The Beer Hall Putsch was the failed attempt to topple the Bavarian government by a group of Nazi Party members, led by Adolf Hitler and Generalquartiermeister Erich Ludendorff. It took place between November 8 and November 9, 1923, in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. The Beer Hall Putsch had been inspired by Benito Mussolini’s successful March on Rome. In the same way, Hitler and other important party members planned to use Munich as a base for a big march against Germany’s Weimar Republic government in Berlin.
At the end of World War I, German power and prestige had been destroyed, especially after the signature of the Treaty of Versailles. In September 1923, the Chancellor of the Weimar Republic, Gustav Stresemann, came to the conclusion that the only way to cope with German hyperinflation, unimployment and other economic problems, which were rampant at that time, was to comply with the demands imposed by such peace treaty and to cooperate with the French. To the German nationalists this was an act of treason and an admittance of guilt for initiating the Great War. Thus, this admittance of guilt brought with it the punishment of reparations.
On the evening of November 8, 1923, Hitler, along with a large detachment of SA, marched on the Bürgerbräukeller, a Munich beer hall where the Bavarian government commissioner, Gustav von Kahr, was delivering a speech in front of 3,000 people. About 550 SA troops surrounded the beer hall as a machine gun was set up pointing at the auditorium doors. Hitler and his associates Erich Ludendorff, Ernst Röhm, Hermann Göring, Alfred Rosenberg, Heinrich Himmler, Rudolf Hess, Ulrich Graf, Adolf Lenk, and others, burst through the doors at 8:30 pm, pushing their way laboriously through the crowd. Hitler fired a shot into the ceiling, jumped on a chair and yelled: “The national revolution has broken out! The hall is filled with six hundred men. Nobody is allowed to leave.”
Adolf Hitler demanded von Kahr and his followers to join him and support his putsch. Von Kahr replied that he could not be expected to collaborate, especially as he had been taken out of the auditorium under heavy guard. That night was marked by confusion and unrest among government officials, armed forces and police units, and individuals deciding where their loyalties lay. In the meantime, a rebel group led by Captain Ernst Röhm marched to its assigned objective, the Bavarian headquarters of the German Army, occupying the building as they set up barbed wire barricades around it. Meanwhile, other group of rebels led by Ludendorff marched to the Bavarian Defence Ministry but could not take it as they met a force of 100 soldiers blocking the way under the command of State Police Senior Lieutenant Baron Michael von Godin who opened fire, killing several rebels.
It had been a long an tense night, punctuated by conflicting reports of the putsch’s progress. With the morning came cause for real worry as loyalist forces had surrounded the occupied army headquarters with armored cars and riflemen. The loyalists aimed the weapons at the rebels but did not at once open fire, after all, men on both sides of the barbed wire had shared the rigor of the Great War. For the moment there was stalemate.
Late that morning it seemed the balance would tilt in favor of the rebels. The leaders of the coup, Hitler and Ludendorff, at the head of 3,000 men, marched to relieve Röhm’s group. But by then, disorganization had doomed the uprising. The officials of the Bavarian government had erroneously been released and were working actively to put down the revolt. A sudden intense exchange of gunfire sent Hitler and his cohorts scurrying for cover. Isolated, the group at army headquarters had no choice but to surrender. All told, twenty men on both sides lay dead or mortally wounded. Röhm was arrested as was Hitler.
The Nazi Party headquarters were raided, and its newspaper, The People’s Observer, was banned. Hitler’s trial began on February 26, 1924. He and Hess were both sentenced to five years in fortress confinement for treason. Although he was found guilty, Ernst Röhm was released. Ludendorff was acquitted due to his story that he was there by accident along with his war service and connections.