ERICH MUHSAM (1866-1934)

Erich was a prominent German anarchist and Expressionist who participated in the Munich revolution of 1919. When the Nazis seized power, he was sent to a concentration camp and later murdered.

When I visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. in the summer of 1999, I was gratified to see that Erich was included in a presentation on Nazi political prisoners.

This illustration is taken from MAN!, a San Francisco anarchist journal published in the 1930s.
 
Three articles about Erich's imprisonment and death, also from MAN!, appear below.
 
 
 

"The Nazi Regime at Work : Erich Muhsam"
MAN! : A Journal of the Anarchist Ideal and Movement (March 1934, v.2:no.3, p.99)

     Erich Muhsam was arrested February 28th, 1933 at dawn.  The Social-democrat and Stalinist night of ignominy had just descended upon the German proletariot, like a heavy tomb-stone.  It was the advent of counter-revolutionary terror, ushered in by the victorious hordes of the swastika.
     The prisoner Muhsam was a symbol, his name recalling the Sovietic revolution of Bavaria.  There was Muhsam a helpless hostage -- and in the back-ground the shadows of the massacred revolutionists: Eissener, Landauer and Levine.
     In 1924, a strong agitation had freed him from the fortress in which he was serving a term for the crime of having participated in the proclamation of the Soviet Republic of Bavaria, and as soon as he was set free he resumed the fight.  A very suggestive orator, in numerous and well attended lectures, he was fostering the same work of propaganda and libertarian agitation which he had carried on in Munich from 1911 to 1914 thru' his magazine "Cain" and then in Berlin from 1926 to 1933 with another publication called "Fanal."
     Muhsam, like everyone else endowed with a strong personality, represented and partly built a movement of his own which, nevertheless, was also flowing in the stream of German Anarchism.
     The influence exerted by Muhsam thru' his literary lectures, his poetical and dramatic works, went far beyond the usual circle of comrades: a collection of his poems met a great success and the Berlin public welcomed with very live interest the presentation of his dramatic works "Judas" and "Reason of State."  It was, therefore, natural for Hitlerism to see in this man an enemy to be feared.
     From the very moment of his arrest, Muhsam has gone thru' the most terrible "Via Crucis".  After breaking his teeth with musket blows; stamping a swastika on his scalp with a red-hot brand; subjecting him to tortures which caused him to be taken into a hospital, even now the fascist hyenas of the Sonninburg concentration camp continue their beastly attacks upon this defenseless man.  The last news are really atrocious: the Nazi forced our comrade to dig his own grave and then with a simulated execution made him go thru' the agony of a doomed man.  Although his body has been reduced to a mass of bleeding and tumefied flesh, his spirit is still very high: when his traducers tried to force him to sing the "Horst Wessel" (the Nazis anthem) he defied their anger by singing the International.
     Eight months of physical and mental tortures are an excessive burden for a man of 65 years of age, fatigued by an intense life and dejected by the spectacle of a shameful ruin.  Muhsam is in grave danger: if the unbearable tortures will not put an end to his life he will be driven to suicide.  Men of the moral and intellectual caliber of this comrade of ours are not so numerous and, for the sake of our own cause, we must do the utmost to save his life.
     How?  We must promote a prompt and energetic international campaign and to this end our press must be used as a means and a spur.  Wherever possible, demonstrations should be staged against German Embassies and consular offices.  It is necessary, it is a moral duty to save the life of Erich Muhsam!

     - - The C. Pisacane Group of Paris.
 

