Bremen Soviet Republic

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Proclamation of the takeover of power by the Workers 'and Soldiers' Council on November 15, 1918 at Bremen City Hall

The Bremen Soviet Republic was proclaimed in the course of the November Revolution on January 10, 1919 and on February 4, 1919 in Bremen and on 8/9. February 1919 in Bremerhaven bloodily depressed. It was preceded by the assumption of power by a workers 'and soldiers' council on November 6, 1918. Alongside the Munich council , the Bremen council republic was the best known of its kind during the German revolution.


Invitation to found the USPD in Gotha in 1917

The Bremen SPD had already split into three groups during the First World War . These groups later determined the history of the Soviet Republic in their own way.

The SPD Bremen had already represented a majority of left-wing positions within the Social Democratic Party in the pre-war period and was the only one in the entire Reich to have a left-wing majority. The party left, which had a majority in Bremen, was organized around Johann Knief and stood in sharp contrast to the Social Democrats, which had a majority in the Reich, and the SPD leadership. The SPD party newspaper " Bremer Bürger-Zeitung " employed editors such as Karl Radek and Anton Pannekoek and represented Marxist positions - in particular in the internal revisionism dispute , it was in opposition to the realpolitik that was prevalent throughout the Reich . The party left held the predominant position in Bremen during the course of the First World War. The SPD members in Bremen who supported the policy of the Reich government finally had to found their own local association in 1916. These Social Democrats were later referred to as Majority Social Democrats or Majority Socialists ( MSPD ) because of their stronger position at the Reich level. The local majority socialist association was finally able to take over the Bremer Bürger-Zeitung through legal action . The USPD was founded in 1917 . Now those who joined the USPD also left. There were thus three groups in Bremen, all of which invoked socialism.

Already during the First World War it was in Bremen, as well as throughout the kingdom to demonstrations and strikes have come against the war and the problems associated with it worsened living conditions. After Karl Liebknecht was convicted for his public appearance against the war, workers demonstrated in Bremen at the end of June 1916. They also called for the end of the war. In July 1916, the workers at Großwerft AG Weser went on strike . On March 31, 1917, after the so-called turnip winter in Bremen, there was a strike because of the food shortage. At the end of January 1918, as part of the nationwide January strike, workers at AG Weser, the Atlas plants and the Hansa-Lloyd plants went on strike. At the end of the First World War, the supply situation for the civilian population in Bremen had deteriorated rapidly. In addition, there were tensions over the imminent and clearly emerging military collapse.

In Kiel , for similar reasons, the Kiel sailors' uprising took place on November 3, 1918 , and a workers' and soldiers' council was founded there on November 4.


Five groups played an important role in the short history of the Bremen Soviet Republic. The three originally social democratic groups, each with different positions, the bourgeoisie and the soldiers, were worth mentioning.

Left radicals or communists

The group of left-wing radicals in Bremen consisted of the original SPD local council. This group around Johann Knief and the journal Arbeiterpolitik was in some respects the most radical group. On November 23, 1918, at a member assembly, they decided to rename themselves International Communists of Germany . It was about the formation of the first communist party in Germany. On December 31, 1918, the International Communists merged with the Spartakusbund to form the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). The communists had particular support from the 7,000 workers of the AG Weser. There was Wilhelm Deisen one of the leading activists. The support on the AG Weser was due to the too hesitant attitude of the union and SPD functionaries during the shipyard workers' strike of 1913.

The “left-wing radicals” or later communists oriented themselves strongly to the ideas of the Russian Bolsheviks in the course of the October Revolution . The radical left believed that the peace-oriented movements in the Hanseatic city were already a class movement in the sense of a class struggle to eliminate bourgeois class rule. From their point of view, this movement was faced with a bourgeois social democratic reaction. This alliance between bourgeois and social democratic politicians should be fought with all means. An essential demand of this group was therefore the arming of the workers. The workers 'and soldiers' council was to become a means of class struggle and bourgeois or social-democratic representatives were to be excluded. In addition, the left-wing radicals demanded that the bourgeois newspapers be expropriated and that the food supplies of the upper class must be confiscated. The left-wing radicals also wanted to dissolve the protective and criminal police and the Senate. Red guards were to be formed from the revolutionary soldiers and workers.

This grouping represented a peculiarity in a nationwide comparison. While elsewhere the Left represented the left wing of the USPD as the Spartakusbund , in Bremen it was organized independently of other parties and therefore had to take less party-political considerations.


The members of the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD) were less radical, but also revolutionary. The USPD split off from the Social Democratic Party of Germany (Majority Social Democrats, MSPD) in 1917. They, too, were in favor of the Reichsrätekongress and rejected the National Assembly as a preliminary stage of a parliamentary democracy. Like the communists, the USPD advocated a transformation of the state and economic order. However, they supported general elections to the councils and opposed the expulsion of MSPD candidates. The leaders of the USPD in Bremen were Adam Frasunkiewicz and Alfred Henke .

