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To increase output they needed skilled workers. The army released a million men. Hindenburg also wanted the universities closed, except for medical training, so that empty places would not be filled by women.
To swell the next generation of soldiers he wanted contraceptives banned and bachelors taxed. At the funeral Hindenburg met his successor Charles , who was frank about hoping to stop fighting.
In Italy, the line ran from the Swiss border on the west to the Adriatic east of Venice. The Macedonian front extended along the Greek border from the Adriatic to the Aegean.
The line contested by the Russians and Ottomans between the Black and Caspian Sea ran along the heights of the Caucasus mountains.
He urged the Ottomans to pull their men off the heights before winter, but they did not, he believed this was because of their "policy of massacre of the Armenians"  and many froze.
The front in Palestine ran from the Mediterranean to the southern end of the Dead Sea, and the defenders of Bagdad had a flank on the Tigris River.
The Western Front ran southward from Belgium until near Laon, where it turned east to pass Verdun before again turning south to end at the Swiss Border.
The remaining German enclaves in Africa were beyond his reach; an attempt to resupply them by dirigible failed.
The Central Powers were surrounded and outnumbered. Strengthening their army would take time: Field guns would have increased from 5, to 6, and heavies from 3, to 4, In the interim the pressure might be reduced if the Navy waged unrestricted submarine warfare , which they claimed would defeat the British in six months.
The chancellor and his camp were opposed, not wanting to bring the United States and other neutrals into the war.
After securing the Dutch and Danish borders, Hindenburg announced that unrestricted submarine warfare was imperative and Ludendorff added his shrill voice.
On 9 January the chancellor bowed to their unsound military judgments: OHL moved west to the pleasant spa town of Bad Kreuznach in southwest Germany, which was on a main rail line.
The Kaiser's quarters were in the spa building, staff offices were in the orange court, and the others lived in the hotel buildings. Some effective divisions from the east were exchanged for less competent divisions from the west.
Since their disasters of the previous year the Russian infantry had shown no fight and in March the revolution erupted in Russia. Shunning opportunity, the Central Powers stayed put — Hindenburg feared that invaders would resurrect the heroic resistance of On the Western Front their huge salient between the valley of the Somme and Laon obviously was vulnerable to a pincer attack, which indeed the French were planning.
The new Hindenburg line ran across its base. On 16 March they began Operation Alberich: On 9 April the British attacked.
At Arras led by tanks and a creeping barrage, they took the German first and second lines and occupied part of their third while the Canadians swept the Germans completely off the Vimy Ridge.
There was consternation at OHL , their new defense had failed. It was Ludendorff's birthday but he refused to come to the celebratory dinner.
In fact, their new defensive tactics had not been tested, because Sixth Army commander Ludwig von Falkenhausen had packed men in the front line and kept counterattack divisions too far back.
A week later the anticipated French offensive began, driving northward from the Aisne River , after six days of intensive shelling their infantry was led forward by tanks, the first attack by massed tanks.
The attacks ended in early May when many French regiments refused to attack. The Germans never learned the extent of their enemy's demoralization.
The British captured Baghdad on 11 March. The Ottomans had been promised that their empire would be defended, so all their troops in Europe returned home and in May Falkenhayn was appointed to command Army group F comprising two Ottoman armies along with three German infantry battalions with some artillery; to impress the enemy it was called The Asiatic Corps.
Falkenhayn realized it would be difficult to retake Baghdad, so he took over the defense of the Gaza line in Palestine, which the British broke through in November.
The revolutionary Russian government led by Alexander Kerensky remained at war, attacking and pushing back the Austro-Hungarians in Galicia on 1 July.
To counter this success, on 18 July after a hurricane bombardment by batteries directed by Bruchmüller a Schwerpunkt of six German divisions from the west broke a gap in the Russian front, through which they sliced southward toward Tarnopol , thereby threatening to pocket the Russian attackers, who fled to save themselves; many of the demoralized Russian units elected committees to replaced their officers.
At the end of August the advancing Central Powers stopped at the frontier of Moldavia. To keep up the pressure and to seize ground he intended to keep, Hindenburg shifted north to the heavily fortified city of Riga today in Latvia which has the broad Dvina River as a moat.
