Kurt Eisner

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

Kurt Eisner (14 May 1867 – 21 February 1919)[1] was a German politician and journalist. As a socialist journalist and statesman, he organized the Socialist Revolution that overthrew the Wittelsbach monarchy in Bavaria in November 1918.[1] He is used as an example of charismatic authority by Max Weber.[citation needed]


Kurt Eisner was born in Berlin at 10:15 p.m. on 14 May 1867 to Emanuel Eisner and Hedwig Levenstein, both Jewish. He was married to painter Elisabeth Hendrich from 1892, with whom he had five children, but they eventually divorced in 1917 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.[2] Eisner was always an open Republican as well as a Social-Democrat, joining the SPD in 1898, whereas for tactical reasons German Social-Democracy, particularly in its later stages, rather cold-shouldered anything in the shape of Republican propaganda as being 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 was subsequently called upon to resign from that position. After his withdrawal from Vorwärts in 1905, his activities were confined in the main to Bavaria, though he toured other parts of Germany.[3][4] He was chief editor for the Fränkische Tagespost in Nuremberg from 1907 to 1910 and afterwards became a freelance journalist in Munich.

He 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 9 months in Cell 70 of Stadelheim Prison, after which he was released during the General Amnesty in October of that year.[5]

After his release from prison, he organized the revolution that overthrew the monarchy in Bavaria (see German Revolution). He declared Bavaria to be a free state and republic on 8 November 1918, becoming the first republican premier of Bavaria. On 23 November 1918, he leaked documents from the Bavarian plenipotentiary at Berlin in July/August 1914 he thought proved the war was caused by "a small horde of mad Prussian military" men as well as "allied" industrialists, capitalists, politicians, and princes.[6] At the Berne Conference of Socialists, held at Berne, Switzerland, he attacked the moderate German socialists because of their refusal to acknowledge Germany's guilt in bringing about World War I. For this speech and for his uncompromising hostility to Prussia, he became bitterly hated by large sections of the German people.[2]

Monument to Kurt Eisner on the sidewalk where he fell when he was assassinated in Munich

Due to the inability of the new government to provide basic services as a result of the Treaty of Versailles as well as the antisemitic stab-in-the-back legend originating in Austria, Eisner's Independent Social Democrats were defeated in the January 1919 election by the Bavarian People's Party.

Eisner was assassinated in Munich when German nationalist Anton Graf von Arco auf Valley shot Eisner in the back on 21 February 1919. Eisner was on his way to present his resignation to the Bavarian parliament. His assassination resulted in the establishment of the brief Bavarian Soviet Republic and parliament and government fleeing Munich.

In 1989 a monument at the site of his assassination was built. 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.")


Eisner was the author of various books and pamphlets, which include:[4]

  • Psychopathia Spiritualis (1892)
  • Eine Junkerrevolte (1899)
  • Wilhelm Liebknecht (1900)
  • Feste der Festlosen (1903)
  • Die Neue Zeit (1919)


  1. ^ a b "Kurt Eisner - Encyclopædia Britannica" (biography), Encyclopædia Britannica, 2006, Britannica.com webpage: Britannica-KurtEisner.
  2. ^ a b  "Eisner, Kurt". Collier's New Encyclopedia. 1921. 
  3. ^ Obituary, Unsigned, Justice, 27 February 1919, p.6; transcribed by Ted Crawford. Please see: http://www.marxists.org/history/international/social-democracy/justice/1919/19_02_27.htm
  4. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Eisner, Kurt". Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York. 
  5. ^ Richard J. Evans The Coming of the Third Reich, 2003.
  6. ^ Holgar, Herwig (1987) "Clio Deceived: Patriotic self-censorship in Germany after the Great War". International Security 12(2), 9. [1]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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