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He carried out the imperial execution against Saxony

He had really tried.

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He carried out the imperial execution against Saxony

He had really tried. Reichswehr Minister Otto Gessler (1875–1955) even traveled personally to Dresden in May 1923 to settle the conflict with Saxony's left-wing social democratic state government. But although Prime Minister Erich Zeigner then declared the dispute settled, the attacks against Gessler continued.

Since the end of June, Zeigner has even attacked the army almost every day. Now Gessler demanded in the cabinet that an official statement be issued by the Reich government that the allegations made were not true. But he actually wanted something else: the Prime Minister and his ministers would have to be deposed and a Reich Commissioner appointed. The Reichswehr Minister demanded the execution of the Reich against Saxony.

That was the sharpest instrument provided for by the Weimar Imperial Constitution. Since this Basic Law came into force in August 1919, there had not yet been any application of this regulation; so the hurdle to doing it now was high. Especially since a grand coalition had been in power in Berlin since August 13, 1923, led by the National Liberal Gustav Stresemann as Chancellor. Because his DVP, the left-liberal DDP, to which Gessler belonged, and the Catholic Center together only made up 168 of the 459 Reichstag deputies, Stresemann brought the SPD on board.

So now, two months later, one of his most important ministers wanted to overthrow (or better still, pressurize so much that it voluntarily resigned) an SPD-led state government. Although the three Social Democrats in the Berlin cabinet were also very annoyed by the Dresden left-winger Zeigner, they still did not want to push through such a decision against the reluctance of their parliamentary group and the officials.

Since the civil state of emergency was declared in the Reich at the end of September 1923 due to the termination of the "Ruhrkampf" and Bavaria's subsequent solo effort, Gessler exercised executive power. Essential basic rights were temporarily suspended, the commanders of the military districts were allowed to enforce instructions from Berlin, if necessary with military force.

This did not happen, but Zeigner continued to publicly attack the Reichswehr General Alfred Müller, who was responsible for Saxony. On October 6, 1923, Gessler urged the Reich Cabinet to put a stop to the goings-on in Dresden. But once again Stresemann managed to defuse the conflict; Gessler finally accepted to wait and see.

In fact, Zeigner refrained from further escalation: in a government statement on October 12, 1923, he avoided attacking Gessler personally. Otherwise, however, the left-wing Social Democrats gave out vigorously, and in a tone that was indistinguishable from that of the KPD. No wonder: two days earlier, Zeigner had formed a coalition with the communists controlled from Moscow.

This sharpened the pitch between Berlin and Dresden. Already on October 22, Reichswehr troops under the command of General Müller marched into the larger Saxon towns; There was no significant resistance, but rather an enthusiastic reception in the state capital. Five days later, a decision had to be made as to how the troops should proceed: would the official Reich execution take place in accordance with Article 48 of the Reich Constitution?

This meant that Reich President Friedrich Ebert had the Dresden cabinet deposed by soldiers and removed from the government buildings - if necessary by force if the ministers and their staff should refuse. The three SPD ministers in the Reich Cabinet tried to delay the decision. Stresemann therefore made one last attempt to resolve the situation peacefully. He sent a letter to Dresden and asked the prime minister to resign of his own accord.

Zeigner replied as quickly as condescendingly: “Herr Reich Chancellor! I confirm receipt of your letter of October 27, 1923. The Saxon government firmly rejects the suggestion contained in it to resign.” Now the Reich execution was inevitable.

On October 29, Gessler gave the appropriate orders to Müller's troops. Everything remained quiet in Dresden when Reichswehr soldiers occupied several ministries and the state parliament. There was only a few resistance from armed communists, although more than 30 people died in Freiberg and Pirna in particular. In Berlin, the SPD ministers, urged by the faction and officials, resigned and burst the coalition.

Otto Gessler certainly did not want that – but the Saxon government had left him no other choice. Born in 1875 in Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart, Gessler was one of the experienced liberal politicians of the Weimar Republic. After studying law, he worked as a public prosecutor and judge in the Bavarian judicial service, but was elected mayor of Regensburg in 1910. Four years later he moved to Nuremberg, Bavaria's second largest city, as mayor. "In this position, he managed the fortunes of his city with great care during the war," wrote his biographer Thilo Vogelsang, "and contributed to the fact that Nuremberg and the Franconian areas were essentially spared from the post-war turmoil."

In 1919 he joined the Reich Cabinet as Minister for Reconstruction and the following March, after the failed Kapp Putsch, Gessler took over the leadership of the Reichswehr. The SPD had forced its own minister, Gustav Noske, to give up this position. "Among the current ministers, Gessler seemed to be the most suitable person to take over the office of defense minister in a critical situation," summarized Vogelsang. The liberal Reichswehr Minister remained in office until early 1928, when he fell victim to an intrigue within the troops. But as President of the German War Graves Commission, he remained in the public eye.

Although Gessler was very reserved from 1933 onwards, he was arrested after the failed coup d'état in 1944. The Gestapo feared that he could become part of a "counter-elite" like Konrad Adenauer, who was almost a year younger. He was imprisoned for seven months and was at times severely abused, even though he was almost 70 years old.

He only returned to politics for a few months after May 8, 1945, including as the first head of the Bavarian State Chancellery in Munich. Mainly, however, he took care of the reconstruction of the Bavarian Red Cross, and from 1950 also the German Red Cross. Otto Gessler died in September 1955, seven weeks after his 80th birthday.

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