Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
What should have been a truly Merry Christmas soon to be celebrated by the people gathered in front of Berlin’s Stadtschloß in 1918 became one of the bloodier chapters in Berlin’s history: in December that year, following the end of the First World War and the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the deep political conflict between groups representing different (sometimes radically so) visions of Germany’s future escalated again and led to an outbreak of violence in the city.
The events went down in history as Weihnachtsaufstand, or Christmas Uprising: an armed confrontation between the Volksmarinedivision, socialist and communist revolutionary troops supporting the idea of the state ruled directly by the People (albeit through special committees and elected as well as appointed representatives), and the regular German army troops called in by the Social-Democrats who had formed the new republican government and wished to rule according to their own plan – which was not compatible with that of the revolutionaries and was meant to prevent a repetition of the events which had taken place in Russia.
The army troops failed to take the Stadtschloß where the most fierce combats took place on December 24 and had to suffer defeat. The temporary elation caused by the Volksmarinedivision’s victory soon gave way to an even greater ire and yet bloodier fights. Taboos were broken and in order to annihilate the opponent, the new Social-Democratic government of Friedrich Ebert sided with the violent and also to a great extent anti-democratic formations within the society. The Weihnachtsaufstand, also known as Blutweihnachten, of 1918 paved the way for the Freikorps‘ rise in the world and as such for the rise of deeply anti-democratic, extremely nationalist, war-mongering forces which produced the Third Reich.
You can read an excellent analysis of all of the above events in Mark Jones’s book Founding Weimar: Violence and the German Revolution of 1918-1919.