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Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff
9 April 1865 – 20 December 1937
Place of birth Kruszewnia near Posen, Province of Posen
Place of death Tutzing, Bavaria
Allegiance German Empire
Service/branch Army
Years of service 1883-1918
Rank Generalquartiermeister
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Pour le Mérite, Iron Cross First class

Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff (sometimes given incorrectly as von Ludendorff)[citation needed] (9 April 1865 – 20 December 1937) was a German Army officer, victor of Liège, and, with Paul von Hindenburg, one of the victors of the battle of Tannenberg. From August 1916 his appointment as Generalquartiermeister made him joint head (with von Hindenburg) of Germany's war effort. From this point on he ran Germany's war effort in World War I until his resignation in October 1918.


Early years

Ludendorff was born in Kruszewnia near Posen, Province of Posen (now Poznań County, Poland), the third of six children of August Wilhelm Ludendorff (1833–1905), descended from Pomeranian merchants, who had become a landowner in a modest sort of way, and who held a commission in the reserve cavalry. Erich's mother, Klara Jeanette Henriette von Tempelhoff (1840–1914), was the daughter of the noble but impoverished Friedrich August Napoleon von Tempelhoff (1804–1868), and his wife Jeannette Wilhelmine von Dziembowska (1816–1854) — she from a Germanised Polish landed family on her father's side, and through whom Erich was a remote descendant of the Dukes of Silesia and the Marquesses and Electors of Brandenburg. He is said to have had a stable and comfortable childhood, growing up on a small family farm. He received his early schooling from his maternal aunt and had a flair for mathematics.

His acceptance into the Cadet School at Plön was largely due to his excellence in mathematics and the extraordinary work ethic that he would carry with him throughout his life. Passing his Entrance Exam with Distinction,[citation needed] he was placed in a class two years ahead of his actual age group, and thereafter was consistently first in his class. Heinz Guderian attended the same Cadet School, which produced many well-trained German officers.

Despite Ludendorff's maternal noble origins, however, he married outside them, to Margarete née Schmidt (1875–1936).[citation needed]

Rise in the military

Hindenburg and Ludendorff

In 1885 he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the 57th Infantry Regiment, at Wesel.[citation needed] Over the next eight years he saw further service as a first lieutenant with the 2nd Marine Battalion at Kiel and Wilhelmshaven, and the 8th Grenadier Guards at Frankfurt (Oder). His service reports were of the highest order, with frequent commendations.[citation needed] In 1893 he was selected for the War Academy where the commandant, General Meckel, recommended him for appointment to the General Staff. He was appointed to the German General Staff in 1894, rising rapidly through the ranks to become a senior staff officer with V Corps HQ in 1902–04. In 1905, under von Schlieffen, he joined the Second Section of the Great General Staff in Berlin, responsible for the Mobilisation Section from 1904–13. By 1911 he was a full colonel.[citation needed]

Ludendorff was involved in testing the minute details regarding the Schlieffen Plan, assessing the fortifications around the Belgian fortress city of Liege. Most importantly, he attempted to prepare the German army for the war he saw coming. The Social Democrats, who by the 1912 elections had become the largest party in the Reichstag seldom gave priority to army expenditures, building up its reserves, or funding advanced weaponry such as Krupp's siege cannons. Funding for the military went to the Kaiserliche Marine. He then tried to influence the Reichstag via the retired General Keim. Finally the War Ministry caved in to political pressures about Ludendorff's agitations and in January 1913 he was dismissed from the General Staff and returned to regimental duties, commanding the 39th (Lower Rhine) Fusiliers at Düsseldorf. Ludendorff was convinced that his prospects in the military were nil but took up his mildly important position.[citation needed]

Barbara Tuchman describes Ludendorff in her book The Guns of August as Schlieffen’s devoted disciple who was a glutton for work and a man of granite character. He was deliberately friendless and forbidding, and remained little known or liked. Lacking a trail of reminiscences or anecdotes as he grew in eminence, Ludendorff was a man without a shadow.

However, John Lee (p. 45) states that while Ludendorff was with his Fusiliers "he became the perfect regimental commander......the younger officers came to adore him".

