Time Line Sailors' Mutiny (Sailors' Revolt) in Kiel, Germany 1918

 

Sailors and workers
 
Government and military
Documents
Incidents
Day
Incidents
Documents
   
29.9.
The Supreme Command (Oberste Heeresleitung, OHL) demands from the new Imperial Government (which is based on a parliamentary majority and was installed by pressure from the OHL), the Entente to be requested for an immediate cease fire.  
   
29. und 30. 10.

The navy command starts from Wilhelmshaven without informing the government a sortie against England, likely to end up in a huge defeat, aiming to position themselves for the next attempt to get a "place in the sun" and to secure their own future. The naval order, which was to be destroyed, was directed against the Armed Forces and Transport, in the Thames estuary and off Flanders. The possible new civilian casualties (after the sinking of the RMS LEINSTER by UB-123) would have placed the new Imperial Government again in a difficult situation. Refusals to obey orders, mutinies and sabotage by sailors from various units prevent the sailing of the fleet.

Originator of the plan were Kapitän z.S. v. Levetzow and Konteradmiral v. Trotha, chief of staff at the high sea fleet. Trotha wrote: "The fleet looks forward to and views such a final fight as highest goal... even if it will be a death fight ... (from there) will ... a new German future fleet ascend; an by disgraceful peace enchained fleet the future is broken." (Translated by KK)
Only later Scheer gave the protection of the coast in Flanders as a reason. (1)

Literature review (pdf, 300 kB) >>

   
Th, 31.10.
The fleet commander redeploys the III. squadron to Kiel. Moving through the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Kanal (now Kiel canal) 47 putative ringleaders of the "Markgraf" are arrested and brought from Holtenau (end of the canal in Kiel) to different military prisons in Kiel. The ships containing above 5000 personnel arrive in Kiel during the night to 1 November.

Zeichnung Markgraf
SMS Markgraf

Virtual tour (01) >>

Gewerkschaftshaus Kiel
Shore leave for the ships' crews. In the evening meeting of ca. 250 sailors from the III. squadron in the union house in the Fährstraße (nowadays renamed to Legienstraße). Delegations demand in vain the release of their imprisoned comrades from the ships' commanders.
Fr, 1.11.
   

Karl Artelt
Karl Artelt

Police report (German; from VIMU.info) >>

In the evening around 19 hrs. ca. 500 to 600 sailors and some civilians gather at the large drill ground in the Viehburger Gehoelz in a demonstration. Only the sailor Karl Artelt (Unabhängige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands - USPD -) as a contributor moves beyond the demand for immediate release of the imprisoned, calls for the "overpowering of the militarism and the overthrow of the ruling class" and seeks to join hands with the shop stewards of the USPD. During this night the first leaflets are printed.
Sa, 2.11.
The government in Berlin gets knowledge from the incidents in the navy.  
   
So,
3.11.
Morning: On board the 'Markgraf' 57 more sailors and stokers are rounded up. But they can only be brought to Fort Herwarth after "Zureden (beseeching)" the crew.  
    10:00 Conference of high ranking marine officers in the Stationsgebäude of Kiel. Conclusion to raise town alarm around 16 hrs., to prevent sailors from attending a meeting scheduled at 17 hrs.
Telegram from governor Souchon to the Imperial Navy Authority (Reichsmarineamt) including a report and the request: "... at any cost, send a distinguished socialdemocratic parliamentarian here, to talk about prevention of revolution and revolt."
Foto Marinestation
Marine Station Ostsee

Foto der Versammlung
Meeting
Photo-Infos, 500 kB pdf >>

 

Virtual tour >>
15:30-16:00 Town alarm without impact among the sailors; ca. 17 hrs. meeting of about 5000 to 6000 attendees (4/5 sailors) at the Großer Exerzierplatz (large drill ground) with the main speakers Gustav Garbe (union chairman Kiel) and Karl Artelt (USPD). A demonstration to the Arrestanstalt (military prison) in the Feldstraße starts: via Rondeel, Sophienblatt, station (a woman gets under a tram and dies), Holstenstraße, Markt, Dänische Straße into the Brunswiker Straße.
   
