July 24, 1858|
New York City, USA
|Died||June 12, 1922
|Occupation||civil servant, politician|
Kapp was born in New York City where his father Friedrich Kapp, a political activist and later Reichstag delegate for the National Liberal Party, had settled after the failed revolutions of 1848. In 1870 the family returned to Germany and Kapp's schooling continued in Berlin at the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Gymnasium (High School). Wolfgang Kapp married Margarete Rosenow in 1884; the couple would have three children. Through his wife's family, Kapp acquired a family connection with politically conservative elements. In 1886 he graduated at the conclusion of his law studies at the University of Tübingen and was appointed to a position in the Finance Ministry the same year.
The political activist
After an ordinary official career, Kapp became the founder of the Agricultural Credit Institute in East Prussia which achieved great success in promoting the prosperity of landowners and farmers in that province. He was consequently in close touch with the Junkers of East Prussia, and during the First World War made himself their mouthpiece in an attack on Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg. Kapp's pamphlet, entitled Die Nationalen Kreise und der Reichskanzler and published in the early summer of 1916, criticized German foreign and domestic policy under Bethmann Hollweg. This pamphlet appeared about the same time as the attacks of “Junius Alter” and evoked an indignant reply from Bethmann Hollweg in the Reichstag, in which he spoke of “loathsome abuse and slanders.”
In 1917, along with Alfred von Tirpitz, Kapp founded the “Deutsche Vaterlandspartei” (Fatherland Party), of which he would briefly become Chairman. He was one of a number of prominent figures of the right, including General Ludendorff and Waldemar Pabst, who set up in August 1919 the Nationale Vereinigung (National Union), a right-wing think-tank which campaigned for a counter-revolution to install a form of conservative militaristic government. The Nationale Vereinigung did not, however, press for the restoration of the monarchy, the Kaiser having bowed to US pressure and left for his exile near Utrecht in November 1918. 1919, which saw the consolidation in Germany of the Weimar Republic, found Kapp a member of the Deutschnationale Volkspartei (National Peoples’ Party).
Germany’s defeat in the First World War was seen by nationalists such as Kapp as a humiliation and a betrayal. He became an exponent of the Dolchstoß legend and a vehement critic of the Treaty of Versailles. In 1919 he was elected to the Reichstag as a monarchist.
The Kapp Putsch
- "We will not govern according to any theory", Wolfgang Kapp, 13 March 1920
In March 1920 Hermann Ehrhardt, the leader of the Freikorps known as the Ehrhardt Brigade, was authorized by General Walther von Lüttwitz (Commander of Reichswehr Command Group I) to proceed and use the Marine Brigade to take Berlin from the Weimar Government. The Weimar government fled to Dresden and then onto Stuttgart in order to avoid arrest from rebel Reichswehr troops.
Though proclaiming a new government and state administration, Kapp along with Lüttwitz failed to calculate the lack of support for such a coup. The majority of the old establishment, civil service, labour unions and general population did not side with the putschists and as a result the newly-proclaimed state lasted for a mere two days before a General Strike was called by the SPD. The Reichswehr, under the command of Hans von Seeckt, failed to uphold their constitutional commitment by defending the Republican government against the rebellious Freikorps units. The Weimar regime was saved by the public by means of the strike, but the Putsch did not succeed for other reasons. These include the lack of outward and active support from the military elite, judiciary and civil service who were reluctant to commit to the Putsch from its beginning.
When the Coup d'état failed Kapp fled to Sweden. After two years in exile, he returned to Germany in April 1922 to justify himself in a trial at the Reichsgericht. He died in custody in Leipzig shortly afterwards of cancer.