World War I

Hindenburg, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Ludendorff in January, 1917
Hindenburg and Ludendorff 1917

In April 1914 Ludendorff was promoted to Major-General and given the command of the 85th Infantry Brigade, stationed at Strassburg.[citation needed]

With the outbreak of The Great War, Ludendorff was first appointed Deputy Chief of Staff to the German Second Army under General Karl von Bülow. His assignment was largely due to his knowledge and previous work investigating the dozen forts surrounding Liege, Belgium. The German assault in early August 1914, according to the Schlieffen Plan for invading France, gained him national recognition.[citation needed]

The Germans experienced their first major setback at Liege. Belgian artillery and machine guns killed thousands of German troops attempting frontal assaults. On 5 August Ludendorff took command of the 14th Brigade, whose general had been killed. He cut off Liege and called for siege guns. By 16 August all forts around Liege had fallen, allowing the German First Army to advance. As hero of Liege, Ludendorff was awarded Germany's highest military decoration for gallantry, the Pour le Mérite, presented by Kaiser Wilhelm II himself on 22 August.[citation needed]

Russia had prepared for and was waging war more effectively than the Schlieffen Plan anticipated. German forces were withdrawing as the Russians advanced towards Königsberg in East Prussia. Only a week after Liege's fall, Ludendorff, then engaged in the assault on Belgium's second great fortress at Namur, was urgently requested by the Kaiser to serve as Chief of Staff of the Eighth Army on the Eastern Front.[citation needed]

Ludendorff went quickly with Paul von Hindenburg, who was recalled from retirement, to replace General Maximilian von Prittwitz, who had proposed abandoning East Prussia altogether. Hindenburg relied heavily upon Ludendorff and Max Hoffmann in planning the successful operations in the battles of Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes. After the Battle of Łódź (1914) in November 1914 Ludendorff was promoted to Lieutenant-General.[citation needed]

In August 1916, Erich von Falkenhayn resigned as Chief of the General Staff. Paul von Hindenburg took his place; Ludendorff declined to be known as "Second Chief of the General Staff" and instead insisted on the title First Generalquartiermeister, on condition that all orders were sent out jointly from the two men. Together they formed the so-called Third Supreme Command.[citation needed]

Paul von Hindenburg (left) and Erich Ludendorff

Ludendorff was the chief manager of the German war effort, with the popular hero von Hindenburg his pliant front man.[citation needed] Ludendorff advocated unrestricted submarine warfare to break the British blockade, which became an important factor in bringing the United States into the war in April 1917. He proposed massive annexations and colonisation in Eastern Europe by a victorious German Reich, and was one of the main supporters of Polish Border Strip.[citation needed]

Russia withdrew from the war in 1917 and Ludendorff participated in the meetings held between German and the new Bolshevik leadership. After much deliberation, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed in March 1918. That same spring Ludendorff planned and directed Germany's final Western Front offensives, including Operation Michael, Operation Georgette and Operation Bluecher; although not formally a commander-in-chief, Ludendorff directed operations by issuing orders to the staffs of the armies at the front, as was perfectly normal under the German system of that time. This final push to win the war fell short and as the German war effort collapsed, Ludendorff's tenure of war-time leadership faded.[citation needed]

On 8 August 1918 Ludendorff concluded the war had to be ended and ordered his men to hold their positions while a ceasefire was negotiated. Unfortunately, the German troops could not stop advances in the west by the Allies, now reinforced by American troops. Ludendorff was near a mental breakdown, sometimes in tears, and his worried staff called in a psychiatrist.[1] On 29 September the Kingdom of Prussia assumed its pre-war authority, which lasted until Kaiser Wilhelm II's abdication. Ludendorff had tried appealing directly to the American government in the hope of getting better peace terms than from the French and British. He then calculated that the civilian government that he had created on 3 October would get better terms from the Americans. However Ludendorff was frustrated by the terms that the new government were negotiating during early October. Unable to achieve an honourable peace himself, Ludendorff had handed over power to the new civilian government, but he then blamed them for the humiliating armistice that President Woodrow Wilson was proposing. He then decided in mid-October that the army should hold out until winter set in when defence would be easier, but the civilian government continued to negotiate.[citation needed]

Unable to prevent negotiations, Ludendorff stated in his 1920 memoirs that he had prepared a letter of resignation on the morning of 26 October, but changed his mind after discussing the matter with von Hindenburg. Shortly afterwards, he was informed that the Kaiser had dismissed him at the urging of the Cabinet and was then called in for an audience with the Kaiser where he tendered his resignation. Shortly after the armistice, Ludendorff fled Germany for Sweden in disguise.[citation needed]

