Rosa Luxemburg might well be Berlin’s most-remembered resident, with at least a dozen monuments to her in both the West and the East.
During World War I, Luxemburg wrote fiery tracts opposing the mass slaughter, but she was stuck in prison. Someone needed to make sure her manifestos were smuggled out, printed in illegal workshops, and distributed to workers across Germany.
That person was Leo Jogiches, who has been called “man behind Rosa Luxemburg.” The two were opposites. She was a passionate speaker and writer — he liked neither speaking nor writing. As Luxemburg said: “The mere thought of putting his ideas on paper paralyzes him.” Jogiches was an organizer behind the scenes — a spymaster who helped put Luxemburg’s idea into action.
He lived in Neukölln, in a pink building overlooking S-Bhf Sonnenallee at Schwarzastraße 9a, clearly built for the finer residents of this proletarian neighborhood.
Jogiches was born into a wealthy Jewish family in Vilnius, then part of the Tsarist Empire, on July 17, 1867. He joined the socialist movement at 18, and soon headed into exile in Switzerland. There, he met Rosa Luxemburg, who was three years his junior, and they founded a Polish socialist newspaper and then an organization: the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL).
Luxemburg moved to Berlin in 1898 to be near the center of the international socialist movement — at just 27, she became a leading voice in the debates of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). Jogiches soon followed her to Berlin, but kept out of view. The two of them lived together for a few years in Friedenau — he was officially her subletter, since Luxemburg had married an acquaintance to get German citizenship. Their relationship ended around 1907, but they remained comrades-in-arms.
As the First World War raged, Luxemburg’s comrades launched an underground publication titled Spartacus. The underground network led by Jogiches was soon known as the Spartacus Group. Unlike most other leading Spartacists, Jogiches evaded arrest until early 1918. He was freed by the revolution, on the same day as Luxemburg.
He published names and photos of the killers — which is more than any German court has done to this day!
Together, they edited the newspaper Die Rote Fahne and led the new Communist Party (KPD). When, after just two months, Luxemburg and Liebknecht were assassinated, Jogiches took over the party leadership. He worked at the editorial office near Anhalter Bahnhof, but still wrote little. Paul Frölich, the youngest member of the KPD’s leadership, described him thus: “Leo was a dictator who always remained in the shadows. Only a very few people knew him. And beyond the narrow circle of his collaborators, only a few knew of his very existence.”
Jogiches investigated the murders of his comrades. Within a month, he published names and photos of the killers — which is more than any German court has done to this day!
He lived in Neukölln, in a pink building overlooking S-Bhf Sonnenallee at Schwarzastraße 9a, clearly built for the finer residents of this proletarian neighbourhood. Today it houses the café Geschwister Nothaft. More than a century later, it fulfils the same role, housing trendy eateries that stand out among the area’s Spätis.
Jogiches’s friends urged him to go underground — his predecessors had just been murdered by proto-fascist paramilitaries, after all. But with Luxemburg’s death, he seems to have lost the will to live. This master of conspiracy said he couldn’t leave his official address because that would be an imposition on his landlady. It almost seems like suicide by cop.
On March 10, 1919, the police came for him. Jogiches was taken to the jail in Moabit, and that same day, a police officer named Ernst Tamschick shot him in the back of the head (“while attempting to escape,” of course). Tamschick was never even put on trial.
Jogiches deserves a plaque at his former address. He has the unusual distinction among heads of German political parties of having been murdered by cops while in office. With war raging in Europe again, we need to remember the people who resisted the earlier waves of mass slaughter.