On 1 September the Eighth Army, led by Oskar von Hutier , attacked; Bruchmüller's bombardment, which included gas and smoke shells, drove the defenders from the far bank east of the city, the Germans crossed in barges and then bridged the river, immediately pressing forward to the Baltic coast, pocketing the defenders of the Riga salient.
Next a joint operation with the navy seized Oesel and two smaller islands in the Gulf of Riga. The Bolshevik revolution took Russia out of the war, an armistice was signed on 16 December.
Hindenburg detested Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg for dragging his feet about total and submarine warfare.
Colonel Bauer and the Crown Prince rushed to Berlin to block this peril. The crisis was resolved when the monarchist parties voted no confidence in Bethmann-Hollweg, who resigned.
Ludendorff and Bauer wanted to replace both the kaiser and chancellor by a dictator, but Hindenburg would not agree. The resolution became advantageous in August when the Pope called for peace.
The German response cited the resolution to finesse specific questions like those about the future of Belgium. The industrialists opposed Groener's advocacy of an excess profits tax and insistence that workers take a part in company management.
Hindenburg's 70th birthday was celebrated lavishly all over Germany, 2 October was a public holiday, an honor that until then had been reserved only for the Kaiser.
With God's help our German strength has withstood the tremendous attack of our enemies, because we were one, because each gave his all gladly. So it must stay to the end.
Take no thought for what is to be after the war! This only brings despondency into our ranks and strengthens the hopes of the enemy.
Trust that Germany will achieve what she needs to stand there safe for all time, trust that the German oak will be given air and light for its free growth.
Muscles tensed, nerves steeled, eyes front! We see before us the aim: Germany honored, free and great! God will be with us to the end!
Bavarian mountain warfare expert von Dellmensingen was sent to assess the Austro-Hungarian defenses in Italy, which he found poor. Then he scouted for a site from which an attack could be mounted against the Italians.
Hindenburg created a new Fourteenth Army with ten Austro-Hungarian and seven German divisions and enough airplanes to control the air, commanded by Otto von Below.
The attack began during the night when the defender's trenches in the valley were abruptly shrouded in a dense cloud of poison gas released from canisters fired simultaneously from simple mortars.
The defenders fled before their masks would fail. The artillery opened fire several hours later, hitting the Italian reinforcements hastening up to fill the gap.
The attackers swept over the almost empty defenses and marched through the pass, while mountain troops cleared the heights on either side.
The Italians fled west, too fast to be cut off. Entente divisions were rushed to Italy to stem the retreat by holding a line on the Piave River.
In the negotiations with the Soviet Government, Hindenburg wanted to retain control of all Russian territory that the Central Powers occupied, with German grand dukes ruling Courland and Lithuania , as well as a large slice of Poland.
Their Polish plan was opposed by Foreign Minister Richard von Kühlmann , who encouraged the kaiser to listen to the views of Max Hoffmann, chief of staff on the Eastern Front.
Hoffmann demurred but when ordered argued that it would be a mistake bring so many Slavs into Germany, when only a small slice of Poland was needed to improve defenses.
When the Soviets refused the terms offered at Brest-Litovsk the Germans repudiated the armistice and in a week occupied the Baltic States, Belarus and Ukraine, which had signed the treaty as a separate entity.
Now the Russians signed also. Hindenburg helped to force Kühlmann out in July In January more than half a million workers went on strike, among their demands was a peace without annexations.
The strike collapsed when its leaders were arrested, the labor press suppressed, strikers in the reserve called for active duty, and seven great industrial concerns were taken under military control, which put their workers under martial law.
The Germans were unable to tender a plausible peace offer because OHL insisted on controlling Belgium and retaining the French coalfields.
All of the Central Power's cities were on the brink of starvation and their armies were on short rations, Hindenburg realized that "empty stomachs prejudiced all higher impulses and tended to make men indifferent.
Hundreds of thousands of men were needed to hold and police these conquests. More Germans were in Macedonia and in Palestine, where the British were driving north; Falkenhayn was replaced by Otto Liman von Sanders , who had led the defense of Gallipoli.
All Hindenburg required was that these fronts stand firm while the Germans won in the west, where now they outnumbered their opponents.
He firmly believed that his opponents could be crushed by battlefield defeats regardless of their far superior resources. Offensive tactics were tailored to the defense.
