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English Free Corps - Any of several private paramilitary groups that first appeared in December 1918 in the wake of Germany's defeat in World War I.

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Introduction

English Free Corps Any of several private paramilitary groups that first appeared in December 1918 in the wake of Germany's defeat in World War I. Composed of ex-soldiers, unemployed youth, and other discontents and led by ex-officers and other former military personnel, they proliferated all over Germany in the spring and summer of 1919 and eventually numbered more than 65 corps of various names, sizes, and descriptions. Most were nationalistic and radically conservative and were employed unofficially but effectively to put down left-wing revolts and uprisings in Berlin, Bremen, Brunswick, Hamburg, Halle, Leipzig, Silesia, Thuringia, and the Ruhr; they fought miniature wars and sometimes resorted to plunder and roughhousing. At first sanctioned, or even supported, by such figures as Defence Minister Gustav Noske and General Paul von Hinesburg, the Freikorps finally came to be viewed as a nuisance and a threat, and their activities were eventually supplanted by regular army and police work or assumed by the new units of the Nazis and other political parties. Ernst R1+hm, a Freikorps commander, later became head of the Nazi SA, or Brown shirts. The dangers confronting Friedrich Ebert were mounting all over the country. Four and a half years of war and sacrifice were giving way to a war-weariness that was leaving the imperial system, as well as its emperor, discredited. ...read more.

Middle

To gain their cooperation, Ebert had to agree to naming the provisional government the Council of Peoples' Commissars and to transforming Germany into a vaguely defined social republic. This promise notwithstanding, Ebert still hoped that elections to a constituent assembly would lead to the creation of a moderate democratic republic. The Independent Socialists, however, though not as radical as Liebknecht, held to their vision of a socialist Rn+terepublik. They hoped that workers and soldiers would elect a multitude of councils across the entire nation during the next weeks, which they assumed would establish the foundation for a genuinely socialist republic. For the time being, however, Majority and Independent Socialists were joined in providing provisional governance for the defeated German nation, which everywhere seemed on the verge of collapse. Although the armistice of November 11 ended the fighting, it did not end the Allied blockade. The winter of 1918-19 brought no relief in the shortages of food and fuel, and the flu epidemic showed no signs of abatement. Soldiers returning from the military fronts by the hundreds of thousands were left stranded, jobless, hungry, and bitter--grist for the mill of revolution. The push for revolution, led by an enthusiastic Liebknecht and a more reluctant Luxemburg, came on Jan. 6, 1919, encouraged by Soviet Russia and further prompted by fear that Ebert's plans for the election of a constituent assembly, scheduled for January 19, might stabilize the German situation. ...read more.

Conclusion

Three of every four voters gave their support to political parties that favoured turning Germany into a democracy. After months of turmoil Germany was to become a democratic republic. The assembly began its deliberations on Feb. 6, 1919, choosing to meet in Weimar, where it believed itself less vulnerable to radical political interference than in Berlin. On Jan. 18, 1919, representatives of the powers victorious over Germany began the deliberations in Paris that would establish a European peace settlement. Germany's new democratic leaders placed high hopes in the prospects for this settlement. Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points seemed to promise Germans national self-determination as well as to encourage the efforts to transform Germany into a democracy. When the German constituent assembly met in Weimar for the first time on February 6, it immediately declared itself sovereign over all Germany. It selected a provisional government--with Ebert as president and Scheidemann as chancellor--whose first major task was to prepare for the expected invitation to Paris to negotiate a treaty of peace with the empire's former enemies. But the invitation for a German delegation to come to Paris did not arrive until early April. Rather than being treated as a fellow--if fledgling--democracy, Germans soon learned that they were still viewed as the "bad boys" of Europe. Wilson's idealism had been forced to yield to still-fresh wartime resentments being articulated by the leaders of the French, British, and Italian delegations. There were to be no negotiations about a peace treaty. Germany would simply be handed a treaty and told to sign. ...read more.

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