SOLDATENRATEN: Red Germany

I did not know that Germany after the end of the war was Red. This little tidbit of information I learned in the last chapters of The Stillness Heard Round the World by Stanley Weintraub. It is a well written book, though many of its pages are devoted to celebrations around the world, there are also poignant concerns and chapters devoted to political machinations among great powers.

What interests, me, though, is in the last few days of the Great War, the German home front not only saw the resignation of the Kaiser and his sons, but also the reformation of society into Citizen and Soldier Counsels. These Counsels were formed in the heritage of a commune, and decisions for each Counsel were made in the Counsels themselves. If a Soldier’s counsel wanted to return to Munish, or Berlin, then that decision had to be made together. It was an inefficient process at the time, forcing a new form of rule on a confused and worried populace.

This process came beneath the more well recognized formation of the Weimar Republic that replaced the Kaiser and his mates from their kingdom of Prussia. The soldatenraten, as they were called, wore red crepe on their arms to symbolize the red in their hearts. It was a conflict that created something of civil unrest in the war torn country, and the people, many of whom preferred a republic to a socialist state, while not necessarily raising weapons against the soldiers who came back from the front disillusioned and hardened by their experiences, the citizen counsels did their best to encourage those soldiers who hadn’t already, to don red crepe and join a soldatenraten.

The book ended with a brief account of Hitler’s first attempt to gain power in a coup held on the five year anniversary of the Armistice. By 1923, then, Germany was still a place where extremists could provide inspiration to a people adrift in political agony and shame from the Great War.

 

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