Majority Social Democrats

The majority Social Democrats (MSPD) basically opposed the revolution and preferred reforms. The representatives of the MSPD and the functionaries of the free trade unions belonging to them assessed the situation in Germany in such a way that a revolution was not possible for pragmatic reasons. The workers made up only a third of the total population and had no support from the rural population, who tended to reject socialism. In view of the economic situation, in the opinion of the union leadership, nationalization of the large industrial companies was not organizationally possible and would have unacceptable consequences. There were also ideological and theoretical considerations. Based on the official doctrine developed by Karl Kautsky , the leadership of the MSPD, based on the doctrine of historical materialism, assumed that parliamentary democracy must first be established as the basis of a bourgeois society. From this intermediate stage the state of communism can then be reached via socialism. An essential point of view was, however, that from the perspective of the MSPD leadership, the won republic should be consolidated. From their point of view, if the November Revolution progressed, it could only result in civil war .

The relatively hesitant consent of leading members of the MSPD to the revolution and to the workers 'and soldiers' councils was aimed at taking the revolutionary leadership off the councils. The problem for the majority Social Democrats in Bremen was that this direction in the Hanseatic city could not bring together the majority of the workers behind it. The MSPD was - in contrast to councils in other places - not in a position to fill the leadership positions by winning a majority in the councils. The support of the MSPD was the functionaries of the free trade unions , supporters from the petty bourgeoisie and the police.


The bourgeois camp had a not inconsiderable influence on the course of the Soviet republic through its positions in the administration, in the economy and especially in the banks. Above all, the shipowners and the coffee entrepreneur Ludwig Roselius intervened with the Reich government to obtain military intervention. The main argument was that the ports of Bremen were necessary to supply the Reich with food and raw materials, but that this function would be endangered by looting and confiscation. The dependence of the Soviet republic on loans also created a considerable influence of the bourgeoisie. Politically organized bourgeois and liberal forces in the so-called "Citizens Committee" were initially under the former president of the Bremen citizenry Rudolph Quidde , from December 9, 1918 under the shipowner Adolf Vinnen .


All classes of the population were represented in the troops, including the upper and lower bourgeoisie. The soldiers 'council therefore tended towards the positions of the majority Social Democrats rather than those of the workers' council. Among other things, he refused to form red guards and responded to corresponding demands: “The army regards itself as the bearer of the revolution and is the only power called for its security; the soldiers' councils are therefore solely authorized to dispose of and use military weapons. If weapons depots are looted, the soldiers 'council must immediately impose martial law. ”The Bremen garrison showed a not inconsiderable resistance to the arming of workers and the formation of armed workers' militias.

Added to this was the 1st Hanseatic Infantry Regiment No. 75 , which returned intact on January 1, 1919, under the command of officers such as Major Walter Caspari , who were close to the bourgeoisie. The hopes of the opponents of the Workers 'and Soldiers' Council initially rested on this regiment. Although it could be disarmed, it was involved in the soldiers ' council. Walter Caspari was later significantly involved in the military dissolution of the Soviet republic.

Revolution and formation of the workers 'and soldiers' council

On the morning of November 6, 1918, a delegation of the Kiel sailors arrived at the AG Weser and demanded support from the workers there for the workers 'and soldiers' council in Kiel and support in the liberation of two hundred and thirty members of the Navy imprisoned in the prison in Oslebshausen . At the same time, sailors mutinied who were to be transported from Wilhelmshaven to a camp in the Lüneburg Heath . Around one hundred soldiers refused to leave the Neustadt barracks at the same time . Your spokesman was Bernhard Ecks . Contact was quickly established between the soldiers in Neustadt and the navy at the station, and they founded a soldiers' council. The soldiers' council was to take over command of the units in Bremen. Around noon, workers and soldiers demonstrated on the Bremen market square. In the evening Adam Frasunkiewicz called from the balcony of the Bremen town hall the formation of a workers 'and soldiers' council and announced the takeover of power. Ecks became chairman of the soldiers' council on November 8th.

An action committee was formed from three representatives of the radical left ( Hans Brodmerkel , Adolf Dannat , Alfred Stockinger ) and four representatives of the USPD ( Alfred Henke , Adam Frasunkiewicz , Karl Herold, Emil Sommer ). After elections on November 7th, the committee was supplemented by further members, the Bremen Workers and Soldiers Council was formed after these elections with 210 members as the legislature and 250 members as the supervisory body. He formed, to the exclusion of the majority Socialists, a fifteen-member executive committee. After the “left-wing radicals” had problems finding suitable experts to fill their posts and representatives of the majority socialists such as Karl Deichmann had spoken out in favor of the revolution, this body was expanded to include representatives of the trade unions and the majority socialists to twenty-one members. Alfred Henke was elected by the USPD as chairman of the committee and Hans Brodmerkel as deputy for the “left-wing radicals”.

