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Sudetendeutsches Freikorps

Sudeten German Free Corps
Sudetendeutsches Freikorps
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1972-026-51, Anschluss sudetendeutscher Gebiete.jpg
Sudetendeutsches Freikorps members
Active1938 to 1939
Country Nazi Germany
AllegianceAdolf Hitler
TypeTerrorist organization
RoleBreak-up of Czechoslovakia
EngagementsUndeclared German-Czechoslovak war
Commanders
De facto commander Friedrich Köchling
Formal commanderFlag of the Sudets (without CoA).svg Konrad Henlein
Vice-commanderFlag of the Sudets (without CoA).svg Karl Hermann Frank
Chief of staffFlag of the Sudets (without CoA).svg Anton Pfrogner

Sudetendeutsches Freikorps (Sudeten German Free Corps, also known as the Freikorps Sudetenland, Freikorps Henlein and Sudetendeutsche Legion) was a paramilitary Nazi organization founded on 17 September 1938 in Germany on direct order of Adolf Hitler. The organization was composed mainly of ethnic German citizens of Czechoslovakia with pro-Nazi sympathies who were sheltered, trained and equipped by the German army and who were conducting cross border terrorist operations into Czechoslovak territory from 1938 to 1939. They played an important role in Hitler's successful effort to occupy Czechoslovakia and annex the region known as Sudetenland into the Third Reich under Nazi Germany.[1][2][3][4]

Sudetendeutsches Freikorps was a factual successor to Freiwilliger Schutzdienst, also known as Ordnersgruppe, an organization that had been established by the Sudeten German Party in Czechoslovakia unofficially in 1933 and officially on 17 May 1938, following the example of Sturmabteilung, the original paramilitary wing of the German Nazi Party. Officially being registered as promoter organization, the Freiwilliger Schutzdienst was dissolved on 16 September 1938 by the Czechoslovak authorities due to its implication in large number of criminal and terrorist activities. Many of its members as well as leadership, wanted for arrest by Czechoslovak authorities, had moved to Germany where they became the basis of Sudetendeutsches Freikorps, conducting Freikorps' first cross-border raids into Czechoslovakia only few hours after its official establishment.[5] Due to the smooth transition between the two organizations, similar membership, Nazi Germany's sponsorship and application of the same tactic of cross-border raids, some authors often don't particularly distinguish between the actions of Ordners (i.e. up to 16 September 1938) and Freikorps (i.e. from 17 September 1938).

Relying on the Convention for the Definition of Aggression, Czechoslovak president Edvard Beneš[6] and the government-in-exile[7] later regarded 17 September 1938, the day of establishment of the Sudetendeutsches Freikorps and beginning of its cross-border raids, as the beginning of the undeclared German-Czechoslovak war. This understanding has been assumed also by the contemporary Czech Constitutional court.[8]

Background

Czech districts with an ethnic German population in 1934 of 25% or more (pink), 50% or more (red), and 75 % or more (dark red)[9] in 1935

From 1918 to 1938, after the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, more than 3 million ethnic Germans were living in the Czech part of the newly created state of Czechoslovakia.

In 1933, as Adolf Hitler assumed power in Germany, Sudeten German pro-Nazi leader Konrad Henlein founded Sudeten German Party (SdP) that served as the branch of the Nazi Party for the Sudetenland.[10] By 1935, the SdP was the second largest political party in Czechoslovakia.[10] Shortly after the anschluss of Austria to Germany, Henlein met with Hitler in Berlin on 28 March 1938, where he was instructed to raise demands unacceptable to the Czechoslovak government led by president Edvard Beneš. On 24 April, the SdP issued a series of demands upon the government of Czechoslovakia, that were known as the Carlsbad Program. [11] Among the demands, Henlein demanded autonomy for Germans living in Czechoslovakia.[10] The Czechoslovakian government responded by saying that it was willing to provide more minority rights to the German minority but it refused to grant them autonomy.[10]

By June 1938, the party had over 1.3 million members, i.e. 40.6% of ethnic-German citizens of Czechoslovakia (40% of that women). During last free democratic elections before the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, the May 1938 communal elections, the party gained 88% of ethnic-German votes, taking over control of most municipal authorities in the Czech borderland. The country's mass membership made it one of the largest fascist parties in Europe at the time.[12]

The first major crisis took place in May 1938 after partial Czechoslovak army mobilization. Activities of pro-Nazi ethnic Germans in the area led to large flight of ethnic-Czech civilians and especially Jews. Hitler's increasing threats of attacking Czechoslovakia led to full mobilization on 22 September 1938. Many ethnic-Germans refused to follow the Czechoslovak army mobilization order and either ran across the border to Germany and joined Freikorps, continuing cross border raids from there, or established Grün Freikorps units which were operating from Czechoslovak forests, receiving arms and equipment from Germany, and continuing raids against Czechoslovak authorities, Jews and Czechs, up until the German occupation of the Czechoslovak border areas following the Munich agreement.

Ordnersgruppe, Freiwilliger Schutzdienst

Freiwilliger Schutzdienst
Ordnersgruppe
KarlHermannFrank.jpg
Karl Hermann Frank, FS's vice-Führer who was receiving orders directly from Hitler
Active17 May 1938 to 16 September 1938
Country Czechoslovakia
Allegiance Germany
TypeTerrorist organization
RoleBreak-up of Czechoslovakia
Commanders
FührerFlag of the Sudets (without CoA).svg Konrad Henlein
Vice-FührerFlag of the Sudets (without CoA).svg Karl Hermann Frank
SecretaryFlag of the Sudets (without CoA).svg Fritz Köllner
Chief of staffFlag of the Sudets (without CoA).svg Willi Brandner

Forming of the organization

Immediately after establishing the Sudetendeutsche Heimatfront (later Sudeten German Party, SdP) in 1933, the party started forming its informal Ordnungsdienst (Order Service, its members called in German Ordners) which was officially supposed to preserve order during meetings and assemblies of the party and protect it against its political adversaries. In reality, however, these were from the beginning attack squads with potentially terrorist assignments,[13] following the example of Sturmabteilung (a.k.a. "Brown shirts" or "Storm Troopers"), the original paramilitary wing of the German Nazi Party.[5] More systematic build-up of the paramilitary wing started before the 1935 elections, when the SdP's leadership decided that each local SdP organization should establish its own squad of Ordners.[14]

On 14 May 1938, the Ordnersgruppe was formally transformed into new official organization called the Freiwilliger Schutzdienst (FS) which was openly built up following the example of the Nazi Sturmabteilung.[15] SdP's chief Konrad Henlein was the Schutzdienst's Führer, with Fritz Köllner becoming its secretary and Willi Brandner the chief of staff, also responsible for the buildup of squad groups. By 17 May 1938, the date of the organization's official registration, Schutzdienst had over 15.000 members.[15]

Schutzdienst started a wide recruitment program in June 1938. Its members were divided into three categories:[15]

  • Category A: The most trusted and physically capable members that were supposed to carry out the duty of guardians of "inner purity" of the SdP. The Category A was composed of the so-called "surveillance departments" and was directly subordinate to the SdP. Apart from functions within the organization, its members were also collecting information on political opponents and conducting military espionage.[15]
  • Category B: Wider selection of members. Its members were trained for propaganda activities and for conducting terrorist and sabotage assaults.[15]
  • Category C: Mostly older members of FS, mainly former soldiers with World War I front line experience. Their main task was providing training to the B category members as well as being the FS's reserve force.[15]

FS squads were being built up as militias with local, district and regional formations and central staff. FS further created special squads: communication, medical and rear. FS's squad leaders were trained directly by Nazi Sturmabteilung in Germany.[15]

FS became instrumental for the psychological warfare of the operation Fall Grün, smuggling weapons through "green border" from Germany, conducting various provocations of Czechoslovak armed forces and provocations on the borderline with Germany.[16]

Attempted putsch

Bergmann MP18. Ordners were supplied with a large number of sub-machineguns provided by, and smuggled from, Germany
Sudeten German Party Putsch
Part of German occupation of Czechoslovakia
Date10–15 September 1938
Location
Result Putsch quashed, SdP & SF banned and dissolved
Belligerents

Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).svg Sudeten German Party

  • Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).svg Freiwilliger Schutzdienst
 Czechoslovakia
Commanders and leaders
  • Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).svg Konrad Henlein
  • Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).svg Karl Hermann Frank
  • Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).svg Fritz Köllner
  • Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).svg Willi Brandner
Czechoslovakia Milan Hodža
Casualties and losses
10 dead, over dozen wounded over 23 dead, over 60 wounded
Violence led large number of Jews, Czechs and anti-fascist Germans to flee from borderlands further to inland Czechoslovakia. Following restoration of order by Czechoslovak authorities, tens of thousands of pro-Nazi ethnic Germans fled to Germany to avoid either arrest or Czechoslovak army mobilization order.

