Sources on and Descriptions of Kurt Eisner

When Kurt Eisner (1867-1919) became the Bavarian prime minister on 7/8 November 1918, the office fell to a man, who would leave behind a substantial literary and journalistic oeuvre.

From 1892, Eisner had worked for a number of mostly social democratic newspapers, including titles such as Vorwärts (Forward), the Fränkische Tagespost and finally the Münchner Tagespost. As part of this work, he published a number of texts covering a broad range of content: philosophical dissertations, political polemic, literary works and historical descriptions.

Kurt Eisner’s Writings

As part of the project “Revolution, Soviet Committees and the Bavarian Soviet Republic, 1918/19” those publications were digitised that relate in particular to Eisner’s political activities in Bavaria.

The full list of Eisner’s publications may be found under: Bernhard Grau, Kurt Eisner. 1867-1919. Eine Biographie, München 2001, S. 611-612.

Search for literary works by Kurt Eisner in the on-line catalogue of the Bavarian library association

The following publications by Kurt Eisner have not been digitised:

  • Psychopathia spiritualis. Friedrich Nietzsche und die Apostel der Zukunft, Leipzig 1892.
  • Eine Junkerrevolte. Drei Wochen preußischer Politik, Berlin 1899.
  • Wilhelm Liebknecht. Sein Leben und Wirken. Unter Benutzung ungedruckter Briefe und Aufzeichnungen, Berlin 1900.
  • Taggeist, Berlin 1901. (Essays 1889-1898)
  • Der Geheimbund des Zaren. Der Königsberger Prozeß wegen Geheimbündelei, Hochverrat gegen Russland und Zarenbeleidigung vom 12. bis 25. Juli 1904, Berlin 1904.
  • Der Zukunftsstaat der Junker. Manteuffeleien gegen die Sozialdemokratie im preußischen Herrenhaus am 11. und 13. Mai 1904, Berlin 1904.
  • Feste der Festlosen. Ein Hausbuch weltlicher Predigtschwänke, Dresden 1906 (Essays 1900-1905).
  • Der Sultan des Weltkriegs. Ein marokkanisches Sittenbild deutscher Diplomaten-Politik, Dresden 1906.
  • Das Ende des Reiches. Deutschland und Preußen im Zeitalter der großen Revolution, Berlin 2. Auflage 1907. (Geschichte 1789-1815)
  • Goethe. Faust I. Einführung (Die Volksbühne 13), Berlin 1909.
  • Kleine Schriften aus der Kriegszeit, München 1918.

The Collected Works

In 1919, Kurt Eisner’s Collected Works were published by Paul Cassirer in Berlin. They include Eisner’s journalistic work from the year 1893 up to October 1918. Eisner prepared the edition of his works during his imprisonment in 1918. Originally, they were intended to appear under the title Die Träume des Propheten (The Prophet’s Dreams). For some of the older texts he composed up-to-date notes.

The collected works document, therefore, Eisner’s intellectual development up to the 1918 Revolution. Nonetheless, they do not include the complete oeuvre, composed thus far, but only present the shorter texts.

The edition falls into four, thematically defined parts, as part of which the single publications appear in chronological order:

  • Volume I/Part 1 “Wir Toten auf Urlaub” (The Dead on Holiday) summarises Eisner’s writings on WWI.
  • Volume I/Part 2 “Die Heerstraße zum Abgrund” (The Military Road to the Brink) comprises writings on current political themes composed between the years of 1893 to 1914. They also document Eisner’s important dispute with Karl Kautsky (1854-1938).
  • Volume II/Part 3 “Befreiung” (Liberation) gathers together Eisner’s fundamental essays on ideological issues, in particular about socialism.
  • Volume II/Part 4 “Geister” (Spirits) documents Eisner’s engagement with the work of authors and philosophers. Part of his theatre reviews were composed during his time as theatre critic for the Münchner Post (1910-1917).

Gesammelte Schriften / 1

  • Eisner, Kurt (1867-1919); Verfasser
  • Berlin

Gesammelte Schriften / 2

  • Eisner, Kurt (1867-1919); Verfasser
  • Berlin

Driving Forces

At the outbreak of war in 1914, Kurt Eisner still believed in a German defensive war against Russia and, therefore approved of the war bonds. Nonetheless, he quite soon became convinced that Germany bore the main responsibility for the war.

In this context originated the article “Treibende Kräfte” (Driving Forces), published by Kurt Eisner on 23 April 1915 in the social democratic weekly Neue Zeit. The Association “Neues Vaterland” (New Fatherland), a pacifist society founded in November 1914, re-printed his contribution in its flyers. In the article, Eisner had a critical look at the “Alldeutsche Verband” (Pan-German Association) and at its war policy. He tried to prove that the Pan-Germans were underestimated by the public but nonetheless exercised considerable influence on politics. Eisner pointed at the clear war objectives of the Pan-Germans and demanded in return that social democracy ought to offer an equally clear foreign policy objective.


Treibende Kräfte

  • Eisner, Kurt (1867-1919); Verfasser
  • Berlin

Censored Contributions during WWI

At the end of 1916, Kurt Eisner attempted to raise a public debate on the issue of who was to blame for the war. For this reason, he tried to place articles or series of articles in the Volksstimme (People’s Voice) published in Chemnitz as well as in the Frankfurter Zeitung, but was prevented from doing so by censorship. He was only going to publish these contributions in 1919, partially with annotations, for the purpose of his endeavour to make Germany admit its culpability for the war.

A series of articles entitled “Die Mobilmachung als Kriegsursache und Anderes” (Mobilisation as the Cause for War and Other Things) was supposed to appear in the Volksstimme in November 1916. After the first article had come out, censorship prohibited any further publication. A few months later, the Stellvertretende Generalkommando des I. Bayerischen Armeekorps (deputy headquarters of the first Bavarian Army Corps) forbade Eisner once more to publish the contribution in its entirety or in part. Eisner unsuccessfully opposed this ban with an official letter dated to 14 January 1917 (in the book stated incorrectly: February). Eisner’s article “Die Historien des Reichstagsabgeordneten David” (The Histories of the Member of Parliament David) that had been intended for the Frankfurter Zeitung was not published at all. In this text, Eisner endeavoured to refute the remarks of the SPD Member of Parliament Eduard David (1863-1930).

Unterdrücktes aus dem Weltkrieg

  • Eisner, Kurt (1867-1919); Verfasser
  • München [u.a.]

The Götterprüfung (Trial of the Gods)

Kurt Eisner used the time of his imprisonment in München-Neudeck in 1918 to complete the drama Die Götterprüfung (The Trial of the Gods) which he had begun in Berlin-Plötzensee Gaol back in 1898. The work was published posthumously in 1920.

Even though Eisner’s drama takes place on an “Insel im Weltmeer” (a remote oceanic island) in a supposedly distant future, this play is highly political and clearly reveals Eisner’s political and ideological position. A fossilised monarchy is propped up by formulaic religion; the good-natured and only indifferently talented ruler abuses his power and turns into a tyrant. To stabilise the system, a war is declared. However, Revolution does away with the brittle system. The final appeal of the liberator Guldar (act five, scene five) reads as if it were Eisner’s political and pedagogical manifesto.

Die Götterprüfung : eine weltpolitische Posse in fünf Akten und einer Zwischenaktspantomime

  • Eisner, Kurt (1867-1919); Verfasser
  • Berlin

To Whom It May Concern

On 29 November 1918, only a few weeks after the successful Revolution, Kurt Eisner published a note, in which he defended himself against diverse rumours and instances of slander. At the same time, the former journalist massively attacked the press.

Kleine Schriften aus der Kriegszeit / 1

  • Eisner, Kurt (1867-1919); Verfasser
  • München

Die neue Zeit (The New Age)

Eisner’s secretary Benno Merkle (1872-1959) published the most important speeches given by Eisner in November 1918, and thus the political programme of the new prime minister, under the title Die neue Zeit (The New Age) The volume also includes Eisner’s popular revolutionary poem “Gesang der Völker” (The Chant of People), a celebration of victory, sung to the melody of the hymn “Niederländisches Dankgebet” (We Gather Together to Ask Our Lord’s Blessing). Merkle’s foreword presents a short biography of Eisner.

The booklet includes the following texts:

  • Appeal made during the night to 8 November 1918;
  • Opening address of the first session of the provisional national council, 8 November 1918;
  • Appeal of 8 November 1918;
  • Government programme, 15 November 1918;
  • Address given at the celebration of the Revolution at the National Theatre, 17 November 1918;
  • “Gesang der Völker” (Chant of the People, composed for the celebration of the revolution);
  • Speech given to the Munich workers’, soldiers’ and farmers’ councils, 28 November 1918;
  • Speech given to the Bavarian soldiers’ councils, 30 November 1918;

Die neue Zeit / [1]

  • Eisner, Kurt (1867-1919); Verfasser
  • München

Guilt and Redemption

Kurt Eisner once again defended his thesis of the German culpability for the war at the congress of the Socialist International, which took place between 3 and 10 February 1919 in Bern. On this occasion, he vehemently attacked the attending representatives of German majority Social Democracy, in particular Otto Wels (1873-1939).

Eisner’s startling speech was published posthumously by the pacifist society Neues Vaterland (New Fatherland). The foreword is by the Prussian USPD (Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany) politician and pacifist Heinrich Ströbel (1869-1944). It is dated to the 28 February 1919, a few days after the murder of Kurt Eisner.


Schuld und Sühne

  • Eisner, Kurt (1867-1919); Verfasser
  • Berlin

Socialism and the Youth

Kurt Eisner gave this speech on 10 February 1919 in Basle a few days before his resignation, which had been planned for 21 February, after having been invited by the student body of Basle. He was already in Switzerland, since he had participated at the Congress of the Socialist International in Bern from 3 to 10 February 1919. In Basle, he formulated his political hopes and aims, his views on socialism and his hope in the youth.

Der Sozialismus und die Jugend

  • Eisner, Kurt (1867-1919); Verfasser
  • Basel

Fechenbach: The Revolutionary Kurt Eisner

Felix Fechenbach (1894-1933) belonged to the most intimate circle of Kurt Eisner and of the Munich USPD. After the successful Revolution, Eisner appointed him as his private secretary. Until Eisner’s assassination, which Fechenbach witnessed in person, he remained a close confidant of the prime minister. In 1929, Fechenbach published a personal report of his experiences entitled “Der Revolutionär Kurt Eisner” (The Revolutionary Kurt Eisner), in which he – after some introductory chapters – described in detail the events between the strikes of January 1918 and February 1919. At the same time, Fechenbach’s memories serve as vindication, in which he also reacted to the long-standing disputes surrounding Eisner – including the issue of German culpability for the war.

Der Revolutionär Kurt Eisner : aus persönlichen Erlebnissen

  • Fechenbach, Felix (1894-1933); Verfasser
  • Berlin

In Memoriam Kurt Eisner

The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library) preserves in its holdings termed “Historiae universalis appendix” (, i.e. a special section that contains books on WWI, a collection entitled “Kurt Eisner zum Gedächtnis” (In Memoriam Kurt Eisner). This collection includes categories of small printed material – postcards, special editions, flyers, invitations, newspaper cuttings – published on Eisner’s death and funeral as well as for the commemorations of 1920 and 1921.


[Kurt Eisner zum Gedächtnis!] : [Kleine Drucksachen]

  • München