|“||A field marshal is born, not made.||„|
|~ Erich Ludendorff|
After the war, Ludendorff became a prominent nationalist leader, and a promoter of the Stab-in-the-back myth, which posited that the German loss in World War I was caused by the betrayal of the German Army by Marxists, Bolsheviks, and Jews who were furthermore responsible for the disadvantageous settlement negotiated for Germany in the Treaty of Versailles. He took part in the failed Kapp Putsch (coup d’état) with Wolfgang Kapp in 1920 and the Beer Hall Putsch instigated by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party in 1923. He would go on to become an early chief adviser to Hitler and a key figure in the early Nazi Party.
From 1924 to 1928, he represented the German Völkisch Freedom Party in the Reichstag (legislature). 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 peace was merely an interval between wars. Ludendorff was a recipient of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross and the Pour le Mérite.
As his views became more extreme under the influence of his wife, Mathilde von Kemnitz, Ludendorff gradually began to part company with Hitler, who was surreptitiously working to undermine the reputation of his one serious rival for the leadership of the extreme right in Germany. Nonetheless, Ludendorff was persuaded to run for President of the Republic in the March 1925 election as the Nazi Party candidate, receiving only a pitiful 1.1 per cent of the vote; there is some evidence that Hitler himself persuaded Ludendorff to run, knowing that the results would be humiliating.
No one had a majority in the initial round of the election, so a second round was needed; Hindenburg entered the race and was narrowly elected. Ludendorff was so humiliated by what he saw as a betrayal by his old friend that he broke off relations with Hindenburg, and in 1927 refused to even 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 was, as of 29 March 1930, deeply grounded in 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. The historian Margaret L. Anderson notes that after the war, Ludendorff wanted Germany to go to war against all of Europe, and that he became a pagan worshipper of the Nordic god Wotan (Odin); he detested not only Judaism, but also Christianity, which he regarded as a weakening force.
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.
Ludendorff died of liver cancer in the private clinic Josephinum in Munich, on 20 December 1937 at the age of 72. 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 in Bavaria.
Ludendorff was born on April 9, 1865, in Kruszewnia in the chiefly Polish-populated Prussian province of Posen. He was the son of an impoverished former cavalry officer. Educated in military schools, Ludendorff entered the German army in 1882, where his fine performance earned him an assignment to the general staff in 1894. He at once gained the confidence of its chief, the younger Count Moltke, and as chief of mobilizations from 1908 to 1912 Ludendorff was largely responsible for Germany's preparations for war.
The first month of World War I witnessed the meteoric rise of the young staff officer. As deputy chief of staff of the 2d Army, Ludendorff immediately made a name for himself by taking the key Belgian fortress of Liège by means of a bold coup. This move earned him the highest German military award. Weeks later Ludendorff won his greatest victory as chief of staff for 8th Army commander Paul von Hindenburg at Tannenberg on the Eastern front against the advancing Russians. During the next 2 years Ludendorff remained in the East, overseeing a series of German victories, yet frustrated in his hopes of launching a decisive campaign against the Russians.
After the failure of Erich von Falkenhayn's Supreme Command in the murderous battle for the key French fortress of Verdun (1916), Hindenburg and Ludendorff were called to the Supreme Command, the latter as first quartermaster general. In this position Ludendorff gained increasing control of the German war effort, not only in its military phases but also in its economic and political ones. In January 1917 Ludendorff ordered unrestricted submarine warfare over the objections of Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg. This move soon brought the United States into the war against Germany.
After peace moves began in the German Parliament in the summer of 1917, Ludendorff brought about Bethmann Hollweg's dismissal, replaced him with a nonentity, and began a program of total mobilization (Hindenburg Program) and national emergency service. In February 1918 Ludendorff dictated the harsh Treaty of Brest-Litovsk to the defeated Russians. After the German position in the war had become hopeless in the West in the summer of 1918, Ludendorff suddenly demanded armistice negotiations and a democratization of the government.
On 29 September 1918 Ludendorff and Hindenburg suddenly told an incredulous Kaiser Wilhelm II that they could not guarantee the integrity of the Western front "for two hours" and they must have an immediate armistice. In the face of President Woodrow Wilson's reply, however, Ludendorff called for a last-ditch national resistance. He resigned when he was overruled by the new chancellor, Prince Max von Baden, and thereby he shirked all responsibility for Germany's defeat.
In the postwar years Ludendorff vociferously spread the "stab in the back" legend that blamed German Socialists and Democrats for the defeat. Ludendorff then became active in "folkish" ultranationalist movements, and he participated in the Nazis' Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. Ludendorff entered Parliament as a Nazi in 1924, and he ran for president on the Nazi ticket in 1925.
With his second wife, Dr. Mathilde von Kemnitz, Ludendorff later founded the mystico-religious Aryan-German Tannenberg League, which actively campaigned against Jews, Marxists, Freemasons, and Jesuits. Ludendorff set down his political views in numerous writings, particularly in his openly militarist The Nation at War (1936). Highly acclaimed by the Nazi regime but isolated in his own mystical politics, Ludendorff died in Munich on Dec. 20, 1937.