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Hitler and the Beer Hall Putsch

Hitler and the Beer Hall Putsch

HAROLD J. GORDON
Copyright Date: 1972
Pages: 685
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x1420
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  • Book Info
    Hitler and the Beer Hall Putsch
    Book Description:

    The rudimentary facts of the Beer Hall Putsch are well known. The myth and conjecture they have generated are now replaced by detailed evidence in Harold Gordon's history, a thorough analysis of the events leading up to the Putsch, the ideologies and people struggling for power in Bavaria in 1923, the Putsch itself, and its aftermath.

    Originally published in 1972.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6855-1
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Preface
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Illustrations and Maps
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction

    • 1. THE NEW WIND IN BAVARIAN POLITICS
      (pp. 3-22)

      The end of World War I brought with it a “new wind” in politics throughout Germany, but especially in Bavaria, where the natural developments of the postwar era were accelerated by the violent atmosphere of the Räterepublik and the passions it loosed. Therefore, while elsewhere it was still a breeze, slowly growing in strength but fitful and unpredictable, this wind became a tornado in Bavaria.

      The wind blew from the trenches, from the schools, from the universities and, to a lesser extent, from other institutions, and it affected all sorts of people, but particularly the young. Fanned by it, a...

  6. Part One: The Contenders in the Struggle for Power

    • 2. TRADITIONAL PARTIES, POLITICAL PRESSURE GROUPS, AND THE PRESS
      (pp. 25-48)

      In the early Weimar Republic the political parties, political pressure groups, and the press played a less significant role in Bavaria than they did elsewhere in Germany because of the powerful Bavarian organizations, outside the parties themselves, that included great numbers of people, disseminated institutional progaganda, and, in many cases, wielded direct power or influence within the state. Even the government itself, being dependent on the parties rather than simply an extension of them, was less identified with the parties than was the case elsewhere in theReich.Nonetheless, one should not fall into the error of many of their...

    • 3. THE NSDAP
      (pp. 49-87)

      In many ways, the NSDAP was the most important single element in the political spectrum in Bavaria in 1923. It was important less because of its size and power than because of its nature and potential. Most of all, it was important because it was a catalyst that brought a comparatively stable system into violent if brief motion and both rationalized and polarized the political positions of individuals and groups. The reason that the NSDAP played such a role was threefold.

      First, the NSDAP occupied in the Patriotic Movement the same position that the Communist Party occupied in the Marxist...

    • 4. THE PATRIOTIC BANDS
      (pp. 88-119)

      While the National Socialist Party was the most active and rapidly growing element in the Racist Movement, which formed the center and left of the Patriotic Movement, those elements of the movement outside the NSDAP were much more numerous than those within it, and before the Putsch it was far from clear that the NSDAP would be able to dominate even the left wing, let alone the entire movement. The various elements of this movement, including the SA of the NSDAP (and sometimes the party itself), were grouped together in the eyes of Bavarians of all shades into the Patriotic...

    • 5. THE BAVARIAN POLICE AND THE POLITICAL SITUATION
      (pp. 120-139)

      In Weimar Germany, basic control of the police lay in the hands of the state, rather than the national government. Bavaria was particularly jealous of her “police sovereignty” (Polizeihoheit) and deeply resented the mildest infringement of her rights, although she was ready to allow the Reich to pay a portion of the costs. This attitude was stiffened by evidence, which came to the surface in 1922, that the Reich had agents in Bavaria (as well as other states) to keep an eye on the state governments, as well as by difficulties over the investigation of political crimes against the Reich...

    • 6. THE REICHSWEHR AND THE POLITICAL SITUATION IN BAVARIA
      (pp. 140-164)

      The Bavarian Reichswehr grew out of the Bavarian army and maintained its tradition in many ways. Like the Bavarian army, it was of the German army, but different from it in a number of minor ways. Also, like the old Bavarian army, the Bavarian Reichswehr enjoyed a number of rights that the other contingents of the Reichswehr had lost, or of which they did not avail themselves to the extent that Bavaria did. For example, by law the Bavarian Landeskommandant was at the same time the commanding general of the Bavarian formations (unless the Bavarian government consented to other arrangements)...

    • 7. THE BAVARIAN GOVERNMENT
      (pp. 165-182)

      The Bavarian government in the Weimar period was a typical continental parliamentary government in which the legislature (Landtag) was elected by universal suffrage. The election system was based on proportional representation, which reduced wastage of votes but magnified the influence of smaller parties. The executive branch of the government was a joint executive consisting of the Cabinet. The minister-president had more prestige than his colleagues but, as Knilling bitterly complained, practically no institutionalized authority over them. The Cabinet was elected by the Landtag and was responsible to it. However, in the early Weimar period the Landtag allowed the Cabinet pretty...

