Germany between two wars. Kapp Putsch

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Germany between two wars. Kapp Putsch
Streets of Berlin after the end of the war

This article continues the consideration of the political and social situation in a very difficult time - the period after the end of the bloody November revolution in Germany and the Weimar Republic, which had just begun to take its first steps.


War invalid on a Berlin street

The new democratic order established in Germany after the November Revolution was not accepted by the regular military, since for the generals and officers of the surviving Reichswehr, Wilhelm II, who left the country, still remained the personification of the power of Germany.




People in need for free food

For the generals and officers of the Reichswehr, the newly created Weimar Republic, with its elements of democracy, was unnatural in nature, and they looked at it as an organization of state administration alien to them, with which neither they nor Germany had any historical and deep connections.


Free food distribution on the streets of Berlin

The German military, with the exception of General Wilhelm Groener (1867–1939), did not approve of the establishment of a republic and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, although they swore an oath to the new government to maintain a democratic order. However, the Reichswehr, which, according to the new German constitution, was subordinate only to the president, actually remained uncontrolled and eventually turned into an independent and active political force that secretly opposed the democratic system of the Weimar Republic and talked about a stab in the back*, arguing that Germany lost the war only because all the efforts of the Reichswehr were undermined by rootless populist left politicians in the rear.


Illustration of a stab in the back in the German press

The German military was a serious political force in the new democratic republic and had a significant impact on the socio-political life in the country. And even despite the constitutional ban for people in military uniform on any political activity and the so-called construction policy declared by the generals. "apolitical Reichswehr", the officer corps was forced to interact with the political life of Weimar Germany. This was required by the need to represent the interests of the armed forces in the Reichstag and the government.


Meeting of the government of the Weimar Republic

After the November Revolution and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, the German military, Junkers and some circles of the big bourgeoisie believed that it was necessary to create a new government in Germany, which should openly embark on the path of canceling the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, shameful for Germany, and not allow the reduction of its armed forces. This group also advocated the restoration of the military-industrial potential of Germany.


Reichswehr soldiers and Freikorps volunteers on the streets of Berlin

A large Prussian landowner (Junker) Wolfgang Kapp, director of the East Prussian Land Bank and one of the leaders of the Pan-German Union, who took an extremely revanchist position, was scheduled to head such a government, and the headquarters of the Berlin-Brandenburg military district was chosen as the source of the upcoming rebellion, headed by General Walther von Lüttwitz (1859–1942).


Wolfgang Kapp (left) and Walter von Lüttwitz (right)

The immediate reason for the putsch was the reduction of the armed forces and the liquidation of volunteer corps (Freikorps) under the terms of the Versailles Peace Treaty.**. By the beginning of 1920, the German army (Reichswehr) numbered, according to German official data, 400 thousand people, and by July 1920 it had to be reduced to 100 thousand people. The government of F. Ebert, following the path of the "policy of implementation", agreed with the demand of the allies to reduce the Reichswehr to the amount prescribed by the treaty.


First Reich President of Germany F. Ebert

This position of the government and Reich President F. Ebert regarding the strict observance of all the conditions of the Versailles Peace Treaty, and hence the massive reduction of the German armed forces, and the dissolution of most of the volunteer detachments, led to a confrontation between the central government and the anti-government military. Many regular military and Freikorps volunteers considered this a betrayal by the government.


Reichswehr soldiers and Freikorps volunteers on the streets of Berlin

Such friction with the authorities caused sharp discontent in military circles and served as a pretext for a speech known as the Kapp Putsch (Kapp-Lutwitz Putsch).

This rebellion of the military and volunteer corps had a very serious impact on the foreign policy position of the young Weimar Republic. On the one hand, he showed the victorious countries, the former allies in the Entente, the German determination to implement the Treaty of Versailles, on the other hand, the weakness of the existing form of government in Germany and the real danger of coming to power of circles opposed to the treaty.


