Monday, 23 March 2015

The Hindenburg Disaster ...

Most people today remember the name "Hindenburg" in connection with a huge bag of hot air that set itself on fire and fell to earth - well, to Lakehurst, New Jersey at any rate.

But before the hydrogen came the soldier. Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg, to give him his full unassuming due, was a bit of a snob.  (Actually, he wasn't born in present-day Germany, but in what's now Poland.) A Prussian through and through, he looked down on his mother, a woman whom his aristocratic father had stooped too low to marry – in Paul's opinion.

He spent all his adult life as a soldier, from 1860 until 1911, creeping gradually up the promotion ladder, and then he retired. Three years later, the big war he had been so anxiously awaiting arrived, so, instead of dedicating his retirement to teaching himself flower arranging or going off to do a spot of trout fishing, he went back to soldiering.

As is now well known, his greatest achievement was stubbornly not losing the Great War until 1918. In that year, he fell out with his pal and co-conspirator, Erich Ludendorff, who despite what some people think had no "von" in his name. They bickered like a couple of convicts over who had been responsible for losing the war.

Hindenburg became president of Germany in the 'Twenties and disgusted just about everybody by refusing to admit that Germany bore any responsibility for the ruination of Europe. In the 'Thiries, he disgusted even more people by cosying up to Adolf Hitler who played him like a cheap fiddle.

Hindenburg died in 1934, and his body was buried by the Nazis (in what's now Poland) in a giant mausoleum later dismantled by the Poles, who regarded it as rather offensive. In fact, Hindenburg's body was buried several times as the Red Army rolled westward before being eventually captured by U.S. troops who had it shipped to Marburg in the American Sector. Sic transit gloria mundi - another failed German Field Marshal.

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