Bavarian Soviet Republic

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Bavarian Soviet Republic
Bayerische Räterepublik
Unrecognized state
1919
Motto
"Proletarier aller Länder, vereinigt Euch!"
"Workers of the world, unite!"
Anthem
Die Internationale
The Internationale
The location of the Bavarian Soviet Republic (in red) shown with the rest of the Weimar Republic (in beige).
Capital Munich
Languages German
Government Soviet Republic
President
 •  12 April 1919 – 3 May 1919 Eugen Leviné
History
 •  Established 6 April 1919
 •  Disestablished 3 May 1919
Currency German Papiermark (ℳ)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Weimar Republic
People's State of Bavaria
Weimar Republic
Free State of Bavaria
Today part of  Germany

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.

Background[edit]

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]

After Eisner’s assassination, the power struggle between various factions and political parties became intense in Munich. In the interim before Johannes Hoffmann became Prime Minister in early March, Ernst Niekisch was able to secure effective power over the Bavarian government briefly as chairman of the central executive of Bavarian councils after Eisner’s death.[9] Niekisch espoused an “idiosyncratic anti-Western National Bolshevism” that sought to incorporate nationalism with socialism.[10]

Ernst Toller government[edit]

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".[11]

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.[12] He also claimed to be well acquainted with Pope Benedict XV[13] 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.[14]

Eugen Leviné government[edit]

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. Another violent act that alarmed supporters of the Weimar Republic was an assault on Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII. On April 29 and the following day, Spartacist revolutionaries entered extraterritorial building of the papal nunciature, a diplomatic representative of the pope. Eventually, Pacelli was threatened with “guns, daggers, and even hand grenades” and struck with a revolver to the chest.[15] The assault was so forceful that the metal cross Pacelli wore around his neck was damaged.[16]

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.”[17]

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.[18]

Demise[edit]

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.[19]

One notable supporter of the movement was the young artist Georg Schrimpf, then aged 20, who was arrested when the movement was crushed.[20] Other prominent participants were Paul Klee and Hans Richter.[citation needed] 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.[21] Another historical figure involved in the Communist republic was Hitler’s future Deputy Führer, Rudolf Hess. Hess was actively serving in the Bavarian Red Army, telling his parents in an April 23, 1919, letter not to worry, and that his unit was not experiencing "any unrest at all. Yesterday we had an orderly march with red flags, nothing else out of the ordinary.”[22] 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.[23] All of the National Socialist officers subsequently became disillusioned after the demise of the socialist republic.

Hitler's participation[edit]

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 Bavarian Soviet Republic was established, Hitler ran for and won a position in Leviné’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.[24][25] 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.[24][26] 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.[24] Hoffmann, who later became Hitler's court photographer, confirmed that the photograph depicts Hitler.[27] By the early 1980s, Hoffmann’s son also confirmed that Hitler was one of the soldiers in his father's photograph.[28]

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.”[29]. One reason cited for his participation in his battalion activities is that earlier Hitler had been “elected to the Soldier’s Council of his military unit”, the Ersatz Battalion of the infantry Regiment possibility as early as February.[30] Since all Munich-based military units were considered part of the Red Army, Hitler and his regiment would be seen as serving in the Red Army. However, most regiments in Munich "neither actively supported the Soviet regime nor opposed it."[31]

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.”[32] 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.[33] Otto Strasser, a member of the Social Democratic Party before later joining the Nazi party in 1925, also criticized Hitler for not joining General von Epp’s army “to fight the Bolsheviks in Bavaria,” asking: “Where was Hitler that day?”[34] Strasser was one of the Freikorps volunteers who entered Munich to overthrow the Bavarian Soviet Republic. 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.[35]

After the fall of Eugen Leviné’s “Red Republic” in early May 1919, Hitler was apparently “interned” with other soldiers involved in the communist government, and questioned about his loyalty.[36] 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.”[37] 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.”[38] When Hitler defended Hermann Esser in 1921 from intra-Nazi party squabbles, he remarked: “Everyone was at one time a Social Democrat.”[39] 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.”[40]

