Sudetendeutsches Freikorps

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Sudeten German Free Corps
Sudetendeutsches Freikorps
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1972-026-51, Anschluss sudetendeutscher Gebiete.jpg
Sudetendeutsches Freikorps members
Active 1938 to 1939
Country  Nazi Germany
Allegiance Adolf Hitler
Type Terrorist organization
Role Break-up of Czechoslovakia
Engagements Undeclared German-Czechoslovak war
Commanders
de facto commander Friedrich Köchling
formal commander Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).Svg Konrad Henlein
vice-commander Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).Svg K.H.Frank
chief of staff Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).Svg Anton Pfrogner

Sudetendeutsches Freikorps (Sudeten German Free Corps, also known as the Freikorps Sudetenland, Freikorps Henlein and Sudetendeutsche Legion) was a paramilitary Nazi organization founded on 17 September 1938 in Germany on direct order of Adolf Hitler. The organization was composed mainly of ethnic German citizens of Czechoslovakia with pro-Nazi sympathies who were sheltered, trained and equipped by German authorities and who were conducting cross border terrorist operations into Czechoslovak territory from 1938 to 1939. They played important part in Hitler's successful effort to occupy Czechoslovakia and annex the region known as Sudetenland into the Third Reich under Nazi Germany.[1][2][3][4]

Sudetendeutsches Freikorps was a factual successor to Freiwillinger Schutzdienst, also known as Ordnersgruppe, an organization that had been established by the Sudeten German Party in Czechoslovakia unofficially in 1933 and officially on 17 May 1938, following the example of Sturmabteilung, the original paramilitary wing of the German Nazi Party. Officially being registered as promoter organization, the Freiwillinger Schutzdienst was dissolved on 16 September 1938 by the Czechoslovak authorities due to its implication in large number of criminal and terrorist activities. Many of its members as well as leadership, wanted for arrest by Czechoslovak authorities, had moved to Germany where they became the basis of Sudetendeutsches Freikorps, conducting Freikorps' first cross-border raids into Czechoslovakia only few hours after its official establishment.[5] Due to the smooth transition between the two organizations, similar membership, Nazi Germany's sponsorship and application of the same tactic of cross-border raids, some authors often don't particularly distinguish between the actions of Ordners (i.e. up to 16 September 1938) and Freikorps (i.e. from 17 September 1938).

Relying on the Convention for the Definition of Aggression, Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš[6] and the government-in-exile[7] later regarded 17 September 1938, the day of establishment of the Sudetendeutsches Freikorps and beginning of its cross-border raids, as the beginning of the undeclared German-Czechoslovak war. This understanding has been assumed also by the contemporary Czech Constitutional court.[8]

Background[edit]

Czech districts with an ethnic German population in 1934 of 25% or more (pink), 50% or more (red), and 75 % or more (dark red)[9] in 1935

From 1918 to 1938, after the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, more than 3 million ethnic Germans were living in the Czech part of the newly created state of Czechoslovakia.

In 1933, as Adolf Hitler assumed power in Germany, Sudeten German pro-Nazi leader Konrad Henlein founded Sudeten German Party (SdP) that served as the branch of the Nazi Party for the Sudetenland.[10] By 1935, the SdP was the second largest political party in Czechoslovakia.[10] Shortly after the anschluss of Austria to Germany, Henlein met with Hitler in Berlin on 28 March 1938, where he was instructed to raise demands unacceptable to the Czechoslovak government led by president Edvard Beneš. On 24 April, the SdP issued a series of demands upon the government of Czechoslovakia, that were known as the Carlsbad Program. [11] Among the demands, Henlein demanded autonomy for Germans living in Czechoslovakia.[10] The Czechoslovakian government responded by saying that it was willing to provide more minority rights to the German minority but it refused to grant them autonomy.[10]

By June 1938, the party had over 1,3 million members, i.e. 40,6% of ethnic-German citizens of Czechoslovakia (40% of that women). During last free democratic elections before the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, the May 1938 communal elections, the party gained 88% of ethnic-German votes, taking over control of most municipal authorities in the Czech borderland. The country's mass membership made it one of the largest fascist parties in Europe at the time.[12]

The first major crisis took place in May 1938 after partial Czechoslovak army mobilization. Activities of pro-Nazi ethnic Germans in the area led to large flight of ethnic-Czech civilians and especially Jews. Hitler's increasing threats of attacking Czechoslovakia led to full mobilization on 22 September 1938. Many ethnic-Germans refused to follow the Czechoslovak army mobilization order and either ran across the border to Germany and joined Freikorps, continuing cross border raids from there, or established Grün Freikorps units which were operating from Czechoslovak forests, receiving arms and equipment from Germany, and continuing raids against Czechoslovak authorities, Jews and Czechs, up until the German occupation of the Czechoslovak border areas following the Munich agreement.

