Rossbach, Gerhard

(1893-1967)
   Freikorps* leader; organized and led the famed Freiwillige Sturmabteilung Rossbach. Born in the Pomeranian town of Kehrberg, he was a freshly commissioned lieutenant when World War I began. Ending the war as an artillery Oberleutnant, he founded his own border defense company for the Baltic campaign of 1919. After employing his unit in January 1919 in a surprise attack against Polish units in West Prussia, he became an object of national adulation. In November 1919 he went to the aid of Ger-many s beleaguered forces in the Baltic provinces.* Ernst von Salomon* re-corded that between 7 and 30 November Rossbach wrought havoc upon the Latvian and Bolshevik forces while rescuing the German Legion. He returned a legendary figure, idolized by youth as the postwar archetype of a national hero.
   Despite orders to disband, Rossbach ingeniously sheltered his unit for several years. Soon after fighting the KPD in Mecklenburg during the Kapp* Putsch, his corps was merged with the Reichswehr* as Jagerbataillon 37; the unit was used to crush the left-wing revolt in the Ruhr that followed the Kapp episode. In May 1920 Hans von Seeckt,* striving to remove undisciplined elements from the army, ordered the batallion disbanded, but Rossbach, receiving help from the Pomeranian Landbund, organized his eight thousand men into Arbeitsge-meinschaften (labor associations) and dispersed them among several East Elbian estates. The "volunteer farm workers," who claimed to be working "fur Brot und ein Bett (for bread and a bed), scattered their arms throughout the Pom-eranian countryside. When Rossbach was called to action in May 1921 by events in Upper Silesia,* he assembled four thousand well-armed men within forty-eight hours. When the fighting ended in July, he avoided an Inter-Allied Military Control Commission order to surrender arms by sequestering them back in Pom-erania. For two more years he countered efforts to dislodge his corps by creating new cover societies: "Ich grunde schneller Vereine, als die Berliner sie auflosen konnen!" ("I create societies quicker than Berlin* can dissolve them!"), he remarked.
   Rossbach joined the NSDAP relatively early. Arrested in October 1923, he was released in time for the Beerhall Putsch.* When the coup failed, he fled to Austria,* where he remained until 1926. Upon returning, he declared that the time for putsches had passed (his organization had scattered during his absence). He thereafter championed patriotic education for unemployed youth, including an emphasis on music* and folk dancing. This new path, which included the creation of Turnerschaften (gymnastics clubs), had scant appeal for former fol-lowers, most of whom drifted to the SA.* In April 1928 he was involved in Stettin s inconclusive Femegericht* trial. He served as deputy chairman in the early 1930s of the Reichsluftsschutzbund (National Air-Raid Federation) and became chairman after Hitler s* seizure of power.
   During the 1934 Rohm* purge Rossbach was briefly detained by a former lieutenant; he was fortunate to survive. He served during World War II in the Abwehr; after 1945 he helped reestablish Bayreuth s Wagner Festival and ran an insurance agency in Hamburg.
   REFERENCES:Bronnen, Rossbach; Deutsche Nachrichten; Diehl, Paramilitary Politics; Salomon, Geachteten; Waite, Vanguard of Nazism.

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

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