Subversive Historian – 01/15/09

Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht

Exactly ninety-years ago on this day in people’s history, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were assassinated in Germany. On January 15th, 1919 in the midst of an uprising, the two revolutionaries were abducted, tortured and murdered by the Freikorps. Luxemburg, a Polish Jewish intellectual, co-founded with Liebknecht the Spartacus League after the Socialist Democratic Party of Germany supported World War I. After that same party came to power following Kaiser Wilhelm II’s abdication, the two socialists argued that true change had not arrived. Luxemburg and Liebknecht then became among the founding members of the Communist Party of Germany and soon after its constituent congress, the Spartacus Uprising took hold in Berlin. The SPD government responded by ordering the worker’s rebellion suppressed by the Freikorps who also killed Luxemburg and Liebknecht.

German Poet and Playwright Bertolt Brecht eulogized the two following their murder in 1919. He wrote of Luxemburg, “Red Rosa has also now disappeared / Where she lies is unknown / Because she told the truth to the poor / The rich have hunted her out of the world.” Ninety years later, however, they have failed to erase her memory.

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