Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff (9 April 1865 – 20 December 1937) was a general and the top German policymaker during the last two years of World War I. He later developed the "stab in the back" theory that blamed Jews for defeat and served as figurehead for the Nazi Beer Hall Putsch of 1923.
Ludendorff joined the Army's General Staff in 1894. He was promoted to head of 2nd Division (mobilization) in 1908. In this position, he played a major role in the development of the so-called Schlieffen Plan to invade France through Belgium. He energetically promoted the Army Bill of 1913 and pushed it through the Reichstag. This bill provided for a major expansion of the army and is viewed as final preparation for World War I. The Schlieffen Plan was put into operation in August 1914 when the war broke out. During the war, Ludendorff also created War Socialism, which had mandated "labor batallions" composed of tens and thousands of Berliners, which ultimately acted as an inspiration for Lenin's "War Communism".
As chief of staff for General Paul von Hindenburg, Ludendorff led German forces to victory over the Russians in the battles of Tannenberg and Masurian Lakes. He and Hindenburg were named the top German commanders in August 1916. By 1917, Ludendorff was the most powerful man in the German government. H.L Mencken, a war reporter at this time, wrote:
|“||"In brief, one hears of Ludendorff, Ludendorff, whenever German officers utter more than twenty words about the war; his portrait hangs in every mess room; he is the god of every young lieutenant; his favorable notice is worth more to a division or corps commander than the ordre pour le mérite; he is, as it were, the esoteric Ulysses of the war"||”|
He was responsible for much of the German military policy and for requesting an armistice with the allied forces to put an end to World War I. After the war he led a nationalist movement and took part with Hitler in his abortive coup attempt in Munich in 1923 (the so-called Beer Hall Putsch). However, Ludendorff severed his relationship with Hitler soon thereafter.