German Nazi Party was convening its 10th congress between 5–12 September 1938 in Nuremberg, where it was expected that Hitler will make clear his further plans as regards Czechoslovakia. FS squads were kept in state of high alert, ready to conduct any orders that may come from "higher up". On 10 September 1938, all FS district headquarters received order to start large scale demonstrations, which escalated to a number of wounded members of Czechoslovak law enforcement as well as FS members in numerous cities already the next day.[17] FS Vice-Führer Karl Hermann Frank was in direct contact with Hitler, receiving instructions for the following days.[18]

Immediately after the highly anticipated Hitler's final speech on 12 September 1938, in which Hitler claimed to take care of German interests "under any circumstances" and to "prevent creation of second Palestine in the heart of Europe where the poor Arabs are defenseless and abandoned, while Germans in Czechoslovakia are not defenseless, nor abandoned", FS initiated widespread violence in the whole borderland.[18] In Cheb alone, K.H.Frank's hometown, ethnic-German mob plundered 38 Czech and Jewish shops.[18] Other main targets included buildings of the German Social Democratic Party and Czechoslovak authorities, including schools.[18] FS conducted over 70 armed assaults against Czechoslovak authorities and assaulted also selected Czechs and ethnic-German anti-fascists.[18] Czechoslovak law enforcement was meanwhile ordered not to intervene in order not to further fuel up Hitler's propaganda.[18]

As it became clear that SdP was attempting to push the Czechoslovak authorities out of the towns in borderland and replace them with own governance, and with rising death toll that included, inter alia, murder of four Gendarme officers by FS in Habartov, the Czechoslovak government responded by declaring martial law in 13 worst struck districts and by dispatching military.[19] Major assaults on Czechoslovak law enforcement as well as military continued throughout 14 September 1938, with the last one taking place on 15 September in Bublava.[19] Altogether, the violence led to 13 dead and numerous injuries on 12–13 September and culminated with 23 dead (13 Czechoslovak authorities personnel, 10 ethnic Germans) and 75 seriously wounded (of that 14 ethnic Germans) on 14 September, however the attempted putsch was thwarted.[19]

On 14 September 1938, SdP's leadership ran across border to Selb, Germany, where K.H. Frank unsuccessfully demanded immediate military intervention from Hitler.[20] The leadership's flight had chilling effect on the FS members, especially those that had taken part in the violence and now feared criminal prosecution. On 15 September 1938, German radio broadcast Henlein's speech, who was purportedly speaking live from in Czechoslovakia.[20] By this time, the SdP's flight to Germany had become public knowledge and according to the then German ambassador in Prague, instead of stimulating SdP's members to further actions, it led to a serious rift in its ranks.[20]

On 16 September 1938, Czechoslovak authorities banned and dissolved SdP as well as FS. Large number of its functionaries as well as members that were wanted for arrest in connection with the preceding violence fled to Germany, while a number of town mayors elected for SdP compelled FS members to keep calm and expressed their support to the commanders of Gendarme stations situated in their towns.[20]

Date Place Summary Details
13 September 1938 Habartov Local SdP carries out lawful demonstration in the streets. Armed ordners use mob to seize post office with telephone switchboard and later also police station, killing four members of Czechoslovak security forces in the process. In the morning after Hitler's Nuremberg speech local SdP carries out lawful demonstration in the streets after calling for further 300 SdP members from nearby town of Doupov to join. Armed ordners first seize post office with telephone switchboard and take it's workers as well as one municipal policemen captive. German mob, many of them armed, surround police station and demand surrender of policemen. Mob forces its way into the building where they corner two and two armed policemen in different rooms. Policemen, under orders not to use firearms, refuse to surrender. Germans try to wrestle firearms from policemen's hands. Failing to do that Germans start shooting, killing Sergeant Major Jan Koukol. Rest of the policemen return fire, killing two attackers and wounding another. Most Germans flee from the station. The three surviving policemen, one of them with hand wounded by gunshot and the two others wounded in face with glass shards, fortify the station while Germans take positions in the houses around the station (which is situated on a ground floor of building that is used also as German-language primary school) start continuous barrage of fire into the station's windows.

Two Orderns are killed and two other seriously wounded during first two hours of shootout, leading Germans to call for more reinforcements against the three policemen that whose telephone line was cut. Germans then try to flood the station with use of firefighting vehicle, but are again driven away by police gunfire. Germans then take one of the policemen's wife, put a noose on her neck and send her half naked in front of the station while holding the other end of the noose, demanding immediate surrender under threat of killing her. Policemen surrender.

Constable Matěj Příbek is beaten and locked in nearby house. Constable Jan Paulus is beaten senseless and then two times again after regaining consciousness. Constable Antonín Křepela, after seeing mob attack on Paulus, tries to run away and is shot and wounded. Lying on the ground, Germans beat him to death with clubs and pickaxles.

Having lost all contact, county police HQ sends a bus with 15 policemen to Habartov at 1PM. Immediately after stopping at townsquare in front of the police station, policemen are subjected to barrage of fire from Germans hidden in windows in houses overlooking the square. Corporal Stanislav Roubal is shot in the head and killed, Constable Vavřinec Hyka is shot in the head and wounded. Policemen try to get into the station, which is however also occupied by Ordners who open fire as they try to get in. Policemen then scramble towards a house nearby while Sergeant Vladimír Černý is shot in the chest and killed. Eleven policemen manage to get into a house opposite to the station and from which they start firing at the Ordners. At 2 PM further police reinforcements arrive and Ordners mostly run away towards border with Germany. Seven perpetrators are caught and arrested, however due to developments in the following weeks they escape justice. Court proceedings continue only after WW2, leading to 10 perpetrators receiving death penalty, six of which are carried out.[21]

13 September 1938 Stříbrná SdP attempt to take over police station thwarted. German mob assembles in front of police station, local SdP leaders demand immediate surrender of all security forces. Station chief Sergeant Major František Novák makes it clear that police will answer any violence with deadly force, crowd disperses.[22]
13 September 1938 Bublava Mob from Germany proper with armed members of SdP take over town, killing three members of Czechoslovak security forces and taking 45 captives to Germany. In the morning after Hitler's Nuremberg speech, an anti-nazi ethnic German informced Czechoslovak police that large crowd is gathering in Germany with aim of forcing their way into the town that was lying directly on the border. Around midday, a large crowd from Germany advances towards Czechoslovak customs house, part of which is used for official purposes and part includes flats where customs officers' families live. Meanwhile, Ordners cut telephone line leading to the customs house. Seven customs officers inside are under strict orders preventing them from shooting in the direction of German border and decide to simply lock doors and wait. SdP members break through the doors and mob floods the customs house. Customs officers decide to surrender their firearms while Germans loot offices as well as private flats. At about 1PM the crown moves on in the direction of towncenter and police station, which is about 1 km away from the customs house.

After brief standoff, two buses carrying reinforcements with 14 policemen and several soldiers arrive. While situation around the police station deescalates, one bus is sent with three policemen to the customs house. While trying to negotiate release of customs officials and their family members, policemen are ambushed by Germans shooting from behind concrete barrier on the border. Constable Josef Falber is shot in the stomach and bleeds to death. Constable Bohuslav Kazda is shot in the head close to ear and loses consciousness. Superintendent Nový returns fire and suffers shot wound into hand and leg. While on ground, mob attacks him. German customs officers cross border and prevent Nový from being beaten to death.