Ordnersgruppe, Freiwilliger Schutzdienst[edit]

Freiwilliger Schutzdienst
Ordnersgruppe
KarlHermannFrank.jpg
Karl Hermann Frank, FS's vice-Führer who was receiving orders directly from Hitler
Active 17 May 1938 to 16 September 1938
Country Czechoslovakia
Allegiance Germany
Type terrorist organization
Role break-up of Czechoslovakia
Commanders
Führer Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).Svg Konrad Henlein
Vice-Führer Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).Svg Karl Hermann Frank
Secretary Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).Svg Fritz Köllner
Chief of staff Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).Svg Willi Brandner

Forming of the organization[edit]

Immediately after establishing the Sudetendeutsche Heimatfront (later Sudeten German Party, SdP) in 1933, the party started forming its informal Ordnungsdienst (Order Service, its members called in German Ordners) which was officially supposed to preserve order during meetings and assemblies of the party and protect it against its political adversaries. In reality, however, these were from the beginning attack squads with potentially terrorist assignments,[12] following the example of Sturmabteilung (a.k.a. "Brown shirts" or "Storm Troopers"), the original paramilitary wing of the German Nazi Party.[5] More systematic build-up of the paramilitary wing started before the 1935 elections, when the SdP's leadership decided that each local SdP organization should establish its own squad of Ordners.[13]

On 14 May 1938, the Ordnersgruppe was formally transformed into new official organization called the Freiwilliger Schutzdienst (FS) which was openly built up following the example of the Nazi Sturmabteilung.[14] SdP's chief Konrad Henlein was the Schutzdienst's Führer, with Fritz Köllner becoming its secretary and Willi Brandner the chief of staff, also responsible for the buildup of squad groups. By 17 May 1938, the date of the organization's official registration, Schutzdienst had over 15.000 members.[14]

Schutzdienst started a wide recruitment program in June 1938. Its members were divided into three categories:[14]

  • Category A: The most trusted and physically capable members that were supposed to carry out the duty of guardians of "inner purity" of the SdP. The Category A was composed of the so-called "surveillance departments" and was directly subordinate to the SdP. Apart from functions within the organization, its members were also collecting information on political opponents and conducting military espionage.[14]
  • Category B: Wider selection of members. Its members were trained for propaganda activities and for conducting terrorist and sabotage assaults.[14]
  • Category C: Mostly older members of FS, mainly former soldiers with World War I front line experience. Their main task was providing training to the B category members as well as being the FS's reserve force.[14]

FS squads were being built up as militias with local, district and regional formations and central staff. FS further created special squads: communication, medical and rear. FS's squad leaders were trained directly by Nazi Sturmabteilung in Germany.[14]

FS became instrumental for the psychological warfare of the operation Fall Grün, smuggling weapons through "green border" from Germany, conducting various provocations of Czechoslovak armed forces and provocations on the borderline with Germany.[15]

Attempted putsch[edit]

Sudeten German Party Putsch
Part of German occupation of Czechoslovakia
Date 10–15 September 1938
Location Czechoslovak borderlands
Result Putsch quashed, SdP & SF banned and dissolved
Belligerents

Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).Svg Sudeten German Party

  • Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).Svg Freiwilliger Schutzdienst
 Czechoslovakia
Commanders and leaders
  • Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).Svg Konrad Henlein
  • Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).Svg Karl Hermann Frank
  • Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).Svg Fritz Köllner
  • Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).Svg Willi Brandner
Czechoslovakia Milan Hodža
Casualties and losses
10 dead, over dozen wounded over 23 dead, over 60 wounded
Violence led large number of Jews, Czechs and anti-fascist Germans to flee from borderlands further to inland Czechoslovakia. Following restoration of order by Czechoslovak authorities, tens of thousands of pro-Nazi ethnic Germans fled to Germany to avoid either arrest or Czechoslovak army mobilization order.

German Nazi Party was convening its 10th congress between 5–12 September 1938 in Nuremberg, where it was expected that Hitler will make clear his further plans as regards Czechoslovakia. FS squads were kept in state of high alert, ready to conduct any orders that may come from "higher up". On 10 September 1938, all FS district headquarters received order to start large scale demonstrations, which escalated to a number of wounded members of Czechoslovak law enforcement as well as FS members in numerous cities already the next day.[16] FS Vice-Führer Karl Hermann Frank was in direct contact with Hitler, receiving instructions for the following days.[17]

Immediately after the highly anticipated Hitler's final speech on 12 September 1938, in which Hitler claimed to take care of German interests "under any circumstances" and to "prevent creation of second Palestine in the heart of Europe where the poor Arabs are defenseless and abandoned, while Germans in Czechoslovakia are not defenseless, nor abandoned", FS initiated widespread violence in the whole borderland.[17] In Cheb alone, K.H.Frank's hometown, ethnic-German mob plundered 38 Czech and Jewish shops.[17] Other main targets included buildings of the German Social Democratic Party and Czechoslovak authorities, including schools.[17] FS conducted over 70 armed assaults against Czechoslovak authorities and assaulted also selected Czechs and ethnic-German anti-fascists.[17] Czechoslovak law enforcement was meanwhile ordered not to intervene in order not to further fuel up Hitler's propaganda.[17]

As it became clear that SdP was attempting to push the Czechoslovak authorities out of the towns in borderland and replace them with own governance, and with rising death toll that included, inter alia, murder of four Gendarme officers by FS in Habartov, the Czechoslovak government responded by declaring martial law in 13 worst struck districts and by dispatching military.[18] Major assaults on Czechoslovak law enforcement as well as military continued throughout 14 September 1938, with the last one taking place on 15 September in Bublava.[18] Altogether, the violence led to 13 dead and numerous injuries on 12–13 September and culminated with 23 dead (13 Czechoslovak authorities personnel, 10 ethnic Germans) and 75 seriously wounded (of that 14 ethnic Germans) on 14 September, however the attempted putsch was thwarted.[18]

