Paul von Hindenburg
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Supreme Commander of All German Forces in the East
- You cannot wage war with sentimentality. The more ruthlessly war is conducted, the more merciful is it in fact, for it finishes the war the sooner.
- Remark (November 1914), Paul Dehn, Hindenburg, als Erzieher (1918), p. 12, quoted in W. W. Coole (ed.), Thus Spake Germany (London: George Routledge & Sons, 1941), p. 74
- Fundamentally, Britain is responsible for the war. She was jealous. British business men wanted this war. It is a British business war. ... We have no dislike for France, nor Russia. We think highly of the French. But Britain! We hate Britain!
- Interview with Senator Beveridge (March 1915), Paul Dehn, Hindenburg, als Erzieher (1918), p. 43, quoted in W. W. Coole (ed.), Thus Spake Germany (London: George Routledge & Sons, 1941), p. 174
Chief of the German General Staff
- I need them for the manoeuvring of my left wing in the next war.
- 1866 was a duel between two gentlemen; in 1870-71 we were obliged to chastise an impudent street arab; but to-day we must knock down a scoundrel.
- Paul Dehn, Hindenburg, als Erzieher (1918), p. 42, quoted in W. W. Coole (ed.), Thus Spake Germany (London: George Routledge & Sons, 1941), p. 217
- In consequence of the disaster on the Macedonian front, with its attendant weakening of the reserves of the West front, and in consequence of the impossibility of replacing the great losses sustained in the recent encounters, there is now, humanly speaking, no longer any possibility of our being able to impose peace on the enemy. Our opponents are constantly receiving reinforcements; the old elements of our Army still hold together, and may still offer some resistance to renewed attacks of the enemy, but our situation is becoming very precarious, and may at any moment place the Army Command under the necessity of taking a comprehensive decision. In these circumstances, it is imperative to cease the struggle in order to save the German people and our allies from unnecessary sacrifices. Every day's loss in this respect costs the lives of thousands of German soldiers.
- Letter (30 October 1918), quoted in The Times (31 March 1919), p. 12
- If I address the following lines to you, I do so because I am credibly informed that you, like myself, as a true German, love your fatherland before everything, putting aside personal opinions and wishes, as I have had to do in order to help my country in its hour of need. In this spirit I have joined forces with you to rescue our people from a threatening collapse. ... The fate of the German people has been laid in your hands. Upon your determination it will depend whether the German Reich acquires a new impetus. I am ready, and behind me stand the whole Army, to support you unreservedly. We all know that after this lamentable upshot of the war, the reconstruction of the realm can only be effected upon new foundations and in new forms.
- Letter to Friedrich Ebert (8 December 1918), quoted in John W. Wheeler-Bennett, The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics 1918-1945 (London: Macmillan, 1964), p. 29
- In case of a resumption of hostilities we are militarily in a position to reconquer, in the east, the province of Posen and to defend our frontier. In the west, we cannot, in view of the numerical superiority of the Entente and its ability to surround us on both flanks, count on repelling successfully a determined attack of our enemies. A favorable outcome of our operations is therefore very doubtful, but as a soldier I would rather perish in honor than sign a humiliating peace.
- Letter to Friedrich Ebert after the Treaty of Versailles was presented to Germany (17 June 1919), quoted in Andreas Dorpalen, Hindenburg and the Weimar Republic (Princeton University Press, 1964), p. 39 and John W. Wheeler-Bennett, The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics 1918-1945 (London: Macmillan, 1964), p. 52
- An English general has said, with justice: ‘The German Army was stabbed in the back.’ No blame is to be attached to the sound core of the Army. Its performances call, like that of the officer corps, for our equal admiration. It is perfectly plain on whom the blame rests. If any further proof were necessary to show it, it is to be found in the statement made by the British general and in the utter amazement of our enemies at their victory.
- Remarks to the National Assembly's committee of inquiry into the responsibility for the First World War (18 November 1919), quoted in Andreas Dorpalen, Hindenburg and the Weimar Republic (Princeton University Press, 1964), p. 51
- I was never able to understand how it was that here and there the welfare of the Fatherland had to be sacrificed to mere petty party interests, and from the point of view of political conviction felt myself most at home in the shade of that tree which was firmly rooted in the ethico-political soil of the epoch of our great and venerable Emperor. That epoch, with what I regarded as its wonderful glories, seemed to have become part of me, and I adhered firmly to its ideals and principles. The course of events in the present war have hardly been of a kind to make me particularly enthusiastic about the developments of later times. A powerful, self-contained State in Bismarck's sense was the world in which I preferred my thoughts to move. Discipline and hard work within the Fatherland seemed to me better than cosmopolitan imaginings. Moreover, I fail to see that any citizen has rights on whom equal duties are not imposed.
- Out of My Life (London: Cassell, 1920), pp. 236-237
- You are all young men and you have played to me the “March of Entry into Paris” well. But I hope that one day you will be playing this military march where you should, at the same spot where I was in 1870.
- Address to the Stahlhelm of Gross-Schwülper, Correspondance de Genève (19 September 1927), quoted in W. W. Coole (ed.), Thus Spake Germany (London: George Routledge & Sons, 1941), p. 332
- Prosperity can come through peace alone. The German people are in favor of all possible means to make war impossible. I have seen three wars. A man who has seen three wars never will wish another war. He must be a friend of peace.
But I am not a pacifist. All my impressions of war are so bad that I could be for it only under the sternest necessity — the necessity of fighting Bolshevism or of defending one's country.