After hearing gunfire, three policemen and four customs officers (whose families are held hostage) drive second bus towards the customs house. Being ambushed by heavy gunfire, they dismount about 100 meters from the target. Seargant Major Hrádek, police station chief who leads the group, is shot in the leg. Severally outnumbered and with orders preventing them to return fire in the direction of Germany proper, they load wounded Nový and Kazda and drive back to the police station.

Ordners send negotiators to the police station. Germans agree to free the customs officers and their wives and children. Family members drive further inland to Czechoslovakia and freed customs officers reinforce police station. Ordners cut telephone line to the station and start building barricades around the police station. Police chief burns all secret files, shortly thereafter mob breaks through the doors and all 45 members of Czechoslovak security forces surrender with no shots being fired.

Altogether 45 captive members of Czechoslovak security forces are taken to Germany proper where they are imprisoned until mid-October when they are returned to Czechoslovak authorities.[23] After successfully dealing with situation in Stříbrná, Novák is ordered to send a patrol to Bublava that lies 3 km away to relieve local police that has lost phone line with regional HQ. Novák himself leads SDG group of two policemen, eight customs officers and two armed civilians. Unknown to them, all members of security forces in Bublava were already captured and kidnapped over the border to Germany.

SDG group reaches Bublava after dawn. While advancing towards the police station, the group walks into well prepared ambush. Intense firefight erupts. Superintendent Emil Martinů is wounded by explosion of hand grenade. Constable Vojtěch Brčák is shot in stomach and dies. Sergeant Major František Novák suffers multiple shot wounds and dies. Armed civilian František Moucha is wounded on head. Customs superintendent Cheníček is wounded in face. Customs officers Hájek, Kovanda and Říšský are also wounded. SDG members scatter, regroup outside of the town and retreat back to Stříbrná. Next day, army unit of about 120 soldiers with three LT-35 light tanks and two armoured fighting vehicles take position on a hill overlooking the town. SdP and Orders cross border towards Germany proper. Army doesn't enter the town which remains in no-man's land, seldomly entered both by Czechoslovak and German patrols until the German occupation.[22]

Freikorps

Formation

A 1938 Freikorps action

Czechoslovakia conducted partial mobilization in May 1938. Many young ethnic-Germans didn't follow the mobilization order and deserted across the border to Germany instead. Thousands more fled as they were receiving mobilization orders after 12 September 1938.[24] Wehrmacht first initiated a plan of including Czechoslovak ethnic-Germans of 20–35 years of age, who had previously undergone military training in the Czechoslovak army, into its own ranks.[25] This was however abandoned as soon as Hitler ordered the establishment of the Sudetendeutsches Freikorps on 17 September 1938.[25] Konrad Henlein was formally named the Freikorp's commanding officer, with Wehrmacht's liaison officer lieutenant colonel Friedrich Köchling, previously serving as liaison officer at Hitler Jugend, being Freikorp's de facto commander.[25] The official purpose of Freikorps, as stated in telegram to the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, was the "protection of Sudeten Germans and maintaining further unrest and armed clashes."[26] Wehrmacht was further instructed to conceal its cooperation with Freikorps due to "political reasons".[26]

The Freikorp's ranks were filling up rather fast. It had 10,000-15,000 members by 20 September 1938, 26,000 members by 22 September 1938, with many more deserters coming after the general Czechoslovak mobilization that took place on 23 September 1938[27] and reaching 41.000 by 2 October 1938.[28] Apart from Konrad Henlein, its leadership consisted of K.H.Frank (vice-commander in chief), Hans Blaschek (2nd vice-commander in chief), until-then SdP's senator Anton Pfrogner (chief of staff).[27] Freikorp's headquarters was situated in a castle near Bayreuth, Germany.[27] Freikorp's was divided into 4 groups alongside the whole German-Czechoslovak border. Groups were further divided into battalions and companies. Depending on the border length and local conditions, there were also sometimes "sections" as an interstage between the battalion and companies.[29]

Group Reorganized Staff Details Position Commanding officer
Group 1 Silesia Group 5 Lower Silesia
Group 6 Wroclaw
Wroclaw 11 battalions, 6,851 members (27 September 1938) From Racibórz to Zittau SA-Logo.svg Fritz Köllner
Group 2 Sachsen Group 4 Sachsen
Dresden 8 battalions, 7,615 members (27 September 1938)
14 battalions, 13,264 members (1 October 1938)
From Zittau to Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).svg Franz May
Group 3 Bavaria Ostmark Bayreuth 7 battalions, 5,999 members (27 September 1938) From to Bayerisch Eisenstein SA-Logo.svg Willi Brandner
Group 4 Alps and Danuber Group 1 Vienna
Group 2 Linz
Vienna 9 battalions, 7,798 members (29 September 1938) From Bayerisch Eisenstein to Poysdorf Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).svg Friedrich Bürger

Companies had 150-200 men each and were stationed in German towns and villages along the German-Czech border, each of them being fully equipped for independent cross border raids and assaults.[31] Although the official directive allowed only ethnic-Germans with Czechoslovak citizenship to be part of the Freikorps, due to low number of officers among the deserters their places were filled with members of Nazi Sturmabteilung.[31] SA was further providing training, material support and equipment to Freikorps.[31] All members were getting regular pay for their service.[31] Most members did not have any standardized uniform and were only distinguished by armband with swastika.[32] Formally, they were not part of Wehrmacht and were prohibited from wearing Wehrmacht uniforms.[33]

Members of Freikorps were trained and hosted in Nazi Germany[34] but operated across the border in Czechoslovakia attacking the infrastructure, administrative, police and military buildings and personnel, as well as the pro-government and antifascist ethnic-German civilians, Jews, Jewish owned businesses and ethnic Czech civilians. They committed assassinations, robberies and bombing attacks, retreating over the border to Germany when faced with serious opposition. They murdered more than 110 and abducted to Germany more than 2000 Czechoslovak personnel, political opponents or their family members.[35]

Intelligence service

Freikorps also had its own intelligence service, established on 19 September 1938 with headquarters in Selb, Germany. It was headed by Richard Lammel. The intelligence was gathering information for Freikorps as well as for Abwehr, Sicherheitsdienst (SD) and Gestapo.

Green Cadres

Many ethnic-Germans who deserted after receiving mobilization order didn't go across the border to Germany, but rather established own guerrilla units. Operating from forests in Czechoslovakia, they received name the Green Cadres, sometimes being referred to as Green Freikorps, although they were not officially incorporated as part of German Freikorps.

Armaments

In order to conceal the level of cooperation between Wehrmacht and Freikorps, the original orders stated that Freikorps should be armed only with weapons from warehouses of the former Austrian army.[26] This however led to delays in arming of Freikorps and became outright impossible as regards ammunition and explosives, which were being delivered from Wehrmacht's own supplies.[32] Most common weapons were Mannlicher 1895 8×56 Msch., K98k 8×56 JS, pistols P08 9mm Parabellum, Bergmann machine guns and sub-machine guns and German hand grenades. Due to the initial Czechoslovak orders forbidding use of firearms apart from self-defense, Freikorps also captured Czechoslovak weapons, mostly vz.24 rifles and vz.26 machine guns.[citation needed]

Meanwhile, the Green Cadres as well as other ordners that didn't join Freikorps were armed with variety of hunting rifles and shotguns, pistols, as well as large number of sub-machine guns that had been previously supplied by Germany to the Ordnersgruppe/Freiwilliger Schutzdienst. Scoped hunting rifles in hands of skilled ordners proved especially deadly.[citation needed]

Czechoslovak security forces

Following the Remilitarization of the Rhineland, Czechoslovak authorities came to the conclusion that any future war would most probably take place by a sudden attack without formal declaration of war. At the time, protection of borders was mostly vested into the authority of the Customs Administration (also called Financial Police), which was controlling the border crossings and collecting customs duties, while Gendarme officers were taking care of general law enforcement mainly within towns. This was deemed insufficient as the Customs Administration could merely enforce the custom duties and general order at border crossings, but not security along the whole border.[19] In 1936, the State Defense Guard was established. Normally, SDG would function only in a very limited way necessary to ensure full readiness of its structure (under authority of Ministry of Interior), with its ranks being filled up with personnel in case of emergency (under military command). Its main task was protecting the Czechoslovak border and it was supposed to be able to immediately close and defend the border for the time that would be necessary for the army to reach the attacked areas in full combat readiness. Initially, the State Defense Guard was composed of selected members of Customs Administration, Gendarme and State Police, but later its ranks were filled also with reliable civilians. In case of any unrest, its squads were further boosted by army soldiers. State Defense Guard included also ethnic-Germans that were deemed loyal to Czechoslovak state (mostly Social Democrats and communists). The State Defense Guard has thus became the main target of the Freikorps' activities.

