Ehrhardt, Hermann

(1881-1971)
   naval officer and Freikorps* leader; implicated in the murders of Matthias Erzberger* and Walther Rath-enau.* Born in Diersburg in Baden, he joined the navy and held the rank of captain by the end of World War I. Early in 1919 he organized fellow officers in Wilhelmshaven to counter a Soviet Republic proclaimed by members of the new KPD. The Brigade Ehrhardt later fought so well in Berlin* that Defense Minister Gustav Noske* authorized him to organize a larger force. Initiating a major recruitment effort in Wilhelmshaven, he formed Germany's best-organized and best-trained Freikorps unit. After fighting in Braunschweig in April, it spearheaded the May attack on Munich and was involved in Upper Silesia* against Polish insurgents in August 1919.
   While the Ehrhardt Brigade was in Silesia, it absorbed many men returning from the Baltic* campaigns. The savagery that marked the remaining history of Ehrhardt's units stems from this influx of Baltikumern. In late 1919 the brigade was ordered back to Berlin to defend the Republic against anticipated Com-munist unrest; ironically, this allowed Ehrhardt to abet the March 1920 Kapp* Putsch against the Republic. After Kapp's failure Ehrhardt lent support to the regime he had just sought to dislodge by suppressing leftist uprisings in the Ruhr. He was then ordered to disband his unit and was himself briefly jailed in Münster. His ensuing escape forced him to spend most of 1920-1925 abroad or in Bavaria.* In early 1920 the Bavarians allowed him to create a radical group known as Organisation Consul* (OC). Headquartered in Munich, OC was im-plicated in several notorious assassinations.* Privy to the planned Beerhall Putsch,* Ehrhardt had his troops poised on the Thuringian border in October-November 1923, ready to move against Thuringia's* government before march-ing on Berlin.
   Ehrhardt came out of hiding after a 1926 political amnesty. He joined the Stahlhelm* and assisted with ineffectual plans for another putsch. He also ap-peared in a 1926 trial in which his Wiking-Bund (the successor to OC) brought suit against Carl Severing,* Prussia's* Interior Minister, for ordering its disso-lution; although the court upheld Severing, Ehrhardt refused to disband the Bund until April 1928.
   Ehrhardt flirted in the early 1930s with National Bolshevism.* Although his importance faded after 1928, he was involved, perhaps as a government agent, in an effort to form an anti-Hitler group known as the National Socialist Fighting League of Germany (NSKD). Centered on Otto Strasser* and Walther Stennes, an erstwhile SA* leader, the NSKD foundered over ideological issues. Fleeing to Switzerland, Ehrhardt was fortunate to escape Hitler's 1934 purge. In 1936 he relocated to Austria,* where he remained until his death.
   REFERENCES:Diehl, Paramilitary Politics; Moreau, "Otto Strasser"; Waite, Vanguard ofNazism.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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