The Kapp Putsch
Who was Responsible for the Putsch?
The Putsch bears the name of Wolfgang Kapp, a right-wing journalist and Prussian civil servant.
The real force behind this attempted coup d’état was General Walther von Luttwitz, district commander for the German Army (Reichswehr) in Berlin.
What Did the Conspirators Want to Accomplish?
The Kapp Putsch occurred in March, 1920 and represented an attempt by disaffected rightists to overthrow the Weimar Republic.
Its immediate cause was the Weimar Government’s decision to disband two Freikorps (Free Corps) brigades in accordance with the terms of the Versailles Treaty.
The Treaty restricted the German Army to only 100,000 men. However, with the inclusion of the Free Corps paramilitary units, it was above the prescribed limit (some estimate the Army`s strength as high as 400,000).
Events of March 13th – March 17th
General Walther Luttwitz, commander of the German Army (Reichswehr) in Berlin, Luttwitz ordered the Erhardt Brigade (a Freikorps unit) to march on Berlin and topple the government of President Frederick Ebert.
Wolfgang Kapp, the nominal leader of the Putsch, became the new Chancellor. The Ebert government fled from Berlin to Dresden and then Stuttgart.
Why Did the Kapp Putsch Fail?
The Kapp conspirators were not expecting the Ebert Government to call for a general strike. This tactic was very effective and denied them control over the people.
Their inability to rule was compounded by the refusal of civil servants to follow the new government`s directives.
Both Kapp and General Luttwitz fled Berlin on March 17th when their attempted coup had clearly failed.
The Kapp Putsch, although brief, exposed some disturbing realities:
- The Reichswehr`s officer corps, for the most part, had not joined the attempted coup, but also failed to come to the legitimate government`s aid.
- The Kapp Putsch shed a harsh light on the Ebert government, showing that it could not enforce its will, even in Berlin. It remained vulnerable to anyone challenging its authority.
- In any future crisis, Germany`s national government would lack a very important tool for ensuring its survival.