- German policy toward the Baltic region evolved through two phases during the Weimar years. Between January and November 1919 members of the Supreme Command were fixated on the Baltic provinces. In February, after orchestrating a British invi-tation to protect the new Baltic governments from the Red Army, Rüdiger von der Goltz* assembled a force known as the Baltic Volunteers. The aim of this Freikorps* detachment was control of Baltikum.For centuries the Baltic region had evoked romantic fascination in Germans. Although Courland and Livonia, roughly today's Latvia and Estonia, had been under Russian rule since the eighteenth century, they were German in culture. The Memel region, or Memelland, was part of Baltikum. Attached to East Prus-sia* until 1919, Memelland was administered by the League of Nations, then absorbed in January 1923 by Lithuania. Inhabited by numerous Germans, fore-most of whom were the highborn Baltic Barons, the provinces remarkably were deemed a worthy sphere for expansion amidst treaty deliberations in Paris. En-hanced interest was, indeed, a product of the Armistice.* Hindenburg* and his cohorts hoped to rescue German dignity by seizing the Baltics and deposing their recently formed native regimes. Naive of this design, the British welcomed German involvement as a bulwark against Bolshevism. But the Baltic Volunteers traveled east with the spurious recruiting promise that land would serve as partial payment for their services.Although Goltz was theoretically aiding local populations, he rigorously re-stricted the military role of native Balts in his campaigns. Consequently, suc-cessful offensives against the Red Army in February and March 1919 only worsened relations with the Latvians. By the time Riga fell to the Volunteers on 22 May, Goltz had installed a puppet regime in place of Latvia's legitimate government. The capture of Riga was the high point of the expedition. Not only did the operation's ease alarm the Balts and the Western Allies, it frightened a Berlin* government that could ill afford renewed militarism. When Paris learned of the treatment of "liberated" populations—in Riga alone, three thousand Lat-vians suspected of Bolshevik sympathies were shot without trial—Britain ter-minated its patronage and Berlin was ordered to bring Goltz home. By attaching themselves to a White Russian army, the Volunteers evaded the order. The ineptitude of Prince Pawel Michaelovich Awaloff-Bermondt, the White Russian to whom Goltz relinquished command, was Berlin's deliverance. Awaloff was dubbed "the prince of comedies" by a French officer; his advance on Petrograd failed, and by October 1919 he was retreating toward East Prussia. Suffering from dysentery and malnutrition, the German Legion, as the Volunteers were then called, was rescued in late November by fresh Freikorps units.After the Baltic expedition's collapse, German policy was reconciled to the survival of the new states; accordingly, they fell within the confines of foreign and financial policy. Guided by Adolf Köster, German Ambassador to Riga (and Hermann Muller's* first Foreign Minister), prolonged negotiations generated trade treaties with Latvia and Estonia in 1926 and 1929. Competing primarily with British business interests, the Germans enjoyed considerable success at forming economic links with Baltikum. At the heart of all dialog was a desire to preclude Polish inroads into the region. But foreign policy was not simply a negative formula for frustrating Poland*: the prosperity ensuing from the rela-tionship with Germany helped secure the Baltic states while it ameliorated the lot of sizable German minorities in the region.REFERENCES:Diehl, Paramilitary Politics; Hiden, "Baltic Germans" and 'Baltic Problem' "; Salomon, Geachteten; Waite, Vanguard of Nazism.
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.
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