Kurt Eisner

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Kurt Eisner, based on a photo by Robert Sennecke . Edited postcard from 1919

Kurt Eisner (born May 14, 1867 in Berlin ; died February 21, 1919 in Munich ) was a German politician , journalist and writer . He is best known as the leader of the November Revolution of 1918 in Munich. From November 8, 1918 until his violent death in an assassination attempt , he was the first Prime Minister of the Free State of Bavaria .

During the Wilhelmine era of the German Empire , Eisner published articles and publications critical of the monarchy at the end of the 19th century. From 1898 to 1917 he was a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). In the first five years of the 20th century he coined as a leading member of the forward -Redaktions collective instrumental orientation of the central organ of the party. During the First World War , his pacifist beliefs solidified . In 1917 he joined the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD) due to a growing opposition to the German war policy and the social democratic civil peace policy . Eisner became the protagonist of this party in Bavaria , where he was based from 1907. As one of the main initiators of the January strike wave of 1918 aimed at the democratization of the German Reich and against the war , he was arrested on January 31 for attempted treason and was placed in custody. Repeated requests for exemption from detention were rejected by the Reichsgericht. It was not until October 14 that Eisner was dismissed on the occasion of his nomination for the Reich replacement election for the vacant mandate of Georg von Vollmar .

Eisner proclaimed the " Free State of Bavaria" on November 8, 1918 and declared King Ludwig III. for discontinued. He was elected Prime Minister by the Assembly of Workers 'and Soldiers' Councils . However, the USPD suffered a heavy defeat in the state election in early 1919 and received only 2.5 percent of the vote. On the way to the constituent session of the state parliament, at which he wanted to announce his resignation, he was murdered by Anton Graf von Arco auf Valley .

Live and act

Early years

Eisner was the son of the Jewish textile manufacturer Emanuel Eisner (1827–1899) from Studnitz in Bohemia and his wife Hedwig (1839–1918), née Levenstein. He spent his childhood and youth in Berlin, where he attended the Askanische Gymnasium after elementary school . After graduating from high school in 1886, he studied philosophy and German at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität zu Berlin , but gave up his studies in 1889 after preparing for a dissertation on Achim von Arnim .

In the 1890s Eisner worked as a journalist for a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Frankfurter Zeitung and the Hessische Landeszeitung . His polished Nietzsche criticism attracted a lot of attention not only in literary circles .

In 1892 he married the Evangelical Lutheran painter Auguste Ludowika Elisabeth "Lisbeth" (1867–1949), née Hendrich. She was the daughter of the landscape painter August Hendrich from Eberswalde . This first marriage resulted in five children: Reinhard (born November 22, 1893 in Marburg), Ilse Hedwig (born October 23, 1895 in Marburg), who later married Hans Unterleitner , Doris Hildegard "Hilde" (born May 2, 1897 in Marburg), Jenny Eva (born May 26, 1899 in Groß-Lichterfelde) and Hans Kurt .

Social Democratic Journalist for Forward

On the basis of time-critical considerations in a Berlin magazine, he was sentenced to nine months in prison in 1897 - still as a feature editor - in a criminal trial for insulting majesty . After his dismissal, the SPD campaigned for him, although he was if not opposed to the Marxism that dominated the party , then at least reserved. Eisner derived his ideals from the Enlightenment philosophy of Immanuel Kant and was particularly influenced by the neo-Kantianism of Hermann Cohen and Paul Natorp during his time in Marburg at the Hessische Landeszeitung . Like the "red Kantians" Karl Vorländer and Franz Staudinger , Eisner tried to combine the philosophy of the Marburg School with the political practice of social democracy through a "synthesis of Kant and Marx " :

"For factually, Marx belongs to Kant, in the ranks of the great enlighteners of the 18th century, how deeply and decisively he was always [...] influenced by Hegel ."

- Kurt Eisner : Kant. In: Kurt Eisner: Gesammelte Schriften . Volume 2, pp. 165-186, p. 165

Therefore, the SPD was the party whose political goals were closest to Eisner, even if his conception of an ethical socialism had to lead to conflicts in the revisionism debate between Eduard Bernstein and his orthodox-Marxist critics around Karl Kautsky at the turn of the century . Eisner was recruited by Wilhelm Liebknecht , editor-in-chief of the SPD central organ Vorwärts , in the late summer of 1898 as editor of the newspaper and Adolf Braun's successor and joined the party in December of the same year. His position on the editorial staff of Vorwärts was determined by Liebknecht's efforts to improve the level of the party newspaper:

"At my request, Eisner von Marburg comes to Berlin on the 'Vorwärts'. That is a sharp blade that we won there and that will hopefully cut off some heads as well. It is possible that we will finally manage to raise the journalistically. "

- Wilhelm Liebknecht : Letter to Max Quarck , Berlin, November 23, 1898.

Since Liebknecht, the nominal editor-in-chief, did not fully fill his office due to his mandate in the Reichstag, Eisner quickly grew into a leading role in the forward editorial team because of his journalistic experience in the "bourgeois" press, including in a responsible position , which his critics also recognized:

"We have enough opportunists on 'Vorwärts' and the intellectual head of the editorial team, Eisner, unfortunately does not even have the necessary party-historical and theoretical knowledge, otherwise he would be a No. 1 man."

- August Bebel : Letter to Victor Adler , Berlin, October 23, 1899.

