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Gustav Noske

In office
1919 – 1920
Succeeded by  Otto Gessler

Born July 9, 1868
Brandenburg an der Havel, Prussia
Died November 30, 1946
Nationality Prussian Kingdom of Prussia
German Germany
Political party Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD)

Gustav Noske (July 9, 1868 - November 30, 1946) was a German politician of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). He served as the first Minister of Defence of Germany between 1919 and 1920. He is noted for crushing the communist uprisings in parts of Germany after WWI, restoring order and preventing a German version of the Bolshevik October Revolution.


Noske was born in Brandenburg an der Havel. He was a Master Butcher by trade, who had climbed the political ladder within the trade union movement. He was a member of the Social Democratic Party and became a member of the German Parliament in 1906, where he remained during World War I. He had long shown an interest in military and colonial affairs.

Noske and Ebert.

Noske is regarded as a moderate and pragmatic Social Democrat; however, many in the party in his lifetime were angered by such acts as Noske's voting for the construction of new dreadnoughts for the German Navy, at the time when the pre-1914 Social Democratic Party took a strongly anti-militarist and anti-war position. Noske justified his act by the argument that naval construction created jobs for shipyard workers. In the 1914-1918 period, the Party's outspoken support for Germany's participation in the First World War in effect affirmed the deviant position taken by Noske in the pre-war years.

Best known for putting down the Communist and left wing risings throughout Germany in early 1919, Noske was and remains a controversial figure. To crush the incipient revolution, he permitted and even encouraged the organization and employment of right-wing, nationalist Freikorps. Between January 10 and January 17, 1919 they, together with Reichswehr troops under the command of General von Lüttwitz, crushed the Spartacist revolt by military force, the leaders - Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht - being executed. On the other hand, he defused the Kiel Mutiny of 1918 without a shot being fired.

One of the few Social Democrats willing to work with the traditional officer class which continued to dominate the Army, Noske was instrumental in restoring order and preventing a German version of the Bolshevik October Revolution in Russia.

Noske was Governor of the Province of Hanover from 1920 on, but was dismissed by the Nazi government in 1933. In 1944 he was arrested by the Gestapo under suspicion of involvement in the July 20 plot against Adolf Hitler. Noske was freed by advancing Allied troops and lived in Frankfurt am Main afterwards. He died while preparing for a lecture tour of the United States.

SPD politician Johannes Kahrs, a leading contemporary representative of the moderate wing of the SPD, has described Gustav Noske as one of his political role models[1].




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