In Berlin, thousands mourn Luxemburg and Liebknecht | News | DW | 15.01.2017
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In Berlin, thousands mourn Luxemburg and Liebknecht

In Berlin, thousands of people have taken part in commemorations of the life and work of the German communist leaders Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. The two were murdered by German paramilitaries in 1919.

Some 3,500 people on Sunday marched from Berlin's Frankfurter Tor to the Friedrichsfelde Central Cemetery for the annual commemoration of the lives of the murdered communists Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. The cemetery, known as Germany's Monument to the Socialists, was an appropriate setting to commemorate the life of a woman who wrote: "Capital is a historical necessity, but so, too, is its gravedigger, the socialist proletariat."

Born to Jewish parents in 1871, in Congress Poland, Luxemburg joined the Proletariat Party when she was 15 and helped organize a general strike before taking her high school exit exams. She fled to Switzerland at age 18 to avoid detention and received her doctorate in law from the University of Zurich in 1897.

Advocating revolution over reform, Luxemburg saw danger in power, even when wielded by socialists. "Freedom only for the members of the government, only for the members of the Party - though they are quite numerous - is no freedom at all," she wrote in a critique of post-revolution Russia published after her murder. "Freedom is always the freedom of dissenters. The essence of political freedom depends not on the fanatics of 'justice,' but rather on all the invigorating, beneficial and detergent effects of dissenters. If 'freedom' becomes 'privilege,' the workings of political freedom are broken."

'Pride and strength'

In Berlin, Luxemburg met Karl Liebknecht, a legislator who broke with fellow Social Democrats (SPD) to oppose Germany's entering World War I. Liebknecht fatally broke with the SPD in 1919, leading the Spartacist uprising with Luxemburg. SPD Chancellor Friedrich Ebert dispatched paramilitaries to put down the 11-day series of general strikes; the Freikorps executed Luxemburg and Liebknecht on January 15, 1919.

"There have been struck down from our ranks two leaders whose names will be forever entered in the great book of the proletarian revolution: Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg," Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky wrote. "They have perished." 

Berlin Gedenken an Rosa Luxemburg und Karl Liebknecht (picture-alliance/dpa/S. Stache)

The Left's parliamentary leaders pay their respects


As Sunday's commemorations show, however, thousands in Germany continue their fight. Petra Pau, Bundestag vice president, and Sarah Wagenknecht und Dietmar Bartsch, the parliamentary leaders for the Left party, were present for the events.

"The masses were up to the challenge, and out of this 'defeat' they have forged a link in the chain of historic defeats, which is the pride and strength of international socialism," Luxemburg wrote in her last known letter before she was tortured and murdered. "That is why future victories will spring from this 'defeat.'"

mkg/tj (dpa, Tagesspiegel)

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