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Paul von Hindenburg

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Paul von Hindenburg
President of Germany

Paul von Hindenburg (full name Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg) (October 2, 1847August 2, 1934) was a German Field Marshal and statesman. An important figure during World War I, he also served as President of Germany from 1925-1934. The zeppelin Hindenburg was named in his honor (see Hindenburg disaster).

Contents

Biography

Hindenburg was born in what was then Posen (now Poznań, Poland), located in the Kingdom of Prussia, as the son of the Prussian aristocrat Robert von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg and his wife Luise (born Schwickart). After his education at the Wahlstatt and Berlin cadet schools, he fought at the 1866 Battle of Kniggrtz and in the 1870-1871 Franco-Prussian War. In 1903, he gained promotion to the rank of general.

He retired from the army in 1911, but returned on the outbreak of World War I. He was victorious in the Battle of Tannenberg (1914) and the 1915 Battle of the Masurian Lakes against the Russian army. Much of the credit for these victories belongs to Colonel Max Hoffmann, who recognized the significance of the breakdown in the security of the Russian Army's radio communications. Enough information was sent in a simple and quickly-cracked block code that the German Army in the area, under Ludendorff and Hindenburg, knew where the Russians would be and when. In late 1916 he became Chief of the General Staff, although real power was exercised by his deputy, Erich Ludendorff.

Presidency

After the end of the war, von Hindenburg again retired from the military in 1918, and began to pursue a career in politics. In 1925, he succeeded Friedrich Ebert as President during the turbulent period of the Weimar Republic. Despite the fact that Hindenburg was now lapsing in and out of senility, he was persuaded to run for re-election in 1932, as the only candidate who could defeat Adolf Hitler. Hindenburg defeated Hitler for the Presidency, but Hitler staged an electoral comeback, with his Nazi party winning a solid plurality of seats in the Reichstag.

Hindenburg remained in office until his death on August 2, 1934 at his home in Neudeck, East Prussia, exactly two months short of his eighty-seventh birthday. On January 30, 1933 he had appointed Hitler to become Chancellor of Germany. One day before his death, Hitler flew to Neudeck and visited him. Hindenburg, old and confused, thought he was meeting the emperor and called Hitler "Your Majesty".

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Hindenburg's image on a German postage stamp overprinted for use in Nazi-occupied Poland

He would be Germany's last President until 1945, when Karl Dnitz became President, as following Hindenburg's death, Hitler declared the office of President to be permanently vacant, effectively merging it with the office of Chancellor under the title of Fhrer and Chancellor (Fhrer und Reichskanzler) making himself Germany's Head of State and Head of government (see Gleichschaltung).

Hindenburg himself was said to be a monarchist who favored a restoration of the German monarchy. Though he hoped one of the Prussian princes would be appointed to succeed him as Head of State, he did not attempt to use his powers in favour of such a restoration, as he considered himself bound by the oath he had sworn on the Weimar Constitution.

Hindenburg was buried in the Tannenberg memorial. In 1945, German troops removed his and his wife's coffins, to save them from the approaching Russians, to Marburg an der Lahn in Western Germany (Hindenburg was an Honorary Citizen of this town), where he was interred anew in the famous Saint Elizabeth Church in the North Tower Chapel. He still rests there, although the church chapter recently voted to keep the lights switched off at his grave.

Sources

  • Ian Kershaw, Hitler. 1889-1936. German edition, Munich, 1998, p. 659.

See also

External links


Preceded by:
Erich von Falkenhayn
Chief of the General Staff
1916–1919
Succeeded by:
Wilhelm Groener
Preceded by:
Friedrich Ebert
President of Germany
Reichsprsident

1925–1934
Succeeded by:
Adolf Hitler
(Fhrer und Reichskanzler)

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