Noske, Gustav

(1868-1946)
   politician; served as the Republic's first De-fense Minister. Born to a working-class family in Brandenburg, he was a bas-ketmaker when he joined the outlawed SPD in 1886. By 1893 he was working for SPD newspapers* in Brandenburg and Konigsberg; he became editor in 1902 of the reformist Chemnitzer Volksstimme. He was elected to the Reichstag* in 1906 and was an important voice in the SPD s right wing, forming an expertise in military and colonial affairs while affirming Germany's right to imperial ex-pansion. Disparaging ideologues—he dubbed Marxism "an occult science"— he blindly supported Germany s war effort.
   Despite impeccable patriotism, Noske supported the Kaiser s abdication in November 1918 in the belief that it would ensure a just peace. Appointed Com-missioner of Kiel on 4 November 1918, he moved gingerly against the unrest seething in that port city during the war's final week. With skill and courage he negotiated a truce with the sailors that secured his election as both chairman of Kiel s Sailors Council and governor of the city. When the USPD resigned from the Council of People s Representatives* in December 1918, he was selected to fill a vacancy. Asked if he would take charge of military affairs, he replied: "Someone will have to be the bloodhound; I won t shirk the responsibility ("Einer muss der Bluthund werden, ich scheue die Verantwortung nicht"). He swiftly enlisted members of the Imperial Army to organize Freikorps* units for the defense of Germany s provisional government. As virtual dictator of Berlin* during the early months of 1919, he was reproached by members of the SPD for the brutality he meted out against insurgents, yet he was increasingly admired by many on the Right, some of whom tempted him with offers of support should he overthrow the Republic. But Noske remained a loyal servant. Unfortunately, his method of salvaging the regime ensured the survival of reactionary elements in the new Reichswehr.* While he earned the respect of high-ranking military officers, the nascent army was so ambivalent during the Kapp* Putsch of March 1920 that it compromised Noske and forced his resignation. He was uniformly hated by the Left, but his departure deprived the SPD of whatever influence it enjoyed with the military during the initial months of the Republic.
   The SPD did not run Noske in the June 1920 Reichstag elections. Otto Braun* and Carl Severing,* long-time friends, salvaged his career by appointing him Oberpräsident of Hanover. A good administrator, he retained the position until he was dismissed by the NSDAP in 1933. He enjoyed a successful Frankfurt retirement, but was arrested as a suspect in the July 1944 attempt on Hitler s* life. Because illness delayed his trial, he managed to survive the war.
   REFERENCES:Carsten, Reichswehr and Politics; Mathews, "Economic Origins of the Noskepolitik' ' ; Stachura, Political Leaders; Waite, Vanguard of Nazism.

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

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