1878: Max Hödel

On this date in 1878, journeyman tinsmith Max Hödel was beheaded in Berlin’s New Prison for taking a potshot at Kaiser Wilhelm I.

Nothing daunted by the prospect of trading his life for an 81-year-old* man’s, this propagandist of the deed tried to kill the conservative German emperor in May of 1878. He missed his target, but killed a bystander.

(Hodel’s cover story that he was just trying to blow his own brains out, not shoot the emperor, was belied by a number of hints he had given to others prior to the attack — e.g., telling a photographer who took his picture that the photo would soon be worth thousands.)

Just weeks after Hodel’s miss, another unsuccessful attempt to kill the emperor was undertaken by Karl Nobiling. Though Nobiling died of self-inflicted injuries, Hodel had to make do with decapitation.

Reichstag fire-like, these two outrages provided the Reich sufficient pretext to outlaw the Social Democratic Party** — even though the gunmen were much more radical types than this. (Hodel himself had previously been booted from the SDP.)

Germans having taken a front-row seat to the Paris Commune just a few years before, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck had no intention of allowing radical organizing of any variety to pick up any steam.

Coincidentally, our day’s protagonist shares an execution date with the next generation’s (better) anarchist assassin, Sante Geronimo Caserio — guillotined 16 Aug. 1894 for killing the French president.

* And he was right: nature didn’t take its course with Kaiser Wilhelm for nine more years; he missed outliving his own son and heir by a mere three months.

** Engels — writing polemically, of course — reckons over 11,000 political prisoners arrested from 1879 to 1880 alone.

On this day..

4 thoughts on “1878: Max Hödel

  1. Pingback: ExecutedToday.com » 1894: Emile Henry, because there are no innocent bourgeois

  2. Chisa, you are right, I got my Kaisers mixed up. There was nothing wrong with the Ist Kaiser, apart from being a dyed in the wool reactionary!

  3. I don’t know what Fiz actually think was wrong with Kaiser Wilhelm I, as he wasn’t the one who brought the First World War over Europe.
    Wilhelm I actually didn’t want to become Kaiser in the first place, he was quite happy with being Prussian king. Only Bismarck tricked him into becoming the Kaiser and uniting Germany.
    Well, maybe Fiz is French, than I can see why Wilhelm I would be a bad guy. Other than that he brought Germany its first bloom.

    Sure, one can be against Feudalism and monarchy in the first place and the jurisprudence wasn’t really modern if we look at it today. But really, what do you suppose would happen to someone who tried to murder a head of state?

    Well, I’m still happy that we don’t have death penality and political prisoners in Germany anymore.

    Great and interesting page by the way!

  4. What a shame. An ever bigger shame is the fact that he didn’t actually kill the damned Kaiser!

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