Saxony


Saxony
   Located in east central Germany, the highly industrialized and ur-banized state of Saxony had a total population in the 1920s of about five million. Aside from its capital, Dresden, its chief cities included Aue, Chemnitz, Görlitz, Meissen, Plauen, and Leipzig; its key outlet to the sea remains the Elbe River. Known after the 1918 abdication of Friedrich August III (king since 1904) as the Free State of Saxony, it fell under the control of the extreme Left in the half-year following the November Revolution.* In April 1919 Gustav Noske* deposed the leftists with Freikorps* units.
   Given its special vulnerability to inflation,* Saxony remained a power center for the radical Left and provided sanctuary for the training of paramilitary forces sympathetic to communism. As part of its United Front* policy, the KPD fo-cused its efforts during the crisis year of 1923 on regions where Berlin's au-thority was weakest; among these was Saxony. In the spring of 1923 the SPD-led government of Prime Minister Erich Zeigner,* hoping to gain KPD backing, agreed to assist with the creation of defense units called Proletarian Hundreds. Designed to impede military action against the working class, the Hundreds grew so rapidly that Carl Severing,* Prussia's Interior Minister, banned them in Prussia.* But when efforts to extend the prohibition failed in Saxony (and Thuringia*), business leaders grew anxious.
   With the continued growth of the Hundreds serving as backdrop, Saxony's KPD and SPD formed a coalition on 12 October 1923. Meanwhile, Comintern agents, convinced that crisis-ridden Germany resembled Russia in 1917, urged an uprising against Berlin.* But the republican government had not been inac-tive. Having declared a state of emergency for the entire Reich on 26 September, Gustav Stresemann* permitted Defense Minister Otto Gessler* to assign emer-gency powers to Saxony's district commander, General Alfred Müller; in early October Müller disbanded the Hundreds and placed the police under his control. On 28 October Berlin moved against Saxony. Rudolf Heinze,* named Reichs-kommissar for Saxony on 29 October, quickly resolved the crisis; by 1 Novem-ber Zeigner had been replaced by a government of moderate socialists under Karl Fellisch. Although it was constitutional, the preemptive strike (duplicated in Thuringia) was censured by the SPD, which noted Stresemann's failure to act against rightists in Bavaria. Deserting Stresemann on 2 November, the SPD forced his cabinet's collapse. Saxony, while it remained a socialist stronghold, provided no further threat to the Republic.
   Prussian Saxony, a separate province whose capital was Magdeburg, was administered throughout most of the Weimar era by the Social Democratic foun-der of the Reichsbanner,* Oberpräsident Otto Horsing. Also heavily industri-alized (especially in the Halle-Merseburg district), the province was the scene in March 1921 of the bloody Marz Aktion (March uprisings), inspired largely by the propaganda of Bela Kun and the "offensive theory" of such KPD leaders as Arkadi Maslow, Ernst Reuter,* and Ruth Fischer.* The ill-advised uprisings, which spread to Saxony and cost more than 150 lives, induced a ruthless response from Prussian Interior Minister Severing. Enlarged by the incorporation of Anhalt after 1945, Prussian Saxony is now Saxony-Anhalt; its capital is Halle.
   REFERENCES:Angress, Stillborn Revolution; Bessel, Germany after the First World War; Diehl, Paramilitary Politics; Harold Gordon, Reichswehr; Pryce, "Reich Government versus Saxony."

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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