Shortly after the death of Wilhelm Liebknecht in August 1900, Eisner wrote his first detailed biography . His leadership role in the Vorwärts editorial team remained informal even after the editor-in-chief's death, as the management of the party newspaper was formally transferred to the editorial team with equal rights. Of the eleven editors, four were grouped around Eisner and his colleague Georg Gradnauer , so that Eisner's influence on the course of the newspaper was usually secured by this majority, especially since - unlike most other editors - he was without a political mandate, functionary post or Campaign tasks could fully concentrate on journalistic work. From the conflicts within the editorial team and with the party leadership, after several controversies, both with Eduard Bernstein and with the orthodox Marxists in the SPD, the forward conflict of 1905 arose. When it was planned to dismiss several editors to solve the editorial problem who belonged to Eisner's majority in order to replace them with orthodox Marxists, the editorial majority decided to resign themselves.

Independent but insecure: from Berlin to Munich

The forward editorial team subsequently moved to the left. Eisner remained a writer and journalist without a permanent job for a year and a half, but in the service of the party. During this time the writings The Sultan of World War and The End of the Empire were created ; Eisner started work with the title Der Adel. However, the history of a ruling class was never completed, as was the planned German literary history for the people .

In October 1906 Eisner accepted the offer to become editor-in-chief of the Franconian Daily Mail in Nuremberg from March 1907 , again as Adolf Braun's successor. When Eisner left Berlin, his marriage was already broken; his wife Elisabeth stayed behind with the children. Later, at the beginning of the November Revolution, Eisner commented on the motives for moving to Bavaria . The people there are much more liberal , because the Prussian "overdiscipline" is alien to them.

From 1907 to 1910 Eisner was editor-in-chief of the social democratic Franconian daily mail . The estrangement from his family continued when his relationship with his colleague Elise "Else" Belli (1887–1940), the daughter of the "red field postmaster" Joseph Belli, became known . The relationship was scandalized under the pun casus belli , especially within the party, and led to Eisner's appointment as Dessau's SPD candidate for the 1912 Reichstag election ultimately failing. His position on the Nuremberg Party Gazette was also problematic due to gossip, so that Eisner resigned in 1910 on the occasion of a negative annual balance sheet for the daily mail and moved again - this time to Munich.

In Munich, contrary to the customs of the time, Eisner lived unmarried with Else Belli. They married in 1917 after divorcing his first wife. The couple had two daughters, Freia (born June 6, 1907 in Munich) and Ruth (born October 30, 1909 in Großhadern).

From 1910 Eisner worked as a freelancer for the newspaper Münchener Post and published in various newspapers and magazines as a writer, journalist and theater critic: Now he was striving for independence, which he had found just as little in the SPD newspapers as before in the bourgeois press. To this end, he founded his own agency, a press correspondence under the title Arbeiter-Feuilleton , which supplied social-democratic party organs, especially the numerous smaller papers, with column articles, which were widely distributed in this way.

Through his columnist work, he came increasingly into contact with the then wide-ranging Munich artist and intellectual milieu . He remained a political employee of the SPD until 1917, ran an election campaign, made statements on educational issues and in the field of foreign policy, albeit to a lesser extent due to his professional independence.

During the world war

On July 27, 1914, Eisner gave the speech at the central peace rally of the Munich Social Democrats. In it he emphasized that the politics of Tsarist Russia were the greatest danger to peace. He called on France , England and Germany to jointly "strangle the war fury". But once the war had broken out, so Eisner, who was convinced of Russian aggression, one had to defend the fatherland . Surrendering to the manipulative information policy controlled by the Reich government, he welcomed the approval of his party's parliamentary faction in the Reichstag at the beginning of the war for the first war credits to wage the “war of annihilation against tsarism”.

However, after Eisner had begun to critically question the course and background of the outbreak of war, he turned from 1915 into a radical pacifist , "ultimately even a ruthless critic of the system, even a revolutionary ". Eisner became an avowed opponent of German war policy during the further course of the war. While in 1914 he still believed the national propaganda of an alleged war guilt of Russia - a propaganda that suited the social democracy traditionally hostile to tsarism - from the spring of 1915 he was convinced that it had been Germany that had started the world war. In doing so, he opposed the position of the majority of the SPD parliamentary group in the Reichstag and in the Bavarian state parliament . Together with other war opponents - from Clara Zetkin to Albert Einstein to Ludwig Quidde - he became a member of the New Fatherland Federation , in which pacifists with different political worldviews gathered. In 1917, in the course of increasing resistance to the truce policy - also from social democratic mandate holders - the anti-war wing split off as the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD) from the SPD. Eisner was one of the leading USPD founders in Bavaria and also traveled to Gotha for the founding meeting at Easter 1917. Since 1917 he was the leading figure of the Munich USPD which he had built up.

The germ of the Munich USPD and the actual basis of Eisner's political activity - to a significant extent, educational work on the causes of the war - were the discussion evenings in the inn "Zum golden Anker", which were run weekly by Eisner from December 7, 1916 and before January strike 1918 attracted up to 150 participants. Above all, the SPD youth, many of whom were returning from the war and who had become unfit for war due to serious injuries, initially formed the core of the group, to whom Eisner “gave the impression of a retired school councilor or professor giving the introductory speech from a table at the head end of the meeting room on the basis of which the discussion was then entered. ”The participants who emerged later included Felix Fechenbach , Oskar Maria Graf , Erich Mühsam , Hans Unterleitner , Ernst Toller , Joachim Kain , Sarah Sonja Lerch and Josef Sontheimer , politically a heterogeneous group between moderate social democracy , communism and anarchism , as well as “strange people with anthroposophical ideas and pacifist poets”.

