Bavarian Soviet Republic

Last updated on 29 September 2017

The Bavarian Soviet Republic (German: Bayerische Räterepublik)[1][2] was the short-lived unrecognised socialist state in Bavaria during the German Revolution of 1918–19.[3][4] It took the form of a workers' council republic. Its name is variously rendered in English as the Bavarian Council Republic[5] or the Munich Soviet Republic (the German name Räterepublik means a republic of councils or committees; council or committee is also the meaning of the Russian word soviet)[6][2] after its capital of Munich. It was established in April 1919 following the demise of Kurt Eisner's People's State of Bavaria and sought independence from the also newly-proclaimed Weimar Republic. However, it was overthrown less than a month later by elements of the German Army and the paramilitary Freikorps.

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Location of Bavarian Soviet Republic

Background

The roots of the republic lay in the German Empire's defeat in the First World War and the social tensions that came to a head shortly thereafter. From this chaos erupted the German Revolution of 1918. At the end of October 1918, German sailors began a series of revolts in various naval ports. In early November, these disturbances spread the spirit of civil unrest across Germany. On 7 November 1918, the first anniversary of the Russian revolution, King Ludwig III of Bavaria fled from the Residenz Palace in Munich with his family and Kurt Eisner, a politician[3] of the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD) became minister-president[7] of a newly proclaimed People's State of Bavaria.

Though he advocated a socialist republic, Eisner distanced himself from the Russian Bolsheviks, declaring that his government would protect property rights. As the new government was unable to provide basic services, Eisner's USPD was defeated in the January 1919 election, coming in sixth place. On 21 February 1919, as he was on his way to parliament to announce his resignation, he was shot dead by the right-wing nationalist Anton Graf von Arco auf Valley. This assassination caused unrest and lawlessness in Bavaria, and the news of a left-wing revolution in Hungary encouraged communists and anarchists to try to seize power.[8] The leader of the majority Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), Johannes Hoffmann, formed a coalition government, but was unable to muster political support.[9]

Ernst Toller government

On 6 April 1919, a soviet republic was formally proclaimed. Initially, it was ruled by USPD members such as Ernst Toller, and anarchists like Gustav Landauer, Silvio Gesell, and Erich Mühsam. Toller, a playwright, described the revolution as the "Bavarian Revolution of Love".[10]

His government members were not always well-chosen. For instance, the Foreign Affairs Deputy Dr. Franz Lipp (who had been admitted several times to psychiatric hospitals), declared war on Switzerland over the Swiss refusal to lend 60 locomotives to the Republic.[11] He also claimed to be well acquainted with Pope Benedict XV[12] and he informed Vladimir Lenin via cable that the ousted former Minister-President Hoffmann had fled to Bamberg and taken the key to the ministry toilet with him.[13]

Eugen Leviné government

On Sunday, 12 April 1919, the Communist Party seized power, with Eugen Leviné as their leader.[3] Leviné began to enact communist reforms, which included forming a "Red Army", seizing cash and food supplies, expropriating luxurious apartments and giving them to the homeless and placing factories under the ownership and control of their workers. Leviné also had plans to abolish paper money and reform the education system, but never had time to implement them.

During Leviné’s short- reign, food shortages quickly became a problem, especially the absence of milk. Public criticism over the milk shortage turned political, precipitating the communist government to publicly declare: “What does it matter? . . . Most of it goes to the children of the bourgeoisie anyway. We are not interested in keeping them alive. No harm if they die—they’d only grow into enemies of the proletariat.”[14]

On 30 April 1919, eight men, including the well-connected Prince Gustav of Thurn and Taxis, were accused as right-wing spies and executed. The Thule Society's secretary, Countess Hella von Westarp, was also executed.[15]

Demise

Soon after, on 3 May 1919, remaining loyal elements of the German Army (called the "White Guards of Capitalism" by the communists), with a force of 9,000, and Freikorps (such as the Freikorps Epp and the Marinebrigade Ehrhardt) with a force of about 30,000 men, entered Munich and defeated the communists after bitter street fighting in which over 1,000 supporters of the Munich council government were killed. About 700 men and women were arrested and summarily executed by the victorious Freikorps troops. Leviné was condemned to death for treason, and was shot by a firing squad in Stadelheim Prison. Gustav Landauer was beaten and shot by a mob of soldiers.[16]

One notable supporter of the movement was the young artist Georg Schrimpf, then aged 20, who was arrested when the movement was crushed.[17] Other prominent participants were Paul Klee and Hans Richter. Hitler’s longstanding chauffeur and first leader of the Schutzstaffel (“Protection Squadron”; SS), Julius Schreck, signed up and served as a member of the Red Army in late April 1919.[18] Balthasar Brandmayer, one of Hitler’s closest wartime friends, remarked “how he at first welcomed the end of the monarchies,” and the establishment of the republic in Bavaria.[19] All of the National Socialist officers subsequently became disillusioned after the demise of the socialist republic.

Hitler's participation

In 2011 the German historian Thomas Weber claimed Adolf Hitler played a role in the Bavarian Soviet Republic. He suggests that two days after the People's State of Bavaria was reclaimed, Hitler ran for and won a position in Eisner’s government, taking the position of “Deputy Battalion Representative”, where some of his duties included serving as a liaison officer with the Department of Propaganda.[20][21] He further claims that after Eisner was assassinated in February 1919, Hitler attended the funeral and in solidarity with the socialist republic and with Eisner, a Jewish Marxist reformer, he wore a black armband on one arm and a red communist brassard on the other, as evidenced by surviving film footage of the funeral.[20] In the footage, Hitler and a few men from his unit are seen walking in Eisner's procession. Furthermore, one of Heinrich Hoffmann's photos of the procession showed Hitler in attendance, taken just before Eisner was eulogized.[20]

British historian Ian Kershaw contends that even after Eisner’s funeral, when the republic was under control of the Communist Councils in April 1919, Hitler probably “wore, along with almost all the soldiers of the Munich garrison, the revolutionary red armband.”[22]. One reason cited for his participation in his battalion activities is that Hitler had also been “elected to the Soldier’s Council of his military unit”, the Ersatz Battalion of the infantry Regiment. [23]

Hitler “remained in his post for the entire lifespan of the Soviet Republic,” and “did not join a Freikorps with his comrades prior to the defeat of the Soviet Republic.”[24] Hitler’s failure to assist in the liberation of Munich from the communist Räterepublik later brought him “scornful reproaches from Ernst Röhm,” head of the Nazi Stormtroopers.[25] During this time, Hitler “did not act in a way consistent with his later beliefs,” but instead appeared to be a “deeply disorientated man without a clear mental compass” to help him understand the post-war world.[26]

After the fall of Eugen Leviné’s “Red Republic” in early May 1919, Hitler may have also been “interned” with other soldiers involved in the communist government, and questioned about his loyalty.[27] Ernst Toller, the president of the socialist republic for 6 days, “reported that a fellow prisoner also interned… had met Hitler in a Munich barracks during the first months after the revolution, and that the latter had then been calling himself a Social Democrat.”[28] Konrad Heiden in his 1936 book Hitler remarked that, during this time period, “Hitler in heated discussion among his comrades, voiced support for the Social Democratic government against that of the Communists.”[29] When Hitler defended Hermann Esser in 1921 from intra-Nazi party squabbles, he remarked: “Everyone was at one time a Social Democrat.”[30] If Hitler did support the Social Democrats in preference to the Communists, it was likely “viewed as a choice of the lesser of two evils.”[31]

See also

References

  1. ^ Allan Mitchell. Revolution in Bavaria, 1918-1919: The Eisner Regime and the Soviet Republic. Princeton University Press, 1965 (reprinted 2015). p. 346. ISBN 9781400878802
  2. ^ a b Neil Hollander. Elusive Dove: The Search for Peace During World War I. McFarland, 2013. p. 283 (note 269). ISBN 9781476614106
  3. ^ a b c Gaab, Jeffrey S. Munich: Hofbräuhaus & History. New York Washington, D.C./Baltimore Bern Frankfurt am Main Berlin Brussels Vienna Oxford Lang 2006. p. 58.
  4. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica 1969, Bavarian Council Republic
  5. ^ Gabriel Kuhn (ed.), All Power to the Councils! A Documentary History of the German Revolution of 1918-1919, Oakland: PM Press, 2012, p. 205
  6. ^ Eric James Hooglund. The Munich Soviet Republic of April, 1919. University of Maine, 1966
  7. ^ Thomas Schuler (December 2008). "The Unsung Hero: Bavaria's amnesia about the man who abolished the monarchy". The Atlantic Times. Archived from the original on 2013-12-19.
  8. ^ Erich Mühsam, Von Eisner bis Leviné, p. 47
  9. ^ Jeffrey S. Gaab (December 2011). "Hitler’s Beer Hall Politics: A Reassessment based on New Historical Scholarship" (PDF). International Journal of Humanities and Social Science. p. 36.
  10. ^ Jeffrey S. Gaab. Munich: Hofbräuhaus & history. Peter Lang. p. 59.
  11. ^ Taylor, Edumund (1963). The Fall of the Dynasties: The Collapse of Old Order. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 365.
  12. ^ Gustav Noske, Von Kiel bis Kapp, p. 136
  13. ^ Paul Werner (Paul Frölich), Die Bayerische Räterepublik. Tatsachen und Kritik, p. 144
  14. ^ Michael Burleigh, The Third Reich: A New History, New York: NY, Hill and Wang, 2000, p. 40
  15. ^ Timebase Multimedia Chronography. Timebase 1919. Accessed September 23, 2006.
  16. ^ James Horrox. "Gustav Landauer (1870-1919)". Anarchy Archives. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
  17. ^ *Olaf Peters (2012), Friedrich, Julia, ed., Modernist Masterpieces: the Haubrich Collection at Museum Ludwig, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, ISBN 978-3-86335-174-8
  18. ^ Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris, New York and London, W.W. Norton & Company, 1999, p. 119
  19. ^ Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris, New York and London, W.W. Norton & Company, 1999, p. 119
  20. ^ a b c Thomas Weber, Hitler's First War: Adolf Hitler, the Men of the List Regiment, and the First World War, Oxford, England, UK: Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 251
  21. ^ Norman Stone, “The Fuhrer In the Making,” Wall Street Journal, Oct. 30, 2012
  22. ^ Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris, New York and London, W.W. Norton & Company, 1999, p.120
  23. ^ Thomas Weber, Hitler's First War: Adolf Hitler, the Men of the List Regiment, and the First World War, Oxford, England, UK: Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 250
  24. ^ Thomas Weber, Hitler's First War: Adolf Hitler, the Men of the List Regiment', and the First World War, Oxford, England, UK: Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 251
  25. ^ Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris, New York and London, W.W. Norton & Company, 1999, p.120
  26. ^ Thomas Weber, Hitler's First War: Adolf Hitler, the Men of the List Regiment, and the First World War, Oxford, England, UK: Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 250
  27. ^ Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris, New York and London, W.W. Norton & Company, 1999, p.118
  28. ^ Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris, New York and London, W.W. Norton & Company, 1999, p.118
  29. ^ Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris, New York and London, W.W. Norton & Company, 1999, p. 118
  30. ^ Hitler: Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen 1905-1924, Eberhard Jäckel and Axel Kuhn, (editors) Stuttrart: Deusche Verlags-Anstalt, 1980, p. 448
  31. ^ Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris, New York and London, W.W. Norton & Company, 1999, p.120

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Coordinates: 48°08′N 11°34′E / 48.133°N 11.567°E / 48.133; 11.567

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