Munich Tales 2018: “The Beer Hall Putsch Tour.”


Perhaps the ultimate expression of beer in political terms was Adolf Hitler’s “Beer Hall Putsch” in Munich in 1923. One needn’t be a Nazi to reflect upon this marriage of large, agitation-friendly venues and takeover tactics.

The Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, also known as the Munich Putsch,and, in German, as the Hitlerputsch, Hitler-Ludendorff-Putsch, Bürgerbräu-Putsch or Marsch auf die Feldherrnhalle (“March on the Feldherrnhalle”), was a failed coup d’état by the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) leader Adolf Hitler—along with Generalquartiermeister Erich Ludendorff and other Kampfbund leaders—to seize power in Munich, Bavaria, on 8–9 November 1923.

To me the above video is bizarre, as when the 20-somethings cheer at the host’s prompting. However, it’s also a good way to view bits and pieces of Munich. It’s hard imagining another major city where beer is such an integral component of everyday life that it becomes a vital facet of attempts to overthrow the government.

During the famous “Beer Hall Putsch” of November 1923, the revolutionaries used all of Munich‟s major beer halls as staging grounds. Whereas most of the putsch saga unfolded at the Bürgerbräukeller, the Löwenbräukeller on the west side of town also played a role in the events of 8-9 November 1923. Drunken storm troopers filled the beer hall on the Stieglmaierplatz awaiting their Führer’s order to “march.” Ernst Röhm, leader of the SA, interrupted the drinking to give patriotic speeches whenever the brass band took a break. By 11:00pm that evening, Storm Troopers and other right-wingers had packed into all Munich‟s beer halls, waiting for something to happen. The police knew that something was afoot. They knew about the large numbers of SA men at the Löwenbräukeller. They knew too of a “Völkische Rechtsblock” (Right-Wing Racist Block) meeting at the Hofbräuhaus. And the police knew of the meeting held by Gustav von Kahr and the Bavarian government at the Bürgerbräukeller. What the police did not realize is that most of these men were armed, and had hidden weapons and ammunition at or near these beer halls, waiting for the command to action (Gordon 1972: 314-335).

Hitler marched into the Bürgerbräukeller with his SA, but the army had not joined his revolution. Von Kahr and his ministers, unsure of the situation outside the beer hall, decided to “play along with the comedy” until they could find an opportunity to escape. Later, when Hitler left the beer hall to attend to some other business across town, the triumvirate pleaded with Ludendorff for their release. Ludendorff let them go “on their word of honor” that they would continue to support the putsch. Once free, von Kahr and company quickly called for army reinforcements to retake control of the city and suppress the putsch (Dornberg 1982: 68-90). The next day, the “Hitler putsch” ended in gunfire on the Odeonsplatz, just north of city hall. Hitler‟s political career, and the National Socialist Party looked finished …