March Revolution in Berlin in 1848
The March Revolution in Berlin was part of the European revolutions of 1848/1849 and a central event of the German freedom and national movement. After opposition popular assemblies in Berlin had demanded freedom rights from the Prussian monarchy, from March 13, 1848 military action against them. These clashes escalated to barricade fighting on March 18 and 19, which resulted in several hundred deaths . King Friedrich Wilhelm IV was ultimately forced to withdraw the military from Berlin and make political concessions to the demonstrators. Temporary liberalization took place by the summer: a March liberal government was appointed, and a freely elected national assembly began drafting a constitution for Prussia. However, the disagreement among the revolutionary forces enabled the king to withdraw most of the concessions from 1849 onwards.
Change in the political public
→ on the problem of the constitutional question, see also the article on the First United State Parliament
Prussia was already shaken by many regionally limited uprisings such as the Berlin Potato Revolution in the pre-March period , but these were economically and socially and less politically motivated. This only gradually changed in the 1840s, when agriculture, urban handicrafts, traditional home work and finance all began to threaten existence. The Prussian government, which was incapable of fighting the crisis, lost confidence in all classes of the population. As a result, the political public became radicalized. The call for parliamentary participation in politics, for freedom of the press, assembly and freedom of conscience was now supported by a large part of the population.
However, the impetus for open protest in Berlin came from outside: On January 12, 1848, the first uprising of the revolutionary year of 1848 broke out in Palermo, Sicily . Under pressure from the insurgents and after Vienna had refused military aid, King Ferdinand II of Sicily issued a constitution on January 29, 1848. In order to forestall protests, the King of Sardinia, the Grand Duke of Tuscany and the Pope suggested the drafting of constitutions a short time later. In February 1848 France also became the scene of the revolution . As early as the summer of 1847, large round tables, so-called reform banquets, were held in Paris, at which the bourgeois opposition sharply criticized the government. On February 21, 1848, the French Foreign Minister François Guizot forbade such a meeting, which had been announced for the next day. This decision sparked a student demonstration on February 22nd and culminated in bloody clashes with the military over the next few days. When the National Guard also joined the rebel craftsmen, industrial workers and students, the French King Louis-Philippe I abdicated on February 24, 1848.
Reaction of the Prussian government
The Prussian government learned of the revolutionary upheaval in Paris via the optical telegraph line on February 27, 1848. Despite the severe censorship, the first, as yet unofficial, reports reached all levels of Berlin society. The Prussian government was unanimous in the prognosis that the revolution emanating from France could also spread to Prussia and especially Berlin. How much the Prussian king saw his throne endangered is shown in a letter he wrote to Queen Victoria of Great Britain on February 27, 1848 :
"If the republican party carries out its program of popular sovereignty , my relatively small crown will be broken and [...] a century of turmoil will follow."
The king's ministers and advisers were initially unable to agree on how the expected protests in Berlin should be stopped. It was their wait-and-see attitude that made it possible for relatively free expression of opinion to prevail on the streets and in coffee houses in the capital. While the Prussian Minister of State Ernst von Bodelschwingh the Elder spoke out in favor of concessions to the opposition, the royal adviser Leopold von Gerlach and Prince Wilhelm pleaded for a military suppression of possible unrest. In the end, however, Friedrich Wilhelm IV agreed to the state minister's course. On March 5th he agreed to convene state parliaments on a regular basis in the future and on March 8th he promised to relax the censorship. According to a royal decree of March 14, the Second United State Parliament was to meet on April 27, 1848. Despite these concessions, the government was unable to stop the growth of a popular assembly in the zoo.
Course of the March Revolution to the Berlin barricade fight
Formation of the Berlin opposition
The news of the resignation of the French King Louis-Philippe I announced the Vossische Zeitung in Berlin on February 28, 1848. Many Berliners met on the streets to exchange and discuss the news. The chronicler Karl August Varnhagen von Ense described the mood as follows:
"Whoever got a fresh sheet of paper first, had to climb into a chair and read the message out loud."
The mild and sunny weather in late February and early March 1848 encouraged large gatherings of people - and thus also organized political gatherings - to come together in the open air. Especially in the coffeehouses and reading circles, the meeting places of the Berlin educated bourgeoisie, the distant revolutionary events were linked with concrete expectations of reform in Prussia. From March 6, 1848, demonstrations in the city increased. The city police force, which was only 150 strong, had nothing to counter this, so the authorities resorted to parts of the Prussian army.
