World War One

RARE Orig Photo LOT WWI German Soldier Hindenburg 1916 Ludendorff Kaiser Wilhelm

RARE Orig Photo LOT WWI German Soldier Hindenburg 1916 Ludendorff Kaiser Wilhelm
RARE Orig Photo LOT WWI German Soldier Hindenburg 1916 Ludendorff Kaiser Wilhelm
RARE Orig Photo LOT WWI German Soldier Hindenburg 1916 Ludendorff Kaiser Wilhelm
RARE Orig Photo LOT WWI German Soldier Hindenburg 1916 Ludendorff Kaiser Wilhelm
RARE Orig Photo LOT WWI German Soldier Hindenburg 1916 Ludendorff Kaiser Wilhelm
RARE Orig Photo LOT WWI German Soldier Hindenburg 1916 Ludendorff Kaiser Wilhelm
RARE Orig Photo LOT WWI German Soldier Hindenburg 1916 Ludendorff Kaiser Wilhelm
RARE Orig Photo LOT WWI German Soldier Hindenburg 1916 Ludendorff Kaiser Wilhelm
RARE Orig Photo LOT WWI German Soldier Hindenburg 1916 Ludendorff Kaiser Wilhelm
RARE Orig Photo LOT WWI German Soldier Hindenburg 1916 Ludendorff Kaiser Wilhelm
RARE Orig Photo LOT WWI German Soldier Hindenburg 1916 Ludendorff Kaiser Wilhelm
RARE Orig Photo LOT WWI German Soldier Hindenburg 1916 Ludendorff Kaiser Wilhelm

RARE Orig Photo LOT WWI German Soldier Hindenburg 1916 Ludendorff Kaiser Wilhelm

RARE Old Photograph COLLECTION LOT. Paul von Hindenburg, Erich Ludendorff, Helmuth von Moltke the Younger? For offer, a nice lot of original photos. Fresh from a prominent estate in Rochester, Upstate, NY.

Never offered on the market until now. Each one measures 6 1/2 x 4 3/4 inches.

Photographer imprint on back from Berlin, Germany. Images mostly show Hindenburg, with injured soldiers in wheelchairs, etc.

First World War General / Leaders. Please see photo for details. If you collect 20th century German history, military, photography, soldiers , etc. This is a treasure you will not see again! Add this to your image or paper / ephemera collection.

World War I (WWI or WW1), also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war centered in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918. More than 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians died as a result of the war, a casualty rate exacerbated by the belligerents' technological and industrial sophistication, and tactical stalemate. It was one of the deadliest conflicts in history, paving the way for major political changes, including revolutions in many of the nations involved. [5] The war drew in all the world's economic great powers, [6] which were assembled in two opposing alliances: the Allies (based on the Triple Entente of the United Kingdom, France and the Russian Empire) and the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary. Although Italy had also been a member of the Triple Alliance alongside Germany and Austria-Hungary, it did not join the Central Powers, as Austria-Hungary had taken the offensive against the terms of the alliance. [7] These alliances were reorganised and expanded as more nations entered the war: Italy, Japan and the United States joined the Allies, and the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria the Central Powers.

Ultimately, more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, were mobilised in one of the largest wars in history. [8][9] The immediate trigger for war was the 28 June 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo. This set off a diplomatic crisis when Austria-Hungary delivered an ultimatum to the Kingdom of Serbia, [10][11] and entangled international alliances formed over the previous decades were invoked.

Within weeks, the major powers were at war and the conflict soon spread around the world. On 28 July, the Austro-Hungarians declared war on Serbia and subsequently invaded. [12][13] As Russia mobilised in support of Serbia, Germany invaded neutral Belgium and Luxembourg before moving towards France, leading Britain to declare war on Germany. After the German march on Paris was halted, what became known as the Western Front settled into a battle of attrition, with a trench line that would change little until 1917. Meanwhile, on the Eastern Front, the Russian army was successful against the Austro-Hungarians, but was stopped in its invasion of East Prussia by the Germans.

In November 1914, the Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers, opening fronts in the Caucasus, Mesopotamia and the Sinai. Italy joined the Allies in 1915 and Bulgaria joined the Central Powers in the same year, while Romania joined the Allies in 1916, and the United States joined the Allies in 1917.

The Russian government collapsed in March 1917, and a subsequent revolution in November brought the Russians to terms with the Central Powers via the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, which constituted a massive German victory until nullified by the 1918 victory of the Western allies. After a stunning Spring 1918 German offensive along the Western Front, the Allies rallied and drove back the Germans in a series of successful offensives. On 4 November 1918, the Austro-Hungarian empire agreed to an armistice, and Germany, which had its own trouble with revolutionaries, agreed to an armistice on 11 November 1918, ending the war in victory for the Allies.

By the end of the war, four major imperial powersthe German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empiresceased to exist. The successor states of the former two lost substantial territory, while the latter two were dismantled.

The maps of Europe and Southwest Asia were redrawn, with several independent nations restored or created. During the Paris Peace conference, The Big Four imposed their terms in a series of treaties. The League of Nations was formed with the aim of preventing any repetition of such an appalling conflict. This aim, however, failed with weakened states, economic depression, renewed European nationalism, and the German feeling of humiliation contributing to the rise of nazism.

These conditions eventually contributed to World War II. Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg About this sound listen (help·info), known generally as Paul von Hindenburg German: [pal fn hndnbk] (listen); 2 October 1847 2 August 1934 was a German military officer, statesman, and politician who served as the second President of Germany from 192534. Hindenburg retired from the army for the first time in 1911, but was recalled shortly after the outbreak of World War I in 1914. He first came to national attention at the age of 66 as the victor of the decisive Battle of Tannenberg in August 1914. As Germany's Chief of the General Staff from August 1916, Hindenburg's reputation rose greatly in German public esteem.

He and his deputy Erich Ludendorff then led Germany in a de facto military dictatorship throughout the remainder of the war, marginalizing German Emperor Wilhelm II as well as the German Reichstag. In line with Lebensraum ideology, he advocated sweeping annexations of territories in Poland, Ukraine, and Russia in order to resettle Germans there. In 1932, Hindenburg was persuaded to run for re-election as German president, although 84 years old and in poor health, because he was considered the only candidate who could defeat Adolf Hitler. Hindenburg was re-elected in a runoff. He was opposed to Hitler and was a major player in the increasing political instability in the Weimar Republic that ended with Hitler's rise to power.

He dissolved the Reichstag (parliament) twice in 1932 and finally, under pressure, agreed to appoint Hitler Chancellor of Germany in January 1933. In February, he signed off on the Reichstag Fire Decree, which suspended various civil liberties, and in March he signed the Enabling Act of 1933, which gave Hitler's regime arbitrary powers. Hindenburg died the following year, after which Hitler declared the office of President vacant and made himself head of state. Hindenburg was born in Posen, Prussia (Polish: Pozna; until 1793 and since 1919 part of Poland[1]), the son of Prussian aristocrat Robert von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg (18161902) and his wife Luise Schwickart (18251893), the daughter of medical doctor Karl Ludwig Schwickart and his wife Julie Moennich.

Hindenburg was embarrassed by his mother's non-aristocratic background and hardly mentioned her at all in his memoirs. His paternal lineage was considered highly distinguished; in fact, he was descended from one of the most respected ancient noble families in Prussia. His paternal grandfather was Otto Ludwig von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg (17781855), through whom he was remotely descended from the illegitimate daughter of Count Heinrich VI of Waldeck. Hindenburg was also a descendant of Martin Luther and his wife Katharina von Bora through their daughter Margareta Luther. Hindenburg's younger brothers and sister were Otto (born 24 August 1849), Ida (born 19 December 1851) and Bernhard (born 17 January 1859). Hindenburg was proud that one of his ancestors, Colonel Otto Frederich von Hindenburg had lost a leg at the Battle of Torgau in 1760 and had been awarded an estate at Neudeck by Frederich the Great.

[2] Like others of his generation, Hindenburg always saw himself first and foremost as a Prussian rather than a German, writing: "It does not matter to what part of our German Fatherland my profession has called me, I have always felt myself an Old Prussian". [3] Hindenburg received a typical Junker upbringing, being taught the virtues of duty, discipline, obedience to authority and loyalty to Prussia and piety towards the Lutheran Church. [4] Hindenburg was an intense militarist who was brought up to be a soldier by his parents, and for him war was something beautiful and romantic as he saw killing people to be the most noble and manly thing that a "real man" could do.

[4] Hindenburg's governess was known to shout Quiet in the ranks! When the Hindenburg children were making too much noise, and Hindenburg's best friend at the estate where he grew up was an elderly gardener who as a boy had served as a drummer in the Army of Frederich the Great, regaling the young Hindenburg with tales of Prussian military glory. [4] Before entering the Prussian Cadet Corps in 1859, the 12-year old Hindenburg soberly wrote up his last will and testament in case he should die, dividing up his toys amongst his siblings. [5] In a letter to his parents, the young Hindenburg wrote of his plans for a design in his room which would comprise.

"At the rear a big Prussian eagle on the wall; in the center, on an elevation, Old Fritz [Frederick the Great] and his generals; at the foot of the elevation a number of Black Hussars; in front a chain with cannon posted behind it, more in the foreground and two watchman's booths, with two grenadiers of the time of Frederick the Great". The letter was typical of Hindenburg's correspondence with his parents were virtually everything he wrote concerned matters martial with civilian interests and pursuits mocked as matters for lesser beings. [6] Hindenburg's favorite reading materials were war and adventure stories with The Pathfinder by James Fenimore Cooper being his favorite. [7] As a cadet, Hindenburg was admired for his commitment to duty, obsession with details whose uniform was always immaculate with not even a single brass button left unpolished and his physical toughness while being considered of mediocre intelligence and utterly lacking in a sense of humor, a dedicated if somewhat dull cadet.

Paul von Hindenburg as a cadet in Wahlstatt (1860). After his education at cadet schools in Berlin and Wahlstatt (now Legnickie Pole), Hindenburg was commissioned as a lieutenant in 1866. He fought in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and the Franco-Prussian War of 18701871.

During the Seven Weeks War of 1866, Hindenburg wrote his parents: I rejoice in this bright-colored future. For the soldier war is the normal state of thingsIf I fall, it is the most honorable and beautiful death. [8] Hindenburg's helmet took an Austrian bullet, which he kept with him for the rest of his life as a lucky talisman.

[8] During the war with France, Hindenburg fought at the bloody battle of St. Privat and was slightly wounded when a bullet from a French mitrailleuse (a primitive machine gun that was one of the more formidable of the French weapons) struck him in the leg.

[9] Hindenburg credited the Prussian victory over the French at St. Privat as due to that "spiritual enthusiasm, a stern resolve to conquer and the holy lust of battle" that motivated the Prussians and commented dismissively that the French loved life too much and thus were afraid to die.

Privat, Hindenburg's regiment lost 1,005 dead or wounded, a source of great pleasure for Hindenburg who saw war as the most beautiful thing in the world with the corpses and shattered bodies of the wounded all part of what was for him the enchanting beauty of war. [11] During the Siege of Paris in 187071, Hindenburg did not share the common complaints by his fellow officers that the French were being stupid by refusing to surrender despite the fact it was clear that they had lost the war, instead expressing admiration for the French determination to uphold their honor and willingness to keep fighting in spite of the hopelessness of their situation.

[12] A huge man standing at 6 feet 5 inches tall with a muscular frame and striking blue eyes who projected self-confidence and a sense of power, Hindenburg impressed everyone who met him. He served Elisabeth Ludovika, the widow of King Frederick William IV of Prussia, and was present in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles when the German Empire was proclaimed on 18 January 1871 as one of a group of officers decorated for bravery in battle who had been chosen to represent their regiments. In a letter to his parents, Hindenburg explained to them that he hated the French because the "French temperament is too vicarious and thus too capricious for my taste". [14] One of Hindenburg's proudest moments came when he took part in the victory parade in Paris as the soldiers of the Prussian and other German armies marched down the streets of Paris in triumph with pleased Hindenburg noting that the Parisians were all suitably humiliated by the experience. [14] Hindenburg loathed the French, but he expressed approval of the ruthless suppression of the Paris Commune by the French government in May 1871, which he described as an act of necessary violence to uphold the social order, views that prefigured Hindenburg's actions in January 1919 when he unleashed the Freikorps' to crush the Spartakusbund in Berlin with orders to take no prisoners.

[12] Hindenburg also served as an Honour Guard prior to the Military funeral of Emperor William I in 1888. At the funeral of Wilhelm I, Hindenburg took a piece of gray marble from the cathedral floor and always had it with him for the rest of his life to remind him of "my king". [15] He was promoted to captain in 1878, major in 1881, lieutenant-colonel in 1891, colonel in 1893, major-general in 1897 and lieutenant general in 1900. [16] Hindenburg eventually commanded a corps and was promoted to the rank of General of the Infantry in 1903. Meanwhile, he married Gertrud von Sperling (18601921), also an aristocrat, by whom he had two daughters, Irmengard Pauline (1880) and Annemaria (1891), and one son, Oskar (1883).

As the commander of the Ninety-first Infantry Regiment, which he took command of in 1893, Hindenburg worked in his words "to cultivate a sense of chivalry among my officers and efficiency and firm discipline as well the love of work and independence side by side with a high ideal of service". [15] As an officer, Hindenburg was noted for his self assurance, his ability to keep his cool, his care of his men, a gruff sort of charm and for being a very committed though unimaginative commander.

[17] Alfred von Schlieffen suggested in 1906 that Hindenburg succeed him as Chief of the General Staff as he considered Hindenburg a man, who through lacking imagination and initiative would faithfully carry out his plans, a proposal that was vetoed as it felt a more mentally agile officer was needed than Hindenburg. [18] In 1908 during one of the Kaisermanöver (Emperor's Maneuvers) as war games commanded by the Emperor Wilhelm II were known, Hindenburg commanding the 4th Army Corps broke the most important of the unwritten rules governing the war games by defeating the Kaiser, a "victory" that did not endear him to the Supreme Warlord who blocked him from being appointed to the General Staff. [17] In January 1911, Hindenburg retired, settling in Hanover, and devoted his time to hunting, his favorite pastime, and despite being a Lutheran collecting Madonna and chid figurines.

[19] By the time he retired in 1911, Hindenburg had in the words of his biographer Andreas Dorpalen "an honorable, but not especially distinguished career" as his "advancement was not especially rapid and his assignments were strictly routine". [20] Hindenburg was not promoted to rank of colonel general at the time of his retirement (a sign of favor and approval) and nor was he given the title of Inspekteur, which would had assured that he would automatically be given a command in the event of war. [20] Despite this, Hindenburg was valued by his superiors, but for his personality rather than his abilities. [21] The journalist Theodor Eschenburg who knew Hindenburg well in his last years: I remember a number of people from the nineteen-thirites who were not exactly shy or easily flustered, yet who had something like stage fright and felt unsure of themselves when they were to face Hindenburg.

This was not merely a matter of authority of the office, even less that of military rank or glory or old age; rather there was at work here a personal fluidum to which few who met him remained immune... He always faced people outside his immediate family circle with evident self-control, concerned with his dignity, even when he sought to be jovial. To display such dignified bearing, he considered his duty... But without this personal substance, this conscious display could hardly have had the strong effect to which so many have testified. Hindenburg subscribed to xenophobic and militarist views, seeing the Reich as being "encircled" by enemies, and thought that war was the best solution to all international problems.

[22] Like many other Prussian officers, Hindenburg favored deciding wars via a few battles of annihilation with the Geist or spirit deciding the outcome of wars. [23] Recalling the war with France, Hindenburg always noted that the French had superior weapons, but the Germans had superior willpower, and it was the latter that always decided the outcome of wars. Abroad was irrelevant to him. [23] Hindenburg's interests were entirely military and he had almost no understanding of economics or the world of business. [25] Likewise, Hindenburg understood war at the tactical and operational level, and had little interest in strategy or grand strategy, responding to difficult strategical questions by focusing on improving tactics and fostering the will to win.

As usual in his wartime photos, Hindenburg holds the baton of a Prussian Field Marshal in his left hand. 1-7-1915, Der Warheit newspaper political cartoon, heading: The German sphinx from Poland (Sphinx says "Hindenburg" on it) Czar Nikolai (to the German Commander in Poland, Hindenburg): little father, give voice!

Be a good brother and tell me where you plan to go: to Warsaw or to Lemberg? Hindenburg retired from the army for the first time in 1911, but was recalled in 1914, shortly after the outbreak of World War I, by Helmuth von Moltke, the Chief of the German General Staff.

In August 1914, Russia had mobilized much more quickly than the German General Staff had expected, and two Russian armies entered East Prussia, leading to panic on the German side. [26] Moltke the Younger decided that the man to save the situation was Erich Ludendorff, a man considered brilliant, but emotionally and mentally unstable who was known to fall to pieces when things did not work out as planned and who suffered the further handicap of being from a middle-class family in an officer corps dominated by Junkers. [27] To resolve this problem, Moltke decided to make Ludendorff the chief of staff to Hindenburg, a Junker known for his calmness in a crisis. [27] Hindenburg was swiftly called out of retirement and reported to duty wearing an improvised uniform consisting of civilian black trousers and a Prussian blue tunic he borrowed from a relative of his wife. [28] As Hindenburg left his train station in Hanover, he had been very impressed with the patriotic frenzy of the "Spirit of 1914", writing to his son-in-law: How glorious is the bearing of our people!

[29] Hindenburg was given command of the Eighth Army, then locked in combat with two Russian armies in East Prussia. Hindenburg's predecessor Maximilian von Prittwitz had been planning to abandon East Prussia and retreat behind the River Vistula after suffering defeat by the Russian First Army at the Battle of Gumbinnen. Nonetheless, Hindenburg's Eighth Army was soon victorious at the Battle of Tannenberg and the Battle of the Masurian Lakes against the Russian armies. Hindenburg and Ludendorff had a "marriage" of minds with the older and calmer Hindenburg providing much needed stability and support to the more intelligent Ludendorff who was however of questionable mental stability even at the best of times.

[30] Upon arriving at the HQ of the 8th Army, Hindenburg impressed everyone with his refusal to panic, and his insistence that the Russians could be beaten provided that everyone just stay calm. [30] Most of the planning was done by Ludendorff and Max Hoffmann, who took advantage of the fact that the Russians were sending their radio messages "in the clear" i. Uncoded and the separation between the Russian 1st Army and the 2nd Army to bring five German corps to encircle the Russian 2nd Army. [31] Historians such as G. Meyer attach much of the credit to Erich Ludendorff and to the little-known staff officer Max Hoffmann, but these successes made Hindenburg a national hero.

[32] The victory at Tannenberg resulted in the destruction of the Russian 2nd Army with 92, 000 Russians captured together with four hundred guns. [33] Hindenburg suggested giving the name of the battle "Tannenberg" as a way of "avenging" the defeat inflicted on the Order of the Teutonic Knights by the Polish and Lithuanian knights in 1410 even through the battle was fought nowhere near the field of Tannenberg. [34] In 1914, the battle of Tannenberg was presented by the German newspapers in mythical and mystical terms as part of a "race war" between the Germanic and Slavic peoples, a battle that transcended the immediate issues of 1914 to become part of something larger and more mysterious with Hindenburg as the defender and avenger of Deutschtum against the Slavs. [34] In the words of the British historian Sir John Wheeler-Bennett, Tannenberg made Hindenburg and Ludendroff in the eyes of the German people into "legendary figures, capable of superhuman feats". Hindenburg was awarded the Pour le Mérite or the "Blue Max", Prussia's highest decoration for bravery for Tannenberg. [34] Hindenburg's massive frame and his firm, gruff yet grandfatherly persona made him into Germany's most popular man. [34] Unlike the Kaiser who largely disappeared from public life after the war started, spending his time in seclusion at his palaces and hunting lodgings, Hindenburg was glad to at the center of the public limelight. [37] The public adoration went to Hindenburg's head and soon his ego grew to colossal proportions. [38] On 4 September 1914 Hindenburg modestly wrote to his daughter saying it was God that won the Battle of Tannenberg, not him, but by the beginning of October 1914 Hindenburg had changed his mind about who won Tannenberg, saying it was all his work.

[39] In October 1914, Hindenburg wrote to his daughter: Here things are quite good. It may sound arrogant but it is so: since my arrival there has been a great turn-around in this theater of the war.

In August 1914, Wilhlem II had what Astore and Showalter called his "one shining moment" during his thirty-year reign when he announced before the Reichstag the Burgfrieden ("peace within a castle under siege") as henceforth to face the challenge of the war all of the differences between rich, middle class, and poor; Protestants and Roman Catholics; urban and rural; left and right and between all of the Staaten (states) of the Reich were now meaningless and the German people were one. [41] Even the Social Democrats who were nominally pacifists broke into two with the Majority Social Democrats rallying to the Fatherland as they believed their government's claim that Russia was supposedly about to invade Germany, thus necessitating a "preventive war", and only a minority in the form of the Independent Social Democrats held true to their pacifistic principles. With the exception of the Independent Social Democrats, all of the German political parties supported the war, and the Burgfrieden proved remarkably effective in creating a national consensus in favor of the war.

[41] Hindenburg had been very impressed at the way that the Spirit of 1914 had fused the formerly factious German nation into one and like many other Germans wanted to convert the wartime Burgfrieden into a peacetime Volksgemeinschaft (people's community) that would keep the nation united forever. [42] Before 1914, German society had been bitterly divided between Catholics vs. Protestants; the rising power of the SPD and the unions against the government and business; between those who lived in the cities vs.

Those who lived in the countryside; between those favored traditional culture vs. A modernist new culture; and for someone like Hindenburg to see all these divisions dissolve as much of the nation was caught up in the "Spirit of 1914" was a deeply reassuring portent of what the future could be like. [43] Hindenburg came to see creating Volksgemeinschaft as his life's mission as he viewed himself as the nation's guardian, writing: May we never lose the spirit of 1914. Just as important as deciding the fate of the Eastern Front were the battles in Galicia in August and September 1914, where the Russians destroyed much of the Austrian Army and occupied much of Galicia. [44] With the possibility that Austria-Hungary might be knocked out of the war altogether becoming more and more real by the day, Hindenburg and Ludendorff in October 1914 started an offensive into Russian Poland with the aim of taking Warsaw.

[45] In the face of fierce Russian resistance, Hindenburg had to break off his offensive, but he did succeed in reliving pressure on the Austrians. [46] On 1 November 1914, Hindenburg was given the position of Supreme Commander East (Ober-Ost), although at this stage his authority only extended over the German portion of the front, not the Austro-Hungarian, and units were transferred from East Prussia to form a new Ninth Army in southwestern Poland.

Hindenburg detested his Austrian allies, writing that the entire leadership of the Habsburg Army was "incompetent" and constantly complained supporting Austria was a major drain on the German war effort while Franz Conrad von Hotzendorf of the Austrian General Staff charged that his German allies were the overbearing and arrogant "secret enemy" of Austria. [44] Hindenburg renewed his offensive with the aim of taking ód, which was initially successful, but was soon stopped by the Russians who threatened to encircle the advancing Germans. [47] Ludendroff wrote in being allied to Austria, Germany was "shackled to a corpse" as all the Austrian generals knew how to do was lose, and after the disaster in Galicia in September 1914, it was only the German Army that saved Austria-Hungary from complete defeat at the hands of the Russians. [47] Astore and Showalter wrote as bad as Anglo-French relations could be in during the war, there was no counterpart on the Allied state to the mutual dislike and distrust that characterized Austro-German relations. [47] The climax of the Battle of ód was the escape of General Reinhard von Scheffer-Boyadel's 25th Corps from an attempt by the Russians to encircle and annihilate it. [47] On 27 November 1914, after the Battle of Lodz, Hindenburg was promoted to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall ("General Field Marshal"), the highest rank in the Prussian Army. [47] A field marshal's baton was a symbol of great prestige in Germany, and henceforth Hindenburg was rarely seen in public, photographs, and paintings without his field marshal's baton. [47] A further battle was fought by the Eighth and newly formed Tenth Armies in Masuria that winter. Ober-Ost eventually consisted of the German Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Armies, plus other assorted corps. Hindenburg and Ludendorff felt that more effort should be made on the Eastern Front to relieve the forces of Germany's ally, the Ottoman Empire, in order to defeat Russia. By contrast, Erich von Falkenhayn, the Chief of the General Staff, felt that it was impossible for Germany to win a decisive victory in this way. Hindenburg feuded constantly with Falkenhayn, who favored focusing on defeating France rather Russia, a strategy Hindenburg was opposed to. [48] Falkenhayn felt that building up forces in the east could not lead to victory in an overall conflict involving two fronts.

