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Hitler Maneuvers in 1923

In Bavaria's capital, Munich, the Social Democrats under Adolf Hoffman had returned to power after the overthrow of the Communist regime there in 1919. But then local military leaders removed the Social Democrats from office, and in the place of Hoffman they appointed a monarchist, Gustav von Kahr, as Bavaria's prime minister. Most Bavarians were Catholics, and anti-Communism in Bavaria was intense. Bavaria's nobility, officer class and peasantry supported a restoration of the monarchy in the person of Crown Prince Rupprecht, son of Wilhelm II.

In Bavaria, an alliance among Rightist paramilitary groups formed in opposition to France's occupation of the Ruhr. According to the army commander in Bavaria, General von Lossow, these para-military groups had fifty-one percent of all available weaponry in the state. Among these groups, Hitler's National Socialist party was most prominent. The fascist leader Mussolini had taken power in Italy in October 1922, and among Germans was the sense that fascism was on the rise in Europe, which encouraged Hitler's followers. With weapons that had origins in army barracks, Hitler's National Socialists were doing field exercises and parading through Munich's streets. The regime in power in Bavaria viewed Hitler and his party as useful patriots and gave them free reign.

In theory, the National Socialist Party continued to be ruled by a committee, but by early 1923 Hitler was clearly in charge. During the French-Belgian occupation of the Ruhr, Hitler's party grew rapidly in Bavaria and across Germany. A police report issued in the summer of 1923 estimated that the party had risen from 6,000 to 35,000 in Munich alone, and to approximately 50,000 in all of Bavaria. Occupation of the Ruhr united Germans right across the political spectrum, from the various nationalist groups to the Communists. The National Socialists Party was claiming to be for socialist revolution but with a nationalist-patriotic bent, and Hitler's party was picking up former supporters of the Communists looking for change and justice for Germany.

With the National Socialists now was another war hero, Hermann Goering (Göring), the nation's leading surviving ace aviator and air corps commander. Also living in Munich was Ludendorff, who was in sympathy with the rhetoric of the National Socialists and eager to join others in actions against the republican government in Berlin.

Hitler pounded away against France's occupation, and he was still pounding away at the Jews, blaming the crisis on Jewish financiers and Marxists. "Clear out the Jews," he said, "Our own people have genius enough! We need no Hebrews!" He assaulted the press for being inadequately nationalistic. "We must demand," he said, "that the press become the instrument of national self-education." The government, he said, should see to it that people were not poisoned by misinformation. "We are fanatical in our love for our people," he said in one speech. "We have faith that one day heaven will bring the Germans back into a Reich over which there shall be no Soviet star, no Jewish star of David, but above that Reich there shall be the symbol of German labor – the swastika."

Encouraged by Ludendorff's support, Hitler began planning a march on Berlin – like the march that Mussolini was thought to have made on Rome the year before. Hitler, however, was without the invitation to govern that Mussolini had received. He planned to ally his National Socialists with the Rightist government in Munich, by force if necessary. He planned also to proclaim martial law. He planned that after taking power in Berlin he would put all persons dangerous to national security into concentration camps (Sammellager). And he planned to send with them to the camps all those persons who were unproductive, those he called "useless eaters," where they would be put to productive labor.


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