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Robert Blum, painting from August Hunger, between 1845 and 1848

Robert Blum (10 November 1807 – 9 November 1848) was a German radical democratic politician, publicist, poet, publisher, revolutionist and member of the National Assembly of 1848. While fighting for a unified, strong Germany, he was no ethnocentrist and it was his strong believe that no people should rule over another. So he was an opposer of the Prussian occupation of Poland and were in contact with the revolutionists there. Blum was also an enemy of antisemitism and catholicism, supported the German Catholics and agitated for the equality of the sexes. Regardless of his diplomatic immunity as a member of parliament he was illegally arrested during a stay at the hotel "Stadt London" in Vienna and murdered through a summary execution, what made him a martyr of the German revolution.

Biography

Blum grew up in poverty in Cologne, the son of a failed theologian who made a poor living as a cooper. He was ten years old before he could go to school. After his schooling, he worked as a craftsman in different trades. He failed as a goldsmith's apprentice, but completed an apprenticeship as a gardener. After his journeyman's time, he returned to Cologne to work in a lamp factory. His employer put him to work at the counter since he was good at calculations. In 1829, he followed his employer to Berlin where he also continued his education. His work was interrupted by obligatory military service, and on his release, his poor circumstances obliged him to return to Cologne. There, in 1830, he worked serving in a theater company and started writing politically motivated poetry and plays. When the theater closed in the summer, he worked for a sheriff as a scribe.

Robert Blum, lithograph, Vienna, Austrian National Library, 1848
Frankfurt Parliament during a speech of Robert Blum, 1848, painting from Ludwig von Elliott

The political upheavals of 1830 attracted his interest, and ideals of freedom found their way into his poetry. In 1832, he followed the theater troupe to Leipzig. There he came in touch with humanist and liberal circles, contributed to the liberal newspaper Zeitung für eine elegante Welt and joined Leipzig's freemason lodge. By 1840, he had worked his way up to being a cashier in the city theater.

Beginning in 1839, Blum became a leading figure in the Kingdom of Saxony's national-liberal circles; as a gifted orator and organizer, he helped establish Saxony's opposition movement as a serious political force. His initial attempt at a newsletter was suppressed by the censor, but another one continued for four years with occasional lapses due to the censor. He became a German Catholic when Johannes Ronge came to Leipzig, and wrote on that movement's behalf. In 1845, Blum organized the first German Catholic synod in Leipzig that marked the beginning of Germany's humanist free religious movement. In 1844, he gave up his theater job to found a book store. In 1845, when the presence of John of Saxony stirred the masses and the military fired on them, Blum calmed them and urged conformity to the law. This resulted in his being elected a representative in Leipzig's government.

Execution of Robert Blum, painting from Carl Constantin Heinrich Steffeck, 1848/49

Blum embraced the upheavals of 1848. He was one of the presidents of the preliminary parliament at Frankfurt which he dominated with his energy, imposing figure and pithy speechs. As a member of the succeeding parliament and leader of the left, he worked to contain the most radical elements. Blum's trustworthiness was questioned when the extreme leftist Arnold Ruge claimed Blum had moved toward his side. As the leader of the radical liberal fraction, he strongly opposed the Malmö Treaty between Denmark and Prussia that abolished Schleswig-Holstein's democratically elected government. He was also one of the most vocal supporters of popular sovereignty. When in October revolutionary fighting broke out in Vienna, Blum travelled there and joined the revolutionary forces. He was arrested on 4 November and executed on 9 November. His death became a symbol for the futility of Germany's 1848 rebellion; the day of his death marks the first of a series of events that led to November 9th being referred to as Germany's Schicksalstag (day of fate).

Table at "Fischmarkt" in Cologne, where Robert Blum was born

References

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