NAZI BEER HALLS IN MUNICH
THE HISTORY OF HITLER’S BEER HALL IN MUNICH
The long-standing degrading coloring of the statements on Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime worryingly detain the new generations from taking mindful warnings by the painful experience of those, who have lived, suffered, and fought before us. Put in the words of recognized historian IAN KERSHAW, purposeful oversimplification and clichering detach us from the realness. Even though the author has entitled one of the chapters of the landmark biography of Hitler as ‘Beer Hall Agitator’, the modern authoritative sources Kershaw and the other respected authors (for example Volker Ulrich and Brigitte Hamann) have used, can offer a factual glimpse beyond the socio-cultural, historical and political curtain of the long-gone Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. It’s always easier and mindfully cheaper to call the Nazis’ supporters no more than drunk frequenters of the Munich beer halls, tempted by free food and drinks. However, it’s way more exciting and substantial to go beyond the established historical cliches, to read the works of the best historians of our times, and make your own mindful travel to the very heart of Bavaria.
COMMUNITY SPIRIT IN GERMANY AFTER WW1
The bitterness of the defeat of Germany and its allies in the Great War (The First World War) went the extra mile beyond the fall of the monarchy, the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II and the dictated peace on the pages of the nationally hated Versailles Treaty. The following alien occupation of the time-honored German territories, the loss of lands, the challenge of the communist revolution, the cutback of the army up to allusive proportion, and finally the loss of millions of lives on the battlefields, devastating inflation, and necessity. Any of these painful issues had the potential to become a one-second spark for heated discussions anywhere from an intimate family ambiance to public places.
All of this was greeted with incredulous horror by the majority of Germans. The sense of outrage and disbelief that swept through the German upper and middle classes like a shock wave was almost universal and had a massive impact on many working-class supporters of the moderate Social Democrats as well.
RICHARD J. EVANS (The Coming of the Third Reich, 2003)
For the first time in German history, the year 1919 witnessed the manifestation of democracy in the form of a state system. The ‘Mittelstand’ (middle class), had historically included farmers, army officers, small-scale entrepreneurs, clerks, and state officials of small caliber. All these people were now frustrated both by the crack-down of the historical values and the lack of confidence in the future. It’s important to understand the fact, that the right-wing mood and nationalism were not an invention of the 1920s in the same historical manner as it was not a later invention of Adolf Hitler or a creature of the bavarian beer halls. Alois Hitler, Adolf’s father was a conservative favourer of the pan-germanic sentiment at the turn of the XX century.
In a way that the right-wing trendiness had consolidated the national self-consciousness in the face of foreign enemies in a span of a Great War, these radical views were now regarded by the government and democracy. Another social layer of disgruntled masses was shaped by millions of veterans of the now-gone Kaiser’s army. In the aftermath of the lost war and bitterness of rankled defeat, as the ever-to-be knew Alan Bullock once written, the ‘Frontkamfers’ (combat veterans) now lived in a world of self-unimportance and disgrace.
The big city was suffering from hunger. Discontent was great. He hardly recognized the city. There he found “anger, discontent, cursing” wherever he went. “The general mood was miserable: to be a slacker passed almost as a sign of higher wisdom, while loyal steadfastness was considered a symptom of inner weakness and narrow-mindedness.”
TOMAS CHILDERS (The Third Reich, 2017)
BAVARIA, BEER HALLS, AND THE RISE OF THE NAZI MOVEMENT
In the aftermath of the Great War, Munich, by being the heart of Bavaria, was overtaken by disorders and riots and the left-wing parties declared the ‘Bavarian Republic’. In the prime of the year 1919, a temperate democratic government was overthrown by communists, who proclaimed the so-called ‘Soviet Bavarian Republic’. Shortly after, the riot-hit Munich was ‘liberated’ by military formations and nationalistically tinted groups of volunteers. A young Adolf Hitler was a witness to the ‘bloody spring’. Only a few of more than fifty political organizations in Munich in 1919 had constant party headquarters. The majority of these formations settled in public places, including the traditionally spacious halls of the Munich beer houses.
Adolf Hitler, who got into an argument in Sterneckerbrau beer hall on September 12, 1919, had skillfully taken advantage of the tendency of the future phobia of the middle class, as well as of fear of communist threat and the made-up Jewish conspiracy. The German people and especially a politically active part of the nation, who used to spend time within the Munich beer halls, were now hustled to catch sight of the enemies from without (who had dictated Germany’s reparations and alien values), as well as the opponents from within. The athleticism of Hitler, his political instincts, and confidence in one’s own abilities, when paired with the support of sympathetic feelings of the upper class, granted him a chance to scale the importance of the beer hall meetings.
