The long shadow of the revolution

Michael Brenner's study examines Munich in the Weimar period.

â € œMunich was democratic in the Empire, and the asylum of all those in the north was declared as revolutionary elements that had to give way to the intolerance of North German police organs. Now Munich is once again a German asylum center. But now for the representatives of that old Prussian squire, against which the Bavarians could not run enough storms in the past."

It is difficult to convey today that conditions are changeable and political systems are not indispensable, given the peace that has arisen since the end of World War II in 1945 and the solid nature of West German democracy.

Quotation from above Vossian newspaper from October 1923 only shows how quickly the social structure of Munich had changed, from a modern, culturally affine, partly liberal city with the culmination point Schwabing when the Munich Council of Republics was proclaimed on November 7, 1918, about their brutal crackdown in May 1919 and the establishment of the reactionary regime by Gustav von Kahr and the so-called â € œOrder Cell Bavariaâ € œ in 1920/21 until the fascist attempt to overthrow â € œHitler Putschâ € a few days after the publication of that article on November 9, 1923. The quote is found in Michael Brenner's study â € œThe Long Shadow of the Revolutionâ €, which illuminates this five-year period.

Her subtitle, “Jews and Anti-Semites in Hitler's Munich 1918” 1923, is somewhat misleading. The Austrian Hitler had lived in the city since 1913 and then again from 1918. Like many other World War I soldiers, he was extremely anti-Semitic. In the months of the Soviet Republic, however, he did not appear politically. He presumably did spies for the Bavarian military and monitored pacifist activists. His traces in Munich from 1918/19 are sparse and the author only deals with them in passing.

What Brenner's depicts in “The Long Shadow of the Revolution” is very convincing, however, the general anti-Jewish tendencies in Bavaria, which were virulent before the First World War and which intensified after the violent end of the Soviet Republic. Why Jews were so numerous in the councils has to do with their social discrimination: "Many of them saw a possibility in Socialism to escape their own social emergency," writes Brenner. From 1871, they were legally equivalent in the German Reich and also represented in parliaments, but were only accepted in the left-liberal and left-wing camps. Before 1914, the Social Democrats had the most Jewish MPs, while the majority of the Jewish voters voted for conservative parties. In Munich and Bavaria, too, the vast majority of Jewish citizens were conservative and were concerned about developments after the declaration of the Soviet Republic.

Agitation and slander

When Kurt Eisner became Bavarian Prime Minister on November 7, 1918 and founded the Free State, he became the first Jewish representative to head a German country. He was immediately overwhelmed with anti-Semitic agitation. In the spring of 1919, Thomas Mann wrote of the "type of Russian Jew, leader of the world movement, this explosive mixture of Jewish intellectual radicalism and Slavic enthusiasm for Christ". And demanded to take "legal abbreviation against this human attack". Mann's anti-Semitic admission seems even more moderate in the face of ethnic agitators who unanimously vilified the Berlin-based journalist and politician Eisner and the Karlsruhe-born philosopher Gustav Landauer as "Galician Jews." At the time, as Brenner shows from figures, a few hundred Jews immigrated from Galicia lived in Munich, some of whom were actually expelled from Bavaria. They served as an enemy.

Slander and threats were systematic. The Revolutionary Revolutionaries were immediately fought in the national propaganda as "foreign elements". Even after the Soviet Republic was crushed, the stereotypes remained: rapists, usurers, Christ killers, the whole arsenal of anti-Semitic terms was used. Brenner's book provides many unsavory finds: For example, right-wing students stormed a performance of Frank Wedekind's play â € œSchloss Wettersteinâ € in the Münnner Kammerspiele in December 1919. Jewish-looking visitors beat up inside, shouted â € žhurl stablesâ € ™ and â € ¦ œ. The police then dropped the piece, not chasing the thugs. Munich's path to the â € œcapital of the movementâ € is illustrated by Brenner with numerous facts. Cause (statements by right-wing politicians) and effect (violence) become clear. As early as September 1923, Jews were beaten in Munich on the open street and synagogue windows were smashed. By this time, many prominent writers and artists had already left the city for Berlin.

What sets the “long shadow of the revolution” apart from previous analyzes of the Soviet Revolution is a change of perspective that its author, Professor of Jewish History in Munich and Director of the Center for Israel Studies in Washington, is making. Michael Brenner shows "mostly hidden aspects", such as how heterogeneous the Jewish population of the Bavarian capital was. Zionists, liberals, but also monarchists and ultra-conservative nationalists of Jewish faith lived in Munich. And Brenner lets them all have their say in his book; Using newspaper articles, judicial files, and diary entries, he shows how right-wing forces harassed them. How anti-Semitism broke out in political circles and in broad sections of the population. How differently Jews judged the impulses and ideas of the Soviet revolutionaries.

At first, however, the historian placed short biographical portraits of those Jewish actors who had contributed to Bavaria's proclamation to the Free State: Kurt Eisner, Gustav Landauer, Felix Fechenbach, Sonja Lechner, Erich Mühsam sought their salvation in a progressive left and â € “After the outbreak of war in 1914 - pacifist politics. Brenner characterizes these as "godless Jews" because they are either not very religious or have never publicly argued about their origins. Using the example of Gustav Landauer, Brenner very clearly explains his lifelong, intensive examination of his roots. And with the writer Erich Mühsam, who was reduced to his Jewish background, Brenner shows how calmly he reacted to such accusations. â € œI consider that I am a Jew neither a privilege nor a lack; it is simply part of my nature, like my red beard, my body weight or my "predisposition to interests," replied with difficulty to a public letter from the orthodox Jew Siegmund Frakel in the Munich Latest News.

There is no question that Brenner's book is currently of interest, and not just because of the memory of the Soviet revolution 100 years later: the threat of anti-Semitism must still be taken seriously. There was an increase in anti-Semitic crimes in Munich in 2019. What is particularly worrying is how open, how cheeky right-wing extremists are working, how laborious the fight against the daily threat is, how little resonance this finds among the general public. The news seems to be outrageous that a few days ago the Austrian Harald Z. wanted to set up a â € œGermanian workersâ € association in Munich, in an inn in downtown Munich, where a National Socialist workersâ € ™ association had been established 100 years ago who founded the smear sheet Folk observer published. This could be prevented with the host, some counter-demonstrators and the police present.

Brenner's book provides a great deal of historical illustrative material on the subject of anti-Semitism, which is also important for current debates. In addition, his investigation fills an empty space on the Jewish side of the Munich Council of Republics and clears up false claims. While the origins of the revolutionaries were often downplayed by the left or simply overlooked, conservative historiography still argued with clichés and false causalities after 1945: Even renowned historians like Golo Mann supported the thesis that Kurt's Jewish origin Eisner, Gustav Landauer and Erich Mühsam were directly responsible for the rise of anti-Semitism. Brenner shows that there was anti-Semitism in Bavaria long before the Soviet Revolutionaries were active in Munich, and how he became increasingly radicalized after 1919.

Michael Brenner: â € œThe long shadow of the revolution. Jews and anti-Semites in Hitler's Munich 1918â € “1923â €. Jewish publisher in Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin 2019, 400 pages, 28 euros

Source: taz from Tuesday, January 14.01.2020th, 15, page XNUMX