Most of the new recruits had been drafted and never saw combat. They had no respect for army tradition and treated seasoned soldiers like Hitler with contempt. They had been the first to join Eisner's Red revolution and were under "voluntary obedience." Many of them only remained in the barracks to take advantage of the food and shelter. Hitler felt that the "best human material....volunteers" had been "sacrificed" during "four and half years' blood-shedding" while "a society of pimps, thieves, burglars, deserters, duty shirkers, etc....elements of baseness, depravity, and of cowardice....had meanwhile preserved itself in the most wonderful manner." Hitler felt that "this well-preserved scum" had followed the Jews and other Marxists leaders and "made the revolution."* As Schmidt would later comment: "The place was full of laggards and cowards."*
Hitler had other reasons to be disgruntled when he learned of the humiliating armistice terms the new government had agreed to. Since a peace treaty had not been signed, the "conditions" were designed to make sure Germany would be in no position to resume a defense should the peace terms be unacceptable to her. The Germans were forced to turn over nearly all of their operational big guns, airplanes, machine guns, and other heavy ordnance along with 5000 locomotives, 150,000 rail cars and 5000 trucks, all "in good order." The treaty the Germans had signed with Russia was renounced. All Allied and American prisoners of war were to be released "immediately," but German prisoners were to be held till the peace treaty was signed.
The blockade that was starving German civilians by the thousands was also to remain in effect till the treaty was signed. The winter of 1918-19 would consequently be the worst of the war with "widespread starvation, particularly in the large cities."* (A British war correspondent reported from Cologne: "Although I have seen many horrible things in the world, I have seen nothing so pitiful as these rows of babies feverish from want of food, exhausted by privation to the point that their little limbs are like slender wands, their expression hopeless and their faces full of pain."* In Vienna also, one out of four babies died as a result of the blockade. The Germans, and the children growing up during this period, would not forget.)
Hindenburg and the German generals also had the almost impossible task of getting their huge armies out of Austria, the Balkans, France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Alsace-Lorraine, the German Rhineland and three 25 mile deep bridgeheads on the east bank of the Rhine in 31 days.
As the German troops returned from the front, there were no flowers to greet them as when they had departed. Hitler's reception in Munich was mild in comparison to what greeted the soldiers in the more heavily socialist and communist cities in the North.
Where the Reds, including organizers from Russia, were strong, the returning troops were scorned and harassed (by "loafers and deserters for the most part").* In Aachen, Cologne, Essen and other Red strongholds, Socialists and Communists insulted, spit on, or stoned the returning troops. Officers and soldiers were grabbed and held while street thugs and "Red soldiers," who had never been at the front, cut or ripped off their insignias, shoulder bands and medals. In Bremen, soldiers returning home found themselves surrounded by Reds entrenched in machine gun nests on roofs and balconies. The officers and troops were disarmed and if any of them failed to praise the "glorious revolution" they were treated savagely. The Reds also fell upon civilians who appeared in any way to support the old government. Anyone wearing a combination of red, white and black, the colors of the old government, were insulted, spit on or beaten, including children.
Many of the soldiers coming home saw Germany on the brink of chaos with its social structures crumbling. Order and discipline had been the rule when they left, now, nothing but disorder reigned. Russians, who had lost on the battlefield, were now within the leadership ranks of the revolutionaries and in charge of large sections of the country. Everywhere, Soviets and Workers' Councils were in control. Millions of returning soldiers saw the "Red scum" who joined the revolt as traitors who had turned on their country in its hour of need.* Many saw the revolutionaries as the reason for Germany's defeat.
Within a few weeks of returning to the Munich barracks, Hitler, like the rest of the soldiers, was forced to wear the red brassard of the revolutionary army. As Schmidt remembered later: "[Hitler] hadn't much to say about the revolution, but it was plain enough to see how bitter he felt."* At the beginning of December, in an attempt to get away from the "cowards and traitors," Hitler, Schmidt and a few other soldiers volunteered for guard duty at a Russian prisoner-of-war camp near the Austrian border at Traunstein. Although some of the younger draftees also volunteered, they were sent back to Munich when they refused to follow orders. Hitler and his friends were kept on.
