The murder of Sparticists Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in Berlin after the Sparticist uprising were the first notable political murders in Germany. Thet were, however, only the beginning. Kurt Eisner, a journalist, had become Bavarian primeminister after the ovrthrow of the monarchy (November 7, 1918). He proved to be an honest, but inept politican. When elections were held for the Diet, Eisner and his party won only three seats (January 12, 1919). The conservative Bavarian People's Party dominated the election and won 66 seats. Eisener set out to for the opening of the Lantag to resign and was shot by a nationaslist officer, Count Arco-Valley (Febrary 21). The population of Munich was outraged. A Worker-Soldier Peasant Central Committee was formed and proclaimed a state of seige. The Diet was not allowed to convene for several weeks, but finally met (March 17). They chose SD Johannes Hoffman minister president. Then new of a Communist Government seizing power in Hungary reached Munich (March 21). Local Communists decided this was the time to strike. What followed was the bloodiest episode in post-War Germany. The Communits Government was initially led by of all people, a romantic poet, Ernst Toller. Within only a week more hard core Soviet influenced Communists led by a young sailor, Rudolf Egelhofer, had control of the Governent. He set in motion a lawless period of seizing bank deposits, looting homes, and confiscating private assetts. Hoffman set up in Bamberg and urged the population to resist the Communists and requested military intervention from Berlin. The Communists turned back an Army column at Dachau north of Munich. Hoffman also requested Freikorps. The Freikorps were only minimally disciplined and committed terrible attricities as they moved toward Munich. One notable incdent was murdering 52 Russian POWs. The Comminists retailiated by shooting hostages, members of nationlis, anti-Semetic Thule Society. The Army and Freikorps finally fought their way into Munich from several directions on May Day (May 1). Mamy Communists who attempted to surrender were shot. The "liberators" aldso shot many civilians suspcted of sympathizing with the Communists. The episode profoundly affected Bavarian politics. Bavaria during the Imperial period had been much more liberal than Russia. The brief period of Communist control turned Bavaria to the right, creating strong anti-Communist feeling and because there were many Jews among the Communists, intensified anti-Semetic feeling.
The Wittelsbach Dynasty ruled Bavaria from the 12th century into the 20th century through World War I. Americans tend to associate Bavaria with beer and the Wittelsbach Dynasty has been closely involved with breweries and beer. Oktoberfest began in Bavaria as a public celebration of the wedding in 1810 of the Crown Prince who later became King Ludwig I. The event was such success that it has been continued every year since. Perhaps the most famous Bavarian king is Mad King Ludwig who built fairytale castles, but came to a tragic end. The Wittelsbach dynasty in the 19th century were noted for a liberal approach to ruling Bavaria. They not only built notable palaces, but also theatres and promoted the arts and intelectual inquiry. Bavaria was an important center of the arts in Germany. Bavaria for most of its existance had been an independent state within the Holy Roman Empire. Bavaria entered the Germn Empire after the Franco Prussian War (1870). Bavarians had some trpedation, but the popular sentiment for unification and the military power of Prussia meant that there was no real alternative. In particular there was concern about the dominant position of conservative, militaristic, and artistically chalenged Prussia.
As part of the constitutional arrangements creating the German Empire, Bacaria and other German states (Landen) retained Bavaria also retained control over communication, transport, police, education and other functions. As a result there was considerable regional differences that persisted within the Empire. Unification did bring considerable economic benefits which helped to slowly disipate the concern that Bavarians and other Germans had felt about Prussian domination. Most saw themselbes as Germans rather than Bavarians by the time of World War I. Bavaria's population grew from 230,000 in 1880 to 596,000 by 1910. And industrial expansion meant that living standards for this expanding population were improving. A large and successful middle class had developed. Workers were relatively well off, but pressing for a more equitable distribution of Bavaria's economic success.
Germany's defeat in World War I staggered the Germany people. They had sych faith in the Army. At the beginning of 1918 victory looked assured. The Russians were knoicked out of the War and forced to sign the humiliating Breast-Litovsk Treaty which made Germany dominant in the East and allowed for the creation of a German protectorate in the vast Ukraine (March 1918). It also enabled the Germans Army to focus on the Western Front. Ludendorff's massive offensive nearly achieved victory (July). Yet only months later the German Army was decisely defeated and forced to sign an Armistace (November). After 4 years of terrible sacrifice, the German people were hirrified and bewildered at the outcome.
In the upheavals that followed Germany's defeat in the World War I, Bavaria was declared a worker's republic (November 7, 1918). This occurred a few days before the Armistice was signed. The royal family fled Munich on the advice of the new government, which said it could not guarantee their safety. After 783 years in power the rule of the Wittelsbach family in Bavaria was at an end. There was remarably little violence accompanying the end of the monarchy, notng to suggest that Munich would becone sa hot bed of revolutionary violence and vitriolic natinalism and racial hatred.
Kurt Eisner, a Jewish intellectual and journalist , of the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD) led a bloodless revolution (November 7, 1918). This was even before the Armistice. Eisner became Bavarian primeminister. A
after the ovrthrow of the monarchy He proved to be an honest, but inept politican.