After Eisner had organized the Munich munitions workers' strike in January 1918 , which was part of a nationwide political strike wave with the aim of democratizing the state and establishing peace, he was arrested on January 31, 1918 in Munich and sentenced to prison. He was able to leave the prison prematurely on October 14 of that year - when the end of the war was imminent with the impending collapse of the Western Front - because the USPD wanted to put him up as a candidate for a by-election to the Reichstag.

November Revolution in Munich, Socialist Conference in Bern

Demonstration on the Theresienwiese on November 7, 1918
Appeal to the population of Munich! dated November 8, 1918
Postage stamp of the Bavarian Republic - with the subsequent imprint "People's State of Bavaria" - after the deposition of King Ludwig III.

In the course of the nationwide November Revolution that began with the Kiel sailors' uprising at the end of the First World War, Eisner was the leading head of the revolutionary upheavals in Bavaria, which reached Munich before the Reich capital Berlin . Following a mass rally on the Theresienwiese on November 7, 1918, Eisner, together with Ludwig Gandorfer , led a steadily growing demonstration, first to the garrisons of Munich and then to the city center, without encountering any significant resistance. Since the security of King Ludwig III. could no longer be guaranteed, his ministers made him leave for Wildenwart Castle in Chiemgau , later he had to flee further to the Hintersee in Ramsau near Berchtesgaden , finally leaving Bavaria and seeking refuge in Anif Castle near Salzburg .

Cheering soldiers on November 8, 1918 in Munich after the Free State of Bavaria was proclaimed

On the night of November 8, 1918 Eisner called at the first meeting of the workers 'and soldiers' councils in Mathäserbräu the " Free State of Bavaria" (basically "free of monarchy") and declared the ruling royal house of Wittelsbach deposed:

“The Wittelsbach dynasty has been deposed!
From now on Bavaria is a free state! "

- Kurt Eisner : Proclamation of the Republic on November 8, 1918

Eisner was elected the first Prime Minister of the new Bavarian Republic by the Munich Workers 'and Soldiers' Council and shortly afterwards formed a government cabinet made up of members of the SPD and the USPD, in which, in addition to his office of head of government, he also took the post of foreign minister . On November 12th, Ludwig III. the Anifer Declaration , which was published the following day in Munich. He released the Bavarian officials and soldiers from the oath of loyalty to the king and thus ensured the continuation of the administration. On the other hand, he never renounced the throne.

On November 14, 1918 Eisner invited the anarchist theoretician Gustav Landauer, whom he valued for his literary and rhetorical talent, to Munich and asked him "to work on the reshaping of souls through speaking activities". Landauer followed this call. After Eisner's death, from April 7, 1919, he became one of the leading figures of the first phase of the Munich Soviet Republic as the commissioner for public education .

In Eisner's approximately 100-day tenure as Prime Minister of Bavaria, there were no further radical changes, as the government, especially by the SPD ministers, was only viewed as a temporary measure until the scheduled state elections and also various ideas about the exact structures of the coming state to conflict led. A major point of contention was the dispute over the question of the introduction of a parliamentary or a council democracy . Eisner himself took an intermediate position. He viewed the councils as an advisory and controlling body vis-à-vis a parliament that had yet to be elected, but did not want to give them legislative or executive power in the long term . He defended the power of the councils at the beginning of the revolution as a means of educating the population in democracy .

“The revolution is not democracy. It creates democracy first. "

- Kurt Eisner

The banks as well as the large industrial and commercial enterprises remained untouched under Eisner's government. Their initially planned socialization has been postponed. The monarchist officials in the judiciary and bureaucracy essentially retained their positions and acted on hold. Only a few social and societal changes in favor of the hitherto more disadvantaged sections of the population, above all the workers, were implemented, for example through the introduction of the eight-hour day and women's suffrage as well as the abolition of church school supervision. At the same time Eisner alienated the influential Catholic Church and the conservative bourgeoisie , who saw their representation in the Bavarian People's Party . Cardinal Faulhaber denounced Eisner's government as "that of Jehovah's wrath".

In terms of foreign policy , Eisner temporarily represented separatist efforts. He was just as unable to implement his ideas of a Danube federation between Austria, Bavaria and the newly proclaimed Czechoslovak Republic as was the demand that the planned new imperial constitution should only come into effect after approval by the states. Both failed because of the resistance of the Reich government.

Eisner on his way to the Reich Chancellery in Berlin on the occasion of a conference of the Reich Government (at the time " Council of People's Representatives "), November 22, 1918 (photograph by Robert Sennecke )

In order to prove the war guilt of the German Reich (and thus its Prussian leadership in the person of the Emperor ) postulated by the Allied victors of the Entente Powers , and thereby to achieve better peace conditions for Bavaria, Eisner published the secret legation reports of the Bavarian government. In doing so, he finally made the leading military , who had been suspicious or even negative of him, into the enemy. He was also seen as a traitor by many patriotic and nationalist -minded citizens because in their eyes he had tried to play off one part of Germany against another. On November 25, 1918, he got into an open conflict with the Reich government in Berlin , which - between the proclamation of the republic and free elections - was led by the SPD under Friedrich Ebert .

Pressure was also exerted on the unstable Bavarian SPD and USPD government from the revolutionary left around the anarchist writer Erich Mühsam and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), which was founded in January 1919 and chaired by Max Levien in Munich . When about 4,000 unemployed people tried to occupy the Ministry of Social Affairs in Munich on January 7, 1919 , three dead and eight were wounded after the police intervened.

Eisner then had leading KPD members and supporters of the Revolutionary Workers' Council (RAR) arrested for a short time as alleged backers of the unrest, including Mühsam and Levien, who were released a little later under pressure from a demonstration. After these events, the KPD, anarchists and the RAR called for a boycott of the upcoming state elections . Kurt Eisner still enjoyed a reputation as the leader of the revolution, but in the eyes of the radical left he appeared too undecided against the overwhelming power of the majority SPD in the government around his interior minister and political rival Erhard Auer . In his decisions, Eisner appeared to these forces too wavering and not assertive enough to really be able to implement the revolutionary demands. Many also increasingly doubted his will to do so. On December 6th, however, the Munich newspaper coup failed .

Kurt by the grace of Kurt. Cartoon by Thomas Theodor Heine , published on 28 January 1919 Simplicissimus . Caption: “Honorable Members! I am the state, I am freedom, I am the constitution too! You can go home again! "

Before the Bavarian state elections on January 12, 1919 , Eisner assumed, despite the increasing criticism of his measures, that the vast majority of the Bavarian population were behind him and the USPD, whereby he should be clearly wrong, especially with regard to the large electorate of the rural population. After the USPD had to accept an unexpectedly clear defeat in the elections with only 2.53 percent of the vote and just 3 MPs, Eisner was faced with demands for resignation, which he opposed until the first meeting of the new state parliament.

The strongest party with 35 percent, despite losses, was the conservative Bavarian People's Party (BVP), which, together with right-wing nationalist circles , had triggered an anti - Semitic defamation campaign aimed at Eisner against the “ Jewish-Bolshevik ” revolution in the capital. The SPD, chaired by Erhard Auer, won strongly and, with 33 percent, just missed the relative majority in the new state parliament, which was to meet for the first time on February 21, 1919. Until then, Eisner remained in the office of the Bavarian head of government. On February 19, 1919, sailors led by Konrad Lotter tried in vain to remove Kurt Eisner in Munich.

At the Workers and Socialists Conference of the Second International in Bern from February 3 to 10, 1919, Eisner gave several high-profile speeches and signed a resolution in favor of the prisoners of war together with the French socialist Pierre Renaudel , which led to harsh reactions in the press.

Murder and burial

Eisner (front row, center) on his way to the state parliament in early 1919, together with his wife Else (left next to him) and his son-in-law and Minister for Social Welfare Hans Unterleitner (right next to him)

On February 21, 1919, Eisner left the premises of the Bavarian Foreign Ministry , where he had put the finishing touches on his resignation speech, which he wanted to read out at 10 a.m. in the newly constituted Bavarian State Parliament . He was accompanied by his wife, his son-in-law and Minister of State for Social Welfare Hans Unterleitner , his secretary Felix Fechenbach and Benno Merkle , an employee of the Bavarian Foreign Ministry, and two bodyguards. Due to the hostile mood towards Eisner and various death threats that had become known in the previous days, Fechenbach urgently advised Eisner to take the route through the rear entrance of the Hotel Bayerischer Hof , which he rejected with the remark: “You cannot avoid a murder attempt in the long run , and you can only shoot me to death once. ”On the way through Promenadestrasse (today Kardinal-Faulhaber- Strasse), Eisner became a lieutenant in the Royal Bavarian Infantry Body Regiment, Anton Graf von Arco auf Valley, from the student and at the time on leave Shot from close range with two pistol shots in the back and head. Eisner died immediately. Count von Arco, who had been excluded from the ethnic - anti-Semitic Thule society due to his Jewish origins and who wanted to prove his "national sentiment" by the act, later named among other things a "betrayal of Eisner's secrets to the Allies" as Motive for his assassination attempt . Immediately after the murder, the assassin was critically wounded and arrested by Eisner's two bodyguards several times. He survived through an emergency operation by the famous surgeon Ferdinand Sauerbruch .

The bar waiter Alois Lindner , a member of the Revolutionary Workers' Council (RAR), shot in revenge two hours after the murder from the stands of the state parliament at the SPD chairman Erhard Auer , whom he suspected to be the man behind the attack. Major Paul von Jahreiß tried to seize Lindner and was killed, a (possibly second) assassin shot the Conservative MP Heinrich Osel . The constituent session of the Landtag was adjourned after these tumultuous events that caused panic among those present. Auer also survived his injuries thanks to emergency surgery by Dr. Sour break.

Memorial stone on the Ostfriedhof
Kurt Eisner Memorial in Kardinal-Faulhaber-Strasse in Munich, inaugurated in 1989: It shows the outline of the murdered Eisner at the crime scene.

Fearing that right-wing extremist circles might dare to attempt a coup , the USPD called a general strike in Munich . Bourgeois newspapers were banned and their editorial offices were occupied. Provisional government power was temporarily taken over by the Central Council of the Bavarian Republic , set up by the Council Congress and chaired by Ernst Niekisch (SPD, later USPD), which was supposed to maintain the political capacity of the Free State, which had initially become leaderless.

At the scene of the Eisner assassination in the renamed Kardinal-Faulhaber-Straße, a relief plaque by the artist Erika Maria Lankes has been a reminder of the murder since 1989 .

Kurt Eisner's body was transferred from Theresienwiese to the municipal crematorium in Munich's Ostfriedhof on February 26, 1919 in a large funeral procession, in which around 100,000 people are said to have participated . There the corpse was cremated and buried in a smaller group; Funeral speeches were given by Hans Unterleitner and Hugo Haase (USPD), Max Levien (KPD) and Gustav Landauer . Eisner's urn was in 1933 at the instigation of the National Socialist councilors Christian Weber and Hans Zoberlein on the New Israelite Cemetery reburied in an urn grave next to Gustav Landauer, who after the defeat of the Soviet Republic on 2 May 1919 or about ten weeks after Eisner, of Freikorps soldiers had been murdered. The grave of Eisner and Landauer is still there today. The memorial stone erected on the Ostfriedhof in 1922 was removed in June 1933 and rebuilt in 1954. He commemorates Kurt Eisner and the dead of the 1919 revolution.

Aftermath of the attack

Bavarian Soviet Republic

Main article: Munich Soviet Republic

Demonstration in Munich 1919

After Eisner's assassination, the clashes between supporters of a parliamentary democracy and those of a socialist soviet republic in Bavaria intensified . The council congress and the state parliament mutually agreed to legitimize the formation of a government. Against the election of Martin Segitz (SPD) as Prime Minister by the Council Congress on March 1, 1919, the Landtag elected Johannes Hoffmann as head of government of the Free State on March 17 . Its SPD-dominated minority government, tolerated by the BVP parliamentary group, in the coalition with the Bavarian Farmers' Union and, for the time being, the USPD, got on the defensive and had to move to Bamberg .

On April 7, 1919, the Central Council and the Revolutionary Workers' Council proclaimed the Bavarian Soviet Republic in the state capital . Then the USPD members resigned from the state government in Bamberg. The government of the Soviet Republic was initially dominated by anarchist and pacifist intellectuals, among them Gustav Landauer , Erich Mühsam and Eisner's successor in the chairmanship of the USPD, Ernst Toller , - then by members of the KPD such as Eugen Leviné , Max Levien and Rudolf Egelhofer . Other Bavarian cities also joined the Soviet Republic. After a few weeks it was bloodily suppressed by right-wing nationalist Freikorps and Reichswehr associations in the service of the SPD-led Bamberg state government and the also SPD-led Reich government ( Scheidemann cabinet ) in early May 1919. As part of an investigation, Red Guards of the KPD had captured ten people from the ethnic-anti-Semitic Thule Society and their environment. They were accused, among other things, of having acted with conspiratorial actions against the Soviet republic, and four days later - also under the impression of news of atrocities of the counterrevolutionary troops - shot without a trial in the Luitpold-Gymnasium , which had been converted into a barracks and prison . This from the right and bourgeois press as a "hostage murder" rumored execution led to the defeat of the Soviet Republic to more than 2,200 - also alleged - supporters of the Soviet Republic of Revenge of the volunteer corps fell victim. Most of the leaders of the revolutionaries were murdered, sentenced to death by court martial and long prison terms in other legal proceedings.

After the bloody end of this relatively short Council Socialist period in Bavarian history, which began with Eisner's ministerial presidency, Bavaria developed into a conservative, reactionary " regulatory cell " within the German Empire during the Weimar Republic . In Munich, in the 1920s, the political rise of Adolf Hitler and his NSDAP began, aided by the anti-communist and anti-Semitic public mood that had spread after the revolution .

Arco Valley Process

The assassin Count Arco-Valley was charged with murder. Since he himself had been shot and seriously injured directly after Eisner's murder, his trial began only eight months after the Soviet Republic in Bavaria that followed Eisner's death was crushed - and almost a year after the crime. The trial took place in front of the People's Court , a special court with a negotiation similar to that of standing. The judge Georg Neithardt conducted the trial superficially. The court did not pursue any evidence of links to leading military personnel and to the völkisch-right-wing extremist secret society of the Thule Society , a nucleus of the later NSDAP.

Arco was ultimately convicted as a lone perpetrator. In the grounds of the judgment it was stated that the act “did not originate from a low disposition”, but “from ardent love for the fatherland”. Despite this judge's testimony, which basically sympathized with the murderer's motives, the court pronounced the death sentence against Arco on January 16, 1920. However, the Bavarian state government pardoned him the next day due to the judges' vote regarding Arco's motives for lifelong imprisonment in the fortress Landsberg am Lech , from which he was released in April 1924 in the course of a wave of amnesties . The final pardon followed in October 1927.

Family Escape

However, the Bavarian government was less generous towards Eisner's widow and two daughters, who were denied the usual support for survivors by state employees. After her husband's murder, Else Eisner fled with the children from Bavaria to Gengenbach in Baden , where her father had bought a house. The weekly newspaper Die Weltbühne pointed out several times that she was in need there and called for fundraising. Allegedly, the assassin Count Arco-Valley sent Eisner's widow the sum of 60,000 marks through a Munich lawyer at Christmas 1920 - it is unclear whether this was related to a claim for damages against Arco-Valley previously filed by the widow.

After the Nazi dictatorship was established in 1933, Eisner's family was forced to emigrate to France . The name Eisner was a “red rag” for Hitler, as he had explained in 1925 in his autobiographical draft program Mein Kampf . When in the Second World War during the French campaign as a result of the advance of the Wehrmacht to encircle the Maginot Line, escape was no longer possible and every escape route was cut off, Else Eisner committed suicide on June 17, 1940 in Dole in eastern France.

Later reception

Kurt Eisner stele on the site of the former Mathäserbräus

"Eisner is a Bolshevik, he is a Jew , he is not German, he does not feel German, undermines all patriotic thinking and feeling, is a traitor."

