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With his victory over the Russian army at the battle of Tannenberg in August 1914, Paul von Hindenburg became a war hero. By 1916 he had parlayed an exaggerated reputation for decisive victory into near dictatorial powers. After GermanyÆs defeat at Verdun and War Minister Erich von FalkenhaynÆs dismissal in late 1916, Hindenburg, along with his chief of staff Erich Ludendorff, took over strategic direction of the war. The eponymous Hindenburg Program attempted with some success to mobilize GermanyÆs economy for war. He also oversaw many of GermanyÆs most important wartime decisions, including the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare, Bethmann HollwegÆs dismissal as chancellor, RussiaÆs defeat and negotiation of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, and the ôLudendorff Offensivesö of 1918, which sought decisive victory on the Western Front but ended in GermanyÆs catastrophic defeat. After the war, Hindenburg played a crucial role in creating the Dolchstosslegende (the myth that the German Army had been ôstabbed in the backö by a Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy on the homefront), in leading Germany as president of the Weimar Republic, and, most tragically, in acquiescing to Adolf HitlerÆs rise to power.

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