Up to 22 September 1938 the Czechoslovak security forces were under general orders not to use their firearms apart from self-defense.

Republikanische Wehr

Republikanische Wehr was Czechoslovak ethnic-German anti-fascists militia with several thousand members. Known also as Rote Wehr (Red Defense), its members also took part in the fights, supporting the Czechoslovak authorities. Several of its members were killed by the Nazi forces during the clashes, with thousands more being interned in concentration camps following the Munich Agreement and occupation of Czechoslovakia.

Undeclared German–Czechoslovak War

Undeclared German–Czechoslovak war
Part of German occupation of Czechoslovakia
Pochod Freikorpsu v Hazlové u Aše 1938.jpg
Marching Freikorps unit
Date17 September – early October 1938
Location
Result Military: Czechoslovak Army deployment mostly restored order.
Political: Appeasement through the Munich Agreement.
Strategical: German occupation of Czechoslovak borderland
Belligerents

Germany

Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).svg Sudeten German Party

  • Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).svg Grüne Cadres

 Czechoslovakia

Commanders and leaders
  • Friedrich Köchling
  • Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).svg Konrad Henlein
  • Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).svg Karl Hermann Frank
  • Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).svg Fritz Köllner
  • Flag of the Sudets (without CoA).svg Willi Brandner
Casualties and losses

Freikorps:

  • Killed: 52
  • Wounded: 65
  • Missing in action: 19
Other: Unknown

Armed forces:

  • Killed: 110
  • Wounded: 50
  • Abducted: 2029 (including railway employees, postal workers, judges, other functionaries and their family members)
Civilians: Unknown (both volunteers as well as innocent victims of Freikorps terror)
Violence led large number of Jews, Czechs and anti-fascist Germans to flee from borderlands further to inland Czechoslovakia. Assaults continued also after Czechoslovakia ceded the borderlands to Germany.

Freikorps number according to official Freikorps closing report, real tally probably much higher.

The first Freikorps assaults took place already in the night from 17 to 18 September 1938 in the area of . Other major Freikorps assaults included, inter alia:

18 September 1938

Place Assailants Assaulted Details Outcome
Unknown number of Freikorps members Several Customs officers
Municipality of Aš
A large number of Freikorps members surrounded customs house about 100 meters within Czechoslovak territory during the night of 18 to 19 September. The building was under intense fire from firearms as well as hand grenades. Czechoslovak Policemen fired a flare to signal distress to other Czechoslovak units and barricaded themselves. They did not return fire outside of the building in order to prevent any possible accusation of Czechoslovak forces shooting across the border to Germany.[36]
2 Customs officers seriously wounded
Bílá Voda Unknown number of Freikorps members Several Gendarme officers, several Customs officers
Jeseník District
Customs house in Bílá Voda, which was located directly on the Czech–German border, had been targeted by gun fire from Germany since 18 September. Its personnel was ordered not to return any fire over the border towards Germany and was allowed to retreat only in the afternoon of 22 September, when it joined the local SDG squad in its attempt to get further inland (see below).[37]
1 Gendarme officer seriously wounded

19 September 1938

Place Assailants Assaulted Details Outcome
Český Heršták Unknown number of Freikorps members SDG Squad
Český Krumlov District
SDG Squad No. 16 dug a trench near railway line 700 meters from the German border. Freikorps charged their position but failed, losing one. Then, Freikorps carried out sporadic gunfire from beyond the German border with the knowledge that SDG is under orders not to return fire into German territory. Customs officer Ladislav Krch was hit and seriously wounded. SDG Squad laid covering fire into the German territory in order to enable Krch's transport towards hospital.[38]
1 Customs Officer serious wounded

1 Freikorps member dead
Horní Malá Úpa
  • Unknown number of Freikorps members
  • SA-Logo.svg SA men[39][40]
Customs house
  • several Gendarme officers
  • several Customs officers
Trutnov District
Burned out Customs house in Horn Malá Úpa
Freikorps attacked customs house in Horní Malá Úpa in the evening of 19 September 1938. The building was burned to the ground. Several wounded officers managed to retreat. Two Gendarme officers were captured and abducted to Germany. Constable Eduard Šíma was killed and his body was also abducted to Germany.[37]
1 Gendarme officer killed
Several officers wounded
2 Czechoslovak state official abducted and interned in a prison in Hirschberg, Germany
Mladkov
District Ústí nad Orlicí
Assault on SDG squad
Rychnůvka 8 members of Freikorps SDG Motorcycle messenger
Český Krumlov District
Freikorps designated the Chief of local Gendarme station Jan Trněný as a "Dangerous Czech" and targeted him for assassination. Trněný was supposed to be delivering messages to forward SDG Squads during the evening of 19 September. Unbeknown to Freikorps, Trněný was swapped by Gendarme officer Antonín Měsíček. Měsíček was well liked by local German population and received warning about possible Freikorps assault, however, decided to carry on with his orders. Měsíček was ambushed while on road in the woods leading back to his home station in Rychnůvka with rifle fire and grenades. Freikorps ran away after SDG Squad that was nearby fired a flare when they heard the gunfire. Měsíček died in hospital the next day. Back in Germany, Freikorps member Franz Bayer was awarded 200 Reichsmarks for killing Měsíček.[38]
Gendarme Officer Antonín Měsíček killed
Starostín Unknown number of Freikorps members Several Customs officers
Náchod District
A large number of Freikorps members surrounded customs house in Starostín. With heavy machine gun and rifle fire, they managed to get directly to the building, however they fled after the Policemen used several hand grenades.[37]
2 Customs officers seriously wounded
Znojmo Up to 300 Freikorps members Customs Administration
Znojmo District
Železná Ruda
Klatovy District
Assault on customs house

20 September 1938

On 20 September 1938, Freikorps headquarters issued Order No. 6 signed by Henlein.[41] According to the order, each of the groups was supposed to undertake at least 10 major raids into Czechoslovak before morning of 21 September.[41] The order further specified that Freikorps shall take no regard to any aversion to the armed assaults that it had previously encountered from some ethnic-German civilians.[42] Moreover, each group was ordered to establish its own intelligence staff that would be providing information to the center in Selb.[42] In line with the order, Freikorps attacks increased both in their frequency as well as brutality.[14]

21 September 1938

Place Assailants Assaulted Details Outcome
  • Crowd of several hundred ethnic Germans
  • unknown number of Freikorps members
50 members of Czechoslovak State Police and local police force
Municipality of Aš
The city of Aš borders with Germany from three sides and had only two main access roads from inland Czechoslovakia. Heads of local state authorities were advised that they shall not receive further reinforcements from inland, however at the same time they were ordered to hold their posts. On the evening of 21 September, the Chief of local State Police station was summoned to a meeting held by the head of the Aš District, an ethnic German. The meeting was attended by a number of Sudeten German Party officials, who requested that the policemen lay down their firearms and hand the area over to the SDP party. The Chief refused and returned to the station. Soon after a mob of people broke down the main gate leading to the station's courtyard and apprehended the Chief. The rest of the policemen, still being under general order not to use firearms (which were changed only the following day) surrendered.