- Count Anton von Arco on Valley

This image of Eisner, which his murderer revealed on a note written shortly before the attack, shaped the prevailing image in the first years after Eisner's death: "As a Jew and alleged Bolshevik, he became more and more the epitome of all opponents of the revolution." ( Erika Bosl ) In post-revolutionary Munich, a "playground of anti-democratic, right-wing extremist forces, and Munich's brown bohemians from bizarre sects of all kinds" ( Volker Ullrich ), Eisner's murderer was stylized as a hero, the NSDAP was - despite his Jewish mother - as " Hero of the Movement ”.

The CSU protested in 1969 against the naming of Kurt-Eisner-Strasse in Munich- Neuperlach ; the sensitivity of the widow of Count Arco-Valley, who died in 1945, could perhaps be hurt if a street was named after her husband's victim. In 1976 a memorial plaque was set in the green strip of the Promenadeplatz in Munich after the owner of Palais Montgelas refused to put up a plaque. The memorial plaque existed until 2005 when a memorial for Maximilian von Montgelas was erected there. A ground monument in Munich's Kardinal-Faulhaber-Strasse was also only inaugurated in 1989 after lengthy political disputes. In 2011 a Kurt Eisner memorial was erected on Munich's Oberanger. It is a glass, accessible monument by the artist Rotraut Fischer. The front plate is inscribed with “Every human life should be holy”, a quote from Kurt Eisner's revolutionary speech, with which he proclaimed the Bavarian Republic on November 7, 1918.

The Munich City Museum showed from May 12, 2017 to January 14, 2018 the exhibition “Revolutionary and Prime Minister Kurt Eisner 1867-1919”.

Even after 1945, Eisner was resented that "he never left a doubt about the German war guilt and published official documents from Bavarian archives as evidence." Whether Eisner really wanted to resign after the defeat in the state elections of January 12, 1919, like that The speech in his briefcase at the time of the assassination said, was therefore long doubted: It was assumed that he might “secretly had the state parliament prepared to blow up” ( Anton Ritthaler ). However, Bernhard Grau's analysis leaves no doubt as to Eisner's intention to resign.

Kurt Eisner Memorial at Oberanger in Munich, inaugurated in 2011

Not least because of the reassessment of the war guilt issue in the course of the Fischer controversy , Eisner's stigmatization as a traitor declined, while his designation as a revolutionary lost much of its negative tone in the second half of the 20th century. The Eisner image, which assumed him to have an “unworldly ideology ” ( Anton Ritthaler ), remained largely intact; Added to this was the image of a politician "who, as Berliners, Jews and writers in deeply Catholic Bavaria, succeeded in gaining sympathy and a high reputation among the great majority of the population" ( Reinhard Jellen ). The disputes over Eisner monuments, streets and squares show, however, how controversial the first Minister President of the Free State of Bavaria is.

Eisner's writings, which were little known for a long time, have only recently received greater attention, whereby their ongoing relevance is emphasized:

“Eisner's oeuvre embodies an independent contribution within German social democracy through the connection between a social analysis trained in Marx and a Kant- oriented, ethical goal definition aimed at the individual . Because of its reference to topics such as the military orientation of German foreign policy, education for elites and the ossification of parliamentary democracy, it looks like a compendium of contemporary problems. "

Works (selection)

  • Psychopathia spiritualis. Friedrich Nietzsche and the Apostles of the Future , Leipzig 1892
  • Wilhelm Liebknecht. His life and work. "Vorwärts" bookstore, Berlin 1900 [2. Ed. 1906]
  • Taggeist. Cultures closed . Berlin 1901
  • The future state of the Junkers. Manteuffelien against the Social Democrats in the Prussian mansion on May 11 and 13, 1904 . "Vorwärts" bookstore, Berlin 1904
  • The Tsar's secret society. The Königsberg trial for secret bundles, high treason against Russia and insulting the tsar from July 12th to 25th, 1904 . Bookstore "Vorwärts", Berlin 1904 ( online )
  • The sultan of the world war. A Moroccan moral image of German diplomatic politics. Kaden, Dresden 1906.
  • The end of the empire. Germany and Prussia in the age of the great revolution. Berlin 1907 ( online )
  • Crime and Punishment. Verlag Neues Vaterland, E. Berger and Co., Berlin 1919 (pamphlets of the Federal New Fatherland , No. 12, online )
  • The new time . Georg Müller Verlag, Munich 1919 (Speeches and appeals by Eisner from his reign, online )
  • Oppressed things from the world war. Georg Müller Verlag, Munich / Vienna / Zurich 1919 ( online )
  • Socialism and the youth. Lecture. National-Zeitung, Basel 1919 (lecture of February 10, 1919, online )
  • Collected Writings. Two volumes. Paul Cassirer, Berlin 1919 ( Volume I online , Volume II online )
  • The god test. A world political farce in five acts and a pantomime in between acts. Paul Cassirer, Berlin 1920 ( online .)
  • Half the power to the councils. Selected essays and speeches. Edited by Renate and Gerhard Schmolze, Cologne 1969
  • Socialism as action. Selected essays and speeches. Edited by Freya Eisner, Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1975
  • Between capitalism and communism. Edited by Freya Eisner, Frankfurt am Main 1996
  • Prison diary , edited, introduced and published by Frank Jacob , Cornelia Baddack, Sophia Ebert and Doreen Pöschl, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-86331-295-4 .


