Kapp Putsch. Freikorps attempt to seize control

The Kapp Putsch

In March of 1920 a right wing group, led by Wolfgang Kapp rose in Berlin. This group consisted of members of the paramilitary Freikorps. The Kapp Putsch gained support from leading members of the military such as General Ludendorff. It was particularly challenging for the Ebert Government to deal with as they could not be certain of the support of the armed forces.

Kapp was a right wing journalist who opposed the government on the grounds that he held it responsible for the humiliating Treaty of Versailles. Many believed that it was left wing politicians who were responsible for the collapse of the Second Reich. This view was shared by many leading officers of the German Army, who Kapp turned to for support. Two significant officers chose to support Kapp, General Luddwitz and General Ludendorff. On 13th March, Luddwitz and Kapp orchestrated an uprising in Berlin. The Kapp Putsch was initially succesful in it’s aims. Troops sympathetic to the uprising took control of Berlin and a Right Wing Government was proclaimed by Luddwitz.

Kapp Putsch. Sign reads: Stop! Anyone who passes will be shot
Kapp Putsch. Sign reads: Stop! Anyone who passes will be shot

Ebert, the president, was forced to leave Berlin. The government could not be sure of support from the army, though much of the officer corps had not joined the uprising, nor could he utilise the Freikorps as had been done with success against the Spartacist’s. On this occasion Ebert turned to the ordinary people and called for a General Strike. This, if successful, would make it impossible for the uprising to succeed as they would not have the means to manage the people.

On 17th March Kapp and Luddwitz fled Berlin, the strike having been successful in making the uprising unfeasible. However, despite the relative short period of time that Kapp had control of Berlin, the uprising did make several things clear:

The support of the army could not be taken for granted
There was not universal support for the Weimar Government
The Government had limited means of dealing with uprisings of this nature
Politicians were not necessarily safe in Berlin

Analysis of several factors is possible here. The army didn’t openly support Kapp, nor did it rush to the aid of Ebert and the government. What does this mean? How could the Government ensure its survival? Why did the people of Berlin support the Government and go on Strike? How does this compare to the Spartacist Uprising?

Kapp’s political history: indicators for the future?

Kapp was born in the united states in 1858. His family returned to Prussia when he was 12. Kapp was a capable student who performed well at school and University. He gained experience managing agicultural estates where his agricultural credit union helped both the landowners and the labourers.

During the First World War Kapp became disillusioned. In 1917 he, with Alfred von Tirpitz, set up the German Fatherland Party. By the time of the first Reichstag elections the party had over a million members and Kapp was elected.

The party and Kapp owed it’s popularity to it’s staunchly conservative and nationalistic views. Prior to the Putsch, Kapp campaigned for the restoration of Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Source Material:

“The pervasive social and political discontent growing out of Germans’ grievances, justified or not, soon had consequences. A right-wing coup d’état in March 1920, the Kapp Putsch–named for its leader, Wolfgang Kapp–failed only because of a general strike.The military had refused to intervene, although it did brutally suppress some Communist-inspired uprisings shortly thereafter. The establishment’s tacit support of unlawful right-wing actions such as the Kapp Putsch and violent repression of the left endured to the end of the Weimar Republic. This support could also be seen in the sentences meted out by the courts to perpetrators of political violence. Right-wing terrorists usually received mild or negligible sentences, while those on the left were dealt with severely, even though left-wing violence was but a fraction of that committed by the right. ” Photius Coutsoukis, 2001.

Teaching resources on the Kapp Putsch. Series of recommendations to free teaching resources.

 

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