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// -- Anarchist Encyclopedia: Carl (Karl) Einstein, anarchist, critic (1885-1940)

Carl Einstein

Born April 26, 1885, in Neuwied/Rhein, Germany; died July 3rd or 5th, 1940 in Lestelle-Bétharram (Basses-Pyrenées), France.

German poet, writer, art historian & an anarchist combatant in the Spanish Resvolution. Nephew of the famous physicist, Albert Einstein. Commited suicide in 1940 to avoid Nazi persecution.

alt; Karl Einstein
"Carl Einstein (1885-1940) was one of the most colourful great minds between the World Wars. The first to understand Cubism as a movement, he was a well-known and influential art critic and theorist in his own day... "

See the film Der Bebuquin - Rendezvous mit Carl Einstein

Impassioned by art, Einstein is loosely associated with the Dada movement, & is part of the German expressionist movement, where he discovers Picasso, cubism, & also African art.


His work The Art of the 20th Century, published in 1926, revolutionizes the way of approaching painting & the visual arts. The illustrations in Negerplastik, Carl Einstein's major work, strongly influenced many artists, including Fernand Leger. He published “Der blutige Ernst” with George Grosz.

In 1928, he moved to France, joining Georges Bataille & Michel Leiris on the review "Documents". He co-scripted, with director Jean Renoir, the film Toni.

Deeply moved by the struggle for freedom in Spain, in 1936 Einstein headed to Spain, along with other compatriots like Helmut Rudiger, to fight with the anarchist trade union, the C.N.T. A fighter with the international group of the Durruti Column, he is wounded in combat.

On November 22, 1936, he is in Barcelona, to give the funeral oration for the slain Buenaventura Durruti.

Following defeat of the revolution, he crossed the Pyrenees & is interned in the infamous camps in Southern France containing the antifascists combatants & the Spanish population fleeing the exactions of the pro-Franco troops. The living conditions are terrible &, on July 5 (or 3?), 1940, to escape Nazis persecutions, he commits suicide, in Lestelle-Bétharram (Basses-Pyrenées), France.

A plaque in the Boel-Bezing cemetery (Atlantic Pyrenees ) remarks on his fight for freedom:

"Where the Column advances, one collectivizes. The land is given to the community, the agricultural proletarians, slaves of caciques which they were, metamorphose themselves as free men.

One passes from agrarian feudalism to free Communism."

— Extract from his funeral speech for Durruti

Line drawing of Carl Einstein, source
"La Colonne Durruti"

Last Escape, Exile & Murder:

Nelly Sachs escapes to Sweden, Gertrud Kolmar is murdered in an extermination camp.

Theodor W. Adorno, Bertolt Brecht, Hermann Broch, Alfred Döblin, Lion Feuchtwanger, Max Horkheimer, Heinrich & Thomas Mann, Arnold Schoenberg, Franz Werfel escape to the US.

Walter Benjamin commits suicide at the Spanish border.

Suicides: Carl Einstein, Walter Hasenclever, Ernst Toller, Kurt Tucholsky, Ernst Weiß, Stefan Zweig.

Book cover, Negerplastik
From Carl Einstein, anarchisten...image collection

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