Indeed, he hoped that Russia might be encouraged to drop out of the war if not pressed too hard. Annoyed at the open insubordination of Hindenburg and Ludendorff, Falkenhayn tried to break up the duo by giving Ludendorff command of a new army, which led Hindenburg to write a letter to the Kaiser asking him to sack Falkenhayn while at the same time enlisting the Crown Prince Wilhelm to pressure his father not to break up the Hindenburg-Ludendorff partnership. [49] Feeling intimidated by the menacing Hindenburg and knowing the German public would not accept his sacking, Wilhelm II chose not to stand by Falkenhayn and gave in to Hindenburg, reassigning Ludendorff to Hindenburg yet retaining Falkenhayn as Chief of the General Staff. [49] This crisis in command did much to diminish Falkenhayn's authority as he had proved incapable of asserting his authority over Hindenburg. [49] The German historian Wolfram Pyta described Hindenburg's authority as corresponding to Max Weber's category of Charismatic authority as Hindenburg's power rested not on any of the offices he held, but rather on his personage and his status as a symbol of all that good and great in Germany, a "constantly renewable popular consensus that extended to all sectors of German society and that bound the German people to his person and the project of national unity that become synonymous with his person".

At the Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes in early 1915, Hindenburg defeated a second Russian invasion of East Prussia, destroying the Russian 10th Army and taking 55, 000 Russians prisoners. [49] The former American Senator Albert J. Beveridge interviewed Hindenburg in February 1915. [51] Beveridge wrote he was impressed with Hindenburg, calling him: broad-shouldered, thick-chestedthe immense stature, the huge frame, the impression of tremendous, steady, unyielding force. Here is a man who makes up his mind about what he wants or wants to do, and then has no further doubt on the subject.

It is the kind of self-confidence that inspires confidence in others. [51] When Beveridge asked Hindenburg who was responsible for the war, Hindenburg blamed Britain, which he claimed had become jealous of German economic success and incited Russia to mobilize in July 1914, thus "forcing" Germany to defend itself. [51] Hindenburg claimed that France was likewise under British incitement planning on attacking Germany in conjunction with Russia and was going to violate Belgian neutrality, which thus "justified" Germany invading neutral Belgium as part of its alleged defensive "preventative war".

[51] When Beveridge told Hindenburg that he thought that the Reich was a deeply militarist country with many German conscripts fighting "the Kaiser's war" against their wills, a furious Hindenburg replied: The German Army is the German people! The German Emperor and the German people are one! [51] Hindenburg explained to Bevridge that his nation would win the war because.

"Our knowledge that we are right; the faith of the nation that we shall win; their willingness to die in order to win; the perfect discipline of our troops; their understanding of orders; their greater intelligence, education and spirit; our organization and resources". For the spring of 1915, Hindenburg and Ludendorff proposed a huge offensive into Russian Poland with eight corps which together with an Austrian offensive from Galicia would take Warsaw in an enormous Kesselschlacht (cauldron battle) that would "annihilate" the Imperial Russian Army forces in Congress Poland with the aim of knocking Russia out of the war. [53] Falkenhayn vetoed this plan as too ambitious, but a modified and scaled down version of this plan was launched in May 1915.

[53] Hindenburg's offensive into Russian Poland led to the Russians suffering about 300,000 casualties with Hindenburg taking Warsaw on 4 August 1915 and Vilna on 18 September 1915. [53] However, Hindenburg failed to achieve his decisive battle of annihilation that would force Russia to sue for peace in 1915.

[54] Much to Hindenburg's fury, the Kaiser snubbed him at the awards ceremony when Wilhelm refused to allow him to ride in his car, giving that honor to General Hans von Beseler (though the Kaiser did award Hindenburg the Pour de Mérite with Oak Leaves). [54] Wilhelm II was immensely jealous of the fact that Hindenburg was far more popular with the German people then he was at this time of crisis, and often feared that Hindenburg would become "the people's tribunal" who would try to set up a populist, right-wing military dictatorship that would marginalize him. [55] The German command system was not characterized by unity, instead being a nest of intrigue with the Germany unable to agree to a common strategy with Austria, the military plotting to sideline Wilhelm whom they regarded as an ineffective war leader, the General Staff scheming against the War Ministry, the Army competing with the Navy, and Hindenburg and Ludendorff making no secret of their wish to oust Falkenhayen. [56] Instead of pursuing an eastern strategy, Falkenhayn unleashed an offensive at Verdun in 1916 in order to "bleed France white"[57] and encourage her to make peace.

For his part, Hindenburg was anxious to conquer the Baltic region from the Russian Empire. He recognized the strategic value of controlling its territories in the event of another war with Russia, and he also wished to see it colonized by ethnic Germans. Hindenburg's own military ability is disputed, [59] but he had a team of talented and able subordinates who won him a series of great victories on the Eastern Front between 1914 and 1916. These victories transformed Hindenburg into Germany's most popular man. [60] Despite his reputation as Germany's greatest commander, Hindenburg did not play a very active role in command, spending most of his time posting for photographs and paintings (Hindenburg had an ego equal to his girth), walking, hunting, and eating his favorite meals of bottled eels, rusk (a type of sweet biscuit) and a pyramid cake and drinking brandy and champagne. [61] Hindenburg especially liked to kill stags, the symbol of the Hindenburg family that was prominently marked on the Hindenburg family crest. [61] Hindenburg's staff who did most of the work were often annoyed at the way in which the egomaniac Hindenburg always took all the credit for their work.

[61] Hoffmann complained in September 1915: We generally sign the orders'von Hindenburg' without having shown them to him at all. The most brilliant commander of all times no longer has the slightest interest in military matters; Ludendorff does everything himself.

[61] Hindenburg generally kept himself informed of the broad picture and was content to let his staff work out the details, being more concerned with his image. During the war, Hindenburg was the subject of an enormous personality cult. He was seen as the perfect embodiment of German manly honour, rectitude, decency, and strength, the "savior of the fatherland". [63] Typical of the wartime writing about the Field Marshal were the statements of Hindenburg's niece, Nostiz von Hindenburg who wrote of her uncle: One might compare Hindenburg to one of those big firmly-rooted oaks of the Prussian landscape under whose shade so many find protection and rest.

He seemed to rise out of an old legend of our forefathers. He incorporated the soul of our nation, without being in the least self-conscious of it. And one felt awed at its tragic presence. [64] In the words of the American historians William Astore and Denis Showalter, Hindenburg embodied "mature masculinity" to German men while to German women he was a both a "loving husband and father", the man who never let them down and always looked after them.

[64] The appeal of the Hindenburg cult cut across ideological, religious, class, and regional lines, but the group that idolized Hindenburg the most was the German right, who saw him as an ideal representative of the Prussian ethos and of Lutheran, Junker values. [65] During the war, Hindenburg was so popular that he become a symbol of Germany itself. [65] When Germans who were annexationists spoke of what they wanted after the war, it was always a "Hindenburg peace", meaning a peace with extensive conquests in Europe, Africa and Asia.

[65] Hindenburg's popularity was such was his Abendtrunck or evening drink of a glass of water with a bit of lemon and sugar become the national rage. [65] The largest of the Nagelsäulen was a twenty-eight ton statue raised in the Köeingsplatz in Berlin in August 1915 that was the object of a weekly fund raising drive with thousands of ordinary people competing to see who would nail the most marks of the highest value into it.

[37] During the war, several books were published of Hindenburg's table talks, which despite being mostly banal and boring were all bestsellers as the German people could never get enough of what was perceived as Hindenburg's wit and wisdom. [66] It was a measure of Hindenburg's public appeal that, when the Government launched an all-out programme of industrial mobilisation in 1916, it was named the Hindenburg Programme rather the Kaiser Wilhelm Programme. By the summer of 1916, Erich von Falkenhayn had been discredited by the disappointing progress of the Verdun Offensive and the near collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Army caused by the Brusilov Offensive and the entry of Romania into the war on the Allied side. The summer of 1916 was a period of crisis for Germany.

[68] The Battle of Verdun was leading to Germany suffering huge casualties, in June 1916 the Russians launched the Brusilov Offensive that took much of Galicia and Bukovinia, in July 1916 the British launched the Battle of the Somme and in August Romania entered the war on the Allied side. [69] All over Germany, newspapers demanded that Falkenhayn be sacked and replaced with Hindenburg. Bethmann Hollweg wrote to General Baron Moritiz von Lyncker on 23 June 1916: The name Hindenburg frightens our enemies, galvanizes our army and people, which have boundless confidence in him... If we were to lose a battle, which God forbid, our people would nevertheless accept it, and likewise any peace to which he would put his name.

[71] In July 1916, Falkenhayn challenged Hindenburg about his desire to replace him as chief of the general staff, saying: "Well, if Herr Field Marshal has the desire and courage to take the post", only to be interrupted by Hindenburg who said "The desire, no, but the courage-yes". [71] With tears in his eyes, Wilhelm appointed Hindenburg chief of the general staff. [71] In August 1916, Hindenburg succeeded Falkenhayn as Chief of the General Staff, although real power was exercised by his deputy Erich Ludendorff. [72] Hindenburg in many ways served as the real commander-in-chief of the German armed forces instead of the emperor, who had been reduced to a mere figurehead, while Ludendorff served as the de facto general chief of staff.

The Kaiser had become a mere Schattenkaiser (shadow emperor) a reclusive, rarely seen leader who was almost completely ignored in the popular adulation of Hindenburg, who for most Germans saw as the personification of the nation and whom Hindenburg ordered about in private. [73] From 1916 onwards, Germany became an unofficial military dictatorship, often called the "Silent dictatorship"[60][74] by historians. Hindenburg was a monarchist by inclination, but his monarchism was of a type peculiar to officer corps, which viewed the monarchy as the best form of government, but at same time German officers' first loyalty was to the institution of the army rather than the monarch. [75] King Frederich Wilhelm III of Prussia had been such an inept monarch that after Prussia's crushing defeat by the French in 1806-07 that the military had undertaken the task of reform themselves rather wait for their dithering king, which was the origin of the military "state within the state" in Prussia. As such, Hindenburg did not hesitate to break his oath of loyalty to Wilhelm II by taking decisions that properly were the Kaiser's to make under the grounds just as in the Napoleonic wars the military had both the right and duty to usurp tasks that constitutionally speaking were the prerogative of the monarch. The news of Hindenburg's appointment was well received by the German people.

[77] One German soldier, Karl Gorzel serving on the Western Front wrote in October 1916: As we were passing through Cambrai, we saw Hindenburg and greeted him with exultant cheers. The sight of him ran through our limbs like fire and filled us with boundless courage. [77] In SeptemberOctober 1916, Hindenburg and Ludendorff visited the Western Front for the first time. [77] After seeing the battlefields of Verdun and the Somme, a shocked Hindenburg wrote that frontline soldiers "hardly ever saw anything but trenches and shell holesfor weeks and even monthsI could now understand how everyone, officers and men alike, longed to get away from such an atmosphere". [78] In response, Hindenburg concluded that his previous emphasis on the will to win, the idea of war as a spiritual struggle with the side with the stronger will prevailing had to be modified somewhat as the war had become a Materialschlacht ("material battle"), a total war in both sides sought to mobilize their entire societies in support of the war.

[78] Hindenburg was an annexationist, someone who believed that the war should end with the Reich annexing much of Europe, Africa and Asia to make Germany into the world's greatest power. [79] As such, Hindenburg's policies ruled out any possibility of compromise peace as only by defeating Britain, France and Russia could give Germany the victory that Hindenburg envisioned and thus required that Germany achieve a "total victory" over her enemies. [80] Hindenburg wanted as a minimum to annex Belgium, most of northern France and much of the Russian Empire, plus many of the British and French colonies in Africa and Asia. Reflecting this policy choice to go for total victory was the Hindenburg Programme by having the state take over the economy to create a total war economy, a policy known as "war socialism". [82] Neither Hindenburg or Ludendorff had much understanding of economics, and in the words of Astore and Showalter their key mistake was to presume that an economy could be commanded like an army.

What was best for the army in the short term was not necessarily best for the long-term health of the economyExtreme economic mobilization encouraged grandiose political and territorial demands, ruling out opportunities for a compromise peace, which Hindenburg and Ludendorff rejected anyway. Under their leadership, Imperial Germany became a machine for waging war and little elseAs enacted, the Hindenburg Programme sought to maximize war-related production by transforming Germany into a garrison state with a command economy.

Coordinating the massive effort was the Kriegsamt, or War Office, head by General Wilhlem Groener. [82] As Hindenburg did not know much about business or economics, much of the work of the Hindenburg Programme was actually done by Ludendorff and his aide, an officer of extreme right-wing views, Colonel Max Bauer who began a crash program of economic centralization whose unachievable production goals led to serious dislocations in the national economy. Shell production was to be doubled, artillery and machine gun production trebled, all in a matter of months. The German economy, relying largely on its own internal resources, could not bear the strain of striving for production goals unconstrained by economic, material and manpower realities. Furthermore, to achieve the impossible targets set out by the Hindenburg Programme, the German state restored to conscripting Belgian workers to Germany, which proved to be a public relations disaster that alienated opinion in the neutral United States. [83] Furthermore, within Germany, the emphasis on the Hindenburg Programme upon industrial production at all costs led to major food shortages and caused the Kohlrübenwinter (turnip winter) of 191617 was most Germans were forced to eat tulip derivatives to avoid starving to death, through Hindenburg was successful in persuading the German people that it was the British blockade instead of his policies that had caused the "Hunger Winter". [84] By early 1917, Germans were eating only a fifth of the meat and butter consumption levels of 1914 with turnip and other ersatz foods providing most of the daily substance. [85] In December 1916, the duumvirate of Hindenburg and Ludendorff had the Reichstag pass the Hilfsdienstgesetz (Patriotic Auxiliary Service Law) which imposed national service on all men from ages 17 to 60 and imposed drastic restrictions on the right of German workers to change jobs. [85] Some easing of the German economic problems occurred in December 1916, when Field Marshal August von Mackensen conquered much of Romania. [86] Romania, which is rich in oil and has some of the most fertile farmland in Europe proved to be a most valuable conquest for Germany. Hindenburg had been very critical of Falkenhayn's leadership, but taking command of the Reich, he was initially at a loss about how to win the war.

[89] Britain's population considerably exceeded its agricultural capacity and without food imported from abroad a famine would ensure in the United Kingdom. Hindenburg and Ludendorff with their commitment to total victory had decided in January 1917 to go for broke and ordered the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare, taking the gamble that a "naval guerre à outrance" would starve Britain into submission, even though they both knew that such a step would almost certainly bring the United States into the war. [90] At a meeting with the Kaiser in February 1917, the physicist Walther Nernst told the Kaiser that the American President Woodrow Wilson had often said ever since the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 and the Sussex in 1916 that the United States would enter the war if Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare, and advised Wilhelm to stop the U-boat offensive before it was too late.

[91] With Hindenburg nodding in approval, Ludendorff contemptuously commented that Nernst's warnings were "the incompetent nonsense of a civilian". [72] As the diplomatic counterpart to the gamble on unrestricted submarine warfare, Hindenburg and Ludendorff had the Zimmermann telegram issued in February 1917 proposing an anti-American alliance with Mexico and Japan; argued for Mexico invading the United States; promising the Mexicans they could have back the American states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and Texas once Germany defeated the United States; and suggested that the Mexicans pass along a message to Tokyo proposing that the Japanese switch sides. [92] The Zimmermann telegram was intercepted by the British, whose codebreakers in Room 40 had broken the German diplomatic codes, who then leaked the telegram to the American press with fabricated story that MI6 had stolen the Zimmermann telegraph after a break-in at the German embassy in Mexico City.

[93] The Zimmermann telegraph enraged American public opinion and thus ensured the United States would enter the war as the majority of the American people were incensed that Germany was attempting to incite Mexico to invade America. In the meantime, Hindenburg and Ludendorff decided to on a defensive strategy for the Western Front in 1917 while pursuing an offensive strategy on the Eastern Front with aim of finally defeating Russia. [86] Starting in February 1917, the German forces withdraw back to an elaborate defense-in-depth line known to the Germans as the Siegfried Line and to the Allies as the Hindenburg Line. [94] By this time, Hindenburg had become known as the ersatzkaiser (substitute emperor) as he was far more popular than the real Kaiser. [95] As the Reichstag which was dominated by the Majority Social Democrats and the Zentrum sought to block Hindenburg's annexationist plans for victory by passing a peace resolution, Hindenburg decided to exercise his political power by having the Chancellor Dr.

[95] On 27 June 1917, Hindenburg told Wilhelm to fire Bethmann Hollweg, saying the Chancellor was responsible for the decline in national spirit. It must be revived or we shall lose the war. [93] Ludendorff followed up by saying Bethmann Hollweg was the man aiding "German Radical Social Democracy and its longing for peace". [95] On 13 July 1917, Bethmann Hollweg was fired as Chancellor under strong pressure from Hindenburg and Ludendorff, and replaced with Georg Michaelis, a weak-willed man whom Bauer called the "chancellor of the OHL" as he was completely under the thumb of Hindenburg and Ludendorff.

[96] The sacking of Bethmann Hollweg was an extremely bitter blow to Wilhelm, who had wanted to keep him on as Chancellor. [97] Writing in third person, a despondent Wilhelm declared: "It is high time for him to abdicate since for the first time a Prussian monarch had been forced by his generals to do something that he didn't want to do", going on to complain that Hindenburg had just "castrated" him by stripping him of all his power, leaving him as a mere figurehead. [98] The two warlords followed up their triumph in September 1917 by having the Fatherland Party headed by Wolfgang Kapp and Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz founded with the aim of mobilizing public support for their annexationist war aims. [80] In the same vein, Hindenburg and Ludendorff began a programme of Vaterländischer Unterricht (patriotic instruction), a systematic propaganda campaign in the media designed to win the public over to their annexationist policies while distorting the war completely by never mentioning any defeats and underreporting casualties. What had sustained the Burgfrieden was the almost universal belief in the Reich that Germany was the victim of Allied aggression, and as long as the war was presented in defensive terms, the Burgfrieden held. [41] With Hindenburg and Ludendorff becoming increasingly open in expressing their annexationist war aims, the Burgfrieden began to break down in 1917 as many Majority Social Democrats, the Progressives and the Zenturm started to make clear that they were opposed to a war of conquest. [41] On 19 July 1917, the Zentrum, the Majority Social Democrats, the Progressives and Independent Social Democrats all joined forces to vote the Reichstag Peace Resolution asking the government to make peace with the Allies at once on the basis of no annexations, a resolution that both Hindenburg and Ludendorff regarded as an act of high treason. In 1917, it started to dawn on many Germans that they government had lied to them about the reasons the outbreak of the war in 1914, and that far being a defensive struggle the war was in fact a war of conquest. [41] It was at this point that Hindenburg started to cease being a figure who transcended ideological lines to be a national figure and rather became a more partisan, sectarian figure, a man of the Prussian right whom the Zentrum, liberals and leftists saw as dragging out the war to achieve annexationist war aims they were opposed to.

[41] Moreover, the economic sacrifices demanded by the Hindenburg Programme were borne mostly by the poor and working class Germans who began to grumble that the Junkers were not being asked to suffer the same sort of drastic reduction in living standards that they were. [99] A popular joke in 1917 Germany was the acronym k. V meaning "fit for front-line service" actually stood for keine Verbindung ("little [political] pull"), the acronym g.

V meaning fit for garrison service really stood for gute Verbindung ("good pull") and the acronym a. V for fit for home service really meant ausgezeicchnete Verbindung ("excellent pull"). [99] It was at this time that the first cracks started to appear in the Hindenburg cult. On 2 October 1917 saw the height of the Hindenburg cult as his 70th birthday was celebrated lavishly all over Germany, being made a public holiday, an honor that until then had been reserved only for the Kaiser.

[100] Hindenburg published a birthday manifesto, which somehow managed to claim at one and the same time that Germany had fighting a defensive war imposed by the Allies while at same time claiming that the Reich was fighting to gain Lebensraum (living space) to provide for "free growth". [101] Hindenburg's birthday manifesto ended with the words. With God's help our German strength has withstood the tremendous attack of our enemies, because we were one, because each gave his all gladly. So it must stay to the end. Now thank we all our God on the bloody battlefield! Take no thought for what is to be after the war! This only brings despondency into our ranks and strengthens the hopes of the enemy. Trust that Germany will achieve what she needs to stand there safe for all time, trust that the German oak will be given air and light for its free growth.

Muscles tensed, nerves steeled, eyes front! We see before us the aim: Germany honored, free and great! God will be with us to the end!

Russia's collapse later that same year with the new government led by Vladimir Lenin signing an armistice later that year seemed to confirm Hindenburg's birthday message. [99] On 11 November 1917, at a secret conference held in Mons, Ludendorff announced that in the spring of 1918 Germany would launch a major offensive on the Western Front codenamed Operation Michael that would win the war. When the Chancellor Georg von Hertling suggested that Germany might be moderate in peace terms with Russia, Hindenburg in a letter to the Kaiser on 7 January 1918 wrote: "Your Majesty, we will not order honest men who have served Your Majesty and the Fatherland faithfully to attach the weight of their names and authority to proceedings which their innermost conviction tells them to be harmful to the Crown and the Reich". [73] Hindenburg went on to claim that the morale of the soldiers about to embark on Operation Michael would be badly damaged if the Reich did not impose the most onerous peace terms on Russia as only sweeping territorial gains in the East could justify sacrifices in the West, an argument which put an end to any possibility of a moderate peace with Russia.

[99] A pleased Hindenburg told Ludendorff two days later that the peace treaty with Soviet Russia was going to be a "conqueror's peace". [99] On 16 January 1918, Hindenburg scored another triumph by forcing Wilhelm to dismiss Rudolf von Valentini, the chief of his secret privy council under the grounds that the ultra-conservative Valentini was a "left-wing" influence on the Kaiser that needed to go and an "enemy in the rear" that was hindering his work. [104] Hindenburg further told Wilhelm that he was to sever his friendship with Valentini and never see or hear from him again, an unprecedented act of effrontery as never before had a Prussian field marshal dared to dictate to his monarch about who could be his friend. [105] By this point, Hindenburg could have deposed Wilhelm to found a new regime if he been willing, but he chose to allow Wilhelm to reign on for sentimental reasons as Hindenburg had a personal preference for monarchies over republics. Contrary to what Hindenburg was claiming about popular support for a "conqueror's peace", in January 1918 a strike wave broke out in the munitions industry with over a million workers laying down their tools with the strike leaders calling for a better living conditions than those imposed by the Hindenburg Programme; democratization of the political system; and a rejection of annexationist war aims, a sign that much of the German public did not share Hindenburg's annexationist war goals or was willing to suffer much longer to achieve them.

[107] At a meeting of the German Crown Council in February 1918 to discuss what peace terms to seek with the Russians, the Kaiser wanted to partition Russia, Hindenburg stated that he need to annex all of the Baltic states while Ludendorff suggested the Reich should annex all of Russia up to the Caspian Sea. [108] A recurring theme of Ludendorff and Hindenburg's remarks on Eastern Europe and Russia in particular was the emphasis upon the East as a source of power, a "land of limitless possibilities" that was just waiting to be exploited by Germany. [103] Reflecting that their role as much political as military, in the winter of 1918, Ludendorff and Hindenburg were deeply involved in negotiating a peace treaty with Romania, even at the expense of planning for Operation Michael.

[109] Hindenburg and Ludendorff clashed openly with the foreign state secretary Richard von Kühlmann who wanted to place Romania into the German sphere of influence indirectly as opposed to the more naked imperialism of the duumvirate who saw Romania as variously as "our Canada", "our India" or "our Egypt", a land rich in natural resources like oil that was going to be exploited for Germany's benefit. Demagogic appeals to popular support from the ultra-right were characteristic of the politics of Hindenburg and Ludendorff. In March 1918, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed between Germany and the new Bolshevik government of Russia. It awarded Germany with large areas of land in Poland, Ukraine, and Russia.

