Home news Karl Ludwig Sand: Murder of August von Kotzebue 1819 - Politics

Karl Ludwig Sand: Murder of August von Kotzebue 1819 – Politics

The perpetrator was a fraternity, the victim of reactionary writers: how a crime 200 years ago justified political terrorism in Germany.

In the spring of 1819, a black-haired, handsome student of theology attended a lecture on anatomy in Jena. There he was particularly interested in the exact location of the human heart. Later he had a sharp dagger sharpened and made a small sword.

With these weapons, he practiced certain hand movements: First, the dagger should hit the face, so that the victim's hands tear up and bare the upper body. With a second push, the sword should slit his chest.

On March 9, the young man set out on a journey to Mannheim, not without leaving long documents in his desk, in which he announced what he intended to do.

But no one suspected the impeccable civil servant's son, who preferred to run around in the fashionable old German costume of the nationalist fraternity: black tight coat, loose trousers, slanting beret over long hair.

Then the son of his victim screamed and Sand felt that he had wronged the child

Two weeks later, the student reached his destination, where he relegated to an inn under a false name and inconspicuously inquired about the residence of the writer and Russian State Councilor August von Kotzebue, who had just recently moved from Weimar to Mannheim.

This, world famous, the most played dramatist of his time – his plays also went on the boards in London, Paris and even North America – had no time on the morning of March 23, 1819, the visitor was put off for the afternoon.

Carl Ludwig Sand, the student's name, had several hours to think again about his plan. He had lunch and chatted deliberately with other diners. At five o'clock he returned to Kotzebues, where a ladies' party was just beginning, and was received by the landlord in the living room.

The bloody act succeeded. Sand's dagger struck his victim's upper jaw, where he initially got stuck, his sword piercing Kotzebue's ribs and slicing an artery. While the 58-year-old writer collapsed, his four-year-old son came into the room.

He initially believed in a knight game of his father with the stranger. Then the boy screamed and Sand felt that he had wronged the child. He tried to kill himself with his sword, in vain, if bloody. The twenty-four-year-old survived and was sent to a hospital while Kotzebue died at the scene.

This murder is called the first political assassination of German history. That it was politically meant was shown by a sand-brought manifesto, which bore the title "Killing Death to August von Kotzebue".

This text, which Sand had intended to attach to a church door with his dagger, his last letters to the parents, diary records and interrogation records of the Baden police show a picture of a radical moral self-empowerment.

History Freedom and fire

Freedom and fire

The famous Wartburg Festival 1817 is a milestone in the democratic aspirations – but also of a zealous nationalism: Even there burn books of alleged traitors.By Gustav Seibt


At the time it was new, the authorities were terrified, and that's why Sand's testimonies were widely spread in newspaper reports and long documentaries. Since the late 19th century, the world has had to get used to this type of text: hardly an assassination attempt without confessional letter, without a manifesto.

Sand saw himself as the executor of a folk revenge that wanted to liberate the homeland from a traitor and polluter. His determination was based on student circles that called themselves "unconditional" and who claimed that if a state could not or would not punish and "accept the existence of such a perplexed state that individual criminal law awakens, and then punishment -Amt entitled ".

This is still common today with rights familiar thought figure of state of emergency and self-help. With the Protestant theologian Sand, she associated herself with the Lutheran conception of the priesthood of all believers: everyone is called to cleansing action, and if no one else does it then what Sand proclaimed is, "Who will believe me, that I want to suffer death? if I do not really show it. " For Germany could be like Christ, if only it were free, pure and self-determined.

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