Berlin streets

And if the Spartacus uprising (January uprising), which broke out in 1919, happened at a time of great instability and the world war that had just ended, was only the first test of the young republic and the newly created social democratic government, then the military putsch of March 1920 became alarming a signal for the government, which failed to show decisiveness and firmness at the right time.


Free food distribution on the streets of Berlin

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So, on March 10, 1920, the commander-in-chief of the Reichswehr in Berlin, General Walther von Lütwitz, came to the Reich President F. Ebert and presented him with an ultimatum, demanding to disperse the Reichstag, call new presidential elections, abandon the upcoming Reichswehr reduction, stop the transfer of equipment and weapons to the Entente and dismiss him from the Reichswehr generals loyal to the Weimar Republic.


Reichswehr soldiers and Freikorps volunteers on the streets of Berlin

F. Ebert refused to comply with these demands, but for some reason did not give the order to arrest the conspirators, and in the late evening of March 12, 1920, 5 soldiers from the Volunteer Brigade (Freikorps) under the command of Hermann Ehrhardt (000-1881) - a brigade that should be disbanded first in accordance with the Versailles restrictions - launched an offensive against Berlin. No wonder that General V. Luttwitz found full support and understanding from G. Ehrhardt. Among the military leaders, only General Reinhard was ready to oppose the putschists.


Hermann Erhardt (1881–1971)

The leaders of the Reichswehr, summoned to F. Ebert - the head of the military administration (disguised General Staff), General Hans von Sect and Major Kurt von Schleicher, who served as a link between the army and the politicians of the Weimar Republic - stated that

"The Reichswehr will not fight against the Reichswehr."

Thus, the government troops offered no resistance, and on March 13 the conspirators entered the capital without hindrance.


Hans von Seeckt (left) and Kurt von Schleicher (right)

Seizure of power



Reichswehr and Freikorps on the streets of Berlin. The swastika appears for the first time

Defense Minister Gustav Noske had only 2 men to resist the putschists. Mr. Noske tried to contact the police and security personnel, but they themselves joined the coup.


Defense Minister of the Weimar Republic Gustav Noske

The putschists occupied government buildings and announced the formation of a government headed by Wolfgang Kapp and Walter von Luttwitz. The new government annulled the Weimar constitution and dissolved parliament.


Putschists on the streets of Berlin

The complete seizure of power by the putschists, carried out on the morning of March 13, 1920 in Berlin, did not meet with any resistance - everything happened easily and bloodlessly.

This was stated by the self-proclaimed Reich Chancellor Wolfgang Kapp in his first address to the people, who then invited Kaiser Wilhelm II to return from the Netherlands to resume his post as emperor.


Putschists on the streets of Berlin

The Social Democratic government, not recognizing its deposition, evacuated to the west of the country, first to Dresden, and then finally stopped in Stuttgart, trying to stop the putsch from there, and called on the Berlin workers to strike.

Such helplessness of state administration in the recently created Weimar Republic at that moment was not accidental. The state authorities refused to function, and not yet firmly on its feet
the administrative machine gave serious failures, and the defenselessness of the authorities became an actual fact. Parts of the army and police, located in the eastern regions of Germany, not only remained inactive, but in some cases went over to the side of the rebels.


Putschists could be found among many sections of the civilian population in many parts of Germany. However, common to all of them was a principled anti-government attitude and right-wing ideological orientation.

rebellion resistance


Later, the Reich President of the German Republic, Friedrich Ebert, sent an appeal to the population asking for help in the fight against the nationalist uprising. He called on the nation to oppose the putschists:

"Beat! Quit your job and strangle this military dictatorship! Fight with anyone weaponsto save the Republic! Put aside any division. There is only one means to achieve this goal: the paralysis of all economic life. Not a single hand should move, the worker should not help the military dictatorship. General strike across the line! Proletarians, unite!


Berlin newspaper of those days

However, this confrontation did not result in an open confrontation with the use of weapons, and the problem of the rebellion was resolved differently: with the help of agitation and a general political strike announced by the fled government and trade unions.