On November 14th, Alfred Henke announced the takeover of power by the Workers 'and Soldiers' Council and the dissolution of the Senate and the citizenship in the convention hall of the Bremen Stock Exchange . At the same time, the civil servants were asked to remain in their positions, the courts should continue to operate, and the heads of the authorities remained in office. The senators should report to the committee on administrative activities until further notice. The committee reserved the political decisions. A commission of six representatives of the Workers 'and Soldiers' Council and six senators ( Apelt , Biermann , Bömers , Donandt , Hildebrand and Spitta ) was set up for the transition . Henke publicly announced the takeover of power on November 15 at 11 a.m. from the balcony of the Bremen town hall.

By maintaining the previous administration and by leading this committee, which was occupied by the Senate and the councils, the bourgeoisie had a not inconsiderable influence, which was supposed to have an inhibiting effect. This solution was necessary from the perspective of the revolutionary forces, as they lacked a sufficient number of specialists with administrative experience.

Development to the Soviet republic

The development from the formation and takeover of power by the workers 'and soldiers' council to the Bremen council republic was shaped by the power struggles between the individual groups. In addition there were the debates on the by Friedrich Ebert , the one-time member of the Bremen state and city editor of itself long Bremer Citizen newspaper was, and Philipp Scheidemann sought Weimar National Assembly and the modalities of the elections to the workers 'and soldiers' councils.

Disputes in the councils

A vote on November 19, 1918 on a resolution calling for a national assembly of all workers 'and soldiers' councils to be convened against the upcoming Weimar National Assembly resulted in a majority of 116 votes against 23 votes in the council. The votes against came mainly from the MSPD. After the resolution was passed, a mass meeting called by the left-wing radicals took place on November 22nd, which passed a resolution formulated by Johann Knief. Among other things, she demanded the disarming of all bourgeois and social democratic persons and the exclusion of these persons from the workers 'and soldiers' council. The resolution also stipulated that the Bremer Bürger-Zeitung should be returned by the majority socialists to the radical left. The resolution was the basis for the establishment of the “International Communists of Germany” (IKD) the following day. On the same day, the shop stewards meeting of the Bremen garrison, which was more in favor of the Social Democrats and in fact headed the soldiers' council, decided not to form red guards and to reject the arming of workers.

On November 29th, a mass demonstration organized by the communists took place. Under the impression of this demonstration, the workers' council decided to withdraw the newspaper from the MSPD and to set up an editorial team made up of members of the USPD and the IKD. On December 1, the MSPD threatened to leave the workers' council if the resolution were implemented. She received support from the soldiers' council, which initially prevented the implementation of the decision.

Return of the 75th Hanseatic Infantry Regiment

The infantry regiment "Bremen" (1st Hanseatic) No. 75 when approaching in 1891 on the Domshof .

The situation changed when the return of the 75th Infantry Regiment was announced for the end of December . As a result, on December 21, the soldiers' council also tolerated the takeover of the Bremer Bürger-Zeitung and agreed to the arming of workers.

The officers of the regiment were opposed to the revolution and demanded the reinstatement of the Senate and citizenship as well as billeting in the barracks on Neustadtwall. Negotiations broke out between the officers of the regiment and representatives of the councils. The result of the negotiations was that the Senate and the citizenship would be reinstated, but the Workers 'and Soldiers' Council should be given a veto right . In addition, the regiment accepted the balance of power that had arisen, and it was to stick with the arming of workers and soldiers. The regiment should take on police functions, the workers and soldiers council should be supplemented by six members of the regiment.

On January 1, 1919, the regiment arrived at the Sebaldsbrück train station and marched onto the market square. In the morning it was received there with patriotic speeches and the singing of the Deutschlandlied . At the same time, however, the leaders of the soldiers' council Ecks and Willems had already sent armed workers to the regiment's designated quarters. Knief and Frasunkiewicz had been informed of this beforehand. When the regiment arrived at their quarters, the soldiers were asked to surrender their weapons. After negotiations with Major Walter Caspari and other officers, it was agreed that the soldiers should surrender their weapons. The officers were allowed to keep their weapons, but not carry them. On January 3, the soldiers 'council approved the procedure, but it was important that the other agreements, such as the amendment of the soldiers' council, be adhered to. In response to communist protests, the officers Major Caspari and Lieutenant Sies resigned their seats on the soldiers' council.

Disputes over the elections for the Workers 'and Soldiers' Council on January 6, 1919

Already in the run-up to the elections to the councils there had been differences over the eligibility to vote. The communists advocated the exclusion of all bourgeois and social democratic forces, the USPD did not want to exclude the majority social democrats. The USPD and communists lacked organizationally experienced specialists. They therefore believed that experienced union members and SPD officials could not be dispensed with. Finally an agreement was reached. According to this agreement, all party and union members should be eligible to vote. The MSPD then opened up to the citizenry and civil servants and allowed mass entries into the MSPD.

Large companies voted according to the principles of proportional representation , medium-sized companies with more than 150 employees in a majority vote . Companies with fewer than 150 employees were divided into regional electoral districts. In the election, the MSPD won 104 seats, the KPD only 60 and the USPD only 59 seats, although the majority Social Democracy was in the minority in the traditionally left-wing Bremen workforce. One of the main reasons for this was the opening of the MSPD to bourgeois circles, whose members then voted for the majority Social Democrats.

