Hindenburg, Paul von (1847-1934), German general and second president of theWeimar Republic, who presided over the coming to power of Adolf Hitler. Hindenburg was born in Posen (now Poznan, Poland), on October 2, 1847, and educated at the cadet school in Berlin.
He entered the Prussian army in 1866 and during the next five years took part in the Seven Weeks’ War and the Franco-Prussian War.
He served 40 years in the army of the newly proclaimed (1871) German Empire, advancing to general in 1905 and retiring in 1911.
In August 1914, on the outbreak of World War I, he accepted the command of the German Eighth Army on the Russian border. He and his chief of staff, General Erich Ludendorff, a master strategist, led the Germans to an overwhelming victory over numerically superior Russian troops at Tannenberg. Hindenburg was promoted to field marshal, and in 1916 he succeeded General Erich von Falkenhayn as chief of the German general staff and, still with Ludendorff at his side, became responsible for the direction of all German forces. In March 1917 Hindenburg established the German armies in Western Europe in a system of trenches across northern France known as the “Hindenburg Line,” which the Allied armies did not break until October 1918.
After the war Hindenburg retired from the army for a second time in 1919. In 1920 he published his memoirs, Out of My Life, in which he claimed the defeat of the German army in World War I had been caused by the domestic revolution that had overthrown the German Empire and established a republic in 1919. In 1925 Hindenburg was elected the second president of the republic, and although he sought German unity, he promoted the interests of the Junkers, the Prussian landed aristocracy. He ran for the presidency again in 1932 as the only one who could defeat the National Socialist (Nazi) party candidate Adolf Hitler. Having won the election, however, Hindenburg, on January 30, 1933, appointed Hitler chancellor. Hitler soon gained complete control of the Reichstag, the lower legislative chamber, which voted him dictatorial powers on March 25, 1933. Thereafter, Hindenburg was only a figurehead in the German government. He died on August 2, 1934.