Meanwhile, Freikorps took over also local gendarme station after they threatened to set the station ablaze with hand grenades.[43]
50 policemen abducted and interned in a concentration camp in Germany
Police Chief abducted and imprisoned by Gestapo in Nuremberk
Bartulovice Unknown number of Freikorps members State Defense Guard
  • 10 members of Customs Administration
  • 5 soldiers
  • 2 Gendarme officers
Bruntál District
About 30 Freikorps members and other local ethnic-German citizens came to the customs house in Bartulovice, demanding the SDG members to hand over the building as well as their weapons. SDG chief first wanted to request orders from his superiors, however the local post office, where the telephone switchboard was situated, had already been occupied by the Freikorps. The SDG decided to retreat from the municipality fully armed, passing a truck full of heavily armed Freikorps members from neighboring Jiříkov without incident. One Customs officer remained in the building unarmed in order to formally resist occupation of the building by the Freikorps. After doing so, Freikorps abducted him to Germany where he was interned in a concentration camp. Rest of the SDG unit continued its retreat on foot through the woods towards Holčovice, which they reached some 15 hours later and where they regrouped with other 10 SDG units that had retreated under similar circumstances.[44]
1 Czechoslovak state official abducted and interned in a concentration camp in Germany
Habartice Unknown number of Freikorps members
SA-Logo.svg SA officer leading the assault
State Defense Guard squad (18 members)
Liberec District
On 20 September 1938, SDG members stationed in the border crossing station in the town Habartice observed maneuvers of German army units taking place over the border in Germany, leading them to fortify the building with sandbags and boarding. In the evening, electricity supply was shut off on both sides of the border. SDG further observed that several trucks arrived at 10 PM on the German side of the border. Germans started crossing border bridge at about 3 AM on 21 September 1938 and mounted 4 attack waves with 30-40 men each against the SDG building, using not only firearms, but also hand grenades and dynamite. Freikorps set off explosives which led to collapse of the entire front wall of the building; the rest however remained standing. SDG successfully defended the building, also using 36 hand grenades. SDG squad chief had also called for reinforcements, however the soldiers had to dismount their truck after being targeted by machine guns shooting over the border from Germany. The soldiers reached Habartice by crawling in ditches in the morning only after the attack had been repelled. SDG suffered 4 seriously wounded servicemen, one of them permanently losing eyesight. During the day after the night fight, Czechoslovak SDG members and army soldiers ostentatiously played volleyball right on the border line, some of them with bandages covering their wounds.[45][46]
4 SDG members seriously wounded

3 dead, 16 wounded assailants
Nové Vilémovice Unknown number of Freikorps members 8 Customs officers
Jeseník District
A large number of Freikorps members surrounded building of Customs Administration in Nové Vilémovice. Six officers that were inside surrendered without a shot. After this, Freikorps tried to capture another two officers that were on a patrol on the town's outskirt. A shootout ensued, in which one officer was killed while the other managed to retreat through forest. Perpetrators buried the victim's body in a secret location and then ran over the border to Germany to avoid arrest by Czechoslovak authorities. The perpetrators were not found and the court proceedings that took place in 1945 didn't lead to any convictions.[47]
1 Customs officer killed
Petrovice
Petrovice
Assault on customs house
Wies (Cheb)
Cheb District
Assault on customs house

22 September 1938

On the night of 21 September 1938, German radio broadcast a false information that Czechoslovakia agreed to cede its border areas to Germany. Next day, most ethnic-German majority towns were full of German Nazi flags and Hitler's portraits, while Freikorps and ethnic-German mobs unleashed a wave of attacks against state authorities and non-German civilians.[48]

On 22 September, Adolf Hitler gave orders to provide Freikorps also with German weaponry, ammunition and equipment (until that moment, Freikorps were to be armed only with weapons that Germany obtained with Anschluss of Austria).[49]

Czechoslovak forces' order not to use firearms except in self-defense was called off during the day.

By 24 September 1938, Freikorps conducted over 300 raids against Czechoslovak authorities.

Place Assailants Assaulted Details Outcome
Bartošovice v Orlických horách Unknown number of Freikorps members Customs house
  • 2 customs officers
  • 6 soldiers
District Rychnov nad Kněžnou
During the night from 22 to 23 September, Freikorps attacked a customs house located in the border town Bartošovice with heavy machinegun fire and grenades. Reinforcements sent to the customs house found themselves also under heavy fire and unable to reach it. During the fourth consecutive assault wave, the custom's house roof caught fire and started collapsing. All Czechoslovak personnel managed to retreat without any loss of life.[50]
Customs house burned to the ground.
Bernartice Unknown number of Freikorps members
  • 15 members of State Defense Guard
  • 5 Gendarme officers
Jeseník District
Freikorps members ambushed a 15 members of SDG and 5 members of Gendarme in Bernartice. The soldiers and policemen were disarmed and abducted to Germany where they were interned by local authorities in a concentration camp.[51]
20 Czechoslovak state officials abducted and interned in a concentration camp in Germany.
Bílá Voda Unknown number of Freikorps members State Defense Guard squad
Jeseník District
State Defense guard house in Bílá Voda, which was located directly on the Czech–German border, had been under fire since 18 September. The personnel received orders to retreat in the afternoon of 22 September. Retreating squad was ambushed by Freikorps. A part of the squad broke through, however 15 members of SDG were captured by the ethnic-German terrorists, disarmed and abducted to Germany where they were interned by local authorities in a concentration camp.[52]
15 Czechoslovak state officials abducted and interned in a concentration camp in Germany.
Cetviny 150 Freikorps members
  • Gendarme officers
  • SDG Squad
Český Krumlov District
About 150 Freikorps members crossed border river Malše and ambushed Gendarme and SDG Squad in Cetviny; entire squad was kidnapped to Germany. Meanwhile, SDG Squad that was stationed in the vicinity heard the gunfire and sent two members to scout the situation. One of them, Václav Klimeš, was shot dead and other seriously wounded and kidnapped to Germany.

Czechoslovak forces recaptured the area after heavy fights in the following days. Considering it too vulnerable, it was then left without permanent presence.[53]

Several Czechoslovak officials wounded and kidnapped to Germany
Černá brána ner Varnsdorf 70 Freikorps Members SDG Squad
Varnsdorf
SDG squad stationed in mountain cabin on the borderline outside of Varnsdorf assaulted at 6AM with grenades and rifle fire.[54] Assault on Varnsdord undertaken later at 10AM (see below).
Two wounded soldiers
Černá Voda ethnic-German mob
  • 2 Customs officers
  • 4 Gendarme officers
Jeseník District
2 members of the Customs Administration were being lynched by ethnic-German pro-Nazi mob in Černá Voda. When four members of Gendarme intervened, members of Freikorps opened fire from hunting rifles, pistols and a light machine gun. Two members of Freikorps were wounded in the skirmish.[51]
2 Customs officers lynched

2 Freikorps members shot and wounded
Dolní Podluží
Děčín District
After 2PM, SDG Squad No. 76 was retreating from border town Varnsdorf which was overran by pro-Nazi German ethnic mob and where was stationed also another SDG Squad, whose leader collaborated with Nazis and ordered its members to surrender weapons to Freikorps. The squad stopped close to a gas pump in Dolní Podluží, with three customs officers driving to it to fill their motorbikes and others establishing a defensive position nearby. While pumping gas, they were ambushed by Freikorps. In the ensuing gunfight, customs officers Václav Kozel and Jan Teichman were shot dead and customs officer Miroslav Bernard was severally wounded and kidnapped to Germany. Gas pump owner Rudolf Stelzig was also shot and died. The gunfight continued until SDG Squad 77 reached the place and covered 76's retreat. Both squads retreated to Czechoslovak Army defense post in Nová Huť.
Memorial to Jan Teichman and Josef Kozel
2 customs officers killed
1 customs officer wounded and kidnapped
1 civilian killed
Frýdlant

Unknown number of Freikorps members

2 infantry fighting vehicles with crews

Liberec District
Freikorps occupied SDG headquarters and other strategic buildings in the town Frýdlant and hanged out Nazi swastika flags on a large number of buildings in the town. Czechoslovak army dispatched two infantry fighting vehicles with crews from Liberec. After arriving in the town, the soldiers announced that they would consider every building and person with a swastika as a hostile one, Freikorps packed the flags and withdrew from the town.[45]
Freikorp's attempt to take over town thwarted by mere army presence.
Heřmanice