Detailed description of the clash, including transscription of sources etc. (German, pdf, 1 MB) >>
Virtual tour >>
Ca. 19:00 Armed clash between demonstrators and a patrol at the corner in the Karlstraße: 7 dead and 29 injured, out of these two die later on.
In the evening Souchon had requested infantry from outside, but cancelled his request after the demonstration was quelled. The authorities still believe they can manage the situation.  
 
Morning: Armed sailors move from barrack to barrack, partly to the place where the incident took place in the Karlstraße, partly aimless through the town.
The III. squadron except the "König", who has has been docked already, sets sail to Travemünde, hoping the flashpoint could be removed that way. The crews do not take part in casting off. This has to be done by ensigns and deck officers. Ca. 1000 sailors remain on shore.
Mo, 4.11.
On the morning of 4 Nov. infantry was requested again. A unit from Rendsburg arrived at noon time and was sent to the hotspot in Kiel Wik. But before the troops reached the barracks the revolutionaries took over and Souchon had to withdraw the troops and switched to negotiations. The command in Luebeck could not be reached until 9 o'clock. These units as well as others from Neumuenster and Schleswig arrived too late and partly went over. As regards the detailed chronologic sequence see annex of article (German): "Anmerkungen zu Ernst-Heinrich Schmidt: Heimatheer und Revolution 1918" (pdf, 100 kB): >>

Virtual tour >>

Photo Torpedo-Werkstatt

10:00 Workers of the Germania ship yard and from the torpedo workshop in Kiel-Friedrichsort down tools.
Meeting of shop stewards in the union house.
At 12:30 hrs. Lieutenant colonel v. Raven received the order by telephone from colonel v. Voss, the chief of staff of the IX. army corps to go to Kiel immediately, and to take over the command of the units, which were sent from outside to Kiel, from Neumuenster, Rendsburg, Schleswig and Luebeck. He went by car from Rendsburg via Eckernoerde to the Kiel main station, where he arrived at around 17 hrs. Souchon provided two naval officers to assist Raven.  

Kasernenanlage in Kiel-Wik
Barracks compound in Kiel-Wik

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Soldiers' councils on ships

13:00 Sailors in a large barracks compound in a Northern district of Kiel refuse obedience: After a Division inspection of the commander spontanous demonstrations take place.
Upon Karl Artelt's initiative the first soldier's council is set up.
Sailors, among them Karl Artelt, hand over 6 demands to the commander.

Soon many more soldiers' councils are set up.
13:30 Town commander and master of military police admit, that they no longer control the situation. gouvernor Souchon has to switch to negotiations and announces, the wishes of the troups have to be reported to him instantly.
Karl Artelt and other sailors go by car to the governor. On the car they carry a large red flag.
 

Kohlezeichnung Freilassung der Matrosen

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15:00 First negotiations of the governor with sailors and representatives from the SPD and the USPD. Their demands were communicated to all navy units in Kiel by the governor at around 17 hrs. After a „triumphal procession" from the Wik to the navy prisons in the in the Feldstraße several thousand sailors receive their released comrades.
   

Virtual tour >>


Die 14 Kieler Punkte des Soldatenrats
(The Kiel 14 items of the soldier's council) (pdf) >>

Minutes of the negotiations (German; from VIMU.info) >>

Virtual tour >>

From 20 hrs. meeting of sailors and workers representatives in the union house leading to the establishment of a soldier's and a worker's council during the night. Establishment of the „14 items of Kiel".
At the same evening negotiations were held between Haußmann, Noske, high ranking officers and sailors in the station building.
19.30 The envoys from the Empire Government in Berlin, state secretary Haußmann and SPD member of Parliament Noske arrive at the central station in Kiel.  
U-Boot-Hafen in Kiel
Photo-Infos, 200 kB doc >>
At sunset the war ships in the harbour do not hoist the war flag but red flags.
Di 5.11.
Only on board the "König" the commander had hoisted the war flag. Two officers and the commander defend the flag in a shoot out. Only after they are wounded severely, the red flag is hoisted. The officers die, the commander survives. Also on "Schlesien" the war flag was hoist. Thereafter the ship fled from the port of Kiel to Flensburg. There sailors and stokers left the ship, and Scheer included the ship in the planned operations against the rebels in Kiel (see below). Then the ship sailed via Marstal to Swinnemünde, now Swinoujscie. The approximately 200 cadets had to work as stokers. (Cadet Richter: "...it was hell, I can tell you.") More info: >>  


Gustav Garbe
Biography >>

Virtual tour >>

General strike of the workers.
In the early morning hours a worker's council is established. Gustav Garbe, SPD, is elected chairman. The council controls from 10:00 a.m. the city authorities, whereby the the top officials are not replaced but get so called by-appointees from the worker's council. Only the Food Authority is directly taken over by the worker's council.
   