The election result and also the practice of the MSPD led to considerable anger among the two left parties. Representatives of the USPD therefore requested that no representatives of the majority Social Democrats should be elected to the Action Committee. The communists openly declared the struggle against the majority Social Democrats, whom they dubbed “traitors to workers”, to be their main task. She called on the workers to expel the members of the MSPD from the workers' council.

Disputes with the financial administration

Economic problems also arose. Above all, there were disputes between the communists and the financial deputation over the financing of projects. Mayor Donandt, for example, refused to provide 60,000 marks for the formation of two workers' battalions. The representatives of the majority social democracy in the workers 'council saw no need for armed workers' battalions either; they considered the situation in Bremen to be calm. If such battalions were necessary, one could turn to the Reich government for funding in Berlin. This happened when the Spartacus uprising was militarily suppressed in Berlin .

Proclamation of the Soviet Republic

Because of the disputes with the administration and the election, the KPD organized a mass rally on the market square on the afternoon of January 10, 1919. Armed workers secured the demonstration. A delegation of nine was sent to the Action Committee, which was just in session. Shortly afterwards, Frasunkiewicz proclaimed the socialist republic of Bremen, he declared the Senate, the citizenship and the deputations to be permanently deposed. The members of the MSPD were expelled from the workers' council and replaced by thirty representatives each from the USPD and communists. The arming of the working class should be promoted, civilians disarmed and a council of people's commissars set up. Two telegrams were also read out. One was addressed to the government of Friedrich Ebert and urged them to resign, the other telegram was addressed to the Soviet government of Soviet Russia and expressed solidarity with it. The demonstrators eventually occupied the union building and confiscated the union treasury for the Soviet Republic.

In the evening, three representatives from the Soldiers' Council, three from the USPD and three from the KPD formed the Council of People's Representatives as successors to the Senate. As a first measure he ordered the disarming of the bourgeoisie, introduced censorship for bourgeois newspapers, imposed the right to stand in the event of looting, and introduced a police hour at 9:00 p.m.

Government building of the Soviet republic

The nine-member Council of People's Representatives was assigned an executive council of 15 people from the Workers 'and Soldiers' Council. Together these organs formed the council government. People's commissars were subordinated to these two organs as the administration of the Soviet Republic. The government formed nine departments: school and education, police and judiciary, food, tax and finance, public welfare, factory and labor, construction and housing, shipping and transportation, and press and propaganda. People's Commissars for the Press and Propaganda were Alfred Faust and Curt Stoermer .

Internal disputes in the Soviet Republic

After its relatively problem-free establishment, the Bremen Soviet Republic was marked by considerable internal crises and disputes, which ultimately led to the political failure of the Soviet Republic even before the military break-up. The time was characterized by frequent demonstrations and sometimes civil war-like conditions. In many cases, the government of the Soviet republic was unable to enforce its authority regardless of the main internal conflicts. In addition, with the murder of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg at the latest, there was the increasing isolation of the Soviet republic within Germany.

Conflicts between KPD and USPD

SPD election campaign poster 1919

The Reich government and the Reich Council of Workers 'and Soldiers' Councils in Germany had scheduled the election for the Weimar National Assembly on January 19, 1919 . Because of the conduct of the election, members of the USPD and the KPD took different positions and there were arguments between these two groups.

The Bremen Workers 'and Soldiers' Council had already spoken out against the election in December. On January 12, at the request of the KPD, the council government decided against the votes of six members of the USPD that the holding of the election in Bremen should be forbidden. The following day, however, the majority of the USPD faction in the Workers 'and Soldiers' Council decided to vote against this decision of the council government. Together with the members of the soldiers' council, this resulted in a majority against the KPD and left-wing representatives of the USPD. The Workers 'and Soldiers' Council voted against the ban. This severely impaired the authority of the council government. The KPD eventually boycotted the election.

In the election, the MSPD received 42% of the vote in Bremen, the bourgeois German Democratic Party (DDP) 33.5%, the USPD 18.2%, all other parties remained below 5%. This result put an additional strain on the position of the left council government, as its opposition had received significantly more votes and its legitimacy was undermined.

Conflicts between workers 'and soldiers' councils

Because of the increasing arming of the workers, tensions arose in the workers 'and soldiers' council. These led the Soviet Republic close to a civil war. On January 14, 1919, the differences led to soldiers from the Bremen garrison occupying bridges, the market square and the main train station . Subsequently, marines advanced to the AG Weser, whose workforce was a mainstay of the communists. On the site of the shipyard, there were shootings between soldiers and armed workers with dead and injured before the soldiers could be brought to give in.

Financial and economic crisis of the Soviet republic

Bremer Bank building, then the largest bank in Bremen

The economic and financial situation was bad. Even the dissolution of the finance deputation could not remedy this. On January 12, the director of the general treasury informed the chairman of the People's Commissariat that funds were only available for two weeks. Due to the city's dependency on supplies from the surrounding area, the issue of Bremen's own money was ruled out, as this would not be accepted in the surrounding area in case of doubt. The gold reserves of the Bremen banks, which had not been confiscated or expropriated, were also not particularly large. A corresponding expropriation would therefore only have been a short-term solution. The council government was therefore largely dependent on the financing instrument of borrowing.

