Stresemann responds to the Munich Putsch (1923)




Gustav Stresemann served as the Weimar Republic’s chancellor (August-November 1923) and foreign minister (August 1923 to October 1929). He was chancellor when Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) attempted to seize power in Bavaria on November 8th-9th. On November 11th, two days after the Munich Putsch, Stresemann addressed a large gathering in Halle. He urged them to reject demands for a nationalist dictatorship – not because he opposed the use of dictatorial powers but because Hitler and the Nazis were incapable of using them effectively:



“The desperate situation [in Germany] has induced many people to look for new forms, new personalities and new ideas.

We are now confronted with the demand for a dictatorship. The one element of justification in this is that the usual course of parliamentary procedure should not be allowed to hold up essential measures. Article 48 of the Constitution of the Reich does confer far-reaching powers on the President and on those he appoints, to act in certain circumstances without the Reichstag…

We are thoroughly determined to deal radically with the situation and we are well aware that in such extremities, nothing is achieved by party resolutions and party conflict. But anyone who thinks that the demand for a dictatorship will improve matters is making a great mistake, in so far as he is confusing form and content… The dictator will be equally confronted by economic necessities. With him, what counts is his personality, his purpose and all that stands before his mind.

‘National dictatorship’ is the new phrase. In the first place, one must inquire who is to exercise it. An appeal in a beer-cellar to Herr Adolf Hitler to come forth and guide the political destinies of Germany will bring no help to the German people… Without a programme and a personality, the cry for a dictatorship is an empty catchword…

No good will be done by events such as we have seen in Bavaria. Our critics in Bavaria urge us to use the authority of the government, to be prompt and stern, and to rid ourselves of party influence. It is alleged that we are under the spell of Marxism and dependent on its doctrine… I repudiate so shameless a slander…

The events in Bavaria may, as they turned out, seem grotesque, but they were in fact profoundly tragic. They showed that the most powerful enemy of the German people was always its own lack of unity. I was deeply shaken to observe a German commander, whose name was well-known through the world by reason of his achievements in the war [Ludendorff], allowing himself to be so far abused and led astray as to take up arms against the Reich…

Let me ask you one question: if you were called upon by these satellites of Hitler to join them in ejecting this ‘feeble’ government and reconstructing the Reich, do you really think that these merely destructive forces could provide competent dictators for Germany?”

stresemann munich putsch
Gustav Stresemann and his wife Käte in 1927
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