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Violence on the streets of Berlin
Spartacists secure the surrender of a barrack of Uhlans in November 1918. The banner reads 'Brothers! Don't shoot!' Photo: 'Wiener Bilder', 24 Nov 1918, ANNO/Austrian National Library

Violence on the streets of Berlin

Berlin, 13 January 1919 - The war may be over but the trouble continues throughout defeated Germany. Reports from Berlin indicate that bloody battles have taken place between social democratic government troops and their opponents, the ‘Spartacists’ - who have drawn comparisons to the Bolsheviks in Russia - with heavy losses sustained on both sides.

Among the casualties is Dr Karl Liebknecht, the principal leader of the revolutionary Spartacists, who is reported to have been killed in fighting in Berlin.

Karl Liebknecht, leader of the Spartacists, addressing a crowd. Dr Liebknecht is reported to have been killed (Image: Österreichische Illustrierte Zeitung, 22 Dec 1918, ANNO/Austrian National Library)

Rioting has also been reported in many other cities and towns, including Düsseldorf, where the Spartacists have taken control of the levers of government. In Bremen, meanwhile, a Socialist Republic has been proclaimed.

The actions of the Spartacists has drawn heavy criticism from the Belfast Newsletter which has lambasted the German Bolsheviks for their seizure of newspaper offices and their free use of machine guns on the streets.

‘The object of the extremists is the same as that of Lenin and Trotsky’, the newspaper has argued. ‘They are engaged in a determined campaign against law, order, property, and the rights of all who refuse to obey them. They are the greatest enemies democracy has ever had, and certainly if they were to succeed the world would not be safe for it.’

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.