Lasker, Eduard

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LASKER, EDUARD (Isaac ; 1829–1884), German Liberal politician. Lasker was born to an Orthodox merchant family in Posen. While studying law at the University of Breslau he took part in the revolution of 1848, fighting with the students' legion in Vienna against the imperial troops. In 1853 he went to England to study the system of British parliamentary government, then a model for German liberals. Returning in 1856 he became an associate judge in Berlin. In 1865 he was elected to the Prussian Parliament as a member of the Progressive Party but broke away in 1867 to found the National Liberal Party, of which he was the head. After the German Empire was formed in 1870, Lasker led the Liberal Party in the Reichstag and helped *Bismarck in his work of securing Prussian leadership in Germany, making a substantial contribution to the passage of many important laws, including the laws of association and taxation, the codification of criminal law, and a new judicial system. A gifted orator, Lasker vigorously defended parliamentary authority and on several occasions forced proposals endangering individual liberties to be withdrawn. Furthermore he published works on Wege und Ziele der Culturentwicklung (1881) and Zur Geschichte der parlamentarischen Entwicklung Preussens (1873).

Lasker's first breach with Bismarck occurred in 1873, when his revelations about the mismanagement and stock manipulation of the Pomeranian railways led to the fall of one of Bismarck's closest associates. His opposition to Bismarck's high tariff policy after 1878 led to his defeat in the 1879 elections. In 1880 he left the National Party in protest against a law limiting freedom of speech and set up the Liberal Union in opposition to Bismarck. Soon afterward, however, ill health forced him to retire from politics. He died in the United States and was buried in 1901 in the Jewish cemetery in Berlin. When the American House of Representatives sent a resolution of condolence to Bismarck for transmission to the Reichstag, he refused to accept it on the ground that in praising Lasker it thereby was criticizing German policy. Lasker was a loyal Jew and a vigorous champion of Jewish rights. On his initiative, the Prussian parliament passed a law permitting Jews to opt out of the official community without being regarded as having left Judaism, a measure which enabled the ultra-orthodox congregations to form independent communities.


A. Schwab, Eduard Lasker (Ger., 1923); R.W. Dill, Eduard Lasker (Ger., 1956). add. bibliography: J.F. Harris, "Eduard Lasker – The Jew as National German Politician," in: lbiyb, 20 (1975), 151–77; A. Laufs, Eduard LaskerEin Leben fuer den Rechtsstaat, 1984; J.F. Harris, A Study of Theory and Practice in German LiberalismEduard Lasker, 1984.

[Bernard Dov Ganzel /

Bjoern Siegel (2nd ed.)]