4 May 20
“History” is not a ‘science.’ Rather, it is a fluctuating series of interpretations, hypotheses, narratives, and agendas that are endlessly subject to lively (sometimes caustic) debate about every detail of past events.”
Paul Cooper
In April of 1917, Erich Ludendorff in Berlin, Germany arranged for Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin) to be secretly spirited out of exile in Switzerland, where he had been stewing for over a year.
Lenin, along with his entourage, was provided secret and safe passage (via a private train) through Austria and back into Russia. For Lenin, such a journey would otherwise have been impossibly dangerous!
The pseudonym “Lenin,” which Ulyanov chose for himself, was manufactured from the name of the river, Lena, in Siberia, where Ulyanov had also spent time in exile.
Lenin, (at the time 47, and balding) had acquired a well-known reputation as a ruthless, violent Communist revolutionary, and was understandably not welcome in most places, including Russia!
At the time, Ludendorff’s official title was “First Quartermaster General,” but he was effectively Germany’s dictator, enjoying much support in the wake of Germany’s early (1914) lopsided WWI victories at Liege,Frontiers, Tannenberg. But, a decisive victory remained just out of Ludendorff’s reach, and would for the remainder of the War!
Like just about everyone else, Ludendorff had scant affection for Lenin, but he was confident Lenin would fulminate violent revolution (which was already ongoing with Czar Nicholas II abdicating in March of 1917) the moment his feet hit Russian soil!
Lenin did not disappoint!
Ludendorff calculated this move would preoccupy Russia’s confused and already mutinous military and thus progressively remove them from active participation in WWI’s Eastern Front, thus enabling Germany to withdraw forces from the East and shift them to bolster the Western Front.
The strategy worked as planned, at least in the short term, but it was one that Ludendorff, and all of Germany, would bitterly regret twenty-eight years later (although Ludendorff didn’t live long enough to witness the devastation of Berlin by Russian General Zhukov’s Red Army in 1945)
After his desperate Western Front Spring Offensive of 1918 sputtered and stalled, Ludendorff was forced out of office in October of that year.
The Great War ended a month later.
Ludendorff survived the War (unlike twenty million others, to include Ludendorff’s own stepson). After the War, he tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to remain politically relevant, writing books and giving speeches. He blamed others, mostly Commander of the “Deutsches Heer” (German Army), Paul Von Hindenburg, and Kaiser Wilhelm II, for the failure of Germany’s War effort.
Wilhelm II was Germany’s last “Kaiser” (“Kaiser” is the German translation of the Latin, “Caesar,” just at it translates to “Czar” in Russian). He abdicated in November of 1918, just days before Germany’s WWI surrender. Germany’s monarchy, which began with Wilhelm I (Wilhelm II’s grandfather) in 1871, thus came to an abrupt and permanent end! Wilhelm II went into exile in the Netherlands where he remained, irrelevant and increasingly delusional, for the rest of his days, dying of natural causes at 82 in 1941.
During the inter-war years, Ludendorff and Adolf Hitler were friends and comrades, at least initially, as Hitler incrementally ascended into national prominence. Hitler used what remained of Ludendorff’s good will and aging popularity to promote himself, and actually borrowed a good deal of his (Ludendorff’s) philosophy (particularly his anti-Jewish slant), but slowly pushed Ludendorff away, as his usefulness deteriorated. The two were quite mutually acrimonious toward the end of Ludendorff’s life.
Ludendorff died in Germany, of natural causes, in 1937 at the age of 72.
Paul Von Hindenburg became President of Germany in 1925, but under severe duress reluctantly appointedAdolf Hitler Chancellor in 1933. Hitler became “Fuhrer” a year later, and Von Hindenburg thereafter quickly lapsed into irrelevance!
Hitler invaded Poland on 1 Sept 1939!
Lenin died in 1934 in Russia, at the age of 53. Lenin had been in failing health, likely due to complications from a long-time syphilis infection that was never treated and which had been kept secret from all but a very few.
Even so, precious few Bolsheviks ever die of “natural causes!”
Lenin barely survived at least one assassination attempt in 1918, being shot twice in the process. Both bullets remained in his body until they were surgically removed in 1922.
Lenin was likely murdered by Joesph Djugashvili (Stalin), since Lenin had sided with Leon Trotsky, and against Stalin, on several crucial issues.
Trotsky himself (at age 60) was murdered, while in exile in Mexico City, by agents of Stalin’s dreaded NKVD, in August of 1940.
Hitler committed suicide in April of 1945. He was 56, but in poor health, having never recovered from a nearly-successful assassination attempt in July of 1944 (Operation Valkyrie)
Stalin died at 74 in 1953.
The world cheered!
I remember!