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Machine gun unit of the Volksmarinedivision by the Neptune Fountain, in the Schloßplatz, Berlin

The Volksmarinedivision (People's Navy Division) was a German paramilitary unit created on 11 November 1918 to defend the German Revolution. It was led by Lieutenant Heinrich Dorrenbach, an officer in the Imperial German Army and a friend of Karl Liebknecht.[1]

The unit was based in the Berlin Palace, where Liebknecht had declared the Free Socialist Republic on 9 November 1918.

Disbandment and decimation[]

The unit was disbanded in March 1919. 300 of the soldiers were ordered to turn up at a building in Französisiche Strasse to pick up their discharge papers and back pay. Lieutenant-Colonel Otto Marloh, of the Reinhard Freikorps regiment selected the 30 most intelligent, and thus most dangerous, men and the rest were asked to leave. These thirty were then machinegunned. Although most died, at least one soldier escaped to relate the story.[2] This was an enactment of decimation - a form of punishment dating back to the Roman Army.[3] Marloh was acquitted in December 1919, while his superiors, who had ordered the massacre, were not even tried, and like Marloh, built successful careers within the future Nazi state.


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