(The WEIMAR REPUBLIC and ADOLF HITLER – continued)
One who was not influenced by Stresemann's actions in Saxony and Thuringia was Adolf Hitler. He planned for his coup and march to Berlin to begin on November 8, 1923 – the fifth anniversary of the first Soviet takeover in Munich. In the evening of that day, Hitler's troops surrounded the town hall where Kahr was to speak. Hitler and a few others entered the crowded hall, Hitler wearing his Iron Cross and carrying a revolver. He shot a round into the ceiling to get attention. Hitler's troops blocked the hall's doors. Hitler announced that the "national revolution" had begun. With Kahr was von Lossow. Hitler took these two of them into an adjoining room, told them that a new government had been formed that was supported by Erich Ludendorff, former World War commander of Germany's war effort, and Hitler proclaimed to the two that they had no choice but to join his rising and that if he failed he would kill himself. It was an odd way to form an alliance. Kahr and von Lossow tried to humor Hitler, assuring him of their support. Hitler then returned to the hall where he triumphantly told his captive audience that a new Bavarian government had been formed under Kahr and that a new national government was formed, led by himself, with Ludendorff as the supreme commander of a new nationalist army. Ludendorff then took his place at the head of the revolt.
Hitler's force consisted of fully trained, partially trained and untrained men thrown together. Few veterans were among them. Many were high school and university students too young to have fought in the war. The leader of this para-military force before Ludendorff's arrival was the old infantry captain, Ernst Roehm, who saw the force as ill trained. They were without good communications between units and without capable group leaders. They were without artillery. But the rebels believed that von Lossow's army was on their side. And, feeling confident, Ludendorff said that "the heavens will fall before the Bavarian Reichwehr (Army) turns against me."
Hitler believed in the magic of the Ludendorff name, and Ludendorff, putting his military genius to work, ordered a bunch of Nazi kids to take a government building. The kids and police faced each other at point blank range, neither wanting to start shooting. With the police unwilling to back down, the kids did, and they disappeared as suddenly as they appeared.
Other forces under Ludendorff smashed the local Social Democrat newspaper and captured offices of the War Ministry, but when they tried to occupy police headquarters, the police refused to join the revolt and arrested them. Ludendorff's forces remained without their planned control of the city's communication and transportation centers. Kahr and von Lossow, free of Hitler's firepower, renounced their promise to Hitler. And Kahr announced that he was dissolving the National Socialist party – a betrayal that Hitler would not forget.
The second day of the coup – November 9th – began with the army on alert at its base, awaiting orders. Ludendorff's forces were alone and outnumbered. Ludendorff had again miscalculated. Bavaria's army was defying him and the sky was not falling. A showdown between the National Socialists and Munich's authorities came around noon. Hitler, Ludendorff and about two thousand followers were marching toward the city center, with flags flying and singing patriotic songs, with Hitler hoping to pick up supporters as they marched. The parade came upon a line of police. As Hitler approached the police he ordered them to surrender. A shot was fired, believed by some to have come from among Hitler's marchers. Then many of the police began firing, the gunfire between the police and the rebels lasting two or three minutes. Hitler threw himself down, as any good soldier would, and he dislocated his shoulder. Ludendorff marched through the firing, policemen perhaps taking care not to aim at him.
Hitler's coup was over. The bulk of the marchers and Hitler had fled the scene. Four policemen and fourteen of Hitler's supporters – mostly youths – were dead. Ludendorff was taken into custody. A police official offered to inform Ludendorff's family that he was safe and sound. Ludendorff shouted that he wanted no favors and that he would no longer wear his uniform. He screamed that he was a prisoner and had to be escorted to the bathroom to urinate. No one would escort him, and nature prevailed as Ludendorff relented and went to the urinal by himself. Soon afterward, Ludendorff was released.
Hitler had not shot himself as he had promised, and two days after the coup he too was arrested, and soon he was released. Ludendorff, Hitler and others were charged with treason and ordered to stand trial, which was to take place in March, 1924. Kahr and Lossow retired from public life. Bavaria began rebuilding its links to the federal government, and Bavaria's new government kept in place Kahr's ban against the National Socialists.
Copyright © 1998-2011 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.