Black Reichswehr

(Schwarze Reichswehr)
   In 1923, after a series of events that included France's Ruhr occupation* and Lithuania's seizure of the Memel district, Hans von Seeckt* took steps to bolster Germany's limited army. Fearing a Polish attack or a deeper French incursion, Seeckt gained Friedrich Ebert's* authorization to create a force known as the Arbeitskommandos (Labor Troops) from old Freikorps* units. Thus, with approval at the Republic's highest levels, Seeckt concluded a secret accord on 7 February 1923 with Carl Sever-ing,* Prussian Interior Minister, whereby the Reichswehr* would finance, train, and garrison Arbeitskommandos, popularly known as the Black Reichswehr. Numbering 50,000-80,000 men by September 1923, the force was responsible to Lieutenant-Colonel Fedor von Bock (attached to Berlin's* Third Reichswehr Division) and drilled under the command of Major Bruno Buchrucker.*
   By submitting the troops to army discipline, Seeckt hoped to break their willful spirit. Thus the Arbeitskommandos joined in maneuvers and attended a noncommissioned officers' school. But Seeckt's hope went unfulfilled; the men were not interested so much in defending Germany's frontiers as in deposing its Republic. The episode climaxed in September 1923 when Gustav Strese-mann* offended their nationalist pride by ending passive resistance in the Ruhr. Planning a putsch for 29 September, Buchrucker and his men were inadvertently neutralized when Ebert declared a state of emergency—a measure aimed at Bavaria.* Although the Black Reichswehr staged a pathetic 1 October march on the Küstrin barracks (near Berlin), it ended without bloodshed.
   Angered by the Küstrin affair, which received wide press coverage, Seeckt ordered the Black Reichswehr's immediate dissolution (anxiety over Poland* led to retention of a few units). Defense Minister Otto Gessler*, when called before committees of the Reichstag* and Prussian Landtag in 1926 to explain the then-defunct Arbeitskommandos, made the feeble claim that they had been organized to collect and destroy illegal weapons caches—a preposterous asser-tion given the rigorous military training required of them.
   REFERENCES:Craig, Politics ofthe Prussian Army; Diehl, Paramilitary Politics; Harold Gordon, Reichswehr; Waite, Vanguard of Nazism.

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

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