Today in History: Hitler fails attempted coup (Beer Hall Putsch)
Hitler is focused on quite often in any sort of historical recounting of the early 20th century and we all know why that is. However, the global "history books" tend to look more at the aspects of the man once he already was in power rather than the various steps that took place on his way to that position. The Beer Hall Putsch is one of these events and while I know this is a "Captain Hindsight" moment - had these events turned out just a little bit different, the global 30's and 40's could have been significantly changed.
The year was 1923
I bet you can't guess which one is Adolf!
Before we go any further, you should know that "putsch" is simply a German word that means "coup d'etat" or basically an attempt to overthrow a government by force.
Beer halls were massive pubs basically, and while I have only ever attended a replica in an amusement park in USA they were quite impressive structures. Just imagine a place where hundreds or even thousands of people gathered to drink beer and socialize. These forums were also where national or even global issues were discussed - most of the time with civility.
Hitler's presentation that night was anything but civil and mostly it was filled with lies. However, as I am sure you are aware Hitler has been well documented as being a tremendous speaker and people were drawn to his charisma.
He originally took the podium in this beer hall (called "Bürgerbräukeller" - which was demolished in the 70's) by firing a gun and demanding silence. Germans then (and now, some would argue) are not easily frightened but the fact that Hitler had brought a rather large group of armed soldiers with him as well as a highly-respected General, Erich Ludendorff, convinced the large crowd to bend their collective ear.
They had specifically chosen this location because it was known that many of the current political leaders of Munich would be in attendance. The idea was that they would kidnap these leaders and force them to swear loyalty to Hitler, and thereby take over the government of Bavaria, gain momentum, and eventually seize power of the entire country.
Once the floor was yielded to Adolf, he proclaimed:
None of this was true of course, but such is the power of propaganda. Hitler's message, however, did resonate with a great many in attendance, and they joined the march in the streets towards the government buildings along with the attendees of several other beer halls (there were many other things that happened in-between but I'm trying to condense this.)
it's like a really easy "Where's Waldo"
Things got messy when Hitler's group encountered over 100 soldiers and police who were organized to stop the march. On their way to the Defense Ministry shots were fired by both sides and 4 police officers and 16 Nazis were killed.
This is where the first thing happened that could have changed the outcome of the next 20 years: Hitler's bodyguard jumped on top of him and absorbed multiple gunshots - likely saving his life.
The group of nearly 3000 marchers were dispersed or arrested, but Hitler had been rushed away in a car to a friend's house. This is where the 2nd thing that could have changed history happened: Hitler, facing a defeat that he he spent a great deal of time planning, was going to commit suicide. The Hanfstaengl family (his friends) spent days talking him out of doing so.
In 3 days Hitler was arrested and was set to face trial for high treason and this is where another big mistake was made that almost certainly molded the mindset of Germany into one that was eventually willing to hand over power over to Hitler.
The powers that be at the time had hoped to make Hitler look like a villain during the trial and therefore massive press was allowed at the 24-day proceedings. True to what we know about the man today, he was so charismatic and selective with the words he used in his defense, that the population, a majority of people in attendance and even 2 of the 3 judges agreed with Hitler. The main judge reportedly had to spend quite a deal of time convincing the other 2 to find him guilty at all and was only able to do so if an extremely light sentence with a very early chance of parole was the eventuality.
He also received a very nice cell, was allowed to receive gifts, and was also able to have visitors anytime he wanted. He utilized this time to author Mein Kampf as well as plan his actions upon his release. Being found guilty of treason normally could have a much harsher sentence than 5 years associated with it (up to life) and it certainly isn't something that a person would be released from their relatively luxurious (and free) accommodation in a period of just nine months. However, this is precisely what happened.
A previously relatively unknown man was now known around the world. During his trial he captured a nation-wide audience that had never even heard of him. His patriotic message resonated with a great deal of the population and as strange as it sounds, Hitler's conviction of treason is likely the main reason behind how the national Nazi party gained widespread appeal and of course lead to the terrible outcome that we are all so familiar with today.
It all began today, nearly 100 years ago.