Their opponents were adopting defense in depth. He would attack the British because they were less skillful than the French. However, winter mud prevented action there until April.
Consequently, their first attack, named Michael, was on the southern part of the British line, at a projecting British salient near Saint-Quentin. Schwerpunkts would hit on either side of the salient's apex to pocket its defenders, the V Corps, as an overwhelming display of German power.
Additional troops and skilled commanders, like von Hutier, were shifted from the east, Army Group von Gallwitz was formed in the west on 1 February.
One quarter of the western divisions were designated for attack; to counter the elastic defense during the winter each of them attended a four-week course on infiltration tactics.
As always surprise was essential, so the artillery was slipped into attack positions at night, relying on camouflage for concealment; the British aerial photographers were allowed free rein before D-day.
There would be no preliminary registration fire, the gunners were trained for map firing in schools established by Bruchmüller.
In the short, intense bombardment each gun fired in a precise sequence, shifting back and forth between different targets, using many gas shells to keep defenders immersed in a toxic cloud.
On D-day, the air force would establish air supremacy and machine gun enemy strong points, also updating commanders on how far the attackers had penetrated.
Signal lamps were used for messaging on the ground. Headquarters moved close to the front and as soon as possible would advance to pre-selected positions in newly occupied ground.
OHL moved to Spa, Belgium while Hindenburg and Ludendorff were closer to the attack at Avesnes, France , which re-awoke his memories of occupied France 41 years before.
Operation Michael struck on 21 March. The first day's reports were inconclusive, but by day two they knew they had broken through some of the enemy artillery lines.
But the encirclement failed because British stoutness gave V Corps time to slip out of the targeted salient.
On day four they were moving on into open country when the kaiser prematurely celebrated by pinning the iron cross with sun's rays on Hindenburg's tunic, the first recipient since the medal was created for von Blücher.
South of the salient they had almost destroyed the British Fifth Army, so they pushed west to cut between the French and British Armies, but did not succeed because they advanced too slowly through the thrashed terrain of the former Somme battlefields and the ground devastated when withdrawing the year before and because troops stopped to loot food and clothing — hence they never broke through the Entente's fluid defensive line, manned by troops brought up and supplied by rail and motor transport.
The Allied command was dismayed. What was even more serious was that it was perceived that the enemy's power was due to a thing that cannot be improvised, the training of officers and men.
Prolonging Michael with the drive west delayed and weakened the attack in Flanders. Again they broke through, smashing the Portuguese defenders and forcing the British from all of the ground they had paid so dearly for in However French support enabled the British to save Hazebrouck , the rail junction that was the German goal.
To draw the French reserves away from Flanders, the next attack was along the Aisne River where Nivelle had attacked the year before.
Their success was dazzling. The defender's front was immersed in a gas cloud fired from simple mortars,  within hours they had reoccupied all the ground the French had taken by weeks of grinding, and they continued to sweep south through Champagne until they halted for resupply at the Marne River.
Hindenburg had lost , of his best men between March and the end of July, while their foe's ranks were swelling with Americans.
His dwindling stock of horses were on the verge of starvation and his ragged men thought continually of food.
One of the most effective propaganda handbills the British showered on the German lines listed the rations received by prisoners of war.
His troops bridled at their officer's rations and reports of the ample meals at headquarters, in his memoirs Ludendorff devotes six pages to defending officer's rations and perks.
Tens of thousands of men were skulking behind the lines. Determined to win, he decided to expand the salient pointing toward Paris to strip more defenders from Flanders.
The attack on General Henri Gouraud's French Fourth Army followed the now familiar scenario but was met by a deceptive elastic defense and was decisively repelled at the French main line of resistance.
The German defense was halfhearted. Hindenburg went on the defensive, withdrawing one by one from the salients created by their victories, evacuating their wounded and supplies and retiring to shortened lines.
He hoped to hold a line until their enemies were ready to bargain. Since their retreat from the Marne, Ludendorff had been distraught, shrieking orders and often in tears.
Most disquieting was that some German commanders surrendered their units and that reserves arriving at the front were taunted for prolonging the war.
For Ludendorff Amiens was the "black day in the history of the German Army". His breakdown is not mentioned in Hindenburg's or Ludendorff's memoirs.
On 29 September Hindenburg and Ludendorff told the incredulous kaiser that the war was lost and that they must have an immediate armistice.
