Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The Kapp Putsch

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’├ętat 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. 

Austrian Fascism


The Rise and Fall of Austrian Fascism


Austria’s home grown fascism began developing in the early 1930s.

Based upon an emergency law (Wartime Economy Authority Law) enacted during the First World War and never repealed, Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss established authoritarian rule in March 1933 in the face of parliamentary paralysis.  

The Chancellor quickly abolishes both Parliament and freedom of the press.
Dollfuss eliminates multi-party system in Austria. 

Austrian fascism rejects both the Marxist class struggle of Communism as well as liberal and capitalistic concepts.

Similarities to National Socialism

Like their counterparts in Germany, Austria’s Fascists were strongly opposed to the political parties of the Left (i.e., Social Democrats).

Austrian Fascism was also characterized by one party rule (the Fatherland Front) and reliance on a paramilitary organization (the Heimwehr).

Differences with National Socialism

Austria provided a temporary safe haven for Jews fleeing Nazi Germany.
Austria did not tolerate right-wing extremists; in June 1933 the government banned Austria’s National Socialist Party (Nazis).

Relations with Italy

Mussolini threatened to go to war with Germany if Hitler attempted to militarily support a Nazi coup following the assassination of Chancellor Dollfuss (1934).

Italian support for Austria begins to erode as Italian aggression in Ethiopia leads to increased diplomatic isolation. 

Italy’s relationship with Nazi Germany becomes warmer with the two countries signing a treaty of friendship in 1936.

Demise of Independent Austria  

Hitler’s bloodless takeover of Austria represented another missed opportunity to stop Nazi aggression. 

While Britain remained committed to its policy of appeasement for a while longer, many came to belief that Hitler could now only be stopped through war.





Mikhail Tukhachevsky and the Red Army Purge

  Mikhail Tukhachevsky


Tukhachevsky – Key Events

1893 - Born February 16th into a noble family.

1914 - Graduated from Alexandrovskoye Military School.

1914 - 1921 - Distinguished himself as an officer in both the First World War and the Russian Civil War (1917 – 1921).

1920 - Polish - Soviet War - harshly criticized by Stalin for failing to capture Warsaw.  Tukhachevsky in turn blamed Stalin for the failure.

1929 - Stalin gains full control over the Soviet Communist Party.

1929 - Fellow officers of Tukhachevsky denounce him to Stalin, complaining about his tactical views.

1930 - OPGU (Soviet Secret Police) attempt to implicate Tukhachevsky in a plot to overthrow the Politburo.  Stalin fails to convince his inner circle of Tukachevsky’s guilt.

1930s - Tukhachevsky writes several books on military strategy.   Champions a new strategy termed “deep operations” where different branches of the military (e.g., Air Force, Army) launch a joint attack deep behind enemy lines. 

The focus of “Deep Operations” was the destruction of the enemy’s rear operations and logistical capabilities.  This concept was codified into the Red Army’s Provisional Field Regulations of 1936.
1935 - Tukhachevsky is appointed a Marshal of the Soviet Union.

1936 - Stalin begins planning the “liquidation” of Tukhachevsky and seven other senior military commanders.

May 22, 1937 - Tukhachevsky is arrested and brought back from the Volga region to stand trial.

June 11, 1937 - The Soviet Supreme Court convenes a special military tribunal to try Tukachevsky and his co-accused for treason.  All of them are found guilty of treason and executed shortly thereafter.

Stalin’s Rationale for Purging Tukhachevsky and the Red Army

A number of rationales have been advanced for the Stalin’s assault on Mikhail Tukhachevsky and the Red Army.
  •  Stalin acted on the basis of forged documents produced by Heinrich Himmler that implicated Tukhachevsky in an anti-Stalinist conspiracy with the German General Staff.  The Germans wanted to weaken the defensive capabilities of Soviet Russia.
The Alternative Explanation
  •  After the collapse of the Soviet Union it became clear that the Tukhachevsky’s “treason" was concocted by Stalin and his closest associates. 
  • It was Nikolai Yezhov (head of the NKVD), who leaked false intelligence to the Germans, suggesting that Tukhachevsky and other officers were plotting against Stalin.

Consequences of Stalin’s Red Army Purge

After the initial strike against Tukhachevsky, Stalin continued to root out “traitors” within the Red Army.

By some estimates, 30,000 members of the armed forces were executed.  Of this number, 50% of all army officers perished in the Purge. 

In the ensuing conflict with Germany, many of the Red Army’s new officers were quite inexperienced and ill prepared for the intense onslaught of Hitler’s Wehrmacht.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Germany’s Annexation of Austria – 1938

Germany’s Annexation of Austria – the Response of the “Great Powers”

Germany’s Anschluss with Austria

In March, 1938 Hitler completed the annexation of formerly independent Austria into the German Reich, contrary to the peace terms of the Treaty of Versailles.   

The “Great Powers”

While the annexation of Austria was a flagrant Treaty violation, there was only the most muted reaction from the major European powers.  

Despite being signatories to the Treaty of Versailles, both Great Britain and France showed little enthusiasm for the preservation of Austrian independence.  

In Britain, Prime Minster Neville Chamberlain appeared to be particularly anxious to get past the nasty business of Austria and move forward with the settlement of outstanding territorial disputes elsewhere in Europe.

The British Case for Appeasement

During the 1930s, Britain’s leaders came to adopt an increasing accommodative approach to relations with Germany.  

While Neville Chamberlain has been most closely linked to British appeasement of Hitler, his predecessor Stanley Baldwin was also quite sympathetic to German aspirations in Europe. 

Both men felt that Germany had been unjustly dealt with at Versailles and believed that she had a right to bring other German speaking regions into the fold of a Greater Germany.  

In a very real sense, both men seemed to favour the national self-determination principles enunciated by US President Woodrow Wilson in the aftermath of World War I. 
Given the strong desire of Britain’s leaders to accommodate German demands in the 1930s and their belief in national self-determination, it was possible to see the incorporation of Austria into the German Reich as a positive event.  

What was not appreciated at the time was the fact that Hitler’s goals extended far beyond national self-determination.