Erich Ludendorff

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Erich Ludendorff (1865-1937) was First Quartermaster-General/Chief of Army Staff for Germany in World War I, generally considered the "brains behind" commander-in-chief Paul von Hindenburg. After the war, he became a right-wing politician, and participated in the Beer Hall Putsch, helping legitimize Adolf Hitler He served as a Nazi Reichstag deputy (1924-1928) and unsuccessfully ran against Ludendorff as president, but eventually broke with the Nazis, and marginalized himself in the political process.

Ludendorff separated himself from the nobility and never accepted the "von" distinction.

First World War

He directed the final counteroffensive in 1918, intended to gain advantage before American troops joined the Allies. When it failed, he demanded the war continue, but Hindenburg and the Kaiser did not support him. From this, he initiated the "stab in the back" concept: that Germany was never defeated on the battlefield, but betrayed at home, an idea important to the nationalist feelings mobilized by the Freikorps, Nazis and other right-wing organizations.

Rise of the Nazis

He marched alongside Adolf Hitler in the Beer Hall Putsch, convinced the police and troops would never fire on him. There are some reports that say he never took cover when they did, although Hitler did so; other reports he had a combat veteran's response to gunfire and immediately dived to the ground. In the subsequent treason trial, he was acquitted, while Hitler received a relatively light sentence, of which he served less.