A new chancellor, Prince Maximilian of Baden , opened negotiations with President Woodrow Wilson , who would deal only with a democratic Germany.
Prince Max told the kaiser that he would resign unless Ludendorff was dismissed, but that Hindenburg was indispensable to hold the army together.
On 26 October the Kaiser slated Ludendorff before curtly accepting his resignation — then rejecting Hindenburg's.
Afterwards, Ludendorff refused to share Hindenburg's limousine. Hindenburg promptly replaced Ludendorff with Groener, now chief of staff of Army Group Kiev , which was assisting a breakaway Ukrainian government to fend off the Bolsheviks while expropriating food and oil.
Another brilliant appointment — a topnotch soldier who had worked with the social democratic politicians who were coming to the fore.
They were losing their allies. On 24 October the Italians crossed the river in the Battle of Vittorio Veneto , after a few days of resolute resistance the defense collapsed, weakened by the defection of men from the empire's subject nations and starvation: In September the Entente and their Greek allies attacked in Macedonia.
The Bulgarians begged for more Germans to stiffen their troops, but Hindenburg had none to spare. Many Bulgarian soldiers deserted as they retreated toward home, opening the road to Constantinople.
The Ottomans were overextended, trying to defend Syria while exploiting the Russian collapse to move into the Caucasus , advancing through Armenia and Georgia intending to take over Muslim lands, despite Hindenburg's urging them to defend what they had.
The British and Arabs broke through in September, capturing Damascus. The Armistice of Mudros was signed on 30 October. Wilson insisted that the kaiser must go, but he refused to abdicate, he was determined to lead the Prussian Army home to suppress the growing rebellion , which had started with large demonstrations in major cities and then, when the navy ordered a sortie to battle the British, mutineers led by workers' and soldiers' councils took control of the navy, these councils spread rapidly throughout Germany.
They stripped officers of their badges of rank and decorations, if necessary forcibly. On 8 November Hindenburg told the kaiser that 39 regimental officers had been brought to Spa; where he delivered a situation report and answered questions.
The answers were decisive: The kaiser gave in, superfluously because in Berlin Prince Max had already publicly announced his abdication, his own resignation, and that the Social Democrat leader Friedrich Ebert was now chancellor.
Democracy came abruptly and almost bloodlessly. That evening Groener telephoned Ebert, who he knew and trusted, to tell him that if the new government would fight Bolshevism and support the Army then the field marshal would lead a disciplined army home.
The withdrawal became more fraught when the armistice obliged all German troops to leave Belgium, France and Alsace Lorraine in 14 days and to be behind the Rhine in 30 days.
Stragglers would become prisoners. When the seven men from the executive committee of the soldiers' council formed at Spa arrived at OHL they were greeted politely by a lieutenant colonel, who acknowledged their leadership.
When they broached the march home he took them to the map room, explaining allocation of roads, scheduling unit departures, billeting and feeding. They agreed that the existing staffs should make these arrangements.
They were greeted by the chairman of the workers' and soldiers' council's who proclaimed that: Hindenburg refused because they did not have the kaiser's permission, instead settling into a humble inn, thereby pleasing both his monarchist staff and the revolutionary masses.
In the west 1. Hindenburg did not want to involve the army in the defense of the new government against their civil enemies.
Instead they manned independent Freikorps modeled on formations used in the Napoleonic wars , supplying them with weapons and equipment.
In February OHL moved east to Kolberg to mount an offensive against impinging Soviet troops, but they were restrained by the Allied occupation administration, which in May ordered all German troops in the east home.
Hindenburg retired to Hanover  once again on 25 June to a splendid new villa, which was a gift of the city, despite admittedly having "lost the greatest war in history".
He failed to win because once through they were too slow—legs could not move quite fast enough. Surprisingly, Hindenburg has undergone a historical metamorphosis: The OHL officers who testified before the Reichstag committee investigating the collapse of agreed that Hindenburg was always in command.
In addition Ludendorff overrated himself, repressing repeated demonstrations that he lacked the backbone essential to command.
Without knocking I entered Ludendorff's office and found him loudly arguing with the field marshal. I assumed it was over the situation at the Seventh Army.