Leaflet dated 13 March 1920 calling for a strike

Unlike the Social Democratic government that had fled to Stuttgart, the leaders of the German trade unions refused to flee, and the German trade union and politician Karl Legien called on the workers to go on a general strike.

As Chris Harman, author of The Lost Revolution (1982), noted:

“The call had an immediate effect. It was sent out at 11 am on the day of the coup, on Saturday 13 March. By noon the strike had already begun. Its effects were felt throughout the capital for 24 hours, despite the fact that it was Sunday. There were no trains, no electricity or gas. Kapp issued a decree threatening to shoot the strikers. It didn't work. By Monday, the strike is spreading all over the country - in the Ruhr, Saxony, Hamburg, Bremen, Bavaria, the industrial villages of Thuringia, even in the landlord estates of rural Prussia.


Putschists on the streets of Berlin

It became obvious that the new regime was meeting strong opposition among the German population, and the reaction of parts of the Reichswehr outside Berlin expected by the new authorities was ambiguous: some supported the coup, while others remained loyal to the government of F. Ebert, and still others were waiting for how it would all turn out.

Many regions of Germany refused to recognize the authority of the government of W. Kapp, in places even battles broke out between army units and anti-militarist left-wingers. Within a short time, despite the absence of newspapers, word of a general strike had spread, and the stoppage of work in Berlin had become almost universal.


Trams did not run, and by noon the movement of buses and metro stopped. In the evening it was dark in the city, and all hotels and restaurants were closed. There was no gas, electricity or even water; newspapers were not published, only telephone communication remained.


This led to the collapse of the putsch, which officially ended at XNUMX p.m. on Wednesday, in less than five days, and the restoration of the Weimar government. After that, Wolfgang Kapp announced his resignation and fled to Sweden, and the power of the government of F. Ebert was soon restored throughout the country.

Louis L. Snyder, an American scientist who was a firsthand witness to this rebellion, stated:

"The strike was effective because without water, gas, electricity and transport, Berlin was paralyzed."


And Richard M. Watt, author of The Departure of the Kings: The Tragedy of Germany—Versailles and the German Revolution (1973), writes:

"The Kapp Putsch was brought to an end by the combination of Chancellor Kapp's utter incompetence and the astonishing effectiveness of the general strike called for by the socialists."


Wolfgang Kapp flees on a plane

This coup electrified the whole country. From Berlin, the strike spontaneously spread through the Ruhr, Central Germany and reached Bavaria. The countermovement was such that in almost every city and town the military was driven out by massive demonstrations by workers and the middle class.

Ruhr uprising


In response to the armed takeover of Berlin by the Kapp putschists, a general strike broke out in the Ruhr, where the workers of the Ruhr issued demands that went beyond the republican goals and the general strike.

From March 10 to March 21, there were fights between workers and putschists in the Ruhr. Detachments of the Red Army began to spontaneously form in the region, the number of which reached 80 thousand people, fully equipped with modern weapons and artillery. And already on March 19, Red Army units completely occupied the city of Essen and put the Reichswehr to flight. And these armed workers, who had succeeded in driving out the Freikorps and the Reichswehr forces, now refused to lay down their arms, as demanded by the central government.

The new coalition government, under the leadership of Social Democratic Party member Hermann Müller, decided to send government troops, who had previously refused to fight Kapp, to restore order in the Ruhr, which they did, willingly and with great brutality.

April 2-3 parts of the Reichswehr (more than 100 thousand people), police and freikorps with the support aviation and armored cars crushed the resistance of the weakly armed Red Army.


Herman Müller

At the same time, government troops lost about 250 people, while workers lost several thousand. And hundreds more were executed.

Information


*Legend of the stab in the back (Dolchstosslegende) - a conspiracy theory that existed in the Weimar Republic, explaining the defeat of Germany in the First World War by circumstances not of a military, but of an internal political nature. According to this statement, the German army emerged from the war undefeated, but received a "stab in the back" from the Jews and socialists in their homeland.

**Freikorps (free corps, volunteer corps). A paramilitary and independent patriotic unit made up of volunteer soldiers who oppose both the communists and the republic.
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  1. +10
    February 7 2023
    detachments of the Red Army were spontaneously formed, the number of which reached 80 thousand people, fully equipped with modern weapons and artillery.
    crushed the resistance of the weakly armed Red Army.
    How do you decide..
    1. +1
      February 7 2023
      Quote: parusnik
      resistance of the weakly armed Red Army.

      You probably read texts diagonally?
      1. +2
        February 7 2023
        You probably read texts diagonally?
        smile
      2. +5
        February 7 2023
        Quote: Luminman
        You probably read texts diagonally?

        Sorry, but I have the same question as the previous commenter.
        Hence
        From 10 to 21 March
        it
        detachments of the Red Army, the number of which reached 80 thousand people, fully equipped with modern weapons and artillery
        .
        А
        April 2-3
        the weakly armed Red Army.

        Moreover, the government troops did not have a special superiority in numbers 100 against 000
        Still, I would like clarity.
        1. +4
          February 7 2023
          Quote: svp67
          Still, I would like clarity.

          1. The Red Army had 80 thousand people only at the very peak of the fighting
          2. There is no need to compare armed workers with Reichswehr soldiers who have trained officers, aviation and armored vehicles
          3. Against the Red Army, in addition to the Reichswehr, the united Freikorps and the police acted
          4. The Red Army consisted not only of some communists. It was an alliance that included communists, social democrats, trade unions and God knows who else. When the putsch was crushed, most of them laid down their arms, considering their task completed.
          5. The Berlin government promised an amnesty to the workers, promising to punish only the instigators, and the Ruhr industrialists persuaded the workers to improve their social conditions.

          Something like this ...
          1. +1
            February 7 2023
            Quote: Luminman
            There is no need to compare armed workers with Reichswehr soldiers who have trained officers, aviation and armored vehicles

            I'm sorry, of course, but...
            In 1918, Germany lost the First World War, and in part V of the Treaty of Versailles, concluded in 1919, Germany undertook to limit the size and armament of its armed forces so that they were used only to maintain order within the country and to protect the state border. According to the instructions of the victorious powers in the First World War, in articles 159-213 of the treaty, the land armed forces of the country could be a maximum of 100 thousand people plus 15 thousand sailors. The General Staff was to be disbanded. Heavy weaponry such as artillery over 105mm (ship guns over 203mm), armored vehicles, submarines and capital ships were banned. Germany was also not allowed to have an air force. Until 1927, the regulations were under the control of the Inter-Allied Military Control Commission.
            So, the presence of "aircraft and tanks" can be called into BIG doubt. Here, apparently, they won with one ability to fight
            1. +3
              February 7 2023
              Quote: svp67
              So, the presence of "aircraft and tanks" can be called into BIG doubt

              Nothing like this! Germany has not yet had time to disarm. And her armored vehicles and aviation were in perfect order. So I quote: By the beginning of 1920, the German army (Reichswehr) numbered, according to German official data, 400 thousand people.
              1. +2
                February 7 2023
                Quote: Luminman
                So, I quote: By the beginning of 1920, the German army (Reichswehr) numbered, according to German official data, 400 thousand people

                And by the middle there were already 200, and by the beginning of 000 - 1921
                1. +2
                  February 7 2023
                  Quote: svp67
                  And by the middle there were already 200, and by the beginning of 000 - 1921