According to a close friend, Ernst Schmidt, Hitler's internment by Freikorps troops was brief, likely due to the intervention of a military officer who had befriended Hitler during the war.[41] A few days later, Hitler agreed to become a "informant" and supplied the authorities with information about his former friends and commanders who had supported the communist regime and the Bavarian Red Army.[42] As soon as May 9, Hitler began to serve on the Investigation and Decommission Board of the Second Infantry Regiment, where he testified about the radical activities of officers and soldiers. This opportunity probably allowed Hitler not only to avoid decommissioning but “deportation to his native Austria, imprisonment or even death” for serving in his low-level position in the Bavarian Soviet Republic.[43]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  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. ^ Chris Harman, The Lost Revolution: Germany 1918 to 1923, Bookmarks, 1982, pp. 129-130
  10. ^ 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. 253
  11. ^ Jeffrey S. Gaab. Munich: Hofbräuhaus & history. Peter Lang. p. 59. 
  12. ^ Taylor, Edumund (1963). The Fall of the Dynasties: The Collapse of Old Order. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 365. 
  13. ^ Gustav Noske, Von Kiel bis Kapp, p. 136
  14. ^ Paul Werner (Paul Frölich), Die Bayerische Räterepublik. Tatsachen und Kritik, p. 144
  15. ^ Thomas Weber, Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi, New York, NY, Basic Books, 2017, p. 53
  16. ^ Eugenio Pacelli Edition, report, Pacelli to Pietro Gasparri, April 30, 1919
  17. ^ Michael Burleigh, The Third Reich: A New History, New York: NY, Hill and Wang, 2000, p. 40
  18. ^ Timebase Multimedia Chronography. Timebase 1919 Archived 2006-09-29 at the Wayback Machine.. Accessed September 23, 2006.
  19. ^ James Horrox. "Gustav Landauer (1870-1919)". Anarchy Archives. Retrieved October 20, 2015. 
  20. ^ *Olaf Peters (2012), Friedrich, Julia, ed., Modernist Masterpieces: the Haubrich Collection at Museum Ludwig, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, ISBN 978-3-86335-174-8 
  21. ^ Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris, New York and London, W.W. Norton & Company, 1999, p. 119
  22. ^ Thomas Weber, Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi, New York: NY, Basic Books, 2017, p. 47
  23. ^ Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris, New York and London, W.W. Norton & Company, 1999, p. 119
  24. ^ 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
  25. ^ Norman Stone, “The Fuhrer In the Making,” Wall Street Journal, Oct. 30, 2012
  26. ^ Hitler: A Profile, episode 1 of 6, “The Private Man” written and produced by Guido Knopp and Maurice Philip Remy, produced by ZDF (Germany) in association with A&E Home Video and The History Channel, 1995 [1]
  27. ^ Thomas Weber, Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi, Basic Books, 2017, pp. 39-40. The State Library of Bavaria has ownership of the photo.
  28. ^ Thomas Weber, Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi, Basic Books, 2017, pp. 39-40)
  29. ^ Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris, New York and London, W.W. Norton & Company, 1999, p.120
  30. ^ 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
  31. ^ Thomas Weber,Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi, New York, NY, Basic Books, 2017, p. 52
  32. ^ 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
  33. ^ Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris, New York and London, W.W. Norton & Company, 1999, p.120
  34. ^ Otto Strasser, Hitler and I, Boston: MA, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1940, p. 12
  35. ^ 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
  36. ^ Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris, New York and London, W.W. Norton & Company, 1999, p.118
  37. ^ Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris, New York and London, W.W. Norton & Company, 1999, p.118
  38. ^ Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris, New York and London, W.W. Norton & Company, 1999, p. 118
  39. ^ Hitler: Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen 1905-1924, Eberhard Jäckel and Axel Kuhn, (editors) Stuttrart: Deusche Verlags-Anstalt, 1980, p. 448
  40. ^ Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris, New York and London, W.W. Norton & Company, 1999, p.120
  41. ^ Thomas Weber, Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi, Basic Books, 2017, p. 56, pp. 70-72
  42. ^ Thomas Weber, Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi, Basic Books, 2017, p. 72
  43. ^ Thomas Weber, Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi, Basic Books, 2017, p. 72

External links[edit]

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