On January 16, the Landesbanken and the Berlin banks announced that Bremen would no longer receive any credit from them. In negotiations on January 18, 1919, the Bremen banks declared that they too had no confidence in the new Bremen government and made the condition for further lending that an elected representative body was necessary first. They reaffirmed this on January 20th and demanded that the financial deputation be restored, the state of siege imposed when the Soviet Republic was founded and the censorship of the bourgeois press lifted.

Political measures of the council government

Economic and social policy

There was also fundamental disagreement within the councils as to whether the entire economy should be nationalized within the framework of a “ dictatorship of the proletariat ” or whether an economic order with free entrepreneurship should be sought. Nationalization was preferred by the KPD, but during the short period of the Soviet Republic it was unable to enforce this because the Soviet Republic was dependent on bank loans.

However, the introduction of the eight-hour day and an employment agency was already implemented with a "Social Policy Program of the Committee for Factory Affairs" of November 11, 1918 , in which employers were obliged to report vacancies to government agencies. Previously, the placement of workers had been carried out by a large number of organizations. The placement of employers through the united guilds was of particular importance in Bremen. However, this was deliberately also used to exclude potentially unrest-causing job seekers and organized workers. Considerations for reform since 1890 in the direction of state or equal employment agencies with employee and employer representatives had failed after years of discussions in deputations and commissions before the First World War. At the national level, a mandate and legislative competence to regulate working life was only met with Articles 157 ff of the Weimar Constitution, which came into force on August 11, 1919 . It was not until July 16, 1927, when the law on job placement and unemployment insurance came into effect, a regulation of the Reich on job placement.

Education reforms

By the head of the "People's Commissariat of Education System" Hermann evil was religious instruction forbidden in schools. This triggered a debate and development that ultimately led to the reintroduction of the subject “Biblical History”, which had been taught before the war, free for Christians of all denominations, instead of denominationally separate religious instruction. When the Basic Law of 1949 was formulated , this led to the so-called Bremen Clause .

End of the Bremen Soviet Republic

Political failure of the Soviet republic

In response to pressure from the banks, the Bremen Council of People's Representatives decided to hold general elections for a representative body against the background of the general financial crisis. The decision of the council was made on January 18 against the votes of the KPD. The election day was set for March 9, 1919. When two days later in the Workers 'and Soldiers' Council the approval of this decision was discussed, the communist side rejected the proposal and announced that it would withdraw completely from the government, but want to continue to work with the USPD. The representatives of the USPD then declared their withdrawal from the government, which would have dissolved the council government itself. In view of this situation, the KPD approved the vote, and the decision was accepted with a few opposing votes from within the KPD.

Some left-wing radical members of the KPD still tried to force the granting of loans after the renewed rejection of the banks on January 20, 1919, without consulting other party members or the USPD. In protest of the soldiers, workers took weapons from the armories of the Bremen garrison and occupied banks and public buildings. This action quickly collapsed again. A strike called by the communist side found no support. The events only led to largely inconclusive debates in the bodies.

Politically, the council republic had already failed at this point, as such general elections were contrary to the principle of the council republic.

Military destruction of the Soviet republic

Even before the proclamation of the Soviet republic, representatives of the Bremen economy had turned to the Reich government and asked for military intervention against the revolution. At first, the Reich government saw itself unable to take military measures. After the suppression of the Spartacus uprising in Berlin, however, the regular troops that had become free were drawn together in Verden on January 29, 1919 as "Division Gerstenberg" under Colonel Wilhelm Gerstenberg , who was commissioned to carry out the military operation on January 27 . There were also around 600 volunteers who had come together under Major Walter Caspari to form the "Freikorps Caspari". These units were equipped with guns and two armored cars, among other things.

Negotiations broke out on January 29th. The council government was asked on the night of January 30th to disarm the workers. This was rejected by the representatives of the council government. The Bremen side ignored a request from Verden on February 1 to arm the 75th Infantry Regiment again and to allow it to maintain internal security. Another attempt to negotiate on the part of the council government on February 3 was unsuccessful, as Gustav Noske had already given the order to suppress the council republic. Noske feared the imperial government would lose authority throughout the empire if government power in Bremen were not enforced.

On the part of the Soviet republic, despite the suppression of the Spartacus uprising in Berlin and the emerging march in Verden, there were no concrete defense plans. While the government troops were invading Bremen, debates were being held about the issue of weapons and defense alternatives. The workers 'and soldiers' councils in Bremerhaven, Cuxhaven , Oldenburg and Hamburg showed solidarity, but no effective military aid arrived in Bremen. A few hundred volunteers who had gathered in Hamburg under Ernst Thälmann no longer reached Bremen; About 150 volunteers from Bremerhaven only arrived after the fighting had ended and had to flee again.