In any case as soon as I entered the field marshall asked me to give my assessment of the situation at the Seventh Army. I described it in short terms and emphasized especially that based on my own observations I thought the condition of the troops was cause for serious concern.
For the past few days the Seventh Army commanding general, the staff, and I had all been recommending a withdrawal from the increasingly untenable front lines.
I told Hindenburg that I had come to Avesenes with the concurrence of the Seventh Army commanding general to secure such an order.
The field marshall turned to Ludendorff, saying something to the effect of 'Now Ludendorff, make sure that the order goes out immediately. Hindenburg's record as a commander starting in the field at Tannenberg, then leading four national armies, culminating with breaking the trench deadlock in the west, and then holding his defeated army together, is unmatched by any other soldier in World War I.
However, military skill should not mask the other component of their record: The new republic held its first election on 19 January Parties representing a broad range of different constituencies ran candidates and voting was with proportional representation, so inevitably governments were formed by coalitions of parties: Ebert was elected as provisional chancellor; then the elected representatives assembled in Weimar to write a constitution.
It was based on the Constitution of the German Empire written in , with many of the kaiser's powers now given to a president elected for a term of seven years.
The president selected the chancellor and the members of the cabinet, but with the crucial stipulation that his nominees had to be ratified by the Reichstag , which because of proportional representation required support from several parties.
The constitution was adopted on 11 August Ebert was elected as provisional president. Early in the Allies ordered the German Army to keep troops in Latvia and Lithuania to assist in repelling the Bolsheviks.
The terms of the Treaty of Versailles were written in secret. It was unveiled on 7 May , on the fourth anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania.
It was followed by an ultimatum: While Germans of all political shades cursed the treaty as an insult to the nation's honor, President Ebert was sober enough to consider the possibility that Germany would not be in a position to turn it down.
To save face, he asked Hindenburg whether the army was prepared to defend against an Allied invasion from the west, which Ebert believed would be all but certain if the treaty were voted down.
If there was even the slightest chance that the army could hold out, he promised to urge rejection of the treaty. Under some prodding from his chief of staff, Groener, Hindenburg concluded the army could not resume the war under any circumstances.
Rather than tell Ebert himself, he directed Groener to deliver the army's recommendation to the president. Back in Hanover, as a field marshal he was provided with a staff who helped with his still extensive correspondence.
He made few formal public appearances, but the streets around his house often were crowded with admirers when he took his afternoon walk.
During the war he had left the newspaper reporters to Ludendorff, now he was available. He hunted locally and elsewhere, including an annual chamois hunt in Bavaria.
The yearly Tannenberg memorial celebration kept him in the public eye. A Berlin publisher urged him to produce his memoirs which could educate and inspire by emphasizing his ethical and spiritual values; his story and ideas could be put on paper by a team of anonymous collaborators and the book would be translated immediately for the worldwide market.
Major themes were the need for Germany to maintain a strong military as the school teaching young German men moral values and the need to restore the monarchy, because only under the leadership of the House of Hohenzollern could Germany become great again, with "The conviction that the subordination of the individual to the good of the community was not only a necessity, but a positive blessing He concealed his cultural interests and assured his readers: Hindenburg's son and two son-in-laws came though the war unscathed — Ludendorff had lost two beloved stepsons and Ebert two sons.
The Treaty required the German army to have no more than , men and abolished the General Staff. Therefore, in March The Reichswehr was organized. The , armed men in Germany competed for the limited places.
The chief of staff was Seeckt, camouflaged as Chief of the Troop Office. He favored staff officers above line officers and the proportion of nobles was the same as prewar.
In , Hindenburg was subpoenaed to appear before the parliamentary commission investigating the responsibility for the outbreak of war in and for the defeat in They had been strangers since Ludendorff's dismissal, but they prepared and arrived together on 18 November Hindenburg refused to take the oath until Ludendorff was permitted to read a statement that they were under no obligation to testify since their answers might expose them to criminal prosecution, but they were waving their right of refusal.
On the stand Hindenburg read through a prepared statement, ignoring the chairman's repeated demands that he answer questions. Reviews in the German press that grossly misrepresented General Frederick Barton Maurice's book about the last months of the war firmed-up this myth.
The first presidential election was scheduled for 6 June Hindenburg wrote to Wilhelm II, in exile in the Netherlands, for permission to run.
