Gustav Landauer
Landauer in 1892
Born(1870-04-07)7 April 1870
Died2 May 1919(1919-05-02) (aged 49)
SpouseHedwig Lachmann

Gustav Landauer (7 April 1870 – 2 May 1919) was one of the leading theorists on anarchism in Germany at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. He was an advocate of social anarchism. As an avowed pacifist, Landauer advocated the principle of "non-violent non-cooperation"[1] in the tradition of Étienne de La Boétie and Leo Tolstoy.

In 1919, he briefly served as Commissioner of Enlightenment and Public Instruction in the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic during the German Revolution of 1918–1919.[2] He was murdered by right-wing paramilitary (Freikorps) soldiers when this republic was overthrown.[3]

Landauer is also known for his study of metaphysics and religion, and his translations of William Shakespeare's and Peter Kropotkin's works into German.

Life and career

Landauer was the second child of Jewish parents Rosa (née Neuberger) and Herman Landauer.[4] He supported anarchism by the 1890s. In those years, he was especially enthusiastic about the individualistic approach of Max Stirner and Friedrich Nietzsche, but also "cautioned against an apotheosis of the unrestrained individual, potentially leading to the neglect of solidarity".[5]

He was good friends with Martin Buber, influencing the latter's philosophy of dialogue.[6] Landauer believed that social change could not be achieved solely through control of the state or economic apparatus, but required a revolution in interpersonal relations.[7]

He felt that true socialism could arise only in conjunction with this social change, and he wrote, "The community we long for and need, we will find only if we sever ourselves from individuated existence; thus we will at last find, in the innermost core or our hidden being, the most ancient and most universal community: the human race and the cosmos."[8] He also became a close collaborator with the leader of the People's State of Bavaria, Kurt Eisner, until the latter's assassination, after which Landauer had no official position in the third Räterepublik.[9]


Landauer was murdered on 2 May 1919. He was being taken to Stadelheim, along with three other members of the Starnberg workers' soviets. Two officers suddenly called upon Freikorps soldiers in his escort to kill him, and they immediately beat and shot him to death. His last words reportedly were:"Kill me! Show me that you are men!"[10]


Landauer's second wife Hedwig Lachmann died in 1918, but his three daughters, Charlotte, Gudula, and Brigitte survived.[11]

One of Landauer's grandchildren, with wife and author Hedwig Lachmann, was Mike Nichols, the American television, stage and film director, writer, and producer.[12]


Soon after his death, Landauer was almost completely forgotten by European socialists and anarchists though his heroic example and thinking enjoyed a revival, thanks to Martin Buber, in Zionist and kibbutznik circles.[13] In Philip Kerr's novel Prussian Blue, Hitler is imagined to be one of the Freikorps militants who murdered Landauer, and gloated as a photo was taken at the scene.[14]

See also


  • Skepsis und Mystik (1903)
  • Die Revolution (trans. Revolution) (1907)
  • Aufruf zum Sozialismus (1911) (trans. by David J. Parent as For Socialism. Telos Press, 1978. ISBN 0-914386-11-5)
  • Editor of the journal Der Sozialist (trans. The Socialist) from 1893–1899
  • "Anarchism in Germany" (1895), "Weak Statesmen, Weaker People" (1910) and "Stand Up Socialist" (1915) are excerpted in Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas – Volume One: From Anarchy to Anarchism (300 CE–1939), ed. Robert Graham. Black Rose Books, 2005. ISBN 1-55164-250-6
  • Gustav Landauer. Gesammelte Schriften Essays Und Reden Zu Literatur, Philosophie, Judentum. (translated title: Collected Writings Essays and Speeches of Literature, Philosophy and Judaica). (Wiley-VCH, 1996) ISBN 3-05-002993-5
  • Gustav Landauer. Anarchism in Germany and Other Essays. eds. Stephen Bender and Gabriel Kuhn. Barbary Coast Collective.
  • Gustav Landauer. Revolution and Other Writings: A Political Reader, ed. & trans. Gabriel Kuhn; PM Press, 2010. ISBN 978-1-60486-054-2



  1. ^ Bartolf, Christian; Miething, Dominique (2019), Kets, Gaard; Muldoon, James (eds.), "Gustav Landauer and the Revolutionary Principle of Non-violent Non-cooperation", The German Revolution and Political Theory, Marx, Engels, and Marxisms, Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 215–235, doi:10.1007/978-3-030-13917-9_11, ISBN 978-3-030-13917-9, retrieved 10 November 2023
  2. ^ Samuel Hugo Bergman and Noam Zadoff. "Landauer, Gustav". Jewish Virtual Library/Encyclopedia Judaica. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  3. ^ Brüning, Rainer (2019). "Die Ermordung von Gustav Landauer am 2. Mai 1919 in München. Ein Aktenfund im Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe". Zeitschrift für die Geschichte des Oberrheins. 167: 213–249.
  4. ^ Faces of America: How 12 Extraordinary People Discovered Their Pasts, by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 2010, p. 10.
  5. ^ Miething, Dominique (2 April 2016). "Overcoming the preachers of death: Gustav Landauer's reading of Friedrich Nietzsche". Intellectual History Review. 26 (2): 285–304. doi:10.1080/17496977.2016.1140404. ISSN 1749-6977. S2CID 170389740.
  6. ^ Jordan, Patrick (8 June 2020). "A Life of Dialogue: Martin's Buber's Path to a Believing Humanism". Commonweal. Retrieved 8 June 2020.
  7. ^ Mendes-Flohr, Paul (2019). Martin Buber: A Life of Faith and Dissent. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. pp. 53, 120–121. ISBN 978-0-300-15304-0.
  8. ^ Landauer, Gustav (1901). "Durch Absonderung zur Gemeinschaft". Journal of the Neue Gemeinschaft (2): 48.
  9. ^ Cohen-Skalli & Pisano 2020, pp. 216–217, 220.
  10. ^ Cohen-Skalli & Pisano 2020, pp. 184–185.
  11. ^ Cohen-Skalli & Pisano 2020, pp. 202, 215, 220–221.
  12. ^ Weber 2014.
  13. ^ Cohen-Skalli & Pisano 2020, p. 227, n.123.
  14. ^ Kerr 2017, pp. 538–540.


Further reading