REVIEW OF REVIEWS

When Eisner Was Shot

Journalist Tells How Landtag Heard the News

June 1 1919
REVIEW OF REVIEWS

When Eisner Was Shot

Journalist Tells How Landtag Heard the News

June 1 1919

When Eisner Was Shot

Journalist Tells How Landtag Heard the News

CONDITIONS in Munich during the revolutionary days of February, when Kurt Eisner, the journalist who rose from obscurity to the head of the democratic Government in a few weeks, was murdered, are graphically described in the Nation by an American newspaperman. He was in Munich that day of the killing, and even had intruded into the Landtag press gallery the hour that Eisner’s murder was announced to the Assembly. He writes first of his room in the “quietest street,” and then tells how he^heard the news:

“You will find,” said my friend, “that the Baseler Hof is the quietest hotel in the quietest street in Munich—but it is very convenient.” Just at this moment, as I sit in my room in the aforesaid Baseler Hof, the machine guns in the quietest street in Munich are rumbling, and the crack of rifles is incessant. Í dare not open my window to look out, for every time I have tried it someone calls: “Head in, or I’ll shoot”—and the head comes in. But I can see out of my window. The firing party is just beyond my vision, but I can see the flashes. Civilians come running by for cover. A street light shines right down upon as picturesque a group of reserve soldiery as ever a De Neufville painted. The quietest street in Munich, and not two hundred yards away men are being killed by their brothers!

The day began well. My impudence in calmly walking in and demanding a seat in the journalists’ gallery of the Landtag met its just reward. A representative of the American press at this historic opening session of the first democratic Landtag in Bavaria—“Well, really, mein Herr !” The session was just about to begin, une journalists’ box was already more than filled—and what papers had mein Herr with which to identify himself? “Here is my American passport, here my Paris pass as a Peace Conference correspondent, here my visiting card.” “But what is there to show that you are connected with the Nation?” I try to explain a rather intimate connection; suddenly it is unnecessary. Something about the name on the passport attracts. Is it possible that I am my father’s son? Yes, indeed. “Well then, of course,” he says, “here is a ticket to the box and good luck. I used to live in the Pfalz in Paris, where your father did.”

The gentlemen in charge of the box are equally amazed. A colleague from America? Well, he win nave to be content with standing room. He was well content with standing-room and in a minute was in the journalists’ box directly opposite the “tribune” or dais, upon which the officials sit, looking down upon the gathering representatives. The correspondent of the Frankfurter Zeitung kindly pointed out the various dignitaries. That Minister there on the right was a locksmith’s apprentice only a little while ago. Timm, the Minister of Education, on the left, is a tailor’s son and was long a public school teacher. There is Auer, the Minister about whose head the storm is raging. He is the son of a sewing-woman—and left school at eleven to be a herdsman for eleven years. Yet this is aristocratic Bavaria. Then there is Rosshaupter. Minister of Military Affairs, to whom the Independent Socialists and Bolshevists are as much opposed as to Auer; he is charged with having been too kind to the officers of the old army. Several women delegates come in. “Think of that in Bavaria,” adds my coach; “woman suffrage in hidebound, priest-ridden, old Bavaria. Then there is Professor Quidde, the chief of the Bavarian pacifists, of whose efforts to stop the war you must have heard in America. Now they are all here except the President, Kurt Eisner.”

A moment later a very young man as pale as a sheet walked quite feebly

to the platform. “That,” said the voice by my side, “is Fechenbach, Eisner’s secretary. What is wrong? Something must have happened to Eisner.” At that moment a soldier dashed into the journalists’ box. “Kurt Eisner is murdered,” j he called in a voice that startled the ¡ whole house; “Kurt Eisner has been shot”; and to prove it he held up the ! bloody eyeglasses of the Liberator of i Bavaria.