"Erich Meuhsam (1868-1934)"
MAN! : A Journal of the Anarchist Ideal and Movement (August 1934, v.2:no.8, p.136)

     When the official report of July 11 by the Nazi regime of Germany told of Erich Meuhsam having hanged himself while in "protective custody," many of us feared that his death came about in a more terrible manner.  These fears were borne out by the following wireless from Prague to the New York Times. It reads as follows:

     "Prague, July 20. -- Details of the killing of the poet Erich Meuhsam in a German concentration camp were given tonight by his widow, who has just reached Prague from Germany.
     "Herr Meuhsam went through a Calvary of Nazi concentration camps, passing through the three most notorious between February of last year and the slaying on July 10, last.  He was in Brandenburg, Sonnenburg and the Oranienburg camps.
     "His widow declared this evening that, when she was first allowed to visit her husband after his arrest, his face was so swollen by beating that she could not recognize him.  He was assigned to the task of cleaning toilets and staircases and Stormtroopers amused themselves by spitting in his face, she added.
     "On July 8, last, she saw him for the last time alive.  Despite the tortures he had undergone for 15 months, she declared, he was cheerful, and she knew at once when his "suicide" was reported to her three days later that it was untrue.  When she told the police that they had "murdered" him, she asserted they shrugged their shoulders and laughed.  A post mortem examination was refused, according to Frau Meuhsam, but Storm Troopers, incensed with their new commanders, showed her the body, which bore unmistakable signs of strangulation, with the back of the skull shattered as if Herr Meuhsam had been dragged around the parade ground."

     What could one say that would put to shame a regime that takes its grandest children and tortures them to death in the most degrading, sadistic, inquisitory manner imaginable?  The heart and mind revolts at the thought of the ordeals that the murdered Erich Meuhsam had to undergo in the hands of these inhuman swine that are now reigning supreme in Germany!  And of our many other Comrades still in their claws -- what of them?  Protests?  They are of no avail -- as far as these madmen-imbeciles are concerned.  One can only have one hope: that the present fight between these despicable beasts will hasten on a real Social Revolution that will drive them into the oblivion that they rightfully deserve.
     Erich Meuhsam was one of the outstanding modern revolutionary poets in German literature.  From his early youth he turned to socialism and soon enough reached anarchism, to which ideal he dedicated his talent and soul.
     In addition to his poetic creations that appeared in several volumes, he also wrote plays.  One of these, an exposure of the Sacco and Vanzetti case, was played with great success in every part of Germany.  It also received high praise as a literary work from many critics.
     After the end of the world war he was very active, together with Comrade Gustav Landauer, in the uprising of Bavaria during 1919, and also was a member of the Red Workers' and Soldiers' Council that existed in Munich for a short period of the same year.  When the revolt was crushed by the Social Democratic rulers, Meuhsam was sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment.  After serving five years he was freed in the amnesty granted at that time.  Once again he became very active in the Anarchist movement.
     Meuhsam also published and edited two journals that exerted a great influence.  One was "Kain" (Munich, 1911-1914, 1918-1919), and "Fanal" (Berlin, 1924-1926).
     Comrade Meuhsam was about to escape from Germany when the Mad-Dog of Europe, Hitler, came to power.  He was of course one of the first victims of the Nazis.  And from their claws he never emerged alive!
     Erich Meuhsam's name will assume a most glorious place in the blackest page of the history of Germany.  Out of the scores of authors that have succumbed to Nazi rule, Meuhsam's most trying ordeal bespeaks of the outraged conscience of Germany.  It should also serve as an awakener and inspiration to those who have lost themselves that the real artist can be and is a revolutionist as well.
     The Anarchist movement has received a great blow in the loss of Erich Meuhsam.  But it is proud of his association with our ideal and the manner in which he defied the enemy of liberty unto his death.
 

"The Nazi Beasts"
MAN! : A Journal of the Anarchist Ideal and Movement (January 1935, v.3:no.1)

     A report comes from Munich that the murderer of Erich Meuhsam, Eicke, former commander of the concentration camp Dachau, has been elevated to the rank of Nazi inspector of all concentration camps, and right-hand man of the S. S. storm troops police chief, Himmler.
     Together with the recognition of Eicke's services in doing away with the bitterly hated Muehsam, the following details show the manner in which the murder of the well-known anarchist writer was committed.  Meuhsam was taken to the administration building.  He was tortured and beaten until he lost consciousness.  Then an injection was administered, which killed him.  The body was taken to a closet in the rear of the building and hung on a rafter so as to create the impression that Meuhsam had committed suicide.  The men who aided the murdered [sic] Eicke are the storm troop leaders Ehrath and Konstantin Werner.
 

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