|Weimar Republic||Nazi Germany||French Resistance|
Beer Hall Putsch
On 8th November, 1923, the Bavarian government held a meeting of about 3,000 officials. While Gustav von Kahr, the prime minister of Bavaria was making a speech, Adolf Hitler and armed stormtroopers entering the building. Hitler jumped onto a table, fired two shots in the air and told the audience that the Munich Putsch was taking place and the National Revolution had began.
Leaving Hermann Goering and the SA to guard the 3,000 officials, Hitler took Gustav von Kahr, Otto von Lossow, the commander of the Bavarian Army and Hans von Lossow, the commandant of the Bavarian State Police into an adjoining room. Hitler told the men that he was to be the new leader of Germany and offered them posts in his new government. Aware that this would be an act of high treason, the three men were initially reluctant to agree to this offer. Adolf Hitler was furious and threatened to shoot them and then commit suicide: "I have three bullets for you, gentlemen, and one for me!" After this the three men agreed.
Soon afterwards Eric Ludendorff arrived. Ludendorff had been leader of the German Army at the end of the First World War. He had therefore found Hitler's claim that the war had not been lost by the army but by Jews, Socialists, Communists and the German government, attractive, and was a strong supporter of the Nazi Party. Ludendorff agreed to become head of the the German Army in Hitler's government.
While Adolf Hitler had been appointing government ministers, Ernst Roehm, leading a group of stormtroopers, had seized the War Ministry and Rudolf Hess was arranging the arrest of Jews and left-wing political leaders in Bavaria.
Adolf Hitler now planned to march on Berlin and remove the national government. Surprisingly, Hitler had not arranged for the stormtroopers to take control of the radio stations and the telegraph offices. This meant that the national government in Berlin soon heard about Hitler's putsch and gave orders for it to be crushed.
The next day Adolf Hitler, Eric Ludendorff, Hermann Goering and 3,000 armed supporters of the Nazi Party marched through Munich in an attempt to join up with Roehm's forces at the War Ministry. At Odensplatz they found the road blocked by the Munich police. As they refused to stop, the police fired into the ground in front of the marchers. The stormtroopers returned the fire and during the next few minutes 21 people were killed and another hundred were wounded, included Goering.
When the firing started Adolf Hitler threw himself to the ground dislocating his shoulder. Hitler lost his nerve and ran to a nearby car. Although the police were outnumbered, the Nazis followed their leader's example and ran away. Only Eric Ludendorff and his adjutant continued walking towards the police. Later Nazi historians were to claim that the reason Hitler left the scene so quickly was because he had to rush an injured young boy to the local hospital.
After hiding in a friend's house for several days, Adolf Hitler was arrested and put on trial for his role in the Beer Hall Putsch. If found guilty, Hitler faced the death penalty. While in prison Hitler suffered from depression and talked of committing suicide. However, it soon became clear that the Nazi sympathizers in the Bavarian government were going to make sure that Hitler would not be punished severely.
At his trial Adolf Hitler was allowed to turn the proceedings into a political rally, and although he was found guilty he only received the minimum sentence of five years. Other members of the Nazi Party also received light sentences and Eric Ludendorff was acquitted.
(1) In 1923 Ernst Hanfstaengel took part in the Beer Hall Putsch. He wrote about the experience in his book, Hitler: The Missing Years (1957)
Kahr was sending us off to sleep. He had just said the words "and now I come to the consideration" which, for all I know, was to be the high spot of his speech, when the door behind us which we had come through flew open and in burst Goering with about twenty-five brownshirts with pistols and machine-guns.
Hitler began to plough his way towards the platform and the rest of us surged forward behind him. Tables overturned with their jugs of beer. On the way we passed a major named Mucksel, one of the heads of the intelligence section at Army headquarters, who started to draw his pistol as soon as he saw Hitler approach, but the bodyguard had covered him with theirs and there was no shooting.
Hitler clambered on a chair and fired a round at the ceiling. It is always maintained that he did this to terrify the gathering into submission, but I swear he did it to wake people up. Anyway, on home ground at last, Hitler barked an impromptu proclamation: "The national revolution has broken out. The Reichswehr is with us. Our flag is flying on their barracks."
(2) Adolf Hitler, speech made at the Burgerbraukeller, (8th November, 1923)
The Bavarian Ministry is removed. I propose that a Bavarian government shall be formed consisting of a Regent and a Prime Minister invested with dictatorial powers. I propose Herr von Kahr as Regent and Herr Pohner as Prime Minister. The government of the November Criminals and the Reich President are declared to be removed. I propose that, until
accounts have been finally settled with the November criminals, the direction of policy in the national Government be taken over by me. Ludendorff will take over the leadership of the German National Army, Lossow will be German Reichswehr Minister, Seisser Reich Police Minister.
(3) Rudolf Olden, Hitler the Pawn (1936)
Hitler wanted "to make himself scarce," to retreat with the fighting leagues to Rosenheim. This simply meant flight. The General had another plan. He was certain of success. No German, at any rate no German in uniform, would shoot at the "General of the World War," at the national hero. At about noon a procession of 2000 National Socialists marched, twelve abreast, through the town. At first shot Hitler had flung himself to the ground. He sprained his arm, but this did not prevent him from running. He found his car and drove into the mountains.
(4) Official biography of Adolf Hitler published by the Nazi Party (1934)
Hitler shouted. "Close the ranks," and linked arms with his neighbours. The body of the man with whom Hitler was linked shot up into the air like a ball, tearing Hitler's arm with him, so that it sprang from the joint and fell back limp and dead. Hitler approached the man and stooped over him. Blood was pouring from his mouth. Hitler picked him up and carried him on his shoulders. "If I can only get him to the car," Hitler thought, "then the boy is saved."