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Road to War -- 1923!


JerseyJohn
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freikorps-rossbach-beerhall.jpg

SeaMonkey's link to that new game gave me an idea for an SC scenario, one I don't think we've ever tossed around, so I figured I'd spring it and hear what people have to say on the subject.

Suppose the Beer Hall Putsch of November 9th, 1923 had succeeded?

Looking at it with hindsight, it appears to have been a pretty shoddy effort, ineptly conducted and poorly organized. But the truth is it wasn't that much different from Mussolini's successful march on Rome.

There was massive and widespread anti-Weimar sentiment in Germany at the time, even within the Government itself!

Proof of this is revealed in the very light sentence Hitler received for an act of High Treason, the attempted overthrow of the Government! In most countries he'd have either spent the rest of his life in Prison, or been executed outright. In Bavaria he was sentence to five years, and only served a fraction of that. Served it in very comfortable conditions, spending hi days with Rudoph Hess typing Mein Kampf for him!

Marching in the Putsch, beside Hitler, was General Ludendorff, Germany's WW I de facto leader. Shown together in the photo below.

p0278c.jpgjanuar19.jpg

< Click Here for an Interesting article on the freikorps >

I don't want to get into the specifics of the event because it would fill an extremely interesting book, what I want to do is only speculate on the year 1939, war looming, and the National Socialists have controlled Germany since the early 1920s, sixteen years instead of six!

Hitler would have been more intertwined with the more conventional elements of German society. Mein Kampf would probably never have been written. German beaurocrats and the military would have been more influencial than they were ten years later, after being weakened through failures caused by the Versailles Treaty and the Worldwide Depression.

It seems likely that Hitler would have totally ignored Versailles in 1924, exactly as he did in 1934. Britain and France would have had as little will to enforce it then as they did a decade later. The Great War had been over a few years, they'd both dismantled their armies, Russia was still fighting a Civil War and an outcast, and the United States was solidly isolationist. Meanwhile Germany was full of armed military groups, the Freikorps, WW I veterans still organized and heavily armed outside the Germany Weimar Army. In many cases they had never completely stopped fighting!

So, assuming events transpired the same way they did a decade later -- Rhinehland and other border territories reclaimed, open rearrmament initiated, etc & etc, but with side characters like Ludendorf and Hindenburg and Crown Prince Wilhelm -- a fieldmarshal, of course -- pulling some of the strings early on. How different would things have evolved sixteen years later, when the powder keg was finally ignited?

Would Britain and France have played Germany and the USSR against each other, presumably short of war? Would Hitler have tried absorbing Austria and the Sudetenland five or even ten years earlier?

And Poland -- ?

Would Germany, under National Socialist rule in the 1920s have avoided the financial disasters it suffered under the Weimar Government?

Or -- would Hitler have tipped his hand too soon, causing a complacent Britain and France to begin preparing for war before the decade was finished, say, early 1929 instead of 1939?

Looking forward to some interesting views on this.

[ September 25, 2003, 10:07 AM: Message edited by: JerseyJohn ]

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Here's a counter viewpoint. The early Nazis in 1923 were just one of many groups seeking power in post-WWI Germany. The fact that they were relatively harmless at that point probably accounts for Hitler's light prison term. If he had succeeded, there was insufficient support to sustain him and he would probably have been overthrown by some other group sooner or later. My guess is that it would have been a very chaotic period and the Nazis may or may not have come through it.

By failing, having an opportunity to write his book, and then spending several years consolidating his limited support base, Hitler was much better positioned to take power in 1933. Additionally, the Depression years aided his cause and this key element was missing 10 years earlier. If the Nazis were in power when the Depression hit, they would have been on the receiving end of the people's wrath.

Who knows what would have happened? It's an interesting question.

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Bill

Yes, those factors are a big part of it and along the lines I was trying to build the discussion around.

By not being in power during those hard years, the Nazis remained free of the stigma of defeat and reparation and economic disasster.

Agreed entirely about the 1920s powerbase in Germany. Right after WW I the Socialists were the most dangerous threat to the government with the Nazis, as you said, only a small group of racist and ultra-nationalist radicals.