Through the leaflets, made by Hitler himself back in 1919, to mass-printed pamphlets, red banners, and his own publishing house. From forty attendees of the meeting at Sterneckerbrau to the 2000 audience within the roomy halls of HOFBRAUHAUS. Through the semi-intimate gatherings at the beer table to marches of thousands along the streets of cities of Bavaria and a wave of violence against the political opponents. Hitler’s admiration of Munich in the years 1913-1914 in his own words that the streets of the city were now in the possession of the Nazi movements, as well as the hearts and minds of its people.
Nevertheless, some four thousand followers gathered in the beer hall to hear Hitler once again and he did not disappoint them. His eloquence was as moving as ever. At the end of a two-hour harangue, the crowd roared with applause. Despite the many desertions and the bleak prospects, Hitler made it clear that he still considered himself the dictatorial leader of the party.
WILLIAM SHIRER (The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, 1960)
HITLER’S BEER HALLS IN MUNICH
The topography of the Munich beer halls in no way limited to five famous public places as well as Hitler’s speeches and Nazi events had historically come over to dozens of beer houses and restaurants in the city. But for all that, these very five beer halls in Munich were destined to play a role in the rise of national socialism, Hitler’s rise to definite power in Germany, and later in occupied Europe. Three of five beer houses have survived the Second World War and the past eight decades and preserved the primary intended purpose, whereas the former location of the Sterneckerbrau now is being used as a computer store. In a wider sense of the geographical changes, the entire city district once attributed to Burgerbraukeller was reshaped to be occupied with a number of modern buildings, including the Hilton hotel. Three of five were intimately related to the so-called ‘Beer Hall Putsch’, the failed Nazi revolution of 1923.
STERNECKERBRAU BEER HALL
In the days of the Third Reich, this very location within a march route of the failed ‘Beer Hall Putsch’ was attributed as much as the ‘Cradle of the movement’ (nationals-socialistic). As far back as the middle of the XVI century, the city district was already praised as a home for beer houses. Things were going brilliantly, that in 1696 a cozy alley, a filiation from Tal street, was entitled Sterneckerstraße after an owner of the brewery, who had this plot of land in his ownership. At the turn of the XX century, the historical buildings on the intersection of Tal and Sterneckerstraße were demolished and replaced with a new city district with a new five-story building, built-in 1902. In this historical sense, by the time a young ‘Deutsche Arbeiterpartei’ under Anton Drexler used to bring together one evening a week, generally on Fridays, within one of the halls of Sterneckebrau beer house, the building was a whole new. For all that, Sterneckebrau was attributed to a low-class category of the Munich beer halls and its owner had no perspective to gain as much audience as HOFBRAUHAUS or LOWENBRAUKELLER at that time.
On September 12, 1919, a young Adolf Hitler (in league with a few of his army colleagues) made a visit to one of the weekly meetings of the DAP at the deep of the poor illuminated Sterneckerbrau. That very meeting becomes history due to a battle of words between Hitler and one of the 40 attendees (the preserved attendance list includes 41 names, including Hitler), graced with enormous attention in ‘Mein Kampf’ and also in the recalling of Anton Drexler. As early as October 1919, four months after the signing of the Versailles Peace Treaty in Paris and a month after Hitler had joined the party, the DAP provided itself with its first headquarter in Munich. Just at this small room with a separate entrance from the Sterneckstrasse alley, the party committee had formed (starting from January 1920) the core of the future values of the Nazi movement and its programmer, which would fall into oblivion only as of the fall of the Third Reich years later. To a wide practical and historical extent, the party was indeed created within this location just as it was.
Even before the end of 1919 the German Workers’ Party, at Hitler’s insistence, set up its headquarters in a dark, vaultlike cellar room in the Sternecker beer hall. The rent was fifty marks; in co-signing the lease Hitler again gave his occupation as “painter.” A table and a few borrowed chairs were placed in the room, a telephone installed, and a safe obtained for the membership cards and the party treasury.