Web links

Wikisource: Kurt Eisner  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Kurt Eisner  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Eisner, Lisbeth . In: Deutsche Biographie , on: deutsche-biographie.de
  2. ^ Levke Harders: Kurt Eisner 1867-1919 . In: German Historical Museum, September 14, 2014, on: dhm.de
  3. Eisner, Lisbeth . In: Deutsche Biographie , on: deutsche-biographie.de
  4. ^ Levke Harders: Kurt Eisner 1867-1919 . In: German Historical Museum, September 14, 2014, on: dhm.de
  5. Kurt Eisner 1867-1919 . In: German Historical Museum, on: dhm.de
  6. State Archives Munich, Pol. Dir. 15585, letter from the Nuremberg City Council to the Munich Police Department, Nuremberg, July 25, 1919 (copy). Quoted from: Bernhard Grau : Kurt Eisner, 1867–1919. A biography . CH Beck, Munich 2001. ISBN 978-3-406-47158-2 , p. 544. Note 31.
  7. ^ Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner, 1867-1919. A biography . CH Beck, Munich 2001. ISBN 978-3-406-47158-2 , p. 91.
  8. a b Kurt Eisner . In: Revolutionszeitung , joint project Münchner Zeitensprünge / Munich city history, on: revolutionszeitung.de
  9. ^ Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867-1919. A biography . Munich 2001, pp. 105–129, esp. P. 123: "For Eisner's political thinking, Cohen's epistemological method and his ethics were just as important as Natorp's social pedagogy".
  10. ^ Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867-1919. A biography. Munich 2001, p. 131.
  11. ^ Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867-1919. A biography. Munich 2001, p. 132.
  12. ^ Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867-1919. A biography. Munich 2001, p. 138.
  13. ^ Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867-1919. A biography. Munich 2001, p. 139.
  14. ^ Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867-1919. A biography. Munich 2001, p. 140.
  15. ^ Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867-1919. A biography. Munich 2001, pp. 210-219.
  16. ^ Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867-1919. A biography. Munich 2001, p. 215; see. Allan Mitchell: Revolution in Bavaria 1918/1919. The Eisner government and the Soviet republic. Beck, Munich 1967, p. 43 ff.
  17. ^ Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867-1919. A biography. Munich 2001, p. 217 f.
  18. ^ Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867-1919. A biography. Munich 2001, p. 222.
  19. ^ Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867-1919. A biography. Munich 2001, p. 225 f.
  20. ^ Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867-1919. A biography. Munich 2001, p. 229.
  21. ^ Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867-1919. A biography. Munich 2001, p. 243.
  22. ^ Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867-1919. A biography. Munich 2001, p. 229 f.
  23. ^ Albert Earle Gurganus: Kurt Eisner. A modern life . Boydell & Brewer, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2018. ISBN 978-1-64014-015-8 , p. 240.
  24. Documents of the children Freia and Ruth Eisner. In: Bundesarchiv, Nachlass Kurt Eisner, signatures NY 4060/129 - NY 4060/136, on: bundesarchiv.de
  25. ^ Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867-1919. A biography. Munich 2001, p. 234. See Paul Hoser: Münchener Post. In: Historical Lexicon of Bavaria . November 12, 2015, accessed December 23, 2015 .
  26. Frank Jakob: Kurt Eisner's cultural socialism (1867-1919): the “Arbeiter-Feuilleton” and the enlightenment of the German workforce , in progress - Movement - History , Issue I / 2019, pp. 9–26, cf. also Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867-1919. A biography. Munich 2001, p. 232 f.
  27. ^ Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867-1919. A biography. Munich 2001, p. 463.
  28. All citations in the section by Eisner, quoted from Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867–1919. A biography. Munich 2001, pp. 299-305.
  29. ^ Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867-1919. A biography. Munich 2001, p. 306.
  30. ^ Allan Mitchell: Revolution in Bavaria 1918/1919. The Eisner government and the Soviet republic . Beck, Munich 1967, p. 55.
  31. ^ Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867-1919. A biography. Munich 2001, p. 320.
  32. ^ Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867-1919. A biography. Munich 2001, p. 323 f.
  33. ^ Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867-1919. A biography. Munich 2001, p. 325.
  34. ^ Oskar Maria Graf : Theresienwiese November 1918. A memory of Felix Fechenbach. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung No. 270, 1968, p. 109. Quoted from Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867–1919. A biography. Munich 2001, p. 325.
  35. ^ Kurt Eisner: To the people of Munich! In: Münchner Latest Nachrichten , November 8, 1918. Text also under MLWerke.de. November 20, 1999.
  36. When the king ripped out. Contemporary history in Martin Irl's archive: Bavaria lost its ruler 90 years ago. In: OberpfalzNetz.de , November 21, 2008
  37. Quoted from Stefan Schnupp: Revolution and Government Eisner (PDF) In: House of Bavarian History (Hrsg.): Revolution! Bavaria 1918/19. House of Bavarian History, Augsburg 2008, ISBN 978-3-937974-20-0 (Booklets on Bavarian History and Culture 37), pp. 12–18 (PDF; 1.1 MB), here p. 12.
  38. Florian Sepp: Anifer declaration, 12./13. November 1918. In: Historisches Lexikon Bayerns . November 12, 2015, accessed December 23, 2015 .
