Hamburg Uprising
The Hamburg Uprising was an insurrection during the Weimar Republic
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

 in Germany. It was begun on October 23, 1923 by the one of the most militant sections of the Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

 district Communist Party
Communist Party of Germany
The Communist Party of Germany was a major political party in Germany between 1918 and 1933, and a minor party in West Germany in the postwar period until it was banned in 1956...

 (KPD), the KP Wasserkante. From a military point of view, the attempt was futile and it was over within 24 hours. Rebels stormed 24 police stations, 17 in Hamburg and seven in Schleswig-Holstein Province in Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

. Over 100 people died during the uprising. The exact details of the uprising, as well as the assessment of its impact, are controversial to this day.


Between 1919 and 1923, the Weimar Republic was in crisis and there were many violent conflicts between left- and right-wing elements. The economic situation of the population was rapidly deteriorating and hyperinflation was at its peak, which brought gains in popularity to the Communist Party. The occupation of the Ruhr
Occupation of the Ruhr
The Occupation of the Ruhr between 1923 and 1925, by troops from France and Belgium, was a response to the failure of the German Weimar Republic under Chancellor Cuno to pay reparations in the aftermath of World War I.-Background:...

 region further radicalized the political disputes. In August 1923, there was a wave of nation-wide strikes
Cuno strikes
The Cuno strikes were nation-wide strikes in Germany against the government of Reich chancellor Wilhelm Cuno in August 1923. The wave of strikes demanded and helped bring about the resignation of the Cuno government on August 12, 1923, just nine months after it began...

 against Reich Chancellor
Reich Chancellery
The Reich Chancellery was the traditional name of the office of the Chancellor of Germany in the period of the German Reich from 1871 to 1945...

 Wilhelm Cuno
Wilhelm Cuno
Wilhelm Carl Josef Cuno was a German politician who was the Chancellor of Germany from 1922 to 1923. He was born in Suhl, Prussian Saxony. Cuno's government is best known for its passive resistance of the French occupation of the Ruhr Area . Cuno's government was also responsible for its poor...

. At the end of September, the government declared a state of emergency
State of emergency
A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend some normal functions of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, alert citizens to change their normal behaviours, or order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as a rationale...

. On October 1, the Black Reichswehr
Black Reichswehr
Black Reichswehr was the name for the illegal paramilitary formations created by the Germans during the Weimar Republic, raised despite restrictions imposed by the Versailles Treaty.-Restrictions on German Military Forces after World War I:...

 attempted the Küstrin Putsch
Küstrin Putsch
The Küstrin Putsch, also known as the Buchrucker Putsch, was a reaction to the September 26, 1923 quelling of resistance by the German government to the occupation of the Ruhr region....

. Two weeks later, on October 13, the Reichstag
Reichstag may refer to:*Reichstag – the diets or parliaments of the Holy Roman Empire, of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy, and of Germany from 1871 to 1945** Reichstag ** Reichstag...

 adopted an enabling act that was to facilitate a de jure
De jure
De jure is an expression that means "concerning law", as contrasted with de facto, which means "concerning fact".De jure = 'Legally', De facto = 'In fact'....

 dictatorship by Chancellor Gustav Stresemann
Gustav Stresemann
was a German politician and statesman who served as Chancellor and Foreign Minister during the Weimar Republic. He was co-laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1926.Stresemann's politics defy easy categorization...

. A demonstration of several thousand unemployed stormed the "forbidden zone" around the city hall, which at this period, was still linked with risking one's life. In Saxony
The Free State of Saxony is a landlocked state of Germany, contingent with Brandenburg, Saxony Anhalt, Thuringia, Bavaria, the Czech Republic and Poland. It is the tenth-largest German state in area, with of Germany's sixteen states....

 and Thuringia
The Free State of Thuringia is a state of Germany, located in the central part of the country.It has an area of and 2.29 million inhabitants, making it the sixth smallest by area and the fifth smallest by population of Germany's sixteen states....

, coalition governments were formed that included the KPD, which saw this as an opportunity to take over.

Within the international Communist movement, there was discussion of an attempted armed rebellion in Germany. Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky , born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein, was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and theorist, Soviet politician, and the founder and first leader of the Red Army....

 and other Influential members of the Soviet Politburo
Politburo , literally "Political Bureau [of the Central Committee]," is the executive committee for a number of communist political parties.-Marxist-Leninist states:...

 and the Comintern
The Communist International, abbreviated as Comintern, also known as the Third International, was an international communist organization initiated in Moscow during March 1919...

 advanced the idea, but Heinrich Brandler
Heinrich Brandler
Heinrich Brandler was a German communist trade unionist, politician, revolutionary activist, and writer. Brandler is best remember as the head of the Communist Party of Germany during the party's ill-fated "March Action" of 1921 and aborted uprising of 1923, for which he was held responsible by...

, head of the KPD, felt it was premature. The exact motives of the small Hamburg group led by Hugo Urbahns and Hans Kippenberger, who planned the uprising, remain unknown.

The Uprising

Late October 22, 1923, the military leader of the KP Wasserkante received orders via the regional party leadership to begin the rebellion. Only 300 took an active part in the rebellion. although the Hamburg KPD numbered some 14,000 members. On October 23 at 5:00 a.m., they stormed 26 police precincts and took weapons from 17 of them.