Reflections on the war, a look to the future

In exile, he 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 myth, for which he is considered largely responsible.[citation needed] Ludendorff was convinced that Germany had fought a defensive war and in his opinion, Kaiser Wilhelm II had failed to organise a proper counter-propaganda campaign or provide efficient leadership.[citation needed]

Ludendorff was also extremely suspicious of the Social Democrats and leftists, whom he blamed for the humiliation of Germany through the Versailles Treaty. Ludendorff also claimed that he paid close attention to the business element (especially the Jews), and saw them turn their backs on the war effort by letting profit dictate production and financing rather than patriotism. Again focusing on the left, Ludendorff was appalled by the strikes that took place towards the end of the war and saw the homefront collapse before the front, 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 the Entente had started the war and was determined to dismantle Germany completely. In what has proven to be somewhat prophetic, Ludendorff wrote:

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, 1914–1918

Political career

Ludendorff eventually returned to Germany in 1920. The Weimar Republic planned to send him and several other noted German generals (von Mackensen, among others) to reform the National Revolutionary Army of China, but this was cancelled due to the limitations of the Treaty of Versailles and the image problems with selling such a noted general out as a mercenary. Throughout his life, Ludendorff maintained a strong distaste for politicians and found most of them to be lacking an energetic national spirit. However, Ludendorff's political philosophy and outlook on the war brought him into right-wing politics as a German nationalist and won his support that helped to pioneer the Nazi Party. Early on, Ludendorff also held Adolf Hitler in the highest regard.

At Hitler's urging, Ludendorff took part in the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. The plot failed and in the trial that followed Ludendorff was acquitted. 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. He ran in the 1925 presidential election against former commander Paul von Hindenburg and received just 285,793 votes. Ludendorff's reputation may have been damaged by the Putsch, but he conducted very little campaigning of his own and remained aloof, relying almost entirely on his lasting image as a war hero, an attribute which Hindenburg also possessed.

His last years

After 1928, Ludendorff went into retirement, having fallen out with the Nazi party. He no longer approved of Hitler and began to regard him as just another manipulative politician, and perhaps worse. When he received word that Hitler had been appointed chancellor of Germany, an aging Ludendorff reportedly sent a telegram to President von Hindenburg:

By appointing Hitler Chancellor of the Reich, you have handed over our sacred German Fatherland to one of the greatest demagogues of all time. I prophesy to you this evil man will plunge our Reich into the abyss and will inflict immeasurable woe on our nation. Future generations will curse you in your grave for this action.

Although the original copy of the telegram has yet to be found, one of the first sources to mention the memo was Hans Frank, who served as Reichsminister and General Governor of Poland during the Nazi Era. He wrote about the note in his memoirs, appearing shortly before his execution as a war criminal. Perhaps a more reliable account was that of Captain Wilhelm Breuker, a close associate of Ludendorff's. When Breuker wrote his memoirs in 1953, he also attested to the existence of the telegram.

In his later years, Ludendorff went into a relative seclusion with his second wife, Mathilde von Kemnitz (1874–1966), writing several books and leading the Tannenbergbund. He concluded that the world's problems were the result of Christians (especially of the Jesuits and Catholicism), Jews, and Freemasons. Together with Mathilde, he founded the "Bund für Gotteserkenntnis" (Society for the Knowledge of God), a small and rather obscure esoterical society of alternative Theists that survives to this day.

In an attempt to regain Ludendorff's favour, Hitler paid Ludendorff an unannounced visit in 1935 and offered to make him a field marshal. Infuriated, Ludendorff thundered back: "a field marshal is born, not made". When Ludendorff died in Tutzing in 1937, he was given - against his explicit wishes - a state funeral attended by Hitler, who declined to speak. He was buried in the Neuer Friedhof in Tutzing.