Soon after their arrival in the sleepy little town, Hitler and Schmidt were given the duty of guarding the main entrance to the camp. A full twenty-four hours of duty followed twenty-four hours of off-duty. Hitler had ample time to wander about the camp and converse or observe the Russian prisoners who were always looking to beg or barter for extra food. Although German propaganda had portrayed the Russians as cruel and murdering Mongols,* Hitler took a liking to his charges and would later remark: "We knew, during the first World War, a type of Russian combatant who was more good-natured than cruel."*
Hitler kept up with the political situation throughout Germany by reading two or three day old newspapers. He brooded over what he read and wrote a few poems. In one he lamented over Germany's plight while in another he scorned the German people for believing that Marxism, with its ideas of class warfare, held any answers for them.*
In Berlin, Friedrich Ebert, the head of the new German Republic, was also becoming disillusioned about what was occurring in Germany. Ebert was a moderate Social Democrat and the thought of Reds in control of German cities was as unacceptable to him as it was to Hitler and the majority of German citizens. Ebert was the son of a Heidelberg tailor and had been a saddle maker by trade. Raised a Catholic he had a natural tendency to view socialism as a way to bettering conditions for the general population. Marxist ideology, however, and its demand for the total destruction of the established order was foreign to him. He would do his best to undo what was done by the more radical elements. For his Executive Council, the body set up as a control over government, Ebert succeeded in gathering mostly moderate members.
Understanding that the more radical members within his party were now a small minority, Ebert refused to call up the last Reichstag which had been elected in 1912 (before the Independent Socialists split from the Social Democrats). He succeeded in fixing a date of Jan 19, for elections for a National Assembly. With most of the more radical Socialists going over to the Independents and the Communists, Ebert was able to moderate the Social Democratic program to appeal to Germans of a less radical nature. As the leaders of the United States and most of the allied leaders wanted, he was determined to establish an essentially "bourgeois republic" (like the U.S. and France) with a minimum of socialist trappings.
Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, however, had tightened their grip on much of Berlin. They knew they could never win an election and were determined to overthrow the Ebert government, set up a dictatorship of various revolutionary councils, and proclaim a German Soviet Republic in tune with Russia. Karl and Rosa had formed a "Council of Deserters, Stragglers and Furloughed Soldiers" to be used as Red Fighters for their revolution. On Jan 6, 1919, Liebknecht and Rosa openly called for revolution and publicly proclaimed the new name of their organization--The "Revolutionary Communist Workers' Party of Germany."
Angered with Ebert's moderate stand, the independent Socialists had resigned from the government the week before and although they fell short of publicly joining Karl and Rosa, many members participated in the revolt. With their organizations tightly controlled and operated, Workers' and Soldiers' Councils sprang up throughout Germany. Armed soldiers drove around in trucks flying red flags with the hammer and sickle while revolutionary civilians shouldered rifles. Hundreds died as radical Socialists and Communists (Red) fought against their more moderate Socialists (White) counterparts.
In Berlin, Karl and Rosa prepared their putsch. They had over 100,000 supporters and in Spandau fortress alone they had no less than two thousand machine guns and thirty pieces of artillery. At first they carried everything before them and took most of city's government buildings. They also managed to capture the Vorwarts, the newspaper of the Social Democrats, and declared the Ebert government overthrown.
Ebert and his government, along with a few followers and loyal troops, barricaded themselves in the Chancellery. Ebert knew if the Capital fell, other inspired Communists would take all of Germany. He and his minister of defense, Gustav Noske, were determined to save their leftist government from the extreme left. They fled the city and appealed to the army for help.
Rather than see Germany fall to the communists, Hindenburg had earlier gave assurances to Ebert that the army would support the new government, and in return, the army had got assurances that the government would support the Officers Corps. By now, however, the disbanding army was in total disarray and so infiltrated with Reds that few of the detachments available were trustworthy. The only troops the army could provide were the "Free Corps."
The Free Corps were formed from returning army veterans who, like Hitler, opposed the idea of Germany going Red. As the discharged soldiers began coming home in larger numbers, many were angered over the treatment they received from the Reds in the northern cities of Germany. They began joining bands for protection. In a short time the bands grew until they formed a strong opposition to the Reds. Their models were Free Corps troops operating in the Baltic area where Trotsky's new Russian Red Army was attempting to stamp out claims of independence, and in the border areas with the new independent Poland which was attempting to encroach on German territory. Since the armistice restricted the German Army in many areas of the Baltic and Poland, the slack was taken up by the Free Corps who were financed secretly by the army along with landowners, businessmen, and other conservative organizations. Just as the conservative element in Germany saw it as imperative to support the Free Corps on Germany's eastern frontiers, they believed it imperative to support the "young patriots" within Germany.
Led by a Fuhrer, the Free Corps consisted of tough veteran officers and troops. Many of them had fought the greatest and bloodiest battles the world had ever seen. Many had gone off to war in their late teens and early twenties and knew no other way of life. They considered themselves professionals, preferred army life, and after years of battle, took a stern pleasure in being soldiers. Like the "Red Council of Deserters and Stragglers" their ranks were often swelled by citizens who also shared their ideals. The "anarchic weaponry" of the Free Corps, including a wide assortment of rifles with varying cartridge sizes,* left much to be desired; but, unlike their Red counterparts, they were well-disciplined and well led.