This was in accordance with the Lebensraum concept supported by Hindenburg, which was advocated in parts of the German society and proposed large-scale annexations, ethnic cleansing, and Germanization in conquered territories. The concept was enhanced after the war by the Nazis and finally put into effect during World War II. [111][112] Hindenburg was also an advocate of the so-called Polish Border Strip plan, which postulated mass expulsion of Poles and Jews from territories that would be annexed by the German Empire, a foreshadow of the ethnic cleansing carried out decades later. [113][114][115] Even more extreme than the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was the Treaty of Bucharest signed with Romania on 7 May 1918 whose terms included an indefinite German occupation of Romania, control of the Romanian oil industry for 99 years by a German state corporation and German control of the navigation on the Danube.

[116] Under the terms the Treaty of Bucharest, German civil servants with the power of veto over the decisions by Romanian cabinet ministers and to fire Romanian civil servants were appointed to oversee every Romanian ministry, in effect stripping Romania of its independence. [117] Despite this, Ludendorff and Hindenburg felt that Kühlmann had been too "soft" on the Romanians, and reacted by having their spies (Kühlmann's chauffeur was a spy for the High Command) collect misinformation to be leaked to the German press; for instance, leaking a photo with Kühlmann posting with a young woman who was his secretary who was described as a "notorious Bucharest whore". Hindenburg and Ludendorff had little understanding of strategy or grand strategy, instead focusing on war in operational and tactical terms. [119] Operation Michael called for inflicting a series of annihilating defeats on the British and the French with the aim of winning the war in the spring of 1918. Where the will is, the way is also found.

[121] On 21 March 1918, Operation Michael or the Kaiserschlacht (Emperor's Battle) was launched with 63 German divisions attacking the British 5th Army in the Arras-St. [121] The new tactics for Operation Michael involved sudden, sharp bombardments of shrapnel, high explosives and numerous varieties of poison gas coordinated with specially trained elite troops wearing gas masks known as the stormtroopers advancing at the same time. [119] In face of these attacks, the 5th Army collapsed with 20, 000 dead and another 30, 000 surrendering. [99] The Kaiser personally disliked Hindenburg, but he hated the British even more, and following this victory he awarded the field marshal the Iron Cross with Golden Rays, a decoration only awarded once before to Field Marshal Blucher for the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. To take advantage of the huge, gaping hole he just created in the Allied lines, Ludendorff started an offensive in Amines sector with the aim of severing the British from the French and then racing to the English Channel in order to "annihilate" the entire British Expeditionary Force (BEF).

[122] At the Doullens conference on 26 March 1918, the Allies created a Supreme Commander for the Western Front with Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France being appointed generalissimo with operational control over all British, French, American and other Allied forces on the Western Front. [123] The appointment of Foch as Allied generalissimo undercut one of the crucial assumptions behind Operation Michael, namely that the Allies would never coordinate their efforts. [123] Foch stopped the German drive upon Amiens with his Anglo-French forces. [123] Astore and Showalter noted that "Hindenburg especially praised the French for their timely counterattacks and skillful use of artillery that combined to weaken Germany's offensive strength". Despite the failure of Operation Michael, which had cost Germany about 60, 000 dead, Ludendorff and Hindenburg followed it with four more "victory offensives" between AprilJuly 1918, all of which resulted in local gains with huge losses and all of which failed in strategic terms. [124] German soldiers started to complain that under the leadership of Hindenburg and Ludendorff were German Army was wir siegen uns zu Tode (we are conquering ourselves to death). [124] In desperation, an increasingly deranged Ludendorff immersed himself in details and continued to insist upon manically launching one offensive after another, believing that if he just kept on hitting the Allies something would have to give, leading Foch to comment: Je me demande si Ludendroff connaît son métier? " "I wonder if Ludendorff knows his job? [124] Hindenburg did nothing to rein in Ludendorff. [124] Hindenburg and Ludendorff had developed the stormtroopers as a way of smashing through the Allied lines, but they lacked the logistical infrastructure to follow up their victories. [124] The German Army had only 36, 000 trucks, one-third of what the Allies possessed with the rest of their supplies being brought up by horse and wagon. [124] Germany had only ten tanks compared to the 800 tanks possessed by Britain and France. [125] Hindenburg had dismissed tanks as a weapon, saying: It is always bad when an army tries, through technical innovation, to find a substitute for the spirit. [126] To exploit the gaps in the Allied lines, the Germans used their infantry, which could always be slowed down for hours by one well-placed machine gun post.

On 9 April 1918, Ludendorff launched Operation Georgette or the Lys Offensive, which targeted the British lines at Ypres. [127] Once again, the Germans made tactical gains without achieving a strategic success. [125] Concerned at the direction of the war, one officer Colonel Albrecht von Thaer travelled to the HQ at Avesnes to tell Hindenburg that Ludendorff's offensives were bleeding the Army to death.

[128] Hindenburg assured Thaer that the problems he described were only "local" with situation elsewhere "very good" and "splendid" and Ludendorff dismissing Thear's reports as "prattle". [129] On 27 May 1918, Ludendorff launched Operation Blucher or the Aisne Offensive which began well when the Germans smashed the French 6th Army at Chemin des Dames. [130] With the French retreating in disorder, German troops raced across the Marne river. [131] The purpose of the offensive was to divert French troops from northern part of the line to allow the Germans to begin yet another offensive in Flanders to drive the BEF into the sea, but the temptation to try to take Paris proved too much for Ludendorff.

[129] In its first major battle, the American Expeditionary Force stopped the German offensive towards Paris at the Battle of Chateau-Thierry and Belleau Wood. [132] On 9 June 1918, Ludendorff started the Noyon Offensive against the French, which gained only six miles before the French halted the Germans. [133] Following this defeat, the foreign state secretary Richard von Kühlmann suggested that since Hindenburg and Ludendorff had proved themselves incapable of winning the war, that now was the time to open peace talks. [134] Hindenburg and Ludendorff had Kühlmann dismissed for "defeatism" and replaced with the staunch annexationist, Admiral Paul von Hintze. [134] On 15 July 1918, Ludendorff launched his final "victory offensive" with again the aim of taking Paris, the Champagne Offensive which was stopped by the French 4th Army.

Between MarchJuly 1918, Germany had suffered over a million casualties on the Western Front while gaining three salients that vulnerable to pinching attacks while stretching out their supply lines. [134] Despite admitting that the ground gained by the five offensives was going to be difficult to defend, neither Ludendorff or Hindenburg would contemplate withdrawal which they viewed as an admission of defeat. [136] Foch saw an opening, recognising that by launching a series of attacks on the extended salients, he could force Ludendorff and Hindenburg to commit whatever reserves they had left while at same time the superior firepower of the Allies could inflict crushingly heavy casualties as the Germans brought up their reserves. [137] On 18 July 1918, Foch began the first of his counteroffensives on the Marne salient, which cost the Germans ten divisions.

[137] From 18 July to 11 November 1918, Germany was to lose 425, 000 men killed and 340, 000 wounded. [138] Foch's offensive marked the beginning of the end of the "marriage" between Ludendorff and Hindenburg. [137] As Ludendorff was pacing back and forth, wondering what he should do, Hindenburg mentioned that he would like to start a counteroffensive against Foch's left-wing, an idea that Ludendorff dismissed as "utterly unfeasible" and "nonsense" as the reserves were lacking. [138] Hindenburg said "I should like a word with you" and took Ludendorff off to a private meeting, giving him a severe dressing-down for questioning his authority in public. [138] Afterwards, the friendly bonhomie between Hindenburg and Ludendorff was no more with the two men becoming increasingly cold and distant to each other. At the French ports, one American division was landed once every two days, making certain the Allies could replace all of their losses while Germany had no way of replacing its losses. [139] Despite the fact that war was going badly for Germany, Hindenburg continued to insist that the war could be won if only German soldiers would just fight harder with the Field Marshal ruling out any possibility of making peace with the Allies.

[140] With defeat staring him in the face, Ludendorff become obsessed with details as by losing himself in minutia he avoided dealing with the larger picture while Hindenburg at his HQ in Spa told his staff to only tell him good news. [139] On 8 August 1918, there occurred the Battle of Amiens or the "Black Day of the German Army" as Ludendorff called it with the Canadian Corps of the BEF under General Sir Arthur Currie smashing a twenty mile long hole in the German line, through which raced Allied troops and tanks, pushing the Germans back 8 miles while inflicting 30,000 casualties and capturing 400 guns. [141] After Amiens, Ludendorff called for an armistice-not to make peace, but rather to give Germany a breathing space so that the war could be resumed in six months time. [142] At a meeting of the Crown Council at Spa on 14 August 1918, Hindenburg remained his calm self, insisting there was nothing to worry about despite the disaster at Amiens, arguing that the Allied offensive would be stopped and the war could be still be won if only everybody just stayed calm and kept their faith in the Fatherland as he was doing.

[142] It was largely because of Hindenburg's insistence that the war could still be won that Germany did not sign an armistice in August 1918. [142] Hindenburg rarely visited the front, preferring the company of his HQ at Spa and by this point had no real understanding of what was happening at the front. By September 1918, all of the gains made since March had been lost and the Allies were attacking the Hindenburg Line. [142] On 29 September 1918, the French 1st Army supported by the British 3rd and 4th Armies broke through the Hindenburg Line.

[143] Ludendorff had a nervous breakdown at the news, screaming hysterically that he been betrayed by Social Democrats and the Jews and none of the defeats suffered by the Germans were his fault. [143] Hindenburg stayed resolute, saying that perhaps the war could not be won after all, but he was certain he would stop the Allies and ensure at the peace talks, Germany would be able to annex the French iron-fields at Briey and Longwy, a suggestion that Ludendorff dismissed as fantasy. In September 1918, Ludendorff advised seeking an armistice with the Allies but, in October, he changed his mind and resigned in protest. Ludendorff had expected Hindenburg to follow him by also resigning, but Hindenburg refused on the grounds that, in this hour of crisis, he could not desert the men under his command. Ludendorff never forgave Hindenburg for this.

Ludendorff was succeeded by Wilhelm Groener. On 1 October 1918, the German Crown Council issued a note calling "for the immediate offer of peace to spare useless sacrifices for the German people and their allies".

[143] Hindenburg told the Crown Council on 2 October 1918 there appears to be no possibility... Of winning peace from our enemies by force of arms. [143] At this point, Hindenburg who had completely excluded the politicians from decision-making ever since August 1916 when he was appointed Chief of the General Staff, saying that only the military knew how to win the war, now insisted with the war lost that the Army would take no responsibility for the defeat and it was up to the politicians to negotiate an armistice. [144] On 3 October 1918, Hindenburg had Hertling who had been too closely associated with the annexationist peace treaties of Brest-Litovsk and Bucharest sacked as Chancellor and replaced with Prince Max of Baden, who as a liberal and a democrat was believed to be a man capable of getting lenient peace terms from President Wilson. [145] Having installed Prince Max as Chancellor and allowed the beginning of peace talks, on 17 October 1918 Hindenburg and Ludendorff now told the Crown Council of their opposition to an armistice and their wish for continuing the war, come what may, with Ludendorff calling for an Endkampf (final struggle), an apocalyptic last stand in every adult German would be given a gun and thrown into battle.

[146] Ludendorff and Hindenburg did not expect their advice to be accepted. [146] Rather, they were engaging in a cynical ploy to ensure that the responsibility for the armistice did not rest with the Army, or perhaps more to the point, themselves. On 24 October 1918, Ludendorff and Hindenburg announced in an Order of the Day that the armistice terms proposed by President Wilson were "unacceptable to us soldiers at the front" and vowed to fight on to the bitter end. [147] The Order of the Day threatened to undermine the peace talks and Prince Max submitted his resignation to Wilhelm in protest, saying it was impossible as Chancellor to govern when the Army was outside of his control.

[147] The Kaiser, finally seeing a chance to reassert his control over the Army summoned Hindenburg and Ludendorff for a meeting. [147] On 26 October 1916 at the meeting with Wilhelm, Ludendorff submitted his resignation as First Quartermaster-General, which Wilhelm all too willingly accepted while Hindenburg in a half-hearted way almost attempted to resign before deciding to stay on. [147] Ludendorff was furious with Hindenburg when he learned that he had not resigned with him, accusing him of being a shabby friend and chose not to ride in the same car with Hindenburg back to the Army HQ. [147] Prince Max was heard to shout Thank God!

When he heard that Ludendorff had resigned, but was glad that Hindenburg, who was perceived as the more reasonable and sane of the two was staying on. [148] Hindenburg made a point of ensuring that the Army had little as possible to do with the armistice negotiations with a mere captain representing the Army at the talks, thus leaving the odium of signing the armistice to the politicians. [148] Hindenburg had expected Wilhelm to remain on the throne, but the mutiny of the High Seas Fleet on 4 November 1918 made the retention of the monarchy impossible. [148] On 9 November Hindenburg and Groener told Wilhelm II that the Army no longer obeyed the emperor and he would have to abdicate.

[148] In November 1918, Hindenburg and Groener played a decisive role in persuading Emperor Wilhelm II to abdicate for the greater good of Germany. Hindenburg's first loyalty to the Army meant he wanted to extricate nation from a losing war and a revolution to preserve the basis of German power so to launch another world war to achieve the goals he failed to achieve in the First World War. [149] As such, Wilhelm's determination to retain his throne made him a liability to Hindenburg as the Allies would not sign an armistice with Wilhelm, which is why Hindenburg applied such strong pressure on him to abdicate.

[150] Hindenburg would have preferred that Wilhelm II had gone on a "death ride", seeking a soldier's death at the front to ensure the House of Hohenzollern end on a suitably bloody note rather than have Wilhelm ingloriously abdicate and flee into exile, but as Hindenburg complained, unfortunately the Kaiser was a complete coward. [151] Hindenburg had no sympathy with those conservatives for whom the November Revolution was the end of the world such as his son-in-law Count Joachim von Brockhusen, telling the latter that his main concern was to preserve the army to fight another world war some day and his first loyalty was to the Reich regardless of whether it was a monarchy or a republic. Hindenburg was a firm monarchist throughout his life and always regarded this episode with considerable embarrassment.

Almost from the moment that the emperor abdicated, Hindenburg insisted that he had played no role in it. Instead, he assigned all of the blame to Groener.

Groener, for his part, went along in order to protect Hindenburg's reputation. Aftermath of the war[edit]. In June 1919, when the Allies submitted the Treaty of Versailles for the Reichstag to ratify, the President Friedrich Ebert was in favor of rejecting the treaty and resuming the war. [156] As such, Ebert asked the military what were the possibilities of the Reich winning if the war resumed in June 1919.

[156] Groner advised acceptance of the treaty under the grounds that Allies would win the war if it resumed and that the terms of Versailles treaty left the Reich intact and allowed for the possibility of Germany regaining great power status one day, observing the treaty did not destroy the basis of German power. [157] Hindenburg felt the same way, but argued at a meeting with Ebert and Groner that: Should we not appeal to the Corps of Officers and demand from a minority of the people a gesture of sacrifice in defence of our national honor? [158] Groner replied: The significance of such a gesture would escape the German people. There would be a general outcry against counter-revolution and militarism. The result would be the downfall of the Reich.

The Allies, baulked of their hopes of peace, would show themselves pitiless. The Officer Corps would be destroyed and the name of Germany would disappear from the map.

[158] Hindenburg could not rebut Groner's argument, but still offered only half-hearted support, writing to Ebert on 17 June 1919: In the event of a resumption of hostilities, we can reconquer the province of Posen and defend our frontiers in the East. In the West, however we can scarcely count upon being able to withstand a serious offensive on the part of the enemy in view of the numerical superiority of the Entente and their ability to outflank us on both wings. The success of the operation as a whole is therefore very doubtful, but as a soldier I cannot help feeling it were better to perish honourably than accept a disgraceful peace.

[158] The Allies submitted an ultimatum saying that Germany had 72 hours to sign the Treaty of Versailles before the war resumed. On 23 June 1919 with only 7 hours left before the ultimatum expired, Ebert contacted Groner and Hindenburg to ask for their advice as professional military men about what he should do. [159] Hindenburg refused to speak, and let Groner do all the talking as Groner advised acceptance. [160] After hearing Groner's advice, with just 19 minutes to go, Ebert sent a message to the French Premier Georgres Clemenceau saying Germany would ratify the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed on 28 June 1919. [161] The British historian Sir John Wheeler-Bennett wrote that Hindenburg's behavior in June 1919 closely resembled his actions in November 1918 where Groner had to pressure Wilhelm II to abdicate while he remained silent. [161] Wheeler-Bennett further charged that in June 1919, the real Hindenburg revealed himself; not the titanic, larger-than-life figure beloved by the German people, the "rock" upon which the Reich rested, but rather a poor thing, a thing of plaster and of papier mâché. [161] Wheeler-Bennett wrote Hindenburg knew the truth, but chose to do the easy thing by having his faithful aide Groner say all the things that he knew to be true while maintaining the pretense that he had been opposed to accepting Versailles, a sign of both Hindenburg's deeply dishonest nature and his tendency to evade responsibility whenever responsibility became difficult. In the summer of 1919, Hindenburg retired a second time and announced his intention to leave public life. By 1919, Hindenburg's ego had reached such a point that equated criticism of himself as practically treason, writing: The only existing idol of the nation, undeservedly my humble self, runs the risk of being torn from its pedestal once it becomes the target of criticism. [162] In 1919, he was called before a parliamentary commission that was investigating the responsibility for both the outbreak of war in 1914 and for the defeat in 1918.

[163] Hindenburg had not wanted to appear before the commission but he had been subpoenaed. His appearance became an eagerly awaited public event. Ludendorff had fallen out with Hindenburg over the decision to continue seeking the armistice in October 1918, and he was concerned that Hindenburg might reveal that it was he who had advised seeking an armistice the previous month, and had insisted that he would not testify unless Hindenburg was also subpoenaed.

[164] Ludendorff wrote a letter to Hindenburg to inform him that he was writing his memoirs and was prepared to expose the fact that Hindenburg did not deserve the credit that he had received for his victories. Ludendorff's letter went on to suggest that Hindenburg's testimony would determine how favorably Ludendorff would present him in his memoirs. When Hindenburg did appear before the commission on 18 November 1919, he refused to answer any questions about the responsibility for the German defeat and instead read out a prepared statement that had been reviewed in advance by Ludendorff's lawyer.

[165] Hindenburg testified that the German Army had been on the verge of winning the war in the autumn of 1918 and that the defeat had been precipitated by a Dolchstoß ("stab in the back") by disloyal elements on the home front and unpatriotic politicians, saying that an unnamed British general had said The German Army was stabbed in the back. [166] Hindenburg's statement had nothing to with the question he asked about what was his responsibility for the decision for launch unrestricted submarine warfare despite the risk it would bring America into the war. [167] Hindenburg simply walked out of the hearings after reading his statement, despite being threatened with a contempt citation for refusing to respond to questions.

[166] Hindenburg's status as a war hero provided him with a political shield; he was never prosecuted. Hindenburg's testimony constituted the first use of the Dolchstoßlegende, and the term was adopted by nationalist and conservative politicians who sought to blame the socialist founders of the Weimar Republic for the loss of the war. The reviews in the German press that had grossly misrepresented general Frederick Barton Maurice's book The Last Four Months contributed to the creation of this myth. Ludendorff made use of the reviews to convince Hindenburg. In a hearing before the Committee on Inquiry of the National Assembly on 18 November 1919, a year after the war's end, Hindenburg declared, As an English general has very truly said, the German Army was'stabbed in the back'. Afterwards, Hindenburg had his memoirs ghost-written in 191920. [169] The resulting book Mein Leben (My Life) was a huge bestseller in Germany, but it was dismissed by most military historians and critics as a boring apologia that skipped over the most controversial issues in Hindenburg's life. [170] The major themes of the book was the need to Germany to maintain a strong military as the military was "the school of the nation" that taught young German men the proper moral values and the need to restore the monarchy as Hindenburg insisted that only under the leadership of the House of Hohenzollern could Germany become great again. [171] Partly reflecting guilt over pressuring Wilhelm to abdicate and partly because the book was written to serve as manifesto to appeal to conservative voters for the presidential run Hindenburg was contemplating, Mein Leben went out of its way to praise Wilhelm II who was always "my Emperor" and "my Supreme Warlord", and Hindenburg even made the ludicrous claim that it was Wilhelm I who had unified Germany with only very limited assistance from Bismarck. [172] In 191920, Hindenburg considered running for president and wrote to Wilhelm II in exile in the Netherlands for permission to run. [173] Wilhelm gave his approval, believing that if Hindenburg was elected president he would restore the monarchy, and 8 March 1920 Hindenburg announced his intention to seek the presidency.

[174] As it was the planned presidential election of 1920 was cancelled and in the backlash against the right caused by the Kapp Putsch, Hindenburg had already withdrawn his candidacy. [175] Afterwards, Hindenburg retired from most public appearances and spent most of his time with his family. Hindenburg was a widower and was very close to his only son Major Oskar von Hindenburg and his granddaughters.

During the 1925 election, second cycle. In 1925, Hindenburg was urged to run for the office of President of Germany.

In spite of his lack of interest in holding public office, he decided to stand for the post anyway as he believed only he could "save" Germany. [176] No candidate had emerged with a majority in the first round of the presidential election held on 29 March 1925, and a run-off election had been called.

Social Democratic candidate Otto Braun, the Prime Minister of Prussia, had agreed to drop out of the race and had endorsed the Catholic Centre Party's candidate Wilhelm Marx. Karl Jarres was the joint candidate of the two conservative parties: the German People's Party (DVP) and the German National People's Party (DNVP).

He was regarded as too dull, and it seemed likely that Marx would win. Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, one of the leaders of the DNVP, visited Hindenburg and urged him to run. Hindenburg initially demurred but, under strong pressure from Tirpitz applied over several meetings, he broke down and agreed to run, a decision that was helped when Jarres withdrew from the election, saying only Hindenburg could win the presidency for the right. [178] A major problem for Hindenburg was that he felt needed the approval of the former Emperor to run and only after Wilhelm II wrote a letter urging him to run, did Hindenburg finally agree that he would seek the presidency.

[179] On 9 April 1925, Hindenburg issued a brief press statement from his home in Hanover saying he was a candidate for president. [180] Hindenburg ran during the second round of the elections as a non-party independent, though he was generally regarded as the conservative candidate. He won the election in the second round of voting held on 26 April 1925, largely because of his status as Germany's greatest war hero. He was aided by the support of the Bavarian People's Party (BVP), which switched from supporting Marx, and by the refusal of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) to withdraw their candidate Ernst Thälmann. If either party had supported Marx, Marx would have won. [181] Significantly, Hindenburg's only election statement was his Easter Appeal of 11 April 1925 calling for a Volksgemeinschaft under his leadership. Crowds in front of Hindenburg's villa in Hanover on 12 May 1925. Hindenburg took office on 12 May 1925. Contrary to what many had expected, Hindenburg made no effort to restore the monarchy and always rebuked those Junkers who tried to persuade him otherwise. [183] Hindenburg's rationale for accepting the republic was that his main interest was in making Germany great again by revising the Treaty of Versailles; that politicians like the Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann were making good progress in revising Versailles; and that to bring back Wilhelm II would only antagonize the Allies and make the process of revising Versailles more difficult than it otherwise would be. [184] As in 1918, Hindenburg stressed that he was more loyal to the nation than to the House of Hohenzollern, saying that what really mattered was that Germany should win "world power status" and the form of government that would win the next world war was only a secondary matter at best. [185] Hindenburg added that on sentimental grounds he would personally would like to restore the monarchy, but the needs of Realpolitik trumped his sentimental feelings. [186] At the same time, Hindenburg was no Vernunftrepublikaner (republican by reason) as those monarchists like Stresemann who were willing to accept the republic as the least bad form of all possible governments were known as Hindenburg felt that democracy was incompatible with the militaristic volksgemeinschaft that would unite the people into one. For the first five years after taking office, Hindenburg generally refused to allow himself to be drawn into the maelstrom of German politics in the period, and sought to play the role of a republican equivalent of a constitutional monarch.

He was often referred to as the Ersatzkaiser (substitute Emperor), yet he made no effort to restore the monarchy and took seriously his oath to the Weimar Constitution. Hindenburg was only loyal to the letter of the constitution, not its spirit. Pyta described Hindenburg's first five years in office as attempt to use his own prestige and the power of the presidency to create an inclusive volksgemeinschaft under his leadership, and as such Hindenburg was willing to overcome his distaste for the Weimar Coalition of the SPD, the Zenturm and the DDP by allowing men from those parties to hold office with the aim of drawing them towards his right-wing viewpoint.

