Bavarian Council Republic
|Bavarian Council Republic|
|-||April 6 – April 12||Ernst Toller|
|-||April 12 – May 3||Eugen Leviné|
|-||Established||April 6, 1919|
|-||Disestablished||May 3, 1919|
|Currency||German Papiermark (ℳ)|
|Today part of||Germany|
The Bavarian Council Republic (German: Bayerische Räterepublik or Münchner Räterepublik) was the short-lived attempt to establish a socialist state in the Free State of Bavaria during the German Revolution of 1918–1919. It took the form of a democratic workers' council republic. Its name can alternatively be rendered in English as the Munich Soviet Republic (using the Russian word for "council"). It sought independence from the also recently proclaimed Weimar Republic. Its capital was Munich.
Kurt Eisner's bloodless revolution
On the afternoon of 7 November 1918, the first anniversary of the Russian revolution, Kurt Eisner, a politician  of the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD) addressed a crowd, estimated to have been about 60,000, on the Theresienwiese (current site of the Oktoberfest). He demanded an immediate peace, an 8 hour workday, relief for the unemployed, abdication of the Bavarian king, King Ludwig III, and Kaiser Wilhelm II, and proposed the formation of workers' and soldiers' councils. The crowd marched to the army barracks and won over most of the soldiers to the side of the revolution. That night, the King went into exile. The next day, Eisner declared Bavaria a "free state" – a declaration which overthrew the monarchy of the Wittelsbach dynasty which had ruled for over 700 years, and Eisner became Minister-President of Bavaria. Though he advocated a "socialist republic", he distanced himself from the Russian Bolsheviks, declaring that his government would protect property rights. For a few days, the Munich economist Lujo Brentano served as People's Commissar for Trade (Volkskommissar für Handel).
After Eisner's USPD had lost the elections, he decided to resign from his office. 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, who was rejected from membership in the Thule Society because of Jewish ancestry on his mother's side. This assassination caused unrest and lawlessness in Bavaria, and the news of a left-wing revolution in Hungary encouraged communists and anarchists to seize power.
Ernst Toller government
On 6 April 1919, a Council 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".
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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. He also claimed to be well acquainted with Pope Benedict XV 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.
Eugen Leviné government
On Sunday, April 12, 1919, the Communist Party seized power, with Eugen Leviné as their leader. 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.
At the suggestion of Vladimir Lenin, Leviné took hostages from among the elite. 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.
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. Nazi propagandists later used the actions of the Jewish leadership in the establishment of the Bavarian Council Republic to attack the greater German Jewish community.
- Jeffrey S. Gaab. Munich: Hofbräuhaus & history. Peter Lang. p. 58.
- Thomas Schuler (December 2008). "The Unsung Hero: Bavaria's amnesia about the man who abolished the monarchy". The Atlantic Times.
- Erich Mühsam, Von Eisner bis Leviné, p. 47
- Jeffrey S. Gaab (December 2011). "Hitler’s Beer Hall Politics: A Reassessment based on New Historical Scholarship". International Journal of Humanities and Social Science. p. 36.
- Jeffrey S. Gaab. Munich: Hofbräuhaus & history. Peter Lang. p. 59.
- p.365 Taylor, Edumund The Fall of the Dynasties: The Collapse of Old Order 1963 Weidenfeld & Nicolson
- Gustake Noske, Von Kiel bis Kapp, p. 136
- Paul Werner (Paul Frölich), Die Bayerische Räterepublik. Tatsachen und Kritik, p. 144
- Timebase Multimedia Chronography. Timebase 1919. Accessed September 23, 2006.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bavarian Council Republic.|
- Lenin: Message of Greetings to the Bavarian Council Republic
- fractal-vortex: Bavarian Soviet Republic
- Towards the brink: Munich 1918–1919