JOACHIM FEST (HITLER, 1973)
Regardless of the accession for Hitler to use the more recognized beer halls of Munich as a platform for his speeches, the future German fuhrer used to address the audience in Sterneckerbrau. Solely in the summer of 1920, Hitler gave three of his speeches in this beer house. In consideration of the tight space of Sterneckerbrau and in the light of the steadily growing Nazi party, this initial ‘cradle of movement’ had gradually lost its favor and practical attractivity for the Nazis. On October 31, 1921, they established a new headquarter only a few streets to the South of the initial location. On the other hand, Sterneckerbrau played a small part in the failed ‘Beer Hall Putsch’ for a couple of reasons. In the late hours of November 8, 1923, one of the groups of stormtroopers was rallying up inside the Torbrau hotel, just across the street. On the following day, a column of the putschists did overpass a police squad on Ludwigsbrucke and marched along Tal street, a few steps from the first headquarters.
As soon as Hitler and the Nazis took power in Germany in 1933, the fuhrer gave a speech in Sterbeckerbrau on November 8, on the anniversary of the ‘Beer Hall Putsch’, and ceremonially opened a small party museum within a former headquarter. Fuelled by Hitler’s passages from ‘Mein Kampf’ and Goebbels’ media machine, the museum becomes a site of pilgrimage for the devotees of the Nazi movement in the years of the Third Reich. In later years, the column of the annual marching along the route of the ‘Beer Hall Putsch’ used to make a stop in front of the Sterneckerbrau with a minute of silence. The building was not damaged in a course of the Allied bombings in 1944, which in contrast caused a significant demolition of ISARTOR gates. Since 1957, for the first time in four centuries, the location has not served as a beer house. In modern times, the primary entrance from Tal street leads us to an electronic store as well as the back alley entrance opens into a residential estate.
ADOLF HITLER AND HOFBRAUHAUS
As long ago as 1589 the former poultry farm was leveled to the ground to make space for a large brewery and the famous HOFBRAUHAUS would occupy the ground two centuries later. In 1897 the old building was destined to be demolished to be replaced with a large beer hall without a brewery itself, open for the public just as we know it today. By the time a young Adolf Hitler came to Munich on the afternoon of May 25, 1913, the city had become a safe harbor for artists, sculptors, and writers from all over Europe. He used to create landscape pictures, drawn from life, or used to take advantage of copying chip cards with the city landmarks. At that time, a number of postcards were devoted to HOFBRAUHAUS beer hall and the painting of Adolf Hitler has survived the decades and has come down to us. It was this very beer house and its spacious summer garden to grant young Hitler a chance to find clients for his paintings between the tables with glasses of beer.
In the late hours of February 24, 1920, the HOFBRAUHAUS witnessed Hitler’s appearance in from of 2000 people, a figure and success which hit Hitler and Dreksler like a ton of bricks. It is worth mentioning that a significant portion of the attendees, up to ¼ amounted to political opponents, including the communists. That very day the party was re-titled into ‘Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei’, Hitler did use the improvised grand stone within the Festsaal of Hofbrauhaus to proclaim the infamous 25 points of the party program. 2000 people had encapsulated the new reality with Hitler’s access to the hearts and minds of a wide audience within the biggest beer halls in Munich. In that very 1920, Hitler made 20 of his speeches here, with a running time of up to two hours each and a number of attendees from 800 to an enormous 3000. On July 29, 1921, the Hofbrauhaus witnessed the election of Hitler (by means of 554 members) as the chairman of the NSDAP, fulfilling him as a supreme leader of the movement and leaving Anton Drexler as a nominal honorary president.
The meeting was to start at 7:30 P.M. and when Hitler entered the great Festsaal of the Hofbräuhaus at seven-fifteen he found it jammed with almost 2000 people. His heart “burst with joy.” He was confident that the true idealists among this hostile group would swing over to his side and he welcomed any disturbance they might provoke.
JOHN TOLAND (ADOLF HITLER, 1976)
Notwithstanding a note of warning, that Hitler could be expelled from Bavaria, the Nazis turned the day of November 4, 1921, into a bloody fistfight within Hofbrauhaus, throwing their rage against the supporters of the left-wing parties. That fight has become history as the ‘Battle for HOFBRAUHAUS’. In November 1922, Hermann Esser, nominally the man №2 in NSDAP after Hitler at that time, addressed the audience of the HOFBRAUHAUS to proclaim Hitler a German Mussolini (one month after the Italian Fascists had marched on Rome). On February 24, 1933, only a few weeks after taking the role of the German Chancellor, Hitler established an annual tradition of his speeches in front of the ‘Altes Kameraden’ in Hofbrauhaus. Such commemorative events would be held here annually until 1941. The complex of the building was heavily damaged during the Allied raids on Munich in the years 1944-1945. It took a decade to bring Hofbrauhaus to the pre-war state with a new grand-opening ceremony in 1957.
