Revolution 100 years ago: "Bavaria is henceforth a free state"

On the night of November 8, 1918, left-wing Social Democrat Kurt Eisner abolishes the monarchy in Bavaria – and ensures that the people of Munich hear of the peaceful revolution in the morning.

       By Barbara Galaktionow and Oliver The Gupta



    Seven newspaper lines indicate on the last day of the Wittelsbach monarchy that something unusual is imminent. The note is printed on page 3 of the Munich Latest News of 7 November 1918, just in the column "Hofnachrichten", in addition to reports the "Kriegsverstümmeltenheim lottery" and an alleged earthquake in Munich-Bogenhausen.


    "Our newspaper," announces the editors in bold letters, "Thursday afternoon (…) can not appear." The reason given is the peace demonstration on the Theresienwiese, called to the SPD and unions.


    The evening edition of the SZ predecessor newspaper is probably no longer because journalists, typesetters and printers join the mass protest. More than four years after the start of the First World War, most people in the capital of the Kingdom of Bavaria are longing for immediate peace, including the once-war-torn press.


    Shortly before the overthrow, the king receives the Minister of War


    For the event on the Theresienwiese, the newspaper itself advertised the day before by reprinting an appeal from the Social Democratic Party of Munich. Thereafter, the population of Munich "with the exception of those employed in transport and traffic" on the following day at three o'clock in the afternoon to appear on the Theresienwiese, where the party wants to take "position on the big questions of the day."


    The majority Social Democrats urge the participants to contribute to the "demonstration is worthy of the organized work" and rail against the "waters of the independent and irresponsible" – a swipe at the left SPD spin-off USPD Kurt Eisner. Their more radical followers want the social democrats by the joint rally ground to escape. It happens differently.


    Under the call are – as always – the court and staff news, including the Bavarian King Ludwig III. received his Minister of War the day before. In Kiel, which was shaken by the mutiny of the sailors at the end of October, there is now "peace and order," according to the newspaper, citing Vorwärts – the newspaper of the Social Democrats, which Eisner helped to shape before the war.


    The demonstration on the Theresienwiese becomes a mass event on November 7, 1918, and about 40,000 people gather there. But unlike the SPD has hoped, is from the mass protest, the decisive impulse for immediate overthrow.


    After the peace rally on the Theresienwiese the supporters of the majority SPD march to the angel of peace, "quite chaste and orderly", as writer Oskar Maria Graf later scoffs in his great revolution novel "We are prisoners". There the assembly dissipates. Eisner, on the other hand, breaks with his USPD supporters from the Theresienwiese to the north of the city, where the revolutionaries win the troops stationed there for the revolution.

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In the evening, the Eisner people gather in the ballroom of Mathäser-Bräus, centrally located between Stachus and Hauptbahnhof. There, during the night of 7 to 8 November, a workers', soldiers' and peasants' council is formed under Eisner's chairmanship. The left social democrat does not hesitate: he explains Ludwig III. for dethroned and the monarchy of Bavaria abolished.


    The next task: The population must be informed and won for peaceful overthrow. Eisner, the longtime journalist, makes sure that the message is spread. Important places like the telegraph office, but also the editors of the Münchner Neueste Nachrichten are occupied.


    Curiously enough, the edition of November 8th comes with two front pages: The version prepared by the editors about the "beginning of the ceasefire negotiations" slips on page 2. For in the foreground Eisner places his revolutionary declaration: "To the people of Munich" printed in bold letters. "Bavaria is from now on a free state."

The title page of the "Münchner Neueste Nachrichten" of 8 November 1918
            (Photo: SZ)
    Despite the overthrow, emphasizes Eisner, the "security of the person and the property is guaranteed". One detests "every bloodshed". "Long live the Bavarian Republic!", It says at the end of the early edition.


    In the evening edition, the editors inform their readers that they are under the control of the revolutionaries. "In the interests of maintaining the intelligence service, which is essential to the entire population at this time," the editors continue to conduct their business under the supervision of the Workers, Soldiers, and Peasants Council, they say.


    For "thousands of Munichers a tremendous surprise"


    Also on the events of the previous day the newspaper clarifies now. It had been a tremendous surprise for "thousands of people of Munich" to pick up the morning paper, the newspaper writes. After the rally on the Theresienwiese, "many thousands until the late hours of the night" had traveled the streets, but "countless families" had hurried home and had heard nothing of the events there. Even leading MPs often had no idea of ​​what had happened in the morning.


    Above all, "youthful workers" were "dragged screaming, whistling and roaring through the city at night". The soldiers of the residential guard had just taken the crowd with them. There had been "stormy scenes in almost all barracks" and occasional looting.


    But even those who are not at home often get nothing from the political processes. Oskar Maria Graf, the socialist writer, later describes how he goes to the Franziskanerkeller on the evening of the Revolution – and meets people who are primarily interested in what comes to the table. "There sat wide and uninterested guests with real Munich faces – nothing was crowded here," notes the revolutionist Graf. I could only bring out, "Man! So what!", I was so stunned. (…) 'Wally, to Schweinshaxn!' This seemed to be the only situation here. "


    The Munich Latest News write how the new revolutionary government is endeavoring to maintain normal life. The schools taught, the restaurants are called to open. And also the tram traffic had been resumed after an interruption the previous evening, albeit with a – from today's point of view – startling change: "In order to ensure traffic safety in the streets, the workers and soldiers council has ordered that the wagons only with one Speed ​​of 12 kilometers per hour, the usual speed was 25 kilometers. "

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In the following days, the paper reports on "a certain amount of excitement" which Munich has seized on account of the events. For Eisner's revolution is the decisive impulse for the upheavals in the rest of Germany. The princes are being dethroned throughout the empire. In Berlin, on 9 November, the Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann proclaims the German Republic.


    The news also reaches the Munich newspaper readers with a time lag. The abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II and the takeover of the Reich Chancellor by Friedrich Ebert in Berlin are rumors of "official" facts. A lot is still unclear, writes the newspaper on November 10, one day after the November Revolution in Berlin, but one thing is certain: "We are on the way to the Republic of Germany."


    Considering the chaotic conditions at the end of the war, in November 1918, in the first months of the revolution, the new Free State of Bavaria was actually largely peaceful.


    Only occasionally there are bloody incidents, probably triggered by soldiers who are both euphoric and uninhibited by the war. "The streetcar sergeant Maria Buchinger stepped on Friday in the middle of the balcony of her apartment in the Hefnerstraße to look for a passing train, which was shot at with machine guns," writes the SZ predecessor. "The careless man received three shots in the upper arm and a shot in the chest."


    Eisner proceeds cautiously – and loses the elections


    Eisner is cautious after the takeover, for example, he ensures that radical plans such as the nationalization of banks and companies are not implemented. Nevertheless, he loses with his USPD the first state elections dramatically.


    The Revolutionary Prime Minister Eisner is on his way to his resignation when he was shot by a nobleman on February 21, 1919. The murder is politically and anti-Semitic motivated – Eisner came from a Jewish Berlin family.


    After Eisner's death in the spring of 1919, the Munich Soviet Republic follows, which is brutally crushed by right-wing troops. In the provincial capital established on a völkisch-nationalist climate, in which also thrives the right-wing National Socialist Workers' Party, which is soon taken over by an Austrian.

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