The Formation of a “Red Army“, mid-April 1919

After the Palmsonntagsputsch, the communist Soviet government set up a "Red Army" in Munich, following the Soviet Russian model. This army had already been planned by the Revolutionäre Zentralrat of the First Soviet Republic. Demobilised soldiers, members of workers' unions and, contrary to international law, prisoners of war were recruited. The Red Army was given the task of defending the Soviet Republic. Rudolf Egelhofer (1886-1919), who had served as a marine during WWI, was appointed commander-in-chief. Red Army soldiers often wore red-fabric wristbands. With the armband shown here, possibly from 1918, its wearer proved to be a member of a soldier's council.

The Red Army had 9,000 to 10,000 men, but not all of them could be armed either at the same time or continuously. Nevertheless, shortly after its foundation, the army had a success when they were able to repulse advancing government troops to Dachau on 16 April. However, the Red Army leaders subsequently failed to turn the units into a stable and powerful army.

Berta Kaiser (1875-1962), who is best known for her impressionistic out-door painting, artistically processed the motif of the "Red Army". Her painting from 1919 shows an armed Red Guardsman at Munich's Marienplatz. In the background one can see the towers of the Frauenkirche, the New Town Hall and the Mariensäule. The fact that the young man is portrayed all alone in this large square makes him look like a stranger in his own city. Perhaps this can be seen as Kaiser’s allusion to Munich, which was marked by Catholicism and conservatism. The majority of its population was opposed to the Soviet Republic.

To the digitsed copy of an armband of a Soldiers' Councillor

To the digitised copy of the painting "Red Guardsman at Marienplatz" by Berta Kaiser