[188] However, deep down Hindenburg had a fundamental antagonism towards the pacifistic Social Democrats, who could never be part of the militaristic volksgemeinschaft that he wanted to see, and as such, the SPD just had to go. [189] In 1927, Hindenburg shocked international opinion by defending Germany's actions and entry in World War I by repudiating Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles in a speech celebrating the opening of the Tannenberg memorial. Specifically, he declared that Germany entered the war as the means of self-assertion against a world full of enemies. Pure in heart we set off to the defence of the fatherland and with clean hands the German army carried the sword.

In private, Hindenburg often complained to his associates that he missed the quiet of his retirement and bemoaned that he had allowed himself to be pressured into running for president. He carped that politics was full of issues such as economics that he did not understand, and did not want to. He was surrounded by a coterie of advisers antipathetic to the Weimar constitution. These advisers included his son Oskar, Wilhelm Groener, Otto Meißner, and General Kurt von Schleicher. This group were known as the Kamarilla.

The younger Hindenburg served as his father's aide-de-camp and controlled politicians' access to the President, enjoying far more power than what his position would suggest, making him into "the constitutionally unforeseen son of the President". Schleicher was a close friend of Oskar and came to enjoy privileged access to Hindenburg. It was he who came up with the idea of Presidential government based on the so-called "25/48/53 formula".

[192] Under a "Presidential" government, the head of government (in this case, the chancellor) is responsible to the head of state namely the president, and not a legislative body. The "25/48/53 formula" referred to the three articles of the Constitution that could make a "Presidential government" possible. Article 25 allowed the President to dissolve the Reichstag.

Article 48 allowed the president to sign emergency bills into law without the consent of the Reichstag. However, the Reichstag could cancel any law passed by Article 48 by a simple majority vote within sixty days of its passage. Article 53 allowed the president to appoint the chancellor. Schleicher's idea was to have Hindenburg appoint as chancellor a man of Schleicher's choosing, who would rule under the provisions of Article 48.

[195] If the Reichstag should threaten to annul any laws so passed, Hindenburg could counter with the threat of dissolution. [193] The German historian Eberhard Jäckel wrote that the idea of presidential government was within the letter of the constitution as the "25/48/53 formula" did make a presidential government possible, but violated its spirit as Article 54 stated the Chancellor and his cabinet were responsible to the Reichstag, and thus the idea of a presidential government was an attempt by Hindenburg and his kamarilla to do an end-run around the constitution.

[196] Hindenburg approved of these plans promoted by his kamarilla, and his principle disagreement with Meißner and Schleicher was always a matter of timing rather than because of a commitment to upholding democracy. This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

(April 2013) (Learn how and when to remove this template message). President Hindenburg as painted by Max Liebermann. The first attempt to establish a "presidential government" occurred in 192627, but floundered for lack of political support. During the winter of 192930, however, Schleicher had more success. As early as August 1929 Schleicher had told the Zentrum's Heinrich Brüning that both the army and the president wished to see the end of the Müller government as soon as possible, and asked if Brüning would be willing to serve in a new government.

[198] After a series of secret meetings attended by Meißner, Schleicher, and Brüning starting in the spring of 1929, the parliamentary leader of the Catholic Center Party (Zentrum), Schleicher and Meißner were able to persuade Brüning to go along with a scheme for "presidential government". In December 1929, Schleicher informed Brüning that Hindenburg was implacably opposed to the Müller government and that as soon as the Young Plan was passed, he wanted Müller gone. [199] In January 1930, Meißner told Kuno von Westarp that soon the "Grand Coalition" government would fall to be replaced with a "presidential government" which would exclude the Social Democrats under all conditions, adding that the coming "Hindenburg government" would be "anti-Marxist" and "anti-parliamentarian", serving as a transition to a dictatorship. [199] Schleicher maneuvered to exacerbate a bitter dispute within the "Grand Coalition" government of the Social Democrats and the German People's Party over whether the unemployment rate should be raised by a half percentage point or a full percentage point. [200] With the Grand Coalition government on the brink of collapse by early 1930, Müller asked that Hindenburg let him have the budget approved under Article 48, but Schleicher persuaded Hindenburg to refuse this request as a way of exacerbating the crisis.

[201] The upshot of these intrigues was the fall of Müller's government in March 1930 and Hindenburg's appointment of Brüning as Chancellor. [200] When Müller asked for Hindenburg's help to save his government, Hindenburg refused, which to Müller submitting his resignation on 27 March 1930. [200] The German historian Eberhard Kolb wrote about the coming of presidential government in 192930 that.

In light of the sources it can now be firmly stated that the fateful transition from parliamentary government to the presidential regime was well and carefully planned in advance. The protagonists, and Schleicher in particular, were not compelled by circumstances or by the hopelessness of the political situation; they acted with cool deliberation and with the intention of drastically altering the constitutional system and the balance of social forces in favor of old elites of the army, bureaucracy and big business. Kolb described the presidential governments that began in March 1930 as a sort of creeping coup d'état as the government gradually become less and less democratic and more and more authoritarian, a process that culminated with in 1933 with Hitler appointed as Chancellor.

[204] When the budget was defeated in July 1930, Brüning arranged for Hindenburg to sign the budget into law by invoking Article 48. [205] When the Reichstag voted to repeal the budget, Brüning had Hindenburg dissolve the Reichstag, just two years into its mandate, and reapprove the budget through the Article 48 mechanism. [206] In the September 1930 elections the Nazis achieved an electoral breakthrough, gaining 17 percent of the vote, up from 2 percent in 1928. [207] The Communist Party of Germany also made striking gains, albeit not so great. After the 1930 elections, Brüning continued to govern largely through Article 48; his government was kept afloat by the support of the Social Democrats who voted not to cancel his Article 48 bills in order not to have another election that could only benefit the Nazis and the Communists. [208] Hindenburg for his part grew increasingly annoyed at Brüning, complaining that he was growing tired of using Article 48 all the time to pass bills. Hindenburg found the detailed notes that Brüning submitted explaining the economic necessity of each of his bills to be incomprehensible. Both of these spending increases reflected Hindenburg's concerns. In the summer of 1931, Hindenburg complained in a letter to his daughter: "What pains and angers me the most is being misunderstood by part of the political right". [209] Hindenburg meant he was being attacked as a supporter of the Weimar Republic which he in fact was opposed to.

[210] In October 1931, Hindenburg and Adolf Hitler met for the very first time in a high-level conference in Berlin over Nazi Party politics among Hindenburg's cabinet members. There were clear signs of tension throughout the meeting as it became evident to everyone present that both men took an immediate dislike to each other. Afterwards, Hindenburg often disparagingly referred to Hitler in private variously as "that Austrian corporal", "that Bohemian corporal" or sometimes just simply as "the corporal". [211][212] Hindenburg not only believed mistakenly that Hitler was from Braneau in Bohemia rather than Braneau in Austria, but for Prussians like Hindenburg, the Austrian dialect that Hitler spoke his German had much the same negative effects on people from northern Germany as the Southern dialect of American English does on many people outside of the South, suggesting a lack of sophistication and education.

[213] Thus, the best equivalent for translating Hindenburg's term "Bohemian corporal" into English might be "white trash". [213] For his part, Hitler often disparagingly referred to Hindenburg in private as "that old fool" or "that old reactionary". Until January 1933, Hindenburg often stated that he would never appoint Hitler as chancellor under any circumstances. On 26 January 1933, Hindenburg privately told a group of his friends: "Gentlemen, I hope you will not hold me capable of appointing this Austrian corporal to be Reich Chancellor". [214] Hindenburg made it clear that he saw himself as the leader of the "national" forces and expected Hitler to submit to his claim of leadership. Destroying the Weimar Republic: January 19321933[edit]. Election poster for Hindenburg in 1932 (translation: "With him"). By January 1932, at the age of 84, Hindenburg was uncertain if he wanted a second term or not.

Despite rumors of senility his mind remained sharp and lucid right up until his death. [216] The American historian Henry Ashby Turner noted that Hindenburg was always a bit slow when it came to thinking, and many people who knew him as an old man assumed this was just senility when in fact Hindenburg's sluggish mental processes and his rather "simplistic" ways of understanding the world had been well documented from his teenage years on. [217] Hindenburg was a career soldier with no interests outside of the military, a man who rarely read books and even then only read military books, and as such he often had trouble understanding non-military matters, an aspect of his personality frequently misunderstood as senility. [217] Hindenburg depended upon his kamarilla for advice for exactly the same reasons that he had depended upon Ludendorff and his staff in World War I, namely he did not know what to do when confronted with difficult decisions and he needed the help of others to resolve a problem.

[217] For the German people, Hindenburg was an image of strength and power, owing to his 6'5 frame and bearlike physique, a man with courtly, polished manners and military bearing, the very image of a Junker officer, but in fact, Hindenburg as president often broke down in tears when confronted with decisions that required deep thoughts that he was incapable of, and despite his stress on loyalty and keeping one's words, Hindenburg was a selfish man who disregarded his friends and freely broke his promises when keeping his promises proved inconvenient. Nonetheless, he was persuaded to run for re-election in the 1932 presidential election by the Kamarilla as well as by the Centre Party, the DVP and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). The SPD regarded Hindenburg as the only man who could defeat Hitler and keep the Nazi Party from winning the elections (and they said so throughout the campaign); they also expected him to keep Brüning in office. [218] Hindenburg had a different ideal about what he would do in his second term, writing on 25 February 1932: Please see from the following that the charge that I opposed a government of the Right is completely false.

But solely the disunity of the Right (emphasis in the original) and its inability to come together in the main points that constituted the obstacle to such a development... Despite all the blows in the neck I have taken, I will not abandon my efforts for a healthy move to the Right. [219] Hindenburg made it clear in private that he regarded Brüning as too moderate, would replace him after his reelection, and wanted a government that would bring together all of the right-wing parties including the National Socialists, though Hitler was not to serve as Chancellor under any conditions.

[220] Hindenburg agreed to stay in office, but wanted to avoid an election. The only way this was possible was for the Reichstag to vote to cancel the election with a two-thirds supermajority. Since the Nazi Party was the second-largest political party, their co-operation was vital if this was to be done. Brüning met with Hitler in January 1932 to ask if he would agree to President Hindenburg's demand to forgo the presidential election. Surprisingly, Hitler supported the measure, but with one major condition: dissolve the Reichstag and hold new parliamentary elections.

Brüning rejected Hitler's demands as totally outrageous and unreasonable. By this time, Schleicher had decided that Brüning had become an obstacle to his plans and was already plotting Brüning's downfall. Schleicher convinced Hindenburg that the reason why Hitler had rejected Brüning's offer was because Brüning had deliberately sabotaged the talks to force the elderly president into a grueling re-election battle. [221] During the election campaign of 1932, Brüning campaigned hard for Hindenburg's re-election. [221] As Hindenburg was in bad health and a poor speaker in any case, the task of traveling the country and delivering speeches for Hindenburg had fallen upon Brüning. [221] Hindenburg's campaign appearances usually consisted simply of him appearing before crowds and waving to them as Hindenburg gave no speeches in person during his entire re-election campaign. [221] In a speech delivered on German radio on 10 March 1932, Hindenburg explained what he stood for: We can only reach our great goal when we come together in a genuine Volksgemeinschaft... I recall the spirit of 1914, and the mood at the front, which asked about the man, and not about his class or party. In the first round of the German presidential election of 1932, held in March, Hindenburg emerged as the frontrunner, but failed to gain a majority. [223] In the runoff election of April 1932, Hindenburg defeated Hitler for the presidency. [224] Hindenburg won 53% of the vote, which was impressive given he had hardly spoken in the campaign. [223] Much to Hindenburg's fury, the conservative Protestants who voted for him in 1925 mostly voted for Hitler and it was largely the Weimar Coalition parties of the SPD, the Zentrum and German State Party that had provided the votes that gave Hindenburg the presidency for a second time. [223] Hindenburg, with Schleicher's encouragement held Brüning responsible that it was the "wrong people", namely Catholics, socialists and liberals who had re-elected him. [221] After the presidential elections had ended, Schleicher held a series of secret meetings with Hitler in May 1932 and thought that he had obtained a "gentleman's agreement" in which Hitler had agreed to support the new "presidential government" that Schleicher was building. At the same time, Schleicher, with Hindenburg's complicit consent, set about undermining Brüning's government. Hindenburg, aged 84, at a radio microphone in 1932 during the election campaign in which he defeated Hitler. The first blow occurred on 13 May 1932, when Schleicher had Hindenburg dismiss Groener as Defense Minister in a way that was designed to humiliate both Groener and Brüning. [225] Schleicher told Groener that he had "lost the confidence of the Army" and must resign at once. [225] Hindenburg supported Schleicher and in this way, Groener who had been a faithful aide of Hindenburg going back to 1916 and who had taken the blame in public for pressuring Wilhelm II into abdicating in 1918 had his career ended by Hindenburg. [225] On 30 May 1932, Hindenburg dismissed Brüning as chancellor and replaced him with the man that Schleicher had suggested, Franz von Papen. [226] When Brüning was sacked, he broke down in tears as he had always loved Hindenburg going back to his days as a captain of a machine gun company fighting on the Western Front in World War I, but the president was very cold, telling Brüning to get out of his sight. [226] "The Government of Barons", as Papen's government was known, openly had as its objective the destruction of German democracy. Like Brüning's government, Papen's government was a "presidential government" that governed through the use of Article 48. Unlike Brüning, Papen ingratiated himself with Hindenburg and his son through flattery. Much to Schleicher's annoyance, Papen quickly replaced him as Hindenburg's favorite advisor. The French Ambassador André François-Poncet reported to his superiors in Paris that It's he [Papen] who is the preferred one, the favorite of the Marshal; he diverts the old man through his vivacity, his playfulness; he flatters him by showing him respect and devotion; he beguiles him with his daring; he is in [Hindenburg's] eyes the perfect gentleman. [227] Just after becoming Chancellor, Papen secretly took an oath of feudal loyalty to Hindenburg, declaring upon his honor as a knight and gentleman that he would serve Hindenburg forever. [228] Papen's anachronistic feudal oath had nothing to do with the Weimar constitution and had no legal standing, but for the Junker Hindenburg, whose understanding of social relations were essentially medieval, this oath made him Papen's liege lord and as such he now had a duty of "knightly fealty" to stay loyal to his "knight" Papen. In accordance with Schleicher's "gentleman's agreement", Hindenburg dissolved the Reichstag and set new elections for July 1932. Schleicher and Papen both believed that the Nazis would win the majority of the seats and would support Papen's government.

[229] Hitler staged an electoral comeback, with his Nazi Party winning a solid plurality of seats in the Reichstag. Following the Nazi electoral triumph in the Reichstag elections held on 31 July 1932, there were widespread expectations that Hitler would soon be appointed Chancellor. Moreover, Hitler repudiated the "gentleman's agreement" and declared that he wanted the Chancellorship for himself. In a meeting between Hindenburg and Hitler held on 13 August 1932, in Berlin, Hindenburg firmly rejected Hitler's demands for the chancellorship. The minutes of the meeting were kept by Otto Meißner, the Chief of the Presidential Chancellery.

Herr Hitler declared that, for reasons which he had explained in detail to the Reich President that morning, his taking any part in cooperation with the existing government was out of the question. Considering the importance of the National Socialist movement, he must demand the full and complete leadership of the government and state for himself and his party. The Reich President in reply said firmly that he must answer this demand with a clear, unyielding "No".

He could not justify before God, before his conscience, or before the Fatherland the transfer of the whole authority of government to a single party, especially to a party that was biased against people who had different views from their own. There were a number of other reasons against it, upon which he did not wish to enlarge in detail, such as fear of increased unrest, the effect on foreign countries, etc. Herr Hitler repeated that any other solution was unacceptable to him.

To this the Reich President replied: So you will go into opposition? Hitler: I have now no alternative. Chancellor Adolf Hitler greets President Paul von Hindenburg at the opening of the new Reichstag in Potsdam, Germany, 21 March 1933.

After refusing Hitler's demands for the chancellorship, Hindenburg had a press release issued about his meeting with Hitler that implied that Hitler had demanded absolute power and had his knuckles rapped by the president for making such a demand. Hitler was enraged by this press release.

However, given Hitler's determination to take power lawfully, Hindenburg's refusal to appoint him as chancellor was a quandary for Hitler. When the Reichstag convened in September 1932, its only act was to pass a massive vote of no-confidence in Papen's government.

In response, Papen had Hindenburg dissolve the Reichstag for elections in November 1932. The second Reichstag elections saw the Nazi vote drop from 37 percent to 33 percent, though the Nazis once again remained the largest party in the Reichstag.

After the November elections, there ensued another round of fruitless talks between Hindenburg, Papen, Schleicher on the one hand, and Hitler and the other Nazi leaders on the other. The president and chancellor wanted Nazi support for the "Government of the President's Friends"; at most, they were prepared to offer Hitler the meaningless office of vice-chancellor. On 24 November 1932, during the course of another HitlerHindenburg meeting, Hindenburg stated his fears that "a presidential cabinet led by Hitler would necessarily develop into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extreme aggravation of the conflicts within the German people". Hitler, for his part, remained adamant that Hindenburg give him the chancellorship and nothing else. These demands were incompatible and unacceptable to both sides and the political stalemate continued.

To break the stalemate, Papen proposed that Hindenburg declare martial law and do away with democracy, effecting a presidential coup. Papen won over Hindenburg's son Oskar with this idea, and the two persuaded Hindenburg for once to forgo his oath to the constitution and to go along with this plan. [231] Schleicher, who had come to see Papen as a threat, blocked the martial law move by unveiling the results of a war games exercise that showed that if martial law was declared, the Nazi Sturmabteilung and the Communist Red Front Fighters would rise up, the Poles would invade, and the Reichswehr would be unable to cope. Whether this was the honest result of a war games exercise or just a fabrication by Schleicher to force Papen out of office is a matter of some historical debate. The opinion of most leans towards the latter, for in January 1933 Schleicher would tell Hindenburg that new war games had shown that the Reichswehr would crush both the Sturmabteilung and the Red Front Fighters and defend the eastern borders of Germany from a Polish invasion.

The results of the war games forced Papen to resign in December 1932 in favor of Schleicher. Hindenburg was most upset at losing his favorite chancellor. Suspecting that the war games were faked to force Papen out, he came to bear a grudge against Schleicher.

Hindenburg took the loss of Papen very badly, writing him a letter saying he wanted Papen to stay on as Chancellor and gave him the gift of an autographed photo of himself together with lines from a popular World War I song "Once I had a comrade", which was the first time Hindenburg had ever given any sort of gift to the men who had served as Chancellor. Papen, for his part, was determined to get back into office, and on 4 January 1933 he met Hitler to discuss how they could bring down Schleicher's government, though the talks were inconclusive largely because Papen and Hitler each coveted the chancellorship for himself. However, Papen and Hitler agreed to keep talking. Ultimately, Papen came to believe that he could control Hitler from behind the scenes and decided to support him as the new chancellor.

[233] Although his position as president made him responsible to all Germans, Hindenburg always saw himself as representing the interests of the Junkers first and foremost, and in response Hindenburg summoned Schleicher to browbeat him into raising tariffs, though this was not strictly a constitutional action as the question of raising or lowering tariffs was a matter for the Chancellor and his cabinet to decide. [234] During the ensuing meeting, Hindenburg took the side of the League and forced Schleicher to give in to all of its demands. [234] Despite Schleicher giving in to Hindenburg's brow-beating, on 12 January 1933 the League released a public letter to Hindenburg asking that Schleicher be sacked at once and Hitler appointed as his replacement. [235] At the same time, Hindenburg received hundreds of letters and telegrams from Junkers who were active in the League asking for Schleicher to be dismissed as chancellor, and again demanding that Hitler be made Chancellor. Papen had, in the meantime, persuaded the younger Hindenburg of the merits of his plan, and the three then spent the second half of January pressuring Hindenburg into naming Hitler as chancellor. Hindenburg loathed the idea of Hitler as chancellor and preferred that Papen hold that office instead.

On 22 January 1933, Papen arranged for Hitler to meet Oskar von Hindenburg at the house of Joachim von Ribbentrop. [236] At the two hour meeting, Hitler still insisted on having the Chancellorship while Papen informed him that the President was still opposed to Hitler as Chancellor, but now accepted it was crucial to have the National Socialists in the proposed "Government of National Concentration".

[236] In contrast to August 1932, Hitler now stated that he would wanted only two portfolios to go to National Socialists and said he was willing to accept the rest of his cabinet being conservatives acceptable to Hindenburg. [236] Papen promised to support Hitler's claim to be Chancellor provided he would serve as Vice-Chancellor. Oskar von Hindenburg had nothing but praise for Hitler as Meißner drove him home, saying he disliked Hitler before, but now that he had met him, he was very excited at the prospect of a Hitler chancellorship.

[236] In reference to the extremely low intelligence of Oskar von Hindenburg, Hitler commented to Goebbels after the meeting that: "Young Oskar cut a remarkable image of stupidity" as Hitler noted that younger Hindenburg was one of the stupidest man he had ever encountered. [236] The president continued to reject the idea of Hitler as Chancellor, saying what he wanted Papen as Chancellor again, but with Papen now saying he didn't want the Chancellorship and would rather have Hitler as Chancellor, Hindenburg's position was weakening. [237] A further problem for Papen was that Hitler rejected the idea of a parliamentary government, saying he only serve as Chancellor in a presidential government with himself as Commissioner for Prussia and National Socialists serving as Interior ministers in the Reich and Prussian governments. [238] Papen persuaded Hitler to drop the demand to be Commissioner for Prussia, saying that Hindenburg would never agree to that, while ceding the Interior Ministries of the Reich and Prussia to the Nazis.

[238] At the same time, Papen had been phoning members of Schleicher's cabinet, asking if they were willing to serve in a Hitler cabinet and had been receiving mostly positive answers. On January 26, 1933, Hindenburg told a group of his friends: "Gentlemen, I hope you will not hold me capable of appointing this Austrian corporal to be Reich Chancellor".

[239] The next day, Hindenburg was visited by his close friend, the arch-reactionary Junker Elard von Oldenburg-Januschau who told him that he should appoint Hitler as Chancellor as Hitler was the man most capable of imposing "order" and of carrying out economic policies favorable to the Junkers. [240] The advice Hindenburg received from a fellow Junker like Olenburg-Januschhau whom Hindenburg greatly respected made him far more favorable to appointing Hitler chancellor. [240] With three of the most important members of his kamarilla, namely Papen, Meißner and his son Oskar all pressuring him to name Hitler Chancellor, Hindenburg's resistance to a Hitler chancellorship was weakening by the hour. [240] On the evening of 28 January 1933, Papen met with Hindenburg to tell him that the majority of the Schleicher cabinet (who in there had been in Papen's "cabinet of the President's friends") were willing to serve in a Hitler cabinet while rejecting serving under himself again, which Papen used as a further reason why he could not serve as Chancellor again. [238] Hindenburg for his part was pleased that the majority of the proposed Hitler cabinet were men who served in the Papen and Schleicher governments, saying that he wanted General Werner von Blomberg to replace Schleicher as Defense Minister as he was "reliable" and for the first time said he was willing to have Hitler as Chancellor as he was happy now with the "moderation" of Hitler's demands.