Things were once going so brilliantly for the brewery industry, that the end of the XVIII century encapsulated a new era of expanding the undisputed golden goose to a never-seen extent, with Staatliches Hofbräuhaus as an absolute leader among the producers. A barren landscape within a sparsely inhabited right bank of the Isar river had been marked on the XVII century map as ‘Auf dem Gasteig’ (On Gasteig), which was chosen to locate new brewery venues and spacious beer cellars. High sides of the river and caves of natural origins were predestined to become an exceptional location for freshy cellars, planted around with chestnuts, brought to Bavaria to make an additional shadow and coolness for a new beer craft. The German title ‘HOFBRAUKELLER’ is to be translated as ‘Hofbrau Beer Cellar’. The famous beerhouse was ceremonially opened in 1894 within the Wiener Platz (Viennese square) of Munich in a newly built building of neo-renaissance style.
In the days, when a young Adolf Hitler become a member of DAP in mid-September 1919, the party had been doing beer hall politics without a party office. The party cards were to be handwritten and then amateurishly printed with a typing machine. Within the next few weeks, Hitler himself distributed leaflets in public places in Munich, thus inviting people to attend the upcoming party meeting. On October 16, 1919, 111 attendees crowded the main hall of the Hofbraukeller beerhouse to give an audition to a few speakers, with a young and largely unknown Adolf Hitler as the second spokesperson. The future German fuhrer exceeded the given 20-minute agenda up to 30 minutes. Five years from that day, while spending his routine in Landsberg prison, the author of the infamous ‘Mein Kampf’ would praise his own speech at Hofbraukeller as the turning point for the movement.
Eventually, a move to mimeographed notices brought a modest rise in numbers attending, and funds were raised to allow a newspaper advertisement in the Münchener Beobachter for a meeting on 16 October 1919 which attracted 111 people to the Hofbräukeller, the large drinking saloon attached to one of Munich’s big breweries, situated in Wienerstraße to the east of the city centre (and not to be confused with the better-known Hofbräuhaus, located in the city centre itself).
IAN KERSHAW (HITLER: HUBRIS, 1998)
In the years of the Third Reich, the HOFBRAUKELLER had attained the status of one of the early symbols of the Nazi movement and the beerhouse become a speechless witness of the Nazi arrangements. Given a deeper consideration, Hofbraukeller was a popular place of leisure in the 1930s not so much by Hitler or the NSDAP cult as of the actual comfortness of its summer beer garden, a spacious main hall, and a variety of beer brands. Within the years of the Second World War, the building was used to accommodate a first aid station and was occupied by the American soldiers already on April 30, 1945, who allocated a military headquarter within the famous beer hall. The HOFBRAUKELLER and the Wiener Platz square have avoided bombardments and the building looks pretty the same as it was a hundred years ago.
Similar to the Hofbraukeller, the motivation to allocate beer cellars here was once formed by the natural geography of the right bank of the Isar river. While the freezing installation was invented back in 1871, for more than a century the Munich breweries had used the natural coolness of the underground galleries and cellar for the beer craft. Burgerbraukeller was opened in 1885 with a destiny to be praised as one of the largest breweries not only in Bavaria but also in the whole of Germany. The spacious halls of Burgerbraukeller used to offer seats for 1800 guests as well as another 3000 seats within a large summer garden. Factually speaking, the BURGERBRAUKELLER had once occupied a whole city district with the main entrance on Rosenheimer Strasse. On the opposite side of the road was another beer hall called KINDL-KELLER, a place for several of Hitler’s speeches, particularly on September 1920 with 3000 attendees.
Starting in 1920 and with the growing ambition of Hitler’s speeches across Munich, the BURGERBRAUKELLER had played the role of an arena for the NSDAP venues. It was in the main hall of this very beer-house to witness the famous theatrical gunshot of Hitler into the ceiling, which was intended to break in the speech of Commissar Gustav von Kahr (who addressed 3000 people). Half an hour prior to the afternoon of the next day, subsequent to doubts and discords, the column of the putschist, led by Hitler, former general Erich Ludendorff, and Hermann Goering, moved forward in a march to take the Bavarian War Ministry. On February 27, 1925, it was Friday, Hitler drew an audience of 4000 attendees within the main hall of Burgerbraukeller as his first public speech after the repeal of a ban, which had been given eleven days before. The year 1928 witnessed eleven public appearances of Hitler here.
