April 7, 1870 - May 2, 1919
Gustav Landauer was one of the leading theorists on anarchism in Germany in
the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. He was an advocate of social anarchism and an avowed pacifist. He was briefly Commissioner of Enlightenment and Public Instruction of the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic. Landauer is also known for his study of metaphysics and religion, and his translations of William Shakespeare's
works into German.
Life and Career
Landauer was the second child of Jewish parents Rosa (Neuberger) and Herman Landauer, a shoe shop owner in Karlsruhe in the Grand Duchy of Baden, where he went through school. He was educated
in philosophy, German studies and art history at Heidelberg, Strasbourg, and Berlin. After breaking off
his studies in 1893, he worked as a freelance journalist and public speaker.
His second wife, Hedwig Lachmann, was an accomplished translator, and they worked together to translate various works into German, notably those of Irish playwright Oscar Wilde,
in a creditable rendering of The Picture of Dorian Gray, as well as the works of American poet Walt Whitman.
In the spring of 1889 in Berlin, Landauer met his sponsor and long-time friend, the author and philosopher Fritz Mauthner for
the first time. In April 1891 he joined the Free Volksbühne Berlin declaring support for the "Friedrichshagen Poet Circle"
(Friedrichshagener Dichterkreis) for Naturalist literature.
In February 1892 Landauer became a member of the Association of Independent Socialists (Verein Unabhängiger Sozialisten) and of a group of publishers
for their mouthpiece "Socialist Organ of the Independent Socialists" (Sozialistisches Organ der unabhängigen Sozialisten). In this paper he wrote a number of articles about art, but also critical remarks on political issues such as the economic views of Karl Marx and Eugen Dühring.
Together with friends from the literature group "The Young" (Die Jungen), who also worked with the Association of Independent
Socialists, he founded the "New Free Volksbühne"
(Neue Freie Volksbühne). At the end of 1892 Landauer married the seamstress Margarethe Leuschner. In July 1893 the Association of Independent Socialists, in which Landauer had become the leading member of its anarchist wing, split up. In the same month
he ended his cooperation with the magazine "Socialist" (Sozialist) of which the last issue appeared in January 1895.
the "International Convention of Socialist Workers" of the II. Socialist International in August 1893 in Zurich,
Landauer, as a delegate for the Berlin anarchists, stood for an "anarchist socialism". Against an anarchist
minority the convention with 411 delegates from 20 countries passed a resolution in favour of participation in elections and political action in parliaments. The anarchists were excluded from the II. Socialist International. Landauer was arrested for "incitement to civil disobedience" in October 1893, and sentenced 2 months in prison. In December the sentence was extended to
9 months, which Landauer served in the prison at Sorau (today Żary).
Landauer was unable to establish a secure livelihood in Switzerland. On release in 1895 he returned to Berlin where he lived very modestly in a circle of artists, literati, people from theatres and critics.
Between 1895 and 1899 he published another magazine titled "Socialist-Anarchist Monthly" (Sozialist – Anarchistische Monatszeitschrift).
In 1899 Landauer
met the poet and language teacher Hedwig Lachmann, who would later become his second wife. In September of that year they decided
to stay together for a longer period in England, where Landauer became close friends with the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin. During
this time Lachmann's and Landauer's daughter Gudula was born. In 1902 they returned to Berlin.
In 1903 Landauer divorced
his first wife and married Hedwig Lachmann the same year. In 1906 their second daughter Brigitte was born.
to 1915 Landauer published the magazine "The Socialist" (Der Sozialist) in Berlin, which was considered to be the mouthpiece of "Socialist Federation" (Sozialistischer Bund) founded by Landauer in 1908. Among the first members were Erich
Mühsam and Martin Buber. As a political organisation the federation remained unimportant.
In these years Landauer himself wrote 115 contributions for the magazine concerning art, literature and philosophy but also contemporary politics. In this magazine he
also published to a greater extent own translations of the French philosopher and theorist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Because
of the tightening of censorship the magazine had to be closed down.
In 1914 Landauer would not let himself be carried away by the general enthusiasm for the German war effort. Instead, he fought against it from the start as an anarchist and pacifist.
Because of the increasing difficulties and poverty during the war, Landauer and his family moved from Berlin to Krumbach, near Ulm, in southwestern Germany. Here his wife died on 21 February 1918 of pneumonia.
Right after the war and the start of the November Revolution (German Revolution) Kurt Eisner sent a letter to Landauer on 14 November 1918 inviting him to participate
in the recently established "free state" in Bavaria: "What I would like you to do is to contribute in the reconstruction of the souls by speech".
After Eisner's assassination by right-wing extremist student Anton Graf von Arco auf Valley on
21 February 1919, debates on the question of a council (soviet) system or a parliamentary system in the new Bavarian republic grew with intensity. When the soviet republic was proclaimed on 7 April 1919 against the will of Johannes Hoffmann's elected government, Landauer was chosen Commissioner of Enlightenment and Public Instruction. The government of the first Soviet Republic of Bavaria (Erste Räterepublik des Freistaates Bayern) was initially dominated
by independent socialists and pacifists like Ernst Toller (author and poet) or Silvio Gesell and anarchists like Erich Mühsam or even Landauer himself. Landauer's
first and only decree was to ban history lessons in Bavarian schools.
Three days after the Soviet government had been
taken over by functionaries of the KPD (Communist Party of Germany) around Eugen Leviné and Max Levien, Landauer became disappointed with their policies, resigning from all his political posts on 16 April 1919. After the City of Munich was reconquered by the German army and Freikorps units, Landauer was arrested on 1 May 1919 and stomped to death by soldiers one day later in Munich's Stadelheim Prison. His last words were, "To think that you are human."
After the Nazis were elected in Germany in 1933, they destroyed Landauer's grave, which had been erected in 1925. They sent the
remains to a Jewish congregation of Munich, charging them for the cost. Landauer was late laid to rest at the Munich Waldfriedhof (Forest
One of Landauer's grandchildren, with wife and author Hedwig Lachmann, was Mike Nichols, the American television, stage and film director, writer, and producer.