By the second week of January, Karl and "Red Rosa," or "Bloody Rosa," as she was now called, had nearly complete control of Berlin. With the support of additional numbers of Berlin workers, their ranks had swelled to 200,000. Confident of their swift and easy victory, they expected little opposition. Their communist revolution seemed about to succeed. They sat back waiting for the rest of Germany to follow in their footsteps.
On the morning of January 10, with little warning, ranks of field-gray attired Free Corps "troops" appeared on the outskirts of Berlin. Led by Noske, 30,000 ex-soldiers, trained in street fighting and supported by a variety of machine guns, howitzers and armored cars, swiftly entered the city. The "Red Army," even with all their weaponry, was no match for the highly disciplined Corps. With rapid and brutal proficiency the Corps easily broke the communist ranks. With the hoard of Reds in full retreat the Free Corps professionally deployed throughout the city. In a matter of days they retook all the key buildings and crushed the Red uprising in a most brutal manner. Cheered on by a population aching for the restoration of peace and order, the Free Corps hunted down many of the leaders and shot or bayoneted many on the spot.
On January 13, Rosa and Karl were captured and turned over to a body of regular troops which had been placed in charge of the city. Rosa, defiant with a forward thrusting chin, denied nothing. Karl, broken by failure and fear, denied everything, even his name. Two days later, after being brutally beaten, both Rosa and Karl were finished off with a bullet to the head. Karl was dumped off at a morgue and Rosa was dumped into a canal.
The Communist/Spartacist revolution in Berlin was over in less than a week. The new Socialist government, shored-up by an alliance with the Army and Free Corps, was in complete control. Because the police could not be counted on to keep Germany from falling to the communists, the rightist Free Corps were given reign to operate throughout northern Germany with the blessing of the infant leftist Republic. A recruiting poster outside of Berlin at Potsdam read:
The Spartacist danger has not yet been removed.
What would your dead comrades think?
Enroll NOW in the
In the election that followed that January, thirty million of the eligible thirty-five million Germans voted (first time for women). The Democrats, supported by the liberal left capitalist class, won almost 19%. The Center, Catholics representing all classes, won 20%. Ebert's Social Democratic Party, city working classes for the most part, won 38%.* The three groups (capitalists, Catholics and workers) formed a coalition and assembled the first parliamentary elected German government.
On the other hand, the "far right" anti-republican parties, including one that wanted to bring back the Kaiser (supported for the most part by peasants and rural laborers) won 15% of the vote. The big surprise to many people however, was the "far left" (represented primarily by the Independent Socialists and supported by workers and so called "intellectuals" and "progressives") which won only 7.6% of the vote.*
The election pointed out to Hitler and the Germans how a small group of vocal, violent, radical leftists had nearly taken control of the country. Because of the voting results (and that new Free Corps and Nationalists units were forming all over Germany) most of the "Red governments" collapsed. Unrest, nevertheless, lay right beneath the surface in many German cities. Communists fought Social Democrats and in many cases, both fought Nationalists and Free Corps. Since Berlin was a hotspot of communist activity the new Government assembled in Weimar, 100 miles away, to draw up the new Republic's constitution and make peace with the Allies and the United States.
With the government and most Free Corps units absent from Berlin, the left rose up again. The Free Corps' victory had taught them nothing and the election the month before meant nothing to them. The Communists were well aware that their counterparts in Russia had been supported by only 5% of the population, yet they had taken control of the country after taking Petrograd and Moscow. What worked in Russia they believed, could surely work in Germany. Lenin and Trotsky were determined that Germany should follow in their steps. Trotsky believed that, unless the victorious Russian revolution was followed with revolutions in other countries, the Communists in Russia would not be able to retain power in the face of a conservative Europe. With Russian insistence, money and agitators, the new revolt in Berlin was soon on the verge of success again.
Reinspired by the Berlin revolt, communists groups throughout Germany rose again. Saxony fell, then Dresden and other major cities came under Red control. Noske, and his 30,000 Free Corps, were ordered back to Berlin. A government order was issued proclaiming that anyone caught resisting was to be shot immediately. The Free Corps entered the city again on March the 5th and repeated their previous action. Fifteen hundred Reds were killed while thousands more were seriously injured. Although Reds were still in control of large parts of Germany, Berlin was back in government control in a week.
