On January 22, 1919 – Swiss gunslinger on the train


Passport control in Bavaria? We are informed of an incident that has not yet been officially clarified: On January 22, 1919, the express train from Berlin to Munich was overcrowded, as usual. The exception was one compartment in which there were only three people of foreign type, two men and a woman. The conductor said that the compartment was intended for a neutral (Swiss) courier. While the woman was leaving the compartment, a fellow passenger tried to take a seat in it. The younger of the passengers asked him to leave the compartment immediately because he was reserved. When the man did not comply, the young man threatened to shoot him. But the threat was of no use against the energetic fellow passenger. The commandant was informed at the station in Regensburg. Based on the ID cards presented, the officer believed that he had sufficient reason to intervene. Other passengers also confirmed that the men threatened violence when they tried to get into the compartment. In Munich, the energetic passenger handed the passengers over to the station guards and searched them, during which the young gunslinger was stripped of his weapon and his gun license. The mysterious passengers were carrying a sealed package that supposedly contained important official neutral material. The passenger suspected that it might contain Bolshevik propaganda material.


The report vividly captures the tense atmosphere of the time, characterized by high levels of suspicion and fear, especially towards foreigners and potential Bolshevik activities. This reflects the broader socio-political climate of post-war Germany, where revolutionary activities and political instability were rampant. The young man’s threat to shoot the intruding passenger demonstrates an extreme defensive posture, likely fueled by the heightened sense of danger and the need to protect sensitive materials.

The reaction of the authorities in Regensburg and Munich highlights a cautious approach. While the commandant in Regensburg did not intervene due to the identification provided, the Munich authorities took a more proactive stance by searching the occupants and confiscating the weapon, indicating a balance between caution and action. The suspicion that the sealed package contained Bolshevik propaganda underscores the pervasive fear of communist influence and subversion, a significant concern in Germany during this period.

The incident reflects the strict security measures and vigilance exercised during this tumultuous period. The reserved compartment for a neutral courier indicates an attempt to maintain diplomatic channels and secure sensitive communications. The detailed description of the fellow passenger’s suspicions and actions reveals a vigilant and possibly paranoid public, quick to suspect and report potential threats. The need for the courier to travel with sealed documents underlines the fragile trust in communication channels and the importance of secure, neutral couriers during this era of political uncertainty.

The reported incident is a microcosm of the larger societal dynamics in post-World War I Germany. It illustrates the pervasive atmosphere of suspicion, the importance of secure communication, and the public’s role in maintaining vigilance. The authorities’ response, balancing caution with necessary action, reflects the complex challenges of maintaining security and order in a period marked by political and social upheaval.

From the Federal Archives of Germany

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