Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff (9 April 1865 – 20 December 1937) was a German general, politician and military theorist. He achieved fame during World War I for his central role in the German victories at Liège and Tannenberg in 1914. Following his appointment as First Quartermaster-general (German: Erster Generalquartiermeister) of the Imperial Army's Great General Staff in 1916, he became the chief policymaker in a de facto military dictatorship that dominated Germany for the rest of the war. After Germany's defeat, he contributed significantly to the Nazis' rise to power.
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General der Infanterie
|First Quartermaster General of the |
Great General Staff
29 August 1916 – 26 October 1918
|Preceded by||Hugo von Freytag-Loringhoven|
|Succeeded by||Wilhelm Groener|
Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff
9 April 1865
Kruszewnia, Province of Posen, Kingdom of Prussia, (now Kruszewnia, Poland)
|Died||20 December 1937 72) (aged|
Munich, Nazi Germany
(m. 1909; div. 1925)
|Parents||August Wilhelm Ludendorff (father)|
Klara Jeanette Henriette von Tempelhoff (mother)
|Relatives||Hans Ludendorff (brother)|
Heinz Pernet (stepson)
|Branch/service||Imperial German Army|
|Years of service||1883–1918|
|Rank||General der Infanterie|
|Battles/wars||World War I|
|Awards||Pour le Mérite|
Iron Cross First class
Erich Ludendorff came from a family of the minor nobility in Ludendorff, located in the Prussian province of Posen. After completing his education as a cadet, he received his commission as a junior officer in 1885. Later in 1893, Ludendorff was admitted to the prestigious German War Academy and was recommended by its commandant to the General Staff Corps only a year later. By 1904, he had rapidly risen in rank to become a member of the Army's Great General Staff, where he oversaw the development of the Schlieffen Plan.
Despite being temporarily removed from the Great General Staff for meddling in German politics, Ludendorff restored his standing in the army through his success as a commander in World War I. On 16 August 1914, he led the successful German assault on Liège, a feat for which he earned the Pour le Mérite. Upon being transferred to the Eastern Front under the command of General Paul von Hindenburg, Ludendorff proved instrumental in inflicting a series of crushing defeats against the Russians, including at Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes. By 29 August 1916, he successfully lobbied for Hindenburg's appointment as Supreme Commander of the German Army as well as his own promotion to Quartermaster General of the army high command. Once he and Hindenburg had established a military dictatorship in all but name, Ludendorff became the architect of Germany's entire military strategy and war effort until the end of the conflict. In this capacity, he secured Russia's defeat in the east and launched a new wave of offensives on the Western Front resulting in advances not seen since the war's outbreak. However, by the end of 1918, all improvements in Germany's fortunes were reversed after its forces' decisive defeat in the Second Battle of the Marne and the Allies' Hundred Days Offensive. Faced with the war effort's collapse and a growing popular revolution, the German Emperor, Wilhelm II, forced Ludendorff to resign.
After the war, Ludendorff became a prominent nationalist leader, and a promoter of the stab-in-the-back myth, which posited that Germany's defeat and the emasculating settlement reached at Versailles were the result of a treasonous conspiracy by Marxists, Freemasons and Jews. He also took part in the failed 1920 Kapp Putsch and 1923 Beer Hall Putsch before unsuccessfully running for President against Field Marshal Hindenburg, his wartime superior. Thereafter, he retired from politics and devoted his final years to the study of military theory. His most famous work in this field was Der totale Krieg (The Total War), where he argued that a nation's entire physical and moral resources should remain forever poised for mobilization because peace was merely an interval in a never-ending chain of wars. Ludendorff died of liver cancer in Munich in 1937.