On the evening of March 6th, a small group of students met in the zoo . As before the people's assemblies in Württemberg and Baden , they wanted to summarize the demands of the people and petition them directly to the king. Although no agreement was reached, their meeting resulted in representatives of all social groups in the city taking part in the zoo meetings in the following days (until March 17th). The location between the Brandenburg Gate and Bellevue Palace was well chosen by the opposition: Located outside the city, the risk of a direct confrontation with the police and military presence was rather low. Coffee houses, beer gardens and a wooden concert stage gave the demonstrators enough space for improvised speeches, discussions and votes. On March 7, the assembly succeeded in establishing nine demands:
"1. Unconditional freedom of the press .
2. Complete freedom of speech .
3. Immediate and complete amnesty for all those convicted and persecuted for political and press offenses.
4. Free assembly and association.
5. Equal political entitlement for all, regardless of religious belief and property.
6. Juries and independence of the judiciary.
7. Reduction of the standing army and armament of the people with free choice of leaders.
8. General German parliament .
9. Rapid convening of the United State Parliament. "
The petition contained the liberal and national wishes typical of other states of the German Confederation . What was unusual, however, were the calls for amnesty and demilitarization, which were connected with the heated atmosphere of Berlin. The situation worsened when Friedrich Wilhelm IV refused to receive a delegation from the people's assembly to accept the petition. The Berlin police chief Julius von Minutoli even threatened armed violence if representatives of the assembly were to break into the Berlin palace. The petition, according to the police chief, should be submitted by post. Finally, the Berlin city magistrate intervened to mediate between the government and the demonstrators. On March 10, the People's Assembly presented the petition to the City Council. On March 14th, Frederick William IV actually granted the council an audience and emphasized on this occasion that no parliament based on the French model was allowed. Instead, he wanted to allow Prussia, as was the case with the First United State Parliament, to represent the people of the Estates, since only such representation was compatible with the “German people”. Instead of having a say in politics, he was still only willing to give the people an advisory role in tax and credit matters.
Effects of the revolution in Vienna
On March 13, 1848, Vienna , the second capital of a major European power, was seized by the revolution . After violent clashes between the military and demonstrators, the government was only able to restore peace with the resignation of State Chancellor Metternich . The news of Metternich's flight, who had become the most important symbol of restoration politics since the Congress of Vienna , reached Berlin on March 15, 1848. Those in favor of a military solution initially lost the support of Friedrich Wilhelm IV. In addition, the Prussian government feared a possible split of the two western provinces. The diplomatic efforts were made more difficult by the fact that additional troops had been transferred to Berlin on March 13. On the evening of March 13, soldiers at the Brandenburg Gate stood in the way of those returning to the city for the zoo assembly. In the confrontation, which spread to the entire city, the demonstrators threw stones at the soldiers and tried to erect barricades , while the soldiers advanced with sabers and firearms. One demonstrator died from a stab wound during the fighting.
The events in Vienna encouraged the Berlin demonstrators to take further steps on March 16. According to the writer and eyewitness Adolf Streckfuß , chants with slogans such as "We will win if we only dare to fight" are said to have risen on the streets for the first time. If the protest movement in Berlin before March 16 was relatively cautious and had apparently only touched Prussia slightly, the escalation threatened to break out openly. At the same time, the government tried to fall back on the old concept of the citizen militia . These military units had a tradition in Prussia that went back to the Napoleonic times. Your service could help reduce the deployment of the unpopular army during unrest. Although citizen militias had already been disbanded in 1825, Friedrich Wilhelm IV believed that by deploying such Berlin “protection commissions” he could still have a de-escalating effect on the demonstrators. Of course, the Berlin “protection commissions” should remain unarmed and consist mainly of bourgeois representatives of the municipal municipal service. Craftsmen and industrial workers were excluded, which further fueled displeasure on the streets. Within a few hours it was possible to raise around 2,000 men, although these proved ineffective during the demonstrations in front of the Berlin Palace and Unter den Linden . Below the Kronprinzenpalais , the seat of Prince Wilhelm, there was another violent clash between the military and Berliners, with two dead and several injured. The process not only led to Prince Wilhelm being held responsible for the violence by the public, but above all the demand for civil arming was strengthened.
