|Minister President of Bavaria|
|Preceded by||Otto Ritter von Dandl|
|Succeeded by||Johannes Hoffmann|
|Head of State of Bavaria|
14 May 1867|
Berlin, Kingdom of Prussia
21 February 1919 (aged 51)|
Munich, Free State of Bavaria in the Weimar Republic
|Political party||Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany|
Kurt Eisner [kʊʁt ˈaɪ̯snɐ] (14 May 1867 – 21 February 1919) 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. He is used as an example of charismatic authority by Max Weber. He proclaimed the Free State of Bavaria. He was assassinated in Munich by a German nationalist on 21 February 1919.
Kurt Eisner was born in Berlin on 14 May 1867, to Emanuel Eisner and Hedwig Levenstein, both Jewish. 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. 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. After that, his activities were confined in the main to Bavaria, though he toured other parts of Germany. He was chief editor of the Fränkische Tagespost in Nuremberg from 1907 to 1910, and afterward became a freelance journalist in Munich.
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.
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. 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.
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 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 elected government of the People's State of Bavaria fleeing Munich and the establishment of the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic and parliament.
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.
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").
Eisner was the author of various books and pamphlets, including:
- Psychopathia Spiritualis (1892, "Spiritual Psychopathy")
- Eine Junkerrevolte (1899, "A Junker revolt")
- Wilhelm Liebknecht (1900)
- Feste der Festlosen (1903, "Celebration of Fixed Lots")
- Die Neue Zeit (1919, "The New Age")
- "Kurt Eisner – Encyclopædia Britannica" (biography), Encyclopædia Britannica, 2006, Britannica.com webpage: Britannica-KurtEisner Archived 4 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine..
- Max Weber, (London 1987) p.634
- Reynolds, Francis J., ed. (1921). "Eisner, Kurt". Collier's New Encyclopedia. New York: P.F. Collier & Son Company.
- Bernhard Grau: Kurt Eisner: 1867–1919. Eine Biografie. Munich 2001, pp. 210–219.
- 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.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Eisner, Kurt". Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York.
- Richard J. Evans The Coming of the Third Reich, 2003.
- Holgar, Herwig (1987) "Clio Deceived: Patriotic self-censorship in Germany after the Great War". International Security 12(2), 9. [permanent dead link]
- Anna Rosmus Hitlers Nibelungen, Samples Grafenau 2015, pp. 27f
- Universitätsbibliothek Regensburg – Bosls bayrische Biographie – Kurt Eisner (in German), author: Karl Bosl, publisher: Pustet, page 172
- Biography Kurt Eisner (in German)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kurt Eisner.|
- Picture of Kurt Eisner, taken in early 1918 Historisches Lexikon Bayerns
- Newspaper clippings about Kurt Eisner in the 20th Century Press Archives of the German National Library of Economics (ZBW)
Otto Ritter von Dandl
| Prime Minister of Bavaria