By Karl Radl
The Bavarian Soviet Republic, which really lasted only from 6th April to 3rd May 1919, is one of those historical events whose importance has been consistently underrated by both popular and academic historians. This is in large part due, as is usually the case in such situations, (1) to other events eclipsing them. In this instance, the Bavarian Soviet Republic is overshadowed by the rise of the NSDAP (2) less than fourteen years after the fall of the Republic.
It is interesting to note that many future senior NSDAP members were participants in the events described below. Its importance as an event which promoted both anti-Communism and anti-Semitism in Munich and its Bavarian hinterland should never be underestimated: (3) The rise of these sentiments was not an irrational response given that a similar government – the Hungarian Soviet Republic – was declared during the short lifetime of the Bavarian Soviet Republic, implemented similar policies (but had more time to carry them out), (4) and was also dominated by Jews. (5)
Viewing it as a ‘tragi-comedy’ bordering on a ‘farce’ as famous Jewish diarist Victor Klemperer did (6) is not only absurd – as it minimizes the many politically-motivated murders that the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic committed during its existence - but dangerous, because it implicitly frames the murder of nationalists by communists as unimportant and unrelated to the killings performed by nationalists in response. Such framing implies that nationalist conduct is savage and irrational, while communist conduct is clinical and rational.
The lead-up to the crisis which provoked the creation of the Bavarian Soviet Republic on 6th April 1919 is, to put it bluntly, weird. On the afternoon of 7th November 1918, Kurt Eisner, a cosmopolitan but not well-liked Jewish journalist and prominent pacifist leader of the Independent Socialist Party of Germany (or USPD in German) from Berlin (7) declared to a crowd of approximately 60,000 people on Munich’s Theresienwiese that the ‘Free State of Bavaria’ had been established. He was immediately joined by most of the soldiers in Munich at the time.
This was in fact a bloodless coup against the ruling Wittelsbach dynasty of Bavaria and King Ludwig III of Bavaria. The king was deeply unpopular, as he was seen as pro-Prussian and a traitor to Bavaria, and he promptly went into exile with his family on 8th November. (8)
Bloodless as the coup was initially, it quickly began to rack up a body count. (9)
Predictably, Eisner’s regime soon got into significant difficulties. It did nothing to address the poor state of the Bavarian economy, couldn’t forge a working coalition between the different parties, and was repeatedly defeated in polls/votes. The regime was made fun of in the press, and somewhat amusingly, Eisner was even physically harassed by opponents in his own cabinet meetings. (10)
On 21st February 1919 Eisner was shot dead. Ironically, he was on his way to make his resignation speech, a fact unknown to his killer: a Jew named Count Arco Valley. (11)
Following Eisner’s funeral, at which the Jewish writer Heinrich Mann (elder brother of Thomas Mann) gave the funeral oration, (12) the Socialist Party of Germany’s (i.e. the SPD not Eisner’s USPD) leader in Bavaria, Johannes Hoffmann, formed a short-lived coalition government on 7th March 1919. This government didn’t have much popular support, couldn’t solve the ongoing economic woes, and had a leadership comprised of individuals who had very different ideas about where the so-called ‘revolution’ should go. (13)
Hoffmann’s and the SPD’s poor performance encouraged Eisner’s more radical USPD to plot an overthrow. This was achieved, in cooperation with the Jewish-run Germany Communist Party (KPD), (14) by the USPD announcing the formation of a Soviet republic on 6th April. This date formally marks the beginning of the Bavarian Soviet Republic. (15)
The key figures in this first and brief phase of the USPD’s rule of Bavaria post-Eisner were Silvio Gesell, Gustav Landauer, Erich Muhsam, and Ernst Toller. (16) Of these four individuals, three were Jews: Landauer, (17) Muhsam, (18) and Toller. (19) The post-Eisner USPD government of the early Bavarian Soviet Republic can thus be reasonably said to have been largely run by Jews. The leading influence of the group was Ernst Toller, an expressionist playwright who had cast himself in the role of the ‘Bavarian Lenin’. (20)
This government had its share of comic interludes. For example, Toller’s non-Jewish friend (and a former inmate of several psychiatric hospitals) Franz Lipp was the People’s Deputy for Foreign Affairs. Lipp promptly declared war on both Switzerland and Wurttemberg for failing to loan him sixty train locomotives, while also writing – in all seriousness – to Lenin to gripe about the fact that Johannes Hoffmann had taken the key to the foreign minister’s personal toilet with him into exile at Bamberg. (21)
Despite this, we need to remember that Toller’s government was one that was meant to be in the spirit of Lenin’s Bolshevik revolution in November 1917 in the former Russian Empire. Had he not ruled for just six days, Toller would have in all likelihood been as vicious and morally atrocious as his fellow communist revolutionary and member of the tribe Bela Kun.