“Pale, a dark lock of hair hanging down his forehead, and with a pistol-wielding stormtrooper on either side,” Hitler began to negotiate the clogged way to the stage. When he was ten steps away from Kahr, he got up on a chair and fired a shot into the ceiling to quiet the tumult. Then he took the stage and proclaimed excitably: “National revolution is under way. The hall is under the control of 600 heavily armed men. No one is allowed to leave.
VOLLKER ULRICH (HITLER, 2013)
On November 8, 1933, months after the gaining of the one-step-to-ultimate power in Germany (not until the death of President Hindenburg), the party organized the first ceremonial march along the route of the failed ‘Beer Hall Putsch’. Within the next seven years up to 1939, the Burgerbraukeller had become way more than a starting point for the annual march, but was also an arena for its annual speeches of Hitler. The famous beerhouse was destined to become a place for the second most well-known (second to July 20, 1944 plot) assassination attempt of Hitler. In the span of the following four years, the ceremonial appearance of Hitler used to be held in the Lowenbraukeller beer hall. World War Two and the growing needments of wartime had left the damaged (by the bomb of Georg Elser) building of Burgerbraukeller in ruins. The iconic Munich beer house faced the end of the war semi-devastated, yet magically avoided the air raids.
The American contingent used to accommodate the building up to 1957. At one time the filiation of the Red Cross was allocated within the premises of Burgerbraukeller. Years after, the repaired halls of the famous beer house were reopened in the tradition of pre-war times. The legendary beer house as well as the summer garden, which had survived the Third Reich era, the bombshell of Georg Elser, and the Allied air raids, were completely demolished in 1979.
It was no less than two decades to the day of June 14, 1883, when Ludwig Brey, a brewer from Munich, grand-opened a large and blindingly glare beer house on a spot of land within a topographic triangle on the crossroads of three streets, he had once bought. The new beer hall to the north of the medieval walls of Munich soon came into ascendance among the locals and guests of the city. In 1894 the initial architectural complex of buildings was accompanied by an added tower and electricity (a white crow at that time) in another year. The LOWENBRAUKELLER beerhouse was inaugurated with an official emblem, a lion, as early as 1911, that had been a desired place for attendees from all over Europe for years.
On the sunny afternoon of May 25, 1913, a young Adolf Hitler and his friend Rudolf Hausler (two young men who had been associates within the Mannerheim hostel for men in Vienna for some time) descended their fates on the railway platform of the Munich Hauptbahnhof. Re-considering the common fact that Hitler was fascinated with the city from his first steps in Munich, it’s highly likely for two friends to take notice of a luxurious Lowenbraukeller beer hall, located just in via their way from the railway station to the upcoming accommodation on Schleissheimerstrasse 34.
Herr Popp and his wife, tailors, who used to run a small dressmaking store on the first floor and later rented a cozy room to Hitler and Hausler, would afterward recall Hitler to look in Lowenbraukeller from time to time. At the same time, a young resident conventionally, yet mannerly rejected an invite to share supper with the renters, taking some purchased food upstairs. Hitler would use a room on Schleissheimerstrasse 34 as his Munich home until August 1914 (from February on his own, as Hausler had left the places) and the Lowenbraukeller had become, one way or another, a part of his Munich period.
The Lowenbraukeller was historically designated to become associated with an event of the year 1923, known as the ‘Beer Hall Putsch’. It was here where Apr. 2000 of the nazi stormtroopers and their supporters gathered on the eve of November 8, led by Ernst Rohm, waiting for a call from Hitler from Burgerbraukeller. Years later, in 1928 Hitler, the self-re-established leader of the movement would appeal to 2500 students of Munich from the grand stone inside the Lowenbraukeller. In less than a year from that speech, in April 1929 Hitler would deliver an oration, full of allusions to the historical megapolises of ancient Europe, such as Athens and Rome, and would proclaim a vision for the heritage of the Third Reich to become grandiose and to would figure in history.
Subsequent to the failed assassination attempt of Georg Elser on November 8, 1939, and in view of the wrecking of the Burgerbraukeller, the annual Hitler’s speech (commemorating the failed 1923 Putsch) challenged them to find a new location. Lowenbraukeller was chosen to become such a place for the next four years. On December 17, 1944, a month and a little over since the called-off speech of Hitler, the famous beer hall was heavily damaged over the course of the massive Allied air raid on Munich. To the horror of the citizens, the main hall of Lowenbraukeller descended up and one of the most postcard-like buildings was now in ruins. The repair works had become reality only six years after and the renovated Lowenbraukeller was opened in 1955.