After Schleicher as well despaired of his efforts to get hold of the situation, Hindenburg accepted his resignation with the words, Thanks, General, for everything you have done for the Fatherland. Now let's have a look at which way, with God's help, the cat will keep on jumping. Finally, the 85-year-old Hindenburg agreed to make Hitler chancellor, and on the morning of 30 January 1933, Hindenburg swore him in as chancellor at the presidential palace. German stamps of Hindenburg with the overprint "Elsaß" (Alsace) produced in 1940. Hindenburg played the key role in the Nazi Machtergreifung (Seizure of Power) in 1933 by appointing Hitler chancellor of a "Government of National Concentration", even though the Nazis were in the minority in cabinet. Papen was the Vice-Chancellor and the Commissioner for Prussia, and Hitler could only meet Hindenburg when Papen was present. The only Nazi ministers were Hitler himself, Hermann Göring and Wilhelm Frick. Frick held the then-powerless Interior Ministry (unlike the rest of Europe, at the time the Interior Ministry had no power over the police, which was the responsibility of the Länder), while Göring was given no portfolio. However, Göring was appointed Prussian Interior Minister, giving him control of the Prussian police, and as Prussia was the largest and most populous of all the Länder, this was a great benefit to the Nazis. Most of the other ministers were survivors from the Papen and Schleicher governments, and the ones who were not, such as Alfred Hugenberg of the German National People's Party (DNVP), were not Nazis. This had the effect of assuring Hindenburg that the room for radical moves on the part of the Nazis was limited. Moreover, Hindenburg's favorite politician, Papen, was Vice Chancellor of the Reich and Minister-President of Prussia, and Hindenburg agreed not to hold any meetings with Hitler unless Papen was present as well. Hitler's first act as chancellor was to ask Hindenburg to dissolve the Reichstag, so that the Nazis and DNVP could win an outright majority to pass the Enabling Act that would give the new government power to rule by decree, supposedly for the next four years. Unlike laws passed by Article 48, which could be cancelled by a majority in the Reichstag, under the Enabling Act the Chancellor could pass laws by decree that could not be cancelled by a vote in the Reichstag. Hindenburg agreed to this request.

In early February 1933, Papen asked for and received an Article 48 bill signed into law that sharply limited freedom of the press. After the Reichstag fire on 27 February, Hindenburg, at Hitler's urging, signed into law the Reichstag Fire Decree via Article 48, which effectively suspended all civil liberties in Germany. Göring as Prussian Interior Minister had enlisted thousands of Sturmabteilung (SA) men as auxiliary policemen, who attacked political opponents of the Nazis with Communists and Social Democrats being singled out for particular abuse.

Fritz Schäffer, a conservative Catholic and a leading politician of the Bavarian People's Party met Hindenburg on 17 February 1933 to complain about the ongoing campaign of terror against the SPD. [241] Schäffer told Hindenburg: We reject the notion that millions of Germans are not to be designated as national. The socialists served in the trenches and will serve in the trenches again. They voted for the banner of Hindenburg...

I know many socialists who have earned acclaim for their service to Germany; I need only mention the name of Ebert. [242] Hindenburg, who had always hated the Social Democrats rejected Schäffer's appeal, saying that the SPD were "traitors" who had "stabbed the Fatherland in the back" in 1918 (Hindenburg seems to have convinced himself of the reality of the Dolchstoßlegende by this point) who could never belong to the volksgemeinschaft and the Nazis had his full support in their campaign against the Social Democrats. [243] Hindenburg disliked Hitler, but he approved of his efforts to create the volksgemeinschaft, writing to his daughter on 17 February 1933 that he could feel the "Spirit of 1914" returning as Patriotic revival very gratifying; may God preserve our unity!

[244] For Hindenburg, the "Government of National Concentration" headed by Hitler was the fulfillment of what he had been seeking since 1914, the creation of the volksgemeinschaft. At the opening of the new Reichstag on 21 March 1933, at the Garrison Church in Potsdam, [246] the Nazis staged an elaborate ceremony in which Hindenburg played the leading part, appearing alongside Hitler during an event orchestrated to mark the continuity between the old Prussian-German tradition and the new Nazi state. He said, in part, May the old spirit of this celebrated shrine permeate the generation of today, may it liberate us from selfishness and party strife and bring us together in national self-consciousness to bless a proud and free Germany, united in herself. Hindenburg's apparent stamp of approval had the effect of reassuring many Germans, especially conservative Germans, that life would be fine under the new regime. On 23 March 1933, Hindenburg signed the Enabling Act of 1933 into law, which gave decrees issued by the cabinet (in effect, Hitler) the force of law.

During 1933 and 1934, Hitler was very aware of the fact that Hindenburg, as President and supreme commander of the armed forces, was now the only check on his power. With the passage of the Enabling Act and the banning of all parties other than the Nazis, Hindenburg's power to dismiss Hitler from office was effectively the only means by which he could be legally dismissed. Given that Hindenburg was still a popular war hero and a revered figure in the ("Reichswehr"), there was little doubt that the Reichswehr would side with Hindenburg if he ever decided to sack Hitler. Thus, as long as Hindenburg was alive, Hitler was always very careful to avoid offending him or the Army. Although Hindenburg was in increasingly bad health, the Nazis made sure that whenever Hindenburg did appear in public it was in Hitler's company. During these appearances, Hitler always made a point of showing him the utmost respect and deference. However, in private, Hitler continued to detest Hindenburg, and expressed his hope that "the old reactionary" would hurry up and die as soon as possible. The only time that Hindenburg ever objected to a Nazi bill occurred in early April 1933, when the Reichstag passed a Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service that called for the immediate dismissal of all Jewish civil servants at the Reich, Land, and municipal levels. Hindenburg objected to this bill unless it was amended to exclude all Jewish veterans of World War I, Jewish civil servants who served in the civil service during the war and those Jewish civil servants whose fathers were veterans. Hitler amended the bill to meet Hindenburg's objections. [247][248] In the fall of 1933, a group of Hindenburg's friends led by General August von Cramon asked Hindenburg to restore the monarchy. [249] Hindenburg replied: Of course, I recognize your fidelity to our Kaiser, King and Lord without reservation. But precisely because I share this sentiment, I must urgently warn against the step you plan to take. The domestic crisis is not yet completely over, and foreign powers will have a hard time imagining me on the sidelines if it comes to a restoration of the monarchy. To say this is unbelievably painful for me. During the summer of 1934, Hindenburg grew increasingly alarmed at Nazi excesses. With his support, Papen gave a speech at the University of Marburg on 17 June calling for an end to state terror and the restoration of some freedoms. When Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels got wind of it, he not only canceled a scheduled tape-delayed broadcast of the speech, but ordered the seizure of newspapers in which part of the text was printed.

Papen was furious, telling Hitler that he was acting as a "trustee" of Hindenburg, and that a "junior minister" like Goebbels had no right to silence him. He resigned and immediately notified Hindenburg about what happened.

Hindenburg told Blomberg to give Hitler an ultimatum--unless Hitler took steps to end the growing tension in Germany and rein in the SA, he would dismiss Hitler, declare martial law and turn the government over to the army. Not long afterward, Hitler carried out the Night of the Long Knives, for which he received the personal thanks of Hindenburg. (August 2015) (Learn how and when to remove this template message).

Hindenburg remained in office until his death at the age of 86 from lung cancer at his home in Neudeck, East Prussia, on 2 August 1934. On August 1, Hitler had got word that Hindenburg was on his deathbed. He then had the cabinet pass the "Law Concerning the Highest State Office of the Reich, " which stipulated that upon Hindenburg's death, the offices of president and chancellor would be merged under the title of Leader and chancellor (Führer und Reichskanzler). Two hours after Hindenburg's death, it was announced that as a result of this law, Hitler was now both Germany's head of state and head of government, thereby cementing his status as the absolute dictator of Germany. [251] Publicly, Hitler announced that the presidency was "inseperably united" with Hindenburg, and it would not be appropriate for the title to ever be used again.

In truth, Hitler had known as early as April 1934 that Hindenburg would likely not survive the year. In a meeting aboard the Deutschland on April 11 with Blomberg, army commander Werner von Fritsch and naval commander Erich Raeder, Hitler publicly proposed that he himself succeed Hindenburg. In return for the armed forces' support, he agreed to suppress the SA and promised that the armed forces would be the only bearers of arms in Germany under his watch. Raeder agreed right away, but Fritsch withheld his support until May 18, when the senior generals unanimously agreed to back Hitler as Hindenburg's successor.

Hitler had a plebiscite held on 19 August 1934, in which the German people were asked if they approved of Hitler merging the two offices. The Ja (Yes) vote amounted to 90% of the vote. Silver 5 mark commemorative coin of Paul von Hindenburg, struck 1936. Obverse: Paul von Hindenburg, 18471934. Reverse: (German) Deutsches Reich, 5 RM.

In taking over the president's powers for himself without calling for a new election, Hitler technically violated the Enabling Act. While the Enabling Act allowed Hitler to pass laws that contravened the Weimar Constitution, it specifically forbade him from interfering with the powers of the president. Moreover, the Weimar Constitution had been amended in 1932 to make the president of the High Court of Justice, not the chancellor, acting president pending a new election. However, Hitler had become law unto himself by this time, and no one dared object. Hindenburg himself was said to be a monarchist who favored a restoration of the German monarchy.

Though he hoped one of the Prussian princes would be appointed to succeed him as head of state, he did not attempt to use his powers in favour of such a restoration, as he considered himself bound by the oath he had sworn on the Weimar Constitution. At the Nuremberg trials, it was alleged by Franz von Papen in 1945 and Baron Gunther von Tschirschky that Hindenburg's "political testament" asked for Hitler to restore the monarchy.

However, the truth of this story cannot be established because Oskar von Hindenburg destroyed the portions of his father's will relating to politics. Burial, removal, and reburial[edit]. Hindenburg's original 1934 burial at the Tannenberg Memorial. Hitler is speaking at the lectern.

Hitler ordered his architect, Albert Speer, to take care of the background for the funeral ceremony at the Tannenberg Memorial in East Prussia. As Speer later recalled: I had a high wooden stand built in the inner courtyard. Decorations were limited to banners of black crepe hung from the high towers that framed the inner courtyard... On the eve of the funeral the coffin was brought on a gun carriage from Neudeck, Hindenburg's East Prussian estate, to one of the towers of the monument. Torchbearers and the traditional flags of German regiments of the First World War accompanied it; not a single word was spoken, not a command given.

This reverential silence was more impressive than the organized ceremonial of the following days. Hindenburg's remains were moved six times in the 12 years following his initial interment. Hindenburg was originally buried in the yard of the castle-like Tannenberg Memorial near Tannenberg, East Prussia (now Stbark, Poland) on 7 August 1934 during a large state funeral, five days after his death. This was against the wishes he had expressed during his life: to be buried in his family plot in Hanover, Germany, next to his wife Gertrud, who had died in 1921.

The following year, Hindenburg's remains were temporarily disinterred, along with the bodies of 20 unknown German soldiers buried at the Tannenberg Memorial, to allow the building of his new crypt there which required lowering the entire plaza 8 feet (2.4 m). Hindenburg's bronze coffin was placed in the crypt on 2 October 1935 (the anniversary of his birthday), along with the coffin bearing his wife, which was moved from the family plot. In January 1945, as Soviet forces advanced into East Prussia, Hitler ordered both coffins to be disinterred for their safety. They were first moved to a bunker just outside Berlin, then to a salt mine at the village of Bernterode, Germany, along with the remains of both Frederick Wilhelm I of Prussia and Frederick II of Prussia (Frederick the Great).

The four coffins were hastily marked of their contents using red crayon, and interred behind a 6-foot-thick (1.8 m) masonry wall in a deep recess of the 14-mile (23 km) mine complex, 1,800 feet (550 m) underground. Three weeks later, on 27 April 1945, the coffins were discovered by U. Army Ordnance troops after tunneling through the wall. All were subsequently moved to the basement of the heavily guarded Marburg Castle in Marburg an der Lahn, Germany, a collection point for recovered Nazi plunder. Army, in a secret project dubbed "Operation Bodysnatch", had many difficulties in determining the final resting places for the four famous Germans. Sixteen months after the salt mine discovery, in August 1946, the remains of Hindenburg and his wife were finally laid to rest by the American army at St. Elizabeth's, a 13th-century church built by the Teutonic Knights in Marburg, Hesse, where they remain today.

A colossal statue of Hindenburg, erected at Hohenstein (now Olsztynek, Poland) in honor of his defeat of the Russians was demolished by the Germans in 1944 to prevent its desecration by the advancing Soviet Army. The famed zeppelin Hindenburg that was destroyed by fire in 1937 was named in his honor, as was the Hindenburgdamm, a causeway joining the island of Sylt to mainland Schleswig-Holstein that was built during his time in office. The previously Upper Silesian town of Zabrze German: Hindenburg O.

The Hindenburg Range in New Guinea, which includes perhaps one of the world's largest cliff, the Hindenburg Wall, also bears his name. Historian Christopher Clark has criticized Hindenburg in his role as head of state for. Withdrawing his solemn constitutional oaths of 1925 and 1932 to make common cause with the sworn enemies of the Republic. And then, having publicly declared that he would never consent to appoint Hitler to any postlevered the Nazi leader into the German Chancellery in January 1933. The Field Marshal had a high opinion of himself, and he doubtless sincerely believed that he personified a Prussian tradition of selfless service.

But he was not, in truth, a man of traditionAs a military commander and later as Germany's head of state, Hindenburg broke virtually every bond he entered into. He was not the man of dogged, faithful service, but the man of image, manipulation and betrayal.

Knight of the Order of the Black Eagle. Grand Commander of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords. Pour le Mérite (2 September 1914); Oak Leaves added on 23 February 1915. Iron Cross, 1st and 2nd class.

Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (9 December 1916); Golden Star added on 25 March 1918 (Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross). Knight Grand Cross of the Military Order of Max Joseph (Bavaria). Knight Grand Cross of the Military Order of St. Knight of the Order of Military Merit (Württemberg). Knight Grand Cross with Crown, Swords and Laurel of the House and Merit Order of Peter Frederick Louis (Oldenburg). Military Merit Cross, 1st class (Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin). Friedrich Cross, 1st class (Duchy of Anhalt). Honorary Commander of the Order of Saint John (Bailiwick of Brandenburg). Grand Cross of the Military Order of Maria Theresa (Austria).

Cross of Military Merit, 1st class with war decoration (Austria-Hungary). Gold Medal of Military Merit ("Signum Laudis", Austria-Hungary). Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece (Spain)[260]. List of people on the cover of Time Magazine: 1920s 22 March 1926.

Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff (9 April 1865 20 December 1937) was a German general, the victor of the Battle of Liège and the Battle of Tannenberg. From August 1916, his appointment as Quartermaster general (Erster Generalquartiermeister) made him the leader (along with Paul von Hindenburg) of the German war efforts during World War I until his resignation in October 1918, just before the end of hostilities.

After the war, Ludendorff became a prominent nationalist leader, and a promoter of the stab-in-the-back legend, which posited that the German loss in World War I was caused by the betrayal of the German Army by Marxists and Bolsheviks who were furthermore responsible for the disadvantageous settlement negotiated for Germany in the Versailles Treaty. He took part in the unsuccessful coup détat with Wolfgang Kapp in 1920 and the Beer Hall Putsch of Adolf Hitler in 1923, and in 1925, he ran for the office of President of Germany against his former superior Hindenburg, whom he claimed had taken credit for Ludendorff's victories against Russia.

From 1924 to 1928 he represented the German Völkisch Freedom Party in the German Parliament. Consistently pursuing a purely military line of thought, Ludendorff developed, after the war, the theory of Total War, which he published as Der Totale Krieg (The Total War) in 1935.

In this work, he argued that the entire physical and moral forces of the nation should be mobilized, because, according to him, peace was merely an interval between wars. [4] Ludendorff was a recipient of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross and the Pour le Mérite. Ludendorff was born on 9 April 1865 in Kruszewnia near Posen, Province of Posen, Kingdom of Prussia (now Pozna County, Poland), the third of six children of August Wilhelm Ludendorff (18331905). His father was descended from Pomeranian merchants who had achieved the status of Junker[citation needed], the Prussian epiphet of lower nobility, and he held a commission in the reserve cavalry.

He had a stable and comfortable childhood, growing up on their small family farm. Erich received his early schooling from his maternal aunt and had a gift for mathematics, [5] as did his younger brother Hans who became a distinguished astronomer. He passed the entrance exam for the Cadet School at Plön with distinction, [5] he was put in a class two years ahead of his age group, and thereafter he was consistently first in his class. The famous World War II General Heinz Guderian attended the same Cadet School, which produced many well-trained German officers. Ludendorff's education continued at the Hauptkadettenschule at Groß-Lichterfelde near Berlin through 1882.

The'old sinner', as he liked to hear himself called... [7] married the daughter of a wealthy factory owner, Margarethe née Schmidt (18751936). They met in a rainstorm when he offered his umbrella. She divorced to marry him, bringing three stepsons and a stepdaughter. [6] Their marriage pleased both families and he was devoted to his stepchildren.

In 1885, Ludendorff was commissioned as a subaltern into the 57th Infantry Regiment, then at Wesel. Over the next eight years, he was promoted to lieutenant and saw further service in the 2nd Marine Battalion, based at Kiel and Wilhelmshaven, and in the 8th Grenadier Guards at Frankfurt on the Oder. His service reports reveal the highest praise, with frequent commendations. In 1893, he entered the War Academy, where the commandant, General Meckel, recommended him to the General Staff, to which he was appointed in 1894. He rose rapidly and was a senior staff officer at the headquarters of V Corps from 1902 to 1904. Next he joined the Great General Staff in Berlin, which was commanded by Alfred von Schlieffen. Ludendorff directed the Second or Mobilization Section from 190413. Soon he was joined by Max Bauer, a brilliant artillery officer, who became a close friend.

By 1911, Ludendorff was a full colonel. His section was responsible for writing the mass of detailed orders needed to bring the mobilized troops into position to implement the Schlieffen Plan. For this they covertly surveyed frontier fortifications in Russia, France and Belgium. For instance, in 1911 Ludendorff visited the key Belgian fortress city of Liège.

Deputies of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, which became the largest party in the Reichstag after the German federal elections of 1912, seldom gave priority to army expenditures, whether to build up its reserves or to fund advanced weaponry such as Krupp's siege cannons. Instead, they preferred to concentrate military spending on the Imperial German Navy. Ludendorff's calculations showed that to properly implement the Schlieffen plan the Army lacked six corps. Members of the General Staff were instructed to keep out of politics and the public eye, [8] but Ludendorff shrugged off such restrictions. With a retired general, August Keim, and the head of the Pan-German League, Heinrich Class, he vigorously lobbied the Reichstag for the additional men.

I attributed the change partly for my having pressed for those three additional army corps. Barbara Tuchman characterizes Ludendorff in her book The Guns of August as Schlieffens devoted disciple who was a glutton for work and a man of granite character but who was deliberately friendless and forbidding and therefore remained little known or liked.

It is true that as his wife testified, Anyone who knows Ludendorff knows that he has not a spark of humor. [11] He was voluble nonetheless, although he shunned small talk. John Lee, [12] states that while Ludendorff was with his Fusiliers, he became the perfect regimental commander... The younger officers came to adore him. His adjutant, Wilhelm Breucker, became a devoted lifelong friend.

Even a brief account of his life shows the importance of his friends. Start of World War I[edit]. At the outbreak of war in the summer of 1914 Ludendorff was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff to the German Second Army under General Karl von Bülow.

His assignment largely due to his previous work investigating defenses of Liège, Belgium. At the beginning of the Battle of Liège Ludendorff was an observer with the 14th Brigade, which was to infiltrate the city at night and secure the bridges before they could be destroyed.

The brigade commander was killed on 5 August, so Ludendorff led the successful assault to occupy the city and its citadel. In the following days, two of the forts guarding the city were taken by desperate frontal infantry attacks, while the remaining forts were smashed by huge Krupp 42-cm and Austro-Hungarian Skoda 30-cm howitzers. By 16 August, all the forts around Liège had fallen, allowing the German First Army to advance. As the victor of Liège, Ludendorf was awarded Germany's highest military decoration for gallantry, the Pour le Mérite, presented by Kaiser Wilhelm II himself on 22 August.

German mobilization earmarked a single army, the Eighth, to defend their eastern frontier. Two Russian armies invaded East Prussia earlier than expected, the Eighth Army commanders panicked and were fired by OHL, Oberste Heeresleitung, German Supreme Headquarters. OHL assigned Ludendorff as the new chief of staff, while the War Cabinet chose a retired general, Paul von Hindenburg, as commander. They first met on their private train heading east.

They agreed that they must annihilate the nearest Russian army before they tackled the second. Nine days later the Eighth Army surrounded most of a Russian army at Tannenberg, taking 92,000 prisoners in one of the great victories in German history. Twice during the battle Ludendorff wanted to break off, fearing that the second Russian army was about to strike their rear, but Hindenburg held firm.

Then they turned on the second invading army in the Battle of the Masurian Lakes; it fled with heavy losses to escape encirclement. During the rest of 1914, commanding an Army Group, they staved off the projected invasion of German Silesia by dexterously moving their outnumbered forces into Russian Poland, fighting the battle of the Vistula River, which ended with a brilliantly executed withdrawal during which they destroyed the Polish railway lines and bridges needed for an invasion.

When the Russians had repaired most of the damage the Germans struck their flank in the battle of ód, where they almost surrounded another Russian Army. Masters of surprise and deft maneuver, they argued that if properly reinforced they could trap the entire Russian army in Poland.

During the winter of 1914-15 they lobbied passionately for this strategy, but were rebuffed by OHL. Early in 1915 they surprised the Russian army that still held a toehold in East Prussia by attacking in a snowstorm and surrounding it in the Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes. OHL then transferred Ludendorff, but Hindenburgs personal plea to the Kaiser reunited them. Erich von Falkenhayn, supreme commander at OHL, came east to attack the flank of the Romanian army that was pushing through the Carpathian passes towards Hungary. Employing overwhelming artillery, the Germans and Austro-Hungarians broke through the line between Gorlice and Tarnów and kept pushing until the Russians were driven out of most of Galicia, the Austro-Hungarian southern part of partitioned Poland.

During this advance Falkenhayn rejected schemes to try to cut off the Russians in Poland, preferring direct frontal attacks. Outgunned, during the summer of 1915 the Russian commander Grand Duke Nicholas shortened his lines by withdrawing from most of Poland, destroying railroads, bridges, and many buildings while driving 743,000 Poles, 350,000 Jews, 300,000 Lithuanians and 250,000 Latvians into Russia. They were responsible for newly conquered territory in present-day Lithuania, western Latvia, and north eastern Poland, an area almost the size of Francesuddenly without a government. Ludendorff was happy to fill the void. A defensive trench line was surveyed, dug and manned; the troops were settled into winter billets and their other needs met, including libraries and German newspapers.

Selected older soldiers became policemen, a challenging job because few could speak the languages of the disgruntled inhabitants, so Yiddish speaking Jews were used as translators. Qualified soldiers and German civilian experts officiated over civil life, reanimating agriculture and industry to provide goods for Germany and preparing for future colonization. On 16 March 1916 the Russians, now with adequate supplies of cannons and shells, attacked parts of the new German defenses, intending to penetrate at two points and then to pocket the defenders.

They attacked almost daily until the end of the month, but the Lake Naroch Offensive failed, choked in swamp and blood, [17] The Russians did better attacking the Austro-Hungarians in the south. The Brusilov Offensive cracked their lines with surprise hurricane bombardments followed by well-schooled assault troops probing for weak spots. The breakthrough was finally stemmed by Austro-Hungarian troops recalled from Italy stiffened with German advisers and reserves. In July Russian attacks on the Germans in the north were beaten back.

On 27 July 1916 Hindenburg was given command of all troops on the Eastern Front from the Baltic to Brody in the Ukraine. They visited their new command on a special train, and then set up headquarters in Brest Litovsk.

By August 1916 their front was holding everywhere. In the West in 1916 the Germans attacked unsuccessfully at Verdun and soon were reeling under British and French blows along the Somme. Ludendorffs friends at OHL, led by Max Bauer, lobbied for him relentlessly. The balance was tipped when Romania entered the war, thrusting into Hungary. Falkenhayn was replaced as Chief of the General Staff by Field Marshal Hindenburg on 29 August 1916.

Ludendorff was his chief of staff as first Quartermaster general, with the stipulation that he would have joint responsibility. [18] He was promoted to General of the Infantry. Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg warned the War Cabinet: You dont know Ludendorff, who is only great at a time of success. If things go badly he loses his nerve. [19] Their first concern was the sizable Romanian Army, so troops sent from the Western Front checked Romanian and Russian incursions into Hungary.

Then Romania was invaded from the south by German, Austro-Hungarian, Bulgarian, and Ottoman troops commanded by August von Mackensen and from the north by a German and Austro-Hungarian army commanded by Falkenhayn. Bucharest fell in December 1916.