In real life the Nazis were helped into power by the industrialist-military-banker group's fear of a communist takeover.

The German communists, though large in membership, were never unified, in the end the right wing radicals became centrally organized around the nazis with the Weimar governments blessing. As one officeal -- either Strassman or von Papen -- put it in 1933, "They are our hired thugs. After they've done their work they'll be sent packing." Ironically the Nazis were declining in popular support when the Hindenburg cabinet appointed Hitler it's Chancellor. What they didn't count on was his combining that office with his minority representation to manipulate the government from within.

I agree that all this required time to develop. Also, as you say, the party membership was built up during the mid and late 1920s.

Which means the only way the nazis could have come to power in the early 20s would have been in a subserviant role to the Prussian and Bavarian military aristocracy. Ludendorff was slated to be president with Hitler and Goering in supporting positions similar to the posts they held under Hindenburg.

If the first part works, the Putsch succeeds, the Bavarian government is taken over by the junta leading to the already unstable Weimar Govt incorporating them and in turn falling, that leaves the Nazis, at best, exactly where you placed them: a small group holding office through the influence of greater powers.

The real power would have been held by the aristocracy and the Crown Prince. Their first job would have been the elimination of the socialists, just as it was in the early thirties.

To me this hypothetical situation looks very similar to the historical one, except the nazis themselves are a much smaller group with a lot less power of their own. This, of course, might also have meant that might have steered the country in the direction they wanted, but without the rampant racism -- the Nuremburg Laws might never have been written -- that they were later free to impose on the country.

An unlikely nazi power coup in the early 1920s (it was still unlikely a decade earlier and was simply handed to them!) might have put them in a similar position to Mussolini in Italy, where he was the leader, but never held most of the power himself.

Your other point is also excellent. In the early thirties the Nazis inherited a recovering economy, which they took all the credit for. A decade earlier they'd have needed to straighten things out themselves. Of course, there's always the possibility that Germany would have avoided the Weimar calamities by simply reclaiming the Saar and Rhineland, as Hitler did within a couple of years. Had he not done so, and if Germany had continued paying war reparations as it was doing during the Weimar years, it would still have been economically crippled through the 1940s.

Which was what Clemencaeu and Lloyd George had in mind at Versailles in 1919.

The idea that having failed in the Putsch made the nazis stronger when they did eventually come to power is an intrigueing one. In terms of rational history I agree with you on every point, you summed the realities up perfectly. My theory here is only a what-if, but one that had a fair chance (though not a great one), in my opinion, of occuring.

Panzer

Yes, the navy and air force would probably have benefitted the most from an early nazi regime.

Night

The temptation is to say Germany would have given full reign to rocket and jet development and built up their fleet, etc. & so on. But if it's thought out more responsibly a scenario based on this premise would have to consider British, French and Soviet reactions to Germany's earlier rearmament.

My own opinion is that the war in Poland would have begun around 1935 but under different circumstances. It's unlikely the Nazis, even if they'd achieved power in 1925 (a year or two to wrest some control from the aristocrats) couldn't have begun a real rearmament program till about 1930. Which was when the Weimar administration began doing it covertly and on a smaller scale than the Nazis would have settled for.

The net result would certainly have been a more powerful Germany emerging earlier than it did historically, the questions are how much earlier, how much stronger, and what countermeasures other nations would have taken.

A good scenario would need to reflect all that.

In many ways the circumstances would be similar to the Z-Plan ideas. Perhaps more accurately stated, it would have been the Z-Plan but with a 1938-39 target instead of 1944-46. I think the normally accepted Z-Plan figures are nonsensical, but there is still a lot of room for speculation in this area.

[ September 25, 2003, 05:08 PM: Message edited by: JerseyJohn ]

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Bill Macon:

I agree with your post 100%.

Without Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and these years where he agitated and slowly poisened the minds of so many people (not only germans) history would have wiped him away.

JerseyJohn

The politicans of the Weimar Republic let the german economy intentionally collapse to prove the world that Germany would never ever been able to fulfill it's duties recording to the Versailles treaty.

And there was no way / chance to negotiate about the terms of the versailles treaty, because the entente powers didn't allowed any germans until they were called to sign and accept the terms.