The Gerstenberg Division and the Caspari Freikorps marched left and right along the Aller and Weser rivers . The actual attack began on February 4 at 10:15 a.m. on the left side of the Weser along the Arsten - Kattenturm - Moordeich - Kirchhuchting line , on the right bank of the Weser on the Mahndorf - Borgfeld - Blockland line . There was significant but uncoordinated resistance, with 24 government troops and 28 armed workers killed. There were also 18 men, five women and six children of civilian victims. In the Neustadt on the left side of the Weser the fighting ended at 6:15 p.m., on the right side of the Weser until around 9:00 p.m.

After the end of the Soviet republic

Poster, February 1919
After the Soviet republic was crushed in Bremen and a state of emergency was declared, the military commander set up a provisional government made up of members of the Majority Socialists (MSPD). One of the first activities was the establishment of a government protection force.

In contrast to the end of the Munich Soviet Republic, there were not numerous shootings of supporters of the Soviet Republic. However, one worker was "shot while trying to escape". The arrests of persons involved in the Soviet Republic, for example the painter Heinrich Vogeler , who had been elected to the first workers 'and soldiers' council, remained. Leading representatives of the Soviet republic such as Adam Frasunkiewicz and Curt Stoermer went into hiding. Karl Plättner , who had called for a SPD leader from Bremen to be shot for every Spartakist murdered, then became the militant leader of the most radical communists. Johann Knief had been admitted to a hospital seriously ill the day before the proclamation of the Soviet Republic and died on April 6, 1919. After the unsuccessful negotiations in Verden, Alfred Henke had traveled to Berlin for further negotiations with the Reich government. There he joined the National Assembly as an elected MP.

After the end of the fighting, on the evening of February 4, 1919, Colonel Gerstenberg took over command of Bremen. He imposed a meeting ban . Shortly afterwards, a provisional government was formed under Karl Deichmann , which imposed a state of siege on the city and the state of Bremen. It also banned the magazine Der Kommunist , and the MSPD got the Bremer Bürger Zeitung back. On February 6, 1919, the Senate and deputations met again in their old functions.

In the elections to the constituent assembly of Bremen on March 9, 1919 , the majority socialists of the MSPD were able to unite 32.7% of the votes. The USPD (19.2%) and the KPD (7.7%) came together, despite a change in the electoral law - only those who had been in Bremen for six months were eligible to vote - together to around 27% of the votes. A senate was formed between the MSPD and the bourgeois parties ( DDP and DVP ) under the leadership of Karl Deichmann (MSPD). On April 9, 1919, the law on the provisional order of state power and on May 18, 1920, the new constitution of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen was passed. The previously existing eight-class suffrage was abolished; Section 10 of the state constitution expressly provided for universal suffrage .

The so-called "21 Committee" was founded by representatives of the large Bremen companies. This should prevent the return to the state before the Soviet republic. The committee succeeded in organizing a general strike, which resulted in the majority of the workers and sailors arrested for involvement in the Soviet Republic being dismissed on March 6, 1919. On April 13, 1919, the committee demanded the liberation of the remaining prisoners and the lifting of the state of emergency. A second strike to achieve these goals began two days later. The strike led to a "defensive strike", which was mainly supported by the bourgeoisie and the government, and began on April 20 at 6:00 am. All Bremen companies and authorities followed this call to strike, with the exception of the security service, the electricity company and the fire brigade. Bremen's economic life came to a complete standstill. Hospitals, city utilities and grocery stores remained closed. The strike ended at the end of the month. On April 26th, the power station and the tram resumed operations, and on April 29th, the strike ended with the resumption of work in the gasworks. The time of this dispute was remembered as a “barbed wire easter”. The designation "barbed wire Easter" can be traced back to the erection of wire entanglements at road crossings.

Some social reforms from the Soviet republic, such as increasing unemployment benefits and reducing working hours, were retained.


Commemoration for the defenders of the Soviet republic

Today's memorial for those killed in defense of the Bremen Soviet Republic by Georg Arfmann (1972) from Michelnau's slag agglomerate
Plaque commemorating the first memorial for the defenders of the Soviet Republic, destroyed in 1933

During the Weimar period, especially on the communist side, memorial events were held annually on February 4th, each of which was attended by hundreds of people.

Those who died in defense of the Soviet Republic were buried together on February 4, 1919 in the Waller Friedhof . In 1922, the “ Pietà ” monument designed by Bernhard Hoetger for the fallen defenders of the Soviet Republic from private donations was erected on the shared grave and inaugurated on June 18, 1922. 8,000 people attended the inauguration. This monument was on January 30, 1933, the day of the takeover of the Nazi regime , destroyed. After the end of the Nazi era in Bremen , commemorative events were held again in Waller Friedhof from 1949. In addition, there were 2,000 to 3,000 people annually.