Five days later Berlin was seized by regular and Freicorp troops led by General Lüttwitz, the commander of the Berlin garrison, who proclaimed a prominent civil servant, Wolfgang Kapp , president in a new government.
Ludendorff and Max Bauer stood by Kapp's side. The legal government fled without attempting any forceful response; a general strike paralyzed the nation so after six days the putsch collapsed.
It was followed by a Bolshevik uprising that was put down forcefully. Kapp died in prison while awaiting trial, Ludendorff fled to Bavaria where he was shielded by his fame, Bauer went into exile.
The Reichstag canceled the election and extended Ebert's term of office until 25 June Hindenburg cut back on public appearances. His serenity was shattered by the illness of his wife Gertrud , who died of cancer on 14 May He kept close to his three children, their spouses and his nine grandchildren.
His son Oskar was at his side as the field marshal's liaison officer. Germany's travails seemed unending. The national resources were drained by reparations payments, while tax income did not match expenditures.
The gap was met by printing money without backing. In inflation began to accelerate, the fall in value became exponential.
Savings were wiped away, wage earners survived with daily payments of more and more marks, which they rushed to spend before prices shot up further.
Landowners paid off mortgages for a song and clever entrepreneurs with assets borrowed money to buy property from those who had to sell to survive.
Hindenburg was sustained by a fund set up by a group of admiring industrialists. On 8 November Hitler, with Ludendorff at his side, launched the Beer Hall Putsch in Munich, which was bloodily suppressed by the police.
Hindenburg was not involved but inevitably was prominent in newspaper reports. He issued a statement urging national unity.
Twelve zeros were cut from prices, which stabilized. The political divisions in the nation began to ease. His goal was to restore Germany to its prewar status, but as a master of diplomacy he worked quietly a step at a time, first gaining Allied trust by ending the passive resistance to their occupation of the Ruhr.
In the economy was shored up by the reduction in reparation payments in the Dawes Plan with loans from American banks. At Tannenberg in August before a crowd of 50, Hindenburg laid the headstone for an imposing memorial for the crucial German victory.
Reichpräsident Ebert died on 28 February following an appendectomy. A new election had to be held within a month.
None of the candidates attained the required majority, Ludendorff was last with a paltry , votes. By law there had to be another election.
The Social Democrats, the Catholic Centre and other democratic parties united to support the Centre's Wilhelm Marx , who had twice served as chancellor and was now Minister President of Prussia.
The Communists insisted on running their own candidate. The parties on the right established a committee to select their strongest candidate.
After a week's indecision they decided on Hindenburg, despite his advanced age and fear, notably by Foreign Minister Stresemann, of unfavorable reactions by their former enemies.
A delegation came to his home on 1 April. He stated his reservations but concluded "If you feel that my election is necessary for the sake of the Fatherland, I'll run in God's name.
Not willing to be humiliated like Ludendorff he drafted a telegram declining the nomination, but before it was sent Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz and a young leader of the East German agrarian nobility arrived in Hanover to persuade him to wait until the strength of his support was clearer.
His conservative opponents gave way so he consented on 9 April. Again he obtained Wilhelm II's approval. His campaign stressed his devotion to "social justice, religious equality, genuine peace at home and abroad.
He took office on 12 May , " Always a stickler about uniforms, soon the servants had new regalia with the shoe buckles appropriate for a court.
The president also enjoyed a shooting preserve. He notified Chancellor Hans Luther that he would replace the head of Ebert's Presidential staff, Dr Otto Meissner , with his own man, because the cabinet would have to consent.
Meissner was kept on temporarily. He proved invaluable and was Hindenburg's right hand throughout his presidency.
Foreign Minister Stresemann had vacationed during the campaign so as not to tarnish his reputation with the victors by supporting the field marshal.
The far right detested Stresemann for promoting friendly relations with the victors. At their first meeting Hindenburg listened attentively and was persuaded that Stresemann's strategy was correct.
The right was infuriated because the Treaty accepted the loss of Alsace and Lorraine, though it mandated the withdrawal of the Allied troops occupying the Rhineland.
The president always was lobbied intensely by visitors and letter writers. Hindenburg countered demands to restore the monarchy by arguing that restoring a Hohenzollern would block progress in revising Versailles.
