A highly detailed study of Hitler’s failed putsch of Nov. 8, 1923, in Munich and the trial that “catapulted this relatively minor local leader onto the national stage.”
In an astute work of scholarship and vivid narrative of vying personalities and power, Kentucky-based historian King (Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris, 2011, etc.) chronicles the ill-planned, audacious attempt by a small but growing right-wing party of disaffected thugs to seize the reins of Bavarian government. Harnessing the postwar disillusionment with the “peace of shame,” crippling reparations, hyperinflation, fall of the monarchy, and rise of a Socialist republic for the first time in German history, a number of right-wing groups emerged in the early 1920s, specifically Munich’s “anti-republic, anti-parliament, anti-Communist, and anti-Semitic” National Socialist Party. Hitler was known as “a speaker who could fill the beer halls and whip the throngs into a frenzy.” Seizing the moment—and backed by the party’s paramilitary wing, the well-regarded war hero Gen. Erich Ludendorff, and Hitler’s own band of murderous bodyguards—he did just that at Munich’s Bürgerbräukeller. In three parts, King illuminates this dark saga: first, the actual putsch, which entailed the party’s taking of Bavarian government officials as hostages and storming the war ministry only to be removed by the Munich police when no real plan for a march on Berlin emerged; second, the monthlong Munich trial itself, which largely tapped into public sympathy for Hitler and his theories, resulting in a conviction for “high treason” yet a jail sentence that allowed him to be released on parole after eight and a half months; and finally, his incarceration in a fairly luxurious cell in Landsberg Prison, where he was celebrated as a hero and managed to write the propaganda tome that would launch the Nazi Party’s apotheosis, Mein Kampf.
A meticulously researched, deeply instructive work with great relevance for our current era of right-wing resurgence.