Erich Ludendorff (sometimes given as Erich von Ludendorff) (April 9, 1865 – December 20, 1937) was a German soldier, noted as a general during World War 1.
Ludendorff was born near Poznan (Posen) in present-day Poland, then in Prussia.
Commissioned officer as 18-years old, he made a splendid military career, appointed to the imperial General Staff in 1894, serving as head of the deployment section in 1908 assisting with the fine-tuning of the invasion strategy for France, the Schlieffen Plan.
In World War I Ludendorff was first appointed quartermaster general to Germany’s Second Army, under Karl von Bülow, responsible for capturing the forts of Liège, without which the Schlieffen Plan could not succeed. This task successfully accomplished, Ludendorff was sent to East Prussia where he worked with Paul von Hindenburg as his Chief of Staff.
Hindenburg relied heavily upon Ludendorff in crafting his victories in the Battle of Tannenberg (1914) and the Battle of Masurian Lakes.
From August 1916 Hindenburg, adjointed by Ludendorff, was Chief of Staff of the German Armed Forces, creating what was effectively a military-industrial dictatorship, the Third Supreme Command, largely relegating the Kaiser, Wilhelm II, to he periphery. Ludendorff was the chief engineer behind the management of the German war effort during this time, with Hindenburg his pliant front man.
Ludendorff was a supporter of unrestricted submarine warfare, ultimately responsible for bringing USA into the war.
With Russia’s withdrawal from the war in 1917, Ludendorff played a key role in the advantageous Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918.
Ludendorff realised that the war was lost once the following West-Front offensive failed, aware that with the arrival of fresh American troops the impetus would quickly swing to the Allies. He therefore, with Hindenburg, transferred power back to the Reichstag on September 29, demanding an immediate peace, whereafter he left Germany for Sweden.
Exiled he wrote numerous books and articles mythologizing the German military’s conduct of the war, practically founding the Dolchstoßlegende, claiming that the army had been “stabbed in the back” by left-wing politicians.
Ludendorff eventually returned to Germany in 1920, where as a right-wing politician he took part in Hitler’s failed Beer Hall Putsch (1923).
In 1924 he was elected to the Reichstag as a representative of the Nazi party, serving until 1928. He lost the 1925 presidential election against his former commander, Paul von Hindenburg.
A highly militaristic man, Ludendorff held that peace was merely the interval between wars, and that the nation’s chief duty was to provide the means with which to conduct war.