A Viennese manslaughter


Suffocated in feces. The twenty-three year old unskilled worker Stephan W. had to answer yesterday for a barbarous act resulting in a fatality. On 19 February, he joined in a dispute which the day laborer Ludwig R. was having with several young men and which did not concern W. at all; W. hit R. and threw a stone at him while he was trying to escape. The stone hit R. on the back of the head so hard that he fell and suffocated in feces. Yesterday, W. stood before a jury facing a charge of manslaughter. […] The jury found the defendant guilty, and the court sentenced him to two years of hard labor.


The conditions on the streets of Vienna are aggravating circumstances not only for life in general, but for the charge of criminal assault as well. They cause death without fail and would, for this very reason, qualify the unskilled worker’s action as manslaughter, even if he had done nothing other than hit the day laborer to the ground; to wit, the ordeal would have ended fatally even in the absence of any stone throw. It is decisive only that the person affected was lying in the street—that is to say, that a situation arose which had to cause death by suffocation. In other cities, hitting somebody to the ground would be rough, perhaps uncalled for, play. In Vienna, it is the act of a criminal. In other cities, claiming that people suffocate on the shit in the streets is a metaphor. In Vienna, it describes an element of a crime.


Karl Kraus

Translated by Peter Winslow



Source text


Kraus, K. “Wiener Totschlag.” Die Fackel. Nos. 321-322 (1911): 22-23. Print.