On 14 September 1938, SdP's leadership ran across border to Selb, Germany, where K.H. Frank unsuccessfully demanded immediate military intervention from Hitler.[19] The leadership's flight had chilling effect on the FS members, especially those that had taken part in the violence and now feared criminal prosecution. On 15 September 1938, German radio broadcast Henlein's speech, who was purportedly speaking live from in Czechoslovakia.[19] By this time, the SdP's flight to Germany had become public knowledge and according to the then German ambassador in Prague, instead of stimulating SdP's members to further actions, it led to a serious rift in its ranks.[19]

On 16 September 1938, Czechoslovak authorities banned and dissolved SdP as well as FS. Large number of its functionaries as well as members that were wanted for arrest in connection with the preceding violence fled to Germany, while a number of town mayors elected for SdP compelled FS members to keep calm and expressed their support to the commanders of Gendarme stations situated in their towns.[19]

Freikorps[edit]

Formation[edit]

A 1938 Freikorps terrorist action

Czechoslovakia conducted partial mobilization in May 1938. Many young ethnic-Germans didn't follow the mobilization order and deserted across the border to Germany instead. Thousands more fled as they were receiving mobilization orders after 12 September 1938.[20] Wehrmacht first initiated a plan of including Czechoslovak ethnic-Germans of 20–35 years of age, who had previously undergone military training in the Czechoslovak army, into its own ranks.[21] This was however abandoned as soon as Hitler ordered the establishment of the Sudetendeutsches Freikorps on 17 September 1938.[21] Konrad Henlein was formally named the Freikorp's commanding officer, with Wehrmacht's liaison officer lieutenant colonel Friedrich Köchling, previously serving as liaison officer at Hitler Jugend, being Freikorp's de facto commander.[21] The official purpose of Freikorps, as stated in telegram to the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, was the "protection of Sudeten Germans and maintaining further unrest and armed clashes."[22] Wehrmacht was further instructed to conceal its cooperation with Freikorps due to "political reasons".[22]

The Freikorp's ranks were filling up rather fast. It had 10.000-15.000 members by 20 September 1938, 26.000 members by 22 September 1938, with many more deserters coming after the general Czechoslovak mobilization that took place on 23 September 1938.[23] Apart from Konrad Henlein, its leadership consisted of K.H.Frank (vice-commander in chief), Hans Blaschek (2nd vice-commander in chief), until-then SdP's senator Anton Pfrogner (chief of staff).[23] Freikorp's headquarters was situated in a castle near Bayreuth, Germany.[23] Freikorp's was divided into 4 groups alongside the whole German-Czechoslovak border. Groups were further divided into battalions and companies. Depending on the border length and local conditions, there were also sometimes "sections" as an interstage between the battalion and companies.[24]

Group Reorganized Staff Details Position Commanding officer
Group 1 Silesia Group 5 Lower Silesia
Group 6 Wroclaw
Wroclaw 11 battalions, 6.851 members (27 September 1938) From Racibórz to Zittau SA-Logo.svg Fritz Köllner
Group 2 Sachsen Group 4 Sachsen
Dresden 8 battalions, 7.615 members (27 September 1938)
14 battalions, 13.264 members (1 October 1938)
From Zittau to Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).Svg Franz May
Group 3 Bavaria Ostmark Bayreuth 7 battalions, 5.999 members (27 September 1938) From to Bayerisch Eisenstein SA-Logo.svg Willi Brandner
Group 4 Alps and Danuber Group 1 Vienna
Group 2 Linz
Vienna 9 battalions, 7.798 members (29 September 1938) From Bayerisch Eisenstein to Poysdorf Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).Svg Friedrich Bürger

Companies had 150-200 men each and were stationed in German towns and villages along the German-Czech border, each of them being fully equipped for independent cross border raids and assaults.[25] Although the official directive allowed only ethnic-Germans with Czechoslovak citizenship to be part of the Freikorps, due to low number of officers among the deserters their places were filled with members of Nazi Sturmabteilung.[25] SA was further providing training, material support and equipment to Freikorps.[25] All members were getting regular pay for their service.[25] Most members did not have any standardized uniform and were only distinguished by armband with swastika.[26] Formally, they were not part of Wehrmacht and were prohibited from wearing Wehrmacht uniforms.[27]

Members of Freikorps were trained and hosted in Nazi Germany[28] but operated across the border in Czechoslovakia attacking the infrastructure, administrative, police and military buildings and personnel, as well as the pro-government and antifascist ethnic-German civilians, Jews, Jewish owned businesses and ethnic Czech civilians. They committed assassinations, robberies and bombing attacks, retreating over the border to Germany when faced with serious opposition. They murdered more than 110 and abducted to Germany more than 2000 Czechoslovak personnel, political opponents or their family members.[29]

Intelligence service[edit]

Freikorps also had its own intelligence service, established on 19 September 1938 with headquarters in Selb, Germany. It was headed by Richard Lammel. The intelligence was gathering information for Freikorps as well as for Abwehr, Sicherheitsdienst (SD) and Gestapo.

Green Cadres[edit]

Many ethnic-Germans who deserted after receiving mobilization order didn't go across the border to Germany, but rather established own guerrilla units. Operating from forests in Czechoslovakia, they received name the Green Cadres, sometimes being referred to as Green Freikorps, although they were not officially incorporated as part of German Freikorps.

