Today’s Pushy Yet Truly Morbid Fact!
Germany in November 1923 was in chaos. The inflation that had been growing steadily since the Great War was completely out of control. In Berlin, a single loaf of bead cost 201,000 million marks. The streets of Germany’s cities were thronged with unemployed workers, and hitherto prosperous middle class people were suddenly made paupers as money lost nearly all value. Throughout the country extremists of right and left were calling for the overthrow of the central German government in Berlin and for a new revolutionary government in its place.
On the evening of November 8, an unusually large and influential crowd filled Munich’s largest beer hall, the Bürgerbräukeller (‘Citizen’s Beer Hall’). It included the commander of the army in Bavaria, General Otto von Lossow, and the state’s police chief, Colonel Hans von Seisser. They had gathered to hear a speech by the right-wing head of Bavaria’s state government, Gustav von Kahr, on the moral justification for dictatorship. Lossow, Seisser and Kahr were the state’s most powerful men. Also present was Adolf Hitler, leader of the National Socialist or Nazi party, one of the many far-right political groups that had sprung up in post-war Bavaria.
Suddenly, at 8:30 pm, shortly after Kahr had begun his speech, one of Hitler’s lieutenants, Herman Göring, burst into the hall. He was followed by 25 armed, brown-shirted supporters – members of the Nazis’ stormtrooper force, the Sturmabteilungen or SA. Hitler jumped onto a chair and fired a shot at the ceiling. ‘The national revolution has begun,’ he shouted. ‘This hall is occupied by 600 heavily armed men. No one may leave the hall.’ He then forced Kahr, Lossow and Seisser into another room.
For several months Hitler had been calling on Kahr and his colleagues to support him in overthrowing Germany’s republican government. He now informed the three men that he and his ally, the Great War veteran General Erich Ludendorff, had already formed a new German government, with Hitler as dictator. Influenced by Mussolini’s march on Rome the year before, he demanded support for a similar march on Berlin and in installing the new regime.
The Munich, or ‘Beer Hall,’ Putsch was soon over. Hitler’s three captives agreed to back him, but once released alerted Berlin. The next day Hitler, Ludendorff and a column of supporters marched through Munich. At the Feldherrnhalle war memorial in the center, they encountered a police cordon. A shot was fired (nobody knows by whom) starting a shoot-out which left three police officers and 16 Nazis dead.
One police shot very nearly changed the course of history. A demonstrator marching arm in arm with Hitler was mortally wounded, dislocating Hitler’s shoulder as he fell. Ludendorff, like the general he was, marched proudly on. But he was alone. Hitler picked himself up and fled, only to be arrested three days later. He was given the minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment, yet was released after nine months. Hitler used the time profitably, dictating the first chapters of his political testament Mein Kampf to the ever- faithful Rudolph Hess.
The Morbid Sightseers among us will be saddened to learn that the Bürgerbräukeller survived a bombing (attempted assassination of Hitler) and the war only to be demolished in 1979.
Traces of Evil
Traces of Evil is an invaluable resource for Morbid Sightseers. It is a collection of sites of Nazi infamy put together by a history instructor. Fascinating stuff.