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The Freikorps, which translates as "Free Corps," were paramilitary freebooter organizations that sprung up around Germany as soldiers returned in defeat from World War I. Many German veterans felt profoundly disconnected from civilian life and joined the Freikorps in search of stability within a military structure. Others, angry at their sudden, apparently inexplicable defeat, joined up in an effort to put down Communist uprisings or exact some form of revenge (see Dolchstosslegende).

Many future members and, indeed, leaders of the NSDAP were members of the Freikorps, including Ernst Röhm, future head of the Sturmabteilung or SA, and Rudolf Höss, the future Kommandant of Auschwitz.