1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Eisner, Kurt

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EISNER, KURT (1867-1919), Bavarian Socialist politician and author, was born in Berlin on May 14 1867. He became a journalist, and at an early stage of his career had the first of his many experiences of imprisonment for the subversive tendency of his writings. He was successively on the editorial staff of the Vorwaerts in Berlin 1898-1905 and of other socialist newspapers at Nürnberg and Munich. On the outbreak of the World War he at first seemed to be going to side with the Government, but, after having obtained some private knowledge of the way in which German public opinion had been duped, he turned against his own party, the Social Democrats, and attacked them for supporting the war. In Jan. 1918 he was prosecuted at Munich on a charge of treason for inciting munition workers to strike. He was released from prison on the ground that he was a candidate for the Reichstag, and recovered his liberty in time to arrange the mass meeting on the Theresienwiese at Munich on Nov. 7 1918, which the same day led to the overthrow of the Bavarian monarchy, the flight of the King, and the institution of a Bavarian revolutionary Government under the presidency of Eisner. A red-haired Jew, he possessed a magnetic and artistic temperament, and had various special methods of arousing and restraining the revolutionary masses, including orchestral and vocal concerts of high excellence in the formerly royal theatres and the opera house of Munich. His policy followed extreme lines in the sense of furthering the Workmen's and Soldiers' Councils system, while at the same time he manifested a Bavarian particularism of his own in his efforts to maintain his conceptions of republican government in conjunction with the Councils in Bavaria as against the centralizing tendencies of the Berlin policy. It was with difficulty that he was induced to agree to the arrangements for reëstablishing the Federal system of the German Reich and for the election of a National Constituent Assembly. Meanwhile a Bavarian Assembly had been elected, and the Bavarian reactionaries feared that, when it assembled, Eisner's influence might continue to predominate or might even be fortified. He was, further, obnoxious to them on account of his revelations as to the origin of the war, and at an international Socialist conference at Berne he had urged the German delegates to make a clean breast of Germany's war guilt. He was on his way to open this Assembly, when he was shot dead in the street by a young Count Arco on Feb. 21 1919. This crime was speedily followed by the Bolshevist chaos into which Munich was for a brief period plunged in April.

Eisner was the author of various books and pamphlets, which display considerable literary faculty. They include Psychopathia Spiritualis (1892); Eine Junkerrevolte (1899); Wilhelm Liebknecht (1900); Feste der Festlosen (1903), and Die Neue Zeit (1919).

(G. S.)