- Interview of 1929, as quoted in "Nations are greatly concerned over death of German President" in Berkeley Daily Gazette (1 August 1934)
- Variant translation:
- I am not a pacifist. That is not my attitude. But all my impressions of war are so bad that I could be for it only under the sternest necessity — the necessity of fighting Bolshevism or of defending one's country.
- As quoted in TIME magazine (13 January 1930)
- I have always been a Monarchist. In sentiment I still am. Now it is too late for me to change. But it is not for me to say that the new way is not the better way, the right way. So it may prove to be.
- As quoted in TIME magazine (13 January 1930)
- Recently, a whole series of cases has been reported to me in which judges, lawyers, and officials of the Judiciary who are disabled war veterans and whose record in office is flawless, have been forcibly sent on leave, and are later to be dismissed for the sole reason that they are of Jewish descent.
It is quite intolerable for me personally…that Jewish officials who were disabled in the war should suffer such treatment, [especially] as, with the express approval of the government, I addressed a Proclamation to the German people on the day of the national uprising, March 21st, in which I bowed in reverence before the dead of the war and remembered in gratitude the bereaved families of the war dead, the disabled, and my old comrades at the front.
I am certain, Mr. Chancellor, that you share this human feeling, and request you, most cordially and urgently, to look into this matter yourself, and to see to it that there is some uniform arrangement for all branches of the public service in Germany.
As far as my own feelings are concerned, officials, judges, teachers and lawyers who are war invalids, fought at the front, are sons of war dead, or themselves lost sons in the war should remain in their positions unless an individual case gives reason for different treatment. If they were worthy of fighting for Germany and bleeding for Germany, then they must also be considered worthy of continuing to serve the Fatherland in their professions.
- Letter to Chancellor Adolf Hitler, (April 4th 1933)
- I thank Providence for allowing me, in the evening of my life, to see the hour of recuperation. I thank all those who, with selfless patriotism, have collaborated in Germany’s resurgence. My Chancellor Adolf Hitler and his movement have made a decisive step towards the great goal of bringing the German people together to an inner unity above all differences of rank and class. I know that much remains to be done and I wish with all my heart that, behind the act of national resurgence and national coalescence, there should be an act of conciliation comprising the entire German Fatherland. ... I say farewell to my German people in the firm hope that that for which I longed in the year 1919 and which by a slow maturing process led to 30 January 1933, will mature to the complete fulfilment and consummation of the historic mission of our people. In this firm faith in the future of the Fatherland I am content to close my eyes!
- Testament (11 May 1934), quoted in W. W. Coole (ed.), Thus Spake Germany (London: George Routledge & Sons, 1941), p. 116
- In the middle of August I did not consider that the time had come for us to despair of a successful conclusion of the war. In spite of certain distressing but isolated occurrences in the last battle, I certainly hoped that the Army would be in a position to continue to hold out. I fully realised what the homeland had already borne in the way of sacrifices and privations and what they would possibly still have to bear.
- As quoted in The Great War: Sources and Evidence (1995) by David Stewart, James Fitzgerald and Alf Pickard, p. 269
- In the Great War ledger, the page on which the Russian losses were written has been torn out. No one knows the figure. Five or eight Million?
- As quoted in With Snow on Their Boots : The Tragic Odyssey of the Russian Expeditionary Force in France During World War I (1999) by Jamie H. Cockfield, p. 28
- All we know is that, sometimes, in our battles with the Russians, we had to remove the mounds of enemy corpses from before our trenches, in order to get a clear field of fire against fresh assaulting waves.
- The Great War: A Combat History of the First World War (2013) by Peter Hart, p. 242
Quotes about Hindenburg
- The mass of the [German] nation...swung round to the deepest distrust of those who had hitherto been their idols—especially of Ludendorff, whom they dissociated from Hindenburg and recognised as the man who had dominated German policy during the latter part of the War, whereas Hindenburg rather embodied the nation's patriotic spirit. In this connection it is interesting to recall a comment made by Marshal Foch, when I asked him his opinion in June 1918 about the two outstanding German military leaders. What, I said, did he think of Ludendorff? His reply was: “Un bon soldat!” And how, I continued, would he describe Hindenburg? He answered: “Un grand patriote!”
- David Lloyd George, War Memoirs: Volume II (1938), pp. 1964–65
- Hindenburg represents to us timelessness, history, myth, and national faith, so that the task of national leaders can only consist in utilizing as a specific Hindenburg faith the moral strength which he represents in their own work. The quarrel about Hindenburg cannot help us. We can progress only inspired by a sincere, humble, dynamic faith in Hindenburg. And the nation is going to follow whoever, inspired by this faith in Hindenburg, will renew and reshape that Prussia and that Germany which is shiningly reflected in Hindenburg.
- Eduard Stadtler, Bahn frei für Hugenberg (Berlin, 1930), pp. 102–105, quoted in Andreas Dorpalen, Hindenburg and the Weimar Republic (1964), p. 147
- I hope that you will be in agreement with me when I beg you to do everything possible to prevent Hindenburg's retirement. We must under no circumstances bear the responsibility before the bar of history for having overthrown Hindenburg. I feel that even the abdication of the Kaiser would be easier to bear than the retirement of Hindenburg.
- Gustav Stresemann, letter to the Chief of the National Liberal Party in Prussia (25 October 1918), quoted in W. M. Knight-Patterson, Germany from Defeat to Conquest, 1913-1933 (1945), p. 208, n. 2
- "The marshal and the corporal are standing alongside us, struggling for peace and egalitarianism".
- From a Nazi propaganda poster showing Chancellor Hitler standing next to President Hindenburg