                  The Reichswehr, although it was a little reduced by this time, was quite in a cheerful state and even had hotheads to resist the Entente. But by 1924, the Reichswehr was finally "blown away" - there were not even machine guns ...
    2. +14
      February 7 2023
      How do you decide..
      Well, in the Ruhr province, yes, everything was fine with this business - the industry was developed, there were a lot of weapons. Again, the rich with bankers were forced to fork out .. But in other places everything was different.
      “I was in the same unit as my son-in-law. About 15 workers surrounded the barracks. We only had a few guns—a few carbines and hunting rifles we had confiscated from the farmers, but nothing more than that. The call of our combat leaders to the soldiers in the barracks to lay down their arms was rejected by the officers. They surrendered only after we turned off their water, and our commanders assured them that they could leave the barracks if they left their weapons ... "
      This is from the memoirs of Oscar Hippe, a very interesting comrade, whose personality is worthy of a separate article .. So it was different everywhere ..
  2. +14
    February 7 2023
    It is very possible that the "legend of a stab in the back" is just an invention of the German generals, so that the blame for the military loss and failure of the German army will be blamed on liberals and Jews.
    It would be much more correct and fair that in order to understand and see what a stab in the back really looks like, this term should be applied to the Soviet Army of the Gorbachev-Yeltsin era. This is really a stab in the back inflicted by the liberals Chubais, Khodorkovsky, Gusinsky and Berezovsky. I will not focus on their nationality because of shame because those who gave them a knife to stab them in the back (Gorbachev and Yeltsin) were Russians, and not jews..
    But if then in Germany the rulers of the International dreamed of combining the Russian sickle with the German hammer, then the liberals in Russia dreamed and dream of combining the people's and state wealth with their pocket.
    1. +15
      February 7 2023
      You deftly inserted it into an article about Germany in our twenties from the eighties and nineties. But I won’t object, because I agree on all points. About ours. Although with such “ours” there is no need for enemies.
  3. +11
    February 7 2023
    Conclusion on the article: a general mass strike is able to sweep away any government.
    1. +11
      February 7 2023
      Yes. Only then will their own Social Democrats be found who will collude with the government. And then the Communists didn’t play any big role with them (as they do with us now). Oscar Hippe talks about the consequences of the agreement in Bielefeld:
      In the leadership of the combat units, as well as in the political committee of the KPD and the USPD, which included representatives of the factory committees, there were discussions about whether to agree to the Bielefeld agreement or continue the fight to the bitter end. The USPD-dominated political committee decided by an overwhelming majority to accept the agreement.

      In the leadership of the combat units, opinions were divided. Ninety percent of the workers on the front line said they were not ready to lay down their arms and return to the mines disarmed. But the USPD imposed its point of view: the government, after all, will not break its word. Representatives of the KKE left the rally in protest and told workers at the front and gatherings in the mining region that their arguments could not win in the political committee."
  4. +12
    February 7 2023
    The German trade union and politician Karl Leghin called on the workers to go on a general strike.
    Sorry, not everything is so simple here .. Wasn't the first call for a general strike made by the official representative of the government Ulrich Rauscher (SPD) on behalf of Ebert and the leader of the SPD Otto Wels at the same time as the government fled to Dresden? Upon arrival in Dresden, Ebert immediately disowned the strike call, and Chancellor Gustav Bauer called the call a "hoax" for which he was not responsible. The left united against the right, and then this case simply forced the General Federation of German Trade Unions (ADGB) and its socialist leader Karl Legien to support the strike.
    1. +9
      February 7 2023
      Leaflets calling for resistance to the putschists called not only for strikes, but also for armed resistance, and some parts of the Reichswehr and the police offered such resistance. In addition, it is quite clear whose ears are sticking out at the trade unions and, probably, the government was afraid to "slide" to the left...
      1. +16
        February 7 2023
        Judging by further events, they did the right thing - the left couldn’t (didn’t want to) really unite, so the bet on the right played .. Thank you for the article on an unhackneyed topic! And I like this presentation of material with a lot of photos -
        After that, Wolfgang Kapp announced his resignation and fled to Sweden.
        and then a picture of him in the cabin of the "superjet" for clarity and "easily digestibility" of the text!
  5. +8
    February 7 2023
    Judging by the photographs, there were many putschists. In personnel, find out the addresses of the necessary specialists and forcibly deliver them to their workplaces. Finally find sympathizers. Unqualified personnel - the same putschists.
    Running LSS - electricity, water and sewerage. It’s generally fun with gas - if you turn it off, then turning it on again is a lot of nerves and time. Explain this on the fingers of the workers of the gas service.
    1. +12
      February 7 2023
      Quote: Not the fighter
      In personnel, find out the addresses of the necessary specialists and forcibly deliver them to their workplaces. Finally find sympathizers

