Lasker, Eduard, 1829-1884

Alternative names
Birth 1829-10-14
Death 1884-01-05

Biographical notes:

In 1829, Eduard Lasker was born into an orthodox Jewish merchant family in Jarotschin, a village in Posen (today Jarocin in Poland). He attended secondary school and subsequently University in Breslau where he studied mathematics and law. In 1848, he took an active part in the ongoing revolutions in Vienna, like many students of his time, who were discontented with the ruling system and asked for a more democratic order and social justice.

Afterwards he went to Berlin, where he continued his legal studies and eventually was employed as a lawyer's assistant at the Kammergericht in Berlin. He went to England after his second state examination in order to devote his time to the study of constitutional law. England at that time served as the model state for German liberals. He returned to Prussia/Berlin in 1856 after three years, and became Assessor to the Stadtgericht two years later. Because of his Jewish roots, a judge's career was denied him.

Throughout the years 1861-1864, Lasker earned an initial reputation by writing various articles, which were later to be published under the title Zur Verfassungsgeschichte Preussens (Leipzig, 1974).

In 1865, he was elected to the Prussian House of Representatives, and in 1867 to the German Parliament, benefiting from a changed social environment, where Jews were more readily given equal status, since they had fought in the same wars of unification in 1866 (Austro-Prussian War) and 1870 (German-French War).

As a consequence of his fervent identification with Liberalism, he first joined the German Progress Party (DFP), and later on helped form the National Liberal Party, whose members strongly supported Bismarck's foreign policy, although they disagreed with him most of the time on domestic issues.

Lasker was a very energetic and influential parliamentarian, who was a decisive force in the law-making process, always keeping in mind the values of liberty as a guiding principle. Amongst other things, he is well-known to posterity for a speech that he made in 1873, where he unveiled the financial mismanagement of the Pomeranian railway and was responsible for the resignation of Hermann Wagener, one of Bismarck's most trusted men.

Lasker was an idealist and optimist, and he and his parliamentary allies contributed to the legal unity of the German nation and the strengthening of the powers and privileges of Parliament. Two of his great achievements were a thorough-going reform of the fiscal structure and the right of parliamentary free speech, which was accepted by the Reichstag despite Bismarck's opposition.

Lasker also identified himself with the needs of the common people. He was a member of and even teacher at several craftsmen's associations.

He never married. In late 1883 he went on to a trip to the United States, where he met with his brother M. Lasker, who had immigrated to Galveston, Texas earlier in the century. He gave several speeches, some at charitable institutions like the Mount Sinai Hospital, and he died in January 1884 – some claim that it was due to an overload of work.

The U.S. House of Representatives sent a note of condolence to the German Parliament, which was rejected by Bismarck on the ground of irreconcilable differences.

From the guide to the Eduard Lasker Collection, 1856-1976, bulk 1860-1929, (Leo Baeck Institute)


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  • Liberalism--Germany
  • Politicians
  • Germany--Politics and government--1848-1870
  • Germany--Politics and government--1871-1888
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