By November 1923, Hitler and his associates had concocted a plot to seize power of the Bavarian state government (and thereby launch a larger revolution against the Weimar Republic) by kidnapping Gustav von Kahr (1862-1934), the state commissioner of Bavaria, and two other conservative politicians. Hitler’s plan involved using Erich Ludendorff (1865-1937), the right-wing World War I general, as a figurehead to lead a march on Berlin to overthrow the Weimar Republic. Hitler’s proposed putsch was inspired by the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini (1883-1945), whose march on Rome in October 1922 had been successful in ousting the liberal Italian government.
Hitler had initially approached von Kahr to lead the march on Berlin, but when von Kahr began to back away from the plan, Hitler moved ahead without him. Hearing that von Kahr was scheduled to address a large crowd in the Bürgerbräukeller, one of the biggest beer halls in Munich, on November 8, 1923, Hitler took hundreds of his followers and surrounded the hall that evening. The Nazi Party leader and about 20 of his associates burst into the hall, and Hitler fired a shot into the ceiling and declared a “national revolution.” Von Kahr and two colleagues were herded into a back room while one of Hitler’s associates telephoned Ludendorff. When the general arrived at the hall, he convinced the three Bavarian leaders to give in to Hitler’s demands for the march on Berlin.
Hitler made the mistake of leaving the beer hall later that night to deal with crises elsewhere in the city. His followers were supposed to take over government buildings throughout Munich but their attempts were largely foiled by the city’s military troops. Meanwhile, Ludendorff had allowed von Kahr and the other two leaders to leave the beer hall after Hitler’s departure. By the next morning, the putsch had fizzled.
Ludendorff attempted to salvage the situation by calling on Hitler’s followers for a spontaneous march on the city center. He led about 2,500-3,000 supporters in the direction of the Bavarian Defense Ministry. On their way, the marchers were blocked by a group of state police officers. The two groups exchanged fire, and four police officers were killed along with 16 Nazis. Hitler suffered a dislocated shoulder when he fell to the ground. He crawled along the pavement and was taken away in a waiting car, leaving his comrades behind. Ludendorff walked straight ahead into the ranks of the police, who refused to fire on him.