The Beer Hall Putsch - Hitlerputsch

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09.11.1923
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The Beer Hall Putsch, also known as the Munich Putsch, and, in German, as the HitlerputschHitler-Ludendorff-PutschBürgerbräu-Putsch or Marsch auf die Feldherrnhalle ("March on the Field Marshals's Hall"), was a failed coup d'état by the Nazi Party (NSDAP) leader Adolf Hitler—along with Generalquartiermeister Erich Ludendorff and other Kampfbund leaders—to seize power in Munich, Bavaria, which took place on 8–9 November 1923. Approximately two thousand Nazis were marching to the Feldherrnhalle, in the city centre, when they were confronted by a police cordon, which resulted in the deaths of 14 Nazis and four police officers.

Hitler, who was wounded during the clash, escaped immediate arrest and was spirited off to safety in the countryside. After two days, he was arrested and charged with treason.

The putsch brought Hitler to the attention of the German nation and generated front-page headlines in newspapers around the world. His arrest was followed by a 24-day trial, which was widely publicised and gave him a platform to express his nationalist sentiments to the nation. Hitler was found guilty of treason and sentenced to five years in Landsberg Prison, where he dictated Mein Kampf to his fellow prisoners Emil Maurice and Rudolf Hess.

On 20 December 1924, having served only nine months, Hitler was released. Once released, Hitler redirected his focus towards obtaining power through legal means rather than revolution or force, and accordingly changed his tactics, further developing Nazi propaganda.

The putsch

The putsch was inspired by Benito Mussolini's successful March on Rome, from 22 to 29 October 1922. Hitler and his associates planned to use Munich as a base for a march against Germany's Weimar Republic government. But circumstances differed from those in Italy. Hitler came to the realisation that Kahr sought to control him and was not ready to act against the government in Berlin. Hitler wanted to seize a critical moment for successful popular agitation and support. He decided to take matters into his own hands. Hitler, along with a large detachment of SA, marched on the Bürgerbräukeller, where Kahr was making a speech in front of 3,000 people.

In the evening, 603 SA surrounded the beer hall and a machine gun was set up in the auditorium. Hitler, surrounded by his associates Hermann Göring, Alfred Rosenberg, Rudolf Hess, Ernst Hanfstaengl, Ulrich Graf, Johann Aigner, Adolf Lenk, Max Amann, Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter, Wilhelm Adam, Robert Wagner and others (some 20 in all), advanced through the crowded auditorium. Unable to be heard above the crowd, Hitler fired a shot into the ceiling and jumped on a chair yelling: "The national revolution has broken out! The hall is filled with six hundred men. Nobody is allowed to leave." He went on to state that the Bavarian government was deposed and declared the formation of a new government with Ludendorff.

Hitler, accompanied by Hess, Lenk, and Graf, ordered the triumvirate of Kahr, Seisser and Lossow into an adjoining room at gunpoint and demanded they support the putsch. Hitler demanded they accept government positions he assigned them. Hitler had promised Lossow a few days earlier that he would not attempt a coup, but now thought that he would get an immediate response of affirmation from them, imploring Kahr to accept the position of Regent of Bavaria. Kahr replied that he could not be expected to collaborate, especially as he had been taken out of the auditorium under heavy guard.

Heinz Pernet, Johann Aigne and Scheubner-Richter were dispatched to pick up Ludendorff, whose personal prestige was being harnessed to give the Nazis credibility. A telephone call was made from the kitchen by Hermann Kriebel to Ernst Röhm, who was waiting with his Bund Reichskriegsflagge in the Löwenbräukeller, another beer hall, and he was ordered to seize key buildings throughout the city. At the same time, co-conspirators under Gerhard Rossbach mobilised the students of a nearby infantry officers school to seize other objectives.

Hitler became irritated by Kahr and summoned Ernst Pöhner, Friedrich Weber, and Hermann Kriebel to stand in for him while he returned to the auditorium flanked by Rudolf Hess and Adolf Lenk. He followed up on Göring's speech and stated that the action was not directed at the police and Reichswehr, but against "...the Berlin Jew government and the November criminals of 1918".[19] Dr. Karl Alexander von Mueller, a professor of modern history and political science at the University of Munich and a supporter of Kahr, was an eyewitness. He reported:

I cannot remember in my entire life such a change in the attitude of a crowd in a few minutes, almost a few seconds ... Hitler had turned them inside out, as one turns a glove inside out, with a few sentences. It had almost something of hocus-pocus, or magic about it.

Hitler ended his speech with: "Outside are Kahr, Lossow and Seisser. They are struggling hard to reach a decision. May I say to them that you will stand behind them?"

