Eisner, Kurt

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EISNER, KURT (1867–1919), German socialist leader, who was founder and first prime minister of the Bavarian Republic. Born in Berlin, Eisner became a journalist. He was a contributor to the Frankfurter Zeitung from 1891 to 1893, and from 1893 to 1897 to the Hessische Landeszeitung. In 1897 he was imprisoned for nine months for lese majesty. In 1898 he joined the social-democratic journal Vorwaerts as political editor. In 1905 he had to leave because of disagreements with the orthodox left (Kautsky, Luxemburg, Mehring). Two years later, he became editor of the Fraenkische Tagespost (Nuernberg), and from 1910 he reported on the Bavarian Landtag as official correspondent for the Muenchner Post. A gifted writer, he had an intellectual and moral approach to political problems. At the beginning of World War i, Eisner favored the granting of war credits to the German government. However, he objected to the imperial policy of conquest and became a bitter opponent of the government's war policies. He was arrested and imprisoned in January 1918 for participating as one of the leaders in the Munich metal workers' peace strike but was released in October, in order to stand as Independent Social-Democratic candidate for the Reichstag. On November 7, 1918, Eisner headed the revolutionary uprising in Munich and next day became prime minister of the new republic of Bavaria. To affix the blame for the war on the German government, he revealed the contents of Bavarian government reports and as a result his enemies falsely accused him of taking huge bribes from the Allies to start the revolution. In the Bavarian elections that followed the uprising, Eisner's Independent Socialist Party received only a small number of votes. On February 21, 1919, on his way to the Landtag (parliament), to announce the resignation of his government, he was shot dead by the young Count Arco-Valley. Eisner's Gesammelte Schriften appeared in 1919 in two volumes.


A. Mitchell, Revolution in Bavaria 1918–1919: The Eisner Regime and the Soviet Republic (1965), incl. bibl.; F. Fechenbach, Der Revolutionaer Kurt Eisner (1929); F. Schade, Kurt Eisner und die bayerische Sozial-Demokratie (1961), incl. bibl.; F. Wiesemann, in: K. Bosl (ed.), Bayern im Umbruch (1969), 387–426; F. Eisner, Kurt Eisner (Ger., 1979); A.E. Gurganus, Kurt Eisner (1984); B. Grau, Kurt Eisner 1867–1919 (Ger., 2001).

[Bernhard Grau (2nd ed.)]