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Lecture 35

HIS109Y1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 35: Kurt Eisner, The Resignation, Mein Kampf

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Kenneth Bartlett

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The collapse of the imperial German Reich and the army came quickly precipitated the
collapse of the will to rule
Simply, the ruling elite (those that dominated society in Germany since 1871, simply lost
their wills no desire, no visions, no ability to confront the inconceivable)
The imperial chancellor resigned and abolished the crown prince
Groups of highly radicals desperate, starving workers and soldiers throughout Germany,
began to organize Soviets based upon the Soviet model in Russia a small band of
communists in Bavaria seized the capital of Munich, overthrew the Bavarian government
and proclaimed the Bavarian Social and Democratic Republic
All this happened because there was no one to stop them
There was no government, no functioning civil order, no legitimate authority
The resignation of the last imperial chancellor a liberal and high minded noble- tried to
arrange an armistice that would keep Germany’s borders intact – he failed, and he handed
power to the head of the Socialist party in Reichstag, F. Ebert
Ebert was given power by the chancellor before his abdication he was a republican and
a pragmatic politician that was devoted to the German people
In November 1918, Ebert declared the creation of a German republic
The socialists who formed a provisional government under Ebert, had grown far away
from the founders of the Social Democratic Party their argument was that it was
necessary that the German people not only be represented but that there be some hope of
future for Germany
The situation in the end of 1918 and beginning of 1919, were amongst the most desperate
The state was disintegrating Bavaria had already declared it’s independence under a
communist regime
Providing the most basic government was far from easy and especially establishing
order was extremely difficult
Groups on the far left were trying to turn Germany into the next Marxist/Bolshevik state
These extreme communists were known as Spartacists- they organized demonstrations,
disturbances to try to cause the spark that would cause a revolution
In order to keep public order, Ebert made an arrangement with the last imperial chief of
the general staff the deal was that he was to use the army (What was left of it or the part
that obeyed him) to go against these revolutionaries who were trying to make a Bolshevik
But there wasn’t much of an army – the result was that the government and the army
command had to rely on bands of ex-soldiers
The purposes of these groups was to protect German property, German lives, and
Germany traditions and this was to be done by fighting against the Spartacists
These were unusual men who joined- they were ex soldiers who obeyed their immediate
commanders, most of them were bitter about Germany’s defeat, the loathed communists
with a fanaticism, and they felt the same way about Ebert’s Socialism party
These groups were called Freikorps and it was from these groups that Hitler would
recruit his most violent thugs
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However Spartacists were far more dangerous than the Freikorps in 1918 they
attempted their universal coup that was modeled on the one in St. Petersburg in 1916,
attempted an armed revolution in Berlin
They were succeeding in as much that the revolutionaries took over the capital, but the
Freikorps marched into Berlin and drove the communists out and the aftermath was
These violent extremely skilled and professional killers, pathologically hating the
Communists, slaughtered all these communists
This victory tied them closer to the socialist provisional government
They were the only force that stood between anarchy and German order
As a result they were given their freedom, given the opportunity to grow
The Freikorps grew much stronger and larger
They began to expand beyond the large cities and towns and began to move into
provincial cities
Germany revolted into civil war the socialists and communists were defeated simply
because of the professionalism of the Freikorps
Later in the year there was as second attempt from Spartacists to turn Germany into
1500 communists and their supporters were slaughtered in the capital
After this, the Freikorps moved together and marched into Munich (which was taken
over), where there was a state modeled after the Lenin’s communist state
The Freikorps murdered the leader, Kurt Eisner, and drove out the communists and
overthrew the Bavarian communist regime
Germany had been pacified through these Freikorps
Ebert felt secure to call a national assembly to establish some measure of legitimate
government because he wasn’t chosen, he was just given power by the last emperor
Elections were held but Socialists were not voted for, and voted for Right Wing
Because of the internal rivalries between the large number of parties, Ebert (who was
elected as the first president of the German republic) had to create a coalition government
he managed to put together a working coalition and began legislative action
It had 3 tasks ahead:
1. It had to make peace with the victors 2. He had to arrange for a constitute assembly to
write a constitution 3. He had to establish an operating government
The first attempt to make peace with the allies almost resumed the war the fanatic
totally irrational nationalism resulted in the complete rejection of any kind of
compromise with the allies, the new war minister summoned the old imperial general
staff and told them if the socialist government agreed to the terms put forth by the allies,
then he would in fact use the remaining army to continue the war
Indeed the terms were punitive, and the idea of not accepting them was universal, but
Germany had no other choice no army to fight with, nothing to fight with, no money to
support the war
A legend began the imperial army hadn’t been defeated – it was the socialists
government that didn’t permit them to do so, when in fact the army was ready to keep
fighting for better terms
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