Authority and Upheaval in Leipzig, 1910-1920: The Story of a Relationship

By Sean Dobson | Go to book overview

chapter 8
FINAL DISSOLUTION OF THE OLD RELATIONSHIP:
8–9 NOVEMBER 1918

WHEN ON 29 October the Reich admiralty issued the order to set sail on the “death ride” mentioned in the preceding chapter, the sailors mutinied, joining forces with revolutionary workers in their localities to form Worker and Soldier Councils (Arbeiter und Soldatenräte, or ASRe). These organizations not only stripped officers of authority but also compelled local officials to recognize their supremacy. By 3 November they were in control of the northern port cities and demanding that Germany be transformed into a democratic republic. In the following days their emissaries succeeded in converting to the revolution workers and soldiers in ever more big cities across Germany. 1

Revolutionary sailors had not quite reached Leipzig when, on the morning of 8 November, about three hundred soldiers marooned in the city's train station found themselves in a highly irritated mood. 2 Ordered to the front to fight in a war now lost, they could find no food to still the gnawing hunger that had been growing while they waited for a connection already several hours late. The men began conferring with each other and resolved to take action. Under a hastily fashioned red flag, they formed a column and marched off toward Leipzig's union headquarters (das Volkshaus), seemingly without a specific plan of action. Other soldiers quickly joined them, perhaps attracted by the fun of stopping officers on the street and pulling them out of trams, disarming them, and stripping them of their epaulettes. The marchers ripped their own imperial cockades off and tied red kerchiefs around their arms, parading thus through the city center in a serpentine path toward the Volkshaus. Within minutes, the mayor heard of the mutiny and feared the soldiers might invade the town hall. Realizing that his own police would not oppose the armed mutineers, he telephoned General von Schweinitz, re-

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