In Bavaria, recent state elections had nearly duplicated the results of the National election. Eisner's version of "communism" won him only 2.5% of the vote. By refusing to step aside, by doing almost nothing but talk, and by claiming that Germany was solely responsible for the war, he alienated nearly everyone. By condoning the Allied policy of delaying the return of German war prisoners, he brought on himself the hate of all those waiting for their sons and loved ones--including fellow Jews.
The moderate and conservative press became increasingly violent in its attacks on the "dictatorship" of Eisner. He and his fellow "utopians" were classified as "strangers, carpetbaggers, Jews." The battle cry of the press became "Bavaria for the Bavarians!" The Frankischer Kurier went so far as to print arguments justifying the act of killing a tyrant.* As with Rosa and Karl, political murder was seen as an acceptable political tool in dealing with the opposition.
On February 21, 1919 Eisner was gunned down by army lieutenant, Count Anton von Arco-Valley who, like Hitler, was an Austrian who had adopted Germany as his home. Arco-Valley was one of those decorated and wounded soldiers who returned from the front and was attacked by Reds in the street. Although his mother was Jewish, his killing of Eisner made him a champion to almost all Bavarians. Students at the University publicly proclaimed him a hero.
Eisner on the other hand, was made a martyr and glorified by his followers who were still in control of Bavaria. On orders of the Workers' and Soldiers' Council, Christian church bells throughout Munich tolled his passing and official mourning was proclaimed throughout Bavaria. The University was shut down. Prominent citizens were arrested and held as hostages. Banks, public buildings, and the best hotels were occupied by Red troops and armed workers. Leftists broke into conservative newspapers, hauled hundreds of bales of paper into the street, set them on fire and "danced wildly amidst the flames."* Reds, on trucks with mounted machine guns, roamed the streets looking for vengeance.*
In the midst of this turmoil, on March 7, Hitler and Schmidt returned to Munich.* The prisoner of war camp where they were serving was emptied at the end of January 1919 and it took a couple months to shut it down. Soon after checking in at the Munich barracks of the 2nd Infantry Regiment, they were assigned to sorting mountains of old army equipment. One of their jobs was to examine old gas masks. They had to unscrew the mouth pieces, determine whether they were operational, and tag them.* Schmidt became bored with army life, got discharged, and resumed his life as a house painter. Over the next few months he occasionally met Hitler and they visited the local cafes in the center of town or attended the opera on Max-Joseph Platz--which continued to carry on in such circumstances.
With the war over, Hitler believed that his days in the army were also numbered. Schmidt, as well as other comrades, were convinced that Hitler had artistic talent and urged him to continue painting. Hitler now made a further attempt to realize his youthful ambitions of becoming an artist. He resumed his painting in his spare time and his old army buddy, Hans Mend, sold the pictures for him.* Hitler also made contact with a successful local artist and asked for an opinion on his work. Despite getting a very favorable judgment he could not be persuaded to leave the army.*
In keeping with the new revolutionary era, troop pay had dramatically increased and Hitler was now being paid three Marks a day. Since the army provided lodging and food, Hitler had enough money, by purchasing the cheapest seats, to attend the opera nearly every night. When Schmidt came along, he observed that Hitler wasn't aware of anything but the music.*
As for the political situation in the barracks, it had moderated because of the return of large numbers of front-line soldiers and the flight of the more leftist soldiers to the Red cause. Outside the barracks, however, Hitler felt that conditions were still moving "towards a further continuation of the Revolution."*
Two weeks after Hitler returned to Munich, word arrived that the Hungarian government had been taken over by left wing Socialists and Communists that were supported and financed by Russia. The group was led by a Jew named Bela Kun who set up a Soviet-style dictatorship with 25 of his 32 commissars also being Jews. Using terror to subdue the population, Kun** called for all the states of Europe to join in the rebellion. The London Times called him and his gang the "Jewish Mafia."*
Bela Kun's success rejuvenated the far left and inspired the Reds throughout Germany as never before. Surely what Kun had done in Hungary, they believed, could be done in Germany. Although Red revolts broke out all over north Germany, what occurred in Bavaria would not only turn millions of Bavarians against the Reds but against the Jews. "Eisner's death," as Hitler saw it and would later write, "only hastened developments and led finally to the Soviet dictatorship, or to put it more correctly, to a passing rule of Jews, as had been the original aim of the instigators of the whole revolution."*
The government Eisner left behind was temporarily taken over by the moderate Socialists who received 32% of the vote in the recent election. The new government however, had no Free Corps troops to shore it up and within three weeks it fell into the hands of a group dominated by two Jewish Independent Socialists*-- the "Toller-Landauer regime."*
Ernst Toller, a twenty-six year old dramatist, sat at the head of government, but Gustav Landauer, a theater critic and anarchist, wielded the most power. Landauer was determined to follow the Russian example and decided to "conform to the will of the masses" ( 2.5% of the population) by proclaiming a "Bavarian Soviet Republic."