Agreement on the mass demonstration and royal reform patents
On March 17, Berlin was largely spared from fighting. Nevertheless, the decision was made on that day whether the government should be forced through a civil delegation or a mass demonstration to authorize a vigilante group. Above all, the bourgeois-liberal forces feared that a mass demonstration in front of the Berlin Palace could quickly develop into a violent social upheaval. They feared the emergence of a reign of terror like in Jacobean France. The city magistrate spoke out in favor of the vigilante not being allowed to be recruited from the dispossessed population. A small opposition group around the publicist Theodor Woeniger, who met in a hotel not far from the State Opera , played the central role in enforcing the bourgeois demands . After several hours of discussion, Woeniger formulated a deliberately concise petition to the king, asking for the soldiers to withdraw from Berlin, granting freedom of the press, allowing vigilante training and convening the Second United State Parliament. A large part of the demonstrators and part of the magistrate supported the demand. The decisive factor for the mass demonstration was a speech by Woeniger:
“Gentlemen, it is too late; our calls run through the city [...]; if they reject the demonstration, they preserve the revolution. "
In the evening the call spread throughout the city to meet on the Schlossplatz the next day. Also on March 17, Friedrich Wilhelm IV agreed to further reform plans by State Minister Bodelschwingh. This had drafted two bills in the days before. As a result, the censorship should be completely lifted. The convening of the Second United State Parliament was brought forward to April 2, 1848 (originally April 27 was planned). Most importantly, Prussia should get a real constitution with popular representation. The reforms were announced through leaflets across the city on the morning of March 18. In fact, the city magistrate tried to cancel the announced mass demonstration and to inform the population about the intentions of the government. At this point in time, the magistrate was even considering a festive illumination of Berlin. However, the rally could not be stopped.
Berlin barricade fight
The demonstration on Schlossplatz
The crowd pouring onto the palace square at noon on March 18 consisted of three interest groups: The first group took the announced royal reforms as an opportunity to convert the demonstration into a thank-you ceremony. The reforms did not go far enough for the second group. By appearing, she wanted to encourage the king to make further concessions. The third group had not been reached by the reforms and continued to insist that the royal troops should withdraw from Berlin. There were also onlookers. According to contemporary information, over 10,000 people are said to have visited the place.
The situation initially seemed to ease thanks to the military reluctance of the city governor Ernst von Pfuel . Between one and two o'clock, however, Pfuel was relieved by the commanding general of the guard corps. Karl von Prittwitz , a member of the courtly military party that was less willing to compromise, was given supreme command of all troops in and around Berlin. Prittwitz immediately had strategically important points such as the armory and city palace reinforced with additional units. The troops were supposed to give the king the option of leaving for Potsdam. In a morning communication to Bodelschwingh, Friedrich Wilhelm IV confirmed this plan, which, given the crowd, could hardly have been implemented. At 1:30 p.m. Bodelschwingh and the king were lured to the balcony of the city palace by the cheers that could be heard from the square.
The assembled crowd reacted to the king's appearance with a “stormy, almost drunk cheer”, as an anonymous eyewitness reported in Adolf Wolff's Berlin Revolution Chronicle in 1851 . The monarch had not appeared in public for weeks. Bodelschwingh finally stepped onto the balcony and read out the reform patents, although he could no longer be understood on Schlossplatz. The demonstrators learned the content of the speech from passing extra sheets of the Allgemeine Preussische Staatszeitung :
“The king wants freedom of the press to rule; the king wants the diet to be called immediately; the king wants a constitution on the most liberal basis to encompass all German states; the king wants a German national flag to blow; the king wants all toll trees to fall; the king wants Prussia to take the lead in the movement. "
Outbreak of fighting
The incessant number of citizens pouring in pushed the edge of the crowd to the palace portal. The soldiers posted in the courtyard feared a storming of the castle. For their part, the crowd felt threatened by the military forces and shouted loudly in chants that the troops gathered around and in the castle should be withdrawn: “Military back! Military back! ”With this development, the military party again gained influence on Friedrich Wilhelm IV. The king lost his nerve and gave the Prussian troops under Prittwitz the order to“ clean up the palace square and finally put an end to the scandal that raged there ”. The king demanded that only proceed “with the weapon inserted”. But since it was not possible to disperse the crowd, dragoons drew their sabers against the royal orders. The situation was made worse by the fact that the soldiers could no longer understand their superiors in the erupting screams and noise of the battle. Shortly after 2:30 p.m., two shots were accidentally fired, but none of them hit or injured anyone. The people now fled from Schlossplatz and assumed that they had been shot at them deliberately.
