Hindenburg: Power, Myth, and the Rise of the Nazis (Oxford Historical Monographs)

Hindenburg: Power, Myth, and the Rise of the Nazis (Oxford Historical Monographs)

Language: English

Pages: 344

ISBN: 0199695865

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Hindenburg reveals how a previously little-known general, whose career to normal retirement age had provided no real foretaste of his heroic status, became a national icon and living myth in Germany after the First World War, capturing the imagination of millions. In a period characterized by rupture and fragmentation, the legend surrounding Paul von Hindenburg brought together a broad coalition of Germans and became one of the most potent forces in Weimar politics.

Charting the origins of the myth, from Hindenburg's decisive victory at the Battle of Tannenberg in 1914 to his death in Nazi Germany and beyond, Anna von der Goltz explains why the presence of Hindenburg's name on the ballot mesmerized an overwhelming number of voters in the presidential elections of 1925. His myth, an ever-evolving phenomenon, increasingly transcended the dividing lines of interwar politics, which helped him secure re-election by left-wing and moderate voters. Indeed, the only two times in German history that the people could elect their head of state directly and secretly, they chose this national icon. Hindenburg even managed to defeat Adolf Hitler in 1932, making him the Nazi leader's final arbiter; it was he who made the final and fateful decision to appoint Hitler as Chancellor in January 1933.

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subscription to the Hindenburg myth was a complex one, entailing a high degree of ambivalence and ambiguity. As opposed to war-weariness simply replacing the more optimistic outlook of the first years of the war, a longing for peace could exist alongside the hope of eventual German victory and coincide with trust in Hindenburg’s leadership. Disillusionment with the army leadership and mistrust of the ability of the German troops to win the war were not the main issues at stake. Hunger and cold

announcement of his candidacy for the presidency in April 1925 was thus the logical outcome of a right-wing strategy rehearsed since 1919. 4 Electing ‘the Saviour’ lthough Friedrich Ebert’s term would have come to its natural end on 30 June 1925, the German public was almost unprepared for an electoral battle when Weimar’s first President died suddenly on 28 February 1925.¹ Ebert had served nearly a full seven-year stint in office without ever seeking the endorsement of the popular vote. Yet, by

Sch¨utzinger, who had published critical pieces on hero-worship in socialist journals for some time, equally attempted a more critical assessment of the nationalist candidate in the pages of Vorw¨arts. Republicans had shied away from a thorough re-assessment of the Field Marshal’s achievements, he admitted, but it was now time to portray Hindenburg truthfully by ‘cutting across the artificial fog of the former War Press Office and the blue mist of new-German hero worship’.⁶⁷ Theirs remained

candidacy cut across the social, regional, and ideological divisions that had become so deeply entrenched in Germany’s national life, Westarp argued, and he praised the President’s ‘steadfastness and courage in the face of fire’ that had served him so well at Tannenberg.¹¹⁴ A brochure aimed at Catholic voters named ‘To our Hindenburg’ focused on the Reich President’s conservative social record—images of him with his children, leaving Sunday Communion, and visiting orphans featured prominently and

candidacy cut across the social, regional, and ideological divisions that had become so deeply entrenched in Germany’s national life, Westarp argued, and he praised the President’s ‘steadfastness and courage in the face of fire’ that had served him so well at Tannenberg.¹¹⁴ A brochure aimed at Catholic voters named ‘To our Hindenburg’ focused on the Reich President’s conservative social record—images of him with his children, leaving Sunday Communion, and visiting orphans featured prominently and

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