Coup · First World War · Germany · Hitler · Nazi

November 8, 1923 – the Beer Hall Putsch

I have often heard people ask the question, “If you could travel back in time, would you kill Hitler?”

Who do you decide the monsters of the world are, and if you had a time machine, where do you decide to start? What would the butterfly effect be if we traveled back in time to kill Hitler?

Germany was a mess after WWI. Hyperinflation was a result of the economic sanctions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles. In September of 1923, the German Chancellor Stresemann felt that the only way out of this was to work with France.

Chancellor Gustav Stresemann “Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1989-040-27, Gustav Stresemann” by Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1989-040-27 / CC-BY-SA 3.0. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Commons.

To many Nationalists, this was an admission of guilt for starting the First World War. That was not something the Nationalists could bear. The German pride pushed many Germans into Right Wing political parties. These parties based themselves in Southern Germany and Bavaria.

One of these parties had grown in support of both the people and the military. This was the National Socialist German Workers Party. We know this party by their bi-name today–the Nazi Party.

Nazi Party 1923 Brtannica
Nazi Party 1923

In 1920 Hitler had published the 25 point program that became the permanent stance of the party.

  • We demand the union of all Germans in a Great Germany on the basis of the principle of self-determination of all peoples
  • We demand that the German people have rights equal to those of other nations; and that the Peace Treaties of Versailles and St. Germain shall be abrogated.
  • We demand land and territory for the maintenance of our people and the settlement of our surplus population.

The Nazi Party in 1923 was about 35,000 people strong, a small minority in German politics. It had gained the support of some very prominent people including Quartermaster General Erich Ludendorff. Ludendorff was the joint head of the German Army alongside Hindenburg.

Leadership of the Nazi Party 1923 – Luddendorf and Hitler center “Bundesarchiv Bild 102-00344A, München, nach Hitler-Ludendorff Prozess” by Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-00344A / Heinrich Hoffmann / CC-BY-SA 3.0. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Commons.

On the 8th of November 1923, Bavarian Prime Minister Gustav Kahr was holding a town hall meeting in a Munich beer hall. Hitler, fueled by the anger of the citizens toward Berlin, felt this was the time to strike.

About 600 members of the paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party surrounded the beer hall. The Sturmabteilung–or SA–were the party’s security arm, and wore a brown shirt uniform similar to that of the British Army.

SA troops outside Munich beer hall “Bundesarchiv Bild 146-2007-0003, Soldaten bei der Verhaftung von Stadträten” by Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-2007-0003 / CC-BY-SA 3.0. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Commons.

With the beer hall surrounded, Hitler and his colleagues stormed into the meeting. It was too noisy for those around to hear him, so Hitler jumped on a chair, fired a pistol into the ceiling, and shouted; “The national revolution has broken out. The hall is surrounded.”

In the beer hall meeting were the most senior of the Bavarian government. Alongside Kahr, was the head of the Bavarian Secret Police Hans Ritter von Seisser, and Otto von Lossow, the local military commander.

These men were taken into the back room with Hitler for about 10 minutes before coming back into the beer hall. Hitler came back on stage and addressed the people.

Karl von Muller was present at the beer hall, and a later witness at Hitler’s treason trial. He said the following: “(When he spoke), it was a rhetorical masterpiece. In fact, in a few sentences he totally transformed the mood of the audience. I have rarely experienced anything like it.” –

After Hitler, the crowd was addressed by Kahr, and then Luddendorff. Both men publicly declared support for Hitler and his goal to take over the Munich government.

After the crowd had settled down and the mood changed in favor of Hitler and the party, the SA let people leave the beer hall.

The mistake that Hitler made was in letting Kahr, von Seisser, and von Lossow leave for the night. These men contacted Berlin and let them know of Hitler’s plans. The central government was putting things in place to stop Hitler’s November 9th march on Munich.



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