Socialists also tried to establish a socialist state in Bavaria. The objectivewas to scucceed from the new Gernan Republic. Bavaria until 1871 had been an undependent state. The short-lived result was the Munchner or Bayerische Râterepublik (Munich/Bavarian Soviet Republic) The oblective was to set up a democratic workers' council republic. The workers council is why the term soviet is often used. As in Russia, the initial effort was by moderate socialists.
Freikorps units were organized in Germany after Wotld War I, mostly from disilusioned right-wing veterans as well as some youths who had been too young to participate in the War. The veterans had made huge sactifices during the war and did not understand how Germany with its martial heritage could have lost the War. They were outraged with the Versaillers Peace Treaty which transferred former German/Austrian territory to neigboring coutries, including the newly crrated countries of Poland and Czechoslovakia. The new German Republic faced many problems after World war I. It was set up at Weimar because the Socilists who dominated the Republic did not think it could be defended in Berlin. One of the problems was the luke warm support from the Germany Army. The Republic faced attacks from Communists wjo tried to seise control. Another problem were areas of Germany whose future were to be decided by plebesite. This was a special problem in the Eat where the new Polish Republic wanted to expand its territory. Polish military units attempted to seize territory. The Allies did not permit the German Army to intervene. The Freikorps were used to both defeat Comminist uprisings and to fight the Poles. Many Freikorps members were hostile to the Weimar Republic, but willing to fight Communists and Poles. The most prominant Freikorps unit was Brigade Ehrhardt. It was the Freikorps that suppressed the Bavarian Communists Many Freikorps members gravitated to right-wing parties like the NAZIs. Quite a few NAZI luninaries served in the Freikorps, including Seep Dietrich, Hans Frank, Heinrich Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich, and others. Many lesser known Freikorps members gravitated to the the SA. Thus the Freikorps is seen by many as the origin of the Sturmabteilungen (SA)--The NAZI stormtroopers. They certainly played an important role, but the more direct origin was in the right-wing political parties that formed in Germany following the War.
Germany in 1919 was a political powder keg. The population was awash with a range of powerful emotions flowing from nationlistic fervor, military defeat, food shortages, monarical and respublican disputes, racial animosity, and class conflict. And many Germans wre not prepared to allow thoses powerful emotions to be resolved through the ballot box. The first challenge to the Republic came from the extreme right--the Sparticists who were the beginning of the German Communisdts. The murder of Sparticists Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in Berlin after the Sparticist uprising were the first notable political murders in Germany. Thet were, however, only the beginning.
When elections were held for the Diet, Eisner and his party won only three seats (January 12, 1919). The conservative Bavarian People's Party dominated the election and won 66 seats. Eisener set out to for the opening of the Bavarian state Lantag to resign and was shot by a nationaslist officer, Count Arco-Valley (Febrary 21). Eisner had spent much of the day writing his resignation. He had guards as he walked to the Landtag, but Arco-Valley rushed up from behind and with the first of his two shots blew away his skull, killing him instantly. The guards then shot the assasin, but he survived. The population of Munich by ths time disliked Eisner, but was was outraged. A Worker-Soldier Peasant Central Committee was formed and proclaimed a state of seige. The Diet was not allowed to convene for several weeks, but finally met (March 17). They chose SD Johannes Hoffman minister president.
Bela Kun, the pre-War founder of the Communist Party, launched a Communist coup (March 21, 1919).
His popularity rapidly fell when he used force to persue a series of radical reforms seizing private popularity, both agricultural lands and industry. Czechs and Romanians military forces intervened as well as a French-supported counter-revolutionary force headed Admiral Miklos Horthy de Nagybanya. The Kun regime fell (August 1, 1919).
Eisner was shot (February 21). This began a rapid slide into anarchy. Jews were conspicuously present in the attempts to create radical revolutionary regimes, especially in Bavaria. After Eisner was shot, two other Jewish leaders, Gustav Landauer and Eugen Levine, assumed leading roles. The news of a Communist Government seizing power in Hungary reached Munich (March 21). Local Communists decided this was the time to strike. What followed was the bloodiest episode in post-War Germany. The Communits Government was initially led by of all people, a romantic poet, Ernst Toller. Within only a week more hard core Soviet influenced Communists led by a young sailor, Rudolf , had control of the Governent. The Communists seized power (April 12). Eugen Leviné emerged as the leader. Leviné immediately began decreesing radical reforms, including the formation of a Bavarian Red Army. The Communists seized cash and food supplies, expropriated the luxurious apartments of well-to-do individuals which they turned over to the homeless. Factories were seized from their owners and turned over to workers councils. Leviné had planned for many other radical reforns, such as abolishing paper money as well as major reforms of education. Leviné was in contact with Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks in Russua. Lennin suggested that the Râterepublik take hostages among the Munich elite. Leviné's men balked at shooting hostages. Russian POWs recruited by the Communists followed orders. They shot eight hodtages who were accused as plotting a right-wing coup, including the highly regarded Prince Gustav of Thurn and Taxis (April 30). The ant-Semetic Thule Society's secretary, Countess Hella von Westarp, was also murdered. Egelhofer set in motion a lawless period of seizing bank deposits, looting homes, and confiscating private assetts.
