IN MEMORY: Kurt Eisner's memorial garnished with flowers and tributes.
The exception is the comic/tragic “pavement memorial” on Kardinal-Faulhaber Strasse near Promenadeplatz in Munich’s old town. It shows the steel silhouette of a fallen man outlined as if it was a crime scene.
The man was Kurt Eisner (May 14, 1867- February 21, 1919), a Jewish socialist who was gunned down at this spot after a few mere months in office as the first prime minister of the Republic of Bavaria.
Why was Eisner shot? And how did it help the Nazi’s gain a foothold in Munich?
IDEALISTIC: Kurt Eisner wanted an independent Bavaria. Instead he got mayhem.
You could say the story started in 1918 when Germany was copping a beating and on the brink of losing World War One.
Eisner, a former journalist, led a strike of ammunition factory workers, calling for Bavaria to break out of the war and away from Prussia, the northern German empire.
He was charged with treason and thrown in jail for his efforts, but re-emerged later that year.
Just days before the war ended Eisner led a socialist revolution which unseated the Bavarian monarchy led by the unpopular King Ludwig III (1841-1921).
On November 8, 1918 Eisner declared Bavaria a republic, ending 700 years of royal Wittelsbach rule.
Bavarians still use Eisner’s tag for the state, Freistaat Bayern, today, but usually to distinguish Bavaria from the rest of Germany and not from the monarchy as was intended.
Eisner, no communist, wanted to respect property rights. But he wasn’t able to allay upper-class fears that he’d follow the Russian Bolsheviks and seize their land.
Although he was a charismatic leader his support quickly disintegrated.
Munich author and commentator Thomas Mann (1875–1955) predicted Eisner’s demise with the words “Munich, like Bavaria, ruled by Jewish literati. How long will it put up with that?”
Eisner took the rough end of a landslide in the February 1919 elections. He was shot dead, ironically when on his way to resign, by right-wing radical Anton Graf Arco-Valley.
PLAYERS: Two fo the players in the communistMunich episode. Left, Eugen Levine. Right, Anton Graf Arco-Valley.
Bavaria fell into lawlessness, paving the way for communists and anarchists to step and declare the communist Munich Räterepublik in April of that year. Its flag was totally red.
Soviet granddaddy and one-time Munich resident Vladimir Lenin telegrammed his congrats.
But the Räterepublik leaders were in chaos and the regime collapsed within a week.
HÄNDE HOCH!: Rote Armee members taken prisoner during the days of the "White Terror".The bloody response to communist Munich