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Presentation on theme: "THE GERMAN REVOLUTION OF NOVEMBER 1918"— Presentation transcript:

October 1, 1918: Kaiser appoints Prince Max of Baden to head a “parliamentary” cabinet. October 28, 1918: Naval mutiny begins at Kiel when the Navy command orders an unauthorized offensive. November 9, 1918: Friedrich Ebert proclaims a Republic in Berlin, and the Kaiser flees to Holland. December 20, 1918: Ebert secures approval by the Congress of Workers’ & Soldiers’ Councils for the speedy election of a National Assembly. January 5-15, 1919: Spartacist uprising in Berlin leads to the murder of Luxemburg & Liebknecht by the Free Corps. February 6, 1919: National Assembly convenes in Weimar.

2 The German Empire of 1871-1918: Prussia included 2/3 of the population & 3/5 of the land
The Kingdom of Prussia absorbed the entire Kingdom of Hanover, the duchies of Schleswig-Holstein, 2/5 of Saxony, and a large portion of Hessen. When Germany was unified under a federal constitution in 1871, Prussia comprised 3/5 of all German territory, with 2/3 of the German population.

3 Population of the German Empire: 64% Protestant, 32% Catholic, 1% Jewish
Geographical Distribution of Protestants and Catholics (1890) This map shows why Catholics in the German Empire felt marginalized – figuratively and literally. Areas in which Catholics constituted a high proportion of the population included most of Bavaria, the Rhineland, and the provinces (Alsace, Lorraine) taken from France in In the east, a more heterogeneous mix of confessions reflected the interpenetration of ethnic Germans and Poles. Because Catholics were most prevalent in these “borderlands,” it was all the easier for Bismarck and German liberals to stigmatize them as “enemies of the Empire” [Reichsfeinde] SOURCE:

4 Constitution of 1871 The constitution of the German Empire, promulgated in April 1871.

Most states and cities retained a three-class suffrage law that weighted votes according to taxation. States’ rights were safeguarded, and the Reichstag could not impose direct taxes on income or property. Cabinets were not “responsible” to parliament and served entirely at the pleasure of the Kaiser. There was no civilian control of the military. Reichstag election districts were not redrawn after 1871 to reflect migration to cities, so parties with a rural base were over-represented in the Reichstag. In the Reichstag election of 1912, the three parties demanding democratic reform, the SPD, Progressive People’s Party (forerunner of the DDP), and Center Party, won 63% of the popular vote….

6 Total labor force in millions 19.0 28.1 32.0 35.7 26.7
GERMANY’S CLASS PYRAMID: Imperial officials hoped to unite all the propertied behind the throne, but their ranks were thinning. STATUS 1882 1907 1925 1939 1970* Self-employed 28% 20% 17% 13% 10% White-collar 6% 22% 36% Family helper 15% 16% 7% Blue-collar 56% 55% 49% 47% 100% Total labor force in millions 19.0 28.1 32.0 35.7 26.7 Source: Gerd Hardach, “Klassen und Schichten in Deutschland, ,” Geschichte und Gesellschaft, 2 (1977): 510, 518. * Right column refers to Federal Republic only

7 In early November 1918, Prince Max of Baden appealed to Friedrich Ebert of the SPD to become Chancellor, prevent a Communist revolution, and safeguard national unity. Prince Max of Baden. SOURCE: 7

8 Gustav Noske (SPD) addresses revolutionary sailors in Kiel, November 5, 1918
The Social Democrat Gustav Noske addresses German naval mutineers in Kiel, 5 November Most of these sailors are from the submarine crews, which were more willing to continue fighting than the long idle crews of the surface navy. Noske's largely successful efforts to promote consensus among the sailors in favor of revolution but without any “excesses” earned him appointment as the first minister of war of the Weimar Republic. His later collaboration with the leaders of the Free Corps earned him the bitter nickname, “The Bloodhound,” among German Communists. From Keegan, ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR, p. 391.

9 Philipp Scheidemann (SPD) proclaims Germany a Republic from the balcony of the Reichstag on 9 November 1918 Ausrufung der Republik vor dem Reichstagsgebäude durch Philipp Scheidemann Photographie Berlin, 9. November 1918 DHM, Berlin (

10 Revolutionary soldiers and sailors occupy the royal palace in downtown Berlin, November 10, 1918
Revolutionary troops with an armored car take control of the courtyard of the Royal Palace in downtown Berlin, 10 November About 1,000 troops who supported the new "Council of People's Commissars" occupied the palace after the proclamation of the Republic and drove "counter-revolutionary" army officers and army cadets out of neighboring buildings in the heart of Berlin. From Dieter Vorsteher and Maike Steinkamp, eds, THE TWENTIETH CENTURY: PHOTOGRAPHS OF GERMAN HISTORY FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE GERMAN HISTORICAL MUSEUM (Heidelberg: Wachter Verlag, 2004), p. 77. 10