Unknown number of Freikorps members

2 unarmed civilians
Liberec District
Freikorps occupied part of municipality of Heřmanice. Local SDG unit was stationed on a hill overlooking the municipality, secured its position and did not further intervene in the municipality itself. Generally, the control over the municipality was unclear with Freikorps occupying part lying further away from SDG and no mutual engagement. Two civilians loyal to Czechoslovak state, teacher from Frýdlant school Mr. Otakar Kodeš and ethnic-German communist Mr. Perner decided to inquire what is the actual situation in Heřmanice. On the road leading to Heřmanice, they passed SDG patrol that unsuccessfully recommended them not to continue into Freikorps controlled territory. Shortly after passing the SDG patrol, they were both shot. Mr. Kodeš was shot dead, while wounded Mr. Perner was abducted to Germany. Mr. Perner, Czechoslovak citizen, was taken to Dresden, Germany, where he was tried and convicted for treason. Mr. Perner was interned in a concentration camp, not surviving through the war. Mr. Kodeš' murderer was found, tried, sentenced and hanged in 1947.[45]
1 civilian murdered, 1 civilian abducted, interned and murdered in a concentration camp in Germany
Heřmánkovice 60 Freikorps members SDG squad
Náchod District
Freikorps attacked local SDG squad at 7PM. Attempt to take the town over failed.[55]
Attempt to take town over thwarted.
Hnanice 200 Freikorps members Custom House
  • 8 Customs Officers
  • 5 soldiers
Znojmo District
Freikorps attacked customs house in Hnanice early in the morning. While their first wave failed, Czechoslovak officers retreated during the second attack without sustaining any losses. Later, two SDG squads recaptured the customs house after heavy fighting, only to lose it again on 26 September. SDG Squad leader Otmar Chlup killed in action.[56]
1 dead, several wounded SDG members
24 dead, 37 wounded Freikorps members
Hrádek nad Nisou 200 Freikorps members SDG Station
Liberec District
During the evening, some 200 Freikorps members started attack on a local assembly hall that was being used as an SDG station. The gunfight lasted for five hours and ended up with Freikorps retreat.[57]
two dead, about 50 wounded Freikorps members
Javorník 100+ members of Freikorps State Defense Guard
  • 11 members of Customs Administration
  • 2 soldiers
  • several Gendarme officers
Jeseník District
A State Defense Guard squad that was retreating further inland. When they reached outskirt of Javorník, a group of Freikorps members offered them safe passage. While passing through the town, the squad was ambushed. The Czechoslovak servicemen were disarmed and abducted to Germany where they were interned by local authorities in the concentration camp in Patschkau (apart from two who were released and one who escaped during transport).[58] Apart from soldiers, Freikorps abducted also a district court Judge and his clerk, who were too taken to the concentration camp in Patschkau.[59]
15 Czechoslovak state officials abducted and interned in a concentration camp in Germany.
Libná (town doesn't exist today)

Zdoňov

Horní Adršpach
Unknown number of Freikorps SDG
Náchod District
Freikorps attacked customs house in border town Libná. SDG Squad leader Robert Jokl was wounded and abducted to Germany, while the rest of the squad was forced to retreat further inland. Being severally outnumberes, other SDG squads were forced to retreat from nearby municipalities of Zdoňov and Horní Adršpach. All units met at hamlet Krčnov, were they established a new point of defense. Later in the evening SDG was reinforced by 9th Company of 48th Infantry Regiment with two armored vehicles and took control of all of the three towns; while retreating to Germany, Freikorps set the customs house in Libná on fire, burning it to the ground. Czechoslovak units in the area were facing further attacks until being ordered to retreat on 28 September.[55]
Several wounded

SDG officer wounded and abducted to Germany

customs house burned to the ground
Liptaň
  • 150-180 ethnic German mob
  • Unknown number of Freikorps members
6 Gendarme officers
Bruntál District
Murdered Gendarme officer Vítězslav Hofírek
A mob of 150-180 ethnic-Germans, unknown number of them being Freikorps members armed with sub-machine guns supplied from Germany, surrounded Gendarme station in Liptaň. Freikorps overran the station, with three Germans being killed in the process. All six wounded policemen were dragged out and lynched by the mob to death. Their bodies were transported over the border to German town Lischwitz where they were buried in an unmarked mass grave.[60]

The victims (Rudolf Mokrý, František Čech, Inocenc Dostál, Václav Hofírek, Vilém Lehel, Ludvík Svoboda) were later exhumed and ceremonially buried in Czechoslovakia after World War II. The main persons that directed the attack on station were never captured (although having been identified), however three other Germans that took part in the attack were arrested, tried and executed by hanging after the war.[60]

6 Gendarme officers lynched to death

3 assailants killed
Malonty Several dozen Freikorps members Several members of Gendarme
Český Krumlov District
Local Gendarme station was facing heavy gunfire. All officers successfully retreated further inland.[57]
Retreat of local Gendarme
Mikulovice Unknown number of Freikorps members State Defense Guard squad
Náchod District
Freikorps members ambushed a SDG squad in Mikulovice. The servicemen were disarmed and forced to wait for a train to Germany at a local train station. Meanwhile, a train going in opposite direction was passing through the station and the soldiers hopped on it before the Freikorps could stop them. The squad got to Jeseník and engaged Freikorps in numerous firefights in the following days, arresting five.[51]
5 Freikorps members arrested.
Studánky (Vyšší Brod) Freikorps Customs Administration
Český Krumlov District
[57]
Takeover of Customs house[57]
Vápenná - Supíkovice - Rejvíz Unknown number of Freikorps members Gendarme
Jeseník District
After Freikorps overran the town of Javorník (see above), local Gendarmerie supported by some of the soldiers that managed to retreat from Javorník, established a new defense posts on the line between municipalities of Vápenná - Supíkovice - Rejvíz. Gendarme officers were repeatedly attacked by Freikorps, with six ending up wounded and one killed in action in the following days.[61]
1 Gendarme officer killed in action, 6 wounded
Varnsdorf Several hundred Freikorps members Several dozen SDG members
Varnsdorf
Customs house on the border in Varnsdorf was attacked at 2AM with several hand grenades, however, attackers immediately retreated behind the border.

At 10AM a train led by SdP's Czechoslovak Parliament member Franz Werner and full of Freikorps crossed the border. Freikorps took over the train station and captured six soldiers and several railway workers. After some negotiations, SDG squads stationed in the town started retreating inland. One SDG leader collaborated with the enemy and ordered his unit to surrender firearms.

There was an army unit with three tanks stationed in nearby Rumburk, however, they were ordered not to relieve SDG in Varnsdorf. At 5PM, the army unit also left Rumburk and retreated further inland.[62]

Varnsdorf retaken by army the following day (see below)
Town taken over by Freikorps
Vidnava