The crowd in the hall backed Hitler with a roar of approval. He finished triumphantly:

You can see that what motivates us is neither self-conceit nor self-interest, but only a burning desire to join the battle in this grave eleventh hour for our German Fatherland ... One last thing I can tell you. Either the German revolution begins tonight or we will all be dead by dawn!

Hitler returned to the antechamber, where the triumvirs remained, to ear-shattering acclaim, which the triumvirs could not have failed to notice. On his way back, Hitler ordered Göring and Hess to take Eugen von Knilling and seven other members of the Bavarian government into custody.

During Hitler's speech, Pöhner, Weber, and Kriebel had been trying in a conciliatory fashion to bring the triumvirate round to their point of view. The atmosphere in the room had become lighter, but Kahr continued to dig in his heels. Ludendorff showed up a little before 21:00 and, being shown into the antechamber, concentrated on Lossow and Seisser, appealing to their sense of duty. Eventually, the triumvirate reluctantly gave in.

Hitler, Ludendorff, et al., returned to the main hall's podium, where they gave speeches and shook hands. The crowd was then allowed to leave the hall. In a tactical mistake, Hitler decided to leave the Bürgerbräukeller shortly thereafter to deal with a crisis elsewhere. Around 22:30, Ludendorff released Kahr and his associates.

The night was marked by confusion and unrest among government officials, armed forces, police units, and individuals deciding where their loyalties lay. Units of the Kampfbund were scurrying around to arm themselves from secret caches, and seizing buildings. At around 03:00, the first casualties of the putsch occurred when the local garrison of the Reichswehr spotted Röhm's men coming out of the beer hall. They were ambushed while trying to reach the Reichswehr barracks by soldiers and state police; shots were fired, but there were no fatalities on either side. Encountering heavy resistance, Röhm and his men were forced to fall back. In the meantime, the Reichswehr officers put the whole garrison on alert and called for reinforcements. Foreign attachés were seized in their hotel rooms and put under house arrest.

In the morning, Hitler ordered the seizure of the Munich city council as hostages. He further sent the communications officer of the KampfbundMax Neunzert, to enlist the aid of Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria to mediate between Kahr and the putschists. Neunzert failed in the mission.

By mid-morning on 9 November, Hitler realised that the putsch was going nowhere. The putschists did not know what to do and were about to give up. At this moment, Ludendorff cried out, "Wir marschieren!" ('We will march!'). Röhm's force together with Hitler's (a total of approximately 2000 men) marched out — but with no specific plan of where to go. On the spur of the moment, Ludendorff led them to the Bavarian Defence Ministry. However, at the Odeonsplatz in front of the Feldherrnhalle, they met a force of 130 soldiers blocking the way under the command of State Police Senior Lieutenant Michael von Godin. The two groups exchanged fire, killing four state police officers and 16 Nazis.

This was the origin of the Blutfahne ('blood flag'), which was stained with the blood of two SA members who were shot: the flag bearer Heinrich Trambauer, who was badly wounded, and Andreas Bauriedl, who fell dead onto the fallen flag. A bullet killed Scheubner-Richter. Göring was shot in the leg, but escaped. The rest of the Nazis scattered or were arrested. Hitler was arrested two days later.

In a description of Ludendorff's funeral at the Feldherrnhalle in 1937 (which Hitler attended but without speaking) William L. Shirer wrote: "The World War [One] hero [Ludendorff] had refused to have anything to do with him [Hitler] ever since he had fled from in front of the Feldherrnhalle after the volley of bullets during the Beer Hall Putsch." However, when a consignment of papers relating to Landsberg prison (including the visitor book) were later sold at auction, it was noted that Ludendorff had visited Hitler a number of times. The case of the resurfacing papers was reported in Der Spiegel (The Mirror) on 23 June 2006; the new information (which came out more than 30 years after Shirer wrote his book, and which Shirer did not have access to) nullifies Shirer's statement.

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    Persons

    Name Born / Since / At Died Languages
    1Heinrich HimmlerHeinrich Himmler07.10.190023.05.1945de, en, lv, ru
    2Alfred  RosenbergAlfred Rosenberg12.01.189316.10.1946de, en, fr, lt, lv, pl, ru, ua
    3Arno Wolfgang SchickedanzArno Wolfgang Schickedanz27.12.189212.04.1945de, lv, ru
    4Adolf HitlerAdolf Hitler20.04.188930.04.1945en, lv, pl, ru
    5Hans Von SeecktHans Von Seeckt22.04.186627.12.1936de, fr, lv, pl, ru
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