How a Socialist Revolution in Southeastern Germany Inspired Hitler

Sept. 19 2022

In 1918, as the German empire collapsed in the midst of its defeat in the First World War, a socialist revolution took place in Bavaria, establishing the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic. Shortly thereafter, this regime was overthrown by local Communists, whose repressive rule was subsequently ended by the German military and members of rightwing militias. The fact that Jews played leading roles in both these socialist governments—especially in the first, whose prime minister, Kurt Eisner, was a Jew—was not lost on their sympathizers. Nor was it lost on the National Socialists of Munich, the Bavarian capital, who in 1923 would attempt a revolution of their own in that city, directed by their new leader, Adolf Hitler.

Michael Brenner argues that there is a clear connection between the events in revolutionary Bavaria and the shaping of Hitler’s anti-Semitic worldview, and the events that followed—a subject that historians have treated with the same understandable reticence with which they treat the complicity of various individual Jews in Soviet crimes:

As a rule, one skates on slippery ice when researching the Jews and their participation in socialism, Communism, and revolutionary movements. The ices become very slippery indeed when dealing with a place that, so soon after the events of the revolution, became the laboratory for Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist movement. After all, it was mainly the anti-Semites who highlighted the prominence of Jews in this revolution to justify their anti-Jewish behavior. In Mein Kampf, Hitler himselftitled the chapter about the period when he was active in Munich after November 1918, “Beginning of My Political Activity.” He drew a direct line between what he called “the rule of the Jews” and his political awakening.

For many contemporary witnesses as well as subsequent interpreters of these events, there was a clear causality: the conspicuous prominence of Jewish revolutionaries (most of whom, moreover, were not from Bavaria) prompted a reaction that created a space for anti-Semitic agitation to an unprecedented degree.

To Brenner, however, it would be wrong to say that German Jews somehow reaped what the Jewish socialists of Bavaria sowed:

The anti-Semitic excesses of the period following the war would have been unthinkable if they had not been planted on fertile ground. Anti-Jewish resentments had struck deep roots going well back into the early modern era. They repeatedly pushed to the surface especially during political upheavals. Eisner and his comrades did not cause anti-Semitism; the events associated with them merely reactivated it.

What had fundamentally changed now was the ubiquity of the “Jewish question.” It would be worthwhile to investigate systematically how rarely the word “Jew” appeared in the press before the First World War and how frequently it occurred after the war. Starting in 1919 there was hardly a week that went by without reporting about Jews as communists or capitalists, draft dodgers or war profiteers—or articles featuring disclaimers of reporting like this. There was talk about foreign or alien elements, the customary code words for Jews, alongside terms like profiteer, trafficker, or black marketeer.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Adolf Hitler, Anti-Semitism, Germany, Socialism

 

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship