Though Germany was convulsed by violent unrest in the weeks following the end of the First World War, one of the few places where...

Though Germany was convulsed by violent unrest in the weeks following the end of the First World War, one of the few places where a new republican government was established peacefully was Munich. Central to this was Kurt Eisner, for whom this was among his proudest achievements. As Albert Earle Gurganus explains in Kurt Eisner: A Modern Life (Camden House, 2018), the success of this transition and the framework for the government he led in the months following the deposition of the Bavarian monarchy reflected his firm commitment to the long-held principles that defined his politics. The son of a merchant who provided military uniforms for the Prussian court, as a student Eisner abandoned his studies for a life as a journalist. His writings soon earned him both admiration and a term of imprisonment for lèse majesté. Yet Eisner’s time in prison did nothing to dampen his career prospects, and upon his release he soon rose to become the chief editor of the Social Democratic Party’s leading newspaper. Though ideological struggles led to his dismissal from his position as editor in 1905, he remained a leading critic and commentator until his opposition to Germany’s involvement in the First World War constrained his opportunities. As Gurganus explains, his idealism was both key to his sudden ascent to his power in November 1918 and his downfall three months later, when he was assassinated while on his way to deliver his government’s resignation.

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