 

Foto bewaffneter revolutionärer Matrosen

Photo-Infos, 3 MB pdf >>

Photo Patrouille of the soldiers' council
Photo-Infos, 500 kB pdf >>
Reports and studies on the shoot-outs (pdf) >>

Flyer Decisions of the soldiers's council

Appeal of the grand soldiers' council, signed by Artelt and Noske

The sailors are still afraid of a counter attack from the military. They remove the rank badges and weapons from their officers. The sailors have the impression that officers shoot at them out of windows in different parts of the town. Time and again shoot outs happen with the patrols. These end with 10 dead and 21 wounded. Town commander Heine is shot by a patrol when he resisted against his seizure.

The soldier's council forbids the "set-up of patrols on own initiative (selbstständige Patrouillengestellung)" of the sailors.

13:00 hrs: Meeting on the Wilhelmplatz, Noske becomes temporary head of the soldier's council. He appoints a new soldiers council (2).

The naval command in Berlin (SKL) does not wait for the decision of the government and sends a telegramm to the high sea fleet command, ordering in pretended consent with the government: any resistance has to be broken immediately, the IX. army corps shall shut off Kiel from the land side and the high sea command from sea side.

At early evening Haußmann gets back to Berlin. In the cabinet he stands up for the demands of the sailors and stresses that the "case" can only be "held" by the social democrats and the unions. However the state secretary of the Empirial naval authority, Ritter v. Mann and the Prussian war minister, Scheüch as a warning demand strongest measures and a cordoning off of Kiel. The decision is postponed.

Flyer containing governor's appeal to the officers

Appeal of the governor to the officers

 

Admiral Scheer proposes to the Emperor, that Admiral v. Schröder should replace the governor of Kiel Souchon and should be deployed with a brigade to Kiel. The Emperor agrees and issues, without consulting the Government, respective orders.

    In the evening Prinz Heinrich, the brother of Kaiser Wilhelms flees from Kiel, carrying a red flag on his car.

In the evening Noske rings Vice Chancellor v. Payer and admonishes of force. The 40,000 men in Kiel could not be overpowered and the trial would make any understanding impossible. In another communication with Ritter v. Mann Noske repeats the demands for amnesty for the sailors and retirement or resignation of the Emperor.
 

Further information (pdf) >>
Listen to Lothar Popp (GERMAN mp3, 10 MB)
>>

Foto Popp Mitte 1920er
Popp, mid 1920s

Virtual tour >>

At a large meeting Noske tries to convince the sailors to abandon their rebellion. Popp and Garbe speak against it. Noske's offer is turned down unanimously. Even the socialdemocratic newspaper wrote: 'Naturally it is out of question to stop our movement in the sense to give up anything that can be possibly achieved.'

Upon Lothar Popp's initiative all units elect representatives. These in turn elect the Great Soldier's Council and this again the Highest Soldier's Council. Popp and Noske become equal chairmen of the latter. (2)
6.11.

The cabinet in Berlin accepts Haußmann's proposal unanimously, because in other coastal towns unrests are imminent. To thrash these, troups from Altona were ordered, which were actually supposed to be used in Kiel.

The naval command in Berlin (SKL) affirms however their orders from the day before.

The Empirial Government refuses the commanding of Admiral Schröder to Kiel vehemently. Scheer suggests to the Kaiser to withdraw the order, as he also has to admit that nothing can be achieved by military force any more, and the Emperor agrees.
Plakat des Arbeiter- und Soldatenrats

Translation of the poster into English >>

Lothar Popp becomes chairman of the overall soldiers' council.
The workers' and soldiers' council declares in an announcement to the inhabitants of Schleswig-Holsteins: "Die politische Macht ist unserer Hand." (The political power is in our hands.)
"Unser Ziel ist die freie soziale Volksrepublik." (Our aim is the free social people's republic.)

