One of the darkest but most interesting periods in Munich history followed the overthrowing of the Independent Republic of Bavaria and the city’s emergence as the ‘capital of Nazism’.
Adolph Hitler had visited Munich prior to the First World War as a painter drawn to the city by its culture and artistic spirit. Hitler the artist never conquered Munich but following the end of hostilities he returned to Munich.
When the republic fell in 1919 Hitler joined the Deutsche Arbeiter-Partie, the organisation that was later to become the Nazi Party.
Hitler’s first big speech was in February 1920 when he spoke to over 2000 party members at the Hofbrauhaus. By this time the organisation was known as the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter-Partie and had adopted the swastika. It had also begun to unleash its storm troopers (Sturm Abteilung or SA) who invaded rival parties meetings with brutal force.
November 1923 saw the event that will forever tie Munich, the Nazi’s and Hitler together – the Beer Hall Putsch.
Beer and Battles
The putsch was the catalyst that propelled Hitler into the national spotlight but it was the aftermath rather than the event itself that led to his rise to power.
The putsch took place at the Burgerbraukeller (now the site of the Hilton City Hotel) and saw Hitler leading his stormtroopers into the beer hall to disrupt a speech by Bavarian minister Gustav von Kahr.
Hitler fired a shot into the air as his 600 stormtroopers laid into anyone who objected. This, proclaimed Hitler, was the beginning of national revolution. Having removed von Kahr from the stage Hitler then addressed the people in the hall with a typically rhetorical but mesmerising speech.
The next day Hitler gathered his supporters and around 3000 Nazi’s began to march with the aim of taking over government buildings in the city. But, after being alerted of his intentions by von Kahr the central government had ordered the march to be stopped.
Around 100 armed police confronted the marching Nazi’s. After an exchange of fire 16 marchers and 3 policemen were dead. Hitler escaped with just a dislocated shoulder but two days later was arrested and charged with treason.
Whilst imprisoned at Landsberg Hitler wrote Mein Kampf. After he was released Hitler’s focus moved to Berlin but the Nazi Party kept their headquarters in Munich and the city’s Fuhrerbau was the scene of the infamous Munich agreement.
The Munich agreement saw British and French prime ministers Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier appease Hitler and Mussolini by agreeing to abandon Czechoslovakia to its fate. The rest, as they say, is history.
Six thousand of Munich’s citizens died in bombardments during the Second World War and large parts of the inner city were destroyed.
Following the war a rebuilding programme began. Unlike other German cities Munich decided to painstakingly rebuild exactly what was destroyed with many buildings beautifully restored to their former glories.
Munich proved to be a magnet to displaced Germans and other refugees who flocked to the city. Soon the cosmopolitan and culturally rich city we know today was taking shape.
The Munich history is one of colourful kings, culture and learning interspersed with politics and confrontation.
Munich is now the most visited city in Germany by tourists and is regularly rated as the place that most Germans would wish to live.