Armaments[edit]

In order to conceal the level of cooperation between Wehrmacht and Freikorps, the original orders stated that Freikorps should be armed only with weapons from warehouses of the former Austrian army.[22] This however led to delays in arming of Freikorps and became outright impossible as regards ammunition and explosives, which were being delivered from Wehrmacht's own supplies.[26] Most common weapons were Mannlicher 1895 8×56 Msch., K98k 8×56 JS, pistols P08 9mm Parabellum, Bergmann machine guns and sub-machine guns and German hand grenades. Due to the initial Czechoslovak orders forbidding use of firearms apart from self-defense, Freikorps also captured Czechoslovak weapons, mostly vz.24 rifles and vz.26 machine guns.[citation needed]

Meanwhile, the Green Cadres as well as other ordners that didn't join Freikorps were armed with variety of hunting rifles and shotguns, pistols, as well as large number of sub-machine guns that had been previously supplied by Germany to the Ordnersgruppe/Freiwilliger Schutzdienst. Scoped hunting rifles in hands of skilled ordners proved especially deadly.[citation needed]

Czechoslovak security forces[edit]

Following the Remilitarization of the Rhineland, Czechoslovak authorities came to the conclusion that any future war will most probably take place by a sudden attack without formal declaration of war. At the time, protection of borders was mostly vested into the authority of the Financial Police, which was controlling the border crossings and collecting customs duties, while Gendarme officers were taking care of general law enforcement mainly within towns. This was deemed insufficient as the Financial Police could merely enforce the custom duties and general order at border crossings, but not security along the whole border.[18] In 1936,the State Defense Guard was established. Normally, SDG would function only in a very limited way necessary to ensure full readiness of its structure (under authority of Ministry of Interior), with its ranks being filled up with personnel in case of emergency (under military command). Its main task was protecting the Czechoslovak border and it was supposed to be able to immediately close and defend the border for the time that would be necessary for the army to reach the attacked areas in full combat readiness. Initially, the State Defense Guard was composed of selected members of Financial Police, Gendarme and State Police, but later its ranks were filled also with reliable civilians. In case of any unrest, its squads were further boosted by army soldiers. State Defense Guard included also ethnic-Germans that were deemed loyal to Czechoslovak state (mostly Social Democrats and communists). The State Defense Guard has thus became the main target of the Freikorps' activities.

Up to 22 September 1938 the Czechoslovak security forces were under general orders not to use their firearms apart from self-defense.

Republikanische Wehr[edit]

Republikanische Wehr was Czechoslovak ethnic-German anti-fascists militia with several thousand members. Known also as Rote Wehr (Red Defense), its members also took part in the fights, supporting the Czechoslovak authorities. Several of its members were killed by the Nazi forces during the clashes, with thousands more being interned in concentration camps following the Munich Agreement and occupation of Czechoslovakia.

Terrorism[edit]

Sudeten German uprising
Part of German occupation of Czechoslovakia
Pochod Freikorpsu v Hazlové u Aše 1938.jpg
Marching Freikorps unit
Date 17 September - early October 1938
Location Czechoslovak borderlands
Result Czechoslovak Army deployment mostly restored order.
Belligerents

Germany

Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).Svg Sudeten German Party

  • Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).Svg Grüne Cadres

 Czechoslovakia

Commanders and leaders
  • Friedrich Köchling
  • Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).Svg Konrad Henlein
  • Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).Svg Karl Hermann Frank
  • Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).Svg Fritz Köllner
  • Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).Svg Willi Brandner
Casualties and losses

Freikorps:

  • Killed: 52
  • Wounded: 65
  • Missing in action: 19
Other: Unknown

Armed forces:

  • Killed: 110
  • Wounded: 50
  • Abducted: 2029 (including railway employees, postal workers, judges, other functionaries and their family members
Civilians: Unknown (both volunteers as well as innocent victims of Freikorps terror)
Violence led large number of Jews, Czechs and anti-fascist Germans to flee from borderlands further to inland Czechoslovakia. Clashes continued also after Czechoslovakia ceded the borderlands to Germany.

The first Freikorps assaults took place already in the night from 17 to 18 September 1938 in the area of . Other major Freikorps assaults included, inter alia:

18 September 1938[edit]

Place Assailants Assaulted Details Outcome
Unknown number of Freikorps members Several Financial Police officers A large number of Freikorps members surrounded customs house about 100 meters within Czechoslovak territory during the night of 18 to 19 September. The building was under intense fire from firearms as well as hand grenades. Czechoslovak Policemen fired a flare to signal distress to other Czechoslovak units and barricaded themselves. They did not return fire outside of the building in order to prevent any possible accusation of Czechoslovak forces shooting across the border to Germany.[30] 2 Financial Police officers seriously wounded
Bílá Voda Unknown number of Freikorps members Several Gendarme officers, several Financial Police officers Customs house in Bílá Voda, which was located directly on the Czech-German border, had been targeted by gun fire from Germany since 18 September. Its personnel was ordered not to return any fire over the border towards Germany and was allowed to retreat only in the afternoon of 22 September, when it joined the local SDG squad in its attempt to get further inland (see below).[31] 1 Gendarme officer seriously wounded

19 September 1938[edit]

Place Assailants Assaulted Details Outcome
Starostín Unknown number of Freikorps members Several Financial Police officers A large number of Freikorps members surrounded customs house in Starostín. With heavy machine gun and rifle fire, they managed to get directly to the building, however they fled after the Policemen used several hand grenades.[31] 2 Financial Police officers seriously wounded
Horní Malá Úpa Unknown number of Freikorps members Several Gendarme officers, several Financial Police officers
Burned out Customs house in Horn Malá Úpa
Freikorps attacked customs house in Horní Malá Úpa in the evening of 19 September 1938. The building was burned to the ground. Several wounded officers managed to retreat. Two Gendarme officers were captured and abducted to Germany. Constable Eduard Šíma was killed and his body was also abducted to Germany.[31]
1 Gendarme officer killed
Several officers wounded
2 Czechoslovak state official abducted and interned in a prison in Hirschberg, Germany
Bartošovice v Orlických horách Assault on customs house
Mladkov Assault on SDG squad
Železná Ruda Assault on customs house
Znojmo Up to 300 Freikorps members Financial Police