  39. Susanne Kornacker: Government of Jehovah's Wrath, 1918. In: Historisches Lexikon Bayerns . November 17, 2015, accessed December 23, 2015 .
  40. gonschior.de , Landtag election results in the Free State of Bavaria 1919 to 1933 (accessed on March 19, 2012)
  41. Wolfgang Benz: Politics in Bavaria 1919–1933 reports from the Württemberg ambassador Carl Moser von Filseck
  42. ^ Speech of February 4, 1919
  43. ^ Speech of February 6, 1919
  44. ^ Speech of February 9, 1919
  45. https://www.zukunft-brauch-erinnerung.de/thule-gesellschaft-ein-ideengeber-der-ns-ideologie/
  46. See Friedrich Hitzer: Anton Graf Arco. The assassination attempt on Kurt Eisner and the shots in the state parliament . Knesebeck & shoulder, Munich 1988, ISBN 3-926901-01-2 .
  47. Nikolaus Brauns: "Revenge for Eisner!" 90 years ago: The murder of the Bavarian Prime Minister and the shots in the state parliament . On: raeterepublik.de .
  48. ^ Max Hirschberg : Jew and Democrat: Memoirs of a Munich lawyer 1883 to 1939 . Edited by Reinhard Weber. Munich 1998, ISBN 3-486-56367-X , p. 122.
  49. Erika Maria Lankes: The monument today. Function and artistic implementation . In: Ulrich Baumgärtner (Ed.): History between art and politics . Utz, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-89675-978-7 , p. 85 ( online [accessed June 1, 2012]).
  50. ^ Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner's funeral, Munich, February 26, 1919. In: Historisches Lexikon Bayerns . November 17, 2015, accessed December 23, 2015 .
  51. Charlotte Knobloch: A worthy souvenir for Kurt Eisner in Munich haGalil , February 24, 2009
  52. Memorial stone - Kurt Eisner / Revolution Stadtportal München, accessed on January 23, 2019.
  53. ^ Section The so-called hostage murder in Munich's Luitpoldgymnasium in Hermann Gilbhard: Thule-Gesellschaft, 1918–1933 , Historisches Lexikon Bayerns (online www.historisches-lexikon-bayerns.de, accessed on August 27, 2014)
  54. See Die Weltbühne from January 20, 1925, February 24, 1925; summarized on March 13, 1928. So Frank Flechtmann: The "house on the brow". Eisner family in Gengenbach. In: The Ortenau. Journal of the Historical Association for Central Baden. 72, 1992, pp. 303-339; here p. 308, 311.
  55. Münchner Merkur , number 40, weekend 16./17. February 2019, pages 12 and 13
  56. Frank Flechtmann: The "house on the forehead". Eisner family in Gengenbach. In: The Ortenau. Journal of the Historisches Verein für Mittelbaden 72, 1992, pp. 303–339; here p. 314 ff.
  57. Frank Flechtmann: The "house on the forehead". Eisner family in Gengenbach. In: The Ortenau. Journal of the Historisches Verein für Mittelbaden 72, 1992, pp. 303–339; here p. 335, note 63.
  58. Frank Flechtmann: The "house on the forehead". Eisner family in Gengenbach. In: The Ortenau. Journal of the Historisches Verein für Mittelbaden 72, 1992, pp. 303–339; here p. 318.
  59. Quoted from Volker Ullrich : Mord in München. In February 1919, the Bavarian Prime Minister Kurt Eisner died from the bullets of an assassin. The consequences were dramatic. In: Die Zeit , No. 9 of February 19, 2009, p. 92.
  60. Erika Bosl: Eisner, Kurt. In: Karl Bosl (ed.): Bosls Bavarian biography. Pustet, Regensburg 1983, ISBN 3-7917-0792-2 , p. 172 ( digitized version ).
  61. ^ A b c Volker Ullrich : Murder in Munich. In February 1919, the Bavarian Prime Minister Kurt Eisner died from the bullets of an assassin. The consequences were dramatic. In: Die Zeit , No. 9 of February 19, 2009, p. 92.
  62. ^ Municipalities / Munich. Much mischief . In: Der Spiegel . No.  6 , 1969, p. 72 ( Online - Feb. 3, 1969 ).
  63. a b c Reinhard Jellen : We are prisoners. On the 85th anniversary of Kurt Eisner's murder. On: Telepolis , February 21, 2004.
  64. ^ State capital Munich (ed.): Topic History Path. 2nd Edition. Volume 3, 2012, pp. 73-77, muenchen.de (PDF; 3.5 MB)
  65. muenchner-stadtmuseum.de
  66. ^ A b Anton Ritthaler:  Eisner, Kurt. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 4, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1959, ISBN 3-428-00185-0 , p. 423 ( digitized version ).
  67. ^ Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867-1919. A biography . Munich 2001, summarized on p. 472.
  68. ^ In summary Katharina Weigand: The public memory of Kurt Eisner in Munich. In: Hans-Michael Körner and Katharina Weigand: Monuments in Bavaria . House of Bavarian History, Augsburg 1997, ISBN 3-927233-52-8 (Booklets on Bavarian History and Culture 19), pp. 41–45.
  69. Jump up ↑ It's time: Marienplatz is renamed Kurt-Eisner-Platz . On: hagalil.com , February 23, 2009.
  70. ^ For example Johann Türk: Charlotte Knobloch: A worthy souvenir for Kurt Eisner in Munich . On: press release.ws , February 23, 2009.
  71. See also the full texts of Eisner's writings and speeches on Kurt Eisner's works .
  72. ^ Reprinted in: Kurt Eisner: Gesammelte Schriften . Volume I. Paul Cassirer, Berlin 1919, pp. 326–341 ( online )
  73. Alternative digitized version of the Bavarian State Library : Die Götterprüfung
  74. cf. the review by Marc Klobas, June 6, 2018
  75. See the table of contents (PDF; 92 kB) and the review by Volker Ullrich: Biography. From word to deed . In: Die Zeit , No. 13/2001, p. 25 f. as well as the review by Nils Müller: Revolutionizing the minds. Bernhard Grau discovers in Kurt Eisner a consistent thinker and committed popular educator. In Literaturkritik.de , No. 9, September 1, 2001.
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on May 5, 2009 in this version .