At the end of the 1960s, an initiative of the SPD, trade unions, DKP and the working group of formerly persecuted social democrats was formed to once again erect a memorial for the workers killed in the defense. In place of the first memorial, a new memorial designed by Georg Arfmann was erected in 1972 . Annual commemorative events for those killed in defense of the Bremen Soviet Republic are still held at this memorial. The commemorative events for the anniversary of the suppression of the Soviet Republic are organized by the Association of Victims of the Nazi Regime , by trade unions and by left groups. Social Democrats and Communists have been commemorating the crackdown on the Bremen Soviet Republic since the mid-1990s. Since 2000 (as of 2013) there have been annual gatherings of anarcho-syndicalists from the Free Workers' Union at the monument.

90th anniversary

On February 1, 2009 the DGB- Bremen organized a commemoration for the 90th anniversary of the Bremen Council Republic. The keynote speaker was the former mayor of Bremen Hans Koschnick (1929–2016). On February 8, 2009, over 150 participants took part in another commemoration ceremony at the memorial in the cemetery, which was organized by an alliance around the association of those persecuted by the Nazi regime . There were also numerous lectures and other events in Bremen for the 90th anniversary of the Bremen Council Republic.

Commemoration for members of the volunteer corps

Memorial in the Waller Friedhof

Time for the fallen of the "Gerstenberg Division" at the Waller cemetery

As early as the 1920s, a triangular memorial made of bricks in the form of a wall was erected on the Waller Friedhof. Next to the mark were stones with the names of the dead from the Gerstenberg division and the Caspari Freikorps.

In contrast to the defenders of the Soviet Republic, the fallen soldiers of these associations were not buried in a communal grave in the Waller cemetery, but in individual graves in the Riensberg cemetery .

“The young man” in the ramparts

Lidice memorial in the ramparts, formerly memorial for the fallen soldiers of the Gerstenberg division and the Caspari Freikorps

Immediately after the Soviet Republic, the "Caspari Freikorps" was dissolved as a unit, but the Caspari Traditional Corps, consisting of former members of the Freikorps, continued to exist until it was brought into line in January 1934. There was also an "Association of Former Gerstenbergers" made up of former members of the Gerstenberg Division. A memorial for the Freikorps members was not erected during the Weimar Republic, however, because of the tense relationship between the Senate and the SPD on the one hand and the former Freikorps members on the other. Added to this was the traditional reluctance of the city of Bremen to erect monuments; these were usually set up by private individuals.

After the beginning of National Socialism , the veterans of these associations founded a “working committee for the erection of a memorial for those who died on February 4, 1919 in the battle for Bremen”. The fifteenth anniversary of the suppression of the Soviet Republic (February 4, 1934), initially targeted as the date for the inauguration, could not be kept due to differences between the new rulers and the former Freikorps members. It was not until May 22, 1936, that the statue of “The Young Man” by Herbert Kubica was erected in the choir of the Liebfrauenkirche in Schoppensteel to commemorate the fallen soldiers of the Gerstenberg division and the Caspari Freikorps. The neoclassical bronze statue shows a naked youth with a cautious step. Originally he held a laurel wreath in his raised hand as a symbol of victory. In addition, it initially stood on a pedestal adorned with the inscription: "In the fight for Bremen's freedom on February 4, 1919, Caspari and the Gerstenberg Division fell in the ranks of the Freikorps:", followed by the names of the dead from these units.

The statue survived the war together with a few others in an underground bunker and was initially installed in the Kunsthalle Bremen after the Second World War . In 1955, the young man was moved to his current location in the Bremer Wallanlagen , but without the base with the inscription and without the laurel wreath, as this would be too reminiscent of National Socialism. The figure should only have a purely aesthetic meaning. In 1989 a Lidice monument was erected in the immediate vicinity and with the conscious inclusion of the statue . The youth should establish a relationship between National Socialism, its predecessors and its crimes. Such a reinterpretation of monuments is not unusual in Bremen in recent times. Another example of this is the anti-colonial monument in Nelson Mandela Park , which was originally erected in 1932 as the “Reich Colonial Memorial” and was renamed “Anti-Colonial Memorial” in 1990.

Literary processing

In the first volume of his novel The Aesthetics of Resistance , the writer Peter Weiss paid tribute to the workers' struggles for the Soviet Republic in 1975 in the form of a comprehensive retrospective from the perspective of a main character.

In 2003, Wolfgang Beutin published a novel called Knief or The Great Black Bird's Swinging about the Bremen Soviet Republic. The main characters are Johann Knief and Charlotte Kornfeld. She was Johann Knief's companion in combat and life, born in Berlin-Charlottenburg in 1896, who in 1920 published a small volume "Letters from Prison" with a selection of letters from Knief addressed to her.

The author chose the topic because he is of the opinion that Bremen has been the cradle of democracy in Germany since 1848 and that National Socialism would not have come to rule in Germany if the Soviet Republic had been successful.


