Before the Fall
Much of the early history of what was once the Hive World of Krieg in the Segmentum Tempestus is shrouded in rumour, allegory and dark myth. Its dreadful history of rebellion and treachery has been obscured and lost in the mists of time. This once-thriving Hive World was a trading and manufacturing centre that was populated by billions. Yet Krieg is now covered in a wilderness of ruined cities that span the poison-choked world. Bloated with wealth and corrupt with indolence, the former rulers of this world -- the Council of Autocrats -- was rife with petty vendetta and vice.
This ruling oligarchy became increasingly insular and debauched over time. Their paranoia over an outside threat that could shatter their dictatorial rule caused them to sink vast resources into strengthening the defences of their hive cities, building private armies and further surrounding their world with an outward facing ring of steel. Worse, the Autocrats grew to resent the influence of the Imperial Administratum on "their" world and in particular the heavy tithes levied on them by the Departmento Munitorum, taking resources they protested were vital to their own defence. The citizens of Krieg were sadly ignorant of these slowly spiralling events and the terrible ruin the misrule of their leaders was about to bring down upon them.
In 433.M40, the end came for Krieg in the form of the High Autocrat of Krieg's largest hive, the Chairman of the Council of Autocrats and the de facto Planetary Governor, (a man so hated that his name has been purged from all Imperial records by an Edict of Obliteration) who declared planetary-wide martial law and that Krieg was now independent of the Imperium of Man.
The High Autocrat further renounced the Emperor of Mankind as his divine master and political overlord. Krieg was then immediately devoured by a civil war which erupted suddenly and violently, between the heretical rebels who supported the High Autocrat and those citizens of Krieg who remained firm Imperial Loyalists. After the rebels' initial attacks much of Krieg quickly fell to the Heretics, save for Hive Ferrograd which remained under Loyalist control under the command of the now-infamous Colonel Jurten of the 83rd Krieg Imperial Guard Regiment.
In response to the revolt, Colonel Jurten moved quickly to take control of the hive city from its vacillating rulers in a military coup. With the veteran colonel at its helm, Ferrograd rapidly became the rallying point for the remaining Loyalist factions. But the situation for the Loyalists was dire; the rebel forces numbered in the millions and Ferrograd was soon cut off and besieged.
The Loyalists were on their own; the planetary defences were under the Traitors' control, and those defences were strong enough that a full-scale fleet action would be required to breach them. Colonel Jurten had been informed in no uncertain terms by the Segmentum Command that an Imperial fleet on the scale necessary to invade Krieg would not be forthcoming.
His orders were to resist with all means at his disposal, to engage the enemy, to punish their treachery and emerge victorious -- whatever the cost. So faced with the horrific odds stacked against him, Colonel Jurten came to the fateful decision that Krieg would either belong to the Emperor of Mankind or to no one at all. Within a secret Adeptus Mechanicus storage facility located deep below Hive Ferrograd, Colonel Jurten, with his loyal Adeptus Mechanicus ally, Archmagos Greel, moved to unlock the facility and to unleash the forbidden and ancient weapons within. While outside the siege ground on, within Ferrograd's walls the defenders laboured on a desperate plan.
On the day of the Feast of the Emperor's Ascension, Jurten unleashed his long-planned counter-attack using atomic weapons to enact a great cleansing of the planet's heretical population. The Traitors watched their Augers helplessly as Jurten's ballistic missiles arced high into the planet's stratosphere before detonating in blooms of blinding light, and unleashing tonnes of lethal isotopes which blanketed the entire world in a deadly fallout.
For days Krieg was engulfed in a sea of nuclear fire. Krieg's already tainted and marginal ecosystem collapsed, and as a result, untold billions died due to the raging fires blocking out the sun and the nuclear winter that followed. To future generations who would live with the terrible consequences of the atomic attack, Jurten's plan would come to be known as the "Purging." Krieg might have been transformed into a blasted wasteland, but the Purging had evened up the odds. The Loyalists had been well prepared for the attack, while the Traitors suffered terribly.
But the civil war dragged on, regardless. The survivors of Jurten's nuclear purge were forced to exist in underground bunkers or deep in the radioactive chem-wastes of the Hive World, as their descendants do to this day. To the Imperial authorities, Krieg was a prize no longer worth saving, its fate a red mark in the ledgers of the Administratum.
Krieg became a man-made Death World, trapped in the freezing grip of a radioactive nuclear winter. The bloody war of attrition continued to rage between the surviving Secessionist and Loyalist troops across a planet where every inch of ground would eventually be littered with trenches, rusting razorwire and shell craters, in a deadly landscape where drifting fallout ash shrouded the numberless bones of the unburied dead.
A full accounting of those terrible centuries of civil war will never be known. Jurten finally perished, how, it is not recorded, but the descendants of those that followed him lived on and became as fearless as they were callous. War would become all that they would ever know -- raised to fight from the cradle to the grave.
The warriors that advanced great-coated and vapour-masked through the rad-wastes and blasted cities of Krieg would become known as the Death Korps -- existing only to endure the hellish planetary surface, in order to do their duty and to kill in the Emperor's name. The Loyalists slowly re-took their blasted world in the name of the Emperor over fifteen generations of terrible bloody attrition -- trench-by-trench and tunnel-by-tunnel -- with bayonets, brutality and when needed, atomic fire.