7.11.

Gustav Noske replaces Admiral Souchon as governor, Kiel gets back to "orderly circumstances".

The naval command in Berlin (SKL) affirms again their above stated orders. They are not implemented only because the necessary troups were not available, as Dirk Dähnhardt notes(3).

Article from the Kieler Neusten Nachrichten, 10 Nov. 1918 (doc, 30 kB): Further consolidation of the situation
 
Scheidemann proclaims the republic in Berlin, Karl Liebknecht the socialistic republic.
The III. squadron comes back to Kiel and and hoists the red flag as well, while coming in. Accordig to Dähardt had a majority of the officers left the ships before. However, according to recently discovered reports this seems not have been the case.
9.11.
Delegations of the soldier's council and the officers agree, that those officers, who declare in writing not to be facing the new peoples movement in a hostile manner, will be superiors again.  

Foto Matrosendemo
Photo erronously attributed to Kiel; infos, 200 kB pdf >>

List of victims, 500 kB pdf >>

Funeral, 1.2 MB pdf >>

Virtual tour >>

Burial of the victims of the 3rd and 5th November in Kiel.
10.11.
The Emperor flees to Holland.  

Foto: Die letzten der Amazone 1918
"Die letzten der Amazone" (The last of the Amazone)

Virtual tour >>

Sailors and soldiers are demobilised in large numbers.
11.11.
Cease fire is signed in Compiegne.  
 
Especially the submarine crews push their claim for a trasfer bonus.
18.11. According to the conditions of cease fire the III. squadron and other ships sail to Wilhelmshaven, from there to English coast waters and later for internment to Scapa Flow. Not yet moveable ships (i.a. "König") follow on 3.12.  
   
Ende Nov.
Korvettenkapitän Wilfried von Loewenfeld starts secretly, however with Noske's knowledge, to set up a Free Corps. This unit is based on a conspirative association of sea officers, who want turn back the political development as much as possible. (4) The 'Loewenfelder' will later on during the Kapp-Putsch in Kiel (March 1920) commit a large blood bath among the workers in Kiel.

This photo was said to show Kiel, but its Berlin; see photo info >>

   
Dez.
Noske sets up the Eiserne Brigade (iron brigade) of 1600 men (Deck officers, corporals and marines). Later this unit was renamed I. Marine-Brigade (v. Roden) and sometimes called Eiserne Division (iron division). Annotation: >>
On 10 January 1919 Noske ordered this troup, which had meanwhile filled up with officers, to move to Berlin.
Kampfgruppe der Eisernen Division
Combat group of the Iron Brigade


Appeal of the Kiel councils: Our aim is the socialistic republic
The councils declare: "Our aim is the socialistic republic."

Lothar Popp, so far chairman of the overall soldier's council, quits the council, probably because of frustration as the councils were to hand over their power to the national assembly. Karl Artelt becomes his successor.
10.12.
   
    11.12. The fact-finding commission from UK arrives in Kiel.  

"
The General Convention of Workers' and Soldiers' Councils in Berlin votes to have elections for a constituent national assembly. These elections take place on 19 January 1919
19.12.
   
 
The soldier's council establishes a 'Revolutionary Security Unit' and thus wins out over Noske. The deck- and petty officers get their own company within this unit. (5)
26.12. Ebert asks Noske urgently to come to Berlin and to become a member of the Government.  
    27.12. Noske goes back to Berlin accompanied by Adolf v. Trotha. Gustav Garbe (secretary of the metal union in Kiel) becomes his successor as governor.  
 
Karl Artelt steps back; successor is at first Hartig, some days later Riefstahl..
 5.1.
1919
   
   
 6.1.
1919
Noske becomes supreme commander and leaves Kiel officially.  
February revolt of Spartakists 1919 in Kiel
External link Bremer council republic >>
Bremen declares itself Räterepublik (council republic)
10.1.
1919
   
      Noske orders the Division Gerstenberger, in which also parts of the 1st Marinebrigade (Iron Division, Kiel) were standing, to march toward Bremen.
Aufruf Garbes
Appeal by governor Garbe, 11 Jan. 1919
 
500 - 1000 demonstrators in Kiel demand weapons from the soldiers' council, to be able to support Bremen.
Spartakists attack weapon shops and take sentries in Suchsdorf and Holtenau by surprise.
4.2. 1919
Noske orders Bremen to be attacked.  

