- (1865-1924)general; organized the first Freikorps* unit. Born to the family of a circuit judge in the West Prussian town of Bal-denburg, he attended cadet academies in Kulm and Gross-Lichterfelde. In 1888 he accompanied a German plantation concern to East Africa. After leading a commando unit in 1890 to German Southwest Africa, he entered the War Acad-emy, graduated in 1894, and assumed duties with the Anatolian railway in Asia Minor. Following brief duty in China and two years in Tilsit, he returned to Southwest Africa in 1904 as a General Staff officer; in 1907 he was severely wounded in Hereroland. His diverse overseas experience made Maercker both an advocate of German colonialism (he helped found and was president of the German Colonial League) and an engaging personality.Maercker was promoted to colonel in April 1914 and was assigned to Borkum upon the outbreak of war. He was transferred to the Western Front in January 1916 and was severely wounded that summer. Upon recovery, he was promoted to major-general in August 1917 and was assigned command of a brigade in Flanders. His skill and bravery earned him the Pour le Merite, Germany's high-est honor. In January 1918 he became commander of the 214th Infantry Divi-sion; his behavior in the Armentieres offensive earned him an oak-leaf cluster for his Pour le Mérite.On 12 December 1918 Maercker submitted a memorandum to the Supreme Command outlining a plan for creation of a volunteer rifle corps. After quick approval, he drafted the "First Constructive Order of the Volunteer Rifle Corps" (Freiwilligen Landesjägerkorps); it became a model for the law establishing the provisional Reichswehr.* Although his rifle corps was a prototype for other Freikorps units, Maercker and his men were atypical. Well disciplined, the Maercker Volunteers was among the Republic's most trusted formations. A con-vinced monarchist, Maercker was nevertheless loyal to Defense Minister Gustav Noske* and supported the Republic as a hedge against anarchy. He dismissed undisciplined troops (Ernst von Salomon* later chided Maercker's corps as lack-ing the "true Freikorps spirit"); yet by January 1919 he possessed a reliable unit of four thousand men. On 14 January his men were among the units that quelled Berlin's* Spartacist Uprising.* Ordered to Weimar on 30 January 1919, his unit protected the newly elected National Assembly.* In the following months he participated in actions aimed at subduing leftist unrest throughout central Germany. His procedure was simple: occupy a city with an intimidating march, proclaim martial law, dissolve the revolutionary councils, organize new civil guard units, and withdraw. The process was often accomplished without firing a shot. In May 1919 Maercker's unit was integrated into the provisional Reichswehr, and in November he became commander of the Defense District (Wehrkreis IV) in Dresden.Maercker opposed the conspiracy of Wolfgang Kapp* and Walther von Lüt-twitz* from its inception. He told Lüttwitz in July 1919 that he would not support an action that lacked Noske's backing. Lüttwitz ignored him. Ordered to arrest the republican government when it fled to Dresden on 13 March 1920, Maercker let it escape to Stuttgart and thus contributed to the failure of the Kapp Putsch. Unfortunately, by mediating between President Ebert* and the putsch-ists, he called into question his loyalty to the regime. His dismissal in the wake of the putsch ended a long and honorable military career.REFERENCES:Carsten, Reichswehr and Politics; Diehl, Paramilitary Politics; Harold Gordon, Reichswehr; NDB, vol. 15; Waite, Vanguard ofNazism.
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.
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