      In my opinion, the putsch was not very well organized, it was based on the mass support of the population, which the putschists did not receive. There was no harshness towards the strikers. Looking ahead, the GKChP made the same mistake ...

      Quote: Not the fighter
      It’s generally fun with gas - if you turn it off, then turning it on again is a lot of nerves and time

      In Germany, there was no pipeline gas requiring a lot of labor to restart. The population used cylinders, at best, gas was supplied to consumers from local (underground or aboveground) gas tanks ...
      1. +6
        February 7 2023
        Looking ahead, the GKChP made the same mistake ...
        It would be interesting to get a more complete analysis of the actions and goals of the GKChP, since. of the entire composition of this body, only Pugo B.K. died suddenly (or was killed on August 22.08.1991, XNUMX), the rest died a natural death. hi
        1. +7
          February 7 2023
          Quote: Gomunkul
          died suddenly (or was killed on August 22.08.1991, XNUMX) only Pugo B.K., the rest died a natural death

          Marshal S. Akhromeev committed suicide...
          1. +6
            February 7 2023
            Marshal S. Akhromeev committed suicide...
            Also a strange death, despite the fact that he was not officially part of the State Emergency Committee. Joining the GKChP was his personal initiative.
            By the way, I found interesting information on Kryuchkov V.A.
            He was the Chairman of the Board of Directors of JSC "Region", which is part of AFK "Sistema", was an adviser to the Director of the FSB of Russia V. V. Putin
            hi
            1. +4
              February 7 2023
              By the way, I found interesting information on Kryuchkov V.A.
              Even more interesting are his two-volume memoirs. In the thin first volume - an autobiography. In the second (thick) - whining on the topic: "why did I do nothing in my main specialty"
              1. +3
                February 7 2023
                Quote: Aviator_
                Even more interesting are his two-volume memoirs

                They are kind of boring. I never finished reading them...
                1. +2
                  February 8 2023
                  They are kind of boring. I never finished reading them...
                  And I'm talking about the same. He writes continuous self-justifications, does not believe them himself, rewrites and rewrites, coming up with new arguments.
    2. +14
      February 7 2023
      Find the addresses in the frames .. find ..
      Yes, they did just that - the identities of all the putschists, thanks to the recordings of the “safe city” surveillance cameras, were established very quickly, but only .. Yes, only then the commander of the Berlin police, Traugott von Jagov, took the rap for everyone, who received a minimum term of five years. The court took into account mitigating circumstances, since the defendant
      "followed Kapp's call out of selfless love for the fatherland."
      The amnesty law of August 2, 1920 exempted all participants in the coup from criminal prosecution, provided that they did not act "barbarously" or "in their own interests." Freikorps officers who supported the putsch were integrated into the Reichswehr. With a few exceptions, the trial against the Reichswehr participants involved in the putsch was either terminated or ended with an acquittal. And the main participants in the putsch fled to Bavaria, which later turned into a stronghold of the right and ultra-right forces, which, in fact, fostered the Nazi NSDAP. Wolfgang Kapp , who fled to Sweden, eventually surrendered to the Imperial Court, but died before the start of the trial. So, by and large, there was nothing for anyone for this bloody mess .. Here is such a “ve end” of the history of the putsch in German.
      1. +5
        February 7 2023
        They removed what I wanted to add from the language. smile hi
  6. 0
    April 2 2023
    And why did they raise it to the TOP? All comments from February 7-8. It's April now.
    And in the TOP before my question.

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