They paid a to high price (just like germany) to accept anything but a total and utter victory.

They would have invaded germany in 1919, and the Reichswehr wouldn't have been able to stop them anyhow and anywhere. Ludendorff wasted every reserves in the 1918 offensives. The result: in autumn 1918 german soldiers had to use toilett paper as bandages...

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In the early twenties there was a time that the NSDAP was thinking about merging with other right winged nationalist parties,more specifically with the DSP (Deutschsozialistische Partei).

The only way the nazis would have risen to power this early would in fact been possible if this had occurred.Hitler was heavily against it.During the negotiations with the DSP he often lost his temper and on numerous occasions threatend to leave the party.

If this merging had taken place Hitler would have surely resigned from the NSDAP giving him 2 options:

1.Go back to a lonely existence as a

landscape painter

2.Start his own party and start from

scratch.

In either case I think it would be exit Hitler and the probability of Germany starting WWII early or even at all small greatly reduced.

But since this merging didn't take place we don't need to consern ourselves with that.

Hitler's position in the party became stronger after the failed negotiation talks.He was offered the function of chairman more than once but didn't accept it.

Hitler was content to be 'a drummer'.

anton-drexler.jpg

Anton Drexler,chairman of the NSDAP in the early twenties

Our task is to give the dictator,when he comes,a people ready for him.

(Hitler in a speech on 4 May,1923)

Would Hitler be the leading man of the NSDAP if they gained power in the early twenties?

Surely a lot of people would have jumped on the wagon.There wasn't a lack of right-winged nationalists at the time so the chance of someone beating him to it would have been much more greater,especially because the putsch wouldn't have happenend and Hitler would have missed a lot of publicity.

[ September 27, 2003, 05:28 PM: Message edited by: kurt88 ]

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xwormwood

Yes, England and France might have crossed the Rhine, but I doubt the Americans would have joined them. With Germany openly attempting to negotiate and the British and French leaders coming off as greed driven manipulators, public support would have plumetted and morale would have dropped.

If 1919 Germany had been willing to fight as it did in 1945 the invading armies would have been much less effective.

The French had already gone through a mutiny and Britain was drafting men in their fifties! There's a point where all the countries involved have mutual exhaustion and I believe those three countries had reached it.

News of the Bolsheiviks murdering White Russians, including the Czar and his entire family earlier, would also have been a factor. Germany was the only thing keeping them in check, without there resistance the communists were free to take all of European Russia, which is what happened. Clemenceau, Lloyd George and Orlando were shortsighted fools but cunning politicians. They would not have gone willingly into a 1919 Vietnam.

As for not offering negotiation, the German representitives never demanded or even asked for them! They were panicked because their were numerous putsches taking place and Germany was in chaos. The alternative to total subjugation was to let the war continue, reorganize freikorps into a popular cuase, recall more victorious troops from the East, and leave the burden of straightening it all out to the Western Leaders. Giving in immediately was the worst thing they could have done; they gave birth to the stab-in-the-back theory and, essentially it was true. They had to salvage whatever was possible; Britain and France were not about to take over Germany. The United States would never have supported that.

And Germany wouldn't have been so easy to do it to; the country still had plenty of fight left in it while Britain and France had less than seemed apparent. An order from Woodorw Wilson for the A. E. F. to stop at the border would have meant the end of the War. And on much more favorable terms for Germany.

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Kurt

What you say has a lot of truth in it.

But I think Hitler was crafty enough even in the twenties and even without Mein Kampf -- a two volume book many of his supporters openly joked about -- to have pulled enough strings behind the scenes and manipulated enough people to eventually work his way to the top. Starting out as lower rung lackey I think he'd have worked his way up to a responsible position by 1928 or thereabouts.

The Weimar Government wasn't structured much differently from that of the Kaiser. The reason Hitler slid so easily into power upon Hindenburg's death was because, essentially, the president had the same powers formerly held by the Kaiser. Once in office almost anything was legal for him, and he took full advantage of it. All he had to do was, at a moment of contrived crisis, ask the population to vote him indefinite emergency powers. His only honest national vote returned a 90% yes, and that was the last time the German people had any semblance of a choice.

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