  • Peter Kuckuk (ed.): The revolution 1918/1919 in Bremen. Articles and documents. Contributions to the social history of Bremen, issue 27. Edition Temmen, Bremen 2010. ISBN 978-3-8378-1001-1 .
  • Peter Kuckuk, with the assistance of Ulrich Schröder: Bremen in the German Revolution 1918–1919. Revolution, Räterepublik, Restauration , 2nd, revised and expanded edition, Edition Falkenberg, Bremen 2017, ISBN 978-3-95494-115-5 .
  • Michael Brauer, Andreas Decker, Christian Schulze: 75 years for and against the Bremen Soviet Republic. Three monuments through the ages and as a reflection of the political climate . Hauschild Verlag, Bremen 1994, ISBN 3-929902-15-X .
  • Karl-Ludwig Sommer: The Bremen Council Republic, its violent liquidation and the restoration of “orderly conditions” in the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen. In: Niedersächsisches Jahrbuch für Landesgeschichte 77. Hahnsche Buchhandlung, Hannover 2005, ISBN 3-7752-3377-6 , pp. 1–30.
  • FAU-Bremen (ed.): Syndicalism and Council Revolution in Bremen 1918/19. With a foray about the commemorative celebrations at the “Waller Friedhof” until today . Bremen 2008, online (PDF; 894 kB) .
  • Eva Schöck-Quinteros , Ulrich Schröder, Joscha Glanert (eds.): Revolution 1918/19 in Bremen. "The whole German Reich stands against us." From the files on the stage, Vol. 14, University of Bremen, Bremen 2018, ISBN 978-3-88722-760-9 .
  • Bremen Citizenship , State Archives Bremen (ed.): November Revolution and Soviet Republic 1918/19. Bremen and Northwest Germany between the end of the war and a new beginning. Documentation of the scientific conference on November 1, 2018 in the Bremen citizenship. Writings of the Bremen State Archives, Vol. 60, Bremen 2019, ISBN 978-3-925729-86-7 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Erhard Lucas : The social democracy in Bremen during the First World War . Bremen publications on contemporary history, Schünemann Verlag , Bremen 1969, p. 12.
  2. Wolfgang Abendroth : Introduction to the history of the labor movement . 3rd edition, Distel Verlag, Heilbronn 1997, ISBN 3-929348-08-X , p. 171.
  3. Diether Raff: German History , 7th edition (paperback edition), Heyne, Munich 2001, p. 284 f.
  4. ^ Helga Grebing : Conservative Republic or Social Democracy? (PDF; 98 kB) In: trade union monthly books 1969, issue 1, p. 18 ff.
  5. ^ Sven Felix Kellerhoff : Reform instead of overthrow . In: Das Parlament , Edition 06–07 of February 2, 2009. Accessed January 12, 2016
  6. Quoted from Till Schelze-Brandenburg: Die Bremer Räterepublik ( Memento of the original from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  7. Proclamation of the Soviet Republic in Bremen by the Council of People's Representatives ( Memento of July 10, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  8. ^ Uwe Kiupel, Ulla Rauschert, Ulrike Schmidt: Job placement in Bremen before 1914 . In: Wiltrud Drechsel, Heide Gerstenberger , Christian Marzahn (eds.): “Strikes” and the state - on the public regulation of employment relationships 1873–1914 ; Contributions to the social history of Bremen, issue 8; University of Bremen, Bremen, ISBN 3-88722-098-6 , ISSN  0175-6303
  9. ^ Ulrich Eisenhardt: German legal history . CH Beck, Munich 1999³, ISBN 3-406-45308-2 , paragraphs 608 ff .; 612
  10. ^ Ulrich Eisenhardt: German legal history . CH Beck, Munich 1999³, ISBN 3-406-45308-2 , paragraph 611
  11. ^ A b Peter Kuckuk : World War, November Revolution and Soviet Republic . In: Hartmut Müller (ed.): Bremen workers' movement 1918 to 1919 - Despite all of this . Elefanten Press, 1983, ISBN 3-88520-103-8 , p. 30.
  12. ^ Constitution of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen of May 18, 1920, Law Gazette of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen 1920 No. 46 p. 183
  13. a b c Ulrich Albert: The 21-er committee in the fight against the Provisional Government - From the military suppression of the Soviet Republic to "Barbed Wire Easter" (spring 1919) in: Peter Kuckuck (ed.): The Revolution 1918/1919 in Bremen. Articles and documents. Contributions to the social history of Bremen, Issue 27. Edition Temmen, Bremen 2010
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  15. ^ Commemoration day 90 years of the Soviet republic . In: taz , regional edition February 5, 2009
  16. Solemnly split . In: taz , November 4, 2008
  17. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2003, ISBN 3-8260-2637-3
  18. Karin Kuckuk: ... the woman at his side - Lotte Kornfeld (1896–1974). Combat partner and life companion of Johann Knief. In: Peter Kuckuk (Ed.): The Revolution 1918/1919 in Bremen. Articles and documents. Contributions to the social history of Bremen, issue 27. Pages 190–209. Edition Temmen, Bremen 2010. ISBN 978-3-8378-1001-1 .
  19. Ulrike Schwalm: Wolfgang Beutin writes about love and revolution . In: Hamburger Abendblatt , March 5, 2004
  20. The leftmost action . In: Junge Welt , February 4, 2009 (Interview with Wolfgang Beutin)
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on May 7, 2007 .