Kurt Eisner

Last updated
Kurt Eisner
Minister President of Bavaria
In office
Preceded by Otto Ritter von Dandl
Succeeded by Johannes Hoffmann
Head of State of Bavaria
In office
Personal details
Born(1867-05-14)14 May 1867
Berlin, Kingdom of Prussia
Died21 February 1919(1919-02-21) (aged 51)
Munich, Weimar Republic
Nationality German
Political party Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany

Kurt Eisner (German pronunciation: [kʊɐ̯t ˈʔaɪ̯snɐ] ; 14 May 1867 21 February 1919) [1] was a journalist and theatre critic. As a socialist journalist, he organised the Socialist Revolution that overthrew the Wittelsbach monarchy in Bavaria in November 1918, which led to his being described as "the symbol of the Bavarian revolution". [2] [1] He is used as an example of charismatic authority by Max Weber. [3] He proclaimed the Free State of Bavaria. He was assassinated in Munich by a German nationalist on 21 February 1919.

Journalist person who collects, writes and distributes news and other information

A journalist is a person who collects, writes, or distributes news or other current information to the public. A journalist's work is called journalism. A journalist can work with general issues or specialize in certain issues. However, most journalists tend to specialize, and by cooperating with other journalists, produce journals that span many topics. For example, a sports journalist covers news within the world of sports, but this journalist may be a part of a newspaper that covers many different topics.

Bavaria State in Germany

Bavaria, officially the Free State of Bavaria, is a landlocked federal state of Germany, occupying its southeastern corner. With an area of 70,550.19 square kilometres, Bavaria is the largest German state by land area comprising roughly a fifth of the total land area of Germany. With 13 million inhabitants, it is Germany's second-most-populous state after North Rhine-Westphalia. Bavaria's main cities are Munich and Nuremberg.

Charismatic authority is a concept of leadership developed by the German sociologist Max Weber. It involves a type of organization or a type of leadership in which authority derives from the charisma of the leader. This stands in contrast to two other types of authority: legal authority and traditional authority. Each of the three types forms part of Max Weber's tripartite classification of authority.



Kurt Eisner was born in Berlin on 14 May 1867 to Emanuel Eisner and Hedwig Levenstein, both Jewish. Newspaper reports of his death identify him as being born in the Kingdom of Galicia. [4] From 1892 to 1917 he was married to painter Elisabeth Hendrich, with whom he had five children. They divorced and Eisner then married Elise Belli, an editor. With her, he had two daughters.

Eisner studied philosophy, but then became a journalist in Marburg. From 1890 to 1895, he was contributing editor of the Frankfurter Zeitung , during which time he wrote an article attacking Kaiser Wilhelm II, and for which he spent nine months in prison. [5] Eisner was always an open republican as well as a Social-Democrat, joining the SPD in 1898, although for tactical reasons, German Social-Democracy, particularly in its later stages, rather cold-shouldered anything in the shape of republican propaganda as unnecessary and included in general Social-Democratic aims. Consequently, he fought actively for political democracy as well as Social-Democracy. He became editor of Vorwärts after the death of Wilhelm Liebknecht in 1900, but in 1905 was called upon to resign by a majority of the editorial board, which favored more orthodox Marxists. [6] After that, his activities were confined in the main to Bavaria, though he toured other parts of Germany. [7] [8] He was chief editor of the Fränkische Tagespost in Nuremberg from 1907 to 1910, and afterward became a freelance journalist in Munich.

Philosophy Study of general and fundamental questions

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?

Marburg Place in Hesse, Germany

Marburg is a university town in the German federal state (Bundesland) of Hesse, capital of the Marburg-Biedenkopf district (Landkreis). The town area spreads along the valley of the river Lahn and has a population of approximately 72,000.

<i>Frankfurter Zeitung</i> periodical literature

The Frankfurter Zeitung was a German language newspaper that appeared from 1856 to 1943. It emerged from a market letter that was published in Frankfurt. In Nazi Germany it was considered the only mass publication not completely controlled by the Propagandaministerium under Joseph Goebbels.

Eisner joined the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany in 1917, at the height of World War I, and was convicted of treason in 1918 for his role in inciting a strike of munitions workers. He spent nine months in Cell 70 of Stadelheim Prison, but was released during the General Amnesty in October of that year. [9]

Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany political party

The Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany was a short-lived political party in Germany during the German Empire and the Weimar Republic. The organization was established in 1917 as the result of a split of left wing members of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). The organization attempted to chart a centrist course between electorally oriented revisionism on the one hand and Bolshevism on the other. The organization was terminated in 1931 through merger with the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany (SAPD).

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Treason Crime against ones sovereign or nation

In law, treason is criminal disloyalty to the state. It is a crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's nation or sovereign. This usually includes things such as participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplomats, or its secret services for a hostile and foreign power, or attempting to kill its head of state. A person who commits treason is known in law as a traitor.