Course of the fighting
Composition of the barricade fighters
The majority of the barricade fighters were recruited from the Berlin lower class. It was later found that only 3% of the civilians captured or killed by the royal soldiers belonged to the bourgeoisie. In contrast, 85% could be identified as belonging to the urban lower class. Although journeymen made up only about 20% of the working population in Berlin, they made up half of the combatants. Industrial workers and schoolchildren were also disproportionately represented. With their protest, they not only wanted to enforce the “classic demands of the bourgeois opposition”, but also wanted the government to improve their social living conditions . In fact, even before March 18, there were calls for higher wages, financial security after retirement and a “ministry for workers”. The fact that the Berlin March Revolution was a purely bourgeois protest movement is therefore now considered obsolete in research. In addition to the factor of social group membership, age also played an important role. 36.7% of those killed in action or prisoners in March were less than 25 years old, only 18.4% were over 40 years old. Since the younger generation was "trained" in dealing with the gendarmes, Hachtmann believes it is likely that the youth were even more present in the barricade fight than the statistics suggest. Because of their agility, the younger people are less likely to end up in captivity or in gunfire. Since only one woman was captured and the fallen were almost exclusively male, it can be concluded that women played a rather subordinate role in the fighting.
Organization of the barricade fighters
While the royal troops were securing the palace square, the insurgents tried to arm themselves and barricade streets. The barricades could be erected comparatively quickly by knocking over vegetable stalls, carts and cabs . The spaces in between were filled with paving slabs, wool sacks and beams, among other things. The rebels covered their houses and used the bricks obtained in this way as projectiles against the advancing soldiers. Entire groups of young people positioned themselves on the roofs for this purpose. Since the insurgents spontaneously prepared for battle, their armament was insufficient. Very few residents had a gun. Planks, pitchforks and wooden axes were their main weapons. The first barricades in the area of the city palace were so disorganized that they could be quickly captured by the soldiers. The wide streets in particular were difficult to defend with the help of the barricades, so that the troops were able to regain control of the area between the Brandenburg Gate and Alexanderplatz until late in the evening. In the districts further away from the castle, especially in the north and east of the city, the insurgents had more time to organize their defense. Barricades arose that reached a height of three stories. Roads were made impassable by deep trenches, especially for the heavy artillery, which could not penetrate the winding, narrow streets. By storming arsenals and weapons depots, the insurgents had come into possession of firearms. In total, over 900 barricades were erected.
Reaction of the king
When the first shots of the barricade fight were fired, Frederick William IV and his entourage were still sitting at the lunch table. However, the fighting could also be heard in the city palace . In order to end a street fight between the military and Berlin civilians as quickly as possible and to regain control, the king first commissioned his court painter Eduard Graewert to paint a white linen cloth with the inscription “A misunderstanding! The king wants the best 'to paint. Two volunteer civilians carried the poster through the streets of Berlin. However, the action could not prevent the clashes. In the next few hours, Friedrich Wilhelm IV and his government did not intervene any further in the event, although they were pressured to do so by advisors, officers, court officials, professors and local politicians. The government seemed overwhelmed by the amount of conflicting news and recommendations.
Location of the military
At around half past four, the first major shootings broke out. At 6 p.m. Königstrasse became the main arena. Around 6:30 p.m., the first cannons were used against the barricades. Although the soldiers managed to shoot down some barricades, the sight of torn corpses only increased the insurgents' will to resist. Church bells rang throughout the city to rally more citizens to resist. The fighting usually took place as follows: The soldiers approaching the barricades were shot at from windows and roofs or pelted with stones. As a result, the soldiers stormed the surrounding houses, and the apartments of uninvolved residents were also devastated by the soldiers. Even harmless passers-by on the street or women in their homes were shot by soldiers. Since the largely cloud-free sky was brightly lit by the full moon, the escalation continued into the night. Even smaller fires broke out: while the Royal Prussian Iron Foundry went up in flames, a sales booth on Alexanderplatz burned down completely. Although the military, with 14,000 soldiers and 36 guns, was far superior to the 4,000 insurgents, in the long run it was overwhelmed with the house and barricade fighting. In contrast to the rebels, who were supplied with drinks and food by sympathizers, according to General Prittwitz, the troops had "only received bread and brant wine in the last 36 to 48 hours". Since the soldiers took action against their own compatriots, the danger also increased that they would overflow with the insurgents.
