How far was the Kapp Putsch the major reason for instability between 1919 and September 1923?

Authors Avatar by tillyoswin (student)


-Germany 1918-45, Josh Brooman

-A History of Germany 1825-1945, W. Carr.

-Weimar and the Rise of Nazi Germany 1918-23, Geoff Layton, Chris Trueman

-The Forming of the Communist International, James W. Hulse, John D Clare

How far was the Kapp Putsch the major reason for instability between 1919 and September 1923?

Between the years 1919 and 1923, Germany was faced with a series of major political and economic problems. It saw risings, such as the Kapp Putsch, the Spartacists, and the Red Army. It suffered major economic problems – the inability to pay reparations, the Invasion of the Ruhr, hyperinflation. The government, too, was opposed by left and right, and found it difficult to gain support, or even form a majority-party government.

Against this troubled backdrop, to declare the Kapp Putsch the sole – or, even, the most major – reason for Germany’s instability between 1919 and 1923 would be difficult, as it was, arguably, the one large factor – the Treaty of Versailles and its terms – and its several lesser products (the Kapp Putsch included) that as a whole contributed to Germany’s unstable situation between 1919, and 1923.

The Kapp Putsch, of 1920, was an attempted military coup led by Wolfgang Kapp, a right-wing journalist, who wished to depose the new Weimar government and establish a constitutional monarchy[1] with the Kaiser once again in power. He hoped to achieve this with the aid of one essential and significant supporter: General Walther von Luttwitz, and the background help of another, retired General Erich Ludendorff.

On March 13th, 1920, General Luttwitz and 12,000 troops[1] seized Berlin, proclaiming that a new government was being established – with Kapp as chancellor[2]. They managed to do this almost entirely unopposed, as the German army refused to provide any sort of resistance against this right-wing coup, as they did not want to become ‘involved with either side’ [1] nor, as put by General von Seeckt, to Ebert, did troops ‘fire upon troops’. Consequently, the government fled Berlin, though not before the trade union leader, Karl Legien[4], called for a general strike, hoping it would stunt the progress of Kapp and Luttwitz, which, in fact, it did.

Although Kapp and Luttwitz managed to hold Berlin for some time, after four days of strike, their lack of authority was so apparent, they had little choice but to flee the city.

The defeat of this putsch showed some strength on the part of the Weimar Republic, and the preference the German people had for Friedrich Ebert over Kapp[2], as it was only with their participation (and not the unreliable, unmoving military’s) that the putsch was overcome.

However, as Layton states, the fact that Kapp’s coup ever even occurred suggests major weakness – a point also backed by Trueman, who highlights the government’s inability to ‘enforce its authority in its own capital,’ or, even, in the words of W. Carr, order army generals who would simply ‘not move.’

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Despite the faults it exposed, however, the Kapp putsch’s overall significance – just within itself – was slight. The general strike called in order to stop Kapp ended in Berlin as soon as he fled power, the General von Seeckt, who had adamantly refused to allow 'Reichswehr [to] fire on Reichswehr,’ or genuinely aid Ebert, was soon appointed chief of army command, and the judiciary was surprisingly lenient toward all those involved in Kapp’s right-wing revolt, finding guilty only one of 705 prosecuted[1].

Kapp and Luttwitz evaded justice (the former perished awaiting trial, the latter granted early retirement) but what rose ...

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