11 Prince Max gave Ebert the Imperial Chancellor’s chain of office, but he soon formed a new “Council of People’s Commissars” in alliance with the USPD Rat der Volksbeauftragten, postcard, Berlin, November 1918 Disappointment and the desire for political change lead to a revolutionary movement even before the signing of the peace agreement. On November 9, 1918, Prince Max von Baden announced the abdication of the German Kaiser Wilhelm II. and put the Social Democrat Friedrich Ebert in charge of government affairs. Considering the revolutionary situation, the "Rat der Volksbeauftragten" (Council of People's Delegates) constituted itself the following day as a caretaker government. It consisted of three members of both the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD) respectively. SOURCE:

12 Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg founded the Spartacus League in 1917 and the German Communist Party in December They embraced Lenin’s slogan, “All power to the Soviets!” Karl Liebknecht's last public speech (Siegesallee, Berlin, January 1919), and photograph of Rosa Luxemburg, both from the German Historical Museum in Berlin. SOURCE:

13 The “Workers’ and Soldiers’ Council” of Guben, November 1918
The “Workers’ and Soldiers’ Council” of Guben, November In Germany most of these “soviets” regarded themselves as temporary, transitional bodies. Der Arbeiter- und Soldatenrat von Guben, November 1918 (Foto)

14 The National Congress of Workers’ and Soldiers Councils, Berlin, December 16-21, Ebert persuaded 75% of the delegates to endorse his program for prompt election of a National Assembly Reichskongreß der Arbeiter- und Soldatenräte. Blick in den Sitzungssaal Photographie Berlin, Dezember 1918 DHM, Berlin;

THE EBERT-GROENER PACT, November 10, 1918: Wilhelm Groener, chief of staff of the Imperial Army, telephoned Friedrich Ebert from Kassel to pledge the support of the officer corps, in exchange for Ebert’s promise “to take up the struggle against radicalism and Bolshevism.” 2. THE STINNES-LEGIEN AGREEMENT, Nov. 15, 1918: Hugo Stinnes and the captains of industry agreed to implement the 8-hour day and collective bargaining in exchange for a pledge by Carl Legien and trade union leaders to oppose any factory occupations and leave the question of nationalization to a democratically elected National Assembly.

16 Communist insurgents in the newspaper district of Berlin, January 1919
Spartacist troops take up positions in the newspaper district of Berlin, January 1919, shortly before their defeat by the Free Corps. SOURCE: Lothar Gall, Fragen an die deutsche Geschichte. Historische Ausstellung im Treichstagsgebäude in Berlin, Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1974, picture #170.

17 A Free Corps unit sworn to crush the Reds
They caught and killed Luxemburg and Liebknecht on January 15, 1919 The death’s head expresses the freebooters’ mentality of Free Corps soldiers, many of whom were more loyal to their individual commander than to country or a political cause. SOURCE: Susanne Everett, Lost Berlin (New York: Gallery Books, 1979), p. 31. Some Free Corps soldiers used the swastika as a symbol of Aryan racial purity; many later joined the Naxis

18 George Grosz, “Ebert” (1934)
Georg Grosz, "Ebert" (ink drawing, 1934), Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University. A wicked caricature of the first President of the Weimar Republic, who still keeps a portrait of Karl Kautsky on his wall but has obviously been seduced by fine living. From Peter Gay, _Weimar Culture_ (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), p. 15.

19 Munich experienced Communist rule for six weeks in April-May 1919 after the assassination of Kurt Eisner by a royalist officer A Bavarian Heimwehr militia unit that helped to suppress the Munich Soviet Republic Armed members of Munich's "KPD, Section Neuhausen" march during a parade by the "Red Army" under the rule of the "Soviet Republic," 22 April SOURCE: Ian Kershaw, _Hitler, : Hubris_ (New York: W.W. Norton, 1999), plate #9. Armed members of a right-wing "Home Guard" unite march through Munich in Tensions in Bavaria erupted into bloody conflict after the leadership of the Independent Social Democratic Party proclaimed a "Soviet Republic" in Munich on April 7, 1919. SOURCE: [Bildersammlung: Kriege, Krisen & Konflikte. The Yorck Project: Das große dpa-Bildarchiv, S. 71 (c) 2005 The Yorck Project]

20 League for Combating Bolshevism: “BOLSHEVISM BRINGS WAR, UNEMPLOYMENT, AND HUNGER,” January 1919
Julius Ussy Engelhard, "BOLSHEVISM BRINGS WAR, UNEMPLOYMENT, AND HUNGER" (poster for the League for Combatting Bolshevism, January 1919). The Anti-Bolshevik League was founded by intellectuals and combat veterans and received massive funding from German big business. SOURCE: Peter Paret, Beth Irwin Lewis, & Paul Paret, Persuasive Images: Posters of War and Revolution from the Hoover Institution Archives, Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1992, p. 124.

