Kurt Eisner's personality divides opinion as much today as it did during his lifetime. While some dismiss him as an idealist and utopian, others celebrate him as progressive and a man of action. The Münchner Stadtmuseum was putting on an exhibition from May 12, 2017 to January 14, 2018 to mark the 150th birthday of Bavaria’s first Premier, Kurt Eisner (born Berlin 1867, died Munich 1919) who was shot dead in the street on February 21, 1919, after just 100 days in office.
It examines the journalistic and political career of this charismatic and contradictory personality who was claimed by many different movements as one of their own. The exhibition traces the entire journey of Eisner’s life, helping us to understand how this politician went from being a “sentimental socialist” to the driving force of the November 1918 revolution. Up until the 1990s, Eisner was remembered in the history books as a utopian and idealist. Bernhard Grau’s biography (Munich, 2001) was the first to fully analyze all the historical sources relating to Kurt Eisner’s life and come to different, more nuanced conclusions.
This biographical exhibition was the first in a series of events in which the City of Munich turns a spotlight on the history of 1918 and 1919. The ten chapters below outline some highlights of our special exhibition on Bavaria’s first State Premier, Kurt Eisner, offering an insight into his family background and tracing his path as a journalist and politician right up to his assassination in 1919.