Poster of the Reichsregierung
against the Kapp Putsch, 13 March 1920[a]
After Germany had lost World War I (1914–1918), the German Revolution of 1918–1919 ended the monarchy and the German Empire was abolished and a democratic system, the Weimar Republic, was established in 1919 by the Weimar National Assembly. Right-wing nationalist and militarist circles opposed the new republic and promoted the stab-in-the-back myth, claiming that the war had only been lost because the brave efforts of the undefeated German military had been undermined by civilians at home.
In 1919–20, the government of Germany was formed by the Weimar Coalition, consisting of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), German Democratic Party (DDP, left-of-centre liberals) and Zentrum (conservative Catholics). President Friedrich Ebert, Chancellor Gustav Bauer and Defence Minister Gustav Noske were all members of the SPD. According to the constitution, the president was the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, represented in peace time by the Minister of Defence. The most senior officer of the land forces was called Chef der Heeresleitung, a post held in early 1920 by General Walther Reinhardt.
Gustav Bauer was obliged to sign the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, even though he disagreed with it. The treaty had been dictated by the victorious Allies of World War I; it forced Germany to assume sole responsibility for the war, reduced the area of Germany and imposed reparation payments and military restrictions on the nation. In early 1919, the strength of the Reichswehr, the regular German army, was estimated at 350,000, with more than 250,000 men enlisted in the various Freikorps ("free corps"), volunteer paramilitary units, largely consisting of returning soldiers from the war. The German government had repeatedly used Freikorp troops to put down Communist uprisings after the war. Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which came into effect on 10 January 1920, Germany was required to reduce its land forces to a maximum of 100,000 men. The initial deadline was set for 31 March 1920 (later extended to the end of the year).:25 Freikorps units were expected to be disbanded. Since the reason for their creation—internal repression—had become obsolete with the crushing of the leftist uprisings, they were becoming a threat to the government.:216 Some senior military commanders had started discussing the possibility of a coup as early as July 1919.