Cessation of fighting
On the evening of March 18, Prittwitz checked the castle district and the immediately adjacent streets. All barricades were removed between the Spree, Neue Friedrichstrasse and Spittelmarkt . However, his soldiers, trained for field battles, had no experience of street fighting or the fight against popular uprisings. The small number of troops made a complete conquest of Berlin impossible. Around midnight Prittwitz had a personal conversation with Friedrich Wilhelm IV. The general recommended that the monarch keep the center of Berlin occupied for a few days and wait to see whether the moderate forces would not gain the upper hand after all. If the public excitement has not subsided by then, the King will have to leave Berlin. The city would then be bombed from the outside by artillery to surrender (which was to happen to Vienna in October 1848 ). Friedrich Wilhelm IV could then revoke his political concessions. The king did not accept Prittwitz's suggestion. He forbade further military advance and worked out the proclamation " To my dear Berliners ". In this declaration of March 19, 1848, he announced that he would partially withdraw the military if the citizens removed the barricades in return. The manifesto says: "Return to peace, clear the barricades that are still standing, [...] and I give you my royal word that all streets and squares should be cleared immediately by the troops and only the military occupation." the most necessary buildings [...] will be restricted ”. This proclamation was rejected by a citizens' deputation led by the future mayor of Berlin, Franz Christian Naunyn, with the indication that a full military withdrawal would be required for a ceasefire. At 10:30 am, Friedrich Wilhelm IV gave in to these demands.
Course after the Berlin barricade fight
Responsibility and reaction of the king
The Berlin barricade fight was one of the unrest with the most losses in the March Revolution: over two hundred civilians who were referred to as those who had fallen in March died . Over 600 insurgents had been wounded or taken prisoner. Only the royal troops suffered comparatively low casualties, with fewer than 50 dead. With the high number of dead and wounded, the question of responsibility took on a central role, especially since even the military protection of the city palace had largely been abandoned. The king had thus placed himself directly in the hands of the citizens. The first effect of this momentous decision was already evident on the afternoon of March 19, 1848: the rebels carried the corpses of those who died in March on carts into the courtyard, an act of indirect indictment against the king. Shortly after 2 p.m., he had to watch the funeral procession from the balcony of the Berlin Palace. In order to show the king the gunshot, bayonet and shrapnel wounds, the bodies of the dead had been exposed. The 150 corpses were adorned with flowers and branches. By shouting “cap off”, Friedrich Wilhelm IV was forced to pay homage to the dead. With this gesture of humility, Friedrich Wilhelm IV again succeeded in diverting the population from his personal guilt for the massacre. Due to his indecisive vacillation between military and diplomatic solution, Friedrich Wilhelm IV. Was largely responsible for the escalation, but was held less responsible for the barricade fight than Prince Wilhelm by the Berlin public. However, he had already been appointed Governor General of the Rhine Army by the King on March 10, 1848 and consequently had no authority over the troops stationed in and around Berlin. The fact that Prittwitz, who was actually primarily responsible, had approved the use of grape balls was wrongly attributed to Wilhelm. On May 12, 1848, the auscultator Maximilian Dortu coined the term “grape prince” in a speech, which was subsequently taken up by countless newspapers. On the evening of March 19, 1848, Wilhelm fled to the Spandau Citadel and in the following days went into exile in London. In the government at that time it was debated whether Wilhelm would benefit his son, the future Emperor Friedrich III. should be excluded from the royal succession.