Unknown number of Freikorps members

  • 2 Gendarme officers
  • State Defense Guard squad
Jeseník District
A large mob of Czechoslovak ethnic-Germans that had previously left to Germany came to the border crossing in the town Vidnava carrying Nazi swastika banners. Among them was a number of Freikorps members, who used the commotion and got right to the two Gendarme officers on duty and disarmed them. The mob released the two officers and continued towards the town center. After briefing the two disarmed Gendarme officers, SDG squad leader Josef Novák contacted the town's mayor, an ethnic-German Göbel, who promised that he will negotiate return of the Gendarme's firearms. Officers Novák and Pospíšil left SDG station and went towards the town center, now in hands of Freikorps. There, they were both immediately attacked and lynched to death. Before dying, Pospíšil tossed away a hand grenade, wounding several assailants. Later that day Freikorps members lynched to death also an ethnic-German communist Fitz. Groups of heavily armed Freikorps started taking over the whole town. Remaining SDG members and Gendarme officers decided to lay covering fire and evacuate several civilians as well as themselves towards train station. There they fortified several wagons and drove away. Meanwhile, however, Freikorps blocked the railway line leading to the next train station in Velká Kraš and took positions in a school building overlooking the line. After the train stopped before the blockage just in front of the school, Freikorps opened fire from rifles and started tossing hand grenades. The train occupants ran away from the building and train towards fields, leaving behind one dead civilian and two wounded SDG members and several wounded civilians, who were captured by Freikorps and delivered to Germany. There they were first treated and later released. The rest managed to get away and under constant covering fire reached the train station in Velká Kraš. Here, Freikorps leader Latzel first persisted that the SDG personnel must surrender. The SDG squad, now consisting of 13 seriously wounded and a few light wounded members, refused and stated intent to either get further inland or die trying. Freikorps then let the seriously wounded be taken on a train with expelled Czech-ethnic civilians bound for Jeseník while the few remaining SDG members left on foot through woods to Zighartice. In Jeseník hospital, ethnic-German doctors with swastika pins on their lapels refused to treat the seriously wounded SDG members, only after one of the SDG members threatened to discharge hand grenades they received treatment.[63]
2 SDG members lynched to death
2 civilians murdered
15 seriously wounded SDG members
several seriously wounded civilians
Zlaté Hory
  • ethnic-German mob of several hundred
  • several dozens Freikorps members
  • two trucks with unmarked heavily armed men from Germany proper
10 Gendarme officers
Jeseník District
Mob of several hundred ethnic-Germans and several dozens Freikorps members, who were placing women and children in front of them, surrounded Gendarme station in Zlaté Hory and demanded surrender of the officers. After arrival of two trucks with unmarked armed men from Germany proper, the officers surrendered and were abducted to Germany, where they were held first in prison in Glatz (now Kłodzko in Poland), later in a concentration camp in Dresden[60]
10 Czechoslovak state officials abducted and interned in a concentration camp in Germany.

23 September 1938

Polish attacks
On 23–24 September Poland gave an order to the so-called "battle units" of the "Zaolzie Legion", made up of volunteers from all over Poland, to cross the border to Czechoslovakia and attack Czechoslovak units.[64] This followed official Polish request of 21 September for a direct transfer of the Zaolzie area to its own control.[65] and placing of army along the border the day later.[64] These units were repulsed and retreated to Poland.[64]

Freikorps leadership ordered to consider captured Czechs as prisoners of war, and those that can prove they are Slovaks and Hungarians as refugees.[66]

At 11AM, Czechoslovak authorities declared they are unable to exercise its authority in two border districts (Osoblaha and Jindřichov).[66]

Meanwhile, Czechoslovak army started recapturing areas in and around Varnsdorf, from which SDG squads retreated in the previous days.[66]

At 22:30, Czechoslovakia declared full army mobilization and full stationing of Czechoslovak border fortifications.[66]

Place Assailants Assaulted Details Outcome
Srbská Unknown number of Freikorps members Customs Administration (5 officers)
State Defense Guard (12 members)
Liberec District
Already on 9 September, German customs house on the other side of the border had its windows facing Czechoslovakia boarded up, leaving only small visors for shooting. On 23 September 1938 at 11 PM, two ethnic-Germans entered the Czechoslovak customs house in order to be cleared to pass the border to Germany. While Customs officer Václav Čep was dealing with necessary formalities, not facing the two Germans, one of them shot him from point blank into temple. At the same moment the other German opened fire on two Customs officers present in the room, instantly killing officer Josef Vojta and mortally wounding officer Bohumil Hošek (shot in the back). As the two Germans ran across border to Germany, other assailants opened machine gun fire, forcing two remaining Customs officers (not present in the room at the time of shooting) to withdraw to another building in the municipality held by SDG squad. 3 SDG members were killed in subsequent gunfight.[45]
3 Customs officers murdered
3 SDG servicemen killed in action
Varnsdorf
Krásná Lípa
Freikorps Czechoslovak army
  • 1st Battalion of 47th Infantry Regiment
  • emergency platoons of 47th Infantry Regiment
  • tank platoon
  • armored train
Varnsdorf
At 6AM, Czechoslovak units started moving forward from the border fortifications around Varnsdorf and recapturing territory from which SDG left the previous day. By 10AM the army started assault on Krásná Lípa and Varnsdorf. Both were taken by 5PM without any soldiers lost. Army captured a number of Freikorps members that didn't manage to retreat to Germany as well as large stockpiles of arms and ammunition.[28]
Šluknov Hook recaptured.

24 September 1938

Freikorps leadership gave out an order that Freikorps fighting units must compel ethnic German mayors of Czechoslovak border towns to send telegraphs to the Führer asking for immediate German intervention. The order specifically mentioned that telegrams must reach Hitler before his planned meeting with Chamberlain, and at the same time they shall be sent in a manner that does not connect them back to Freikorps nor does it raise suspicion of concerted action.[67]

Czechoslovak full army mobilization had a chilling effect on Freikorps membership and led to a lower number of attacks.[67] As the Czechoslovak forces started retaking territory lost in previous days, retreating Freikorps were looting public buildings and "confiscating" money and valuables from bank vaults.[67]

German Army (Wehrmacht) was given sole authority over German border areas with Czechoslovakia. This led to quarrels between Freikorps lower officers and Wehrmacht officers over the actual line of command. Freikorps was ordered to conduct raids over the border only after briefing respective local leader of German border guard.[67]

Place Assailants Assaulted Details Outcome
Brandov 8 Freikorps 2 State policemen
Brandov
2 State policemen on a motorbike with a sidecar were patrolling the area around local branch of Česká zbrojovka small arms maker when they were ambushed by 8 Freikorps members. Driver Václav Staňek was shot in the backbone and immobilized, while Josef Hřích remained lying on the ground. As Freikorps emerged from their cover and approached the scene, Hřích unholstered his pistol and started shooting, wounding two. Staňek later died in hospital while Freikorps retreated over the border to Germany with their wounded.[68]

Heavy fight over the factory started few days later, see below
1 policeman killed

2 Freikorps members wounded
Bruntál Unknown number of Freikorps members State Defense Guard
  • 10 District office clerks
  • 2 State Police officers
  • 8 Gendarme officers
  • 15 army soldiers
  • 5 army officers
  • 35 Gendarme cadets
Bruntál District
State Defense Guard units in Bruntál and surrounding areas have been under sporadic attacks since May 1938. The frequency of assaults rose up in September and culminated between 24 and 26 September. The main attack started on noon of 24 September and continued through the night with Freikorps members shooting from buildings as well as rooftops. The next day authorities found 1 dead and 8 severely wounded Freikorps members, as well as a large number of others' pools of blood. The large scale battle led many civilians to leave the town while authorities declared martial law. Fight broke out also next evening and continued throughout whole night. SDG members resorted to defending own buildings and swept town next morning, finding large number of blood pools but no bodies or wounded Freikorps members. In the following nights the SDG sent most of its personnels patrolling streets and no other fights broke out. In total, 6 SDG members were wounded. Number of Freikorps casualties remained unknown but was presumed to be as high as 80, which was the death-toll that Freikorps sustained in a similar size assault that was taking place meanwhile in Krnov and which matched the number of large bloodpools that were found in the mornings following the night fights.[47]
6 SDG members seriously wounded

1 dead, 8 wounded Freikorps members confirmed, up to 80 Freikorps casualties unconfirmed

25 September 1938

Place Assailants Assaulted Details Outcome
Libá (Aš District)
  • 700 Freikorps members & armed civilians (mainly WW1 veterans)
  • 160-180 Flag of the Schutzstaffel.svg SS soldiers with light canons
  • State Defense Guard squad (30 members) with 2 light tanks
  • several armed civilians (mainly young German Social Democratic Party members)
Municipality of Libá within the Aš District
After taking control of Aš during the night of 21 to 22 September (see above), SdP started executing control over the territory of Aš District, blocking main roads from inland Czechoslovakia and pushing further inland as far as the municipality of Libá. Freikorps push inland was stopped at a hamlet two kilometers from Libá and the line of contact stabilized at this place for a few days with sporadic exchanges of rifle fire. During the afternoon of 25 September, two light tanks of the SDG squad drove forward in order to test the enemy's strength. An exchange of fire ensued and the light tanks started retreating. Germans on foot engaged the tanks with machinegun fire and hand grenades, with no effect. As the tanks retreated back to the hamlet, Germans took cover in haystacks in its vicinity. Severe exchange of gunfire continued until the haystacks were set on fire and Germans forced to retreat.[43]

