WarPeople - Paul Von Hindenburg

Paul von Hindenburg was a German field marshal in World War 1, and along with Erich Ludendorff, the unofficial co-dictator of the German Empire from 1916 onwards, by which the military had effectively taken control of the country as part of the mobilisation for war.

Born in Prussia in what is now Poland and the son of an aristocratic father but a middle class mother, Hindenburg, always a social snob, barely mentioned his mother in his memoirs. He fought in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 where he was regarded as a charismatic but mediocre officer, and retired in 1911, though he returned to the army at the outbreak of World War 1. In 1914 Hindenburg's forces achieved a huge victory over the Russians at Tannenburg in 1914, destroying two Russian armies. He was then promoted to field marshal and given command of the Eastern Front - where he did well, not through any particularly military genius of his own, but rather through his team of extremely able and talented subordinates. Combined with his charisma, by 1916 this made him the most popular man in the German Empire.

In 1916 he became Chief of the General Staff, though his deputy Erich Ludendorff did most of the work and had the real power, and until 1918 effectively jointly governed the country with him. In September 1918, Ludendorff advised an armistice with the Allies, but a month later changed his mind and resigned. He expected Hindenburg to follow him in resignation, but Hindenburg refused, saying he could not desert the men under his command. This caused a rift between the two former friends, and from then on, Ludendorff had nothing but hatred for his former co-general.

In November 1918, Hindenburg played a major role in persuading the Kaiser to abdicate for the greater good of Germany. A firm monarchist himself, Hindenburg later felt embarassed by his role in the affair, and publicly denied he had anything to do with it.

After the war Hindenburg went on to have a major political role, serving as President of the German Republic from 1925 till his death in 1934 at the age of 86, and would be the last president of Germany until 1945.

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