Thursday, May 24, 2012
Monarchist Profile: Wolfgang Kapp
He studied to become a lawyer, finished school in 1886 and entered government service in the Ministry of Finance. Partly through the influence of his wife he became much more conservative in his political views than his father had been. After working in government for a time he moved his family to East Prussia and opened the Agricultural Credit Institute to promote the development of the area in assistance to the local landed aristocracy. In the following years he became known as an advocate for the Prussian nobility and particularly those with large estates and the part they played in the local economy. He became more stridently patriotic which, if you are on the political “right” and friendly with aristocrats, is usually rendered as “nationalistic”. He first made waves on the national scene by speaking out against the policies of Chancellor Theobald von Bethman-Hollweg in 1916, during the First World War. This earned him the animosity of the Chancellor but also attracted other friends in high places who agreed with his arguments. The following year, along with Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, he founded the “Fatherland Party” to support the war effort which, in less than a year, attracted over a million members and of which Kapp served as chairman.
It did not, however, take long for Kapp to become frustrated by the world of politics and to conclude that more drastic measures would be required to save the Germany he so admired from being lost forever to the realm of history. Events came to a head when the Weimar government ordered the disbandment of the marine brigade “Ehrhardt” during a series of cuts to the German military. The officers of the brigade appealed to the Berlin area commander General Walther von Lü ttwitz who in turn called on President Ebert to halt the reductions. When he received a negative response, von Lüttwitz ordered his troops to occupy Berlin on March 13, 1920. Although he had nothing to do with launching the putsch, a respected politician and civil servant was needed as civilian leader of the effort and Dr. Wolfgang Kapp was chosen to be the, at least nominal, leader of the putsch that was given his name.
In most accounts today the “Kapp Putsch” is usually mentioned only as a nationalist or militarist coup attempt. However, the monarchist aspect cannot be ignored. It is true that, in the short time it existed, the Kapp regime never announced any formal desire to restore the monarchy nor did they do so while in power. However, General Walther von Lüttwitz was an ardent monarchist, as was Dr. Kapp and monarchists made up the bulk of the supporters of the Kapp Putsch. The Free Corps troops who carried out the putsch flew the old Imperial German ensign and old imperial titles were dusted off and used for office-holders. Observers also reported a great deal of activity at the time at the home in exile of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Had the regime survived more than a couple of days, most assume that the restoration of the monarchy would have been declared. Such a thing may have even been suggested to the Kaiser but he would likely have been unwilling to commit until the Kapp regime was better established and could prove itself able to survive. This, as we know, was not to be the case.