According to Mackensen Ludendorffs distant management consisted of floods of telegrams, as superfluous as they were offensive. When sure that the Romanians would be defeated OHL moved west, retaining the previous staff except for the operations officer, blamed for Verdun. They toured the Western Front meeting and evaluating commanders, learning about their problems and soliciting their opinions. At each meeting Ludendorff did most of the commanders talking.

There would be no further attacks at Verdun and the Somme would be defended by revised tactics that exposed fewer men to British shells. A new backup defensive line would be built, like the one they had constructed in the east. The Allies called the new fortifications the Hindenburg Line. The German goal was victory, which they defined as a Germany with extended borders that could be more easily defended in the next war.

Hindenburg was given titular command over all of the forces of the Central Powers. Every day he was on the telephone with the staffs of their armies and the Army was deluged with "Ludendorff's paper barrage" [21] of orders, instructions and demands for information. His finger extended into every aspect of the German war effort. He issued the two daily communiques, and often met with the newspaper and newsreel reporters. Before long the public idolized him as their Armys brain.

Ludendorff had a goal: One thing was certain the power must be in my hands. [22] As stipulated by the Constitution of the German Empire the government was run by civil servants appointed by the Kaiser. Confident that army officers were superior to civilians, OHL volunteered to oversee the economy: procurement, raw materials, labor, and food. [23] Bauer, with his industrialist friends, knew exactly what should be done, beginning by setting overambitious targets for military production in what they called the Hindenburg Program. Ludendorff enthusiastically participated in meetings on economic policy loudly, sometimes pummeling the table with his fists.

Implementation of the Program was assigned to General Groener, a staff officer who had directed the Field Railway Service effectively. His office was in the War Ministry, not in OHLas Ludendorff had wanted.

Therefore, he assigned staff officers to most of the government ministries, so he knew what was going on and could press his demands. War industrys major problem was the scarcity of skilled workers, therefore 125,000 men were released from the armed forces and trained workers were no longer conscripted. OHL wanted to enroll most German men and women into national service, but the Reichstag legislated that only males 17-60 were subject to patriotic service and refused to bind war workers to their jobs. [24] Groener realized that they needed the support of the workers, so he insisted that union representatives be included on industrial dispute boards. On 16 August 1917 Ludendorff telegraphed an order reassigning Groener to command the 33rd Infantry Division.

[25] Overall, Unable to control labour and unwilling to control industry, the army failed miserably... [26] To the public it seemed that that Ludendorff was running the nation as well as the war. According to Ludendorff, the authorities represented me as a dictator. [27] He would not become Chancellor because the demands for running the war were too great. [28] The historian Frank B.

Tipton argues that while not technically a dictator, Ludendorff was "unquestionably the most powerful man in Germany" in 191718. OHL did nothing to mitigate the food disaster: despite the blockade everyone could have been fed adequately, but supplies were not managed effectively or fairly.

The navy advocated unrestricted submarine warfare, which would surely bring the United States into the war. The Kaiser asked his commanders to listen to the warnings of his friend, the eminent chemist Walther Nernst, who knew America well. Ludendorff promptly ended the meeting, it was incompetent nonsense with which a civilian was wasting his time. [32] Unrestricted submarine warfare began in February 1917, with OHLs strong support.

This fatal mistake reflected poor military judgment in uncritically accepting the Navys contention that there were no countermeasures, like convoying, and confident that the American armed forces were too feeble to fight effectively. Ultimately Germany was at war with 27 nations. In the spring of 1917 the Reichstag passed a resolution for peace without annexations or indemnities.

They would be content with the successful defensive war undertaken in 1914. OHL was unable to defeat the resolution or to have it substantially watered down. The commanders despised Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg as weak, so they forced his resignation by repeatedly threatening to resign themselves, despite the Kaiser's admonition that this was not their business. He was replaced by a minor functionary, Georg Michaelis, the food minister, who announced that he would deal with the resolution as in his own fashion. [33] Despite this put-down, the Reichstag voted the financial credits needed for continuing the war. Ludendorff insisted on the huge territorial losses forced on the Russians in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, even though this required that a million German soldiers remain in the east. During the peace negotiations with the Romanians his representative kept demanding the economic concessions coveted by the German industrialists. The commanders kept blocking attempts to frame a plausible peace offer to the western powers by insisting on borders expanded for future defense.

Ludendorff regarded the Germans as the master race [34] and after victory planned to settle ex-soldiers in the Baltic states and in Alsace Lorraine, where they would take over property seized from the French. [35] One after another OHL toppled government ministers they regarded as weak.

In contrast to OHL's questionable interventions in politics and diplomacy, their armies continued to excel. The commanders would agree on what was to be done and then Ludendorff and the OHL staff produced the mass of orders specifying exactly what was to be accomplished.

On the western front they stopped packing defenders in the front line, which reduced losses to enemy artillery. They issued a directive on elastic defense, in which attackers who penetrated a lightly held front line entered a battle zone in which they were punished by artillery and counterattacks.

It remained German Army doctrine through World War II. Schools taught the new tactics to all ranks. It effectiveness is illustrated by comparing the first half of 1916 in which 77 German soldiers died or went missing for every 100 British to the second half when 55 Germans were lost for every 100 British.

Hindenburg and Ludendorff (pointing), 1917. In February 1917, sure that the new French commander General Robert Nivelle would attack and correctly foreseeing that he would try to pinch off the German salient between Arras and Noyon, they withdrew to the segment of the Hindenburg line across the base of the salient, leaving the ground they gave up as a depopulated waste land, in Operation Alberich. The Nivelle Offensive in April 1917 was blunted by mobile defense in depth. Many French units mutinied, though OHL never grasped the extent of the disarray.

The British supported their allies with a successful attack near Arras. Their major triumph was capturing Vimy Ridge, using innovative tactics in which infantry platoons were subdivided into specialist groups. The Ridge gave the British artillery observers superb views of the German line but elastic defense prevented further major gains. The British had another success in June 1917 when a meticulously planned attack, beginning with the detonation of mines containing more high explosive than ever fired before, took the Messines Ridge in Flanders. This was a preface to the British drive, beginning at the end of July 1917, toward the Passchendaele Ridge, intended as a first step in retaking the Belgian coast line. At first the defense was directed by General von Lossberg, a pioneer in defense in depth, but when the British adjusted their tactics Ludendorff took over day by day control. The British finally took the Ridge, it was impossible to stop determined attacks that inched forward for preset, limited gains, but the British paid a heavy price.

Ludendorff worried about declining morale, so in July 1917 OHL established a propaganda unit. In October 1917 they began mandatory patriotic lectures to the troops, who were assured that if the war was lost they would become slaves of international capital.

[37] The lecturers were to ensure that a fight is kept up against all agitators, croakers and weaklings [38]. Following the overthrow of the Tsar, the new Russian government launched the Kerensky Offensive in July 1917 attacking the Austro-Hungarian lines in Galicia. After minor successes the Russians were driven back and many of their soldiers refused to fight.

The counterattack was halted only after the line was pushed 240 kilometres (150 mi) eastwards. The Germans capped the year in the East by capturing the strong Russian fortress of Riga in September 1917, starting with a brief, overwhelming artillery barrage using many gas shells then followed by infiltrating infantry.

The Bolsheviks seized power and soon were at the peace table. To bolster the wobbling Austro-Hungarian government, the Germans provided some troops and led a joint attack in Italy in October. They sliced through the Italian lines in the mountains at Caporetto. Two hundred and fifty thousand Italians were captured and the rest of Italian Army was forced to retreat to the Grappa-Piave defensive line.

On 20 November 1917 the British achieved a total surprise by attacking at Cambrai. A short, intense bombardment preceded an attack by tanks which led the infantry through the German wire. It was Ludendorffs 52nd birthday, but he was too upset to attend the celebratory dinner.

The British were not organized to exploit their break-through, and German reserves counterattacked, in some places driving the British back beyond their starting lines. The local German commander had not implemented defense in depth. Hindenburg, Emperor Wilhelm II, and Ludendorff in January, 1917. At the beginning of 1918 almost a million munition workers struck; one demand was peace without annexations. OHL ordered that all strikers fit to bear arms. Be sent to the front, thereby degrading military service. With Russia out of the war, the Germans outnumbered the Allies on the Western Front. After extensive consultations, OHL planned a series of attacks to drive the British out of the war. During the winter all ranks were schooled in the innovative tactics proven at Caporetto and Riga. The first attack, Operation Michael, was on 21 March 1918 near Cambrai. After a brief hurricane bombardment, coordinated by Colonel Bruchmüller, they slashed through the British lines, surmounting the obstacles that had thwarted their enemies for three years. On the first day they occupied as large an area as the Allies had won on the Somme after 140 days. The Allies were aghast, but it was not the triumph OHL had hoped for: they had planned another Tannenberg by surrounding tens of thousands of British troops in the Cambrai salient, [40] but had been thwarted by stout defense and fighting withdrawal.

They lost as many men as the defenders; the first day was the bloodiest of the war. [41] Among the dead was Ludendorffs oldest stepson, a younger had been killed earlier. They were unable to cut any vital railway.

When Ludendorff motored near the front he was displeased by seeing how: The numerous slightly wounded made things difficult by the stupid and displeasing way in which they hurried to the rear. [42] The Americans doubled the number of troops being sent to France. Their next attack was in Flanders. Again they broke through, advancing 30 km (19 mi), and forcing the British to give back all of the ground that they had won the preceding year after weeks of battle. But the Germans were stopped short of the rail junction that was their goal.

Next, to draw French reserves south, they struck along the Chemin de Dames. In their most successful attack yet they advanced 12 km (7.5 mi) on the first day, crossing the Marne but stopping 56 kilometres (35 mi) from Paris. But each triumph weakened their army and its morale. From 20 March 1918 to 25 June the German front lengthened from 390 kilometres (240 mi) to 510 kilometres (320 mi).

Then they struck near Reims, to seize additional railway lines for use in the salient, but were foiled by brilliant French elastic tactics. Undeterred, on 18 July 1918 Ludendorff, still aggressive and confident, [43] traveled to Flanders to confer about the next attack there. A telephone call reported that the French and Americans led by a mass of tanks had smashed through the right flank of their salient pointing toward Paris, on the opening day of the Battle of Soissons. Everyone present realized that surely they had lost the war. OHL began to withdraw step by step to new defensive lines, first evacuating all of their wounded and supplies.

Ludendorffs communiques, which hitherto had been largely factual, now distorted the news, for instance claiming that American troops had to be herded onto troop ships by special police. On 8 August 1918 they were completely surprised at Amiens when British tanks broke through the defenses and intact German formations surrendered. To Ludendorff it was the black day in the history of the German Army.

[45] The German retreats continued, pressed by Allied attacks. OHL still vigorously opposed offering to give up the territory they desired in France and Belgium, so the German government was unable to make a plausible peace proposal.

Ludendorff became increasingly cantankerous, slating his staff without cause, publicly accusing the field marshal of talking nonsense, and sometimes bursting into tears. The doctor Spoke as a friend and he listened as a friend. [46] convincing Ludendorff that he could not work effectively with one hour of sleep a night and that he must relearn how to relax. After a month away from headquarters his patient had recovered from the severest symptoms of battle fatigue.

On 29 September 1918 Ludendorff and Hindenburg told an incredulous Kaiser that they must have an immediate armistice. A new Chancellor, Prince Maximilian of Baden, approached President Woodrow Wilson but his terms were stiff and the Army fought on.

The chancellor told the Kaiser that he and his cabinet would resign unless Ludendorff was removed, but that Hindenburg must remain to hold the Army together. [47] The Kaiser called his commanders in, curtly accepting Ludendorffs resignation and then rejecting Hindenburgs. Ludendorff would not accompany the field marshal back to headquarters, I refused to ride with you because you have treated me so shabbily. Ludendorff had assiduously sought all of the credit, now he was rewarded with all of the blame.

Widely despised, and with revolution breaking out, he was hidden by his brother and a network of friends until he slipped out of Germany in a ludicrous disguise blue spectacles and a false beard [49] settling in a Swedish admirers country home, until the Swedish government asked him to leave in February 1919. In seven months he wrote two volumes of detailed memoirs. Friends, led by Breucker, provided him with documents and negotiated with publishers. The memoirs testify to his capacity for work, his intellectual brilliance, and the sweeping range of his involvement: We regarded ourselves as the leaders of the whole nation in arms.

[50] Groener (who is not mentioned in the book) characterized it as a showcase of his'caesar-mania. [51] He was a brilliant general, according to Wheeler-Bennett he was...

Certainly one of the greatest routine military organizers that the world has ever seen, [52] but he was a ruinous political meddler. The influential military analyst Hans Delbrück concluded that The Empire was built by Moltke and Bismarck, destroyed by Tirpitz and Ludendorff. Reflections on the war, a look to the future[edit]. In exile, Ludendorff wrote numerous books and articles about the German military's conduct of the war while forming the foundation for the Dolchstoßlegende, the "stab-in-the-back theory, " for which he is considered largely responsible. [54] Ludendorff was convinced that Germany had fought a defensive war and, in his opinion, that Kaiser Wilhelm II had failed to organize a proper counter-propaganda campaign or provide efficient leadership.

Ludendorff was extremely suspicious of the Social Democrats and leftists, whom he blamed for the humiliation of Germany through the Versailles Treaty. Ludendorff claimed that he paid close attention to the business element (especially the Jews), and saw them turn their backs on the war effort by - as he saw it - letting profit, rather than patriotism, dictate production and financing.

Again focusing on the left, Ludendorff was appalled by the strikes that took place towards the end of the war and the way that the home front collapsed before the military front did, with the former poisoning the morale of soldiers on temporary leave. Most importantly, Ludendorff felt that the German people as a whole had underestimated what was at stake in the war; he was convinced that the Entente had started the war and was determined to dismantle Germany completely. By the Revolution the Germans have made themselves pariahs among the nations, incapable of winning allies, helots in the service of foreigners and foreign capital, and deprived of all self-respect. In twenty years' time, the German people will curse the parties who now boast of having made the Revolution.

Erich Ludendorff, My War Memories, 19141918. Ludendorff (centre) with Hitler and other prominent early Nazi leaders. [55] Staying at the Adlon Hotel, he talked with another resident, Sir Neil Malcome, the head of the British Military Mission. After Ludendorff presented his excuses for the German defeat Malcome said You mean that you were stabbed in the back? [56] ironically coining a key catchphrase for the German right-wing. On 12 March 1920 5,000 Freikorps troops under the command of Walther von Lüttwitz marched on the Chancellery, forcing the government led by Friedrich Ebert and Gustav Bauer to flee the city. The putschists proclaimed a new government with a right-wing politician, Wolfgang Kapp as new "chancellor". Ludendorff and Max Bauer were part of the putsch. The Kapp Putsch was soon defeated by a general strike that brought Berlin to a standstill. The leaders fled, Ludendorff to Bavaria, where a right-wing coup had succeeded. He published two volumes of annotated and in a few instances pruned documents and commentaries documenting his war service. [57] He reconciled with Hindenburg, who began to visit every year. In May 1923 Ludendorff had an agreeable first meeting with Adolf Hitler, and soon he had regular contacts with National Socialists. On 8 November 1923, the Bavarian Staatskomissar Gustav von Kahr was addressing a jammed meeting in a large beer hall, the Bürgerbräukeller. Hitler, waving a pistol, jumped onto the stage, announcing that the national revolution was underway.

The hall was occupied by armed men who covered the audience with a machine gun, the first move in the Beer Hall Putsch. Hitler announced that he would lead the Reich Government and Ludendorff would command the army. The latter was driven over by his surviving stepson Heinz and their servant. He addressed the now enthusiastically supportive audience and then spent the night in the War Ministry, unsuccessfully trying to obtain the armys backing.

The next morning 3,000 armed Nazis formed outside of the Bürgerbräukeller and marched into central Munich, the leaders just behind the flag bearers. They were blocked by a cordon of police, firing broke out for less than a minute. Most of the Nazi leaders were hit or dropped to the ground. Ludendorff and his adjutant Major Streck marched to the police line where they pushed aside the rifle barrels. He was indignant when sent home while the other leaders remained in custody.

Four police officers and 16 Nazis had been killed, including Ludendorffs servant. They were tried in early 1924. Ludendorff was acquitted, but Heinz was convicted of chauffeuring him, given a one-year suspended sentence and fined 1,000 marks. Hitler went to prison but was released after nine months.

Ludendorffs 60th birthday was celebrated by massed bands and a large torchlight parade. In 1924, he was elected to the Reichstag as a representative of the NSFB (a coalition of the German Völkisch Freedom Party and members of the Nazi Party), serving until 1928. Gradually he began to part company with Hitler, but nonetheless was persuaded to run for president in March 1925. He received 1.1 per cent of the vote.

No one had a majority, so a second round was needed; Hindenburg entered and was narrowly elected. Ludendorff was so humiliated that he broke off their friendship.

In 1927 he refused to stand beside the field marshal at the dedication of the Tannenberg memorial. He attacked Hindenburg abusively for not having acted in a "nationalistic soldier-like fashion". The Berlin-based liberal newspaper Vossische Zeitung states in its article "Ludendorff's hate tirades against Hindenburg - Poisonous gas from Hitler's camp" that Ludendorff as of March 29, 1930, was deeply rooted in Hitlers Nazi ideology. Tipton notes that Ludendorff was a Social Darwinist who believed that war was the "foundation of human society, " and that military dictatorship was the normal form of government in a society in which every resource must be mobilized. [59] The historian Margaret Lavinia Anderson notes that after the war, Ludendorff wanted Germany to go to war against all of Europe, and that he became a pagan worshiper of the Nordic god Wotan (Odin); he detested not only Judaism, but also Christianity, which he regarded as a weakening force. [60] By contrast, some believed that he had become a pacifist. Last years and death[edit]. Ludendorff divorced and married his second wife Mathilde von Kemnitz (18771966) in 1926. They published books and essays to prove that the worlds problems were the result of Christianity, especially the Jesuits and Catholics, but also conspiracies by Jews and the Freemasons.

They founded the Bund für Gotteserkenntnis (German) (Society for the Knowledge of God), a small and rather obscure esoterical society of Theists that survives to this day. [62] He launched several abusive attacks on his former superior Hindenburg for not having acted in a "nationalistic soldier-like fashion". By the time Hitler came to power, Ludendorff was no longer sympathetic to him. The Nazis distanced themselves from Ludendorff because of his eccentric conspiracy theories.

[63] In January 1933, on the occasion of Hitlers appointment as Chancellor by President Hindenburg, Ludendorff allegedly sent the following telegram: I solemnly prophesy that this accursed man will cast our Reich into the abyss and bring our nation to inconceivable misery. Future generations will damn you in your grave for what you have done. [64] Other historians consider this text to be a forgery. [65] In an attempt to regain Ludendorffs favor, Hitler arrived unannounced at Ludendorffs home on his 70th birthday in 1935 to promote him to field marshal.

Infuriated, Ludendorff allegedly rebuffed Hitler by telling him: An officer is named General Field-Marshal on the battlefield! Not at a birthday tea-party in the midst of peace. [66] He wrote two further books on military themes, demonstrating that he still could think coherently about war despite his warped prejudices. Erich Ludendorff died of liver cancer in the private clinic Josephinum in Munich, on 20 December 1937 at the age of 72. [68] He was given against his explicit wishes a state funeral organized and attended by Hitler, who declined to speak at his eulogy. He was buried in the Neuer Friedhof in Tutzing. Knight of the Military Order of Max Joseph (Bavaria). Grand Commander with Star of the House Order of Hohenzollern. Grand Cross of the Iron Cross. Knight of the Military Order of St.

Knight of the Military Merit Order (Württemberg). Knight Grand Cross of the House and Merit Order of Peter Frederick Louis with Swords and laurel. Military Merit Cross, 2nd class (Mecklenburg-Schwerin). Military Merit Cross, 1st class with war decoration (Austria-Hungary).

Gold Military Merit Medal ("Signum Laudis", Austria-Hungary). Cross for Merit in War (Saxe-Meiningen).

Mittler & Sohn, Berlin 1919, 1936. Blätter der Erinnerung an unser stolzes Heer. Mit Mitarbeitern: Mathilde Ludendorff ihr Werk und Wirken. Auf dem Weg zur Feldherrnhalle. Lebenserinnerungen an die Zeit des 9.

Mit Mathilde Ludendorff: Die Judenmacht, ihr Wesen und Ende. Wie der Weltkrieg 1914 gemacht wurde. Das Kriegsende und die Vorgänge beim Waffenstillstand. Die politischen Hintergründe des 9. Französische Fälschung meiner Denkschrift von 1912 über den drohenden Krieg.

Geschichtliche Wahrheit über die Schlacht. Ludendorffs Volkswarte, Wochenzeitung, erschienen 1929 bis zum Verbot 1933 in München. Margarethe Ludendorff: Als ich Ludendorff's Frau war. Drei Masken Verlag, München 1929.

Kurt Fügner: General Ludendorff im Feuer vor Lüttich und an der Feldherrnhalle in München 1935. Mathilde Ludendorff und Mitarbeiter: Erich Ludendorff Sein Wesen und Schaffen. Judenfeindlichkeit in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Band 5: Organisationen, Institutionen, Bewegungen. De Gruyter, Berlin 2012, S. Gruchmann, Lothar: Ludendorffs prophetischer Brief an Hindenburg vom Januar/Februar 1933.

Siedler, München 2011, ISBN 978-3-88680-965-3. Pöhlmann, Markus: Der moderne Alexander im Maschinenkrieg. Puschner, Uwe; Vollnhals, Clemens Hrgb. Schwab, Andreas: Vom totalen Krieg zur deutschen Gotterkenntnis.

In: Schriftenreihe der Eidgenössischen Militärbibliothek und des Historischen Dienstes. Bruno Thoß (1987), "Ludendorff, Erich", Neue Deutsche Biographie (NDB) (in German), 15, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, pp. (abgerufen über Verlag Walter de Gruyter Online). Wilhelm II or William II (German: Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albert von Preußen; English: Frederick William Victor Albert of Prussia; 27 January 1859 4 June 1941) was the last German Emperor (Kaiser) and King of Prussia, ruling the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia from 15 June 1888 to 9 November 1918. He was the eldest grandchild of the British Queen Victoria and related to many monarchs and princes of Europe. Crowned in 1888, he dismissed the Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, in 1890 and launched Germany on a bellicose "New Course" in foreign affairs that culminated in his support for Austria-Hungary in the crisis of July 1914 that led in a matter of days to the First World War.

Bombastic and impetuous, he sometimes made tactless pronouncements on sensitive topics without consulting his ministers, culminating in a disastrous Daily Telegraph interview in 1908 that cost him most of his influence. [1] His leading generals, Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff, dictated policy during the First World War with little regard for the civilian government. An ineffective war-time leader, he lost the support of the army, abdicated in November 1918, and fled to exile in the Netherlands. Wilhelm was born on 27 January 1859 at the Crown Prince's Palace, Berlin to Prince Frederick William of Prussia (the future Frederick III) and his wife, Victoria, Princess Royal, the eldest daughter of Britain's Queen Victoria.

At the time of his birth, his great-uncle Frederick William IV was king of Prussia, and his grandfather and namesake Wilhelm was acting as Regent. He was the first grandchild of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, but more importantly, as the first son of the Crown Prince of Prussia, Wilhelm was from 1861 second in the line of succession to Prussia, and also, after 1871, to the newly created German Empire, which, according to the constitution of the German Empire, was ruled by the Prussian King.

Wilhelm with his father, in Highland dress, in 1862. A traumatic breech birth left him with a withered left arm due to Erb's palsy, which he tried with some success to conceal. In many photos he carries a pair of white gloves in his left hand to make the arm seem longer, holds his left hand with his right, or has his crippled arm on the hilt of a sword or holding a cane to give the effect of a useful limb posed at a dignified angle. His left arm was about 6 inches (15 centimetres) shorter than his right arm.

