Luxemburg was freed from prison in Breslau on November 8, 1918. One day
later Karl Liebknecht, who had also been freed from prison, proclaimed the
Freie Sozialistische Republik (Free Socialist Republic) in Berlin. He and
Luxemburg reorganised the Spartacus League and founded the Red Flag
newspaper, demanding amnesty for all political prisoners and the abolition
of capital punishment. On December 14, 1918, they published the new
programme of the Spartacist League.
From December 29 to 31 of 1918, they took part in a joint congress of the
Spartacist League, independent Socialists, and the International
Communists of Germany (IKD), that led to the foundation of the Communist
Party of Germany (KPD) under the leadership of Karl Liebknecht and
Luxemburg on January 1, 1919. She supported the new KPD's participation in
the national constitutional assembly that founded the Weimar Republic; but
she was out-voted.
In January 1919, a second revolutionary wave swept Berlin. Unlike
Liebknecht, Luxemburg rejected this violent attempt to seize power. But
the Red Flag encouraged the rebels to occupy the editorial offices of the
In response to the uprising, Social Democratic leader Friedrich Ebert
ordered the Freikorps to destroy the left-wing revolution. Luxemburg and
Liebknecht were captured in Berlin on January 15, 1919, by the Freikorps'
Garde-Kavallerie-Schützendivision. Its commander, Captain Waldemar Pabst,
along with Horst von Pflugk-Hartung questioned them and then gave the
order to execute them. Luxemburg was knocked down with a rifle butt, then
shot in the head; her body was flung into Berlin's Landwehr Canal. In the
Tiergarten Karl Liebknecht was shot and his body, without a name, brought
to a morgue. Likewise, hundreds of KPD members were summarily killed, and
the Workers' and Soldiers' councils disbanded; the German revolution was
ended. More than four months later, on June 1, 1919, Luxemburg's corpse
was found and identified.
One Freikorps soldier, Otto Runge (1875–1945), was imprisoned for two
years for her murder, though Pabst was not. The Nazis later compensated
Runge for having been jailed, and they merged the
Garde-Kavallerie-Schutzendivision into the SA. In an interview given to
the German news magazine "Der Spiegel" in 1962 and again in his
memoirs, Pabst maintained that two SPD leaders, defense minister Gustav
Noske and chancellor Friedrich Ebert, had approved of his actions. This
statement has never been confirmed, since neither parliament nor the
courts examined the case.
Luxemburg and Liebknecht were buried at Friedrichsfelde Central Cemetery
in Berlin, where socialists and communists commemorate them every January