Paul von Hindenburg

Paul von Hindenburg was a German field marshal and statesman. He was born in Posen in the Kingdom of Prussia on October 2, 1847. He was the son of the Prussian aristocrat Robert von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg and wife Luise Schwickart, as his paternal lineage is known to be one of the oldest and most distinguished in all of Germany. He had two brothers (Otto and Bernhard) and one sister (Ida).

Paul von Hindenburg was educated at Waldstadt and Berlin cadet schools. In 1866, he fought at the Battle of Koniggratz during the Austro-Prussian War. He also served in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, after which he was decorated for bravery along a group of young officers. In 1903, he was promoted to the rank of general, Hindenburg retired from the army in 1911. Meanwhile, he married Gertrud von Sperling, also an aristocrat, by whom he had two daughters.

At the outbreak of the Great War, Paul von Hindenburg was recalled for duty in the German Army again by the Chief of the General Staff, Helmuth von Moltke. After being given command of the 8th Army in the east, he engaged in combat with the 1st and 2nd Russian armies in East Prussia. Hindenburg’s 8th Army was victorious in the Battle of Tannenberg and the Battle of the Masurian Lakes against the Russian armies in August and September, 1914. These successes made Hindenburg a national hero, but historians attach much of the credit to Erich Ludendorff and to the staff officer Max Hoffmann.

At the beginning of November, 1914, Hindenburg was given the position of Supreme Commander East, and by the end of that month, he was promoted to the rank of field marshal. Hindenburg and his quartermaster general, Erich von Ludendorff, formed what became known as the Third Supreme Command. Hindenburg retired from the German Army in October, 1918, but continued to take an active interest in politics.

In 1925 Paul von Hindenburg replaced Friedrich Ebert as President of the Weimar Republic of Germany. He was re-elected again in 1932, but two successive governments failed to win Nazi support as Hitler insisted on becoming chancellor in any government in which his party participated. Despite considerable pressure Hindenburg refused to appoint him. But in November 1932 an agreement was reached between Hitler and Papen (a former chancellor) to form a government with Hitler as chancellor. Paul von Hindenburg was so popular with the German people that Hitler was unable to get rid of him as he respected his constitutional government until his death in 1934.

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