After his release from prison, Eisner organized the revolution that overthrew the monarchy in Bavaria (see German Revolution ). He declared Bavaria to be a free state and republic, the People's State of Bavaria, on 8 November 1918, becoming the first republican premier of Bavaria. On 23 November 1918, he leaked documents from the Bavarian plenipotentiary in Berlin during July and August 1914 that he thought proved that the war was caused by "a small horde of mad Prussian military" men as well as "allied" industrialists, capitalists, politicians, and princes. [10] At the Berne Conference of Socialists held in Berne, Switzerland, he attacked moderate German socialists for their refusal to acknowledge Germany's part in bringing about World War I. For that speech, and for his uncompromising hostility to Prussia, he became bitterly hated by large sections of the German people. [5]

King of Bavaria

King of Bavaria was a title held by the hereditary Wittelsbach rulers of Bavaria in the state known as the Kingdom of Bavaria from 1805 until 1918, when the kingdom was abolished. It was the second kingdom, almost a thousand years after the short-lived Carolingian kingdom of Bavaria.

Free state is a term occasionally used in the official titles of some states throughout the world with varying meanings depending on the context. In principle, the title asserts and emphasises a particular freedom of the state in question, but this is not always reflected in practice. Some states use the title to assert sovereignty or independence from foreign domination, while others have used it to assert autonomy within a larger nation-state. Sometimes "free state" is used as a synonym for "republic".

A republic is a form of government in which the country is considered a “public matter”, not the private concern or property of the rulers. The primary positions of power within a republic are not inherited, but are attained through democracy, oligarchy or autocracy. It is a form of government under which the head of state is not a hereditary monarch.

Monument to Kurt Eisner on the sidewalk where he fell when he was assassinated in Munich Kurt eisner monument.jpg
Monument to Kurt Eisner on the sidewalk where he fell when he was assassinated in Munich

As the new government was unable to provide basic services, Eisner's Independent Social Democrats were soundly defeated in the January 1919 election.

Death and legacy

Eisner was assassinated in Munich when German nationalist Anton Graf von Arco auf Valley shot him in the back on 21 February 1919. Eisner was on his way to present his resignation to the Bavarian parliament. [11] His assassination resulted in the elected government of the People's State of Bavaria fleeing Munich and the establishment of the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic and parliament. [12]

When the Passau labor union tried to stage a play about Eisner at the bishopric theater in 1920, Reichswehr soldiers and high school students sabotaged it, using weapons from the military arsenal. Among other things, 11 machine guns were used. The incident, dubbed the Passau Theater Scandal, triggered media headlines and a variety of judicial procedures. [13]

In 1989, a monument was installed in the pavement at the site of Eisner's assassination. It reads, Kurt Eisner, der am 9. November 1918 die Bayerische Republik ausrief, nachmaliger Ministerpräsident des Volksstaates Bayern, wurde an dieser Stelle am 21. Februar 1919 ermordet ("Kurt Eisner, who proclaimed the Bavarian republic on 8 November 1918 – later Prime Minister of the Republic of Bavaria – was murdered here on 21 February 1919"). [14]


Eisner was the author of various books and pamphlets, including: [8]

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  1. 1 2 "Kurt Eisner – Encyclopædia Britannica" (biography), Encyclopædia Britannica, 2006, Britannica.com webpage: Britannica-KurtEisner Archived 4 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine .
  2. https://jacobinmag.com/2019/03/german-revolution-1919-strikes-uprising-democracy
  3. Max Weber, (London 1987) p.634
  4. Frederick Moore, Eisner, A Great Loss, New York Tribune, 25 February 1919, page 10, and others
  5. 1 2 Wikisource-logo.svg  Reynolds, Francis J., ed. (1921). "Eisner, Kurt"  . Collier's New Encyclopedia . New York: P.F. Collier & Son Company.
  6. Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867–1919. Eine Biografie. Munich 2001, pp. 210–219.
  7. Obituary, Unsigned, Justice, 27 February 1919, p.6; transcribed by Ted Crawford. Please see: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 November 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2010.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  8. 1 2 Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Eisner, Kurt"  . Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York.
  9. Richard J. Evans The Coming of the Third Reich, 2003.
  10. Holgar, Herwig (1987) "Clio Deceived: Patriotic self-censorship in Germany after the Great War". International Security12(2), 9. [ permanent dead link ]
  11. Newton, Michael (17 April 2014). Famous Assassinations in World History: An Encyclopedia [2 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. pp. 131–132. ISBN   9781610692861.
  12. Burleigh, Michael (2000) The Third Reich: A New History, New York: Hill and Wang, p. 40 ISBN   0-8090-9325-1
  13. Anna Rosmus Hitlers Nibelungen, Samples Grafenau 2015, pp. 27f
  14. Baumgärtner, Ulrich; Fenn, Monika (2002). Geschichte zwischen Kunst und Politik (in German). Herbert Utz Verlag. p. 87. ISBN   9783896759788.

Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
Otto Ritter von Dandl
Prime Minister of Bavaria
Succeeded by
Johannes Hoffmann