Harrison vividly recounts Berlin battles

Spartacist uprising

Even while working as a spy for the U.S. Army, Marguerite Harrison continued to write dispatches for the Baltimore Sun throughout the spring of 1919. She described living on rations and witnessing the opening session of the Weimar Assembly. But her most thrilling and vivid articles were her accounts of fighting in the streets of Berlin.


On one occasion, she described being caught in a skirmish between government troops and Communist-backed Spartacist insurgents. Bullets whizzed past as she escaped into a side street to safety. She recounted her amazement of seeing residents pull out their opera glasses to better view the fighting as sailors fired machine guns in the street.


Harrison found one young woman leaning up against a light pole. “She was deathly pale and I’ve never seen a more hopeless look of misery on any face,” Harrison wrote. The woman told her that her husband had joined the Spartacist forces and she had been unable to get food for her four-month old baby in more than a week.
“I’m standing here because I cannot endure it in the house a minute longer,” the woman said. “My baby has cried almost all the time since day before yesterday and now he is so weak he just whimpers.”


As they were talking, machine gun fire hit the roof above them, scattering tiles onto the ground. A small boy, who was spinning a top on the pavement hardly seemed to notice. “He just looked up for one minute and moved to a smooth piece of flagstone,” Harrison wrote.


Harrison walked out of the fray and made her way to the subway and finally to the safety of west Berlin. There she dined in her hotel room while an orchestra played and theater goers walked passed, seemingly oblivious to the carnage a few miles away. “I am wondering which, after all, is more terrible,” she mused.

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