The first proclamation of the new government, was to state that "the dictatorship of the proletariat has become a reality," a red army would be organized, the press would be socialized, and a revolutionary court would "ruthlessly" deal with all who opposed them.* The University was permitted to reopen but it was to be run by a Soviet of Students (and there would be no more examinations or awarding of degrees). Because the new government believed that all written history reflected the views of the upper classes, traditional history courses were forbidden until they decided on the right teaching. All church connections with government were discontinued, but when the new "Bavarian Soviet Republic" was proclaimed, Christian church bells were ordered to toll the great event. The new Foreign Affairs Deputy, who had been confined to more than one insane asylum in the past, became unhinged again and promptly declared war on Switzerland "because these dogs refuse to lend me sixty locomotives."* The new government then wired their cohorts in Hungary and assured them that "Germany will soon follow in your footsteps." They also wired Moscow to inform them of the political situation.
Lenin and Trotsky had already poured millions of marks into Bavaria to turn it into a communist satellite. Lenin, who wanted to know how his new Soviet Republic was doing, responded himself. A week later, Eugen Levine, a Russian Jew--who had been sent to Bavaria by the new head of the Communist Party of Germany, Paul Levi--took charge. The Communist Party was now in charge of Bavaria.*
Levine was a hard-core Marxist who like Lenin and Trotsky saw socialism as a joke. Almost every one of his top deputies were affiliated with Moscow to one degree or another, and only one was a Bavarian.* Their ultimate aim was the complete destruction of established society. One of their first acts, ordered by Levine's right hand man, Max Levien (another Russian Jew* who called himself a "German Lutheran"*) was to shut down the Munich cathedral (Frauenkirche) and transform it into a revolutionary temple--"presided over by a woman dressed as the Goddess of Reason."* They also shut down all schools until they decided what should be taught. A second "genuine" Bavarian Soviet Republic was proclaimed and they called for all of Bavaria to join them and their "Russian and Hungarian proletariat brothers."
Since the Levine regime "rejected" all aspects of "bourgeois society," they rejected any links with the regular army and never established any authority over the troops garrisoned about the city. Instead, they began forming their own Red (Workers) Army. Volunteers were offered eight times the amount paid to the regular army troops.*
Thousands of factory workers, the unemployed, and deserters flocked into the Red ranks to enjoy the easy life in the new Red Army barracks. There, food and shelter were assured and long duty-free hours were often enlivened with free liquor and free prostitutes.* Convicts were set lose from the prisons and 52 remaining Russian prisoners of war, from a nearby camp at Puchheim, were released to form a special unit.* The Bavarian Red Army soon numbered 20,000 volunteers. A "class struggle" was proclaimed and all enemies of the new regime were threatened with death.
Levine introduced a program of ruthless nationalization and expropriation to pay for his "social programs" and "army." Sweeping decrees were passed to allow for the confiscation of private and corporate property. Armed patrols fanned out through Munich looting and plundering to fill the coffers of the new government. Grim workmen and thugs, with red arm bands and rifles, stood on every street corner while truckloads of armed rabble drove up and down the streets flying red flags to show who was in charge. Anyone possessing so much as a fruit cart or shabby store front was considered an enemy. Any home that looked above the proletarian (wage earner) type was broken into at will. A state of panic gripped the upper, middle and lesser middle classes along with nearly everyone else not associated with the new government. People cowered in their homes behind barricaded doors. At night the dark city became silent.* The stillness was broken occasionally by Red Army trucks roaring up and down the streets with "trigger-happy communist militia" firing at shadows.*
The Socialists (Whites) in Bavaria were finally moved to act. They called all Bavarian citizens to arms and began assembling troops and volunteers at Nuremberg to overthrow the "Levine dictatorship." (Rumors have persisted that there was a time when Hitler considered joining the "Socialist" cause. If the rumor has any validity, this must surely have been the time.)
Civil war in Bavaria began in mid-April as a hastily assembled force of 9000 "White Guards of capitalism," as the Reds called them, left Nuremberg and moved on Munich. They were met at Dachau, ten miles north of Munich, and were solidly defeated by Levine's Red Army which was under the command of Ernst Toller. The Red victory at Dachau had a profound effect on Hitler and he would never forget that a Jew sat at the head of government while another Jew led the victorious forces. (Nuremberg would later become the gathering point of Hitler's Party. Dachau, would become the site of the first concentration camp.)
