General Erich Ludendorff was probably the most powerful man in Germany during the years 1917 and 1918.
On this day, one of the most influential military officers in German history was born. His name was Erich Ludendorff, and he held the rank of General of the Infantry (General der Infanterie). General Ludendorff was extremely influential in the German General Staff (Oberste Heeresleitung) during World War I. Namely, he and Field Marshal Hindenburg worked as a duo. While Hindenburg was formally senior by rank, most of the work was actually done by Ludendorff. The two of them first became famous on the Eastern Front, inflicting a heavy defeat on the Russians at Tannenberg. Because of this victory, they were given a sort of heroic status in Germany, and placed at the head of the whole German Imperial Army.
In Germany, the supreme command, i.e. the German General Staff (Oberste Heeresleitung – OHL) was so influential during World War I that it had a more significant role than the German government. General Ludendorff was probably the most powerful man in Germany during the years 1917 and 1918. His actions greatly influenced the history of the world as we know it today.
For example, Ludendorff advocated unrestricted submarine war, which greatly influenced the entry of the U.S. in the fight against Germany. Furthermore, the OHL secured the relocation of Lenin and his followers from Switzerland to Russia (as a sort of “ideological” secret weapon). When the revolution in Russia was victorious, the Germans accepted the peace in the east, and Luddendorff intended to use it to transfer most of the forces towards the Western Front and strike the final blow to the Entente. He knew he had to hurry, because the United States troops were arriving at the front in ever-increasing numbers.
Ludendorff’s offensive on the Western Front failed. He was all too aware of the fact that this failure meant that Germany could no longer win the war. Probably to spare his troops from slaughter, he then wanted to end the war as quickly as possible. It seems that Ludendorff mentally took the defeat very badly, so his associates even had to call a psychiatrist for help. There are some indications that Ludendorff believed in the pagan god Wotan (Germanic version of the Scandinavian Odin).
After World War I, Ludendorff maintained a reputation in Germany because of his earlier victories, like the above-mentioned one at Tannenberg. Adolf Hitler tried to take advantage of Ludendorff’s reputation, and the latter he even participated in Hitler’s first attempt to take power (the Beer Hall Putsch in Munich).