After more than 500 standard years of the most nightmarish warfare imaginable and an incalculable price paid in human life and suffering, Krieg belonged to the Death Korps. From this long civil conflict and the unique military culture it engendered was born the tradition of naming Imperial Guard regiments drawn from Krieg as the Death Korps. Krieg was finally returned fully to the Imperial fold in 949.M40.
Engine of War
Though Krieg was returned to Imperial rule with little fanfare or regard, the Departmento Munitorum took note. Krieg was in arrears, so a new tithe of men for the Imperial Guard was placed upon it. The Munitorum Adepts were surprised when the Krieg authorities offered them not one but twenty regiments for immediate deployment, all formed, trained and equipped, and each commander requested the most hazardous Imperial war zones available.
During five Terran centuries of warfare, the people of Krieg had not sat idle, as beneath the blasted exterior of their world entire subterranean cities had been founded, tens of thousands of miles of bunkers and passageways dug, and a vast underworld of industry and manufacture geared specifically to the production of arms and equipment, but most of all to the production of soldiers, soldiers who proved to be implacable as the factory lines that armed them and as pitiless as their blasted radioactive world. Acting quickly, the Departmento Munitorum's need for soldiers was immediate. These new "Death Korps" regiments were inducted into the Imperial Guard, reorganised and issued with Commissars before being sent straight into combat.
The deployment of the regiments from the Death Korps of Krieg were immediately successful, despite the misgivings of some of the regiments they served alongside. In war zones that mirrored the horrific state of their homeworld, the Death Korps regiments proved superior to other Imperial Guard regiments. On worlds that were radioactive wastes, toxic zones and polluted ash-worlds, Imperial Guard generals quickly capitalised on deploying the Death Korps on such worlds. Stalemates were broken and advances achieved that otherwise would have required the massive expenditure of Penal Legion troops or the use of valuable elite forces such as the Adeptus Astartes.
When Krieg was taken directly under the authority of the Departmento Munitorum, the maximum tithe levels were enforced. Krieg's sole purpose was to turn out Death Korps soldiers as another world might mine ore or sow wheat. By the direct order of the High Lords of Terra nothing was to be allowed to interfere with this purpose. This has resulted in suspect practices being tolerated -- some, such as the eugenic policies designed to weed out mutations caused by Krieg's damaged, radioactive biosphere and universal conscription are continuations of policies once required during Krieg's centuries of civil war.
It should be noted that Krieg raises an unusually large number of Imperial Guard regiments for such a devastated planet. This is attributed to the enforced use of the "Vitae Womb" birthing technique, which Krieg has been granted special dispensation to use as the result of their famous steel, determination and unswerving loyalty to the Emperor. Use of this technique is largely unknown outside of the Adeptus Biologis and is seen as dangerous and abhorrent by many Adeptus Mechanicus Magos Biologis.
As it stands today, Krieg is a true War World: its tithes are the maximum for the planet's population, raising tens of regiments every year where a comparably-sized world might be expected to tithe one regiment every solar decade. The rate of attrition and destruction among these regiments is likewise disproportionately high, as they are assigned to some of the most hazardous battlefields and dangerous worlds known to Mankind.
Proving themselves extremely effective troops, the Death Korps has proved capable of achieving victories against the odds by dint of bloody sacrifice, endurance, aggression and unbreakable loyalty. But despite their glorious service record, Krieg units are not well-liked by Imperial Guard commanders who find these troops to be morose, taciturn, all too willing to accept high casualties (even amongst their commanders) and difficult to deal with by non-Krieg natives. But in the strife and unending state of war that exists in the grim darkness of the late 41st Millennium, the Imperium of Man has dire need of such men. The use and numbers of Death Korps regiments are on the rise, as are the resources being devoted to their creation by the Departmento Munitorum.
The troops of the Death Korps of Krieg are based on the Imperial German Army of World War I and the Wehrmacht of World War II. Krieg itself is simply the German word for war. However, their uniforms also share similarities with French troops during the Great War as well, therefore, the Death Korps could have also drawn inspiration from more than one source of troops stationed on the Western front during World War I.
- Codex: Imperial Guard (3rd Edition, 2nd Codex), pg. 28
- Codex: Imperial Guard (4th Edition), pg. 61
- Codex: Imperial Guard (5th Edition), pp. 21, 23, 27
- Imperial Armour Volume Five - The Siege of Vraks - Part One, pp. 12-35, 38-41, 44-53, 66-101, 125, 128, 130-144, 181, 187-189
- Imperial Armour Volume Six - The Siege of Vraks - Part Two, pp. 7, 14, 18-27, 34-48, 54-56, 58-59, 61-71, 75, 77-79, 83, 85, 93-111, 114
- Imperial Armour Volume Seven - The Siege of Vraks - Part Three, pp. 8-11, 16-19, 21, 26-28, 40-43, 44-45, 51, 53, 83-87, 110-111, 125-136, 208
- Only War: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 46-47
- Only War: Final Testament (RPG), pg. 15
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (5th Edition), pg. 116