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Muehsam, Erich


MUEHSAM, ERICH (1878–1934), German poet, playwright, and anarchist. Born in Berlin and raised in Luebeck, where he was expelled from school for "socialist activities," Muehsam, like his father, apprenticed as a pharmacist. Following his dream of becoming a writer, he left Luebeck for Berlin, establishing contact with Martin *Buber and Gustav *Landauer. The latter had an enormous influence on Muehsam's intellectual development and persuaded him to join the Neue Gesellschaft, a group of libertarian writers. Muehsam quickly became involved with the socialist-anarchist movement in Berlin, serving briefly, in 1902, as editor of the anarchist journal, Der arme Teufel. He advocated homosexual rights in his first publication, Die Homosexualitaet. In 1904 he left Berlin, traveling through Switzerland, Northern Italy, France, and Vienna before settling in Munich in 1909. While his years as a traveler brought forth poetic publications, among them his poem collections Die Wueste (1904) and Krater (1909), as well as the comedy Die Hochstapler (1906), Muehsam's time in Munich was characterized by increasing political activity. He founded the socialist circle Die Tat and the revolutionary journal Kain: Zeitschrift fuer Menschlichkeit. World War i put an end to the anti-militaristic journal. He tried to organize resistance to the war, seeking closer contact to the Spartacists and the independent social democrats around Kurt *Eisner. During the strike at the Krupp works in Munich in January, 1918, he called for revolution; one year later he was deeply involved in the founding of Eisner's Bavarian Soviet Republic. After a putsch brought down the republic, he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years for high treason. In prison, Muehsam again pursued his literary ambitions. Besides several publications on revolutionary issues, articles for Die Aktion and Die Weltbühne, and another poem collection titled Brennende Erde (1920), his drama Judas, staged in 1921 for 5,000 workers in Mannheim, should be singled out. In December 1924 he was reprieved. Back in Berlin, he immediately returned to supporting anarchist organizations within the Weimar Republic. From 1926 to 1931, he edited the anarchist monthly Fanal. His final publication was the manifesto Die Befreiung der Gesellschaft vom Staat, published only a few weeks before his arrest by the sa on February 28, 1933. After prolonged torture in various concentration camps, Muehsam was murdered by the Nazis in Oranienburg on July 9, 1934.


K. Muehsam, Der Leidensweg Erich Muehsams (1935). add. bibliography: R. Kauffeldt, Erich Mühsam: Literatur und Anarchie (1983); C. Hirte, Erich Mühsam: "Ihr seht mich nicht feige" (1985); J.-W. Goette (ed.), Erich Mühsam und das Judentum (2002).

[Sol Liptzin /

Philipp Theisohn (2nd ed.)]

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