A Brief History
On November 8, 1923, a World War I decorated disaffected and discontent German veteran led his Nazi Party followers in an unsuccessful coup against the German Weimar government, an event known to history as The Munich Beer Hall Putsch. The failure of this attempted coup resulted in Adolf Hitler being convicted of treason and sentenced to prison where he wrote his Nazi bible, Mein Kampf. Despite a five year sentence, Hitler served only 9 months in jail and on his release resumed his quest for power at the head of the Nazi Party. Would Hitler and the Nazis have ended up in power without this experience? Maybe, maybe not. That is more grist for the “What If” mill. As it was, the Nazis and Hitler did take power in 1933 and before being deposed in 1945 had caused a war that cost more lives than any other war in history (perhaps 60 to 80 million lives).
November 8, 1923 became a sacred date in the timeline of Nazi history, and on the 10 year anniversary of this event, in 1933, the Nazi propaganda machine released the Munich exhibition, Der Ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew).
Hitler and the Nazi Party had taken control of Germany in 1933, and this degenerate exhibition of art depicting Jews in stereotypical and unflattering ways (cartoonishly ridiculous caricatures) set the tone for the Nazi vision of eventually attempting to eradicate Jews from Germany and Europe. This was just one of the many events designed to create anti-Jewish fervor among the German people as a tool to unite the masses behind the Nazi Party and Hitler. Over 2 million Germans attended the exhibition! Seriously, with such huge attendance the world had to take note of this bizarre preoccupation with anti-Jewish government sanctioned hate. And yet, civilized world powers did nothing to prevent the tragedy that would follow. The Nazi regime (Reich) managed to kill around 6 million Jews before the war was over.
On November 8, 1939, shortly after World War II in Europe had started, Hitler and top Nazi officials were in Munich for the annual Beer Hall Putsch anniversary, when a leftist trade unionist (carpenter) German failed in his plot to blow up the top Nazis, including Hitler. Johann Georg Elser, then 30 years old, saw Hitler and his henchmen as sure to bring war and doom to Germany, and thought the only way to solve this situation would be to kill these top Nazis. Interestingly, he later stated he did not mean to topple the Nazi regime, just get rid of the extremist Nazi leadership. Elser scoped out the site of the annual remembrance ceremonies in Munich in 1938, taking photos and planning his attack. Over the next year he worked in an armaments factory and over time stole a large quantity of explosive cartridges and detonators. Elser built and tested bombs, and when satisfied with his design, went to Munich and staged his hidden bomb a week in advance. On November 4 and 5, 1939, Elser attended a dance party at the site, allowing him to place the clock timers on the explosives. On November 6, Elser left for Stuttgart so as not to be in the area when the great event took place. Hitler and his entourage ruined Elser’s careful plans by starting and stopping Hitler’s speech earlier than scheduled because of war planning pressing concerns. Only 13 minutes after Hitler and his buddies left, the bomb exploded as planned, with the expected force, and killed 8 people with another 63 injured. Casualties would have been higher, but many people had cleared the area when Hitler left. Hitler took his lucky escape as a sign from Providence proving he was chosen to lead Germany. Elser was arrested later that night and imprisoned, but not executed until April 9, 1945 in Dachau concentration camp, just before the end of the war in Europe. The Nazi government used the failed assassination attempt as an excuse to blame British spies for complicity in the plot.
The Nazi Germans and Adolf Hitler are remembered by history as one of the most iconic Evil Regimes to have existed. If Germany did not lose World War I, perhaps there would have been no Nazis and no Hitler. If Hitler had been killed during the Beer Hall Putsch, or if it had been successful, things may well have gone quite differently. If Elser and his bomb had been successful, the course of World War II may have been dramatically different. Question for students (and subscribers): Perhaps you would like to weigh in on some of the “What Ifs” involved? Please feel free to share your thoughts on this subject in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Charles River Editors. The Beer Hall Putsch: The History and Legacy of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party’s Failed Coup Attempt in 1923. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015.
Pridham, Geoffrey. Hitler’s Rise to Power: The Nazi Movement in Bavaria 1923-33. Lume Books, 2016.