  • Destruction of Freemasonry, through revelation of their secrets[2]
  • Auf dem Weg zur Feldherrnhalle. Lebenserinnerungen an die Zeit des 9.11.1923 mit Dokumenten in 5 Anlagen von General Ludendorff.
  • The coming war
  • DAS GROSSE ENTSETZEN - die Bibel nicht Gottes Wort!
  • The General Staff and Its Problems
  • Ludendorff's Own Story, August 1914-November 1918: The Great War from the Siege of Liege to the Signing of the Armistice as Viewed from the Grand Headquarters of the German Army, volume I et II.
  • Meine Kriegserinnerungen 1914-1918 English: My war memories, 1914-1918
  • Der Totale Krieg, 1935
  • Deutsche Abwehr: Antisemitismus gegen Antigojismus, 1934.
  • Kriegshetze und Volkermorden in den letzten 150 Jahren by Erich (1865–1937)
  • The nation at war


  1. ^ David Reynolds - BBC2 programme Armistice 3 November 2008
  2. ^ Erich Ludendorff on a masonic website

See also


  • Ludendorff, Erich (1971) [1920] (in English, translated from German). Ludendorff's Own Story: August 1914–November 1918; the Great War from the siege of Liège to the signing of the armistice as viewed from the grand headquarters of the German Army. Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press. ISBN 0-8369-5956-6. 
  • Ludendorff, Erich. The Coming War. Faber and Faber, 1931. (= "Weltkrieg droht auf deutschem Boden")
  • Ludendorff, Erich. The Nation at War. Hutchinson, London, 1936. (= "Der totale Krieg")
  • Goodspeed, Donald J.. Ludendorff: Genius of World War I. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. 
  • Lee, John (2005-03) (Hardback). The Warlords: Hindenburg and Ludendorff. London: Orion Books. ISBN 0-297-84675-2. 
  • Asprey, Robert B (1991). The German High Command at War: Hindenburg and Ludendorff and the First World War. New York: W. Morrow. ISBN 0-688-08226-2. 

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Woodrow Wilson
Cover of Time Magazine
19 November 1923
Succeeded by
Hugh S. Gibson


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

A field marshal is born, not made!

Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff (April 9, 1865December 20, 1937) was a German Army officer, Generalquartiermeister during World War I, victor of Liège, and, with Paul von Hindenburg, one of the victors of the battle of Tannenberg. After the war, he briefly supported Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. He was acquitted of criminal charges for his role in the Nazis' unsuccessful Beer Hall Putsch. He became disillusioned with politics and retired from public life that year. When Ludendorff died in Tutzing in 1937, he was given a state funeral attended by Hitler, who declined to speak.



  • 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.
    • Quoted in "My War Memories, 1914–1918" - by Erich Ludendorff - 1919
  • The fifth act of the great drama in Flanders opened on the 22nd October. Enormous masses of ammunition, such as the human mind had never imagined before the war, were hurled upon the bodies of men who passed a miserable existence scattered about in mud-filled shell-holes. The horror of the shell-hole area of Verdun was surpassed. It was no longer life at all. It was mere unspeakable suffering. And through this world of mud the attackers dragged themselves, slowly, but steadily, and in dense masses. Caught in the advanced zone by our hail of fire they often collapsed, and the lonely man in the shell-hole breathed again. Then the mass came on again. Rifle and machine-gun jammed with the mud. Man fought against man, and only too often the mass was successful.
  • Quoted in "My War Memories, 1914-1918" - by Erich Ludendorff - 1919
  • There is but one hope, and this hope is embodied in the national groups which desire our recovery.
    • Quoted in "The Black Book: The Nazi Crime Against the Jewish People" - Page 18 - World War, 1939-1945 - 1981
  • He is the only man...who has any political sense. Go and listen to him one day.
    • About Hitler. Quoted in "Will Germany Crack?: A Factual Report on Germany from Within" - Page 134 - by Karl Boromäus Frank, Anna Caples - 1942
  • A field marshal is born, not made!
    • In an attempt to regain Ludendorff's favor, Hitler paid Ludendorff an unannounced visit in 1935 and offered to make him a field marshal. Infuriated, Ludendorff thundered back with this statement. Quoted in "World War I: Encyclopedia" - Page 716 - by Spencer Tucker, Priscilla Mary Roberts - History - 2005
  • I will give up troops gladly as long as I know that they will be used in the right place to bring victory.
    • Quoted in "The Origins of the Military Dictatorship of Hindenburg and Ludendorff" by Jon Bridgman - 1960
  • By appointing Hitler Chancellor of the Reich, you have handed over our sacred German Fatherland to one of the greatest demagogues of all time. I prophesy to you this evil man will plunge our Reich into the abyss and will inflict immeasurable woe on our nation. Future generations will curse you in your grave for this action.
    • To Paul von Hindenburg after he appointed Hitler as Chancellor. Quoted in "The Holocaust: A Primary Source History" - by Judy Bartel - History - 2005


