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Hamburg 1923 A city under threat

20.09.2023 – 07.01.2024

In many respects, the year 1923 has a drastic significance in Hamburg’s history. The Weimar Republic was only a few years old and was being challenged and fought by both right-wing and left-wing opponents. Domestic political disputes as well as the occupation of the Ruhr by France and Belgium threatened the young parliamentary democracy, as did rapidly increasing inflation and the deteriorating supply situation for a large part of the population.

Against this backdrop, Hamburg was in a state of emergency for a few days in October 1923: Armed workers and KPD functionaries occupied police stations, built barricades, engaged in street fighting with police forces and were supported by part of the population.

The background to this revolt in Hamburg was the intention of the KPD in conjunction with the Communist International to initiate revolutionary uprisings in the crisis-ridden Weimar Republic. This was intended to bring about political overthrow along Soviet lines and, beyond that, world revolution. In fact, a revolutionary “uprising” of this kind took place only in Hamburg and was quickly put down at the time. The street fighting resulted in about 100 deaths and 300 injuries among the insurgents, police officers and civilians. The “Hamburg Revolt” of 1923 thus became the bloodiest confrontation in Hamburg’s history, forming a special event in the history of the Weimar Republic and causing a sensation throughout Europe.

The museum’s exhibition asks about the political, economic and social situation in Hamburg in 1923, what the causes and aims of the “Hamburg Revolt” of October 1923 were, how it unfolded and who the protagonists were at the time. It looks at the reaction of the parliamentary republic to this threat and the impact of the uprising on the political system of Hamburg and the Weimar Republic. Finally, the long-term impact of the events of 1923 on the culture of remembrance and political disputes into the 21st century is considered.


Barrikade in Hamburg-Barmbek, wohl 25. Oktober 1923, Fotograf- Otto Reich, © StAHH
Barricade in Hamburg-Barmbek, probably October 25, 1923, photographer Otto Reich. Staatsarchiv Hamburg

Selected original objects and documents, models, maps and graphics – including rare loans from private collections – alongside a large number of graphically prepared reproductions, e.g. photographs, plans, postcards, newspaper articles, provide a vivid insight into the events of this eventful year. Newly discovered photographs illustrate the drama of the October Days, especially in the Barmbek district, but also invite a critical examination of the then new medium of press photography. Through the biographies of those involved at the time – police officers, insurgents, politicians and uninvolved contemporary witnesses – the different perspectives of contemporaries become clear. Immediately after the “uprising,” German and numerous foreign writers, artists, and theater and filmmakers dealt with the event. They thus contributed to the memory of this remarkable year in the democratic history of the city republic of Hamburg into the 21st century.


This year, the State Agency for Civic Education in Hamburg is focusing on the topic of “Democracy – its values and its threats”. Under the motto “Democracy needs political education!”, numerous activities will also be linked to the celebrations of the Day of German Unity on October 3, 2023, which will be centrally celebrated in Hamburg. The Museum of Hamburg History would like to explicitly join this and open the house for an examination of this topic. The aim is to discuss various topics of democracy building and endangerment in the past and present also within the framework of the exhibition. The exhibition is therefore to become an active platform and offer a forum for lectures, guided tours, workshops and scenic performances over a period of three months, which can be co-designed by various actors in urban society and received by interested citizens – from young people to adults. Shortly before the closure of the house due to modernization, the Museum invites with an open exhibition stage to deal with one of the most important topics of our time with a view to history and current crises in the world: the development of our democracy.

Hamburger Polizei, Reichswehr und ein Panzerwagen in Hamburg-Barmbek, wohl 25. Oktober 1923, un-bekannter Fotograf, © StAHH
Hamburg police, Reichswehr and an armored car in Hamburg-Barmbek, probably October 25, 1923, unknown photographer, Staatsarchiv Hamburg
Hamburger Sicherheitspolizei in einem mit Maschinengewehrausgestatteten Auto an der Hochbahn in Hamburg-Barmbek wohl 25.10.1923 Foto Staatsarchiv Hamburg
Hamburg security police in a car equipped with machine guns at the elevated railroad in Hamburg-Barmbek probably 25.10.1923. Staatsarchiv Hamburg

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