20 September 1938[edit]

On 20 September 1938, Freikorps headquarters issued Order No. 6 signed by Henlein.[32] According to the order, each of the groups was supposed to undertake at least 10 major raids into Czechoslovak before morning of 21 September.[32] The order further specified that Freikorps should shall take no regard to any aversion to the armed assaults that it had previously encountered from some ethnic-German civilians.[33] Moreover, each group was ordered to establish its own intelligence staff that would be providing information to the center in Selb.[33] In line with the order, Freikorps attacks increased both in their frequency as well as brutality.[13]

21 September 1938[edit]

Place Assailants Assaulted Details Outcome
Nové Vilémovice Unknown number of Freikorps members 8 Financial Police officers A large number of Freikorps members surrounded building of Financial Police in Nové Vilémovice. Six officers that were inside surrendered without a shot. After this, Freikorps tried to capture another two officers that were on a patrol on the town's outskirt. A shootout ensued, in which one officer was killed while the other managed to retreat through forest. Perpetrators buried the victim's body in a secret location and then ran over the border to Germany to avoid arrest by Czechoslovak authorities. The perpetrators were not found and the court proceedings that took place in 1945 didn't lead to any convictions.[34] 1 Financial Police officer killed
Bartulovice Unknown number of Freikorps members State Defense Guard
  • 10 members of Financial Police
  • 5 soldiers
  • 2 Gendarme officers
About 30 Freikorps members and other local ethnic-German citizens came to the customs house in Bartulovice, demanding the SDG members to hand over the building as well as their weapons. SDG chief first wanted to request orders from his superiors, however the local post office, where the telephone switchboard was situated, had already been occupied by the Freikorps. The SDG decided to retreat from the municipality fully armed, passing a truck full of heavily armed Freikorps members from neighboring Jiříkov without incident. One Financial Police officer remained in the building unarmed in order to formally resist occupation of the building by the Freikorps. After doing so, Freikorps abducted him to Germany where he was interned in a concentration camp. Rest of the SDG unit continued its retreat on foot through the woods towards Holčovice, which they reached some 15 hours later and where they regrouped with other 10 SDG units that had retreated under similar circumstances.[35] 1 Czechoslovak state official abducted and interned in a concentration camp in Germany
Habartice Unknown number of Freikorps members
SA-Logo.svg SA officer leading the assault
State Defense Guard squad (18 members) On 20 September 1938, SDG members stationed in the border crossing station in the town Habartice observed maneuvers of German army units taking place over the border in Germany, leading them to fortify the building with sandbags and boarding. In the evening, electricity supply was shut off on both sides of the border. SDG further observed that several trucks arrived at 10 PM on the German side of the border. Germans started crossing border bridge at about 3 AM on 21 September 1938 and mounted 4 attack waves with 30-40 men each against the SDG building, using not only firearms, but also hand grenades and dynamite. Freikorps set off explosives which led to collapse of the entire front wall of the building; the rest however remained standing. SDG successfully defended the building, also using 36 hand grenades. SDG squad chief had also called for reinforcements, however the soldiers had to dismount their truck after being targeted by machine guns shooting over the border from Germany. The soldiers reached Habartice by crawling in ditches in the morning only after the attack had been repelled. SDG suffered 4 seriously wounded servicemen, one of them permanently losing eyesight. During the day after the night fight, Czechoslovak SDG members and army soldiers ostentatiously played volleyball right on the border line, some of them with bandages covering their wounds.[5][36] 4 SDG members seriously wounded

3 dead, 16 wounded assailants
Petrovice Assault on customs house
Assault on customs house
Wies (Cheb) Assault on customs house

22 September 1938[edit]

On the night of 21 September 1938, German radio broadcast a false information that Czechoslovakia agreed to secede its border areas to Germany. Next day, most ethnic-German majority towns were full of German Nazi flags and Hitler's portraits, while Freikorps and ethnic-German mobs unleashed a wave of attacks against state authorities and non-German civilians.[37] By 24 September 1938, Freikorps conducted over 300 raids against Czechoslovak authorities.

Place Assailants Assaulted Details Outcome
Javorník 100+ members of Freikorps State Defense Guard
  • 11 members of Financial Police
  • 2 soldiers
  • several Gendarme officers
Freikorps ambushed a State Defense Guard squad that was retreating through the town of Javorník. The Czechoslovak servicemen were disarmed and abducted to Germany where they were interned by local authorities in the concentration camp in Patschkau (apart from two who were released and one who escaped during transport).[38] Apart from soldiers, Freikorps abducted also a district court Judge and his clerk, who were too taken to the concentration camp in Patschkau.[39] 15 Czechoslovak state officials abducted and interned in a concentration camp in Germany.
Černá Voda ethnic-German mob
  • 2 Financial Police officers
  • 4 Gendarme officers
2 members of the Financial Police were being lynched by ethnic-German pro-Nazi mob in Černá Voda. When four members of Gendarme intervened, members of Freikorps opened fire from hunting rifles, pistols and a light machine gun. Two members of Freikorps were wounded in the skirmish.[40] 2 Financial Police officers lynched

