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  • Print publication year: 2018
  • Online publication date: August 2018

22 - The Terror of Truth: Forging the Republic, Combatting Reaction (1918)


DURING THE NIGHT OF 7/8 November 1918 the Bavarian ancien régime desperately sought to perpetuate itself. Interior Minister Brettreich summoned Erhard Auer for consultation as to how the revolutionary uprising might be quelled. Meeting with Brettreich past midnight, Auer and the trade-union secretary Gustav Schiefer assured him that the workers of Munich would establish order. Although Workers’ and Soldiers’ Council forces had seized the telephone exchange, General von Hellingrath was able to reach the garrison commander at Landsberg and request reinforcements. Bavarian infantry and Prussian reserve units were dispatched by train to Pasing on Munich's outskirts. At dawn Lieutenant Königsberger, whom Herzog dubbed “the savior from Schleißheim,” had his men take up positions in defense of the Landtag, now Eisner's command center. Accompanied by three of his staff officers, Hellingrath personally met his presumed loyalist reinforcements at Pasing, but the reserves were soon persuaded to join the Revolution by a carload of men dispatched by Eisner once he learned of Hellingrath's plan.

After a night of celebration with his friend Anthony van Hoboken, Oskar Maria Graf tottered through Schwabing's empty streets, bawling his approval of the sea change. By midmorning a notice, printed black on a red background, was placarded on walls and advertisement columns across Bavaria: “In order to rebuild after years of destruction, the people have seized the power of the civil and military authorities and taken control of the government. The Bavarian Republic is hereby proclaimed. The supreme authority is the popularly elected Workers’, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Council (Arbeiter-, Soldaten- und Bauernrat, or ASB), provisionally empowered until a definitive representative body is constituted. It has legislative power. The entire garrison has placed itself at the Republican Government's disposal. Military and police headquarters are under our command. The Wittelsbach dynasty is deposed. Long live the Republic!”

The morning edition of the Münchner Neueste Nachrichten led with the revolutionary proclamation addressed to the citizenry by Kurt Eisner as Council chair. “The terrible fate visited upon the German people has led to an elemental movement of Munich's workers and soldiers. A provisional Workers’, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Council was formed in the Landtag the night of 8 November.