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Demonstration in Berlin against the putsch.

The Kapp Putsch — or more accurately the Kapp-Lüttwitz Putsch — was a 1920 coup attempt during the German revolution aimed at overthrowing the Weimar Republicmarker. Based on opposition to the Treaty of Versailles imposed at the end of World War I, the putsch was later labelled as right-wing monarchist and reactionary.


In early 1919, the strength of the Reichswehr, the regular army, was estimated at 350,000. There were in addition more than 250,000 men enlisted in the various Freikorps. Under the terms of the Versailles Treaty, Germanymarker was required to reduce its armed forces to a maximum of 100,000. Freikorps units were therefore expected to be disbanded.

In March 1920 orders were issued for the disbandment of the Marinebrigade Ehrhardt. Its leaders were determined to resist dissolution and appealed to General Walther von Lüttwitz, commander of the Berlinmarker Reichswehr, for support. Lüttwitz, an organiser of Freikorps units in the wake of World War I, and a fervent monarchist, responded by calling on President Friedrich Ebert and Defense Minister Gustav Noske to stop the whole programme of troop reductions. When Ebert refused, Lüttwitz ordered the Marinebrigade Ehrhardt to march on Berlin. It occupied the capital on 13 March. Lüttwitz, therefore, was the driving force behind the 1920 putsch, even though its nominal leader was Wolfgang Kapp, a 62-year-old East Prussian civil servant and fervent nationalist.

At this point Noske called upon the regular army to suppress the putsch. He encountered a blank refusal. The Chef der Heeresleitung General Hans von Seeckt, one of the Reichswehr's senior commanders, told him: "Reichswehr does not fire on Reichswehr." The government, forced to abandon Berlin, moved to Dresden, where they hoped to get support from Generalmajor Maercker. When they realized that Maercker did not want to take a clear stance they moved further to Stuttgartmarker. The Cabinet issued a proclamation calling on Germany's workers to defeat the putsch by means of a general strike. The strike call received massive support. This struggle claimed numerous victims among workers all over the country. With the country paralysed, the putsch collapsed, and Kapp and Lüttwitz, unable to govern, fled to Swedenmarker.

There were two main reasons why the Weimar Republic survived in 1920. Firstly, the working class rallied to its defense. Secondly, most of the leading Freikorps commanders refused to join the putsch, perhaps with the view that it was premature.

Monument to the March Dead

Between 1920 and 1922 a monument in honour of the workers who lost their lives in the wake of the Kapp Putsch was erected in the Weimar central cemetery. The memorial was commissioned by the Weimar Gewerkschaftskartell (Union Kartell) and built according to plans submitted to a competition by the architectural office of Walter Gropius. Although Gropius maintained that the Bauhaus should remain politically neutral he ultimately agreed to participate in the competition staged among Weimar artists at the end of 1920. The monument is arranged around an inner space, in which visitors can stand, the repeatedly fractured and highly angular memorial rising up on three sides as if thrust up from or rammed into the earth.


  1. Gilbert Lupfer & Paul Sigel, Walter Gropius, 1883-1969: the promoter of a new form, p. 31.

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