Historians have suggested that this disability affected his emotional development. In 1863, Wilhelm was taken to England to be present at the wedding of his Uncle Bertie, (later King Edward VII), and Princess Alexandra of Denmark. William attended the ceremony in a Highland costume, complete with a small toy dirk. During the ceremony the four-year-old became restless. His eighteen-year-old uncle Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, charged with keeping an eye on him, told him to be quiet, but Wilhelm drew his dirk and threatened Alfred. When Alfred attempted to subdue him by force, Wilhelm bit him on the leg. His grandmother, Queen Victoria, missed seeing the fracas; to her Wilhelm remained "a clever, dear, good little child, the great favourite of my beloved Vicky". His mother, Vicky, was obsessed with his damaged arm. She blamed herself for the child's handicap and insisted that he become a good rider. The thought that he, as heir to the throne, should not be able to ride was intolerable to her. Riding lessons began when Wilhelm was eight and were a matter of endurance for Wilhelm. Over and over, the weeping prince was set on his horse and compelled to go through the paces. He fell off time after time but despite his tears was set on its back again. After weeks of this he finally got it right and was able to maintain his balance. Wilhelm, from six years of age, was tutored and heavily influenced by the 39-year-old teacher Georg Hinzpeter. [5] "Hinzpeter, " he later wrote, was really a good fellow. Whether he was the right tutor for me, I dare not decide. The torments inflicted on me, in this pony riding, must be attributed to my mother. As a teenager he was educated at Kassel at the Friedrichsgymnasium.

In January 1877, Wilhelm finished high school and on his eighteenth birthday received as a present from his grandmother, Queen Victoria, the Order of the Garter. After Kassel he spent four terms at the University of Bonn, studying law and politics. He became a member of the exclusive Corps Borussia Bonn. [6] Wilhelm possessed a quick intelligence, but this was often overshadowed by a cantankerous temper.

Wappen Deutsches Reich - Reichsadler 1889. Victoria Louise, Duchess of Brunswick.

As a scion of the Royal house of Hohenzollern, Wilhelm was exposed from an early age to the military society of the Prussian aristocracy. This had a major impact on him and, in maturity, Wilhelm was seldom seen out of uniform. The hyper-masculine military culture of Prussia in this period did much to frame his political ideals and personal relationships. Crown Prince Frederick was viewed by his son with a deeply felt love and respect.

His father's status as a hero of the wars of unification was largely responsible for the young Wilhelm's attitude, as were the circumstances in which he was raised; close emotional contact between father and son was not encouraged. Later, as he came into contact with the Crown Prince's political opponents, Wilhelm came to adopt more ambivalent feelings toward his father, perceiving the influence of Wilhelm's mother over a figure who should have been possessed of masculine independence and strength. Wilhelm also idolised his grandfather, Wilhelm I, and he was instrumental in later attempts to foster a cult of the first German Emperor as "Wilhelm the Great". [7] However, he had a distant relationship with his mother. Wilhelm resisted attempts by his parents (especially his mother) to educate him in British attitudes towards democracy.

Instead, he agreed with his German tutors' support of autocratic rule, and gradually became thoroughly Prussianized under their influence. He thus became alienated from his parents, suspecting them of putting Britain's interests first.

The German Emperor, Wilhelm I, watched as his grandson, guided principally by the Crown Princess Victoria, grew to manhood. When Wilhelm was nearing twenty-one the Emperor decided it was time his grandson should begin the military phase of his preparation for the throne. He was assigned as a lieutenant to the First Regiment of Foot Guards, stationed at Potsdam. "In the Guards, " Wilhelm said, I really found my family, my friends, my interests everything of which I had up to that time had to do without.

As a boy and a student, his manner had been polite and agreeable; as an officer, he began to strut and speak brusquely in the tone he deemed appropriate for a Prussian officer. In many ways, Wilhelm was a victim of his inheritance and of Otto von Bismarck's machinations. Both sides of his family had suffered from mental illness, and this may explain his emotional instability.

[citation needed] When Wilhelm was in his early twenties, Bismarck tried to separate him from his parents (who opposed Bismarck and his policies) with some success. Bismarck planned to use the young prince as a weapon against his parents in order to retain his own political dominance. Wilhelm thus developed a dysfunctional relationship with his parents, but especially with his English mother. In an outburst in April 1889, Wilhelm angrily implied that "an English doctor killed my father, and an English doctor crippled my arm which is the fault of my mother", who allowed no German physicians to attend to herself or her immediate family. As a young man, Wilhelm fell in love with one of his maternal first cousins, Princess Elisabeth of Hesse-Darmstadt.

She, however, turned him down, and would, in time, marry into the Russian imperial family. In 1880, however, Wilhelm became engaged to Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, known as "Dona". The couple married on 27 February 1881, and would remain married for forty years, until her death in 1921. In a period of ten years, between 1882 and 1892, Augusta Victoria would bear Wilhelm seven children, six sons and a daughter.

Beginning in 1884, Bismarck began advocating that Kaiser Wilhelm send his grandson on various diplomatic missions, a privilege denied to the Crown Prince. That year, Prince Wilhelm was sent to the court of Tsar Alexander III in St. Petersburg to attend the coming of age ceremony of the sixteen-year-old Tsarevich Nicholas. However Wilhelm's behavior did little to ingratiate himself to the tsar.

Two years later, Kaiser Wilhelm I took Prince Wilhelm on a trip to meet with the Austro-Hungarian emperor, Franz Joseph. In 1886, also, thanks to Herbert von Bismarck, the son of the Chancellor, Prince Wilhelm began to be trained twice a week at the Foreign Ministry.

One privilege was denied to Prince Wilhelm: to represent Germany at his maternal grandmother, Queen Victoria's, Golden Jubilee Celebrations in London in 1887. This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. (November 2015) (Learn how and when to remove this template message). The German Emperor Wilhelm I died in Berlin on 9 March 1888, and Prince Wilhelm's father was proclaimed Emperor as Frederick III. He was already suffering from an incurable throat cancer and spent all 99 days of his reign fighting the disease before dying. On 15 June of that same year, his 29-year-old son succeeded him as German Emperor and King of Prussia. Although in his youth he had been a great admirer of Otto von Bismarck, Wilhelm's characteristic impatience soon brought him into conflict with the "Iron Chancellor", the dominant figure in the foundation of his empire.

The new Emperor opposed Bismarck's careful foreign policy, preferring vigorous and rapid expansion to protect Germany's place in the sun. Furthermore, the young Emperor had come to the throne determined to rule as well as reign, unlike his grandfather. While the letter of the imperial constitution vested executive power in the emperor, Wilhelm I had been content to leave day-to-day administration to Bismarck. Early conflicts between Wilhelm II and his chancellor soon poisoned the relationship between the two men. Bismarck believed that Wilhelm was a lightweight who could be dominated, and he showed scant respect for Wilhelm's policies in the late 1880s.

The final split between monarch and statesman occurred soon after an attempt by Bismarck to implement a far-reaching anti-Socialist law in early 1890. In this photo of Wilhelm, his right hand is holding his left hand, which was affected by Erb's palsy. The impetuous young Kaiser, says John C. Röhl, rejected Bismarck's "peaceful foreign policy" and instead plotted with senior generals to work in favour of a war of aggression.

" Bismarck told an aide, "That young man wants war with Russia, and would like to draw his sword straight away if he could. I shall not be a party to it. Bismarck, after gaining an absolute majority in favour of his policies in the Reichstag, decided to make the anti-Socialist laws permanent.

His Kartell, the majority of the amalgamated Conservative Party and the National Liberal Party, favoured making the laws permanent, with one exception: the police power to expel Socialist agitators from their homes. The Kartell split over this issue and nothing was passed. As the debate continued, Wilhelm became more and more interested in social problems, especially the treatment of mine workers who went on strike in 1889. He routinely interrupted Bismarck in Council to make clear where he stood on social policy. Bismarck sharply disagreed with Wilhelm's policy and worked to circumvent it.

Bismarck, feeling pressured and unappreciated by the young Emperor and undermined by his ambitious advisors, refused to sign a proclamation regarding the protection of workers along with Wilhelm, as was required by the German Constitution. The final break came as Bismarck searched for a new parliamentary majority, with his Kartell voted from power due to the anti-Socialist bill fiasco. The remaining powers in the Reichstag were the Catholic Centre Party and the Conservative Party. Bismarck wished to form a new bloc with the Centre Party, and invited Ludwig Windthorst, the party's parliamentary leader, to discuss a coalition. Wilhelm was furious to hear about Windthorst's visit.

In a parliamentary state, the head of government depends on the confidence of the parliamentary majority and has the right to form coalitions to ensure his policies a majority, but in Germany, the Chancellor had to depend on the confidence of the Emperor, and Wilhelm believed that the Emperor had the right to be informed before his ministers' meeting. After a heated argument at Bismarck's estate over Imperial authority, Wilhelm stormed out.

Bismarck, forced for the first time into a situation he could not use to his advantage, wrote a blistering letter of resignation, decrying Wilhelm's interference in foreign and domestic policy, which was published only after Bismarck's death. Although Bismarck had sponsored landmark social security legislation, by 188990, he had become disillusioned with the attitude of workers.

In particular, he was opposed to wage increases, improving working conditions, and regulating labour relations. Moreover, the Kartell, the shifting political coalition that Bismarck had been able to forge since 1867, had lost a working majority in the Reichstag.

At the opening of the Reichstag on 6 May 1890, the Kaiser stated that the most pressing issue was the further enlargement of the bill concerning the protection of the labourer. [12] In 1891, the Reichstag passed the Workers Protection Acts, which improved working conditions, protected women and children and regulated labour relations. "Dropping the Pilot", a famous caricature by Sir John Tenniel (18201914), first published in the British magazine Punch, 29 March 1890.

Bismarck resigned at Wilhelm II's insistence in 1890, at the age of 75, to be succeeded as Chancellor of Germany and Minister-President of Prussia by Leo von Caprivi, who in turn was replaced by Chlodwig, Prince of Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, in 1894. Following the dismissal of Hohenlohe in 1900, Wilhelm appointed the man whom he regarded as "his own Bismarck", Bernhard von Bülow. In foreign policy Bismarck had achieved a fragile balance of interests between Germany, France and Russiapeace was at hand and Bismarck tried to keep it that way despite growing popular sentiment against Britain (regarding colonies) and especially against Russia. With Bismarck's dismissal the Russians now expected a reversal of policy in Berlin, so they quickly came to terms with France, beginning the process that by 1914 largely isolated Germany. German Emperor Wilhelm II, King of Prussia.

Imperial Monogram of Kaiser Wilhelm II. His Imperial and Royal Majesty. Your Imperial and Royal Majesty. In appointing Caprivi and then Hohenlohe, Wilhelm was embarking upon what is known to history as "the New Course", in which he hoped to exert decisive influence in the government of the empire.

There is debate amongst historians as to the precise degree to which Wilhelm succeeded in implementing "personal rule" in this era, but what is clear is the very different dynamic which existed between the Crown and its chief political servant (the Chancellor) in the "Wilhelmine Era". These chancellors were senior civil servants and not seasoned politician-statesmen like Bismarck. Wilhelm wanted to preclude the emergence of another Iron Chancellor, whom he ultimately detested as being "a boorish old killjoy" who had not permitted any minister to see the Emperor except in his presence, keeping a stranglehold on effective political power. Upon his enforced retirement and until his dying day, Bismarck was to become a bitter critic of Wilhelm's policies, but without the support of the supreme arbiter of all political appointments (the Emperor) there was little chance of Bismarck exerting a decisive influence on policy. Silver 5-mark coin of Wilhelm II.

Something which Bismarck was able to effect was the creation of the "Bismarck myth". This was a viewwhich some would argue was confirmed by subsequent eventsthat, with the dismissal of the Iron Chancellor, Wilhelm II effectively destroyed any chance Germany had of stable and effective government. In the early twentieth century Wilhelm began to concentrate upon his real agenda; the creation of a German navy that would rival that of Britain and enable Germany to declare itself a world power.

He ordered his military leaders to read Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan's book, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, and spent hours drawing sketches of the ships that he wanted built. Bülow and Bethmann Hollweg, his loyal chancellors, looked after domestic affairs, while Wilhelm began to spread alarm in the chancellories of Europe with his increasingly eccentric views on foreign affairs. Promoter of arts and sciences.

Wilhelm enthusiastically promoted the arts and sciences, as well as public education and social welfare. He sponsored the Kaiser Wilhelm Society for the promotion of scientific research; it was funded by wealthy private donors and by the state and comprised a number of research institutes in both pure and applied sciences. The Prussian Academy of Sciences was unable to avoid the Kaiser's pressure and lost some of its autonomy when it was forced to incorporate new programs in engineering, and award new fellowships in engineering sciences as a result of a gift from the Kaiser in 1900. Wilhelm supported the modernisers as they tried to reform the Prussian system of secondary education, which was rigidly traditional, elitist, politically authoritarian, and unchanged by the progress in the natural sciences.

As hereditary Protector of the Order of Saint John, he offered encouragement to the Christian order's attempts to place German medicine at the forefront of modern medical practice through its system of hospitals, nursing sisterhood and nursing schools, and nursing homes throughout the German Empire. Wilhelm continued as Protector of the Order even after 1918, as the position was in essence attached to the head of the House of Hohenzollern. Emperor Wilhelm II talks with Ethiopians at the Tierpark Hagenbeck in Hamburg in 1909. Historians have frequently stressed the role of Wilhelm's personality in shaping his reign. Thus, Thomas Nipperdey concludes he was.

Gifted, with a quick understanding, sometimes brilliant, with a taste for the modern, technology, industry, sciencebut at the same time superficial, hasty, restless, unable to relax, without any deeper level of seriousness, without any desire for hard work or drive to see things through to the end, without any sense of sobriety, for balance and boundaries, or even for reality and real problems, uncontrollable and scarcely capable of learning from experience, desperate for applause and success, as Bismarck said early on in his life, he wanted every day to be his birthdayromantic, sentimental and theatrical, unsure and arrogant, with an immeasurably exaggerated self-confidence and desire to show off, a juvenile cadet, who never took the tone of the officers' mess out of his voice, and brashly wanted to play the part of the supreme warlord, full of panicky fear of a monotonous life without any diversions, and yet aimless, pathological in his hatred against his English mother. Historian David Fromkin states that Wilhelm had a love-hate relationship with Britain. From the outset, the half-German side of him was at war with the half-English side.

He was wildly jealous of the British, wanting to be British, wanting to be better at being British than the British were, while at the same time hating them and resenting them because he never could be fully accepted by them. (1968) emphasize the negative international consequences of Wilhelm's erratic personality. He believed in force, and the'survival of the fittest' in domestic as well as foreign politics...

William was not lacking in intelligence, but he did lack stability, disguising his deep insecurities by swagger and tough talk. He frequently fell into depressions and hysterics...

William's personal instability was reflected in vacillations of policy. His actions, at home as well as abroad, lacked guidance, and therefore often bewildered or infuriated public opinion. He was not so much concerned with gaining specific objectives, as had been the case with Bismarck, as with asserting his will.

This trait in the ruler of the leading Continental power was one of the main causes of the uneasiness prevailing in Europe at the turn-of-the-century. As a grandchild of Queen Victoria, Wilhelm was a first cousin of the British Empire's King George V, as well as of Queens Marie of Romania, Maud of Norway, and Victoria Eugenie of Spain, and of the Empress Alexandra of Russia. In 1889, Wilhelm's younger sister, Sophia, married the future King Constantine I of Greece. Wilhelm, infuriated by his sister's conversion to Greek Orthodoxy upon her marriage, attempted to ban her from entering Germany. The Nine Sovereigns at Windsor for the funeral of King Edward VII, photographed on 20 May 1910.

Standing, from left to right: King Haakon VII of Norway, Tsar Ferdinand of the Bulgarians, King Manuel II of Portugal and the Algarve, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Prussia, King George I of the Hellenes and King Albert I of the Belgians. Seated, from left to right: King Alfonso XIII of Spain, King George V of the United Kingdom and King Frederick VIII of Denmark.

Wilhelm's most contentious relationships were with his British relations. He craved the acceptance of his grandmother, Queen Victoria, and of the rest of her family. [21] Despite the fact that his grandmother treated him with courtesy and tact, his other relatives found him arrogant and obnoxious, and they largely denied him acceptance.

[22] He had an especially bad relationship with his Uncle Bertie, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII). Between 1888 and 1901 Wilhelm resented his uncle, himself a mere heir to the English throne, treating Wilhelm not as Emperor of Germany, but merely as another nephew. [23] In turn, Wilhelm often snubbed his uncle, whom he referred to as "the old peacock" and lorded his position as emperor over him. [24] Beginning in the 1890s, Wilhelm made visits to England for Cowes Week on the Isle of Wight and often competed against his uncle in the yacht races.

Edward's wife, the Danish-born Alexandra, first as Princess of Wales and later as Queen, also disliked Wilhelm, never forgetting the Prussian seizure of Schleswig-Holstein from Denmark in the 1860s, as well as being annoyed over Wilhelm's treatment of his mother. [25] Despite his poor relations with his English relatives, nevertheless, when he received news that Queen Victoria was dying at Osborne House in January 1901, Wilhelm traveled to England and was at her bedside when she died and remained for the funeral. He also was present at the funeral of King Edward VII, in 1910. In 1913, Wilhelm hosted a lavish wedding in Berlin for his only daughter, Victoria Louise. Among the guests at the wedding were Tsar Nicholas II, who also disliked Wilhelm, and his English cousin, King George V and his wife, Queen Mary.

Wilhelm's biographer Lamar Cecil identified Wilhelm's "curious but well-developed anti-Semitism", noting that in 1888 a friend of Wilhelm declared that the young Kaiser's dislike of his Hebrew subjects, one rooted in a perception that they possessed an overweening influence in Germany, was so strong that it could not be overcome. Wilhelm never changed, and throughout his life he believed that Jews were perversely responsible, largely through their prominence in the Berlin press and in leftist political movements, for encouraging opposition to his rule. For individual Jews, ranging from rich businessmen and major art collectors to purveyors of elegant goods in Berlin stores, he had considerable esteem, but he prevented Jewish citizens from having careers in the army and the diplomatic corps and frequently used abusive language against them. On 2 December 1919, Wilhelm wrote to Field Marshal August von Mackensen, denouncing his own abdication as the deepest, most disgusting shame ever perpetrated by a person in history, the Germans have done to themselves... Egged on and misled by the tribe of Judah...

Let no German ever forget this, nor rest until these parasites have been destroyed and exterminated from German soil! "[27] Wilhelm advocated a "regular international all-worlds pogrom à la Russe" as "the best cure" and further believed that Jews were a "nuisance that humanity must get rid of some way or other. I believe the best thing would be gas!

1898 China imperialism cartoon: A Mandarin official helplessly looks on as China, depicted as a pie, is about to be carved up by Queen Victoria (Britain), Wilhelm II (Germany), Nicholas II (Russia), Marianne (France), and a samurai (Japan). A 1904 British cartoon commenting on the Entente cordiale: John Bull walking off with Marianne, turning his back on Wilhelm II, whose saber is shown extending from his coat. Wilhelm II with Nicholas II of Russia in 1905, wearing the military uniforms of each other's nations. German foreign policy under Wilhelm II was faced with a number of significant problems.

Perhaps the most apparent was that Wilhelm was an impatient man, subjective in his reactions and affected strongly by sentiment and impulse. He was personally ill-equipped to steer German foreign policy along a rational course. It is now widely recognised that the various spectacular acts which Wilhelm undertook in the international sphere were often partially encouraged by the German foreign policy elite. There were a number of notorious examples, such as the Kruger telegram of 1896 in which Wilhelm congratulated President Paul Kruger of the Transvaal Republic on the suppression of the British Jameson Raid, thus alienating British public opinion.

British public opinion had been quite favourable toward the Kaiser in his first twelve years on the throne, but it turned sour in the late 1890s. During the First World War, he became the central target of British anti-German propaganda and the personification of a hated enemy. Wilhelm invented and spread fears of a yellow peril trying to interest other European rulers in the perils they faced by invading China; few other leaders paid attention. [30] Wilhelm used the Japanese victory in the Russo-Japanese War to try and incite fear in the west of the yellow peril they faced by a resurgent Japan, which Wilhelm claimed would ally with China to overrun the west.

Under Wilhelm Germany invested in strengthening its colonies in Africa and the Pacific, but few became profitable and all were lost during the First World War. In South West Africa (now Namibia), a native revolt against German rule led to the Herero and Namaqua Genocide, although Wilhelm eventually ordered it to be stopped. One of the few times when Wilhelm succeeded in personal diplomacy was when in 1900 he supported the marriage of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria to Sophie Chotek, against the wishes of Emperor Franz Joseph. A domestic triumph for Wilhelm was when his daughter Victoria Louise married the Duke of Brunswick in 1913; this helped heal the rift between the House of Hanover and the House of Hohenzollern which followed the annexation of Hanover by Prussia in 1866.

Abushiri Arab Revolt in East Africa. [hide]This section has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page.

(Learn how and when to remove these template messages). You can help by adding to it. The German East Africa Company colonized the East African coast around Tanganyika but the Arabs under Abushiri ibn Salim al-Harthi started a massive revolt along the coast, killing German representatives of the company and seizing control. The German Empire sent troops to crush the uprising, with the help of a British blockade. The uprising was defeated by 1889 and the Arab rebel leader Abushiri was hanged by German forces.

The Boxer rebellion, an anti-western uprising in China, was put down in 1900 by an international force of British, French, Russian, Italian, American, Japanese, and German troops. The Germans, however, forfeited any prestige they might have gained for their participation by arriving only after the British and Japanese forces had taken Peking, the site of the fiercest fighting. Moreover, the poor impression left by the German troops' late arrival was made worse by the Kaiser's ill-conceived farewell address, in which he commanded them, in the spirit of the Huns, to be merciless in battle. [33] Wilhelm delivered this speech in Bremerhaven on 27 July 1900, addressing German troops who were departing to suppress the Boxer rebellion in China.

The speech was infused with Wilhelm's fiery and chauvinistic rhetoric and clearly expressed his vision of German imperial power. There were two versions of the speech. The Foreign Office issued an edited version, making sure to omit one particularly incendiary paragraph that they regarded as diplomatically embarrassing. [34] The edited version read like this.

Great overseas tasks have fallen to the new German Empire, tasks far greater than many of my countrymen expected. The German Empire has, by its very character, the obligation to assist its citizens if they are being set upon in foreign lands. The tasks that the old Roman Empire of the German nation was unable to accomplish, the new German Empire is in a position to fulfill.

The means that make this possible is our army. It has been built up during thirty years of faithful, peaceful labor, following the principles of my blessed grandfather. You, too, have received your training in accordance with these principles, and by putting them to the test before the enemy, you should see whether they have proved their worth in you. It is up to you to emulate them. A great task awaits you: you are to revenge the grievous injustice that has been done. It is all the more outrageous that this crime has been committed by a nation that takes pride in its ancient culture. Show the old Prussian virtue. Present yourselves as Christians in the cheerful endurance of suffering. May honor and glory follow your banners and arms. Give the whole world an example of manliness and discipline. You know full well that you are to fight against a cunning, brave, well-armed, and cruel enemy. When you encounter him, know this: no quarter will be given. Prisoners will not be taken. Exercise your arms such that for a thousand years no Chinese will dare to look cross-eyed at a German. May Gods blessing be with you, the prayers of an entire nation and my good wishes go with you, each and every one. Open the way to civilization once and for all! The official version omitted the following passage from which the speech derives its name. Should you encounter the enemy, he will be defeated! No quarter will be given! Prisoners will not be taken! Whoever falls into your hands is forfeited. Just as a thousand years ago the Huns under their King Attila made a name for themselves, one that even today makes them seem mighty in history and legend, may the name German be affirmed by you in such a way in China that no Chinese will ever again dare to look cross-eyed at a German. The term "Hun" later became the favored epithet of Allied anti-German war propaganda during the First World War. One of Wilhelm's diplomatic blunders sparked the Moroccan Crisis of 1905, when he made a spectacular visit to Tangier, in Morocco. His presence was seen as an assertion of German interests in Morocco, in opposition to those of France. In his speech, he even made remarks in favour of Moroccan independence, and this led to friction with France, which had expanding colonial interests in Morocco, and to the Algeciras Conference, which served largely to further isolate Germany in Europe. Wilhelm II and Winston Churchill during a military autumn maneuver near Breslau, Silesia (Wrocaw, Poland) in 1906. Main article: Daily Telegraph Affair.

Wilhelm's most damaging personal blunder cost him much of his prestige and power and had a far greater impact in Germany than overseas. [38] The Daily Telegraph Affair of 1908 involved the publication in Germany of an interview with a British daily newspaper that included wild statements and diplomatically damaging remarks.