The Treaty ended Luther's government, so Hindenburg had to assemble its replacement. The president could not command, but had to practice politics in the raw: Occasionally he was able to seal a deal as the revered, old field marshal by appealing to patriotism.
After weeks of negotiations, Luther formed a new government with a cabinet drawn from the middle-of-the road parties, retaining Stresemann, which the Reichstag approved when threatened that otherwise the president would call new elections.
That government was toppled by dispute over flying the old imperial flag alongside of the Weimar colors, which symbolically downgraded the republic.
Marx was recalled as chancellor in a government that continued the dual flag policy. The next major issue was the properties of the former kings now held by the states: More than 12 million voters petitioned for a referendum on this issue, meanwhile the Reichstag was debating an expropriation bill.
Hindenburg's impulse was to resign so that he might express his opposition, but instead Meissner persuaded him to write a personal letter, which appeared in the newspapers, opposing expropriation.
The referendum on 20 June rejected expropriation. Hindenburg urged the states to reach fair settlements promptly, otherwise he would resign.
Stresemann's position in successive governments was solidified when he shared the Nobel Peace Prize for The next crisis came in the autumn of when Reichswehr commander Seeckt, without consulting the Reichswehr minister, invited the eldest son of the ex-crown prince to attend maneuvers.
To keep the government in office, Hindenburg pressured Seeckt to resign. His successor was Wilhelm Heye.
The Social Democrats shifted their stance and were willing to join a centrist government, which would strengthen it. But then the socialists demanded a completely new cabinet, which the government rejected, consequently the Reichstag voted no confidence after oratory that made much of the secret collaboration between the Reichswehr and the Red Army, which had been revealed in British newspapers.
To counter these attacks the Reichswehr relied on Colonel Kurt von Schleicher , who had served with Oskar in the Third Guards and was often a guest at the Palace.
He assiduously strove to improve relations with the Republic. Again Hindenburg was saddled with finding a new government. He asked Marx to bring in more parties.
The German Nationals agreed to join, and a new government was in place on 31 January It legislated the eight hour day and unemployment insurance.
On 18 September Hindenburg spoke at the dedication of the massive memorial at Tannenberg, outraging international opinion by denying Germany's responsibility for initiating World War I, thereby repudiating Article of the Treaty of Versailles.
He declared that Germany entered the war as "the means of self-assertion against a world full of enemies. Pure in heart we set off to the defence of the fatherland and with clean hands the German army carried the sword.
The Allied governments retaliated by not congratulating him on his eightieth birthday. He was more upset by Ludendorff's refusal to have any contact at the ceremony.
Most Germans did celebrate his birthday, his present was Neudeck, the ancestral East Prussian estate of the Hindenburgs, purchased with funds from a public subscription.
Later it became known that the title was in Oskar's name, to avoid potential inheritance tax. A financial scandal in the navy led to the resignation of the defense minister.
As his replacement, Schleicher wanted Groener, whose chief-of-staff he had been late in the war. The right strongly opposed him, but the Reichstag approved.
Groener in turn enhanced Schleicher's role in the army. The Reichstag's four-year term was coming to an end, so Hindenburg pressed them to promptly pass needed legislation and then dissolved them on 31 March His leadership was widely applauded.
However it was difficult to assemble a new government because several parties were reluctant to participate.
Finally there was sufficient support for the Social Democrat Hermann Müller who Hindenburg found clever and agreeable, later telling Groener that Müller was his best chancellor.
The next crisis followed Stresemann's negotiation of the Young Plan , which rescheduled reparations payments and opened the way for needed American loans.
In addition, the French promised to leave the Rhineland in , five years before schedule. The right formed a committee to block adoption, they started by intensively lobbying Hindenburg, using such powerful voices as Tirpitz.
Hindenburg did not budge. For the first time the committee brought conservatives, like the powerful newspaper owner Alfred Hugenberg , into alliance with the Nazis.
They submitted the issues to a national plebiscite, in which they obtained only one-fifth of the vote. In his open letter when he promulgated the required legislation, Hindenburg pointed out that their major problem was the economic turmoil and growing unemployment stemming from the worldwide depression.
The younger Hindenburg, "the constitutionally unforeseen son of the President", controlled access to the President. A new election would only reinforce these bitter divisions.
Schleicher proposed a solution: Schleicher suggested that in such a presidential government the trained economist and leader of the Catholic Center Party Zentrum Heinrich Brüning would make an excellent chancellor.