21 “Workers, burghers, farmers, soldiers of every German tribe: Unite in the National Assembly!”
Cesar Klein, "Workers, Burghers, Farmers, Soldiers of All German Tribes: Unite in the National Assembly," lithograph produced for the governmental "Werbedienst der Deutschen Republik," December No other poster expressed so well the yearning for unity, at least among the male population, as German men from all classes and tribes pledge their loyalty to the new German Republic before the rising sun. The committee that issued this placard represented all the parties of the Weimar Coalition. The archaic costumes and raised arms evoke the memory of David's "Oath of the Horatii," from 1784, and the "Oath of the Tennis Court," from SOURCE: Frederich Grunfeld, The Hitler File: A Social History of Germany and the Nazis, , New York: Random House, 1973, p. 39.

22 In February 1919 the National Assembly convened in the Weimar National Theater, behind Goethe & Schiller Zur kommenden Nationalversammlung in Weimar Photographie des Nationaltheaters, in dem die Nationalversammlung tagte Weimar, Januar 1919 DHM, Berlin (

23 “An Appeal for Socialism”
In its election campaign the SPD sometimes employed Expressionist artists to convey its vision that a new age was dawning, but mainly it appealed to women…. Max Pechstein, “An Appeal for Socialism” “Women! Equal Rights, Equal Duties. Vote Social Democratic!” SPD poster by Max Pechstein, Source: Grunfeld, THE HITLER FILE, p. 40. Gottfried Kirchbach, "Women! Equal Rights--Equal Duties: Vote Social Democratic!" This poster was published in Berlin for the election to the National Assembly in January 1919 and illustrates the SPD's initial assumption that it could win women's votes simply by emphasizing the fact that it had been the first political party to support equal rights for women. From POLITISCHE PLAKATE, p. 117.

24 “Building Blocks of the German Democratic Party” (Left Liberal): “Humane housing conditions” “Equal rights for all” “Stronger protection for individual freedom” “Caring for war invalids” “A free Church in a free State” [i.e., separation of church and state] “Access to higher education for the most talented” “League of Nations” Die Bausteine der Deutschen Demokratischen Partei Wahlplakat der DDP zur Wahl der Weimarer Nationalversammlung Entwurf: F. Witte Druck: A. Bargel Düsseldorf, 1919 Lithographie 109,2 x 75 cm DHM, Berlin (

25 The (Catholic) Center Party proved most attractive to women voters in 1919 and was the only party to include a cross section of all social classes "Women and men, if you want to assure the happiness of your family and children, then vote only for the Christian People's Party (Center)," campaign poster, From PERSUASIVE IMAGES, p. 125. Hans Herkendell, "Farmers, Artisans, Merchants, Civil Servants, Workers, Industrialists, Artists and Scholars: Only the Center Party Unites All Occupational Groups and Is therefore the True People's Party," election poster, ca Here the artist has discovered a vivid image to explain the significance of the party name; the Center is the axis to promote harmony among the social classes. Source: POLITISCHE PLAKATE, p. 57.

26 The “National Liberal” DVP: “War Veterans
The “National Liberal” DVP: “War Veterans! Have you spilled your blood so that conditions here would resemble a madhouse? Should today’s terrorism be allowed to destroy everything? Or do you want orderly conditions, as we do?” "War Veterans! Have you spilled your blood so that conditions here would resemble a madhouse? Should today's terrorism be allowed to destroy everything? Or do you want orderly conditions, as we do? Then vote for the German People's Party!" DVP campaign poster, January 1919, designed by Wilhelm Fahrig and produced in Goslar. DHM Berlin (

27 “Who will save Prussia from destruction
“Who will save Prussia from destruction?” The (conservative nationalist) DNVP depicted recent events in apocalyptic terms…. "Who will save Prussia from destruction? The German Nationalist People's Party!" This DNVP campaign poster from January 1919, designed by van Hees, shows the chariot of state being driven by Death (or the Revolution) straight into the swamp of Communism. In the German Historical Museum, Berlin (

28 “The Stab in the Back” (Nazi magazine cover, 1924)
"The Stab in the Back," cover page of the Süddeutschen Monatshefte, Munich, April 1924, in the German Historical Museum of Berlin ( 28

29 The first women elected to a German parliament (Weimar, 1919)
Germany's first women in parliament, at the National Assembly in Weimar, February From FRAGEN AN DIE DEUTSCHE GESCHICHTE, #174.

30 THE ELECTION OUTCOME IN JANUARY 1919 (with a voter turnout rate of 83%)
KPD (Communist Party): boycotted the election USPD (Independent Social Democratic): 7.7% (dissolved in 1922) SPD (Social Democratic): 37.9% DDP (German Democratic): 18.6% Center Party: 19.7% DVP (German People’s Party, National Liberal): 4.4% DNVP (German Nationalist People’s Party): 10.3% On Monday the SPD delegation will cast 4 votes The DDP and Center Party: 2 votes each The DVP: 1 vote. DNVP: 2 votes

31 The impact of the Treaty of Versailles (June 1919)
SOURCE: Martin Kitchen, The Cambridge Illustrated History of Germany, (Cambridge, 1996), p. 234.


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