Wilhelm had seen the interview as an opportunity to promote his views and ideas on Anglo-German friendship, but due to his emotional outbursts during the course of the interview, he ended up further alienating not only the British, but also the French, Russians, and Japanese. He implied, among other things, that the Germans cared nothing for the British; that the French and Russians had attempted to incite Germany to intervene in the Second Boer War; and that the German naval buildup was targeted against the Japanese, not Britain. One memorable quotation from the interview was, You English are mad, mad, mad as March hares. [39] The effect in Germany was quite significant, with serious calls for his abdication. Wilhelm kept a very low profile for many months after the Daily Telegraph fiasco, but later exacted his revenge by forcing the resignation of the chancellor, Prince Bülow, who had abandoned the Emperor to public scorn by not having the transcript edited before its German publication.

[40][41] The Daily Telegraph crisis deeply wounded Wilhelm's previously unimpaired self-confidence, and he soon suffered a severe bout of depression from which he never fully recovered. He lost much of the influence he had previously exercised in domestic and foreign policy. This section includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. Please help to improve this section by introducing more precise citations. (January 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message).

Caricature by Olaf Gulbransson 1909: "Manoeuvre: Emperor William II explains the enemy's positions to Prince Ludwig of Bavaria". Nothing Wilhelm did in the international arena was of more influence than his decision to pursue a policy of massive naval construction.

A powerful navy was Wilhelm's pet project. He had inherited from his mother a love of the British Royal Navy, which was at that time the world's largest. He once confided to his uncle, the Prince of Wales, that his dream was to have a "fleet of my own some day". Wilhelm's frustration over his fleet's poor showing at the Fleet Review at his grandmother Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, combined with his inability to exert German influence in South Africa following the dispatch of the Kruger telegram, led to Wilhelm taking definitive steps toward the construction of a fleet to rival that of his British cousins.

Wilhelm was fortunate to be able to call on the services of the dynamic naval officer Alfred von Tirpitz, whom he appointed to the head of the Imperial Naval Office in 1897. The new admiral had conceived of what came to be known as the "Risk Theory" or the Tirpitz Plan, by which Germany could force Britain to accede to German demands in the international arena through the threat posed by a powerful battlefleet concentrated in the North Sea. Tirpitz enjoyed Wilhelm's full support in his advocacy of successive naval bills of 1897 and 1900, by which the German navy was built up to contend with that of the British Empire. Naval expansion under the Fleet Acts eventually led to severe financial strains in Germany by 1914, as by 1906 Wilhelm had committed his navy to construction of the much larger, more expensive dreadnought type of battleship. In 1889 Wilhelm reorganised top level control of the navy by creating a Naval Cabinet (Marine-Kabinett) equivalent to the German Imperial Military Cabinet which had previously functioned in the same capacity for both the army and navy.

The Head of the Naval Cabinet was responsible for promotions, appointments, administration, and issuing orders to naval forces. Captain Gustav von Senden-Bibran was appointed as the first head and remained so until 1906. The existing Imperial admiralty was abolished, and its responsibilities divided between two organisations.

Vice-Admiral Max von der Goltz was appointed in 1889 and remained in post until 1895. Construction and maintenance of ships and obtaining supplies was the responsibility of the State Secretary of the Imperial Navy Office (Reichsmarineamt), responsible to the Imperial Chancellor and advising the Reichstag on naval matters. The first appointee was Rear Admiral Karl Eduard Heusner, followed shortly by Rear Admiral Friedrich von Hollmann from 1890 to 1897.

Each of these three heads of department reported separately to Wilhelm. In addition to the expansion of the fleet the Kiel Canal was opened in 1895 enabling faster movements between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.

Emperor Wilhelm with the Grand Duke of Baden, Prince Oskar of Prussia, the Grand Duke of Hesse, the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Prince Louis of Bavaria, Prince Max of Baden and his son, Crown Prince Wilhelm, at pre-war military maneuvers in autumn 1909. A composite image of Wilhelm II with German generals. Wilhelm was a friend of Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria, and he was deeply shocked by his assassination on 28 June 1914.

Wilhelm offered to support Austria-Hungary in crushing the Black Hand, the secret organization that had plotted the killing, and even sanctioned the use of force by Austria against the perceived source of the movementSerbia (this is often called "the blank cheque"). He wanted to remain in Berlin until the crisis was resolved, but his courtiers persuaded him instead to go on his annual cruise of the North Sea on 6 July 1914. Wilhelm made erratic attempts to stay on top of the crisis via telegram, and when the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum was delivered to Serbia, he hurried back to Berlin. He reached Berlin on 28 July, read a copy of the Serbian reply, and wrote on it. A brilliant solutionand in barely 48 hours! This is more than could have been expected. A great moral victory for Vienna; but with it every pretext for war falls to the ground, and [the Ambassador] Giesl had better have stayed quietly at Belgrade. On this document, I should never have given orders for mobilisation. Unknown to the Emperor, Austro-Hungarian ministers and generals had already convinced the 83-year-old Franz Joseph I of Austria to sign a declaration of war against Serbia. As a direct consequence, Russia began a general mobilization to attack Austria in defense of Serbia.

Emperor Wilhelm in conversation with the victor of Liège, General Otto von Emmich; in the background the generals Hans von Plessen (middle) and Moriz von Lyncker (right). On the night of 30 July, when handed a document stating that Russia would not cancel its mobilization, Wilhelm wrote a lengthy commentary containing these observations. For I no longer have any doubt that England, Russia and France have agreed among themselvesknowing that our treaty obligations compel us to support Austriato use the Austro-Serb conflict as a pretext for waging a war of annihilation against us...

Our dilemma over keeping faith with the old and honourable Emperor has been exploited to create a situation which gives England the excuse she has been seeking to annihilate us with a spurious appearance of justice on the pretext that she is helping France and maintaining the well-known Balance of Power in Europe, i. Playing off all European States for her own benefit against us. More recent British authors state that Wilhelm II really declared, Ruthlessness and weakness will start the most terrifying war of the world, whose purpose is to destroy Germany. Because there can no longer be any doubts, England, France and Russia have conspired themselves together to fight an annihilation war against us. Extract from Wilhelm's public address for mobilization, 6 August 1914.

When it became clear that Germany would experience a war on two fronts and that Britain would enter the war if Germany attacked France through neutral Belgium, the panic-stricken Wilhelm attempted to redirect the main attack against Russia. When Helmuth von Moltke (the younger) (who had chosen the old plan from 1905, made by General von Schlieffen for the possibility of German war on two fronts) told him that this was impossible, Wilhelm said: Your uncle would have given me a different answer! "[46] Wilhelm is also reported to have said, "To think that George and Nicky should have played me false! If my grandmother had been alive, she would never have allowed it. [47] In the original Schlieffen plan, Germany would attack the (supposed) weaker enemy first, meaning France. The plan supposed that it would take a long time before Russia was ready for war. Defeating France had been easy for Prussia in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.

At the 1914 border between France and Germany, an attack at this more southern part of France could be stopped by the French fortress along the border. However, Wilhelm II stopped any invasion of the Netherlands. Italian poster from 1915 showing Wilhelm II biting into the world. The text reads The glutton too hard. Hindenburg, Wilhelm II, and Ludendorff in January 1917.

The high command continued with its strategy even when it was clear that the Schlieffen plan had failed. By 1916 the Empire had effectively become a military dictatorship under the control of Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and General Erich Ludendorff. [48] Increasingly cut off from reality and the political decision-making process, Wilhelm vacillated between defeatism and dreams of victory, depending upon the fortunes of his armies. Nevertheless, Wilhelm still retained the ultimate authority in matters of political appointment, and it was only after his consent had been gained that major changes to the high command could be effected.

Wilhelm was in favour of the dismissal of Helmuth von Moltke the Younger in September 1914 and his replacement by Erich von Falkenhayn. In 1917, Hindenburg and Ludendorff decided that Bethman-Hollweg was no longer acceptable to them as Chancellor and called upon the Kaiser to appoint somebody else. When asked whom they would accept, Ludendorff recommended Georg Michaelis, a nonentity he barely knew.

The Kaiser did not know Michaelis, but accepted the suggestion. Upon hearing in July 1917 that his cousin George V had changed the name of the British royal house to Windsor, [49] Wilhelm remarked that he planned to see Shakespeare's play The Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. [50] The Kaiser's support collapsed completely in OctoberNovember 1918 in the army, in the civilian government, and in German public opinion, as President Woodrow Wilson made clear the Kaiser could no longer be a party to peace negotiations. [51][52] That year also saw Wilhelm sickened during the worldwide 1918 flu pandemic, though he survived.

Wikisource has original text related to this article. Wilhelm was at the Imperial Army headquarters in Spa, Belgium, when the uprisings in Berlin and other centres took him by surprise in late 1918.

Mutiny among the ranks of his beloved Kaiserliche Marine, the imperial navy, profoundly shocked him. After the outbreak of the German Revolution, Wilhelm could not make up his mind whether or not to abdicate.

Up to that point, he accepted that he would likely have to give up the imperial crown, but still hoped to retain the Prussian kingship. However, this was impossible under the imperial constitution.

While Wilhelm thought he ruled as emperor in a personal union with Prussia, the constitution actually tied the imperial crown to the Prussian crown, meaning that Wilhelm could not renounce one crown without renouncing the other. Wilhelm's hopes of retaining at least one of his crowns was revealed as unrealistic when, in the hope of preserving the monarchy in the face of growing revolutionary unrest, Chancellor Prince Max of Baden announced Wilhelm's abdication of both titles on 9 November 1918. Prince Max himself was forced to resign later the same day, when it became clear that only Friedrich Ebert, leader of the SPD, could effectively exert control. Later that day, one of Ebert's secretaries of state (ministers), Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann, proclaimed Germany a republic.

Wilhelm consented to the abdication only after Ludendorff's replacement, General Wilhelm Groener, had informed him that the officers and men of the army would march back in good order under Paul von Hindenburg's command, but would certainly not fight for Wilhelm's throne on the home front. The monarchy's last and strongest support had been broken, and finally even Hindenburg, himself a lifelong royalist, was obliged, with some embarrassment, to advise the Emperor to give up the crown. The fact that the High Command might one day abandon the Kaiser had been foreseen in December 1897, when Wilhelm had visited Otto von Bismarck for the last time. Bismarck had again warned the Kaiser about the increasing influence of militarists, especially of the admirals who were pushing for the construction of a battle fleet. Bismarck's last warning had been.

Your Majesty, so long as you have this present officer corps, you can do as you please. But when this is no longer the case, it will be very different for you. Subsequently, Bismarck had predicted accurately.

"Jena came twenty years after the death of Frederick the Great; the crash will come twenty years after my departure if things go on like this" a prophecy fulfilled almost to the month. On 10 November, Wilhelm crossed the border by train and went into exile in the Netherlands, which had remained neutral throughout the war. [57] Upon the conclusion of the Treaty of Versailles in early 1919, Article 227 expressly provided for the prosecution of Wilhelm "for a supreme offence against international morality and the sanctity of treaties", but the Dutch government refused to extradite him, despite appeals from the Allies. King George V wrote that he looked on his cousin as "the greatest criminal in history", but opposed Prime Minister David Lloyd George's proposal to "hang the Kaiser". President Woodrow Wilson of the United States rejected extradition, arguing that prosecuting Wilhelm would destabilize international order and lose the peace.

Wilhelm first settled in Amerongen, where on 28 November he issued a belated statement of abdication from both the Prussian and imperial thrones, thus formally ending the Hohenzollerns' 400-year rule over Prussia. Accepting the reality that he had lost both of his crowns for good, he gave up his rights to the throne of Prussia and to the German Imperial throne connected therewith. He also released his soldiers and officials in both Prussia and the empire from their oath of loyalty to him.

[60] This was to be his home for the remainder of his life. The Weimar Republic allowed Wilhelm to remove twenty-three railway wagons of furniture, twenty-seven containing packages of all sorts, one bearing a car and another a boat, from the New Palace at Potsdam. In 1922, Wilhelm published the first volume of his memoirs[62]a very slim volume that insisted he was not guilty of initiating the Great War, and defended his conduct throughout his reign, especially in matters of foreign policy. For the remaining twenty years of his life, he entertained guests (often of some standing) and kept himself updated on events in Europe.

He grew a beard and allowed his famous moustache to droop. He also learned the Dutch language. Wilhelm developed a penchant for archaeology while residing at the Corfu Achilleion, excavating at the site of the Temple of Artemis in Corfu, a passion he retained in his exile. He had bought the former Greek residence of Empress Elisabeth after her murder in 1898.

He also sketched plans for grand buildings and battleships when he was bored. In exile, one of Wilhelm's greatest passions was hunting, and he bagged thousands of animals, both beast and bird. Much of his time was spent chopping wood and thousands of trees were chopped down during his stay at Doorn.

In the early 1930s, Wilhelm apparently hoped that the successes of the German Nazi Party would stimulate interest in a restoration of the monarchy, with his eldest grandson as the fourth Kaiser. His second wife, Hermine, actively petitioned the Nazi government on her husband's behalf.

However, Adolf Hitler, himself a veteran of the First World War, like other leading Nazis, felt nothing but scorn for the man they blamed for Germany's greatest defeat, and the petitions were ignored. Though he played host to Hermann Göring at Doorn on at least one occasion, Wilhelm grew to distrust Hitler.

Hearing of the murder of the wife of former Chancellor Schleicher, he said We have ceased to live under the rule of law and everyone must be prepared for the possibility that the Nazis will push their way in and put them up against the wall! "[64] Wilhelm was also appalled at the Kristallnacht of 910 November 1938, saying "I have just made my views clear to Auwi [Wilhelm's fourth son] in the presence of his brothers.

He had the nerve to say that he agreed with the Jewish pogroms and understood why they had come about. When I told him that any decent man would describe these actions as gangsterisms, he appeared totally indifferent. He is completely lost to our family. There's a man alone, without family, without children, without God...

He builds legions, but he doesn't build a nation. A nation is created by families, a religion, traditions: it is made up out of the hearts of mothers, the wisdom of fathers, the joy and the exuberance of children...

For a few months I was inclined to believe in National Socialism. I thought of it as a necessary fever. And I was gratified to see that there were, associated with it for a time, some of the wisest and most outstanding Germans. But these, one by one, he has got rid of or even killed... He has left nothing but a bunch of shirted gangsters!

This man could bring home victories to our people each year, without bringing them either glory or danger. But of our Germany, which was a nation of poets and musicians, of artists and soldiers, he has made a nation of hysterics and hermits, engulfed in a mob and led by a thousand liars or fanatics. Wilhelm on Hitler, December 1938. In the wake of the German victory over Poland in September 1939, Wilhelm's adjutant, General von Dommes, wrote on his behalf to Hitler, stating that the House of Hohenzollern "remained loyal" and noted that nine Prussian Princes (one son and eight grandchildren) were stationed at the front, concluding because of the special circumstances that require residence in a neutral foreign country, His Majesty must personally decline to make the aforementioned comment. The Emperor has therefore charged me with making a communication. "[68] Wilhelm greatly admired the success which Hitler was able to achieve in the opening months of the Second World War, and personally sent a congratulatory telegram when the Netherlands surrendered in May 1940: "My Fuhrer, I congratulate you and hope that under your marvellous leadership the German monarchy will be restored completely. " Hitler was reportedly exasperated and bemused, and remarked to Linge, his valet, "What an idiot!

[69] In another telegram to Hitler upon the fall of Paris a month later, Wilhelm stated Congratulations, you have won using my troops. " In a letter to his daughter Victoria Louise, Duchess of Brunswick, he wrote triumphantly, "Thus is the pernicious Entente Cordiale of Uncle Edward VII brought to nought. [70] Nevertheless, after the Nazi conquest of the Netherlands in 1940, the aging Wilhelm retired completely from public life. In May 1940, when Hitler invaded the Netherlands, Wilhelm declined an offer from Churchill of asylum in Britain, preferring to die at Huis Doorn. During his last year at Doorn, Wilhelm believed that Germany was the land of monarchy and therefore of Christ, and that England was the land of liberalism and therefore of Satan and the Anti-Christ.

[72] He argued that the English ruling classes were "Freemasons thoroughly infected by Juda". [72] Wilhelm asserted that the British people must be liberated from Antichrist Juda. We must drive Juda out of England just as he has been chased out of the Continent.

"[73][clarification needed] He believed the Freemasons and Jews had caused the two world wars, aiming at a world Jewish empire with British and American gold, but that "Juda's plan has been smashed to pieces and they themselves swept out of the European Continent! "[72] Continental Europe was now, Wilhelm wrote, "consolidating and closing itself off from British influences after the elimination of the British and the Jews! " The end result would be a "U.

"[73][clarification needed] In a letter of 1940 to his sister Princess Margaret, Wilhelm wrote: "The hand of God is creating a new world & working miracles... We are becoming the U.

Of Europe under German leadership, a united European Continent. " He added: "The Jews [are] being thrust out of their nefarious positions in all countries, whom they have driven to hostility for centuries. "[68] Also in 1940 came what would have been his mother's 100th birthday, on which he wrote ironically to a friend "Today the 100th birthday of my mother!

No notice is taken of it at home! Committee to remember her marvellous work for the... Welfare of our German people... Nobody of the new generation knows anything about her. [74] This sympathy for his mother is in sharp contrast to the intense animosity he expressed for her during most of her life.

The Huis Doorn in 1925. Huis Doorn in the Netherlands. Wilhelm II's tomb in Doorn, Netherlands. Wilhelm died of a pulmonary embolus in Doorn, Netherlands, on 4 June 1941, aged 82, just weeks before the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union. German soldiers had been guarding his house.

Hitler, however, was reportedby whom? To be angry that the former monarch had an honor guard of German troops and nearly fired the general who ordered them when he found out.

Despite his personal animosity toward Wilhelm, Hitler wanted to bring his body back to Berlin for a state funeral, as Wilhelm was a symbol of Germany and Germans during the previous World War. Hitler felt that such a funeral would demonstrate to the Germans the direct descent of the Third Reich from the old German Empire. [75] However, Wilhelm's wishes never to return to Germany until the restoration of the monarchy were respected, and the Nazi occupation authorities granted him a small military funeral, with a few hundred people present.

The mourners included August von Mackensen, fully dressed in his old imperial Life Hussars uniform, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, and Reichskommissar for the Netherlands Arthur Seyss-Inquart, along with a few other military advisers. However, Wilhelm's request that the swastika and other Nazi regalia be not displayed at his funeral was ignored, and they are featured in the photographs of the event taken by a Dutch photographer. Wilhelm was buried in a mausoleum in the grounds of Huis Doorn, which has since become a place of pilgrimage for German monarchists. Small but enthusiastic and faithful numbers of them gather there every year on the anniversary of his death to pay their homage to the last German Emperor. Three trends have characterized the writing about Wilhelm. First, the court-inspired writers considered him a martyr and a hero, often uncritically accepting the justifications provided in the Kaiser's own memoirs.

Second, there came those who judged Wilhelm to be completely unable to handle the great responsibilities of his position, a ruler too reckless to deal with power. Third, after 1950, later scholars have sought to transcend the passions of the early 20th century and attempted an objective portrayal of Wilhelm and his rule. On 8 June 1913, a year before the Great War began, The New York Times published a special supplement devoted to the 25th anniversary of the Kaiser's coronation. The banner headline read: "Kaiser, 25 Years a Ruler, Hailed as Chief Peacemaker".

The accompanying story called him "the greatest factor for peace that our time can show", and credited Wilhelm with frequently rescuing Europe from the brink of war. [79] Until the late 1950s, the Kaiser was depicted by most historians as a man of considerable influence. Partly that was a deception by German officials.

For example, President Theodore Roosevelt believed the Kaiser was in control of German foreign policy because Hermann Speck von Sternburg, the German ambassador in Washington and a personal friend of Roosevelt, presented to the president messages from Chancellor von Bülow as messages from the Kaiser. Later historians downplayed his role, arguing that senior officials learned to work around him. More recently historian John C.

Röhl has portrayed Wilhelm as the key figure in understanding the recklessness and downfall of Imperial Germany. [80] Thus, the argument is made that the Kaiser played a major role in promoting the policies of naval and colonial expansion that caused the sharp deterioration in Germany's relations with Britain before 1914. Wilhelm and his first wife Augusta Viktoria. Wilhelm and his first wife, Princess Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, were married on 27 February 1881. Duchess Sophia Charlotte of Oldenburg.

Princess Alexandra Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg. Countess Ina Marie von Bassewitz. Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick. Empress Augusta, known affectionately as "Dona", was a constant companion to Wilhelm, and her death on 11 April 1921 was a devastating blow. It also came less than a year after their son Joachim committed suicide.

With second wife, Hermine, and her daughter, Princess Henriette. The following January, Wilhelm received a birthday greeting from a son of the late Prince Johann George Ludwig Ferdinand August Wilhelm of Schönaich-Carolath. The 63-year-old Wilhelm invited the boy and his mother, Princess Hermine Reuss of Greiz, to Doorn. Wilhelm found Hermine very attractive, and greatly enjoyed her company.

The couple were wed on 9 November 1922, despite the objections of Wilhelm's monarchist supporters and his children. Hermine's daughter, Princess Henriette, married the late Prince Joachim's son, Karl Franz Josef, in 1940, but divorced in 1946. Hermine remained a constant companion to the aging Emperor until his death.

Emperor Wilhelm II was a Lutheran member of the Evangelical State Church of Prussia's older Provinces. It was a United Protestant denomination, bringing together Reformed and Lutheran believers.

[show]Ancestors of Wilhelm II, German Emperor. Portrait by Max Koner (1890). 27 January 1859 9 March 1888: His Royal Highness Prince Wilhelm of Prussia.

9 March 1888 15 June 1888: His Imperial and Royal Highness The German Crown Prince, Crown Prince of Prussia. 15 June 1888 18 November 1918: His Imperial and Royal Majesty The German Emperor, King of Prussia.

Grand Master of the following Orders. Order of the Black Eagle. Order of Merit of the Prussian Crown. Order of the Red Eagle. Order of the Crown (Prussia).

Royal House Order of Hohenzollern. Iron Cross and Knight Grand Cross. Order of Saint John (Bailiwick of Brandenburg). Knight of the Order of the Rue Crown (Saxony).

Knight of the Order of Saint Hubert (Bavaria). Hanseatic Crosses of Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck. Military Merit Cross, 1st class (Mecklenburg-Schwerin). Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece (Spain).

Knight of the Order of the Garter (United Kingdom) withdrawn in 1915. Knight of the Order of St. Knight of the Order of the Elephant (Denmark). Knight of the Order of the Seraphim (Sweden). Knight of the Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation (1873, Kingdom of Italy).

Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus (1873, Kingdom of Italy). Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown of Italy (1873, Kingdom of Italy). Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Norwegian Lion (Norway). Knight of the Order of Saints Cyril and Methodius (Kingdom of Bulgaria).

Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. The last days of the German Monarchy original title: Wilhelm II. Die letzten Tage des Deutschen Kaiserreichs, about the abdication and flight of the last German Kaiser. Produced by seelmannfilm and German Television.

Written and directed by Christoph Weinert. Queen Victoria and the Crippled Kaiser, Channel 4, Secret History Series 13; first broadcast 17 November 2013.

Barry Foster plays Wilhelm II in several episodes of the 1974 BBC TV series Fall of Eagles. Rupert Julian played Wilhelm II in the 1918 Hollywood propaganda film The Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin.

Alfred Struwe played Wilhelm in the 1987 Polish historical drama film Magnat. Robert Stadlober plays a young crown prince Wilhelm and friend of Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria in the acclaimed 2006 film The Crown Prince (Kronprinz Rudolf). List of people on the cover of Time Magazine: 1920s 28 June 1926. Research Materials: Max Planck Society Archive. Rulers of Germany family tree. He was related to every other monarch of Germany. Alesund, a Norwegian city rebuilt by Wilhelm II after it had been almost completely destroyed by fire in 1904. The item "RARE Orig Photo LOT WWI German Soldier Hindenburg 1916 Ludendorff Kaiser Wilhelm" is in sale since Monday, February 13, 2017. This item is in the category "Collectibles\Militaria\WW I (1914-18)\Original Period Items\Germany\Photographs". The seller is "dalebooks" and is located in Rochester, New York.

This item can be shipped worldwide.

  • Country/Region of Manufacture: Germany

RARE Orig Photo LOT WWI German Soldier Hindenburg 1916 Ludendorff Kaiser Wilhelm