Chaos In the Streets, A German Alternate History AAR
October 15, 1930
Heinrich Brüning looked out the window of the Reichschancellory and sighed. The long column of men marched through the street, without an end in sight. What has become of my beloved country?, he thought to himself. His government, formed from a coalition of the Catholic Centre Party and the Social Democrats, was shaky from the start, and now the Social Democrats had lost patience with his frequent cuts to welfare and lowering of workers’ wages. The military remained aloof, unwilling to support the Chancellor, and President von Hindenburg was unwilling to give his support to a coalition formed partly by the Social Democratic “Reds.” The situation in the Reichstag seemed to be degenerating into a wild free-for-all.
If the situation within the government was bad, what was happening in the streets of German cities was worse. Paramilitary groups patrolled, set up rallies, attack each other, and started massive street fights that would devastate whole city blocks. Regardless of Brüning’s attempts to curb their influence, the organizations only seemed to grow in power, especially with the spread of the American Depression to Europe. The two which worried Brüning most were the National Socialist Sturmabteilung (SA) and the Communist Rotfront, although the conservative Stahlhelm remained a force to be reckoned with.
This group, though, was different. The Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold was a Social Democratic organization, dedicated to the defense of the Republic. Without the endorsement of the conservative military, Brüning had struck a deal with these men to defend the interests of his government. Yet even now, the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold had lost patience with Brüning and abandoned their support, demanding further Social Democratic initiatives which Brüning couldn’t fulfill. Berlin, Cologne, Munich, Hamburg, and elsewhere resembled nothing so much as giant brawls, with the army stretched too thin to combat the paramilitary groups. The entire country seemed to be spinning out of control, and for the moment, there was nothing the Chancellor could do about it.
Members of the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold assembled for a rally
Gerhardt Trapp marched at the head of the column of men. No bystander could doubt who they were. He imagined the republican flag and the black, red and gold sashes worn by the leaders were a sight of relief for most people, instead of the insignias of the Stahlhelm militarists or the Nazi and Communist thugs. He looked over to his friend, fellow commander Fedor Holzherr, and called out, “Beautiful day for a rally, eh?” Holzherr looked up at the dark gray sky, and smiling, shrugged.
Bad weather or not, the rally needed to go on, he thought to himself. The government was no longer protecting the interests of the people. The goals of the Republic needed to be restored, before the people lost patience and flocked to the radicals. Even now, Trapp’s battalion was acting as security, should any unsavory characters show up to crash the rally.
After a short march, the column arrived in front of the Reichstag, where a crowd waving the German republican tricolor had already assembled before a stage. Trapp’s men took their positions off to one side of the crowd, and the commanders surveyed the crowd as the first of many speakers began the rally.
Halfway through the first speech, a group of men booed loudly and took off their coats, revealing red armbands. One hoisted a red banner with a hammer and sickle and began waving it in the face of the crowd. The Communists began shouting angrily, calling the Social Democratic speaker a “tool of capitalism” and a disgrace to the Left. Trapp scowled and, looking over to Holzherr, nodded, who dispatched a detachment of men into the crowd to deal with the protestors. They returned a short time later, dragging the small group of Communists and sending them away, taking their armbands and flag and throwing them on the ground. Trapp took his cigarette from his mouth and, looking down, knocked the ash onto the red banner. With luck, that disorganized rabble would be the worst the rally would face.
Indeed, for a while, it seemed like it. The rally proceeded peacefully, and before Trapp knew it, the last speaker was just about to conclude his speech. Looking to the back of the crowd, Trapp’s heart sank. A fairly large group of men in brown shirts were arriving, carrying banners of their own. At their head they flew the red flag adorned with that dreaded symbol of hate, violence, and militarism. Trapp immediately knew that this group of SA men would be a greater challenge to deal with than the Communists. He called Holzherr over and the two of them went to speak to the opposing group, their own battalion following along behind.
“Gentlemen,” began Trapp, a bit of sarcasm in his voice, “We’re simply having a peaceful rally here. I assure you, your presence is not needed, as we haven’t planned for any sort of violence or aggression. It isn’t our way.”
“Of course,” said one of the Nazi leaders, a little weasely-looking character. “Still, we like to keep tabs on our opponents.”
“I’ve heard that about you people.” Said Holzherr, his voice cold with anger. “But, in any case, you must leave. This is a legal rally, and we don’t want you disturbing it.”
“Shut up, Red.” Said the other Nazi leader, a fat, red-faced man who appeared to be drunk. “We’re allowed to be here, Or what, do your freedoms only apply to you?”
By now, a large part of the crowd were watching the two groups facing off, rather than the speaker. He appeared to compensate for this by speaking louder, but it was to no avail.
“You are, in fact, disrupting things. Go back to the dumpster you came from and tell your Communist neighbors in the next dumpster over that we said hello.”
With that, the fat drunkard swung a club at Trapp, who dodged it and swiftly punched the man in the throat. Gagging, he fell to the ground, red faced and furious. Trapp had been in many fights in his teenage years, leaving him with a large scar under his left eye. His younger years gave him ample training for dealing with these thugs, though.
Seeing their leader fall, the rest of the Nazis surged forward, clubs in hands, while Holzherr and many of his men took out nightsticks and counter-charged. Soon, the rally had lost all sense of order, as some of the members assisted fighting the Nazis, while others scattered before the Police arrived. With the addition of large numbers of the crowd, the Social Democrats soon gained the upper hand, and the fascists withdrew. The Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold men reformed, and Trapp looked over to Holzherr, who had a black eye and a bloody nose. “Isn’t this great?” he said, smiling. “We’ve just taken part in Germany’s most famous political debate technique. Beating each other over the head with clubs.”
Yeah, thought Trapp to himself. All of this is sure to lead to nothing but more violence.