Hitler's hate for Reds and Jews was reaching new heights and while sorting through the pile of gas masks he began "wondering whether there was a dark Jewish plot to seize power all over the world."* Hitler sat out the period of "Soviet" rule in complete obscurity, but it was now that "his resolve to become a politician and somehow shatter a system he loathed was hardened."* "At this time," Hitler would later write, "plans chased themselves through my head, one after the other. For days I pondered what could be done, if anything at all. But at the end of every deliberation came the sobering thought that I, in my utter obscurity had not even the slightest basis for any practical action."*
Throughout Germany many had become appalled by what was taking place in Berlin and other north German cities. In Bavaria however, an entire state seemed to be "swept by turmoil that no longer was merely revolutionary but was carrying disorder to the point of madness."* With Russian Communists in command, proclamations of Soviet Republics, and a Red Army victory, something, even the Social Democrats believed, had to be done before the whole of Germany fell to a small group of radicals. When the ousted and defeated Social Democrats of Bavaria, who were seen as the only legitimate government, finally appealed to north Germany for help, their request fell on receptive ears. "The Munich insane asylum," stated Noske, "must be put in order."*
Moderate and right wing Socialists, nationalists and Free Corps were called upon to assemble in the state of Thuringia at Ohrdruf 400 miles north of Munich. The assembling force, along with trustworthy regular army detachments, was placed under the command of a Prussian major general. The tactical plan for the move south and the conquest of Munich was promptly concluded. When the ranks of the Free Corps neared 20,000, the force headed for Munich. Along the way no one opposed them and they picked up additional numbers of anti-left volunteers, including some newly formed Bavarian Free Corps. (One of the volunteers was Fritz Braun, father of (at the time) seven year old Eva Braun.)
As the Free Corps neared Munich, a state of alarm seized the Levine government and they began issuing orders of such lunacy that Toller himself resigned. Chaos reigned among the remaining Red commanders and most of them cursed Levine for bringing them to this point in the name of class warfare.* Levine, undeterred, instituted a Red terror program.* Hundreds of middle and upper-class Bavarians--"enemies of the new Soviet"--were rounded up and held as hostages.
Dachau fell to the Free Corps after a disorganized and disorderly resistance by the "Red Army." Since it was reported that the Reds shot forty hostages* during their retreat from Dachau, the Free Corps detachments were more brutal then normal. They showed no mercy to their captives and many were shot out of hand. Scores of citizens, some completely innocent, were shot simply because they were thought to favor the Red cause. By the end of April the Free Corps had Munich surrounded.
The Red Army in Munich was urged to prepare for "a battle to the death." In the face of defeat, it began to melt away. Panic sized the Levine regime and they began looking for support. Red Workers and Soldiers committees were dispatched throughout the city in hopes of getting anyone to join them. In desperation, and counter to all their ideals, they even implored the detested troops of the regular army to turn out for a last ditch battle. Their appeals fell on deaf ears. There was virtually no response from the regular troops.
At Hitler's barracks (as in a few others) the soldiers were called together to vote on the appeal. There was a loud debate between those who favored joining the Reds and those who wished to remain neutral. Hitler, who had turned thirty a week before, had recently been "elected" as one of the barrack's representatives. Surprisingly, he had little to say. The debate went on for some time. Finally, Hitler, wearing his Iron Cross First Class (in defiance of the Red cause),* climbed on a chair and shouted: "Those who say we should remain neutral are right. After all, we're no pack of Revolutionary Guards for a gang of vagrant Jews."* The soldiers were persuaded and the barracks remained neutral.*
With all avenues of escape cut, the Levine regime, in a last bit of vengeance, ordered the murder of their hostages. Red sailors, who had joined their leaders in Munich, went about fulfilling their orders. In one school building, Luitpold High, there were a number of hostages from rightist elements, including some from the upper class and some captured Free Corps soldiers. Two by two, the hostages were taken out. Some were placed up against a wall in the courtyard and shot. Others were "killed by having their heads smashed in with rifle butts."* Levine's men succeeded in killing ten at Luitpold High before they were stopped by Ernst Toller. Among the victims were three Free Corps men and a young and pretty Countess, Heila von Westarp, who was a secretary for the Thule Society--a volkisch anti-Semitic group whose symbol was the swastika.*
Angered by Toller's actions, "someone of higher authority" ordered the killings to resume. Munich school boys however, sneaked through the Red lines and informed the Free Corps about the killings. Although not completely in position, the Free Corps launched their attack on the first of May. Over 20,000 men stormed the city as Rightist sympathizers within the city engaged the Red units in guerrilla skirmishes. The communists outer ranks were quickly overrun. Parts of the city came under artillery fire. In the Schwabing area, Hitler's old stomping grounds, there was vicious fighting. Flame throwers were used in house to house fighting. The Free Corps soldiers were in a state of fury because Russians, who had been defeated on the battlefields of Russia, were now operating in Bavaria. The unit of Russian war prisoners were rounded up and slaughtered in a stone quarry. The Bavarian Soviet Republic was doomed. The next day the city was secured and the Munich Revolutionary temple became the Munich Cathedral again. Cheered on by relieved citizens, one brigade of Free Corps, wearing swastika designs on their helmets and armbands, goose-stepped through the city.
