Historica Wiki
Advertisement

Paul von Hindenburg.png

Paul von Hindenburg (2 October 1847-2 August 1934) was President of the Weimar Republic of Germany from 12 May 1925 to 2 August 1934, succeeding Friedrich Ebert and preceding Adolf Hitler. Hindenburg was a great general of the German Empire who had won renown during World War I, and he was a popular choice for the head of state of a democratic Germany after the war's end in 1918. However, he was faced with clashes between both left-wing and right-wing extremists and the Great Depression, and he was forced to suspend the Reichstag twice, to give Adolf Hitler the chancellery in 1933, and to resign in 1934.

Biography

Paul von Hindenburg was born on 2 October 1847 in Posen, Duchy of Posen, Prussia (Poznan, Poland), and he was a descendant of Martin Luther and the Prussian aristocracy. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant in 1866, and he fought in the wars with the Austrian Empire and France in 1866 and 1870, respectively. In 1871, he represented his regiment when he was decorated for bravery displayed in the Franco-Prussian War, and he served on the honor guard at the funeral of Wilhelm I of Germany.

World War I

In 1911, he retired from the Imperial German Army as a Lieutenant-General after years of service, but General Helmuth von Moltke the Younger recalled him in 1914. Hindenburg led the German Eighth Army in the war against the Russian Empire, delivering blows to the Russians at Tannenburg and the Masurian Lakes. From 1914 to 1916, his great victories on the Eastern Front made him a national hero, and he was made commander-in-chief of the Imperial German Army in the summer of 1916. He supported Germanization in conquered territories, and he secured Lebensraum in Eastern Europe by negotiating the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Soviet Union and gaining extensive lands in the east. In September 1918, his deputy Erich Ludendorff resigned in protest over the handling of the war by the German military, and he grew to hate Hindenburg for refusing to follow him in resigning. He led the army until the war's end, and he resigned again in 1919.

President of Germany

President Hindenburg on parade in 1933

In 1925, Hindenburg was convinced to run for President of Germany due to his popularity, and he was supported by the far-right conservative German National People's Party. On 12 May 1925, he took office as President and stayed away from the political maelstrom of Germany, missing retirement. The 1929 stock market crash and the ensuing Great Depression led to the collapse of Germany's economy, and left-wing and right-wing paramilitary groups fought in the streets.

Rise of Hitler

In 1933, the Nazi Party threatened to win the elections, so Hindenburg made Adolf Hitler his Chancellor, giving him control over the government in a power-sharing deap between the racist National People's Party and its racist sister, the Nazi Party. In 1933, however, Hitler seized power for himself after the Reichstag fire and the Enabling Act of 1933, with Hindenburg giving him control over the government. Hitler avoided offending Hindenburg, lest Hindenburg unleash the Reichswehr upon Hitler's Nazis, but Hindenburg was offended by Hitler's persecution of Jewish World War I veterans and their children, and he threatened to dismiss Hitler unless he ended the political tensions in the country. After the Night of the Long Knives in 1934, Hindenburg thanked Hitler, and he died in office of lung cancer in August 1934 at the age of 86. Hitler became the new leader of Nazi Germany, assuming supreme power.

Advertisement