  7. Part Two: The Conflict

    • 8. THE OPENING VOLLEYS—JANUARY TO SEPTEMBER
      (pp. 185-211)

      On 3 January, when the Bavarian Cabinet discussed the National Socialist Party, its members all agreed that the fledgling political organization was a very real menace to law and order and to the existing state. At the same time, in the way of men from time immemorial, they decided to do nothing about this menace, apparently hoping that it would either abate or disappear. This natural reaction is particularly strong among men in high political office, where action against a menace must often be drastic and on occasion is dangerous for those who undertake it. It is undoubtedly fortunate that...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • 9. KAHR AND HIS FIVE-FRONT WAR
      (pp. 212-237)

      A new wave of vigorous activity on the part of the right radical Verbände was inaugurated on “German Day” in Nürnberg, 2 September 1923. At this nationalist celebration, dominated by the more radical Verbände, the hard-core members of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft formed a new organization, the Deutscher Kampfbund (apparently originally also called Kampfgemeinschaft Bayern). Its first members were the SA of the NSDAP, Oberland, and Reichsflagge.¹ This German Day also gave further impetus to radicals on both the Right and Left through the violent clashes between them on that day and the guerrilla warfare that followed. The Marxist workers who sought...

    • 10. THE COMING OF THE PUTSCH
      (pp. 238-269)

      One of the most important factors in bringing on the Beer Hall Putsch was the disastrous economic situation that developed in Germany in the fall of 1923. The German economy had never recovered from World War I and from the losses and dislocations caused by the Treaty of Versailles. Massive unemployment, reduced resources, reduced foreign trade, tremendous internal war debts (although these had already been partly repudiated), reparations, and extremely heavy social disbursements had proven more than the postwar German economy was able to bear without readjustment and sacrifices. The result was that the economy was already staggering drunkenly by...

    • 11. NIGHT OF CONFUSION
      (pp. 270-312)

      The Putschists could count on very considerable numbers of men from München and were also bringing in men from much of southern Bavaria to strengthen these local forces. They also had the advantage of a great deal of popular support in the city. Yet, many of the members of their organizations and many of their supporters were not of any immediate military value. In terms of actual troops their strength was roughly as follows:

      SA of the NSDAP

      SA Regiment Munchen — 1,500 officers and men¹

      Stosstrupp Hitler — about 125 officers and men²

      SA units from southern Bavaria — about 250-300 men³...

    • 12. DAY OF DECISION
      (pp. 313-365)

      While the basic initiative and the superiority in immediately available strength lay with the Putschists in the period before midnight of 8 November, their opponents had not been idle and their activity, in large part, led to the very rapid shifting of the scales to the disadvantage of the rebels. This activity, however, began only after Hitler had struck. Besides the general rumors of a right radical Putsch that had been endemic for months, there had been specific reports of a Putsch on the night of 8 November. Since these reports came, to some extent, from uninformed persons of the...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • 13. THE PUTSCH OUTSIDE MÜNCHEN
      (pp. 366-392)

      Accounts of the Putsch have normally considered only the situation in München itself, ignoring not only the rest of Bavaria but the remainder of Germany as well. Yet it is not possible to appraise the potential of the Putsch and the capabilities or limitations of the Putschists without at least some knowledge of what happened in Bavaria and, to a lesser extent, what happened beyond the border. The Putsch was crushed in München, but the question arises as to what its prospects in Bavaria were had it succeeded in winning a strong foothold in München or in taking over control...

    • 14. THE PUTSCH IN THE BALANCE
      (pp. 389-410)

      In view of the many legends, rumors, and conflicting stories that have so long surrounded the Putsch, a closer examination of the events and of their meaning is necessary to clear away the smoke of speculation and reveal the events and their significance.¹

      Why was there a Putsch? This question calls for many answers, some general, some specific. Where general answers are concerned, the first is undoubtedly the general course and tendency of Hitler’s activities since 1921. As the police warned the government at the beginning of 1923, Hitler was sailing a collision course with the authorities. He preached revolution...

  8. Part Three: The New Political Milieu

    • 15. THE POPULAR REACTION TO THE PUTSCH
      (pp. 413-424)

      Public opinion in Munchen and in most of the other larger Bavarian cities clearly favored the Putschists in the days immediately following their defeat. Turbulent crowds surged through the center of Munchen again and again, vilifying Kahr and cheering Hitler. Broken up by the police, they soon reformed and reappeared elsewhere. At 4:00 p.m. on 9 November a violent crowd was cleared from the Odeonsplatz by the Landespolizei. In the next few hours other threatening crowds were dispersed in the vicinity of the Tiirkenkaserne, in the Max Josef Platz, in the Maximilianstrasse, in the Marienplatz, and in other locations. Around...

    • 16. THE IMMEDIATE REACTION OF THE VERBÄNDE, THE PRESSURE GROUPS, AND THE LEFT
      (pp. 425-451)

      The Kampfbund, naturally, found the collapse of the Putsch a bitter pill to swallow, and the immediate reactions of its members to defeat and disappointment were often vigorous and violent—particularly where the local leadership remained relatively unscathed, as was often the case outside of München. The reaction was, however, not entirely uniform. Some Kampfbund members, and even some groups of members, opposed the Putsch and left their organizations, while others merely pretended to do so.¹ Many dropped out of all political activity in disgust. Some of these apparently returned soon, but often the others did not reappear until the...

