Beer and Nazi politics: retracing some of history's paths
Posted by John Keller
MUNICH Germany, 16 Sept. 2011. I've been in Europe on business this week, and had a chance to have dinner in the same historic beer hall in Munich Germany, where in February 1920 Adolf Hitler himself outlined a 25-point program of ideas that were to be the basis of what would become the Nazi party of Germany ...
... yes, THAT Nazi party, the one responsible for starting World War II when it sent German army troops across the border of Poland in September 1939 to conquer its first, but not last, European country on its way to dominating the continent in the mid-20th century.
But in 1920, the German Nazi party was just an idea, which took root in the beer halls of Munich. The place I visited this past Wednesday evening is the famous HofbrÃ¤uhaus, a gigantic place built in 1598 where generations have strained their elbows hoisting liter-sized beer mugs and enjoyed the sounds of Bavarian ooompah bands ... and at one time a charismatic speaker named Adolf Hitler.
The Munich beer halls of the day, like the HofbrÃ¤uhaus, which still survives, were the size of huge gymnasiums where thousands of people could gather and listen to political speeches. Hitler's 1920 speech at the HofbrÃ¤uhaus was only the first of many Nazi events that led to the failed Beer Hall Putsch, an attempted takeover of the German government by the Nazis in 1923.
German authorities foiled this attempt, and Hitler went to prison for eight months as a result. He used his prison time to write a book called Mein Kampf, and re-emerged in German politics soon after his release.
I think we know the rest of the story.
Sitting in the huge room on the second floor of the HofbrÃ¤uhaus where Hitler gave that important 1920 speech, I couldn't concentrate on the Bavarian dancers, brass band, and town banners adorning the hall. I kept thinking about red flags with black swastikas, and a room full of people giving the Nazi salute, and a frenzied speaker with a funny little mustache gesticulating up on the platform.
I kept thinking to myself, 'THIS is the room.' Well, as it turns out, it wasn't EXACTLY the room. Allied bombing raids during the Second World War destroyed much of Munich, including the second floor of the HofbrÃ¤uhaus. The historic beer hall was rebuilt after the war, along with many other damaged historic buildings. The plaque on the wall commemorating Hitler's speech was not replaced during the beer hall's refurbishment.
It's a curse being an armchair historian sometimes. I should have enjoyed the HofbrÃ¤uhaus dancers more than I did.