|Early Signs of a Cult in the Making |
A 1915 Magazine Cover
By the summer of 1916 it was apparent that Chief of the Imperial Staff Falkenhayn had to go. Behind the scenes all sorts of objections to his policies were being raised, by the field commanders stuck at Verdun and on the Somme, the Olympic-caliber backstabbing bureaucrats of the General Staff, industrialists unhappy about the management of the war economy, and an across-the-spectrum coalition of politicians utterly infatuated with the successful commander in the east, Paul von Hindenburg. Also, recent research has suggested that Hindenburg himself was applying considerable pressure for the appointment.
|1917: Still Going Strong|
The near disaster of the Brusilov Offensive and Romania's imminent entry into the Allied camp also helped push him out the door. Hindenburg, already the object of a growing personality cult, was the only realistic successor. Naturally he brought along his subordinate, Erich von Ludendorff. They had become "joined at the hip" during the campaigns in Russia and Poland.
They quickly liquidated the dual-problem battles at Verdun and on the Somme and boosted morale throughout the forces. The Kaiser and the politicians were pushed to the background as Hindenburg and Ludendorff assumed almost dictatorial power over both the economy and the nation's war aims. Their isolation from the nation's people and true interests led to their greatest blunder—going on the offensive in the spring of 1918 in an effort to win an advantageous settlement before the Americans arrived in decisive numbers. Its failure led to a peace in which the Allies dictated all the terms.