Severity of the skirmish led to panic in SdP ranks which requested reinforcements from Germany: SdP reported that they have mere 700 armed men (Freikorps sent from Germany and civilians, mainly members of WW1 veterans association) at their disposal and that they will not be able to hold in case of counterattack. Two SS companies were sent from Germany and replaced Freikorps at the point of contact. The line remained stable with continuous exchanges of rifle and machinegun fire until the evening of 28 September when SDG squad was ordered to retreat. The hamlet was taken over by SS on 29 September[43]

The hamlet was severally damaged in the fighting and immediately used by German propaganda as an example of "Czech terror against German civilians".[43]
Several wounded SDG members

Several German casualties

26 September 1938

Adolf Hitler ordered Freikorps to conduct more assaults. The number of assaults became higher than in previous days, but didn't reach the intensity of 21–22 September.[69]

Place Assailants Assaulted Details Outcome
Javorník (Jeseník District)
  • Flag of the Schutzstaffel.svg SS
  • Freikorps
SDG
Jeseník District
A large number of SS and Freikorps crossed border into the town of Javorník and its vicinity. SDG units present retreated inland towards border fortification line without fight.
Javorník area under German control.

27 September 1938

Place Assailants Assaulted Details Outcome
Brandov 200 Freikorps SDG
Brandov
200 well armed Freikorps members crossed border into Brandov and assaulted local SDG unit. SDG briefly retreated, however after receiving reinforcements pushed Freikorps out of the town.

Freikorps recaptured the entire town as well as local small arms factory the next day, only to be pushed back again by SDG on 29 September.[68]
8 soldiers seriously wounded, 1 captured and beaten to death by Freikorps (private Michal Vimi, 2nd Unit of 1st Battalion of 28th Regiment)

15 dead and 25 wounded Freikorps members
Rychnůvka Unknown number of Freikorps SDG Squad
Český Krumlov District
Freikorps attempted to seize the town, starting assault during midnight change of SDG shifts. Heavy exchange of rifle and machinegun fire and use of a large number of grenades by both sides. Freikorps retreated to Germany before morning, leaving behind several pools of blood.[38]
Several wounded SDG members

Several wounded or dead Freikorps members

28 September 1938

Place Assailants Assaulted Details Outcome
Horní Lomany

(now part of Františkovy Lázně)
Unknown number of Freikorps members Customs patrol

SDG squad
Františkovy Lázně
The line of contact at the area had been stable for several days with Freikorps controlling municipality of Házlov by the German border and Czechoslovak authorities controlling municipality of Horní Lomany lying between Házlov and first major Czechoslovak town, Františkovy lázně. On 28 September at 2 AM, a motorbike with two men drove towards Czechoslovak fortified checkpoint by the railway tracks near Horní Lomany. The men were shouting in broken Czech: "Don't shoot, we are German Social Democrats, we are your friends." Customs officer Rudolf Josiek left the barricade to talk to them, was ambushed and shot dead. Both perpetrators, Freikorps members, managed to escape.[70]

The same day in the evening, Freikorps opened fire from Házlov towards a position of SDG in Horní Lomany. SDG squad carried out assault against the enemy in an infantry fighting vehicle, killing two Freikorps members before retreating back to original position.[70]
1 Customs officer ambushed and killed

2 Freikorps members killed
Lísková Monument in Dolní Podluží commemorating Josef Röhrich, member of the Czechoslovak Customs Administration, killed by the Germans on 28 September 1938 (Plzeň Region, Czech Republic).
Memorial to Josef Röhrich
1 Customs officer killed
Načetín (Kalek) 60 Freikorps members 3 SDG members
Chomutov District
SDG patrol consisting of two Customs officers (Dostál, Trojan) and one soldier (private Novák) was attacked by a large group of Freikorps. SDG, armed with rifles and one light machinegun, defended their position and seriously wounded 14 Freikorps members, two of them later died. By the time 7 other members of SDG came to relieve them, Freikorps were already retreating with their wounded.
12 Freikorps wounded, 2 dead

29 September 1938

Place Assailants Assaulted Details Outcome
Pohraničí (Reizenhain) Large number of Freikorps SDG Squad (23 members)
Chomutov District
SDG Squad (armed with rifles, hand grenades, and one light machinegun) established a defensive post in the woods next to the municipal graveyard and sent 4 members to patrol near a train stop by the border. Shortly after midnight, several dozen members of Freikorps attacked the patrol by the train stop. The patrol was relieved by the rest of the SDG and pushed the Freikorps behind the border, only to face even more of them shortly afterward. Facing heavy machinegun fire and being several times outnumbered, SDG retreated further inland without losses. The next day SDG recaptured the area with help of army reinforcements that included three tanks.[71]
Several wounded Freikorps members
Načetín (Kalek) Freikorps 3 SDG members
Chomutov District
Undeterred by the losses of previous day (see above), Freikorps again attacked SDG patrol. This time, Freikorps were armed also with machineguns. Patrol held their ground until the arrival of an infantry fighting vehicle, which forced Freikorps to retreat.
Freikorps pushed back

30 September 1938

Following the signing of the Munich Agreement, Freikorps leadership gave orders to seize cross-border assaults.[72] At the same time, Hitler decided that Freikorps shall be subordinate to SS Command, and not to Wehrmacht as were his previous orders. Freikorps were supposed to conduct police powers within the territory of occupied Czechoslovakia.[72]

According to a final report of Friedrich Köchling, officially Wehrmacht's liaison officer to Freikorps but its de facto leader up to 4 October 1938, Freikorps had killed 110 people, wounded 50 and kidnapped 2,029 to Germany. The report lists 164 successful and 75 unsuccessful operations that lead to 52 fatalities, 65 seriously wounded and 19 lost members of Freikorps.[73]

From 7 October 1938, Freikorps was headquartered in a former Czechoslovak Bank building in Cheb. On 10 October 1938 Freikorps was officially disbanded.[74]

As Freikorps operations involved a large scale looting and "borrowing" in its area of operation, aggrieved parties were given up to 15 November 1938 to request damages from newly established German authorities in the occupied area. Court cases dealing with these claims were running as far as 1942.[74]

Criminal liability

Germany

Being aware that Freikorps actions involved a large-scale criminal activity, Adolf Hitler issued a decree on 7 June 1939, according to which all of the actions that were criminal under Czech law shall be considered lawful under German law, and those that were criminal under German law were pardoned.[75]

Czechoslovakia

Majority of Freikorps members were formally Czechoslovak army deserters (especially after the full army mobilization order of 23 September) and their mere membership in Freikorps was punishable by life imprisonment under Czechoslovak act No. 50/1923, on the protection of the Republic. Meanwhile, their active participation in crossborder raids which included murders, attempted murders and kidnapping was punishable by death under the 1852 Criminal Code.[76]

The vast majority of the perpetrators avoided justice through the postwar Expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia.[75]

Individual cases were decided by a Special Tribunal set up in the city of Cheb. The Tribunal decided 62 cases, last on 29 October 1948. 10 Freikorps members were sentenced to death (of which 6 were carried out), 16 to life imprisonment, 5 to 30 years imprisonment, 10 to 25 years imprisonment and 16 to 20 years imprisonment. The majority were however released and expelled to Germany already in 1955, which was the year in which Czechoslovakia officially declared the end of the war with Germany that started on 17 September 1938 with first Freikorps crossborder operations.[75]

Brandenburg Division

Based on the successful utilization of Freikorps' tactics against Czechoslovakia and in psychological warfare against Czechoslovak allies, Abwehr later in September 1939 established the so-called "1st Construction Training Company for special purposes" (1. Baulehr-Kompanie Brandeburg z.b.V.) that had former Freikorps members as their core. This later rose to the size of division. The division was known for large scale use of tactics that involved its soldiers wearing enemy uniforms, conducting saboteur actions behind enemy lines and a large number of war crimes.[77]

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