2 Freikorps members shot and wounded
Mikulovice Unknown number of Freikorps members State Defense Guard squad Freikorps members ambushed a Border Guard squad in Mikulovice. The servicemen were disarmed and forced to wait for a train to Germany at a local train station. Meanwhile, a train going in opposite direction was passing through the station and the soldiers hopped on it before the Freikorps could stop them. The squad got to Jeseník and engaged Freikorps in numerous firefights in the following days, arresting five.[40] 5 Freikorps members arrested.
Bernartice Unknown number of Freikorps members
  • 15 members of State Defense Guard
  • 5 Gendarme officers
Freikorps members ambushed a 15 members of Border Guard and 5 members of Gendarme in Bernartice. The soldiers and policemen were disarmed and abducted to Germany where they were interned by local authorities in a concentration camp.[40] 20 Czechoslovak state officials abducted and interned in a concentration camp in Germany.
Bílá Voda Unknown number of Freikorps members State Defense Guard squad State Defense guard house in Bílá Voda, which was located directly on the Czech-German border, had been under fire since 18 September. The personnel received orders to retreat in the afternoon of 22 September. Retreating squad was ambushed by Freikorps. A part of the squad broke through, however 15 members of the Border Guard were captured by the ethnic-German terrorists, disarmed and abducted to Germany where they were interned by local authorities in a concentration camp.[41] 15 Czechoslovak state officials abducted and interned in a concentration camp in Germany.
Vápenná - Supíkovice - Rejvíz Unknown number of Freikorps members Gendarme After Freikorps overrun Javorník, the Gendarmerie supported by some of the soldiers that managed to retreat from Javorník, established a new defense posts on the line between municipalities of Vápenná - Supíkovice - Rejvíz. Gendarme officers were repeatedly attacked by Freikorps, with six ending up wounded and one killed in action.[42] 1 Gendarme officer killed in action, 6 wounded
Liptaň
  • 150-180 ethnic German mob
  • Unknown number of Freikorps members
6 Gendarme officers
Murdered Gendarme officer Vítězslav Hofírek
A mob of 150-180 ethnic-Germans, unknown number of them being Freikorps members armed with sub-machine guns supplied from Germany, surrounded Gendarme station in Liptaň. Freikorps overran the station, with three Germans being killed in the process. All six wounded policemen were dragged out and lynched by the mob to death. Their bodies were transported over the border to German town Lischwitz where they were buried in an unmarked mass grave. They were later exhumed and ceremonially buried in the Czechoslovakia after World War II. The main persons that directed the attack on station were never captured (although having been identified), however three other Germans that took part in the attack were arrested, tried and executed by hanging after the war.[43]
6 Gendarme officers lynched to death

3 assailants killed
Zlaté Hory
  • ethnic-German mob of several hundred
  • several dozens Freikorps members
  • two trucks with unmarked heavily armed men from Germany proper
10 Gendarme officers Mob of several hundred ethnic-Germans and several dozens Freikorps members surrounded Gendarme station in Zlaté Hory and demanded surrender of the officers. After arrival of two trucks with unmarked armed men from Germany proper, the officers surrendered and were abducted to Germany, where they were held first in Prison in Kłodzko, later in a concentration camp in Dresden[43] 10 Czechoslovak state officials abducted and interned in a concentration camp in Germany.
Vidnava

Unknown number of Freikorps members

  • 2 Gendarme officers
  • State Defense Guard squad
A large mob of Czechoslovak ethnic-Germans that had previously left to Germany came to the border crossing in the town Vidnava carrying Nazi swastika banners. Among them was a number of Freikorps members, who used the commotion and got right to the two Gendarme officers on duty and disarmed them. The mob released the two officers and continued towards the town center. After briefing the two disarmed Gendarme officers, SDG squad leader Josef Novák contacted the town's mayor, an ethnic-German Göbel, who promised that he will negotiate return of the Gendarme's firearms. Officers Novák and Pospíšil left SDG station and went towards the town center, now in hands of Freikorps. There, they were both immediately attacked and lynched to death. Before dying, Pospíšil tossed away a hand grenade, wounding several assailants. Later that day Freikorps members lynched to death also an ethnic-German communist Fitz. Groups of heavily armed Freikorps started taking over the whole town. Remaining SDG members and Gendarme officers decided to lay covering fire and evacuate several civilians as well as themselves towards train station. There they fortified several wagons and drove away. Meanwhile, however, Freikorps blocked the railway line leading to the next train station in Velká Kraš and took positions in a school building overlooking the line. After the train stopped before the blockage just in front of the school, Freikorps opened fire from rifles and started tossing hand grenades. The train occupants ran away from the building and train towards fields, leaving behind one dead civilian and two wounded SDG members and several wounded civilians, who were captured by Freikorps and delivered to Germany. There they were first treated and later released. The rest managed to get away and under constant covering fire reached the train station in Velká Kraš. Here, Freikorps leader Latzel first persisted that the SDG personnel must surrender. The SDG squad, now consisting of 13 seriously wounded and a few light wounded members, refused and stated intent to either get further inland or die trying. Freikorps then let the seriously wounded be taken on a train with expelled Czech-ethnic civilians bound for Jeseník while the few remaining SDG members left on foot through woods to Zighartice. In Jeseník hospital, ethnic-German doctors with swastika pins on their lapels refused to treat the seriously wounded SDG members, only after one of the SDG members threatened to discharge hand grenades they received treatment.[44] 2 SDG members lynched to death
2 civilians murdered
15 seriously wounded SDG members
several seriously wounded civilians
Frýdlant

