Toasting Murder: Otto Runge (second from right) and his comrades celebrate the murders of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht with a drink in the Hotel Eden, 15 January 1919. The photo was printed in the Communist ‘Die Rote Fahne’ newspaper soon after, by the editor Leo Jogiches.
On 15 January 1919, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, the leaders of the German Communist Party, were arrested by soldiers of the Garde-Kavallerie-Schützen-Division and taken to the Hotel Eden for interrogation. Karl Liebknecht was then taken to the Tiergarten, Berlin’s central park, where he was shot dead. Rosa Luxemburg was hit in the head with a rifle butt and dragged outside to a waiting vehicle. Inside the car, a second soldier shot her in the head. They then drove to the the western edge of the Tiergarten, near Berlin’s famous Zoo, and dumped her body in the Landwehr canal.
The murderers- who claimed to have acted on the orders of the socialist Minister of Defence, Gustav Noske- largely avoided punishment. Through a combination of judicial corruption, official support and cover ups, they were able to continue their careers in the military. Many went on to play leading roles in Nazi Germany, for which they also went punished after 1945. The majority of the murderers died peacefully in their beds, as late as the 1980s.
How and why were these men allowed to escape justice in the Weimar Republic, and later in the Federal German Republic?
In the following five blog posts, we will study the cases of the men accused of the murderers:
1) Captain Waldemar Pabst (1880- 1970)
2) Lieutenant Horst von Pflugk-Harttung (1889- 1967)
3) Otto Runge (1875- 1945)
4) Lieutenant Kurt Vogel (1889- 1967)
5) Lieutenant Hermann Souchon (1894- 1982)