Karl Liebknecht was born in August 1871 and died in January 1919. Liebknecht achieved fame immediately after the war by leading, with Rosa Luxemburg, the Spartacists in the so-called German Revolution against the government of Friedrich Ebert.
Liebknecht came from a political background in that his father was a leading socialist in Germany and his ideas could not have failed to influence Karl.
Liebknecht became a communist while studying at the universities of Leipzig and Berlin. However, he was a member of the Social Democratic Party and was elected to the Reichstag (German Parliament) in 1912. Liebknecht was very opposed to Germany fighting in World War One though he was essentially a lone voice in Germany as few shared his belief. One who did was Rosa Luxemburg and they formed an underground organisation called the ‘Spartacus League’ which printed an illegal newspaper called the “Spartacus Letters”. They got the name Spartacus after the slave who lead a failed revolt against the mighty Roman Army.
Liebknecht was arrested and conscripted into the German Army. After refusing to fight, he was made to bury the dead on the Eastern Front. In October 1915, he was allowed back to Germany as his health had become so poor. The military success of the German Army in Russia had fuelled the support for the war in Germany so support for Liebknecht and the Spartacists was relatively limited.
In May 1916, the Spartacists went public and called for an end to the war. Liebknecht was arrested and spent the rest of the war in prison only being released in October 1918 when Prince Max von Baden granted an amnesty to all political prisoners.
Liebknecht lead the ‘German Revolution’ which started in January 1919. Like the slave after whom they named their group, the Spartacists were defeated with some ease by the Freikorps and the army. Liebknecht was killed on January 15th, 1919. He and Luxemburg were being held at a hotel in Berlin. From here they were to be moved to a prison but at sometime during that journey, or possibly before it began, both were murdered.