9 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE BEER HALL PUTSCH by Dan Snow

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On 8th November 1923, Hitler tried to take control of Germany in an armed insurrection in Bavaria. Here’s some things you may not know about the attempt.

1) THE PUTSCH BEFORE THE BEER HALL PUTSCH HAD WORKED (IN BAVARIA)

In March 1920 a group of right-wing nationalists and militarists led by Wolfgang Kapp and Walther von Luettwitz attempted to overthrow the Weimar government. Although they failed on a national level, this led to the fall of the socialist government in Munich, and the installation of Gustav von Kahr (a popular, right-wing politician) as prime minister of Bavaria.

2) THE NAZIS WERE BEING NO-PLATFORMED

There were a lot of nationalist, right-wing groups in Bavaria in the early 1920s, and Kahr and the BVP included a lot of them in the government of Bavaria. On the 26th September 1923 von Kahr had been given dictatorial powers over Bavaria to counter the threat from the 15,000 members of the SA. Kahr’s first act was to ban Hitler and the Nazis from holding meetings. Despite their political sympathies with the the ruling parties, the Nazis were excluded from power and public meetings.

3) A LOT OF BEER WAS SPILLED

Despite the national prominence of beer, the Beer Hall Putsch was a tragedy for lager-lovers. When the Nazis stormed a beer cellar where von Kahr was holding a meeting for 3,000 local government officials, Hitler strode to the front, and the SA overturned tables that stood in his way. Ernst Hanfstaengl, one of Hitler’s earliest financial backers, said: “”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.”

4) HITLER THREATENED TO COMMIT SUICIDE DURING IT

When he’d taken control (with 600 armed SA members) of the beer cellar meeting, Hitler dragged von Kahr, Otto von Lossow, and Hans von Seisser into a back room to demand that they support the new government he was setting up. He threatened to commit suicide if they didn’t do as he wanted, but only after he had killed them. “I have three bullets for you, gentlemen, and one for me!”

5) THE PUTSCH GOT GOERING ADDICTED TO MORPHINE

The next day, when the Nazis tried to march through Munich, they got into a brief gun battle with the police, which ended the uprising. During the gunfight, Goering was wounded in the thigh. To combat the pain of this wound, he started taking morphine, an addiction which lasted the rest of his life.

6) HITLER RAN AWAY

When the shooting started, Hitler immediately dropped to the ground, and crawled to a nearby car. Or, as a contemporary source has it: “Hitler, reacting spontaneously because of his training as a dispatch bearer during World War I, automatically hit the pavement when he heard the crack of guns.” He then drove away. Nazi accounts of the story later said that he drove away in order to help an injured child to hospital.

7) HITLER REPRESENTED HIMSELF AT TRIAL

Many contemporaries were surprised at the leeway the Nazis were allowed in court, even in nationalist-sympathetic Bavaria. Hitler defended himself and was allowed to interrupt witnesses to give speeches repeatedly. His opening speech was four hours long.

8) HITLER’S UNSEXINESS HELPED HIM

The prosecutors at the trial were hugely indulgent of Hitler. This is a description of him by Ludwig Stenglein, the State Prosecutor: “His (Hitler) honest endeavour to reawaken the belief in the German cause among an oppressed and disarmed people…. His private life has always been clean, which deserves special approbation in view of the temptations which naturally came to him as an acclaimed party leader….” In other words, he should get special treatment because he hasn’t had as much sex as you’d expect from a party leader. the prosecutor went on:” Hitler is a highly gifted man who, coming from a simple background, has, through serious and hard work, won for himself a respected place in public life. He dedicated himself to the ideas that inspired him to the point of self-sacrifice, and as a soldier he fulfilled his duty in the highest measure.”

9) THE PUTSCH ALMOST KILLED HIM 16 YEARS LATER

Although there was never any risk to Hitler’s health or safety during the 20% of his sentence that he served in relative luxury, the Putsch almost killed him in 1939. When he returned to give his annual speech on the anniversary of the putsch, a carpenter named George Elser had placed a time bomb in the building. Hitler only escaped it because he had cut short his usual two-hour speech because he was having to rush to get a train back to Berlin. The bomb exploded 13 minutes after he had left, a narrow escape that only made Hitler more convinced that it was his destiny to prevail.

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