Date of this Version
In the years after the First World War numerous paramilitary organizations were set up in Bavaria with the expressed purpose of preventing a communist revolution in the state. Encouraged by Germany’s and Bavaria’s Social Democratic leaders, military officers and men of means formed Freikorps units to overturn the Spartacist revolt in Berlin in January 1919 and the Räterepublik in Munich in April 1919. After the specter of revolution receded these groups did not disband but reorganized themselves as paramilitary leagues. In Bavaria the most significant of these early organizations was the Civil Defense Guards, or Einwohnerwehr, which was succeeded after 1921 by Bund Bayern und Reich. In the years that followed both groups worked assiduously to impose their ideological imprint on Bavaria, but failed in the main. However, through their efforts they set patterns and helped propagate ideas that would later be taken up by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party.
This dissertation looks at the creation, growth, ideology, and activities of these two paramilitary associations from 1918 to 1928. Using archival sources from the Bavarian State Archives and the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich, it argues that both groups subscribed to the culturally despairing völkisch nationalism that had been prevalent in Germany prior to World War I. These tendencies were combined with a desire to crush the political left and return to older forms of government, including the preservation of the federalist constitution of 1871, ideas that were not shared by every organization on the right. Instrumental in returning Bavaria to conservative rule in 1920, both groups failed to bring about their major goals in restoring the old regime to power. The closeness of both groups to the established authorities often undercut their efforts at critical junctures, making both seem creatures of the state rather than true counterrevolutionary forces, something that the Nazis were increasingly able to exploit.
Advisor: Alan E. Steinweis