I cannot exaggerate the shock to the ! .Landtag. Everybody cries out: “Shame!” The galleries are more excited than the Landtag. Even the journalists join in. “Adjomm, adjourn!” they cry. Then comes the news that the assassin is the ! young Count Arco-Valley. The tern: porary President calls the meeting to order, and in a cool, calm voice announces the assassination of the President, and declares the meeting adjourned for an hour. Everybody goes out. The gravity of the situation is recognized at once. Eisner had intended to resign that morning, as soon as the Landtag should be organized, from the office he had held ever since leading the revolution in November. Now the bitter hatred of him cherished by the middle classes, the aristocracy, and the officials, big and little, and carefully fanned by the capitalistic press, had vented itself. That the murderer was a Count only made it worse. More than one declared that there would be bloodshed that night, and that Bolshevism would come to Bavaria. “I pity the Anti-Eisner press tonight,” said one. “There will not be a stone left in the building of the Muenchener-Augsburger Zeitung.” “You had better get away,” declared my Frankfort friend to his wife; “things are likely to happen here.”

Just at this point my newspaper instinct failed me. Remembering a noon engagement I went out to telephone that I could not keep it. When I came back in five minutes the way was blockaded. Journalists’ passes were no longer of any avail, as others besides myself learned. We stood out disconsolate. But a representative from Vienna thought we should miss nothing and went off advising us all to stay indoors that nig-ht. “To-night blood will flow.’1 I was left wondering what would happen next. Only two days ago, on my arrival in Munich, I ran right into the attempt of six hundred sailors to take the city by surprise in the interest of the reaction, and saw some of the fighting around the railway station. From what I witnessed at that tune it was clear enough that four years of warfare had not been without their effect in accustoming all classes to the method of attaining their ends by violence; and now, with the hero of the people shot down by a member of the hated old ruling class, I could not help asking myself what was to be the result of this dastardly crime on the relations between Bavaria’s rulers and her hungry and embittered population. What next in quiet Munich?

The answer came quickly enough. An officer dashed out of the Landtag crying out, “Auer is assassinated, Auer is assassinated—and Osel !” The news spread like wildfire. What happened, my friend of the Frankfurter Zeitung described later. “ You may thank your lucky stars that you were not there. The Landtag had hardly assembled again and listened to a couple of tributes to Eisner, including one by Auer, when a man walked in and fired point blank at Auer. An officer dashed at him hut was shot down. Then they began shooting from the galleries all around us. Osel was killed outright, and a clerk as well. Auer is not dead, but wounded. We journalists crawled out of that box on our hands and knees! I have seen terrible things and witnessed two attempts to assassinate kings, hut 1 never saw anything like the panic and terror anrl flight and the general promiscuous shooting.” I myself could add a little to the tale, for as I stood at the door, there came out a man with staring eyes and pale face, who gathered the soldiers at the doors about him. I moved nearer to hear what he said. He kindly remarked as he saw me: “There’s another chap we ought to get.” Two I . soldiers ux-ged me away. “Better go ¡ home. Something might happen to you I here.” The man walked off quietly with ! four soldiers. As he did so anotnei' came ! to me excitedly and said: “See that

I man? He’s the fellow who just shot Auer and the others, and they are letting him run away!”

The news of Eisner’s death went through the city as if it had wings. The effect was instantaneous. No one needed to be told that trouble was to come. The street cars stopped running, clisI appearing as if by magic. The res( taurants on the main streets hastily ! closed, and the shops one and all pulled i down their heavy roll shutters. As I went out to lunch I met long processions I of workmen—pale and gaunt and lean— ! so over-worked, starved, and hungry| looking as to move any heart. They i had laid down their work and declared simultaneously without consultation a three-day general strike. To every welldressed man they cried out, “We’ll get square with the aristocrat who killed our Eisner.” In less than three hours the stage was all set for civil war. It was in the air.

Proclamations came thick and fast: first one from the Council of Work-

men, Soldiers and Peasants declaring that the revolution was in danger and that a three-day strike was ordered. By four o’clock aeroplanes were flying over the city dropping proclamations: bits of white paper proclaimed that everybody must be indoors by seven o’clock; bits of blood-x-ed paper declared a state of siege; anybody found on the street

after seven o’clock would be arrested. Still another proclamation declared that anybody who stole or pillaged would be shot on sight. Troops were soon moving in evex-y direction. There were no laggards in getting home when seven o’clock came. By seven-thirty thex-e was firing undexour windows, and now they are at it again.