Munich, Germany February 26, 1932

On this date in 1932 in Germany, Austrian-born Adolf Hitler was granted German citi­zen­ship. A decade earlier the state­less Austrian (Hitler had formally renounced his Austrian citizen­ship in April 1925) 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 topple the four-year-old national govern­ment in Berlin, the so-called Weimar Republic (see video below). The putsch was imme­di­ately sup­pressed by Bava­rian autho­rities at the cost of more than a dozen Nazis, one bystander, and four Bava­rian police­men (the first of Hitler’s victims) who were killed on the Odeons­platz, in Munich’s city center. There a cordon of police confronted the marchers, some of whom were armed. The fickle­ness of fate saved Hitler from possi­bly being wounded or killed as police bullets tore into his body­guard and a nearby marcher, killing them and injuring many more. Among the seriously injured was Hitler’s future Luftwaffe chief, Her­mann Goering.

Hitler was arrested and sen­tenced to five years in Bava­ria’s Lands­berg prison for high trea­son. In a comfor­table cell the 36‑year-old con­victed terrorist polished his already con­sider­able ora­tori­cal skills and dic­tated his crack­pot auto­bio­gra­phi­cal screed, Mein Kampf (My Struggle), to fellow inmate Rudolf Hess. In two volumes Hitler laid out a blue­print for his party’s take­over of Germany and the country’s revenge it would take, with special atten­tion directed at German Jews, Social Demo­crats, and Com­mu­nists, in the wake of its humil­i­ating defeat in World War I and the burden­some Treaty of Ver­sailles. Not a publishing phenom­e­non at first, by 1945 the book had sold 10 million copies in Germany alone.

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 heavily bemedaled World War I hero—a living, wheezing link to Germany’s glory days under Kaiser Wilhelm II—despised “that Bohe­mian cor­poral.” (Hinden­burg knew of Hitler’s Aus­trian ances­try but enjoyed using the pejo­ra­tive adjec­tive “Bohe­mian” when refer­encing Hitler.) 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 voters had elected a plurality of Nazis to the Reichs­tag (German parlia­ment). Though the Nazis lost seats in Novem­ber that year, Hinden­burg ate his words and appointed the former lance cor­poral, at age 43, to the second highest office in the land, that of German Chancellor, on January 30, 1933.

Hindenburg had 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.

Munich Beer Hall Putsch: Hitler and His Nazi Supporters’ Failed Attempt to Seize Control of the Bavarian State Govern­ment, November 8–9, 1923

Hitler’s 1923 beer hall putsch: Nazis gather in the Bürgerbräukeller, ca. 1923Hitler’s 1923 beer hall putsch: Nazis 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, briefly took nine Munich City Coun­cil mem­bers hostage and locked them up in the Buerger­braeu­keller. Munich was to have been the base from which Hitler and his Nazi insur­rec­tionists were to march on Berlin to bring down Germany’s Weimar Republic govern­ment. Hitler’s foiled march was modeled on Benito Mussolini’s successful march on the Italian capital, Rome, by his National Fascist Party supporters a year earlier, in October 1922.

Hitler’s 1923 beer hall putsch: Munich’s Marienplatz on November 9, 1923Hitler’s 1923 beer hall putsch: Accused 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 before even­tually setting out to the Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshals’ Hall) on the Odeonsplatz.

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

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