  • Hitler does not remain faithful to anybody, he will betray you sometime also!
    • To General Werner von Fritsch

About Ludendorff

  • He became the perfect regimental commander...the younger officers came to adore him.
    • John Lee
  • Erich Ludendorff was not a sentimentalist. He had come to take charge, to issue orders, to win a crucial victory.
    • James Charles Roy
  • Erich Ludendorff was considered the brains of the new German command. He pushed for the resumption of unlimited submarine warfare, which ultimately brought America into the conflict.
    • Winston Groom

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

"ERICH LUDENDORFF (1865-), Prussian general, who was associated with Hindenburg in the Higher Command of the German armies, first on the eastern front and afterwards throughout the whole theatre of the World War, was born at Kruszevnia near Posen on April 9 1865. He was for a long period employed in the work of the general staff, and from 1904-13 he was in what was called the Aufmarschabteilung, the department which drew up the plans for the transport, disposition and advance of the troops to be employed in a prospective campaign. In 1908 he was appointed chief of this department. It was he who worked out the last great German Army bill, passed by the Reichstag in 1913. Almost all the proposals he had recommended were adopted without question, but three new army corps for which he had pressed were not even proposed by the War Minister. He believed that it was his insistence upon this particular proposal that led to his being removed from the general staff and sent to Dusseldorf to command the 39th Fusilier Regiment. (It may be noted here that, when he resigned on Oct. 26 1918, he was made hon. colonel of this regiment, which, until its dissolution by the republican Government, bore his name.) In April 1914 he was promoted to the command of a brigade at Strassburg and was there at the outbreak of the World War. He was at once made chief quartermaster of the II. Army under Gen. von Emmich, and proceeded to the western front, where he took part in the assault upon Liege. He accompanied the advance of the 14th Bde. of infantry, as a spectator, but, when its commander fell, he took command of it as the senior officer present and led it in a night march (Aug. 5-6) past the forts to the heights of La Chartreuse outside Liege. On Aug. 7, while the forts were still untaken, he entered the town of Liege with his troops and himself knocked at the door of the citadel, which was surrendered to him without a blow by its garrison of several hundred Belgians. For this feat he received the Prussian Ordre Pour le Merite. He afterwards advanced with the II. Army as far as the Somme until Aug. 22, when he was sent to the eastern front as chief of the general staff of the VIII. Army in East Prussia, with Hindenburg in command. His first meeting with Hindenburg was when the latter joined him in the train at Hanover on his way to East Prussia. The battles of Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes, which cleared East Prussia of the Russian invaders, at once placed Hindenburg and Ludendorff on a pinnacle by themselves in the estimation of the German people. In Nov. 1914 Hindenburg was appointed chief in command over the armies of the East (Oberost), with Ludendorff as his chief-of-staff.

On Aug. 29 1916 Hindenburg was made chief of the general staff of the whole army, and Ludendorff, who had been advanced to the rank of general of infantry, remained in closest association with him, as chief quartermaster-general. The tale of his work in conjunction with Hindenburg, of his successes and failures, belongs to the military history of the World War. In particular his name will always be associated with the great German offensive of the spring and summer of 1918 and with the collapse of that brilliant and audacious enterprise, followed by the disastrous German retreat, the overtures for an armistice and the dissolution of Germany's military power. Ludendorff's attitude towards the Government of Germany and his repeated political interventions form a very important chapter in the events which led up to the German collapse in the autumn of 1918. The motives of his political action are clearly revealed in his book Heine Kriegserinnerungen (1919). He maintains that he never desired to interfere in internal politics. He even complains in his book that successive chancellors and ministers forced him and Hindenburg into a false position by constantly adducing their approval for ministerial measures. The truth is that the whole German system, especially in time of war and in the absence of a commanding political personality like Bismarck, inevitably led to encroachments of military influence. Ludendorff denies that he brought about the fall of Bethmann Hollweg; but he was in communication with those leaders of parties whose views approximated to his own, and, after the Crown Prince, who was also in frequent communication with him, had seen the political leaders and had satisfied himself that they would offer no objection, the Emperor accepted his Chancellor's resignation. Ludendorff asserts in his book that he did his best to keep on terms with successive Imperial Chancellors. But he recalls that the machinery of the Government worked slowly, while he and his officers at the front were full of ardour and eagerness. There was often a delay of weeks in getting urgent things done, " and thus," he says, " the tone of communications between the front and Berlin sometimes became stern (hart)." In another place he speaks of " the struggle with the Government to obtain what the army required in order to achieve a final and decisive victory." Of Count Hertling he says, " Hertling was no War Chancellor." The kind of War Chancellor Ludendorff would have liked is revealed in his exclamation of despair: " Who was going to be Imperial Chancellor after the Emperor had repeatedly declared against Prince Billow and Grand Adml. Tirpitz ? " Ludendorff seemed to forget that the country, as represented by the majority, of the Reichstag, would have none of either of these candidates and that the Emperor, in addition to being himself alienated from Billow, was becoming more and more dependent upon public opinion and more and more afraid of it. Ludendorff, on the other hand, whenever he refers to the Reichstag or to the leaders of parties, shows that in his conception their business was to rouse patriotic feeling in the country and to get the masses into a mood which would make them support the military leaders' conduct of the war through thick and thin. Thus he pointed out to the politicians of the Reichstag in July 1917 that the so-called Peace Resolution would have a depressing effect throughout Germany, and that in enemy countries it would produce an impression of German weakness. Perhaps he was right. In any case it was impossible for the Allied and Associated Powers to be content with the status quo ante; and the German supporters of the Resolution themselves departed from the principle of " no annexations and no indemnities " whenever successes of the German arms encouraged them to believe that Germany might be able to make more advantageous terms. Instances of this were the Peace of Brest Litovsk and the Peace with Rumania. In the negotiations for the first of these Ludendorff was impatient of Count Czernin's Austrian policy as regards Poland, and he desired the extension of German territory and influence on her eastern frontiers both as a military precaution and as a defence against the spread of Bolshevism.