Unknown number of Freikorps members

2 infantry fighting vehicles with crews

Freikorps occupied SDG headquarters and other strategical buildings in the town Frýdlant and hanged out Nazi Swastika flags on a large number of buildings in the town. Czechoslovak army dispatched two infantry fighting vehicles with crews from Liberec. After arriving in the town, the soldiers announced that they will consider every building and person with Swastika as a hostile one, Freikorps packed the flags and withdrew from the town.[5] Freikorp's attempt to take over town thwarted by mere army presence.
Heřmanice

Unknown number of Freikorps members

2 unarmed civilians Freikorps occupied part of municipality of Heřmanice. Local SDG unit was stationed on a hill overlooking the municipality, secured its position and didn't further intervene in the municipality itself. Generally, the control over the municipality was unclear with Freikorps occupying part lying further away from SDG and no mutual engagement. Two civilians loyal to Czechoslovak state, teacher from Frýdlant school Mr. Otakar Kodeš and ethnic-German communist Mr. Perner decided to inquire what is the actual situation in Heřmanice. On the road leading to Heřmanice, they passed SDG patrol that unsuccessfully recommended them not to continue into Freikorps controlled territory. Shortly after passing the SDG patrol, they were both shot. Mr. Kodeš was shot dead, while wounded Mr. Perner was abducted to Germany. Mr. Perner, Czechoslovak citizen, was taken to Dresden, Germany, where he was tried and convicted for treason. Mr. Perner was interned in a concentration camp, not surviving through the war. Mr. Kodeš' murderer was found, tried, sentenced and hanged in 1947.[5] 1 civilian murdered, 1 civilian abducted, interned and murdered in a concentration camp in Germany
Dolní Podluží Monument in Dolní Podluží commemorating Jan Teichman and Václav Kozel, members of the Czechoslovak Finance Guard, killed by the Germans on 22 September 1938 (Ústí nad Labem Region, Czech Republic).
Memorial to Jan Teichman and Josef Kozel
2 Financial Police officers killed
  • 23 September 1938
Place Assailants Assaulted Details Outcome
Srbská Unknown number of Freikorps members Financial Police (5 officers)
State Defense Guard (12 members)
Already on 9 September, German customs house on the other side of the border had its windows facing Czechoslovakia boarded up, leaving only small visors for shooting. On 23 September 1938 at 11 PM, two ethnic-Germans entered the Czechoslovak customs house in order to be cleared to pass the border to Germany. While Financial Police officer Václav Čep was dealing with necessary formalities, not facing the two Germans, one of them shot him from point blank into temple. At the same moment the other German opened fire on two Financial Police officers present in the room, instantly killing officer Josef Vojta and mortally wounding officer Bohumil Hošek (shot in the back). As the two Germans ran across border to Germany, other assailants opened machine gun fire, forcing two remaining Financial Police officers (not present in the room at the time of shooting) to withdraw to another building in the municipality held by SDG squad. 3 SDG members were killed in subsequent gunfight.[5] 3 Financial Police officers murdered
3 SDG servicemen killed in action

24 September 1938[edit]

Place Assailants Assaulted Details Outcome
Bruntál Unknown number of Freikorps members State Defense Guard
  • 10 District office clerks
  • 2 State Police officers
  • 8 Gendarme officers
  • 15 army soldiers
  • 5 army officers
  • 35 Gendarme cadets
State Defense Guard units in Bruntál and surrounding areas have been under sporadic attacks since May 1938. The frequency of assaults rose up in September and culminated between 24 and 26 September. The main attack started on noon of 24 September and continued through the night with Freikorps members shooting from buildings as well as rooftops. The next day authorities found 1 dead and 8 severely wounded Freikorps members, as well as a large number of others' pools of blood. The large scale battle led many civilians to leave the town while authorities declared martial law. Fight broke out also next evening and continued throughout whole night. SDG members resorted to defending own buildings and swept town next morning, finding large number of blood pools but no bodies or wounded Freikorps members. In the following nights the SDG sent most of its personnels patrolling streets and no other fights broke out. In total, 6 SDG members were wounded. Number of Freikorps casualties remained unknown but was presumed to be as high as 80, which was the death-toll that Freikorps sustained in a similar size assault that was taking place meanwhile in Krnov and which matched the number of large bloodpools that were found in the mornings following the night fights.[34] 6 SDG members seriously wounded

1 dead, 8 wounded Freikorps members confirmed, up to 80 Freikorps casualties unconfirmed

25 September 1938[edit]

26 September 1938[edit]

27 September 1938[edit]

28 September 1938[edit]

Place Assailants Assaulted Details Outcome
Lísková Monument in Dolní Podluží commemorating Josef Röhrich, member of the Czechoslovak Finance Guard, killed by the Germans on 28 September 1938 (Plzeň Region, Czech Republic).
Memorial to Josef Röhrich
1 Financial Police officer killed

