The Freikorps Roßbach (also Freiwilligen-Sturmabteilung Roßbach) marched 1.200 miles from Berlin and rescued Eiserne Division (Iron Division) from destruction near Thorensburg in November 1919. It attacked the Latvian army that had the Freikorps unit surrounded, broke through to it and held off the Latvians long enough for men of the Iron Division to escape.

Rudolf Höss (later infamous as the commandant of Auschwitz) wrote about the time in the Baltic:
The fighting in the Baltic was more savage and desperate than anything else in all the Freikorps fighting I saw before or afterwards. There was no real front to speak of; the enemy was everywhere. And whenever there was a clash, it turned into butchery to the extent of total annihilation. (1)

It was ordered to disband by the government when returning from the Baltic in December 1919 but Roßbach refused. It was disbanded after the Kapp Putsch and was used to form Jägerbataillon 39 of the Reichswehr.

It was again disbanded during the reorganization but continued to function under various cover names, including worker group and detective agency, elements of it fought against the Poles in Upper Silesia and later took part in the Beer Hall Putsch. It was disbanded permanently in a ceremony 9 November 1933 for the 10th anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch.


Gerhard Roßbach

Formed in the area of

Generalkommando XVII. Armeekorps Danzig (Provinz Westpreußen)

Manpower strength


Notable members

SA-Gruppenführer Richard Aster
Reichsleiter & SS-Obergruppenführer & SA-Obergruppenführer Martin Bormann
SS-Oberstgruppenführer und Generaloberst der Polizei Kurt Daluege
Reichstag deputy & SA-Gruppenführer Karl Ernst
SS-Gruppenführer Hermann Fegelein (member of Freiwilligen Verbandes Roßbach-Jugend 1926-1927)
Reichstag deputy SA-Obergruppenführer Edmund Heines
SA-Obergruppenführer Wolf-Heinrich Graf von Helldorf
SS-Gruppenführer Otto Hellwig
SS-Hauptsturmführer Rudolf Höss (commandant of Auschwitz)
Ernst Jünger (Famous author, most well-known for "In Stahlgewittern", "Storm of Steel")
SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS Dr Hans Kammler
Wilhelm Landig (Leader of the occultic völkisch Vienne Circle)
SS-Standartenführer Helmuth Raithel (Waffen-SS)
SA-Brigadeführer Paul Röhrbein
SS-Brigadeführer Ulrich Scherping
SS-Gruppenführer Fritz Schlessman
SS-Oberführer Otto Somann
SS-Hauptsturmführer Franz Stark (Einsatzgruppen officer, born in the US)
(the ranks are the highest ranks reached in the Third Reich era)


Members of Freikorps Roßbach wore a gold sleeve badge on their right arms featuring a St. Hubert's Cross (a crucifix set within the antlers of a stag's skull) above a cloth chevron in the national colors: red, white and black. As a component of the Frontier Defense Troops of the XVII. Armeekorps, Freikorps Roßbach also displayed the double collar badges of that organization: a gold, stylized fir tree with crossed swords over the torn-up roots.
During the suppression of the Ruhr uprisings of 1920, the members of Freikorps Roßbach painted a white arrow on their helmets, an insignia used for this operation only.

Flag ceremony of Freikorps Roßbach

Soldiers of Freikorps Roßbach

Gerhard Roßbach and soldiers of Freikorps Roßbach during the Beer Hall Putsch
(Courtesy of Måns)

Soldiers of Freikorps Rossbach during the Beer Hall Putsch
(Courtesy of Måns)

Soldiers from Freikorps Roßbach during the Kapp Putch 1920
freikorps-rossbach-kapp (Courtesy of Bundesarchiv/Wikimedia, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Germany)


1. "Dynamic of Destruction: Culture and Mass Killing in the First World War" by Alan Kramer, page 308.

Sources used

Verkuilen Ager - Awards of the German Freikorps 1919-1935
Ludwig Baer - History of the German steel helmet 1916-1945
Bruce Campbell - The SA generals and the rise of Nazism
Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke - Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity
Jill Halcomb Smith & Wilhelm P.B.R. Saris - Headgear of Hitler's Germany Vol 2
Nigel Jones - The birth of the Nazis: How the Freikorps blazed a trail for Hitler
Carlos Caballero Jurado - The German Freikorps 1918-1923
Alan Kramer - Dynamic of Destruction: Culture and Mass Killing in the First World War
Helmut Langerbein - Hitler's Death Squads: The Logic of Mass Murder
Georg Tessin - Deutsche Verbände und Truppen 1918-1939
Robert G. L. Waite - Vanguard of Nazism: The Free Corps Movement in Postwar Germany 1918-1923
Mark C. Yerger - Waffen-SS Commanders: The army, corps and divisional leaders of a legend (2 vol)

Reference material on this unit

Gunther Koerner - Selbstschutz in Oberschlesien 1921