 

 

O. Preßler's report of the incidence (German) >>
According to the Kieler Zeitung, 7 Feb.1919 (M) 8 persons were killed and 26 wounded.

The workers of the Imperial-, Gemermania- and the Howaldt-shipyard down tools in support for Bremen.
Spartakists seize the barracks in the Annenstreet and the Marine Station Ostsee.
Mi 5.2. 1919
The barracks are re-taken by a group from the Sicherheitswehr (security defence) of the soldiers' council, made up of deckofficers and reinforced by students and officers.

Photos from 7 Feb. 1919
Photo top >>, left >>, right >>
The workers' and soldiers' council issues a leaflet >>
Call for general strike (heeded by the above mentioned shipyards and the Torpedowerkstatt)
6.2.
1919
   
 
The general strike ends.
8.2. 1919
Garbe demands the return of the weapons from the students and he releases the Spartakist leaders.  
Evaluation of the incidents by D. Dähnhardt >>
Protests of the soldiers' council in Berlin to Noske have no effect.
  With Noske's consent the Sicherheitswehr (security defence) of the soldiers' council is put under the control of the Loewenfeld freecorps.
         
   
5.6. 1919
The suspension of the soldiers's councils is ordered.  
   
Sept. 1919
Any further payment for the workers' council is refused by the mayor Lindemann.  

Based on Dirk Dähnhardt, "Sichworte - Revolution in Kiel, Vom Kaiserreich zur Republik 1918/1919", Publisher: Landeszentrale für Politischen Bildung Schleswig-Holstein, Germany; Dirk Dähnhardt: "Revolution in Kiel", Wachholtz Verlag, 1978; Lothar Popp und Karl Artelt: "Ursprung und Entwicklung der Novemberrevolution 1918"; Bernhard Rausch: "Am Springquell der Revolution"; beide als Nachdruck erschienen als Sonderveröffentlichung 15 der Gesellschaft für Kieler Stadtgeschichte; Klaus Kuhl: "Streitgespräch mit Lothar Popp", 1978; Gustav Noske: "Von Kiel bis Kapp", Verl. für Politik und Wirtschaft, Berlin, 1920

Annotaion 1: See Dirk Dähnhardt: "Revolution in Kiel", Wachholtz Verlag, 1978, p. 51 as well as
Rolf Güth, "Marineführung und Meuterei 1918" in "Schiff und Zeit" 7/1978, p. 5, Hrsg. Dt. Ges. f. Schifffahrts- und Marinegeschichte e.V.
Annotation 2: Noske and Popp give differring descriptions of these events, see >>
Annotation 3: Dirk Dähnhardt: "Revolution in Kiel", Wachholtz Verlag, 1978, p. 107
Annotation 4: Wolfram Wette: "Gustav Noske - Eine politische Biographie", Droste Verlag, 1987, p. 247
Annotation 5: Wolfram Wette: "Gustav Noske - Eine politische Biographie", Droste Verlag, 1987, p. 233 f.

Last updated 19 Aug. 2017

 

Sailors' Revolt / Kiel Mutiny November 1918 - here you'll find the following further information:

  • Interview with one of the leaders of the mutiny: Lothar Popp >>
  • CV Lothar Popp >>
  • Recollection of the other leader of the mutiny: Karl Artelt >>
  • CV Karl Artelt >>
  • Additional contemporary witnesses (Riedl, Bredenbek, Preßler, Pump; diary of an engineer, Jung, Völcker, ...) >>
  • Videofilm with contemporary witnesses: "Kiel schreibt Geschichte - Matrosenaufstand im November 1918" >>
  • Evaluations of the incidents in Kiel (Dähnhardt, Wette, ...) >>
  • Detailed timeline with documents >>
  • Virtual sightseeing tour >>
  • Commentary >>