Ruhr uprising

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Ruhr uprising
Part of: Kapp Putsch
Grave and memorial for the dead of the Ruhr uprising in Hagen
Grave and memorial for the dead of the Ruhr uprising in Hagen
date March 13 to April 12, 1920
place Wetter (Ruhr) , Essen , Haltern , Dinslaken , Wesel , Voerde and other places
Casus Belli Armed fighting as a result of the defense against the Kapp Putsch
output Victory of the Freikorps and the Reichswehr
consequences Suppression of the uprising, civil shootings
Parties to the conflict

Reichswehr , Freikorps Lichtschlag , Marine Brigade von Loewenfeld , Freikorps Epp , Freikorps Jauch , Assault Detachment Roßbach , Security Police , Resident Defense

Red Ruhr Army , USPD , KPD , KAPD , FAUD


General Oskar von Watter , Reichswehr Minister Gustav Noske , leader of the Freikorps

Workers councils

Troop strength
Over 45,000 as of March 30th 30,000 - 100,000, depending on the source


approx. 2,000

"Path of the Red Ruhr Army, 17. – 23. March 1920 "

The Ruhr uprising , also called March uprising , Ruhr War or Ruhrkampf , was an uprising by workers in the Ruhr area in March 1920. The uprising was initially carried out to ward off the right-wing Kapp Putsch of March 13, 1920 and was supported by a wide range of political groups, locally were very different. Later, however, left-wing workers pursued the goal of taking over political power. After the end of the Kapp Putsch, the Reich government had the ongoing Ruhr uprising put down by Freikorps and units of the Reichswehr .


Kapp putsch

On March 13, 1920, right-wing Freikorps, threatened with disbandment, marched into Berlin. The "Provisional Reichswehr " refused to protect the legitimate government, whereupon it fled the city and the putschists declared Wolfgang Kapp to be Reich Chancellor. However, due to the refusal of the ministerial bureaucracy, Kapp was unable to lead an effective government and gave up on March 17, 1920 after the general strike against his putsch was declared. The general strike was officially declared over on March 22nd.

Countermovement and revolt

The first demonstrations took place in the Ruhr area on March 13, 1920, for example with 20,000 people in Bochum. At the same time as the Kapp Putsch , a meeting of representatives of the KPD , USPD and SPD took place on March 14, 1920 in Elberfeld (today in Wuppertal ) . The left workers' parties spontaneously decided to form an alliance against the putschists. The SPD, USPD and KPD drafted a joint appeal to “gain political power through the dictatorship of the proletariat ”.

As a result of this declaration and in the context of the general strike, some workers tried to take over government on a regional scale. In the larger towns of the Ruhr area, spontaneously formed local “executive councils” took over power. They were mostly dominated by the USPD, the KPD was also there. But the anarcho-syndicalist Free Workers' Union of Germany (FAUD) was also represented. Worker soldiers were posted to control the cities.

The Red Ruhr Army , whose strength was estimated at around 50,000 members from the rifles later handed in, succeeded in defeating the armed security forces in the area within a very short time.

On March 15, 1920 armed workers formations attacked in weather a vanguard of the Freikorps Lichtschlag to under Captain Otto Hasenclever, who was among black-white-red flags being released and had given on demand, under the command of Lieutenant-General von Watter to be, which in turn " on the floor of General Lüttwitz ”. The battery was wiped out, Captain Hasenclever and ten soldiers and six workers killed. On March 17th, the main force of the Freikorps in Dortmund was defeated after several hours of fighting. The armed workers captured the guns, captured 600 members of the voluntary corps and occupied Dortmund .

On March 20, 1920, the Central Council of Workers' Councils was formed in Essen , which took power in parts of the Ruhr area. There was also a headquarters in Hagen .

The Wesel Citadel was attacked on March 24th.

The workers' councils failed to comply with the ultimatum of the returned government to give up strikes and insurrection by March 30 and April 2, respectively.

The attempt to resolve the conflict through negotiation in the so-called Bielefeld Agreement ultimately failed due to the unauthorized action of the regional military commander in Wehrkreis VI, Lieutenant General Oskar von Watter .

The result was the renewed proclamation of a general strike. More than 300,000 miners took part (around 75 percent of the workforce). The uprising also brought Düsseldorf and Elberfeld into the hands of the workers. By the end of March, the entire Ruhr area had been conquered.

The insurgents involved, often World War II veterans, even received wages from the workers' councils. The operation was often carried out in small groups who moved around on bicycles. The former fortress in Wesel was also besieged, but the Ruhr Army suffered its first defeat here.

The structure of the Red Ruhr Army, like the political demands and positions of the individual workers' councils, was very heterogeneous and subject to frequent changes. Overall, there is a strong east-west divide. The eastern Ruhr area, dominated by the USPD, organized and armed itself earlier, but did not support a continuation of the armed actions as an uprising against the Reich government that was able to act again. On the other hand, the mobilization was delayed in the western Ruhr area, which was mainly dominated by syndicalists, but the continuation as an uprising later found greater sympathy here.


