The Kapp Putsch took place in Weimar Germany in March 1920. Wolfgang Kapp was a right-wing journalist who opposed all that he believed Friedrich Ebert stood for especially after what he believed was the humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles.
The Kapp Putsch was a direct threat to Weimar’s new government. Kapp was assisted by General Luttwitz who led a group of Freikorps men. On March 13th, 1920, Luttwitz seized Berlin and proclaimed that a new right of centre nationalist government was being established with Kapp as chancellor.
Ebert had no immediate response to this in the sense that he could not impose his will on the situation. For the second time, he had to leave his capital – once again undermining his status and to some emphasising his weak position within Germany. The government reconvened in Dresden and the only card Ebert could play was to call for a general strike to paralyse the movement of those who supported Kapp and Luttwitz.
Kapp received support from one of Germany’s foremost military officers – General Erich Luderndorff. But the main officer corps of the German Army failed to follow Luderndorff’s lead. It is possible that they felt some form of support for a president who had given them a free hand in dealing with the Communists/Spartacists in 1919. Certainly, Ebert could not have been seen as being anti-military. However, the military did nothing to stop the putsch and give active support to Ebert.
The general strike called for by Ebert ensured that those who supported Kapp could not move around and such paralysis doomed the putsch to failure. Kapp and Luttwitz fled Berlin on March 17th.
The five days of the Kapp Putsch are of importance as they showed that:
The government could not enforce its authority even in its own capital The government could not put down a challenge to its authority Only the mass power of a general strike could re-establish Ebert’s authority.
However, the success of this strike does indicate that the people of Berlin were willing to support Ebert’s government rather than a right-wing government lead by Kapp. In this sense, it can be argued that Ebert had the support of Berliners. A counter-argument to this is that Ebert was irrelevant to the Berliners thinking – they simply wanted no more trouble in their capital after experiencing the Spartacists/Communist rebellion in 1919. Peace was more important than political beliefs.
Those who fought for Kapp and Luttwitz were obvious future supporters of the fledgling Nazi Party. Ironically, the Erhardt Brigade, one of Luttwitz’s main fighting force, put a sign on their helmets to identify who they were: the swastika.