Hitler’s rise to Power; Part –I.
‘Treaty of Versailles’ was the hour of Germany's deepest humiliation. Even this ‘Treaty’ was violated by France when in the beginning of 1923 the French invaded Germany, occupied the Ruhr district and seized several German towns in the Rhineland. This was a flagrant breach of international law and was protested against by every section of political opinion at that time. The Germans could not effectively defend themselves, as they had been already disarmed under the provisions of the Versailles Treaty. To make the situation more fraught with disaster for Germany, and therefore more appalling in its prospect, the French carried on an intensive propaganda for the separation of the Rhineland from the German Republic and the establishment of an independent Rhenania. Money was poured out lavishly to bribe agitators to carry on this work, and some of the most insidious elements of the German population became active in the pay of the invader. At the same time a vigorous movement was being carried on in Bavaria for the secession of that country and the establishment of an independent monarchy there, under vassalage to France, as Napoleon had done when he made Maximilian the first King of Bavaria in 1805.
The separatist movement in the Rhineland went so far that some leading German politicians came out in favor of it, suggesting that if the Rhineland were thus ceded it might be possible for the German Republic to strike a bargain with the French in regard to Reparations. But in Bavaria the movement went even farther. And it was more far-reaching in its implications; for, if an independent monarchy could be set up in Bavaria, which would extend from the Rhineland through Bavaria and Austria into the Danube Valley and would have been at least under the moral and military, if not the full political, hegemony of France. The effect of putting such a plan into action would have meant the complete dismemberment of Germany; and that is what French diplomacy aimed at.
By the autumn of 1923 the separatist movement in Bavaria was on the point of becoming an accomplished fact. General von Lossow, the Bavarian chief of the REICHSWEHR no longer took orders from Berlin. The flag of the German Republic was rarely to be seen, finally, the Bavarian Prime Minister decided to proclaim an independent Bavaria and its secession from the German Republic. This was to have taken place on the eve of the Fifth Anniversary of the establishment of the German Republic i.e. November 8th, 1923.
Hitler staged a counter-stroke. For several days he had been mobilizing his storm battalions in the neighborhood of Munich, intending to make a national demonstration and hoping that the REICHSWEHR would stand by him to prevent secession. Ludendorff was with him. And he thought that the prestige of the great German Commander in the World War would be sufficient to win the allegiance of the professional army.
A meeting had been announced to take place in the Bürgerbräu Keller on the night of November 8th, 1923. The Bavarian patriotic societies were gathered there, and the Prime Minister, Dr. von Kahr, started to read his official PRONUNCIAMENTO, which amounted to a proclamation of Bavarian independence and secession from the Republic. While von Kahr was speaking Hitler entered the hall, followed by Ludendorff. And the meeting was broken up.
Next day the Nazi battalions took the street for the purpose of making a mass demonstration in favor of national union. They marched in massed formation, led by Hitler and Ludendorff. As they reached one of the central squares of the city the army opened fire on them. Sixteen of the marchers were instantly killed, and two died of their wounds in the local barracks of the REICHSWEHR. Several others were wounded also. Hitler fell on the pavement and broke a collar-bone. Ludendorff marched straight up to the soldiers who were firing from the barricade, but not a man dared draw a trigger on his old Commander.
Hitler thereafter never looked back.