A Fateful Date November 9 Marks Highs and Lows in German History

Broken windows of a Jewish shop on the morning after a Nazi pogrom on Nov 9, 1938.
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Broken windows of a Jewish shop on the morning after a Nazi pogrom on Nov 9, 1938.

By Christopher Lawton

Part 2: A German Revolution -- 1918


It was 71 years before the fall of the Berlin Wall when November 9 first attained significance in German history. It was on that day in 1918 that the monarchy came to an end in Berlin.

The end had been a long time in coming. The German army had all but lost World War I. Indeed, Emperor Wilhelm II knew in August that the situation was largely hopeless and that his own position was in danger.

Nevertheless, his own military vowed to fight on. Even as peace negotiations were under way, the German Imperial Naval Command hatched a plan to fight one last battle against the British navy in the English Channel. The sailors, battleweary and eager to get home, staged a mutiny. Some disobeyed orders to weigh anchor while others committed sabotage.

In the course of just a few weeks, the mutiny grew into a country-wide revolution, spreading to all coastal cities and elsewhere. In Munich, revolutionaries deposed King Ludwig III, the king of Bavaria, on Nov. 7, making him the first royal victim of the revolt. On the afternoon of Nov. 9, Philipp Scheidemann, deputy chairman of the Social Democrats, stepped out onto a balcony of the Reichstag parliament building in Berlin and called out the establishment of the republic, an announcement that set tens of thousands of demonstrators into a frenzy.

But he wasn't the only one to proclaim revolution. A later uprising by the communists two months later, in January 1919, was crushed. Karl Liebknecht, leader of the left-wing socialist Spartakusbund, and his political ally Rosa Luxemburg were murdered. When the dust cleared, Germany founded the Weimar Republic, the democracy ultimately brought to an end by Adolf Hitler.

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