German Corps Students value their engagements in academic "Mensur" fencing, here an example in a forest near Tübingen by Gustav Adolf Closs, 1890.
Emergence of Corps in Europe

Corps (or Korps; "das ~" (n), German pronunciation: [ˈkoːɐ] (sg.), [ˈkoːɐs] (pl.)) are the oldest still-existing kind of Studentenverbindung, Germany's traditional university corporations; their roots date back to the 15th century. The oldest corps still existing today was founded in 1789. Its members are referred to as corps students (Corpsstudenten). The corps belong to the tradition of student fraternities which wear couleur and practice academic fencing.

Most corps are organized in two federations, the Kösener Senioren-Convents-Verband (KSCV) and the Weinheimer Senioren-Convent (WSC). Together, they comprise 162 Corps throughout Germany, Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, Switzerland and Lithuania.

The German Student Corps were traditionally recruited from the nobility, royalty, and social elite, and are traditionally viewed as more aristocratic and elitist than other German student fraternities such as the Catholic Cartellverband and the Burschenschaften. They consider tolerance and individuality to be key tenets and are rooted in German idealism. By and large, they are generally conservative in political outlook, but less right-wing and less nationalist than the Burschenschaften. The corps are open to students of all nationalities and religions, unlike many other student fraternities. Although distinct, the corps are in some aspects similar to and serve many of the same purposes as college fraternities found in the United States.


Corps are built upon the principle of tolerance: No corps may endorse a certain political, scientific, or religious viewpoint. In addition, all members are solely chosen by their personal character. Neither national, ethnic, nor social provenance play a role.

Corpsstudenten (corps students) wear couleur (colored stripes and caps) and practice Mensuren, academic fencing with razor-sharp blades that can result in bleeding face wounds, Schmisse. The corps usually bear names that reflect their former origin from certain German regions, such as Saxonia (Saxony) or Guestphalia (Westphalia). Formerly, when a distance of a few hundred kilometres between a student's home town and his university meant weeks of travel, students from the same part of Germany traveled together and formed some kind of "new family". The distance, plus the fact that they carried the money for a complete semester with them in a bag, might also explain why students began fencing, simply for self-defense, for students, military officers, and aristocrats were the only people allowed to carry arms.

Like all Studentenverbindungen, corps consist of two bodies: The active part consists of all members, that still study and have duties for the fraternity, and the so-called Altherrenschaft (alumni organization), comprising all those who graduated and thus provide the bear share of the monetary stimulus for the fraternity. A fundamental idea is that older students should help their younger fellows, and this principle dominates the relationship between the two bodies. The former keeps the everyday business of the corps alive, organizes gatherings, and keeps the Corpshaus (Corps House) in order. The Altherrenschaft, graduates with regular incomes, provide financial support. This usually means quite cheap housing for the younger members among other things. The Altherrenschaft has the power to intervene in the business of the active members, typically to ensure the principles and spirit of their corps.

The active body is headed by a panel of three Chargierte (charged persons), who are elected by all active, full members at the beginning of each semester (or at the end of the former one). Their functions are called Senior, Consenior and Drittchargierter (meaning third charged person, also named Subsenior in some corps).:

Being the oldest of their kind, the corps tend to treat all other forms of German Studentenverbindungen with contempt; corps despise all posturing and affectation (e.g. the overly use of Latinisms) that other kinds of Studentenverbindungen, esp. Catholic corporations and Burschenschaften show.

Even with the principle of tolerance being a central aspect in each corps' self-image, every corps student is urged to develop his own viewpoints, to stand for them and to strongly participate in society, whether in politics, economy, or social affairs. This encouragement for ethics and self-confidence on one hand, and the absence of a limitation to certain views on the other, let Corps students often show up as the leading figures of the most diverse political directions. The emphasis on individuality brought many corps students in opposition to totalitarian regimes, such as the National Socialist dictatorship.

The 'bject and purpose of the Corps was and still is solely the education of students to become a strong, free and cosmopolitan personality who is not held back by religious, racist, national, scientific or philosophical limitations of the mind. Three primary institutions within the fraternity aid with achieving this aim; including the Corpsconvent [regular council meetings of the Corps Brothers], the Kneipe [celebratory get-together of Corps Brothers with speeches, beer and songs], and today's Bestimmungsmensur [the event of academic fencing with sharp blades for the first or one of the first times], where the ones to fence are chosen on the basis of placing two equal opponents in front of each other. [...] This experience, and the intertwined need to overcome one's own fear, dedicated to the union of his Corps, and the connected strengthening of the sense of community aids the personal growth just as does taking a hit without losing one's stand and accepting the assessment of the Mensur by the own Corps Brothers.

The Weinheimer Student Corps also maintain a confederation with Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, a college Fraternity with over 270 chapters in the United States and Canada.


The Corps sprang from the older Landsmannschaft. The name Corps came into use in 1810 at the University of Heidelberg and soon displaced the older name of Landsmannschaft at all the universities. The oldest still active Corps are the 1789 founded Guestphalia at the University of Halle, the 1798 founded Onoldia at the University of Erlangen who are both members of the KSCV and as a member of the WSC the Saxo-Montania founded also 1798 at the Bergakademie Freiberg today at the RWTH Aachen University. After the Carlsbad Decrees of 1819, the Corps were exposed to harsh persecution by university and state officials just like their rivals as at the universities in Germany the Burschenschaften. After 1848, they were officially approved.[2]


Main article: Kösener Senioren-Convents-Verband § Member corps

Notable members

Main article: List of German student corps members

Following is a select list of members of German students corps



Economy and Engineering

Fine Arts and Culture

Further reading

In English

In German

In the Netherlands

In Belgium


  1. ^ Hermann Rink: Die Mensur, ein wesentliches Merkmal des Verbandes. In: Rolf-Joachim Baum (Hg.), "Wir wollen Männer, wir wollen Taten!" Deutsche Corpsstudenten 1848 bis heute. Siedler Verlag, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-88680-653-7, S. 383 f.
  2. ^ This article incorporates text from a work in the public domain: Carl Schurz (1913). Edward Manley (ed.). Lebenserinnerungen Bis zum Jahre 1850: Selections. With notes and vocabulary. Norwood, Massachusetts: Allyn and Bacon. p. 204. A German reader. The notes are in English for the most part. The copy at is missing some pages of the notes.
  3. ^ "A day with corps-students in Germany". Retrieved 2013-09-27.
  4. ^ "A Tramp Abroad - Chapter IV by Mark Twain".
  5. ^ [1] Archived March 14, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Daily Internet". Archived from the original on 2006-01-17.
  7. ^ "Daily Internet". Archived from the original on 2005-09-07.
  8. ^ "". 2009-05-15. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
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  10. ^