Reichswehr and shot members of the Red Ruhr Army, April 2, 1920, Möllen near Duisburg

At the end of March 1920, Reich Defense Units marched into the Ruhr area to put down the uprising. Interestingly enough, these included units that had supported the coup days before, such as the von Loewenfeld Marine Brigade or the Aulock Freikorps.

With the backing of the imperial government , General von Watter's uprising was suppressed from the north. His staff led the civil war in the Ruhr area on behalf of the Reich government from Münster , during which units of the Reichswehr and Freikorps overthrew the Red Army in the Ruhr area.

As early as March 23rd, the Reichswehr Brigade 21 of Franz Ritter von Epp gathered in the staging area in the Hamm area . On March 31, the Reichswehr shot the first insurgents in Herringen and at the Radbod colliery in Bockum-Hövel . On Maundy Thursday, April 1st, parts of the Epp Corps and the Red Ruhr Army met in a bloody battle near Pelkum around noon . On April 2nd, the government troops moved further west from Pelkum towards Bergkamen - Rünthe . In the first days of April 150 to 300 workers were killed there. House searches , disarmament, court martial and mass arrests accompanied the advance of the Reichswehr troops. The Reichswehr entered Dortmund on April 6th.

There were death sentences and mass shootings . Those who were armed when arrested were shot - including injured. On April 3, 1920, Reich President Friedrich Ebert had the court martial again banned in order to prevent the worst, but it was not until April 12 that General von Watter prohibited his soldiers from “illegal behavior”. Even so, days later (alleged) members of the Red Ruhr Army were “shot while trying to escape”.

The Reichswehr only stopped at the Ruhr , because the British occupation troops threatened to occupy the Bergisches Land because of the violation of the Versailles Peace Treaty .


Most of the insurgents who died in the fighting were buried in mass graves. As a result, graves of honor were erected, which were remembered in the 1920s and 1930s until the dead came to power . However, many of these graves were destroyed during the National Socialist era .

Today, annual or occasional commemorative events are still held in Bochum-Werne, Herne and Wuppertal.

Graves of honor and memorial plaques

  • Honorary grave at the Wiescherstraße cemetery in Herne
  • Memorial stone on the former cemetery, now Park Dannenbaumstrasse in Bochum- Laer
  • Memorial stone on the cemetery in Bochum- Werne
  • Memorial plaques from the 1930s and 1980s on the water tower on Steeler Berg in Essen
  • Memorial plaque at the Südwestfriedhof Essen
  • Honorary grave and memorial stone in the Haard forest , south of the town of Haltern
  • Memorial at the Horst-Süd cemetery in Gelsenkirchen
  • Honorary grave in the Westfriedhof in Oberhausen
  • Honorary grave in the cemetery in Bottrop-Kirchhellen
  • Memorial for the murdered workers of the Red Ruhr Army on the north cemetery in Dortmund
  • Honorary grave in the park cemetery in Dinslaken
  • Memorial stone on a mass grave in the Haard near Bruckhausen
  • Honorary grave in the Duisburg-Walsum cemetery
  • Honorary grave with statue on the Remberg cemetery in Hagen
  • Memorial plaque at the train station of the city of Wetter (Ruhr) for the fighting there (since 1987)
  • Grave for the volunteer corps fighters who fell in Wetter (!) In the Wetter cemetery. Later on, tombstones were added on the same area to commemorate the workers killed and a female citizen
  • Honor grave in Bommern
  • Honorary grave for a laborer in Wengern
  • Memorial plaque at the location of the shootings in Pelkum
  • Honorary grave at the Pelkum cemetery
  • Honorary grave at the Wiescherhöfen cemetery
  • Honorary grave with statue in the Bergkamen cemetery
  • Memorial stones for two mass graves in the Haard near Olfen -Eversum
  • Memorial stones and plaque on the cemetery of honor at Königshöhe in Wuppertal -Elberfeld

Honoring members of the volunteer corps :

  • Ruhr fighter memorial at Haus Horst in Essen for members of the Freikorps and Reichswehr killed in the fighting, as well as police officers, erected in 1934 by the National Socialists
  • Cenotaph and grave for fallen police officers at the Südwestfriedhof Essen
  • Honorary grave for the fallen of the Loewenfeld Freikorps at the Bottrop-Kirchhellen cemetery
  • Naming of Loewenfeldstrasse in Bottrop-Kirchhellen

See also

Cinematic reception

The DEFA produced in 1967 a two-part television film on the novel Burning Ruhr by Karl Grünberg inspired. This film has been reprinted since 2011 and is available in stores. In 1979 the NDR broadcast a 45-minute documentary by Dr. Heiner Herde on the Ruhr uprising and the Red Ruhr Army. In this not only the events are presented, there are also contemporary witnesses of the uprising with a bourgeois reporter and a miner.


