Levine, Eugen

alias Niessen (1883-1919)
   Communist activist; led Mu-nich's second Raterepublik. He was born in St. Petersburg to a rich Jewish businessman; his family settled in Germany in 1897, and he was raised in Wiesbaden. After beginning legal studies in 1903, he went to Russia to support the Social Revolutionaries when revolution erupted in 1905. After sundry im-prisonments he escaped to Germany in 1909, completed a doctorate in econom-ics, joined the local SPD in Mannheim, and wrote for the Party's radical press under the pseudonym Goldberg (his mother's maiden name). Rejected for front-line duty in 1915, he became an interpreter at a prisoner-of-war camp. Upon discharge in 1916 he worked with the Gruppe Internationale and then entered the USPD in 1917. After working in 1918 for the Soviet press agency's Berlin* office, he joined a Rhineland* branch of the Spartacus League* during the No-vember Revolution.* Essen chose him to represent the city at the December Congress* of Workers' and Soldiers' Councils. He was a founding member of the KPD in late December.
   Levine participated in the Spartacist Uprising* of January 1919 and then engaged in leftist actions in the Ruhr and Braunschweig. Shortly before her murder Rosa Luxemburg* asked him to represent the KPD at Moscow's first Comintern congress in February. Deterred at the border, he returned to Berlin, where Paul Levi,* the KPD's acting chairman, asked him to assume direction of Bavaria's Communist movement. Upon arriving in Munich on 5 March, he restructured policy and purged the local central committee; of seven members, only Max Levien* and Hans Kain remained in late March. Establishing KPD cells within the council system, he supplanted Levien as Party strategist and terminated the latter's cooperation with the USPD. While he was apparently not a Russian agent, he shared the Bolsheviks' commitment to discipline and action.
   Although Levine was ordered by the KPD's Zentrale to avoid operations that might draw a Freikorps* response, his impatience with Bavaria's "pseudo-Soviet Republic" (Scheinraterepublik) led him to disobey and invoke a "real" Raterepublik in April 1919. With Levien in charge of oratory, Levine organized a seizure of power. By authority of newly formed Factory and Soldiers' Coun-cils, he took charge of a four-man executive council (Vollzugsrat) on 14 April 1919; theoretically, he served as Bavaria's chief executive. But since legal au-thority still rested with Johannes Hoffmann* in Bamberg, Levine's influence effectively ended at Munich's borders. Moreover, he was fully aware that this limitation would spell disaster. With the remainder of Germany secured by Frei-korps units, Levine's action was a quixotic attempt to erect, if briefly, a "dic-tatorship of the proletariat" on German soil. Despite local appeals for moderation, he dismissed the risks his actions were producing. Amidst accusa-tions from erstwhile accomplices of being Russian agents, both Levine and Lev-ien resigned on 27 April following a vote of no confidence. The "real" Raterepublik collapsed on 3 May.
   Levine's removal did not preclude carnage. On 30 April the leader of Ba-varia's so-called Red Army unwisely executed 10 hostages. Retribution was swift. During 1-7 May an estimated 1,000-1,200 people were killed in Munich by Freikorps units. Levine, arrested on 13 May, was soon tried. Notwithstanding an eloquent self-defense, he was convicted of treason and executed on 5 June 1919.
   REFERENCES:Bosl, Franz, and Hofmann, Biographisches Worterbuch; Mitchell, Revo-lution in Bavaria; NDB, vol. 14; Phelps, " 'Before Hitler Came.' "

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

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