In pursuance of his idea of improving the spirit of the army, Ludendorff caused to be organized under the superintendence of a Lieut.-Col. Nicolai a scheme for giving what was called " patriotic instruction " to the soldiers at the front. The services of a large number of invalided officers and others were enlisted to carry out this scheme. It ultimately developed in many instances into a system of espionage upon the political opinions of the soldiers, and the removal of Nicolai and other officers who were engaged in this work was one of the demands which the leaders of the majority in the Reichstag had put forward when, in Oct. 1918, they compelled the Chancellor, Prince Max of Baden, to break with Ludendorff and to bring about his resignation. Ludendorff had further attempted to extend his system of "patriotic instruction" to the interior of the country through the medium of the generals in command of the reserve corps formations. This home propaganda brought him and his subordinates into conflict with the Social Democrats, who were daily strengthening their hold upon the masses and were influencing them in favour of a " peace by understanding." The Independent Socialists were going still farther and were agitating in the trenches and on the ships of the navy for a military strike, such as actually took place at Kiel in the first week of Nov. 1918 as a prelude to the German Revolution. There were similar demonstrations at various points on the western front, where new recruits abused regiments going into action as " strike-breakers " and " blacklegs." The most debated episode of Ludendorff's career is his action on Sept. 30 and Oct. I 1918 in pressing upon the Government the immediate necessity of making overtures for an armistice. The view of the German republicans is that the retreating German armies on the western front were on the brink of a great disaster, that Hindenburg and Ludendorff were aware of this, and that they urged the necessity of an armistice in order to escape the worst. Ludendorff's contention amounts to a plea that he wanted an armistice on reasonable terms in order to enable the German army to be withdrawn to the frontier, where it might have time to reconstitute itself if necessary, with a view to resisting oppressive terms of peace by standing on the defensive. He seems to imply that he did not realize that neither the Allied Powers nor President Wilson would have agreed to an armistice of this kind. When Ludendorff saw the kind of terms which the Allied and Associated Powers were going to impose, he changed his attitude and desired the German Government to hold out. He had also, he says, formed the conviction by the end of Sept. that the Allied and Associated Powers were not in a position to press home an immediate and decisive attack. It was mainly the attempt to urge his changed views upon the Government of Prince Max of Baden that led to that Government's insistence upon Ludendorff's resignation being accepted by the Emperor on Oct. 26 1918. The immediate occasion of what amounted to his dismissal was a General Army Order, which had been issued on Oct. 24, informing the troops that President Wilson's final terms for an armistice were dishonourable to Germany and that the army must fight to the last gasp. This order was contrary to what Ludendorff knew to be the policy of his Government and he finds it necessary in his book to make excuses for having caused it to be promulgated. It was really as far back as Aug. 8 1918, as Ludendorff himself testifies, that he had lost confidence in the possibility of compelling the Allies by military pressure to accept what they would have regarded as a " German peace. " After the German lines between the Somme and the Luce had been broken through by the British on Aug. 8, he had a conference (on Aug. 13) in the presence of the Emperor with the then Foreign Secretary, Adml. von Hintze, and advised overtures for peace, which Hintze proposed to initiate through the mediation of the Queen of Holland. According to Ludendorff, it was the delay of the Government in prosecuting these overtures that had made him impatient at the end of Sept. whem he urged the immediate necessity of an armistice. It has even been alleged that in Aug. 1918 Ludendorff, under the influence of events at the front, had had a complete nervous breakdown.