Stabilization of the Prussian monarchy
The attitude of Friedrich Wilhelm IV towards those who died in March on March 19, 1848 had been able to calm the crowd so much that they cleared the courtyard and the palace square again. Apparently the Berliners' trust in the monarchy was restored. There were two reasons for this: firstly, reform movements in Prussia had often been decreed by the authorities (“ revolution from above ”), for example in the enlightened absolutism under Frederick II or in the Stein-Hardenberg reforms . From the point of view of the Prussian public, a social renewal did not necessarily have to be forced through a revolution from below, but was already in the interests of the monarchical administrative state. Second, the German educated bourgeoisie was deterred by the terror in Jacobean France. Instead of revolutionary France, they turned to Great Britain and thus to the state model of a constitutional monarchy . The Swiss weaver Johann Ulrich Furrer commented on this persistent “subject mentality” (according to Hachtmann) in his diary as follows:
“In Switzerland, I think it would have been done differently: a man who just a few moments ago gave orders to cut the people down would not be intoxicated with viverufs but with bullets. But the simple-minded people believe that the whole world would perish if there were no such masters by God's grace. "
From the beginning, this “subject mentality” and the social turmoil of the Berlin opposition movement had endangered the successful progress of the revolution. The apparent retreat of the king reinforced these tendencies: On the afternoon of March 19, Friedrich Wilhelm IV agreed to the establishment of a vigilante guard to defend the palace. On March 21st, the monarch rode through the city wearing a black, red and gold armband and had a plainclothed officer carry a black, red and gold flag ahead. With this performative act, Friedrich Wilhelm placed himself at the head of the German national movement . He seemed to want to support the liberals' demand for national unity. In the proclamation “ To my people and to the German nation ” published on the same day, he expressed his alleged wish that the Second United State Parliament, convened on April 2, 1848, should transform itself into an all-German state assembly through the admission of other assemblies. In addition, he promised in the proclamation a real constitution and the introduction of juries and ministerial responsibility. According to the key message of the declaration, Prussia should “be absorbed in Germany”. With the so-called March achievements (freedom of the press and assembly as well as the promise of a constitutional monarchy and German unity) all demands of the moderate liberals were fulfilled. In contrast to more radical forces, they considered the revolution to be over and, in the Prussian National Assembly, neglected social issues, which particularly affected craftsmen and industrial workers, for fear of anarchy . The demand for a labor and workers' ministry was just as unsatisfied as the desire for the lower social classes to participate in political decision-making processes. This disagreement between the revolutionary forces, which resulted from the social fractures, ultimately resulted in a “revolutionary fatigue” of the population, which made it possible for Friedrich Wilhelm and his camarilla to end the revolution in the long term.
For the time being, however, the barricade fight resulted in the liberalization of Prussia: On March 29, 1848, Friedrich Wilhelm IV established a new government . The King appointed the two Rhenish bankers Ludolf Camphausen and David Hansemann as Prussian Prime Minister and Finance Minister, respectively. Three of the seven representatives of the so-called Camphausen-Hansemann government came from the upper classes. On April 2, 1848, the new government submitted an electoral bill to the Second United State Parliament , on the basis of which a Prussian constituent assembly was to emerge. On May 1, 1848, the first free election took place in Prussia. In the Prussian National Assembly that met on May 22, 1848, liberal and left-wing liberal forces received a majority, while the conservatives, to the horror of the king, suffered a severe defeat. At the same time, Prussian MPs were also elected to the all-German Frankfurt National Assembly. Ultimately, however, the increasingly radical resolutions of the Prussian National Assembly and the successful reconquest of Vienna by Habsburg troops encouraged the king to take counter-revolutionary action, which reached its provisional climax on November 10, 1848, when the troops returned to Berlin. Although Prussia received and should keep a constitution by the grace of the king, most of the concessions were withdrawn from 1849.
The brief rapprochement between the Polish and German-speaking populations of Prussia did not last long either: 254 Poles were arrested in 1847 because they were accused of planning an uprising to reverse the Polish partitions . The defendants in the so-called Polish Trial had sought to restore a Polish state that had ceased to exist through the annexations between Prussia, Austria and Russia. The prisoners, some of whom were sentenced to life imprisonment in Moabit State Prison, enjoyed some sympathy among the population. Above all, democratic forces saw in the neighboring people, who were fighting for their freedom, a natural ally against the autocratic ruled Russian Empire. Under public pressure, the Polish prisoners were released on March 20, 1848, and around 1 p.m. they were enthusiastically cheered on the streets by Berliners. Some of the liberated even got on horse-drawn carriages and made improvised speeches to the crowd from there. The mood changed, however, when the revolutionary Ludwik Mierosławski traveled to the Prussian province of Posen at the end of March 1848, where in April / May 1848 he became the military leader of a Polish uprising . Despite all the sympathy and willingness to make concessions for the Polish people, the majority of the population in Prussia was unwilling to grant them national independence. The uprising in Poznan was forcibly suppressed by the Prussian army without protests in Berlin.
