“There stands the enemy (to the right), who drips his poison in the wounds of the people – There stands the enemy – and about that there is no doubt: the enemy stands on the Right!”These are the concluding words of an impassioned speech by Joseph Wirth in the German Reichstag in the aftermath of the murder of Walter Rathenau by an organization of nationalist thugs in 1922.* According to Wikipedia:
Rathenau’s assassination was but one in a series of terrorist attacks by Organisation Consul. Most notable among them had been the assassination of former finance minister Matthias Erzberger in August 1921. While Fischer and Kern prepared their plot, former chancellor Philipp Scheidemann barely survived an attempt on his life by Organisation Consul assassins on 4 June 1922. Historian Martin Sabrow points to Hermann Ehrhardt, the undisputed leader of the Organisation Consul, as the one who ordered the murders. Ehrhardt and his men believed that Rathenau’s death would bring down the government and prompt the Left to act against the Weimar Republic, thereby provoking civil war, in which the Organisation Consul would be called on for help by the Reichswehr. After an anticipated victory Ehrhardt hoped to establish an authoritarian regime or a military dictatorship. In order not to be completely delegitimized by the murder of Rathenau, Ehrhardt carefully saw to it that no connections between him and the assassins could be detected. Although Fischer and Kern connected with the Berlin chapter of the Organisation Consul to use its resources, they mainly acted on their own in planning and carrying out the assassination.* Quoted in Eric P. Weitz, Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy, 2007, p. 100.
The terrorists’ aims were not achieved, however, and civil war did not come. Instead, millions of Germans gathered on the streets to express their grief and to demonstrate against counter-revolutionary terrorism….
…Initially, the reactions to Rathenau’s assassination strengthened the Weimar Republic. The most notable reaction was the enactment of the Republikschutzgesetz (Law for the Defense of the Republic), which took effect on 22 July 1922. As long as the Weimar Republic existed, the date 24 June remained a day of public commemorations. In public memory, Rathenau’s death increasingly appeared to be a martyr-like sacrifice for democracy.
Things changed with the Nazi seizure of power in 1933. The Nazis systematically wiped out public commemoration of Rathenau by destroying monuments to him, closing the Walther-Rathenau-Museum in his former mansion, and renaming streets and schools dedicated to him. Instead, a memorial plate to Kern and Fischer was solemnly unveiled at Saaleck Castle in July 1933 and in October 1933, a monument was erected on the assassins’ grave.