The Crisis of German Democracy in the Year of Hitler's Putsch


By Mark William Jones

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How Germany’s fledgling democracy nearly collapsed in 1923—and how pro-democracy forces fought back

In 1923, the Weimar Republic faced a series of crises, including foreign occupation of its industrial heartland, rampant inflation, radical violence, and finally Hitler’s infamous “beer hall putsch.” Fanning the flames of anti-government and anti-Semitic sentiment, the Nazis tried to violently seize power in Munich, only failing after they were abandoned by like-minded conservatives. 
In 1923, historian Mark William Jones draws on new research to offer a revealing portrait of German politics and society in this turbulent year. Tracing Hitler’s early rise, Jones reveals how political pragmatism and unprecedented international cooperation with the West brought Germany out of its crisis year. Although Germany would succumb to tyranny a decade later, the story of the republic’s survival in 1923 offers essential lessons to anyone concerned about the future of democracy today. 
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  • “A gripping narrative.”
  • “Well researched and clearly written, recounting the putsch and the events leading up to it with authority and verve.”
    Richard Evans, Nation
  • "Jones’ vivid, crisp, impressively sustained narrative captures the shocking panorama of violence of the Ruhr story."
    Financial Times
  • "Refreshing and readable."
    Irish Times
  • "An impressive and important addition to our understanding of the history of Germany between the wars and to our events that led to the Nazi rise to power and the Second World War...Mark Jones’s book is highly recommended. It is a fluent and often gripping account of the deeply-disturbing history, neatly linking the events of 1923 and that period with Germany’s subsequent dark history—and nor does it flinch from drawing parallels with when democracies fail to deal properly with political extremists."
    Aspects of History
  • "Informative."
    New York Journal of Books
  • "[A] solidly rendered history."
  • “Mark Williams Jones’s 1923 is scary stuff. The fever broke, but the disease remained. In time, the Nazis reorganized and Germany’s patriots stood by to provide cover to purge the enemies at home: the democrat, the socialist, the Jew. It was a homespun crusade that destroyed all law and overturned all order. Jones’s book asks where we are today—at the end of the troubles, or at the beginning?”
    Peter Fritzsche, author of Hitler’s First Hundred Days
  • 1923 is a gripping account of interwar Germany's annus horribilis—the year when French invasion, hyperinflation, and Hitler's ‘Beer Hall Putsch’ shook the young republic. Thoroughly researched and beautifully written, Jones’s story of a democracy under terrible pressure is a warning for our times.”
    Alexander Watson, author of Ring of Steel
  • "What sets this book apart from other titles on the subject is the author’s focus on regional political and economic differences within Germany and his research on the early deportations of Jews from Bavaria and the consequent impact. A relevant title for readers of world history."
    Library Journal (starred review)
  • “Drawing upon a wealth of primary source material, Jones takes us deep into the crisis year of 1923. His fascinating insights into the emotions and experiences of people whose lives were touched by it shows powerfully that there was nothing inevitable about the survival of Germany’s young democracy in 1923—nor about its death a decade later. As modern democracies today once again face existential challenges, Jones’s book is a timely reminder it is within our hands whether we fight to uphold them or allow them to collapse.”
    Katja Hoyer, author of Beyond the Wall
  • “A crisp and methodical chronicle of the year Germany went wrong. Jones traces the eruption in a deftly detailed and convincing narrative. His vivid history of Germany in 1923 is a timely alert to the dangers of repetition.”
    Nicholas Shakespeare, author of Six Minutes in May
  • “A hundred years on, the profound crisis of 1923 seems uncomfortably similar to the challenges experienced by many democracies today: the rise of political extremism, runaway inflation, and resistance to foreign occupation are back in the news, but they are certainly not new. Jones’ meticulously researched and splendidly written book brings this dark but forgotten year back to life.”
    Robert Gerwarth, author of The Vanquished
  • “Meticulously researched and elegantly written, 1923 explains how Germany stood on the brink of chaos in that crisis year and then stepped back. Highly recommended.”
    Roger Moorhouse, author of Poland 1939
  • 1923 is a masterful interpretation of a fateful year in German history. It does much to place the watershed moment ascribed to Hitler’s assumption of power in 1933 in its correct context. Clearly if democracy is not respected and protected, history teaches us, you lose it.”
    Robert Kershaw, author of Landing on the Edge of Eternity

On Sale
Aug 29, 2023
Page Count
432 pages
Basic Books

Mark William Jones

About the Author

Mark William Jones is assistant professor in history at University College Dublin. He holds a PhD from the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. The author of Founding Weimar: Violence and the German Revolution of 1918–1919, he lives in Dublin, Ireland. 

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