As it turned out, the more competent professional revolutionaries of the KPD took the opportunity provided by the rank incompetence of Hoffmann and Toller to assert their superiority and seize power. (22) The KPD – like the USPD – was run almost entirely by Jews in Bavaria. Eugene Levine was its leader and the head of the Bavarian Soviet Republic until its demise on 3rd May. (23) Levine had been sent by the KPD leadership in Berlin to take control of the party in Bavaria and to facilitate the creation of the new Soviet Republic. (24)
Levine, the son of a Jewish merchant named Julius Levine and his wife Rosa Goldberg, (25) succeeded admirably. On 12th April he and his two principal lieutenants in the Bavarian section of the KPD, Tobias/Victor Axelrod and Max Levien, set about creating a Bolshevik state in Bavaria. (26) Axelrod and Levien, also sent to Munich by the KPD leadership, just so happen to have also been of Jewish origin. (27)
The trio of Axelrod, Levien, and Levine immediately began to implement brutal measures against their enemies, socialist and nationalist alike. (28) They were stopped only by the advance of thousands of former soldiers – the much maligned Freikorps – who volunteered to put down this Bavarian strand of the Leninist attempt to trigger a world socialist revolution.
Levine’s brutal mentality towards the non-Jewish children under his governance is demonstrated by quoting him on the subject: “What does it matter if for a few weeks less milk reaches Munich? Most of it goes to the children of the bourgeoisie. We are not interested in keeping them alive. No harm if they die – they’d only grow into enemies of the proletariat.” (29)
Indeed, Levine was unrepentant in his hatred of the ‘bourgeoisie’ (read: ‘non-Jews’) to the bitter end. (30) Never did a man deserve a death sentence more than Eugen Levine; in contrast to today’s habit of dithering for years on the issue, the sentence was promptly carried out.
Thus, from the foregoing discussion, we cannot help but conclude that like the Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1918 to 1919, the Bavarian Soviet Republic was a singularly Jewish affair.
(1) For example the Coventry IRA bombing of 25th August 1939 was overshadowing by the beginning of the Second World War several days later. For a summary see: Coventry IRA bombing: The ‘forgotten’ attack on a British city - BBC News
(2) Ian Kershaw, 1998, ‘Hitler: Hubris 1889-1936’, 1st Edition, Penguin: New York, p. 120
(3) Jeffrey Gaab, 2011, ‘Hitler’s Beer Hall Politics: A Reassessment based on New Historical Scholarship’, International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, Vol. 1, No. 20, p. 36
(4) Jeffrey Gaab, 2006, ‘Munich: Hofbräuhaus & History: Beer, Culture, & Politics’, 1st Edition, Peter Lang: Oxford, pp. 58-59
(5) Cf. the detailed breakdown of this in my articles: https:// semiticcontroversies.blogspot.com/2016/03/the-jewish-role-in-hungarian-soviet.html;https://semiticcontroversies.blogspot.com/2016/12/jewish-versus-non-jewish-victims-of.html
(7) Allan Mitchell, 1965, ‘Revolution in Bavaria, 1918-1919: The Eisner Regime and the Soviet Republic’, 1st Edition, Princeton University Press: Princeton, p. 59; Chris Harman, 1997, ‘The Lost Revolution: Germany 1918 to 1923’, 2nd Edition, Bookmarks: London, p. 123
(8) Gaab, ‘Munich’, Op. Cit., p. 58 ; https://web.archive.org/web/20131219082340/http://www.atlantic-times.com/archive_detail.php?recordID=1586
(9) Gaab, ‘Munich’, Op. Cit., p. 58
(10) Ibid; Harman, Op. Cit., pp. 125-127
(11) Gaab, ‘Munich’, Op. Cit., p. 58; Harman, Op. Cit., p. 127
(13) Gaab, ‘Munich’, Op. Cit., p. 58
(14) Harman, Op. Cit., pp. 129-130
(16) Gaab, Op. Cit., p. 59
(17) Gustav Landauer — the Man, the Jew and the Anarchist | The Anarchist Library
(19) Harman, Op. Cit., p. 317
(20) Ibid, p. 131
(22) Ibid, pp. 132-133
(23) Stephen Bronner, 2012, ‘Modernism at the Barricades: Aesthetics, Politics, Utopia’, 1st Edition, Columbia University Press: New York, p. 131
(24) Harman, Op. Cit., p. 132
(25) Bronner, Op. Cit., p. 131
(26) Gaab, ‘Hitler’s Beer Hall Politics’, Op. Cit., p. 36; Richard Grunberger, 1973, ‘Red Rising in Bavaria’, 1st Edition, Arthur Barker: London, p. 116
(27) Gaab, ‘Hitler’s Beer Hall Politics’, Op. Cit., p. 36; Gaab, ‘Munich’, Op. Cit., p. 58; Grunberger, Op. Cit., p. 116
(28) Gaab, ‘Munich’, Op. Cit., p. 58; Harman, Op. Cit., pp. 137-138
(29) Grunberger, Op. Cit., pp. 124-125
(30) Harman, Op. Cit., p. 138