Mathias Kneißl

For the 1970 German film, see Mathias Kneissl (film).
Heavily injured from his last gunfight, Mathias Kneißl (centre) is being held by two nurses

Mathias Kneißl, known as Robber Kneißl (in German Räuber Kneißl, in Austro-Bavarian Raiba Kneißl), (4 August 1875 in Unterweikertshofen 21 February 1902) was a German outlaw, poacher and popular social rebel in the Dachau district, in the Kingdom of Bavaria. Chased by the police, Kneißl became a legendary hero with the rural people because of his witful and artful fight against the authorities.


Mathias Kneißl was the eldest of six children of a poor innkeeper. In 1886 his father purchased the mill at Sulzemoos Schacher. At 16 he was imprisoned for the first time, because members of his family were suspected of stock rustling. His father died in 1892 while in police custody. Kneissl then began accompanying his brothers on robberies.

In 1893 he was arrested for the second time. His younger brother Alois had been shot by police while resisting arrest and died of tuberculosis after four years in prison. Mathias Kneißl was sentenced to five years and nine months in prison. After serving his sentence, he was released in February 1899 and worked as a carpenter in Nußdorf am Inn. After six months Kneißl was dismissed by his master, because his colleagues refused to work with him any longer. Due to his bad reputation, he was unable to find another job.

For two years, Kneißl was pursued by the police. After his accomplices were arrested, he continued committing armed robberies on his own. An attempt to arrest him occurred on 30 November 1900 in Irchenbrunn Altomünster. In a massive gun battle, two policemen were injured so badly that they subsequently died. Three months later, in March 1901, Kneißl was captured at Geisen Egenhofen by sixty policemen. During the preceding gunfight, Kneißl was seriously injured by a bullet in the abdomen.


Between 14 and 19 November 1901 Kneißl was placed on trial at Augsburg. He was charged with two murders, attempted murder, as well as armed robbery and extortion. At his trial, which was followed by the media with great attention, Kneißl reportedly said: "I can suffer no wrong. I cannot bend, I would rather kill myself."

Kneißl confessed to most of the charges, but denied an intent to kill against the two policemen who were shot by him. However, the court found him guilty of murder, premeditated bodily harm with fatal consequences, extortion and for aggravated robbery.

The Court then sentenced him to receive the death penalty for murder and 15 years imprisonment on the other charges. Sentenced on a Monday Kneißl allegedly sarcastically remarked "Well, that's a good start of a week."

Judge Anton Rebholz appealed by letter to the Ministry of Justice, which confirmed Kneißl's death sentence. Kneißl was awakened shortly after seven o'clock on the morning of 21 February 1902. He was then executed via guillotine. The executioner was Franz Xaver Reichhart.


Kneißl was already a legendary figure during his own lifetime. The people, especially the small farmers of Bavaria saw in his outlaw life something revolutionary, a rebellion against the authorities. Even in recent times the Kneißl legend remains popular. Musical examples include the songs "Kneißl" by Georg Ringsgwandl (1993) and "Schachermüller-Hiasl" by Schandmaul (2016).[1][2]


  1. "Kneißl". Ringsgwandl official website (in German). Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  2. Jooß-Bernau, Christian (19 September 2016). "Geschichtensucher mit Dudelsack". Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 8 November 2016.

Further reading

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