  • Hans Spethmann : Twelve years of mining in the Ruhr. From his history from the beginning of the war to the French march 1914–1925 , 5 vols., Berlin, Reimar Hobbing 1928–1931, especially vol. 2: Uprising and standing out before and after the Kapp putsch up to the occupation of the Ruhr .
  • Hans Marchwitza : Storm on Essen, The fights d. Ruhr workers against Kapp, Watter u. Severing. (Roman) Internationaler Arbeiter-Verlag, Berlin 1930, The red one-mark novel; Vol. 1.
  • Hans Spethmann: The Red Army on the Ruhr and Rhine. 3. Edition. Hobbing, Berlin 1932.
  • Adolf Meinberg : uprising on the Ruhr. (Speeches and essays), ed. by Hellmut G. Haasis and Erhard Lucas , Verlag Roter Stern, Frankfurt 1973, ISBN 3-87877-060-X .
  • Kurt Kläber : Barricades on the Ruhr. (Stories), with a biographical note by Theo Pinkus , Verlag Roter Stern, Frankfurt 1973.
  • Erhard Lucas : March Revolution 1920. 3 volumes. Verlag Roter Stern, Frankfurt am Main 1973–1978, ISBN 3-87877-075-8 , ISBN 3-87877-064-2 , ISBN 3-87877-085-5 .
  • George Eliasberg : The Ruhr War of 1920. Series of publications by the research institute of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation . Neue Gesellschaft, Bonn / Bad Godesberg 1974, ISBN 3-87831-148-6 .
  • Diethart Kerbs : The Red Ruhr Army March 1920. Nishen, Berlin 1985, ISBN 3-88940-211-9 .
  • Karl Grünberg: Burning dysentery. (Roman), RuhrEcho, Bochum 1999, ISBN 3-931999-03-3 .
  • Klaus Tenfelde : Civil War in the Ruhr Area 1918 to 1920. In: Karl-Peter Ellerbrock: First World War, Civil War and Occupation of the Ruhr. Dortmund and the Ruhr area 1914 / 18-1924 , Society for Westphalian Economic History eV, Dortmund, Kleine Schriften, Heft 33, Dortmund 2010, ISBN 978-3-87023-289-4 .
  • Bernhard E. Köster (Ed.): The Red Army in Haltern am See and in Vest Recklinghausen. Event reports, documents and eyewitness reports 1918–1926, Haltern am See 2012.
  • Rainer Pöppinghege: Republic in civil war. Kapp Putsch and counter-movement on Ruhr and Lippe in 1919/20. Regional history compact, Vol. 2, Ardey-Verlag, Münster 2019. ISBN 978-3-87023-443-0 .
  • Klaus Gietinger : Kapp Putsch. 1920 - Defensive battles - Red Ruhr Army. Butterfly, Stuttgart 2020, ISBN 3-89657-177-X .
  • Wilfried Reininghaus (arrangement): The workers' uprising in the Ruhr area in 1920. Source criticism and edition of contemporary representations by Carl Brenner, Josef Ernst , Arthur Zickler, Gerhard Colm, Willi Cuno and Siegfried Schulz; Publications of the Historical Commission for Westphalia, New Series 53, Aschendorff Verlag, Münster 2020.

Web links

Commons : Ruhraufstand  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Erhard Lucas, March Revolution 1920, Volume III, p. 197.
  2. Erhard Lucas: March Revolution 1920. Volume III, pp. 12-13.
  3. ^ Emil Julius Gumbel : Four years of political murder. Verlag der neue Gesellschaft, Berlin-Fichtenau 1922, p. 69 ff.
  4. Erhard Lucas: March Revolution 1920. Volume III, u. A. Pages 137, 237, 309, 355, 408.
  5. Auguste Heer, 1894–1978. on:
  6. ↑ Anniversary of the Battle of Pelkum. on: , March 26, 2010.
  7. ^ Emil Julius Gumbel : Four years of political murder. Verlag der neue Gesellschaft, Berlin-Fichtenau, 1922, pp. 73 ff.
  8. Erhard Lucas: March Revolution 1920. Volume III, pp. 353-383.
  9. Günter sliding Sing / Anke Pfromm: Kapp coup and revolution of March 1920 (III): List of dead Märzgefallenen from the RWTH industrial area. Bochum 2010, ISBN 978-3-931999-17-9 .
  10. Thea A. Struchtemeier: "From weather went the weather!" - Reminiscence of the history of the origin of the workers' memorial plaque to commemorate the suppression of the Kapp Putsch in March 1920, in: 1999, Zeitschrift für die Sozialgeschichte des 20. und 21st Century, Volume 6, January 1991, Issue 1, pp. 161 ff.