    • 17. THE PUTSCH AND THE REICH
      (pp. 452-467)

      The government of the Reich reacted swiftly to the news of the Putsch in Bavaria. The ministers had been worried for some time by the ominous concentration of paramilitary organizations along the northern frontiers of Bavaria and by the hostile attitude of the Bavarian government. They were therefore not taken entirely by surprise and wasted little time.

      Chancellor Gustav Stresemann heard the news while dining with Hjalmar Schacht, the president of the Reichsbank, and rushed to the Chancery. He then summoned the Cabinet to a meeting. By midnight the Cabinet had assembled, together with President Ebert and General von Seeckt,...

    • 18. THE FATE OF THE PUTSCHIST LEADERS
      (pp. 468-485)

      By the time the echoes of the last shots fired at the Feldherrnhalle had died away, the Putschist leaders were in full flight. The order of the day was clearly: “Sauve qui peut!” All of them, except Ludendorff who was clad in the invincible armor of his arrogance, obeyed it.

      According to the chief surgeon of the SA, Dr. Walter Schultze, Hitler was the first of the Putschists to get back on his feet. He then, apparently wounded in the arm, started to make his way towards the rear of the column. Schultze hurried on before him and brought forward...

    • 19. THE GOVERNMENT AND THE AFTERMATH OF THE PUTSCH
      (pp. 486-506)

      The Putsch brought to a head the conflict implicit in the division of political and military power in Bavaria during the fall of 1923. In theory the Cabinet had been supreme all along. In fact, however, it had tended to make explicit or implicit concessions to the Generalstaatskommissar right up to the time of the Putsch. Kahr, or more properly the triumvirate of which he was at least the titular head, took full advantage of these concessions on the part of the government and increasingly tried to wring further concessions from Knilling and his associates. The Putsch now led both...

    • 20. THE REICHSWEHR AND THE POLICE AFTER THE PUTSCH
      (pp. 507-529)

      The Hitler Putsch was a very serious shock for the armed forces, since both the Reichswehr and the Landespolizei had had various ties at all levels with the Kampfbund as well as with the more moderate Verbande. These official or semi-official ties with the organizations themselves were reinforced by personal ties based on familial relationships, former associations, or social encounters. The Putsch obviously carried with it the disruption of these relationships and called for the establishment of new policies and relationships. This readjustment was as necessary for individuals as for the organizations themselves, and obviously could not be painless in...

    • 21. THE NEW GOVERNMENT AND ITS POLICIES
      (pp. 530-554)

      As a result of economic chaos and political stresses the Knilling government had been increasingly disunited and increasingly unpopular well before 8 November. The Putsch made it even less united and far more unpopular. Knilling now seemed genuinely exasperated with politics. He was particularly unhappy about the composition of his Cabinet and complained bitterly to Haniel about Schweyer and Wutzlhofer, whom he saw as foreign elements disrupting the unity of the government.¹ In February the ministerpresident carried his grievances to a key figure in Bavarian politics. In a letter to Dr. Heinrich Held, the most important single leader of the...

    • 22. THE INTERIM RACIST MOVEMENT
      (pp. 555-581)

      When the excitement generated in Völkisch circles by the Putsch and its suppression had died down, the Kampfbündler who were still free found themselves in a new and difficult situation. The Putsch had failed and the government was in firm control of both the police and the army. The mob actions that had developed more or less spontaneously in the wake of the Putsch had been exhilarating as well as exhausting for the participants, but they had in no way threatened the post-Putsch political equilibrium. The enthusiasm and rage from which these demonstrations were born could not be maintained indefinitely....

    • 23. THE VERBÄNDE BEYOND HITLER’S ORBIT
      (pp. 582-606)

      After the Putsch there were three basic reactions within those Verbände that had not joined the Kampfbund or supported the Putsch. The first reaction was a general search by the senior leaders for balance in the new political situation. This search did not take the same form or direction in each Verband, nor did it result in the same new stance, but the process occurred in all of them. Either a restatement of existing policy in new terms or a new policy was necessary. The second development or reaction was what might be called the sifting of souls. Those persons...

    • 24. THE BALANCE SHEET
      (pp. 607-620)

      The situation that made possible the attempt to overturn the governments of Bavaria and the Reich was a complicated one that had developed over a number of years. Its origins were to be found in the pressures exerted by the Marxist Movement, the Patriotic Movement, the Räterepublik of 1919, and the Treaty of Versailles. Together, these factors led the government of Bavaria to adopt policies that proved to be unwise and dangerous, because they placed the temptation and the means to act against the government in the hands of unscrupulous men dedicated to sweeping away both the existing government and...

  9. Appendix
    (pp. 621-628)
  10. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 629-632)
  11. Critical Bibliography
    (pp. 633-648)
  12. Index
    (pp. 649-666)