Hindenburg first talked with Brüning in February He was impressed by his probity and by his outstanding combat record as a machine gun officer; and was reconciled to his being a catholic.
In January , Meissner told Kuno von Westarp that soon Muller's "Grand Coalition" would replaced by a "presidential government" that would exclude the Social Democrats, adding that the coming "Hindenburg government" would be "anti-Marxist" and "anti-parliamentarian", serving as a transition to a dictatorship.
Brüning had hesitated because he lacked parliamentary support, but Hindenburg appealed to his sense of duty and threatened to resign himself.
Urged on by the president, the Reichstag passed a bill supporting agriculture by raising tariffs and providing subsidies.
Faced with declining tax revenues and mounting costs for unemployment insurance, Brüning introduced an austerity budget with steep spending cuts and steep tax increases.
Nonetheless, his budget was defeated in the Reichstag in July , so Hindenburg signed it into law by invoking Article The Reichstag voted to repeal the budget, so Hindenburg dissolved it just two years into its mandate, and re-approved the budget with Article Unemployment was still soaring.
Hindenburg took no part in the campaign, in the September elections the Nazis achieved an electoral breakthrough, gaining 17 percent of the vote to become the second strongest party in the Reichstag.
The Communists also made striking gains, albeit not so great. After the elections, Brüning continued to govern largely through Article 48; his government was kept afloat by the Social Democrats who voted against canceling his Article 48 bills in order to avoid another election that could only benefit the Nazis and the Communists.
The German historian Eberhard Jäckel concluded that presidential government was within the letter of the constitution, but violated its spirit as Article 54 stated the Chancellor and his cabinet were responsible to the Reichstag, and thus presidential government was an end-run around the constitution.
Hindenburg found the detailed notes that Brüning submitted explaining the economic necessity of each of his bills to be incomprehensible.
Brüning continued with austerity, A decree in December once again cut the wages of public employees and the budget. Modest, withdrawn Brüning was completely unable to explain his measures to the voters, or even to the president, who relied on explanations from the Kamarilla.
The Nazis and German Nationals marched out of the Reichstag in opposition to a procedural rule. Then the budget was passed easily and the Reichstag adjourned until October after only increasing the military budget and the subsidies for Junkers in the so-called Osthilfe Eastern Aid program.
In June there was a banking crisis in which the funds on deposit plummeted. Complete disaster was averted by United States President Herbert Hoover obtaining a temporary moratorium on reparation payments.
In the summer of , Hindenburg complained in a letter to his daughter: Everyone present saw that they took an immediate dislike to each other. Afterwards Hindenburg in private often disparagingly referred to Hitler as "that Austrian corporal", "that Bohemian corporal" or sometimes simply as "the corporal" and also derided Hitler's Austrian dialect.
On 26 January , Hindenburg privately told a group of his friends: In foreign politicts he engaged in hostile policy towards Poland, often expressing hope that Polish state would disappear from map of Europe "at appropriate moment" .
By January , at age 84, Hindenburg was vacillating about running for a second term. Some authors have pointed out that uncertainty is suggestive of early senile dementia, which includes: His intentions were not to "abandon my efforts for a healthy move to the Right".
Hitler was to be one of his opponents in the election. Hindenburg left most campaigning to others, in his single radio address he stressed the need for unity, "I recall the spirit of , and the mood at the front, which asked about the man, and not about his class or party".
In the first round of voting in March , Hindenburg was front-runner, but failed to gain the required majority. However he was disappointed because he lost voters from the right, only winning by the support of those who had strongly opposed him seven years before.
He wrote "Despite all the blows in the neck I have taken, I will not abandon my efforts for a healthy move to the Right".
Schleicher took the lead in choosing the cabinet, in which he was Reichswehr Minister. Groener was now even more unpopular to the right because he had banned wearing party uniforms in public.
On 13 May Schleicher told Groener that he had "lost the confidence of the Army" and must resign at once.
To cope with mounting unemployment, Brüning desperately wanted an emergency decree to launch a program in which bankrupt estates would be carved up into small farms and turned over to unemployed settlers.
When they met, Hindenburg read a statement that there would be no further decrees and insisted that the cabinet resign, there must be a turn to the right.
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