There was also activity in Altona
Altona, Hamburg
Altona is the westernmost urban borough of the German city state of Hamburg, on the right bank of the Elbe river. From 1640 to 1864 Altona was under the administration of the Danish monarchy. Altona was an independent city until 1937...

 and the urban district of Stormarn
Stormarn is a district in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. It is bounded by the districts of Segeberg and Ostholstein, the city of Lübeck, the district of Lauenburg, and the city-state of Hamburg.-History:...

, where the police stations in Schiffbek and Bramfeld were attacked and weapons taken. In Bad Oldesloe
Bad Oldesloe
Bad Oldesloe is a town located in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein. It is the capital of the Kreis Stormarn .The area has been inhabited since mesolithic times. The flint tools found here from that era are clearly defined and known as the Oldesloer Stufe...

, Ahrensburg
Ahrensburg is a town in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. It is part of the Hamburg Metropolitan Region, situated in Stormarn. Its population around 31,700 . Its outstanding sight is the Renaissance castle dating from 1595....

 and Rahlstedt
Rahlstedt is a quarter in the Wandsbek borough of the Free and Hanseatic city of Hamburg in northern Germany. In 2006, the population was 86,413.-History:...

, train tracks and streets were blockaded. In the town of Bargteheide
Bargteheide is a town in Stormarn district, Schleswig-Holstein state, Germany. It is situated between the cities of Ahrensburg and Bad Oldesloe, on the Hamburg to Lübeck rail line. Population around 13,000 .-External links:...

, insurgents arrested local government leaders and proclaimed the "Soviet Republic of Stormarn". In Schiffbek, where the KPD had support, placards were posted to calm residents and to urge support for the uprising, declaring "Long live Soviet Germany! Long live the Federation of Soviet states of the world! Long live the world revolution!"

Most of the uprising was quelled in a few hours. In Schiffbek, it lasted till just past noon. Only in Barmbek, where the KPD had received some 20% of the vote in the previous election, the insurgents were supported by residents, who helped them build barricades and brought them food. The rebels were able to maintain their position during the entire day, despite the continuous exchange of gunfire. At night, however, convinced of the hopelessness of their situation, they sneaked away. The next day, the police launched a major offensive against empty barricades.


The Uprising claimed at least 100 lives and more than 300 were injured. Of the dead were 17 police officers, 24 rebels and 61 innocent bystanders. There were 1,400 people arrested. In Schiffbek alone, 191 people were arrested and later, in February 1925, had to be tried at the Altona Landgericht because of unrest in Schiffbeck, where the KPD had garnered 32.4% of the vote in the May 1924 election. This was the largest of the trials against the Uprising insurgents.

The Uprising contributed to the deteriorating relationship between the two working class
Working class
Working class is a term used in the social sciences and in ordinary conversation to describe those employed in lower tier jobs , often extending to those in unemployment or otherwise possessing below-average incomes...

 political parties. After the Uprising, the Social Democratic Party of Germany
Social Democratic Party of Germany
The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany...

 (SPD) refused to work with the KPD and even intensified the repression of the KPD by reinforcing the government's positions. Rejection by both the Republic and the SPD strengthened the Communists. Within the KPD, the Uprising became a heroic legend about the courageous few rebels facing a hopeless fight. The defeat of the Uprising was interpreted as the consequence of too little centralization and too little obedience to party-oriented structures and evidence that these must be increased.

Sections of the middle class saw in the Uprising their fears of a Bolshevik Revolution confirmed and became more attracted to anti-democratic reactionary
The term reactionary refers to viewpoints that seek to return to a previous state in a society. The term is meant to describe one end of a political spectrum whose opposite pole is "radical". While it has not been generally considered a term of praise it has been adopted as a self-description by...

 politics. As a result, in the 1924 Hamburg Reichstag
Reichstag may refer to:*Reichstag – the diets or parliaments of the Holy Roman Empire, of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy, and of Germany from 1871 to 1945** Reichstag ** Reichstag...

 election, the German National People's Party
German National People's Party
The German National People's Party was a national conservative party in Germany during the time of the Weimar Republic. Before the rise of the NSDAP it was the main nationalist party in Weimar Germany composed of nationalists, reactionary monarchists, völkisch, and antisemitic elements, and...

 saw their share of the votes rise from 12% to about 20%, though it quickly dropped back to around 12% in 1928.


  • Der Hamburger Aufstand Oktober 1923. Dokumentary, Federal Republic of Germany, (1971) 41 Min., Written by Reiner Etz, Gisela Tuchtenhagen, Klaus Wildenhahn; Director: Klaus Wildenhahn. Produced by the German Film and Television Academy Berlin
    Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin
    The Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin is a film school in Berlin, Germany.In the German film school ranking of FOCUS , the dffb - together with the Academy of Media Arts Cologne and the international filmschool cologne - were ranked as 2nd after the Film Academy Baden-Wuerttemberg...

     and NDR
    NDR may refer to:* Numalian Democratic Republic a Micronation within the borders of Malaysia.* Nador International Airport — IATA code Morocan airport* National Derby Rallies...

  • Ernst Thälmann – Sohn seiner Klasse. Drama, German Democratic Republic
    German Democratic Republic
    The German Democratic Republic , informally called East Germany by West Germany and other countries, was a socialist state established in 1949 in the Soviet zone of occupied Germany, including East Berlin of the Allied-occupied capital city...

     (1954) Director: Kurt Maetzig
    Kurt Maetzig
    Kurt Maetzig is an East German film director who had a significant effect on the film industry in the GDR. He is one of the most respected filmmakers of East Germany. He currently lives in Wildkuhl, Mecklenburg, and has three children....

External links

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