Counting against terror

By Daniel Furth

He struggled with numbers - and risked his life in the process. In 1922, the mathematician Emil Julius Gumbel investigated hundreds of political murders in the young Weimar Republic and relentlessly revealed the arbitrariness of the German judiciary. Then his career in Germany came to an abrupt end.

Ten heavily armed men of the Guard Cavalry Rifle Division stormed the 19. March 1919 the Berlin apartment of the mathematician Emil Julius Gumbel. Their mission was to shoot down the 27-year-old socialist activist. But Gumbel was lucky. He had recently left for Bern to attend a League of Nations conference. The Fememörder had come too late. Frustrated, they ravaged the apartment and left.

When Gumbel returned and saw the chaos, he immediately realized that he was on one of the death lists of the 120 right-wing conservative Free Corps, in which after World War I 400.000 former front-line soldiers had joined with deeply anti-democratic convictions. In November 1918 the old front fighters on behalf of the realm government had trudged the revolution, in January 1919 the Spartakusaufstand. As an aside, they worked out their own political agenda. In the wake of the revolutionary turmoil, their execution commanders routinely eliminated leaders of the left. Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, who were treacherously murdered in January 1919, are probably the most famous victims. And now they had almost caught the pacifist and Liebknecht confidant Gumbel.

The whole article by Daniel Furth on SPIEGEL ONLINE can be found here: