Assassination

   A conspicuous part of Weimar history was political mur-der. Rosa Luxemburg* and Karl Liebknecht,* leaders of the new KPD, were assassinated in Berlin* on 15 January 1919 by Waldemar Pabst's* Gardeka-vallerie-Schutzendivision (Guard-Cavalry-Rifle Division). Kurt Eisner,* leader of a coalition socialist government in Bavaria,* was murdered on 21 February 1919 by Anton von Arco-Valley,* a misguided aristocrat. Leo Jogiches, erst-while companion of Luxemburg, was killed while in police custody on 10 March 1919, while Hugo Haase,* chairman of the USPD, died on 7 November 1919 of complications from a gunshot wound.
   From 1920, with abolition of the Freikorps,* political violence was institu-tionalized under the heading Femegericht* ("folkish justice"). Among such groups as the notorious Organisation Consul* (OC), murder was deemed a means for destabilizing the Republic; indeed, it increasingly became its own raison d'etre. On 9 June 1921 members of OC killed the USPD leader Karl Gareis in Munich. On 26 August 1921 they murdered Matthias Erzberger,* chairman of Germany s Armistice* delegation. They attempted to blind Philipp Scheidemann,* the Republic's first Chancellor, by spraying his face on 4 June 1922 with prussic acid. One month later they brutally assaulted Maximilian Harden,* editor of Die Zukunft. But their most celebrated victim was Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau,* assassinated in Berlin on 24 June 1922. This act forced the Reichstag* to pass its Law for the Protection of the Republic.* Pro-viding a prohibition against extremist groups and stiff penalties for conspiracy to murder, the law was opposed by the DNVP, the BVP (Bavaria refused to recognize the law), and the KPD. Its impotence ultimately resulted from a ju-diciary enamored of the Right.
   According to research completed in 1922 by Emil Gumbel,* 354 people had been assassinated since 1919. Significantly, in the 22 cases attributed to the Left, 17 people were punished; only 27 right-wing assassins were punished for the remaining 332 murders. According to Gustav Radbruch,* justice* was "blind in the right eye. When Gerhard Rossbach,* another Freikorps leader, was tried in Stettin s 1928 Fememord Prozess, it was disclosed that 200 political murders had been carried out in Upper Silesia* alone. In the unstable atmosphere of the depression,* this culture of violence only intensified. Richard Bessel noted that by "the time the Weimar system crumbled, there was hardly a city or town in Germany which had been spared political violence. In the seven weeks pre-ceding the 31 July 1932 Reichstag elections, Prussia experienced 461 political riots that resulted in 82 deaths and approximately 400 serious injuries. During early August a city councilor from Königsberg was murdered, the mayor of Norgau was shot to death, two police officers were killed in Gleiwitz, a Nazi was killed in Kreuzburg, two Communists and two Social Democrats were se-riously wounded in Konigsberg, the leader of Lotzen's Reichsbanner* was shot to death, a Nazi accidently blew himself up in Silesia, and a Communist was killed by Nazis in Potempa.* Ultimately, the NSDAP, creating disorder while promising order, was the beneficiary of this gruesome orgy.
   REFERENCES:Bessel, Political Violence; Brecht, Prelude to Silence; Diehl, Paramilitary Politics; Howard Stern, "Organisation Consul"; Waite, Vanguard of Nazism.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

Synonyms:
(by secret assault),


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