The defendants in the Beer Hall Putsch trial, from left to right: Heinz Pernet, Friedrich Weber,
Wilhelm Frick, Hermann Kriebel, Erich Ludendorff, Adolf Hitler, Wilhelm Brückner,
Ernst Röhm and Robert Wagner Universal History
Archive / UIG via Getty images

April already! The year seems to be flying by.  I am half-way through my next Gask and Rait book and the case of the Emigrant Niece was reviewed by a Melbourne, Australia book club positively, I’m pleased to say. Highlights from a member (Leanne Clancy):

  • Very interesting research.
  • Great retelling of the history.
  • The description of Ballarat was very good.
  • Wonderful description of Melbourne at that time.
  • It reminded some of the writings of Sherlock Holmes and Dickens.
  • A very good story.
  • The voice in the book was very good.
  • Loved the description of the cricket and horse racing – the cricket descriptions were very popular with everybody (other than myself – I’m not interested in cricket!) and we all loved the descriptions of the horse racing.
  • It would make a great TV show or miniseries and also would be a very good audio.

 I guess I won’t be sending a Wisden’s Cricketers’ Almanac to Leanne for Christmas!

I also received another review from Lee in England which impressed me – not just for its reflection on the book but the poetic style:
If the author were to trade in his pen for a paint brush, what we have here is a divine watercolour which treats light and darks with exceptional skill.  Cairns takes the reader by the hand and hops gleefully from page to page adding colour, detail and light as he goes. Although telling us a story set in the 1860s, the pages have a very modern storytelling feel which, for me, screams for a need to be developed into a screenplay.
Immensely enjoyable and profound in its ability to allow the reader to conjure up vivid visualisations as they devour this exceptional story.

The book I am working on now, like all my efforts, is taking a lot of research.  Recently, I have been digging deep into the genealogical trails of Bonnie Prince Charlie down to the 19th century as this weaves into the story.  It’s fascinating stuff. From what I am discovering, it seems extremely likely that there is a legitimate heir who would have a claim on the thrones of Scotland and England.  Watch this space.

My stirring in the pools of history bring me back to the current day.  For years now I have been warning about the shift to autocracy and, in particular, asking people to look back a hundred years.

A wee story…………..

On the evening of 8th November, 101 years ago, a body of men wearing brown shirts surreptitiously spread out to encircle a beer hall where 3,000 people had gathered to hear the State Commissioner deliver a speech. The tension on the street was palpable, each unintended sound (which might warn those inside the hall) sending a virulent rush of adrenaline through the armed body. The tension mounted.

This was before social media, before television and in the fledgling days of radio.  Newspapers, flyers, radio and meetings such as this were the main way to communicate philosophies, ideas, plans to sway voters in a democratic society.

The brown-shirted men could, in today’s world, be described as members of a cult.  Their ability to reason had been warped by the charisma and ideas of their 34-year old leader.  Economic turmoil and hyperinflation provided fertile ground for the seeds of his ideology, which exploited inbuilt prejudices and allowed the cult to blame others for this state of affairs.

As the crowd listened intently, peaceably, the brown-shirted thugs encircled the venue. Within the hall, their leader anxiously awaited his moment to burst onto the scene.

As the hands on the clock inched towards a quarter to nine, the Leader moved towards the stage with a group of followers beside him.  He looked around and then, with all the power he could muster, he hurled his beer mug to the floor, the frothing beer spraying outward and, flanked by a Praetorian armed guard of brown shirts, he surged towards the stage.  Chaos erupted and pandemonium ensued.

Protected by his thugs, the Leader, his brow glistening with perspiration, climbed onto a chair and fired a pistol into the air, momentarily silencing the crowd. In a fevered tone, he declared that the national revolution had arrived, that he was in control and that he was now proclaiming the end of this corrupt government.  To some observers, he appeared to be deranged or inebriated but there was no mistaking that he was serious. No arguing with his armed followers.

The Leader was Adolf Hitler and this was the 1923 ‘Beer Hall Putsch’.

Several of his thugs and policemen died in an ensuing riot but Hitler escaped, going into hiding, but just two days later he was in chains, arrested for attempting to overthrow the government.

In the ensuing trial for high treason, which took place 3 months later, most thought that this was the end for the man who would be Dictator. He was found guilty and committed to Landsberg prison for 5 years.  But he only served 9 months and during that time received a string of influential visitors.

Hitler emerged from the trial with a newfound platform to disseminate his extremist views, captivating the public with his impassioned rhetoric and lauding the brown-shirts killed in the Putsch as patriots. His imprisonment afforded him the opportunity to articulate his vision for Germany in his book, Mein Kampf, further solidifying his ideological grip on the nascent Nazi movement.

Released from prison amid political restrictions and economic stability, Hitler bided his time, honing his political acumen and exploiting the grievances of a nation in turmoil. With the onset of the Great Depression, Hitler’s message found renewed resonance, propelling the Nazi Party to unprecedented electoral success. Through shrewd manoeuvring and propaganda, Hitler navigated the corridors of power, ultimately ascending to the chancellorship in 1933.

From this vantage point, Hitler orchestrated a systematic dismantling of democratic institutions, consolidating his authority and paving the way for the establishment of Nazi Germany. By capitalizing on legal avenues and exploiting the legislative weaknesses of the Weimar Republic, Hitler engineered his ascent to absolute power, ushering in an era of tyranny and terror.

The Dictator had arrived.  Not just for one day.

Is history repeating itself?