Gustav Noske - Encyclopedia




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"GUSTAV NOSKE (1868-), German Socialist leader and former Republican Minister of National Defence, was born July 9 1868 at Brandenburg. He was by occupation a worker in wood, but took to writing for Social Democratic newspapers, and was from 1897 to 1902 on the staff of the Konigsberger Volkszeitung and afterwards on that of the Volksstimme at Chemnitz. At the end of the latter year he returned to Brandenburg, where he was elected a member of the municipal council and in 1906 a member of the Reichstag. Throughout the World War he belonged to the Governmental section of the Socialists, and voted in the Reichstag for the war credits. When in the first week of Nov. 1918 the mutiny, which had broken out in the navy at Kiel, developed into sanguinary street fighting and the naval authorities were unable to restore order, Noske was sent to Kiel with the Democratic Secretary of State, Hausmann, and, after a conference with representatives of the sailors and dockyard workers, arranged a suspension of hostilities on the basis of the sailors', soldiers' and workmen's demands. This triumph of the mutiny was the beginning of the German revolution, and the sailors from Kiel and other northern ports carried the idea of Workmen's and Soldiers' Councils throughout the north of Germany and ultimately to Berlin. Noske was appointed governor of Kiel, where he remained until he was recalled on Feb. i 1 1919 to assume the office of Minister of National Defence (Reichswehrminister) and to organize military forces for the suppression of the Communist insurrections in the capital. In his book Von Kid bis Kapp (1920) he gives an account of the difficulties which he encountered in getting together an efficient army for home defence. He had to accept the services of many ex-officers whose hearts were with the old regime, and he also found it difficult and, in some cases impossible, to dissolve reactionary Free Corps like those which returned from the Baltic provinces or like Ehrhardt's Marine Brigade. His dependence upon troops and leaders of this character facilitated the military insurrection under Gen. von Liittwitz which supported the Kapp coup of March 13 1920. Noske appealed in vain to the troops in Berlin to resist the occupation of the capital by the forces which Liittwitz led from the camp at Doberitz. He was one of those ministers who, with President Ebert and Chancellor Bauer, fled from Berlin to Dresden, and afterwards to Stuttgart. After the suppression of the Kapp troubles and the return of the Ministry to Berlin it was impossible for Noske to remain in office, as the labour masses, who by the general strike against the Kapp " Government " had for the moment obtained a decisive influence upon affairs, regarded him as having been too tolerant of reaction in the army and as having manifested excessive ruthlessness in the suppression of the Communist bands. Noske, notwithstanding the genuineness of his Republican and Social Democratic opinions, enjoyed con siderable popularity in the new army and with the reactionary friends of law and order, as a man of decided character, great energy and resourcefulness in times of crisis.

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