Elections on the brink of a civil war

Spartacists, Berlin 1919
Spartacists, Berlin 1919

[Germany, 1919] On January 19, 1919, the elections for the National Assembly were held. For the first time ever, women could vote. Also the Bergmann ladies were eager to to so.

The center-left “Weimar Coalition”

The SPD emerged as the strongest faction, but missed the majority they had hoped for. So they had to built built a coalition with the Center Party / Bavarian People’s Party and the German Democratic Party, the so-called “Weimar Coalition” of 1919. In the opposition where the Independent Social Democrats and the Communists, the moderate-conservative DVP and the right-wing DNVP.

In the evening Kathi met Max. He was disappointed at the Independents’ poor results, but not surprised. “We are a young party,” he said, “still unorganized, and for many, perhaps, it is not clear what the Independents stand for. Different people say different things. Maybe it’s easier to be an extremist and say extremist things, but not take over any responsibility, but that’s not what our people want us to do. They want the republicans to work together to make our young republic strong, rather than leave it to the communists on one side and the Kaiser’s militarists and state scoundrals on the other. Haase is an idealist, during the uprising he has struggled to mediate between Ebert and the extreme left, but in vain.

Germany is not in peace

“Do you think our country is in peace now?” Kathi asked, “after all, many people went to vote, 83%, that’s a lot for our young republic.” Max was silent for a while, then he said thoughtfully, “I hope so for all of us, Haase still hopes to reconcile and cooperate with the Majority Social Democrats in a parliamentarian democracy. Yet, I don’t believe so. It’s only a few days since Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were murdered by Free Corps men, and as it seems, Minister Noske was informed about it and did not stop them.”

“These Free Corps,” Kathi asked, “what kind of people are they?” Max hesitated a little. “The war has changed all of us a lot,” he said slowly, “we have to be careful with what we say about others. The Free Corps are paramilitary groups of disillusioned wartime soldiers, disconnected from civilian life, uprooted men who know only war and may seek stability within a military structure. But they are more than 400,000 men strong, heavily armed and extremely violent, they believe that the front has been betrayed by their countrymen, those who instigated strikes in the armament industry. So they loath them all, they want some form of revenge on those they considered responsible for the armistice. They were raised as right-wing paramilitary militias to fight against the republic, financed by big business. A lot of murders and illegal executions are on them, with Noske’s approval I assume. I am sure that most of the generals cannot wait for the day when the republic will be history. And they fight with the brutality they bring from the front, even against civilians. No mercy, no quarter.”

More fighting

Max was to be proven right. When again armed fighting brought out in Berlin in March, Noske ordered the Free Corps to shoot every man with a gun in his hand on sight. Some 1,200 people were killed in these days, among them many unarmed and innocent bystanders. The KPD leader Leo Jogiches, Rosa Luxemburg’s love, was shot in the back after his arrest. In Munich, Prime Minister Kurt Eisner of the Independents was assassinated.
After the bloody January uprising in Berlin and the murders of Rosa Luxemburg Liebknecht, political enmity had become hatred. In Berlin, Saxony, the Rhineland and the Ruhr area general strikes and heavy fighting made the first years of the Weimar Republic almost civil-war-like.

The leaders of the Majority Social Democratic leaders had given orders to fire at their own followers. Political enmity became hatred. The Left would never join forces again, not even later to stop Hitler.

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