: Tübinger Studenten im Kaiserreich. Eine sozialgeschichtliche Untersuchung, Sigmaringen 1996 (Contubernium - Tübinger Beiträge zur Universitäts- und Wissenschaftsgeschichte Bd. 44) ISBN 3-515-08022-8
- Martin Biastoch: Die Corps im Kaiserreich – Idealbild einer Epoche?. In: „Wir wollen Männer, wir wollen Taten“ – Deutsche Corpsstudenten 1848 bis heute, hrg. v. Rolf Joachim Baum, Siedler Verlag, Berlin 1998, S. 111–132.
- R.G.S. Weber: The German Corps in the Third Reich Macmillan London
- Stephen Klimczuk, Gerald Warner: Secret Places, Hidden Sanctuaries: Uncovering Mysterious Sights, Symbols, and Societies, Sterling Publishing Company, 2009, p. 224-232 (The German University Corps)
- This article incorporates text from a work in the public domain: Carl Schurz (1913). In Edward Manley. Lebenserinnerungen Bis zum Jahre 1850: Selections. With notes and vocabulary. Norwood, Massachusetts: Allyn and Bacon. p. 204. A German reader. The notes are in English for the most part. The copy at archive.org is missing some pages of the notes.
In English 
- Mark Twain describes his encounters with German corps students in chapters IV to VII of his travelogue "A Tramp Abroad".
- Journalist Jonathan Green published this article in the Financial Times Magazine, covering both the traditions and the current role of the Corps at length.
In German 
In the Netherlands 
In the Lower Countries 
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: German Student Corps|