Munich, Germany · February 26, 1932

On this date in 1932 in Germany, Austrian-born Adolf Hitler was granted Ger­man citi­zen­ship. A decade earlier the Austrian was the unlikely leader of a fringe Populist-nationalist move­ment, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. In Novem­ber 1923 he led a “beer-hall putsch” in the Bavarian capital, Munich, hoping to spur dis­satis­fied ele­ments in the Ger­man army to bring down the national govern­ment in Berlin, the so-called Wei­mar Republic. The putsch was im­me­di­ately sup­pressed by Bava­rian autho­rities. Hitler was arrested and sen­tenced to five years in Bava­ria’s Lands­berg prison for high trea­son. In a comfor­table cell he dic­tated his crack­pot auto­bio­graphy, Mein Kampf, to fellow in­mate Rudolf Hess and polished his already con­sid­er­able ora­to­rical skills. In late Decem­ber 1924 Bava­rian author­i­ties, pres­sured by Hitler’s sup­porters, par­doned and released their pri­soner early “for good be­havior.” Six years later, in 1930, the ex-convict and his National Socialist (Nazi) party had emerged as key players in shaping a coali­tion govern­ment under Ger­man Presi­dent Paul von Hinden­burg. The World War I hero, a living, wheezing link to Ger­many’s glory days under the Kaiser, despised “that Bohe­mian cor­poral.” Hitler’s apti­tude, the former Field Marshall said, would con­sign him at best to being a lowly post­master gen­eral. With newly minted citi­zen­ship and the right to hold public office in Germany, Hitler could com­mand a high cabi­net post now that his party, following the July 1932 elec­tions, con­trolled a rela­tive majority of parlia­men­tary seats in the Reichstag (Ger­man parlia­ment). Though the Nazis lost seats in Novem­ber that year, Hinden­burg ate his words and appointed the 43-year-old former cor­poral to the second highest office in the land, that of German Chan­cellor, on Jan­u­ary 30, 1933. Hinden­burg hoped that the mod­er­ate mem­bers of Hitler’s cabinet, in which Hitler’s National Socialists were a minority, would act as a restraining influence on the powerful new political leader. But with­in months Hitler had turned tables on the German presi­dent. Shortly after the Reich­stag building erupted in flames on the night of Feb­ruary 27, 1933, Hitler assumed ab­so­lute power through a series of En­abling Acts signed by the dod­dering Hinden­burg. In August 1934 Hinden­burg suc­cumbed to old age and Ger­many’s parlia­men­tary sys­tem of repre­sen­tative govern­ment (or what was left of it) suc­cumbed, in turn, to Hitler, leaving the Nazi leader at the helm of a nation he steered toward bestial savagery, genocidal war, and apocalyptic ruin.

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Hitler and His Nazi Supporters Attempt to Seize Control of the Bavarian State Govern­ment, November 8–9, 1923

Nazis gather in the Bürgerbräukeller, ca. 1923Nazis take city council members hostage

Left: A 1923 gathering of National Socialist German Workers’ Party mem­bers in the Buerger­braeu­keller, a Munich beer hall. Large beer halls in southern Ger­many were popu­lar gathering places for local poli­ti­cians, the gen­eral public, and spirited de­bate. Between 1920 and 1923, the Nazis were fond of holding party rallies at the Buerger­braeu­keller because it could accom­mo­date over 1,800 people.

Right: A Nazi strike team (Stosstrupp), shown in this photo from Novem­ber 9, 1923, took nine Munich City Coun­cil mem­bers hostage and locked them up in the Buerger­braeu­keller. Munich was to have been the base for Hitler and his asso­ci­ates to march on Berlin to bring down Ger­many’s Wei­mar Republic government.

Munich’s Marienplatz on November 9, 1923Accused participants of Munich’s Beer Hall Putsch, April 1, 1924

Left: Munich’s Marienplatz and the Rathaus during the failed Beer Hall Putsch, Novem­ber 9, 1923. Around two thousand men, some armed and transported in trucks, assembled on Marienplatz.

Right: Group photo of the participants of Munich’s Beer Hall Putsch (also known as the Hitler-Luden­dorff Putsch) stand in front of a Bava­rian court­house, accused by autho­ri­ties of high treason. Hitler in civil­ian attire, hat in left hand, stands to the left of Gen. Erich Luden­dorff, a promi­nent nationalist leader during the Wei­mar Republic. Photo taken by Hein­rich Hoff­mann, Hitler’s personal photo­grapher, April 1, 1924.

Hitler’s Brazen Beer Hall Putsch, November 1923