29 September 1938[edit]

30 September 1938[edit]

They halted their operations after the Nazis took control of the rump of Czechoslovakia in March 1939.[45]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Munich, 1938: Appeasement and World War II By David Faber page 316 "His chosen method was the establishment of the Sudeten German Freikorps, a terrorist organization which brought together and armed all those Sudeten Germans who had fled Czechoslovakia for Germany"
  2. ^ The Surreal Reich - Page 144 Joseph Howard Tyson 2010 Political agitator Konrad Henlein, with the collusion of Nazi secret service agencies, engaged in terrorism against Prague's government. Over one hundred of his Freikorps irregulars had been killed in two-hundred-some “commando raids
  3. ^ Czechoslovakia between Stalin and Hitler - Page 212 Igor Lukes 1996 The party's specialists in low-level warfare, the Sudetendeutsches Freikorps, were among those who eagerly awaited an opportunity to attack. 14 They had been trained in the art of terrorism by Wehrmacht, SS, and SA instructors
  4. ^ Canaris: The Life and Death of Hitler's Spymaster - Page 134 Michael Mueller 2007 to guarantee the protection of the Sudeten Germans and maintain the unrest and disturbances; terror squads were to be formed from the Freikorps's sub-unit to create constant unrest in the border region
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Finanční stráž na Jesenicku během sudetoněmeckého povstání v roce 1938", Martin Ivan, Jesenicko v roce 1938, retrieved 13 September 2015  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Dub" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  6. ^ President Beneš' declaration made on 16 December 1941
  7. ^ Note of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile dated 22 February 1944
  8. ^ Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic (1997), Ruling No. II. ÚS 307/97 (in Czech), Brno  Check date values in: |access-date= (help); Stran interpretace "kdy země vede válku", obsažené v čl. I Úmluvy o naturalizaci mezi Československem a Spojenými státy, publikované pod č. 169/1929 Sb. za účelem zjištění, zda je splněna podmínka státního občanství dle restitučních předpisů, Ústavní soud vychází z již v roce 1933 vypracované definice agrese Společnosti národů, která byla převzata do londýnské Úmluvy o agresi (CONVENITION DE DEFINITION DE L'AGRESSION), uzavřené dne 4. 7. 1933 Československem, dle které není třeba válku vyhlašovat (čl. II bod 2) a dle které je třeba za útočníka považovat ten stát, který první poskytne podporu ozbrojeným tlupám, jež se utvoří na jeho území a jež vpadnou na území druhého státu (čl. II bod 5). V souladu s nótou londýnské vlády ze dne 22. 2. 1944, navazující na prohlášení prezidenta republiky ze dne 16. 12. 1941 dle § 64 odst. 1 bod 3 tehdejší Ústavy, a v souladu s citovaným čl. II bod 5 má Ústavní soud za to, že dnem, kdy nastal stav války, a to s Německem, je den 17. 9. 1938, neboť tento den na pokyn Hitlera došlo k utvoření "Sudetoněmeckého svobodného sboru" (Freikorps) z uprchnuvších vůdců Henleinovy strany a několik málo hodin poté už tito vpadli na československé území ozbrojeni německými zbraněmi.
  9. ^ Statistický lexikon obcí v Republice československé I. Země česká. Prague. 1934. 
    Statistický lexikon obcí v Republice československé II. Země moravskoslezská. Prague. 1935. 
  10. ^ a b c d Eleanor L. Turk. The History of Germany. Westport, Connecticut, USA: Greenwood Press, 1999. ISBN 9780313302749. Pp. 123.
  11. ^ Noakes & Pridham 2010, pp. 100–101.
  12. ^ a b Hruška, Emil (2013), Boj o pohraničí: Sudetoněmecký Freikorps v roce 1938 (1st ed.), Prague: Nakladatelství epocha, Pražská vydavatelská společnost, p. 11  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Hru.C5.A1ka" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  13. ^ a b Hruška, p. 12
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Hruška, p. 13
  15. ^ Hruška, p. 14
  16. ^ Hruška, p. 14
  17. ^ a b c d e f Hruška, p. 15
  18. ^ a b c d Hruška, p. 17
  19. ^ a b c d Hruška, p. 30
  20. ^ Hruška, p. 33
  21. ^ a b c Hruška, p. 34
  22. ^ a b c Hruška, p. 35
  23. ^ a b c Hruška, p. 37
  24. ^ Hruška, p. 38
  25. ^ a b c d Hruška, p. 42
  26. ^ a b Hruška, p. 43
  27. ^ Hruška, p. 44
  28. ^ Lukeš, I (1996) Czechoslovakia between Stalin and Hitler, The Diplomacy of Edvard Beneš in the 1930s, Oxford University Press, P212
  29. ^ Zimmermann, Volker: 'Die Sudetendeutschen im NS-Staat. Politik und Stimmung der Bevölkerung im Reichsgau Sudetenland (1938-1945). Essen 1999. (ISBN 3884747703)
  30. ^ Hruška, pages 44-5.
  31. ^ a b c Hruška, page 47.
  32. ^ a b Hruška, p. 47
  33. ^ a b Hruška, p. 48
  34. ^ a b Procházka, pages 39-41.
  35. ^ Procházka, pages 78-80.
  36. ^ Hruška, p. 49
  37. ^ Procházka, pages 44.
  38. ^ Procházka, Petr (2007), Příběhy z pohraničí (1st ed.), Jeseník: Hnutí Brontosaurus Jeseníky, p. 13 
  39. ^ Procházka, Petr (2007), Příběhy z pohraničí (1st ed.), Jeseník: Hnutí Brontosaurus Jeseníky, pp. 17–19 
  40. ^ a b c Procházka, pages 13.
  41. ^ Procházka, pages 14.
  42. ^ Procházka, pages 20-22.
  43. ^ a b Procházka, pages 35-38.
  44. ^ Procházka, pages 60-67.
  45. ^ http://www.bohemistik.de/freikorps.pdf