Ludendorff, Erich

Ludendorff, Erich

biographical name


Erich Ludendorff, c. 1930.—Archiv für Kunst und Geschichte, Berlin

(born April 9, 1865, Kruszewnia, near Poznan, Prussian Poland—died Dec. 20, 1937, Munich, Ger.) German general. In 1908 he joined the German army general staff and worked under Helmuth von Moltke in revising the Schlieffen Plan. In World War I he was appointed chief of staff to Paul von Hindenburg, and the two won a spectacular victory at the Battle of Tannenberg. In 1916 the two generals were given supreme military control. They tried to conduct a total war by mobilizing the entire forces of the home front, and in 1917 Ludendorff approved unrestricted submarine warfare against the British, which led to the U.S. entry into the war. In 1918, after his offensive on the Western Front failed, he demanded an armistice, but then he insisted the war continue when he realized the severity of the Armistice conditions. Political leaders opposed him, and he resigned his post. Ludendorff insisted he had been betrayed, and for the next 20 years he led a bizarre life, becoming a leader of reactionary political movements and taking part in the Kapp Putsch (1920) and Beer Hall Putsch (1923). He served in Parliament as a National Socialist (1924–28) and developed a belief that “supernational powers”—Jewry, Christianity, Freemasonry—had deprived him and Germany of victory in World War I.

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