Gerhard Roßbach

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Gerhard Roßbach (February 28, 1893 – August 30, 1967), also spelt Rossbach, was a German Freikorps leader and organizer of nationalist groups after World War I. He is generally credited with inventing the brown colored uniforms of the Nazi Party after supplying surplus tropical khaki shirts to early troops of the Sturmabteilung.


Roßbach was born in Kehrberg, Pomerania. During the Baltic fighting of 1919, his Freikorps made an extremely long march from Berlin across Eastern Europe to rescue the Iron Division (another Freikorps) from destruction by the Latvian Army.[1] It went on to participate in the Kapp Putsch in 1920, get banned, and then reform under various front organizations. Money came from the Landbund, Heavy Industry, and arms dealing. In the early 1920s, he was arrested for trying to overthrow the government.[2]

Roßbach also joined the Nazi Party. He took part in the Beer Hall putsch of 1923, mobilising students, cadets and officer candidates of the Reichswehr, and then fled to Austria after the putsch failed.[citation needed] He was recruited by Adolf Hitler to help organize the Sturmabteilung (SA).[3] By 1928, he could claim to have killed "a number of Mecklenburg laborers and Spartacist sympathizers".[4] He later fell out with Hitler during his rise to power and was arrested but not killed during the Roehm Purge in 1934.[5]

Historian Robert G. L. Waite described him as a "sadistic murderer of the so-called Fehmgericht and the notorious homosexual who, according to his own testimony, perverted Ernst Röhm".[6]

Roßbach helped start the Schilljugend, a youth organization, to get rid of "intellectual elements" in the youth movements and instill children with "nationalistic, socialistic, authoritative, and militaristic" ideas. He took a special interest in developing its membership.[7] Roßbach organised music festivals which combined folk and classical music to instil national pride and construct radical-nationalist community values.[8]

After World War II he operated an export-import company near Frankfurt and wrote his memoirs in 1950.[5] In his last years he took a prominent part in organising the Bayreuth festivals of Richard Wagner's music.


  1. Waite, p. 131
  2. Waite, pp. 191-196
  3. Waite, p. 196
  4. Waite, p. 192, quoting Roßbach's testimony at a 1928 trial
  5. 5.0 5.1 Roßbach, Gerhard. Mein Weg. . .
  6. Waite, p. 131, in footnote 112. However, the usually very detailed Waite doesn't list a specific source for this (ie. 'his own testimony')
  7. Waite, p. 210
  8. Applegate and Potter, p. 136


  • Applegate, Celia and Potter, Pamela Maxine (eds), [Music and German National Identity Music and German National Identity], 2002, University of Chicago Press.
  • Dornberg, John. The Putsch That Failed, Hitler's Rehearsal for Power. Weidenfels & Nicholson, 1982.
  • Roßbach, Gerhard. Mein Weg durch die Zeit: Erinnerungen unt Bekenntnisse (My Way Across The Era: Recollections And Confessions). Vereinigte Weiburger Buchdruckverein, Weiburg an der Lahn, 1950.
  • Snyder, Louis. Encyclopaedia of the Third Reich. Wordsworth Editions Ltd., 1998.
  • Waite, Robert G L. Vanguard of Nazism. W. W. Norton and Company, 1969.