As a military organizer and resourceful man of action in the field, Ludendorff has, perhaps, had no equal since Napoleon. He did not, however, possess Napoleon's insight into the necessities of domestic politics, while he shared Napoleon's inability, under the stress of action and the spur of ambition, to realize either the limits of military success or the spirit of the nations he was attempting to crush. He was not exempt from personal vanity. Complaining of the action of the republican German Reich in altering the name of the popular contribution (Kriegsspende) of 150,000,000 marks, collected for war invalids, from " Ludendorff Fund " to " People's Fund," he says: " Could not the Republic have continued to let it bear my name - this fund which, precisely on account of its bearing my name, had brought in so much money and was so beneficial? " He was a master of caustic retort. Prince Max of Baden, instigated by his Socialist colleagues in the Government, had complained that the table of the officers at the front was in glaring contrast with the poverty of the common soldiers' rations, and had suggested that the officers should be content with the same food as their men. Ludendorff replied that the staff could not do its brain work on the common soldier's rations, but he would undertake to try to live on these rations, if Prince Max and the members of his Government would do likewise. " Prince Max, " Ludendorff reports, " did not care to eat the soldiers' rations," and, accordingly, the subject was dropped.

After the revolution, Ludendorff knew that his the country was gone and that he even ran the risk of being impeached by the revolutionary Government for having prolonged the war, as well as for his political activities. He, therefore, like Tirpitz, went abroad, choosing Sweden as his place of refuge, and did not return to Berlin till the spring of 1919. His behaviour after his return was ambiguous. He refrained from placing himself at the head of any reactionary movement, but he was always in evidence whenever such movements seemed likely to achieve any success. The reactionaries continued to regard him as one of their main hopes, and during some of their manifestations of 1919 he showed himself in the streets and was cheered by exofficers and royalist crowds. During the days of the Kapp coup d'état (March 1920) he was a frequent visitor at the headquarters of Kapp's usurping " Government." After the failure of Kapp and his associates, Ludendorff betook himself to Bavaria, which, under the Government of Herr von Kahr (1920-1) and under a formal state of siege, was administered in a reactionary spirit. Bavaria thus became a refuge for Prussian plotters like Col. Bauer, Major Pabst and Capt. Ehrhardt, whose Marine Brigade had supported Kapp. The Prussian refugees seem to have enjoyed the protection of this Bavarian Government, and it was among them that assassinations like those of Gareis, the Bavarian Independent Socialist leader, and of Erzberger, the Democratic Catholic leader, were planned. It is unlikely that Ludendorff was associated with these particular schemes, but his name and his influence were identified with the royalist parties, whose unmeasured agitation favoured the wildest plots and contributed to the spirit which led to assassinations like that of Erzberger.

In addition to his Kriegserinnerungen 1914-18 (1919), Ludendorff published Falschung meiner Denkschrift von 1912 (1919); Entgegnung auf das amtliche Weissbuch, Vorgeschichte des Waffenstillstands (3 pamphlets, 1919).

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Simple English

Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff
April 9, 1865December 20, 1937
Place of birth Kruszewnia near Posen, Province of Posen
Place of death Tutzing, Bavaria
Allegiance German Empire
Service/branch Army
Years of service 1883-1918
Rank Generalquartiermeister
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Pour le Mérite

Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff (sometimes given as von Ludendorff) (April 9, 1865December 20, 1937) was a German Army officer, Generalquartiermeister during World War I, victor of Liège, and, with Paul von Hindenburg, one of the victors of the battle of Tannenberg. After the war, he briefly supported Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. He was not found guilty for his role in the Nazis' unsuccessful Beer Hall Putsch. He became disillusioned with politics and retired from public life that year.

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