MUNICH 1923: The First Full Story of Hitler's Early Grab for Power by John Dornberg

MUNICH 1923: The First Full Story of Hitler's Early Grab for Power

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Hitler's famous 1923 beer hall putsch has all the trappings of a farce--and also, in light of the lives lost and later consequences, a kind of macabre seriousness. Dornberg, an ex-Time correspondent (and current YA author), recreates the events of November 8 and 9 in a minutely detailed, documentary fashion; hence, presumably, ""The First Full Story. . . ."" The main threads have been known for some time, however, and were tied together in Harold Gordon, Jr.'s scholarly Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch (1972). Still, Dornberg's color has its place--notably in conveying the confusion as to sides within a rightist universe opposed to the central government. Thus, late at night, two speeding groups of armed men cross paths. One is commanded by Gregor Strasser, leader of Hitler's SA; the other, a police detachment, is headed by his brother-in-law Georg Hofler. Asked if he's on the side of the putsch, Hofler doesn't ""know yet""; he's on his way to get his orders. (He wasn't.) Why the confusion? When Hitler botched his big moment in the beer hall, where he had gone to declare the Bavarian government's overthrow, he upset a tacit agreement between various shades of right-wingers. Hitler and former chief of staff Ludendorff assumed that Bavarian state commissioner Karh, the evening's speaker, and his two fellow-leaders would throw in their lot with the rebels. And they might have. But Kahr was insulted to think that he was being coerced at gunpoint; and, after Hitler misguidedly left the hall on a trivial errand, Kahr and his colleagues gave their word to the honorable, gullible Ludendorff and walked out. They then organized resistance to the putsch, using state police and some national army forces, and the next day put it down in a bloody confrontation in which 14 putschists and four state police were killed. (In the melee, Hitler suffered a dislocated shoulder.) Hitler and his co-conspirators were arrested--Strasser by his brother-in-law--and went to jail. But, as Dornberg shows, the crowd was with the losers--sowing the seeds for what was to come years later. Overdramatized, yes; boring, no.

Pub Date: Sept. 29th, 1982
Publisher: Harper & Row