In 1924, Adolf Hitler served only 264 days in prison after his failed coup d'état. Was his release politically ordered?

I suppose that the motive could've been that it is better to have him lead the "Völkisch" movement, than to risk more like him try new coups. And having them participate in the framework of the democracy would strengthen the weak new institutions of the Weimar Republic. Is there any support for this having been how decisionmakers were thinking?


Probation after six months (on the condition of good behavior) was already part of the original sentencing, so that required no special political pressure.

It was of course remarkable that Hitler and his posse got away with such a mild punishment - 5 years (which Hitler would have to have served without probation) was the mandatory minimum sentence for attempted treason (and the fact that several police officers got killed was not even mentioned in court). It was also remarkable that Hitler (who at the time was stateless foreigner) was not expelled from Germany (it was counted in his favor that he had served in the German military and considered himself "German"). The argument of the judge was basically that Hitler and company had acted with patriotic motives and in good faith ("in rein vaterländischen Geist und edelsten Willen").

So the release was not result of a direct political intervention, it was just that many people, including the judge, agreed with Hitlers goals, even if they were obliged to apply the law with regard to his methods.

This (German) page adds an interesting angle in that it says the judge had been chosen not mainly because of his sympathies for Hitler, but because he could be counted upon to protect the defendants von Kahr, von Lossow and von Seißen - all three were high ranking civil servants, and it was in the interest of the Bavarian government not to make their part in the coup too much a matter of public discussion.

Plus the NSDAP was declared illegal in 1923 after the attempted coup (and remained so until Feb. 1925). This does not suggest that letting Hitler participate in a democratic framework was a main concern.

  • Very interesting. What happened in 1926 that the NSDAP was permitted? Jan 4 '17 at 12:54
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    @T.E.D. Up to a point. The same law would have allowed to execute Hitler and his co-conspirators (after all treason is widely considered the ultimate crime), but the judge deliberately went for the minimum sentence. More interesting is the fact that this was a "Volksgericht", an institution originally created by the socialist government of Kurt Eisner after the 1918 revolution which pretty harshly backfired on its inventors (right wingers got away free or with minimum sentences, socialists or social democrats usually got maximum punishment).
    – user3769
    Jan 4 '17 at 15:48
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    Notwithstanding its implications for Hitler though, I think it'f be hypocritical on the part of any nation to allow a person to fight a war for it and yet later to treat him as a "foreigner". If fighting wars for a nation ain't enough to naturalize a person what is. PS. Not to justify anything or not specific to this case just a general observation. Jan 4 '17 at 18:55
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    @curious_cat, mmmm, many people have fought in wars for foreign lands for many different reasons. In fact the French had the "French Foreign Legion" specifically for people like that. American sailors were on the first British battleship sunk in WW1 and Russia declared war on Turkey (Ottoman Empire) in WW1 because German Ships (and sailors) renamed and flying the Ottoman flag fired on it's ports in the Black Sea. Naturalizing all these people wouldn't make sense and many of them wouldn't of wanted it. So it makes very little sense in that context to consider Hitler a German citizen.
    – Ryan
    Jan 4 '17 at 19:23
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    @Ryan .........and even in the French Foreign Legion I think service entitles a foreigner the privilege to apply for French citizenship post facto. Jan 4 '17 at 19:52

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