The Free Corps, along with vengeful Munich citizens, hunted down and murdered hundreds of "suspected" Red leaders or resisters. Lucky ones were shot. In retaliation for the murders of the hostages (especially the Free Corps men) Landauer and most of the other members of the "Soviet" government were beaten to death. Levine was captured, tried and shot even though the government in Berlin attempted to save him. Toller was captured but because of his actions in stopping the "Soviet executions," he was sentenced to five years in prison. (Toller would later depart for the United States. He committed suicide in 1939 while living in New York city.) Within a week it was all over.
When the Free Corps were fighting their way into Munich, they had been greeted by gun shots from the barracks where Hitler was quartered. Only a few shots had been fired by a few Red sympathizers who hoped to draw the barracks into the fray, but the anger of the Free Corps troops had been aroused. The "neutrality" of the regular army detachments in Munich during the political crises did not fare well with the Free Corps and they distrusted the Munich garrison. The short tempered troops stormed the building. Everyone in it, including Hitler, was arrested and marched through the streets, hands above their heads, and imprisoned at a local high school.
The officers of Hitler's regiment, who were forced to flee Munich during the Soviet period, returned with the Free Corps and were soon in control of the city. An investigation was started to determine who had sided with the Reds. When they began to investigate the incident that occurred at Hitler's barracks, some officers recognized Hitler, testified to his character and war record, and ordered his release.* Hitler, nevertheless, was worried. Investigators were beginning to ask why the soldiers in the regular army, who claimed to be loyal to the rightist cause, did not join the guerrilla skirmishes within the city, or earlier flee Munich and join the rightist forces. "A few days after the liberation of Munich," Hitler would later write, "I was ordered to appear before the Inquiry Commission."* Hitler's unwavering hostility to Marxism and his cooperation with the Commission soon placed him above reproach.
Many of the leaders of the revolution had been imprisoned at one time or another for their political activities. Hitler, consequently, felt the revolution had little to do with equality or freedom and was nothing but "a vast riot” led by “thugs, tramps and typified by lootings and extortions."* His account, consequently, to the commission about officers and troops sympathetic or supporting the Red cause was "mercilessly exact."* Hitler's cooperation during the investigations caught the attention of his superiors. He subsequently joined the investigating commission and appeared repeatedly as a witness against the accused.
"On one occasion," Hitler would later say, “I was called as a witness in a case against an army deserter--a first class swine named Sauper. The [lawyer] rose and asked me a few questions, to which, like a silly fool, I answered quite frankly....I told him in unmistakable terms what I thought of the swine. The [lawyer] smiled. ‘I object to this witness on the score of personal prejudice,’ he declared solemnly. The objection was upheld and the filthy Sauper got off scot-free. When the case ended, an officer who was in the public gallery came up to me with outstretched hand. 'For God's sake, let's get out of here!' he cried."*
The officer had reason to worry about Hitler. The Reds had been driven from the streets but there was still a teeming underground opposition. Those like Hitler, who had the courage to testify against the Reds, were often badly beaten or died mysteriously. Schmidt, who met Hitler shortly after he began giving testimony, stated that Hitler looked haggard and nervous.* Hitler nevertheless, continued to give testimony until it came to the point where he lost nearly all faith in the legal system and would later state: "I had no idea that a [lawyer] is a private individual who makes his living by defending scoundrels."* He felt that lawyers were "irresponsible and useless" in obtaining justice, and that they shared a "kinship" with criminals because of their mutual need for one another.*
Hitler, nevertheless, continued to supply information and give additional testimony. He also supplied information on the whereabouts of soldiers and officers who had taken part in the soviet regime. As many as ten Reds were executed because of the information Hitler supplied.* As one admiring officer, A.V. von Koerber, would state: "After joining the investigating commission, [Hitler] produced indictments which threw a merciless light on the unspeakably depraved military betrayals perpetrated by the Jewish dictatorship at the time of the Munich Soviets."* As Hitler would later write: "This was my first more or less purely political activity."*
"A few weeks later," Hitler would write, "I was given orders to take part in a 'course' which was being held for members of the army."*
The "course" lasted for about two months and was conducted by General staff Officers who attempted to instill within the students a political philosophy favored by the Right. Socialist and Communist agitators had been spreading their gospel ceaselessly and the army was infected with it. The program came under a branch of the army known as the Information Section (also known as Press and Propaganda, or Educational Section)* and was meant to counteract the Red propaganda.
Hitler and his fellow students were also obliged to attend lectures and studies, held during June and July, at the University of Munich on Ludwig Strasse. The classes were conducted by professors, doctors, writers, journalists, and bureaucrats. The studies were meant to give the students a foundation on which to build their political views. Some of the courses Hitler attended included:
All of the lectures and studies combined were meant to train students in political instruction and propaganda, and "were intended for specially picked officers and men"* who would be trained as "reliable soldier-speakers."*
Because the majority of the troops the students would be speaking to were of the "less educated," without University induced "sophistication and depth," the students were taught to deliver their talks in an easily comprehendible form which could be understood by everyone. They were taught to appeal to nationalistic and patriotic feelings held by the majority of Germans. Hitler was being trained to fashion clear and inventive dialogues, dialogues which liberate what is already in most people's minds.
Shortly after the classes began, one of Hitler's lecturers, Professor Karl Alexander von Muller, would be the first to notice Hitler among the crowd. Von Muller later described his first impression of Hitler:
At the next class, Captain Karl Mayr, the General Staff officer in charge of the soldier-speaker program, was present. The Professor asked Captain Mayr if he was aware that he had among his students "a natural-born speaker." The Captain asked who the person was, and the professor pointed to Hitler.
"That's Hitler from the List Regiment," the Captain said and called out, "You Hitler, come up here."
The Professor remembered that Hitler, still ill at ease among superiors, approached the Captain "awkwardly, with a kind of defiant embarrassment."* Nothing came of the talk between Mayr and Hitler immediately, but Hitler was beginning to attract attention.
During the last days of June, Hitler sat in class listening to von Muller's version of history in which the German's were exalted as a "master race." Because Hitler had been exposed to such teaching in Austrian schools, and since Europe was alive with nationalistic fervor, he took offense when after von Muller's speech, a student delivered a speech protesting the professor's negative version of the Jews. Hitler, therefore, entered his name "as wishing to take part in the discussion,"* and when he got his turn to speak, he defended the professor's opinion with such passion that he held his audience and swayed it. This was Hitler's first and self admitted "anti-Semitic" speech, and as he would later write: "The overwhelming majority of the students present took my standpoint."*
Because of the large part the Jews had played in the Bavarian Soviet regimes, and their high profile in top leadership roles of the Socialists and Communists parties, it is not surprising that Hitler was able to sway his listeners. "Once the Soviets had been overthrown, 'saviours of the Fatherland' appeared all over Germany, rallying to the standards of antisemitism [sic] and anti-Bolshevism."*
By the time Hitler made his first public "anti-Semitic" speech, nationalist, conservative and moderate newspapers were flooded with stories that the Communist (Bolshevik) Party in Russia had fomented the revolution in Germany. The top leadership of the Bolshevik party was reported to be made up almost entirely of Jews. The Times on March 29, 1919, reported that of the "leaders who provide the central machinery of the Bolshevist movement, not less than 75 per cent are Jews." Winston Churchill would shortly call for action against Lenin, Trotsky (Lev Davidovich Bronstein), "and the sinister gang of Jewish anarchists around them."* Such reports caused many Germans to believe that a dark sinister Jewish plan was afoot.
What also bolstered Hitler's stance was that the gruesome details of the "hostage murders of Munich" had been well publicized as early as April. Anti-Jewish sentiment, fired by moderate and conservative papers, swept Bavaria. The incident provided fuel for a fierce anti-Jewish campaign which "now was assured a sympathetic hearing by the people of Munich....against the deposed 'racially alien government.'"* Leaflets were distributed by newly organized propaganda centers of the Right, which depicted the unpopular short-lived Soviet "revolutionary government as a pogrom against the German people staged by Jews."* "Angered and embittered citizens were now willing to ascribe all evils to the Hebrew race."* The anti-Semitism that was always there, "particularly among the German Bourgeoisie,"* now came pouring out. Hitler simply climbed on the bandwagon, and echoed the popular sentiment.
Footnotes: (One asterisk is for a footnote, two asterisks are for additional information.)