Burial procession on March 22, 1848
The funeral procession of those who died in March on March 22, 1848 was intended to express the unity of the urban community. In the run-up, however, the first major tensions arose within the protest movement. On March 21, 1848, the Berlin magistrate had planned to bury the civilian victims together with the fallen soldiers, which met the bitter resistance of the Berlin lower class, to which most of the fallen had belonged. The posters posted on walls throughout the city, which contained a statement from the “Committee for the Burial of Our Dead”, which had been specially convened by the magistrate, were torn down. Neither the Prussian Prime Minister nor the Police President showed any hearing for the protest. The decisive factor, however, was the fact that the military elite also spoke out against the burial of their soldiers alongside “rebels”. In their eyes, the troops' loyalty to the monarch could only be maintained if they cut off all contact with the revolution. On the morning of March 22nd, the 183 coffins of those who died in March, adorned with wreaths and ribbons, were laid out on the stairs of the German Cathedral on Gendarmenmarkt. Members of all social groups - citizens, students, craftsmen, civil servants, artists, scholars, teachers, pupils, workers and the courtly aristocracy - took part in the funeral ceremony. Over 20,000 people gathered on the Gendarmenmarkt. One of the eyewitnesses there was probably the painter Adolph Menzel , who captured the scene in an unfinished painting . The coffins were first carried to the city palace, where the king and his ministers appeared bareheaded on the balcony and greeted the crowd. The aim of the escort was the recently excavated graves of a specially created cemetery of the March fallen in Friedrichshain at the gates of the city. The cost of the ceremony and burial were borne by the city council.
Symbolic meaning of those who fell in March and March 18
March 18, 1848 was still in the Prussian reaction era a living symbol of the longing for freedom. Between 1849 and 1851 the cemetery of those who died in March was visited by craftsmen and industrial workers every year on March 18. The government even ordered military and police forces to the cemetery to prevent an all-too-obvious cult around the March dead. However, given the crowds pouring out of the city, this was hardly possible. The graves were so decorated with wreaths and flowers that the cemetery would have looked more like a "lovely garden", according to the Vossische Zeitung of March 20, 1849. From 1853 the cemetery slowly lost its importance as a political pilgrimage site. Police reports indicate that the graves were no more visited than other resting places on the anniversary of the barricade fighting in the second half of the 1850s. When police observation of the cemetery was stopped in 1862, the graves who had fallen in March experienced an increasing influx again. In particular, the growing Social Democratic Workers' Party used the cemetery symbolically to place itself as the legitimate successor to the revolutionary movement of 1848. On March 18, 1873, more than 10,000 people gathered in Friedrichshain. On the evening of that day, there was an argument with the police, in which a rally participant was killed. Until the end of the monarchy in 1918, the government hindered a free and peaceful commemoration of the Berlin March Revolution.
The one hundredth anniversary of the March Revolution in Berlin fell at the time of the German-German division . For this reason, the archives of the Berlin March Revolution, but also the cemetery of those who died in March, were out of reach of the western zones of occupation. Accordingly, in the later Bonn Republic, interest shifted to the Frankfurt National Assembly , while the liberal impulses of the Berlin March Revolution were hardly appreciated until the reunification of Germany . In the eastern sector of Berlin, the still undivided Berlin magistrate and representatives of the western parties met at the graves on the morning of March 18, 1948 to unveil a memorial stone in honor of those who fell in March. The head of the city council, Otto Suhr , who later became a member of the German Bundestag , used this historic opportunity in a speech to draw attention to the political situation of the time: it was in the interests of the Berlin barricade fighters that a liberal system prevailed in all parts of Germany. According to Suhr, German unity should not come at the cost of giving up political freedom. Of course, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany interpreted the Berlin March Revolution in its own way when it set the beginning of the “ Second German People's Congress for Unity and Just Peace ” on March 18, 1948. In contrast to the western zones, the revolution of 1848 did not focus on basic and civil rights, but on the historical necessity of national unity, which the SED believed should be enforced under socialist leadership. Even after such ambitions failed, the later German Democratic Republic saw itself in its self-image as the perfecter of the revolutionary goals of 1848.
In the Volkskammer election of 1990 , the first free election in the GDR , the so-called Alliance for Germany was elected by a majority of 48% on March 18, 1990 . The voters had thus spoken out in favor of the German Democratic Republic joining the Federal Republic of Germany. In order to emphasize the historical significance of this decision, the election was subsequently assessed as a revolutionary act and associated with the Berlin barricade fight of March 18, 1848. However, the political decision-makers had by no means intended such a tradition. The Modrow government wanted to reform the GDR by electing to be “democratic-socialist” in order to maintain its independence. A national unification of Germany, as the March Revolution in Berlin had called for, was not in their interests. Nevertheless, the graphic artist Manfred Butzmann created a 82.2 cm × 58.3 cm poster showing a section of the famous lithograph of the barricade fight on Alexanderplatz, which Anton Klaus had created in 1848. In contrast to the illustration of the violence of March 18, 1848, there is the text of the poster: “The revolution has voted: Democracy. No violence ". This representation made March 18 “the epitome of the nonviolent revolution that began with the protest demonstrations in autumn 1989 and ended with the first democratic elections” (according to Ulrike Ruttmann). The intentional link between the March Revolution of 1848 and the peaceful revolution of 1989/1990 is also evident in the renaming of the square in 2000: the “Square in front of the Brandenburg Gate” became the March 18th Square .
The culture of remembrance of the Berlin March Revolution was slow for a long time: although it was already planned during the Wilhelminian era , the project was able to sink memorial plaques at the places in the Berlin street pavement where on 18/19. March 1848 the barricades are said to have been in place, could not be realized. Only the applications and funding of the citizens' initiative “Aktion 18. März” made it possible to lay twelve memorial plaques in the 1990s. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary, the building administration of the Berlin Senate also supported the project. However, due to the small number of donors, only the most important locations could be identified. These include the Breite Strasse on the corner of Gertraudenstrasse , the former Königstrasse and today's Rathausstrasse , Alexanderplatz (not far from the tram stop), Strausberger Platz , the Gendarmenmarkt by the German Cathedral and the Roßstrasse Bridge . There are three memorial plaques on Friedrichstrasse (one each on the corner of Kronenstrasse , Oranienburger Strasse and Taubenstrasse ). There are two memorial plaques on Oberwallstrasse (one each on the corner of Französische Strasse and Jägerstrasse ).
The March Revolution in Berlin produced no political leaders of their own who could be compared to a Robespierre . On March 18, the Berlin veterinarian Friedrich-Ludwig Urban organized the construction and defense of a strategically important barricade that blocked access from Königstrasse to Alexanderplatz. As the only barricade that was exposed to direct artillery fire, it held up until the end of the 12-hour battle, not least thanks to two captured artillery pieces from a weapons magazine. However, when Major General von Möllendorff got into distress on March 19, Urban took a protective position and allowed the commander to march through to a barracks in Münzstrasse . In return, the major general had the fire on Alexanderplatz stopped. On March 21, 1848 Urban not only received an audience with Friedrich Wilhelm IV, but even accompanied the king on his ride through Berlin. Urban wanted to use his high reputation among the citizens of Berlin to prevent further bloodshed and to achieve reconciliation between the demonstrators and the monarchy. The mere fact that the Berlin magistrate negotiated the withdrawal of soldiers from Berlin on March 19, 1848 shows the lack of will of the demonstrators and barricade fighters to take on an independent negotiating role. The opposition thus became directly dependent on the magistrate and so gambled away the strength gained on the barricades.
One of the most famous people of the Berlin March Revolution is the locksmith's apprentice Ernst Zinna , who was shot at the age of 17 . On a pen lithograph by Theodor Hosemann from 1848 he can be seen together with the journeyman locksmith Wilhelm Glasewaldt defending a barricade on Friedrichstrasse / corner of Jägerstrasse . With his saber drawn, he starts to jump over the barricade in the picture, only to attack an officer in the next moment, where he should be fatally hit by several bullets. On the morning of March 19, 1848, the barricade, with the exception of Zinna and Glasewaldt, was already unmanned and thus far inferior to the advancing battalion of infantry. According to the contemporary report in the Berlin Revolution Chronicle , Zinna fled to an open house and died there from his gunshot wounds. No other contemporary sources are known about Zinna's death. Zinna thus remains blurred as a historical figure, but due to his young age, his simple social origins and his death for political reasons in the GDR propaganda, the Free German Youth stylized him as a socialist revolutionary hero. The Ernst Zinna Prize , awarded by the Berlin City Council between 1957 and 1989 , honored young inventors and artists. After reunification, a school initiative called for Strausberger Strasse to be renamed Ernst-Zinna-Strasse, but this failed. The district council Berlin-Friedrichshain was in 2000. Instead, a previously unnamed access road to the hospital at the cemetery of the Märzgefallenen name accordingly.
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