Ludendorff, Erich

views updated Jun 08 2018

Ludendorff, Erich (1865–1937), German general.Ludendorff embodied two of the twentieth century's shaping events: German imperialism and total war. As a young General Staff officer his outspoken advocacy of engaging the army earned him a punitive transfer. On the outbreak of World War I, he was the architect of the victory over the Russians at Tannenberg (August 1914), while serving as chief of staff to Paul von Hindenburg. Through political intrigue and battlefield victories the ambitious, mercurial Ludendorff sought to become chief of staff of the German Army. When Erich von Falkenhayn was dismissed in 1916, Hindenburg became supreme military commander and Ludendorff his deputy—reflecting the doubts about Ludendorff's character that permeated the German hierarchy.

Ludendorff galvanized what remained of Germany's human and material resources behind the war effort. He also overhauled the army's tactical doctrines. In domestic politics, he orchestrated the dismissal (July 1917) of Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg and dominated his successors. With the collapse of Russia, Ludendorff extended German power far eastward in the vindictive Peace of Brest‐Litovsk. But his deficiencies as a general brought about his downfall. Ludendorff's spring 1918 offensives in the west lacked strategic objective and exhausted Germany's fighting power. With the Allies on the offensive, Ludendorff in September demanded an armistice. He was dismissed by the new government. In the Weimar Republic, he took part in two unsuccessful rightist putsches—by Friedrich Kapp (1920) and Adolf Hitler (1923)—and became an outspoken “Aryan” racist.
[See also World War I: Military and Diplomatic Course.]


Covelli Barnett , The Swordbearers: Studies in Supreme Command in the First World War, 1963.
Norman Stone , Ludendorff, in The War Lords: Military Commanders of the Twentieth Century, ed. M. Carver, 1976, pp. 73–83.

Dennis E. Showalter

Ludendorff, Erich

views updated May 17 2018

Ludendorff, Erich (1865–1937) German general. He played a major part in revising the Schlieffen Plan before World War I. In 1914, Ludendorff masterminded the victory over the Russians at Tannenberg. In 1916, Ludendorff and Hindenburg gained supreme control of Germany's war effort. In the 1920s he was a member of the Nazi Party.