Hoffman set up in Bamberg and urged the population to resist the Communists and requested military intervention from Berlin. Loyal elements of the German Army grouped to retake Munich. The Communists called them the 'White Guards of Capitalism'.The Army force of 9,000 men. The Communists turned back an Army column at Dachau north of Munich..
They were joined by Freikorps, including the Freikorps Epp and the Marinebrigade Ehrhardt, titaling nother 30,000 men
The Freikorps were only minimally disciplined and committed terrible attricities as they moved toward Munich. One notable incdent was murdering 52 Russian POWs, apparently men fughing with the Râterepublik
The Communists retailiated by shooting hostages, members of nationlis, anti-Semetic Thule Society. They advabced to Munich (May 3). Heavy street fighting ensued. Some 1,000 supporters of the Râterepublik were killed in the fighting. The Freukoros nmen summarily executed some 700 prisoners. Leviné was found guilty of trson and duspatched by firing squad in Stadelheim Prison. Hoffman also requested Freikorps. The Army and Freikorps finally fought their way into Munich from several directions on May Day (May 1). Mamy Communists who attempted to surrender were shot. The Freikorps also shot many civilians suspcted of sympathizing with the Communists.
The episode profoundly affected Bavarian politics. Bavaria during the Imperial period had been much more liberal than Russia. The brief period of Communist control turned Bavaria to the right, creating strong anti-Communist feeling and because there were many Jew. The episode was one more step in dividing the left. It was the SD Hoffman who had called in the Army and virulently nationalistic Freikorps to supress the Communists.
Gustav von Kahr, the Bavarian state leader, called a meeting of local officials (November 8, 1923). While von Kahr was speaking, Hitler with armed stormtroopers burst into the building. Hitler jumped on top of a table and fired a pistol. He told the astonished officials that he had just launched the National Revolution. Hitler ordered Goering and the SA to guard the officials. Among those officials in addition to von Kahr were Otto von Lossow (Army commander in Bavaria), and Hans von Lossow (commandant of the Bavarian State Police). He tried to convince these officials to join him. As the new leader of Germany, he offered them posts in the new German government. All three declined. An enraged Hitler threatened to shoot them and then commit suicide. He reportedly told them, "I have three bullets for you, gentlemen, and one for me!" All three then agreed. Then former Field Marshall Eric Ludendorff arrived. Ludendorff was regarded by many Germans as a great war hero. It was he and Hidenberg that had defeated the Russian Army at Tannenberg early in the War (1914). It was, however, also Ludendorff that had planned the final great offensive that had failed (1918). Unwilling to accept the idea that he had failed, he found Hitler's constant claim that the Army had not failed, but was stabbed in the back by Jews and Socialists appealing. He thus supported the NAZIs. I do not know how deply he was involved in the Putsch, but it is curious that he turned up just at this time. Hitler offered him command of the Army and Ludendorff accepted. While Hitler was seizing the Bavarian government. Roehm, leading another group of armed Stormtroopers took control of the War Ministry. Rudolf Hess with other Stormtroopers was arresting Jews and left-wing politicans. Hitler's plan was to march on Berlin and seize control of the national government. Hitler's planning for the Putsch did not include seizing radio stations and the telegraph offices. As a result, national government officials in Berlin learned about the Putsch and prepared to act against it. The following day, Hitler, Ludendorff, Goering, Hess, and about 3,000 armed Stormtroopers and other supporters marched through Munich in an effort to join Roehm at the War Ministey. When they reached Odensplatz they encountered a detachment of the Munich police who ordered them to stop. When the NAZIs refused, the police fired a warning volley. The Stormtroopers returned fire. In the ensuing fire fight 21 people were killed and about 100 wounded, among them Goering. Hitler dropped to the ground, dislocating his shoulder. He then ran away using a car to make his get away. The NAZIs had a larger force than the police, but after Hitler ran away so did most of the Stormtroopers. Ludendorff and his adjutant, however, walked straight at the police despite the fire. Later Hitler's flight was explained with the feletious explanation that he was rushing a wounded boy to the hospital. Hitler had anticipated that Ludendorff's participation meant that the Reichwehr was with him. This proved not to be the case.
Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to Main Weimar page]
[Return to Main German World War I page]
[Return to Main German World War II page]
[Aftermath] [Alliances] [Animals] [Armistace] [Biographies] [Causes] [Campaigns] [Casualties] [Children] [Countries] [Declaration of war] [Deciding factors] -------[Diplomacy] [Economics] -------[Geo-political crisis] [Home front] [Intelligence]
[Military forces] [Neutrality] [Pacifism] [People] [Peace treaties] [Propaganda] [POWs] [Russian Revolution] [Terrorism] [Trench warfare] ------[Technology] [Weaponry]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Return to Main World War I page]
[Return to Main war essay page]
[Return to CIH Home page]