January fights in Berlin

The decision to remove Eichhorn displeased not only the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (NPSD), to which the policing president of Berlin belonged, was also protested by the German Communist Party (KKE), whose leadership included prominent revolutionaries and organizers of the Spartak Union Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg and Leo Yogiches. On January 5, a joint demonstration was held against Eichhorn’s dismissal. More than 150,000 people took to the streets, and although the leadership of the KPD decides that “the time has not yet come for us to act as a government,” there are calls for the resignation of Friedrich Ebert and Social Democrat Philip Scheidemann. People are full of anger and determination, but the leaders of the NCPD and KPD could not make a joint decision and did not give any instructions to the crowd.

Fighting at the barricades. Berlin, January 1919

However, the degree of dissatisfaction, including the inaction of the revolutionary leaders, grew, and at 6 pm, the crowd, on its own initiative, seized the building of the newspaper “Forverts”, which was the mouthpiece of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). Shortly before the resignation, it was “Forverts” that launched a smear campaign against Eichhorn and accused him of receiving gold from the Bolsheviks and illegally acquired weapons. Meanwhile, the government did not expect such a development of events, and even the Minister of War Gustav Noske admitted that "if the masses had strong leaders who clearly understood their goals, instead of a landbreaker, by noon of that day they would have seized Berlin."

Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht

Meanwhile, the independent and communist formed the Provisional Revolutionary Committee. Most of it was represented by independent leftists and a decision was made by voting to fight against the government. The communists did not plan to overthrow the government at first, but after the workers seized the buildings of newspapers and printing houses, not one of the revolutionary groups wanted to appear less radical. Therefore, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg succumbed to the pressure of the crowd and put forward the slogan of overthrowing the government. However, Yogiches strongly opposed and called on KKE to distance itself from Liebknecht. The representative of the Bolsheviks in the KKE Karl Radek also said that the calls for the overthrow of the government are false and called on the party to withdraw from this struggle.

Armored cars participated in the suppression of the uprising

But on January 6, the Revolutionary Committee again called for a mass demonstration. More people gathered. However, the workers were not supported by the soldiers, even the People’s Naval Division declared neutrality, while the rest of the garrisons remained loyal to the government. Perhaps it was the refusal of the army to support the protesters was one of the reasons for the failure of the speech. The workers were poorly armed to fight independently with the government forces. The Revolutionary Committee begins negotiations with the authorities, but Rosa Luxemburg sharply criticized them.

Street fights in Berlin

Meanwhile, the government ordered a member of the Council of People’s Plenipotentiaries responsible for the military sphere, Gustav Noske, to put down the insurgency. He began to collect troops in the suburbs of Berlin and turned him into a military camp of the opponents of the Communists. With a 3-thousand army on January 11, Noske entered Berlin. The soldiers of the volunteer troops, armed with cannons, machine guns and armored vehicles, first of all freed the building of the Forverts, and then the city’s police-presidium. Noske acted decisively and toughly, refused to negotiate with the invaders "Forverts". According to the memoirs of Luxembourg, soldiers beat Protestants beyond recognition with rifle butts, and captured the prisoners mercilessly, "so cruelly that the skull and pieces of brain tissue flew away in different directions."

Government troops during the January battles

Noske began sweeping the city and searching for revolutionary elders. On January 15, Luxembourg and Liebknecht were found in the apartment. They were arrested and handed over to volunteer troops. The interrogation was commanded by Captain Valdemar Pabst, with the approval of Noske, he treated the detainees harshly and even authorized their killing. Liebknecht and Luxemburg were first beaten unconscious with a rifle butt and then killed by shots to the head. Private Otto Runge, lieutenants Rudolf Lipman, German Souchon, Heinrich Stiege and others took part in the crackdown on revolutionary leaders. Later, Pabst assured that his actions were approved not only by Noske, but also by Ebert.

Funeral of Rosa Luxemburg

Almost a month later, the authorities arrested Karl Radek. He was accused of organizing the January uprising, but the investigators did not have any concrete documents confirming this. In January 1920, Radek was released and he returned to Moscow.

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