Here are the details behind Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” cartoon published Sunday:
On Nov. 9, 1923, Adolf Hitler led his stormtroopers in a failed attempt to overthrow the German government in which some 20 people were killed. For this, he was sentenced to the lightest allowable sentence of five years in a minimum-security prison. In cases of high treason, Weimar judges tended to show leniency towards right-wing defendants claiming to have acted out of sincere, patriotic motives.
Hitler was released after serving eight months, during which he dictated Mein Kampf to fellow conspirator Rudolf Hess—the book deal that Trudeau implies, the book of grievances that became the Nazi bible. The attempted Munich insurrection was a teaching moment.
Within a decade, Hitler and his Nazi party managed lawfully to seize power. The rest, as they say, is history. The failed “beer hall” putsch of 1923 found a special place in the story of the Nazi movement; Nazi Germany celebrated Nov. 9 as the Reich Day of Mourning.
Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.—Winston Churchill (paraphrasing George Santayana)