December 28, 2016

1923. The New York Times on Hitler's Failed Beer Hall Putsch

"Hitler an Alien Agitator"
An NSDAP meeting in 1923 at the Munich Bürgerbräukeller, the site of the Beer Hall Putsch (Photo by Heinrich Hoffmannsource)
This article is part of a series of posts on how The New York Times covered the rise and fall of fascism in Europe.

From The New York Times, November 10, 1923:
A Sign Painter from Austria, He Built Up Bavarian Fascisti
The ease with which the Bavarian Government overcame the Fascista "putsch" goes to show that even the name of Ludendorff was not sufficient to make up for the defections of Adolph Hitler's boasted "black" battalions. They were ready, and many reports say they were as formidable as their propaganda pictured—on Sept. 27; but when, on that day, the new Dictator, von Kahr, forbade their meetings, and the promised rising of the National Socialists, as Hitler called his reactionary party, did not take place, they began to forsake the emblem of the swastika.

Adolph Hitler has had a varied, but only for the last year a particularly adventurous, career. He is not a Bavarian at all, nor even a German of Germany. He was born in a suburb of Vienna about 39 years ago and was a sign painter when the World War started, besides being a Lieutenant in the reserve. His Bavarian citizenship dates only from June 13, 1923, when he was beginning to be called "the most impressive man in Germany," having in the previous November organized the Bavarian Fascisti, with centuries, legions, etc., on the Italian model, from the National Socialists, a party he had begun to recruit from Bavarian veterans of the war as early as January, 1922, when he first came to Munich.

He served in the Austrian Army during the war, was demobilized with the rest of the troops and tried to resume his vocation of sign painting. It was soon discovered that he had a gift for demagogic oratory, was blest with limitless energy, which might prove dangerous in a country which asked nothing but to rehabilitate herself, and so he was sent as a propagandist—but under whose auspices it is not known—into the Principality of Liechtenstein, lying between Austrian Vorarlberg and the Swiss cantons of St. Gall and Graubünden, there to preach union with Austria.

When his remittances ceased to arrive from Vienna he went to Munich and there found a ready field for a political program which he presently conceived. There he played upon the Bavarians' jealousy of Prussia, which had whipped both Bavaria and Austria in the twelve-weeks war of 1866, and upon the general feeling that the Berlin Government, whatever it might call itself, was still under Communist influence, whether this influence was exercised by the profiteering industrialists or the mobs they were said to control. Also he found encouragement for his anti-Semitic sentiments, which he had cultivated both in Vienna and in Liechtenstein.

With the success of the Italian Fascista movement a year ago his organization became an established fact. It was confessedly destructive, however, whereas that in Italy was constructive. He opened headquarters in Munich, and money for his cause began to flow in. So much came—or was said to come—that his enemies began to look among the American millionaires for his backer. Although the name of Henry Ford was frequently mentioned, there is no proof that anything more was received from him than the inspiration Hitler and his friends could gain from the portrait of the American, which adorned the walls of the headquarters in Munich.

From November, 1922, until January, 1923, he made many speeches and supervised the drilling of hundreds of Bavarian youths. In January he added to his slogan, which until then had been "Down with Sovietism and Jewish domination!" the words: "Away with the French, the invaders!" In March he staged a grand mobilization of his Fascisti in the Bavarian mountains, in which, according to his propaganda circulars, 10,000 took part. There was talk then of marching on Berlin and of a triumphal march thence down the Ruhr.

The Berlin Government became alarmed in April and there were several conversations between it and the Bavarian Premier. Then the latter's Minister of Justice visited Berlin and informed the authorities of the Reich that they must not believe all that was printed in the Völkischer Beobachter, which was the paper Hitler had started in Munich, and in which he had stated on various occasions that he had trained a following of 100,000. He did have two centuries of well-uniformed, alert youngsters, who were always paraded when he was to make a speech, and last Summer his recruits may have reached the figure claimed by his paper, for he was a very popular man, and his program, in the circumstances, frequently produced the desired reaction. Just after the organization of his Fascisti he issued the proclamation:

"True socialism is the welfare of all the people, and not of one class at the expense of others. Therefore, we oppose class warfare. What is today called socialism is Marxism, and not socialism at all. Marxism kills personal initiative and tries to bring everybody to a dead level. Capitalism has its proper place in true socialism, but capitalism must be held within bounds . . . Any reports about my intention to restore monarchy and separate Bavaria from Germany are maliciously false . . . As for the monarchy, Germany has greater and graver problems than the question of the personal interests of some throne-hunter, whoever he may be."

Just after he had failed to act on Sept. 27 he had an interview published in the Corriere Italiano of Rome, in which he discourage the Italian fear that his Fascisti, when successful in Bavaria, might turn south and attempt to free the German population in the upper Adige Valley or Southern Tyrol. He also said:

"Germany at present is the scene of a struggle between two opposing forces—Nationalism and Judaeo-Marxism. If the latter conquers there will stretch from Vladivostok to the Rhine a single Semitic empire ruled from Moscow. The Reichsbank is in the hands of international Jewish finance, and any credits accorded to Germany go into the pockets of this gang."
Government Not Inclined to Interfere in German Affairs
Rome, Nov. 9 — The Italian government is of the opinion that the Allies should not interfere in German movements unless they in some way violate the Treaty of Versailles. Thus Mussolini would probably resist any attempt to restore the Hohenzollern monarchy as he would any move to exploit nationalist movement sweeping over Germany further to evade payment of reparations. Until that time however the Italian foreign ministry believes that any attempt by Nationalists to seize power should be considered as purely internal German matter and therefore no concern of the Allies.

The whole of the Italian press counsels great caution in judging events in Bavaria, as their objects and their causes are not yet fully known. All newspapers, however, are unanimous in saying that the Bavarian revolt against the Berlin Government is the perfectly logical outcome of the situation in Germany. They hold that it is not remarkable that Germans should revolt against a form of government which they accepted with reluctance, now that it has proved incapable of averting the ruin of the Reich.

Other newspapers are of the opinion that present events in Germany are the direct outcome of the failure on the part of the Allies to accept President Wilson's famous fourteen points. As soon as Germany was rendered powerless the Allies, instead of keeping their word, proceeded with all possible haste to throw each one of Wilson's fourteen points overboard, they say. This, in their opinion, gives Germany just cause for dissatisfaction and lies at the root of much unrest which is disrupting the Reich at present. If President Wilson had been followed, Europe might be a different place to live in today, this argument concludes.