Karl Kraus was born in Jicin (or Gitschin), Czechoslovakia in 1874 to a wealthy Jewish family. Fascinated by theater from a young age, Kraus started publishing books and theater reviews in Viennese and German periodicals during the early 1890s. Between 1892 and 1936 he gave approximately seven hundred one-man performances and readings.

In 1899, at the age of 25, Kraus turned down a job offer from the Neue Freie Presse and founded his own journal, Die Fackel (The Torch). He also converted to Catholicism that year, but renounced the faith in 1923. His writings attacked hypocrisy, psychoanalysis, corruption of the Habsburg Empire, nationalism of the pan-German movement, laissez-faire economic policies, and numerous other subjects. At the peak of his popularity, Kraus' lectures attracted four thousand people, and his magazine sold forty thousand copies. The Torch remained in existence until four months before Kraus' death in 1936, totaling thirty-seven volumes and over 30,000 pages, the majority of which can be credited to Kraus himself.