Between Left and Right: 1919 in Weimar Germany

Dr. Kristin Semmens

Barricades on central city streets. A black helmet emblazoned with a white swastika. A wood cut print depicting mourners at a funeral. The hammer and sickle. These are some of the iconic images of events in early 1919 in Weimar Germany. The November Revolution had deposed the German Kaiser after defeat in the Great War but the new Social Democratic government was still far from secure. In January, the Spartacist Revolt saw German Communists take to the streets in Berlin. In April that year, the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic was proclaimed in Munich. In both cases, units from the German army and the paramilitary Freikorps bloodily put down the uprisings. In the aftermath, Germany’s political left splintered, while radical right wing forces developed relatively unopposed. The consequences for German democracy were fatal.