Before He Rose to Power, Adolf Hitler Staged a Coup and Went to Prison

The Beer Hall Putsch was a spectacular failure. It also set the stage for Nazi Germany


November 20, 2023

This month marks the 100th anniversary of Hitler’s failed coup. Contemporary historians emphasize how amateurish these early efforts were. Yet they also stress the lessons the future führer gleaned from his failure. If he couldn’t capture Weimar Germany by force, Hitler would convince the people to hand him the reins.

On April 1, Hitler and several of his co-conspirators were found guilty of high treason. Despite the verdict, his sentence was astonishingly light: five years in prison, which would ultimately be shortened to just nine months.

“Hitler’s lesson from the failed putsch was that he needed to pursue revolution through ‘the politics of legality’ rather than storm Munich City Hall,” wrote historian Christopher R. Browning for the Atlantic in 2022. “The Nazis would use the electoral process of democracy to destroy democracy.”


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